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Minimalist Baby Essentials for the Large Family

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.

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Minimalist Marriage and Adding a Baby

I have had minimalist tendencies since I was a teen. When I married Chuck and moved to Hawaii I had one duffle of personal belongings. One. Growing up in a family that moved every couple of years is a great recipe for ridding your life of clutter. And friends…but that’s another story.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, Chuck and I lived in Hawaii. My baby essentials list included: onesies, a few blankets, a baby sling, a car seat, and diapers. We planned to co-sleep, I was going to breastfeed, and we lived in a warm climate. Heck, we didn’t even own a car, but I figured a car seat would be necessary for visits from family and friends. How much stuff could a baby need anyway?

Chuck holding newborn Iris

My Minimalist Baby is Having a Baby

We ended up moving to Alaska when I was seven months pregnant and our baby was to be born in the dead of winter. That meant my list of baby essentials grew. But it was still short. Now that baby is all grown up and expecting a baby of her own. We have delightful chats (online since she lives in New Zealand) about all things baby. I love it.

Her pregnancy and our conversations prompted this post about baby essentials (and baby not essentials).

Like any good minimalist, I want to start my list of minimalist baby essentials with baby essentials that aren’t essential. For any questionable items, I personally would wait until the need arises before purchasing.

Baby Essentials That Aren’t Essential


Would you believe that we have raised eleven babies and never owned a traditional crib? When Iris was born (three weeks early) my grandma ran out that day and bought a bassinet for us. We used it for the first few months and before we got around to purchasing a crib a friend gave us a Pack ‘n Play.

We continued to use Pack ‘n Plays for our next ten babies. Our kids on are the small side so no one ever outgrew them before they could be transitioned to bed (usually around age two). We loved the inexpensive price, small size, and ability to take their bed along when we traveled.

Breast Pump

I breastfed all of our babies including our two adopted babies. I never found it necessary to pump breastmilk and stockpile it in the freezer. I kept my babies with me and only left them as long as they could go between feedings. I found this led to a natural progression of leaving them longer and longer as they got older. While I know some people consider a breast pump essential it never was for me.

For occasional pumping (if you must get a pump) I recommend this Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump. This is comfortable, easy to use, and doesn’t require tubes, batteries, or electricity. It is also very affordable.  I used this model with Apollo when he was struggling to gain weight.

My daughter used this Haakaa breast pump with her son and said it is amazing and easy to use. She put it on one side while her son nursed on the other and collected ounces of breastmilk at a time with no effort. For under $25, this is a steal!


Someone gave me a used stroller when Iris was about five months old. Guess what? She would not sit in it. Ever. She cried unless she was being held and I found it much more convenient (and easier on my ears) to put her in a baby carrier. While we have owned strollers over the years I always prefer to carry a baby than haul a bulky stroller around. Like a breast pump, I would hold off on purchasing one until you are 100% sure you will use it.

Traditional Diaper Bag

What mom has an extra arm for a diaper bag? Not me! I love the convenience and simplicity of using a backpack. For most of my baby years, I used a small backpack.  Once Apollo was tube fed and we had more supplies to haul around with us, I purchased this Dad Gear Backpack.

Changing Table

Unless you have a bad back or intend to use it to store baby supplies it is just an extra piece of furniture. Something like this could be used on a bed, couch, or floor.

And now…on to the essentials!

Minimalist Baby Essentials


As I said…we used a bassinet and Pack ‘n Play for our babies. But.

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.

If I were having a baby today I would definitely invest in a DockATot. The DockATot fits my needs for a baby bed small, portable, and cozy. I would personally use this until the baby was too big then I would begin using a Pack-n-Play. I very seriously considered buying one for Iris but didn’t want to haul it to New Zealand.

{Photos are courtesy of my friend, Sara, and her baby Felix.}

Pack ‘n Play

As I said above, this is the only crib we have ever owned.

Receiving Blankets, Blankets, and Swaddles

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.

Baby Swaddler

I so wish I would have had this with Apollo! I am not the world’s best swaddler and Apollo was my biggest baby which added to the struggle. He just didn’t fit in the receiving blankets I had. I bought this Ergo Baby Swaddle for Iris so she can easily swaddle her baby from day one.

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.

Muslin Receiving Blankets

We use these receiving blankets to swaddle the baby, for burp cloths, to tuck the baby in, and a cover for breastfeeding. We always had the regular flannel type but a couple of years ago I bought some muslin ones for baby photos and fell in love. I wish I would have had one of these for Apollo. Apollo was born during the summer and it was hot. He wanted to be wrapped but then got too hot in his flannel receiving blankets. The muslin blankets are larger and so much cooler!

I bought two of these for Iris. The camera one (because as I told her her baby has to have the camera blanket!) and this cute underwater one (pictured below).

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.

One other blanket I got for Iris was this super soft Saranoni Minki Luxury Mini Blanket. This particular blanket is tiny but I see it as perfect for cuddling in the crib or car seat.

Feeding Your Baby Like a Minimalist

I breastfed all of our babies even the two we adopted. For a short time with both Avi and Mordecai, we used bottles but for the most part, they were unnecessary. We never kept bottles on hand for our other babies. Because of Apollo’s feeding issues, however, I am pretty picky about feeding supplies.

Lasinoh ointment for sore nipples.

Breast Gel Packs

Trust me you are going to need these.

Minimalist baby essentials for the large family.


I don’t think I can overestimate the importance of a few, well-chosen, teethers. Every baby will get teeth.  It is a fact of life. So it is best to be prepared.

Comotomo Silicone Baby Teether

(this is the orange one pictured)

This teether is soft, flexible, and easy to hold. It has multiple chewing surfaces

Bannor Toys Airplane Teether

I love the natural wood. The hole in the middle allows you to hook it to a pacifier clip

WubbaNub Pacifier!

None of my babies took pacifiers. We tried with each and every one but it just wasn’t happening. But by the time they could crawl around they loved to chew on them. I really like the design of the WubbaNub Pacifier which doubles as a cuddly toy.

Percy (my grandson) lost him in a tragic accident (it was run over in the driveway) and my daughter immediately purchased another one because he loved it so much.

Out and About with Your Minimalist Baby

Ring Sling

The one big purchase I made for baby #5 (Kalina) was a Maya Wrap ring sling. I ended up using it for every other baby that I had. I still have this Maya Wrap today and it is still in great shape.

Ergo Baby Carrier

I bought my Ergo after we adopted Avi and when I was still pregnant with Tucker. I was very hesitant to spend so much money on a baby carrier for what we thought might be our last baby. I was won over by the design (I liked having the baby attached to me rather than a backpack) and the fact that I could easily carry a baby on my back.

I have loved this carrier and never once regretted purchasing it. In fact, I have it packed and ready to take to Iris when she has her baby!

You will of course also need a car seat and diapers.


Keep it simple is my philosophy for babies. I love for clothing. You can get all the essentials for babies in one spot. 

1 dozen Onesies

3-4 pair Cotton pants

3-4 Baby Gowns (these are perfect for newborn diaper changes)

2-3 Cotton hats (for bald babies like mine)

4-6 pairs of baby socks with good elastic (these can double as mittens if the baby scratches his face)

Diapers and wipes. We always used Seventh Generation diapers on Apollo. In fact, we had a monthly subscription from Amazon. It was brilliant!

That about sums it up! If I think of anything I missed I’ll come back and add it. You can download my PDF Minimalist Baby Essentials list here.

What is your absolute must-have baby item? You can download my printable here.














  1. Sarah Ford

    We used a pack n play with the bassinet attachment as a modified co- sleeper until Tyler was able to roll over. We just parked it right up against my side of the bed and I could reach and get him for feeding or soothing or whatever. Then we tried unsuccessfully to transition to a crib. Perhaps if we would have stuck with the pack n play (without the bassinet) it would have worked better.

  2. bemis

    We used a mini-crib–same size as a pack n’ play. I’ve always thought it’s crazy to use a full-size crib. My babies all fit in the mini crib until they transferred to a twin mattress at 18-24 months old.

    I also think a stroller is non-essential. We bought a $10 cheapo stroller when I was pregnant with number two/three and couldn’t carry the non-walking one-year-old on outings. I used it a handful of times between all three kids, and while it was necessary later on, I certainly didn’t need anything fancy and really only used it on vacations when we were doing lots of walking. About the same time I also got a used double stroller for walking near our house (nothing is paved and there are lots of rocks), but was surprised by how little I used it.

    My list, as a fellow minimalist includes:

    Car seat (convertible one for 5-80+ lbs), diapers (pre-folds double as burp clothes), wipes, 1-2 wet bags if using cloth diapers (1 small wet bag is super handy for dirty clothes in a diaper bag), clothes (don’t buy ’em, because people will give you lots!), mini-crib, 2-3 crib sheets/mattress pads, 3-4 receiving blankets (folded and tucked in under baby’s head sure saves on washing sheets–I learned this trick in the NICU), nursing pillow (I used it a ton early on for each baby), 3-4 nursing bras/tanks, nipple cream (motherlove is my favorite), ergo or sling carrier, hand breast pump, 2-3 bottles (after 4-6 weeks, husband would give one bottle a night to the baby so I got extra sleep–I am so non-functional/aware at night that co-sleeping didn’t seem like a good idea), diaper bag/backpack, baby wash, forehead scan thermometer, baby fingernail clippers, 2-3 pacifiers (to have on hand if nursing is going well and the baby will take it for self-soothing). I also really liked have a baby bouncer/rocker for the first three months, but it’s certainly not essential.

  3. kim

    Every time I see a Wubanub, I think of how I made them when my youngest came home in 2009! If only I’d had a more entrepreneurial spirit!

  4. Reggie

    Hmmm…my last little one had special challenges from infancy which required a bit of luggage any time we went ANYWHERE. I went with my usual smaller backpack and umbrella stroller setup initially. That lasted exactly one outing. It became quite clear rather quickly that all the extra appointments necessated a ‘normal’ diaper bag capable of holding multiple outfits for acid reflux, formula AND breast milk, bottles AND hand pump, not to mention 4-5 meds depending on the time of day. My husband joked I was carrying a miniature suitcase, but I loved that I had all the necessities in one bag versus three or four. I also invested in a Snap n Go stroller frame. It allowed me to keep my peacefully sleeping baby in the car seat and still have storage for the suitcase and joey pump backpack. Huge bonus? It folds down to half of what most strollers do which meant it was easy peasy to get in and out of the back of our van. Should God bless us with another, I plan to keep both, at least during the infancy stage, as I found they helped this minimalist mama more in the long one than my smaller versions did. Ditto on the crib. We use a bassinet (or something similar) then graduate to a pack n play.

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