Baby Essentials: 5 Must-Have Items for New Parents

Newborn with mother

Preparing for a new baby requires purchasing baby gear and items. Learn which must-have baby items will promote learning and healthy child development.


In addition to emotionally preparing for a baby, new parents need to stock up on baby gear and items that were not previously part of your life and home. Warning: visiting a baby supply store can result in confusion and a major hit to your wallet. Sure, you know you need diapers, baby clothes, a crib or co-sleeper, and a car seat, but you probably weren’t prepared for the thousands of other baby items marketed to new parents.

So, how do you sort out the “must-haves,” from the “nice to haves,” from the “don’t need ever” items? Over time you’ll get a feel for what baby items you can’t live without and what to pass over. For now, you can start with this expert-recommended list of top five baby essentials that will help promote all areas of child development.



  1. A baby stroller or carrier. Getting outside for fresh air and movement and exploring the natural world is wonderful for both your baby and you! Make a walk around your neighborhood or your local park part of your daily routine. Encourage vocabulary and language development by narrating your walk for baby: “There’s a big tree!” “Look at that cute puppy dog!” As your infant grows, you can further extend learning during your walks.
  2. A variety of books. Reading daily to your baby is a nurturing interaction that sparks an interest in books, builds a diverse vocabulary, and boosts the development of skills such as listening, rhyming, and decoding. Newborns may enjoy looking at books with black and white shapes, and older infants should have books that are made from materials that make them easy to hold (and safe to chew!), such as cardboard (board books) or cloth. Check out our expertly curated monthly recommendations for books you can enjoy with your child on our Growing Readers page.
  3. Comfortable snuggle chair. There’s no way around it: you’ll be spending a lot of time feeding, burping, rocking, and comforting your baby in the first year. Attending to your baby’s basic human needs of food and rest may sometimes feel arduous, but these moments of one-to-one responsive, thoughtful interaction between you and your baby are the foundation of a healthy attachment and a loving relationship. Get yourself a comfortable, soft chair or sofa so you can relax and enjoy these prime times with your baby.
  4. Treasure Basket. Once they become old enough to grasp items, babies need opportunities to interact with the interesting, sensory-rich objects and materials that are part of their world. Create a bin or basket full of household “treasures” that your baby can safely explore with all five senses. Examples include: socks, metal spoons, plastic spatulas, wiffle balls, a shoe box, etc. Objects made from natural materials, such a natural wood toys, or large, smooth stones or shells, provide opportunities for leaning and sensory experiences.
  5. You! The infant brain grows at an extremely rapid rate—infant brains are always listening, watching and absorbing cues from the world. You are your baby’s first and most important teacher! While spending time with your baby, try to “serve and return” their gestures, babbles, and other signals to encourage cognitive development. Learn more about how to serve and return with your baby—no special gear required!

There you have it: five baby essentials selected with child development in mind. Gather basic layette items, such as simple cotton clothing, crib sheets, and burp cloths, as well as formula or breastfeeding tools, and you’ll be ready for your little one with the baby items you need.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Newborn with mother