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New baby nursery checklist – a guide to newborn essentials

21 Newborn Nursery Essentials - the only things you need to buy for a new babyPreparing for a new baby can be overwhelming—especially when it is your first.

But when it comes to buying baby gear and setting up a nursery you really don’t have to stress! You might be happy to hear that there are really only a few ‘essential’ items you’ll need to have ready before your baby arrives.

Most things can be bought afterwards—when you know more about your baby’s size and your own style of parenting.

So, this is a list of what we—with the help of our forum members—think are essential items to buy BEFORE your baby is born.


You’ll need somewhere safe for your baby to sleep. A cot is cost-effective (as they’ll be able to use until they’re 2+) but a bassinet (which they’ll grow out of sooner—meaning you’ll need a cot down the track) is more convenient while they are young.

  • Cot (or bassinet)
  • Mattress
  • Fitted sheet (consider buying two or more, it is useful to have a spare)
  • Fitted waterproof mattress protector (protect your mattress from poo explosions)
  • Swaddles or muslin wraps (consider two or more)
TIP: Read the Red Nose Australia Safe Sleeping Guidelines before you shop—otherwise you might spend money on something that may put your baby at risk. Plus check out our Cot Safety Checklist.


You don’t absolutely need a baby bath or change table. You can bath a baby in the regular bath tub (or even the sink) and you can change a baby’s nappy on the floor or a bed. But both items are useful and will make things a bit easier on your back!

  • Towel (baby towels are thin and often have hoods, consider buying two)
  • Face washers
  • Nappies (if you’re using disposables just buy one large ‘newborn’ park to start with, in case your baby grows out of them fast)
  • Terry cloth nappies/muslin squares (useful to have a few on hand as burping cloths or to put under baby on the change table.)
  • Nappy wipes or cotton wool balls
  • Baby bath (one with a plug is easier to empty)
  • Change mat or change table
TIP: Protect your new baby’s skin by only bathing every second day or so with just warm water. Check out our Change Table Safety Checklist and our Ultimate Guide to Nappies.

Going out with a newborn

Your newborn is required by law to be in a baby capsule or rear-facing car seat while travelling in a car. It’s a good idea to have one professionally installed a few weeks before your due date. Make sure you are familiar with your state’s car child restraint laws.

You might also want to invest in a good quality pram. Look for one that reclines flat for a newborn but can be converted into a stroller for a toddler. See our checklist for buying a pram to ensure you don’t make an expensive mistake. Many families however prefer to use a baby carrier for new babies and perhaps a cheaper stroller for older babies and toddlers.

  • Baby capsule/rear-facing car seat
  • Baby carrier and/or pram (look for one that reclines flat for a newborn)
  • Nappy bag (to carry spare nappies, cloths, wipes, clothes etc when out)
READ: Check out our Nappy Bag packing checklist to see exactly what you need to pack for a trip out of the house with a new baby! And make sure you read the Pram Safety Checklist.

Dressing and baby clothes

There is no need to buy many clothes before baby arrives. Just have a few necessities on hand, then go shopping once your baby is born and you know baby’s size. Otherwise you could end up with a heap of cute 0000 outfits that never see the light of day.

Also, it pays to be practical. Sure little baby jeans and T-shirts are cute but they aren’t comfortable and you won’t get much use out of them, especially in the smaller sizes. Keep in mind that people may buy clothes as gifts too.

Also check to see if your maternity hospital has a list of what they’d like you to bring in for your baby— this is often a good guide as well. We’ve said 5 of most items here so you’re prepared for baby messes and to have a few in the wash.

  • Singlets x 5+ (or, even better, singlet suits—as they don’t ride up).
  • Short-sleeved bodysuits x 5+ (can be used under clothes in winter)
  • Long-sleeved onesies x 5+ (you’ll still need at least a couple of these even if your baby is born in summer in case of air-conditioning—especially in hospital)
  • Socks x 3+

Feeding your newborn baby

If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you won’t need much in the way of equipment.

  • Breastpads (cloth can be a money saver)
  • Bottles, if you’re bottlefeeding, and bottle-sterilising equipment.

Useful baby items (but not essential)

There are many more items that we could have included on our lists—some people might consider the following items as essential while others don’t. The thing is you can’t know for sure until your baby is born.

The following baby items are useful—they’d make great baby shower gifts.

  • A special ‘feeding’ pillow or a ‘V’ shaped cushion
  • Digital thermometer
  • Baby monitor
  • Toiletries
  • Baby sleeping bag
  • Nappy bag with a change mat
  • Sunshades for car windows
  • Portable cot
  • Beanies, mittens (if you’re having a winter bub)
  • Breast pump (for supporting your milk supply if you have breastfeeding challenges)
  • Playmat for tummy time

It pays to remember that every family is different and we’re all on a different budget.

Some parents will consider a pram a ‘must-have’ while other families love their baby carrier. Some don’t mind buying an expensive wooden change table to match the cot, while others prefer a more cost-effective one that fits on top of an existing set of drawers. And some won’t bother at all—preferring to change the baby’s nappy on the floor or a bed.

It really is important to find what works for you. And you probably won’t figure that out until after your baby has arrived.

Hopefully in the meantime you’ll find our baby nursery essential checklist a useful guide when preparing for your new baby. All the best! xx

Thanks to the members who helped compile this list: shabbychook, Kimnus, Atizmum, JesseBear, NikkiTapscott, zultbear, SpunkyMonkeyandSupermansMum, swimmingupstream and SorensMum.


A printable shopping list for when you are buying for a new babyPrint our New Baby Nursery Checklist ›

We’ve made this guide to newborn and nursery essentials into a printable list for you!



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10 Comments so far -
  • Glynnis says:

    Great list of essentials!

  • Bella says:

    I also found that a swing,bouncer or rocker does amazing things. I have newborn twins and I have 2 mamaroo’s they do absolute miracles! It is so easy to have in the living room for when I am cleaning or eating. As soon as I put them in it they fall asleep! I would definetely recommend getting a swing or bouncer for bub.

  • Blossom says:

    Re the pram / layback stroller check the age range it is suitable for. I was surprised some were not suitable for a newborn. Some your baby needs to be 3 or 6 months old

  • Blossom says:

    If you have other children you walk to school, daycare etc. you need a good preferably lightweight stroller that wheels well, folds up and down easily..Importantly a variable back position and hood.

  • Clay Nally says:

    These terrific gadgets minimize the smell of diapers and only need emptying about once a week. Many parents only use them for dirty diapers, and breastfed babies might not require one until they begin solid foods .

  • MamdyJokobs says:

    Hey everyone, I am a new parent and I’m trying to get my three month little one to sleep longer during night. At the moment I am fortunate to get four hours rest per night. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks

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