I’m not sure I can fully claim to be a minimalist, but I do enjoy our small house, love a good de-clutter/purge, and try to stick to a “less is more” attitude. With most of our purchases, we do our research, find deals when we can, and buy fewer (high quality) items that will be well worth the price. Putting together a baby registry with the sheer amount of STUFF on the baby market is an exciting… and slightly overwhelming task for a minimalist mom-to-be. So I’ve put together a list of my very favorite products from our first year with Henry that are big on functionality and relatively small on space.
- The Baby Box: When I first heard about the Finnish Baby Box, I knew it was going to be right up my alley. Rather than a buying a dedicated bassinet or a bed-side co-sleeper (and an extra piece of furniture to store), this is a genius sleep solution for the first few months with a baby. Yes, it’s a glorified cardboard box with a foam mattress. What I love about the baby box is the fact that it’s simple, safe, and when your baby outgrows it, it will double as storage for clothes, toys, or keepsakes. We purchased a box for about $65 from the Baby Box Co. less than 18 months ago, and they have since stopped selling boxes and started a program that will provide a box FO’ FREE to expectant parents just for completing a quick online course and quiz! So as it turns out, this first one does not even need to go on your registry – it’s a gimme. Unless, of course, you want to spend money – in which case you can knock yourself out and shop at Finnbin or go all out for the original Finnish baby box package for the low low price of $450.
- Blooming Bath: When we were preparing for Henry, the thought of storing a giant plastic baby tub made me want to puke. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it was not on my registry. It was on my lists of “unnecessary”, “big and bulky”, and “baby bath? it’s called a kitchen sink, amiright?”. Of course as a first time mom-to-be I knew everything. After having an actual baby, I realized that bathing a slippery infant in a bare, hard, cold kitchen sink would be at least uncomfortable for the kid, and difficult if not impossible for one parent to handle. So I was pleasantly surprised when my Mom bought us a Blooming Bath. We have the Lotus, and we’ve gotten a ton of use out of this! It works great in the kitchen sink for an infant to sit/lay on so that they stay comfy, cushioned and warm-butted (technical term). Ever since Henry outgrew the sink (around 7 months? 8? I don’t remember)… we have used the blooming bath in the tub with the same benefits for older babies. It holds up great through the washing machine and dryer, has a little tag that can be used to hang in the shower, and folds up to a pretty compact size. My only minor complaint if I had to make one is that it takes a long time to air dry, but you could definitely toss it in the dryer after use if you want to put it away rather than letting it hang out in the bathroom between baths.
- Mini Pack n’ Play: Everybody needs at least one pack n’ play, right? We needed one to keep at daycare for naps, and decided to get one for home and travel as well. For some reason I assumed all playards were a single standard size, until Jesse suggested that we search for a mini version. So smart, that husband of mine. The Graco Travel Lite Crib with Stages is perfect for small spaces and a little bit lighter for travel with a baby. We’ve used it as a travel crib on multiple weekend trips, and it stays setup in our living room the rest of the time. It fits nicely beside our couch without feeling too intrusive. The adjustable mattress height/bassinet makes this a great option for naps, changing, or a safe space for an infant when you need to jump in the shower. It’s also a good way to corral the kid for a few minutes at a time when he is old enough to sit, stand, and get into everything. Henry is on the shorter side, but at 13 months he still hasn’t quite outgrown it as a travel bed. Maximum recommended height is 35″, so kids will outgrow this sooner than a standard size (but duh, we were searching for “mini” so that’s part of the deal).
- Multi-Function Baby Swing and Bouncer: We were lucky enough to have some friends lend us their swing/bouncer for Henry’s first 8 months or so, while they were in between babies. I would highly recommend borrowing or taking hand-me-downs on some of this larger gear if you have the opportunity – not only is it free, but you can give it back or hand it down again rather than storing it when you’re done. This is one item, however, that I would invest in had we not had the option to borrow one. The swing is a must-have for soothing a young baby, and Henry most often napped in his swing (either in motion or stationary) during his first few months. Because this is a bigger item that will take up some nursery or living room real estate, the multi-functionality is key. The removable bouncer is awesome for moving around the house, and calming a baby with one foot while you’re in the bathroom getting ready, folding laundry, or trying for a few un-interrupted minutes to eat dinner. I had a hard time finding the exact swing that we borrowed (I believe it was similar to the Graco Duo 2 in 1 Swing and Bouncer which may be discontinued). This Graco Duet Sway looks like a good option with a relatively small footprint.
- GB Pockit or Pockit Plus Stroller: If you’re going for lightweight/compact and are willing to splurge for the best out there, this is the stroller you’re looking for. The Pockit made the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s smallest stroller in 2014. We bought the Pockit in 2017 when the latest version offered a separate adapter for an infant carrier/car seat (GB or Cybex models only). This did play into our decision on carseats – we love our Cybex Aton Q. If you don’t need the stroller as a travel system, the Pockit will work great on its own once your baby is roughly 6 months old and can sit in a stroller and support their own head. It has a weight capacity up to 55 lbs, so you’ll be able to use it for a long time. We used and loved our Pockit a ton around town the first few months we had Henry. The nearly useless sunshade was probably the only downside (but not a deal-breaker for us), and the stitching on it started coming loose after maybe 6 months. We reached out to GB customer service, to ask if it was possible to get a replacement sunshade (or even an upgraded canopy from the Pockit Plus model that had come out recently). They offered to send us a brand new 2018 Pockit Plus Stroller in exchange for our used Pockit with the sunshade that was falling apart. I love companies with great customer service like that! The Pockit+ is a bit wider and heavier than the original, but the sunshade is a little more functional, and the stroller offers a recline function which the previous version did not have. It also now comes with the car seat adapter included – again for GB or Cybex seats. We’ve taken this through airports and on planes, out around town, to crowded events, and through stores. It is so much more maneuverable and narrow than our bulky jogging stroller, and its compact fold allows us to easily toss it in the trunk, on a conveyor belt to go through security, or in an overhead bin. We love this stroller and have gotten multiple comments on it from strangers, for good reason!
- Boppy Lounger Pillow: I had registered for a Boppy nursing pillow (which I was not all that impressed with, for the record), but I would not have known about the Boppy Lounger if it weren’t for the recommendation from a couple of different mom friends. This pillow isn’t super small, but it’s simple and we’ve gotten a ton of use out of it. It’s even more easily portable than the bouncer for having a comfy place to set down a newborn or infant, and keeps the baby at a slight incline which helps with reflux (our son spit up CONSTANTLY as a baby, but I think putting him in this or the swing/bouncer after he ate helped a little). We still use our lounger with Henry even though he’s over a year old and can crawl off of it when he wants to. It’s great to throw down on the floor for him to lay on and drink a bottle. Also, it’s machine washable and can be dryed – which is a huge bonus with any baby gear.
- Space-Saving Highchair: A high chair is one of those things that’s more or less a necessity, and most options look like they would be bulky and annoying as an added piece of furniture in your dining area. We went with the Graco Slim Spaces Highchair, and it is just what we were looking for. Setting it up and collapsing it back down is not super intuitive (don’t expect your in-laws or babysitter to figure it out without some demonstration), but once you get the hang of it, it’s a few quick steps. We fold it up after pretty much every use, and store it in the corner where it’s out of the way in our small dining room area. The seat cover is also pretty simple to remove, wash, dry, and re-assemble – which again is key for baby gear (let’s be real, it’s obviously going to see a lot of food and messy fingers, but also likely the occasional poop and/or puke). Ours has held up well through several washes. It also has an adjustable seat height, removable 2 piece tray, and multiple recline settings.
- The Best Night Light: This VAVA Night Light may not fall into the major gear category, but it has definitely been one of my very favorite baby products that I couldn’t live without! It is just the right size, has a simple sleek design, and can be used either while plugged in or run on a charge for up to 80 hours. I love that you can choose either warm or cool white light, turn it on and off and adjust the brightness from very dim to bright with the tap of a finger. I think we’ve used this light every night since the day we brought Henry home, on my bedside table while he was sleeping in his box in our room, and then on the shelf in the nursery when we moved him into his own room. It is so perfect for mid-night breastfeeding, diaper changes, snuggles when your baby is having a tough night… whatever brings you into their room when you don’t want to turn on a bright lamp and fully wake yourself and the kiddo up. We always take it with us when we travel as well. This is a fast favorite that is inexpensive and will be used for many years to come.
- A One-Size, All-Season Sleep Sack: Once your baby starts to roll and outgrows a swaddle, you’ll need a sleep sack or wearable blanket to keep them warm and safe until they are old enough to have blankets in their crib. Some friends gifted us a couple of Carter’s Microfleece Sleepbags with sleeves, which are nice for nap times and work as a backup, but I never felt like Henry was warm enough overnight in these. We would typically put him in them just in a diaper, and his arms and legs would get cold despite the microfleece and the sleeves. The other downside to these is that while they are fairly cheap ($9 – $18 each), they will only fit for a few months so you have to buy multiple sizes. I finally researched a little bit and decided to buy a Woolino. Yes, it is an investment at $90 or $100. But its universal size and high quality wool fabric and construction mean that you can potentially use it every night from 2 months up to 2 years! I do kind of wish that it had detachable sleeves, but it’s easy enough to put over a short or long sleeve onesie. Henry has slept in this through 3 seasons so far, and I do always feel like he’s able to maintain a comfortable temp. His legs and feet don’t ever get cold, and I haven’t put him in pants or footie pjs under the woolino yet. This sleep sack has held up well through the wash, it is soft and durable, and he still has plenty of room to grow. We have even used the built-in seat belt slot once, to load him up in his carseat late at night without bothering him much. This is definitely a high-quality item that has been well worth the extra money!
So there you have it, my top 9, must-have baby items for the (mostly) minimalist home! Of course, what works for one baby-mama may not work for the next, and you can find different/opposite opinions on everything baby (parenting in the world of media and technology is SO FUN right?) I just know that these have all been key in surviving our first year as a family of 3. So I hope that these recommendations work out for some of you out there! Anything to add that has worked great for you? Do tell.