“What on earth is a nasal aspirator?”
“What baby carrier do you recommend?”
“Why would the baby need socks? It can’t walk yet, right?”
Recently, one of my good friends messaged me. She’s expecting a baby, and she was going through a printed list of ‘baby essentials’ from a popular mum-and-baby chain store to make sure she was prepared with everything she needed.
As a mum of three (all born in the past 4 years), I was considered the resident expert on all things baby. So she turned to me for help on figuring out what she really needed, and what she would regret buying in three months.
Gotta admit, I felt pretty good. It’s nice to feel like an expert, especially when your regular clients (aka Baby, Toddler, and Little Girl) are ungrateful fools.
As I scanned through the list, it struck me once again how the world of baby products can be both exciting and overwhelming. My friend's questions about what she needed for her new baby brought to mind the many regrets and frustrations I’d dealt with as I struggled against the huge mound of baby-related clutter taking over my house in the past few years.
What I've learned over the years is that sometimes, less really is more.
Children don’t need things. They need space.
And in a crowded city apartment, where every square foot costs an arm and an leg, space is an absolute premium.
I’m in no way a minimalist, but I’ve come to see that there is peace in simplicity. We think that if we have everything, then we’ll be well-prepared, and then we’ll feel peace. But the reality is that having to manage a lot of stuff makes us stressed. It takes up mental load that we really don’t have to spare at the moment.
With each new addition to our family, I've come to appreciate the beauty of simplicity and minimalism in parenting. Instead of getting caught up in the frenzy of baby products and gadgets, I've found that focusing on what truly matters has made those early months more memorable and less overwhelming.
In this blog post, I'd like to share the lessons I've learned about embracing a minimalist approach to preparing for your new baby. This isn't about accumulating a mountain of baby gear; it's about prioritizing quality, sustainability, and the things that genuinely enhance your parenting experience.
And of course, it’s about answering the question: What do I REALLY need for my new baby?
1. Somewhere for baby to sleep
Regardless of how difficult your baby is to put to sleep, the reality is that they WILL sleep more than you for the first few years of their life (even if it doesn’t feel like it). So one thing you definitely need is a safe space to put your baby when they do sleep. They can’t sleep on an adult mattress, despite what your confinement nanny or great-aunt tells you. Don’t risk it.
A bassinet can be a great, space-saving choice. But note that most babies outgrow bassinets within 4-6 months. So unless you have a plan to pass it on (e.g. your sister-in-law is expecting a baby next year, or you’re borrowing the bassinet from a friend), it very quickly becomes a large piece of clutter.
Large cribs that convert into toddler beds can seem like a really good choice, since your child will be able to use it for many years. This is what we went with, and I am happy with our decision. But in a 90sqm / 1000 sqft home, the extra 10-20cm around the sides may be the difference between being able to fit your baby’s cot next to your bed in the master bedroom or not. And even if you plan to put your baby in a different room (like I did), when the baby actually arrives, you may feel differently. (I know. These motherhood hormones. It’s crazy.) Or maybe you’ll feel differently if you have a baby who wakes 8-10 times every night, and you don’t want to walk to a separate room to settle them.
I’m not saying a large crib / cot bed is a bad choice - it’s not! It’s a great choice! I’m saying that many things change quickly in the first few months and years, so you might want to consider an option that is more flexible (e.g. that will fit in multiple positions in the house).
Another thing to consider is how easy it is to get extra cot sheets. The standard size is 60 x 120cm. If the cot you get is not that size or are a special shape (looking at you, Stokke oval cots), then you gotta factor in that you might have to pay a premium to buy that special brand of cot sheets, instead of getting cheaper ones from IKEA or Shoppee.
#protip: Check Carousell for preloved cots. There are lots of good options, often for a fraction of the price you’d pay new. If you’re worried about cleanliness, you can buy just the cot secondhand and get a new mattress, or you can pay to have the mattress professionally cleaned. Even with delivery and the cost of a new/cleaned mattress, you can still save a good sum. Plus, it’s a great sustainable option that reduces the waste generated!
2. Something to catch the poop
Do not bulk buy diapers before the baby arrives. I’ll say it again: Do NOT bulk buy diapers before the baby arrives.
Newborn babies vary a LOT in weight, often as much as 0.5-1kg from what the ultrasound shows. And they grow really fast too, so you may need to size up sooner than you think. Also, some babies pee more than others, which also means you have to size up sooner. And some babies have sensitivity to particular brands. All this is to say - wait until your baby arrives and take it week by week, at least for the first month. You don’t want to bulk buy 1 carton of 500 diapers only to realise after 3 days that your baby can’t use them (true story).
If you’re concerned about your baby’s sensitive skin, or about the impact all these mountains of disposable diapers have on our planet, then I highly recommend trying cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are not only better for the environment but also cost-effective in the long run. And they’re surprisingly easy to use, and gentle on baby’s skin too!
I have cloth diapered all three of my kids (#1 from 2 months old, #2 and #3 from birth), and can personally attest to the benefits of investing in a set of high-quality cloth diapers, as they've made a significant difference in reducing waste and expenses. One unexpected but significant benefit has also been to greatly reduce my mental load, as I don’t have to keep hunting down deals or remembering to order new diapers (in the correct size) before we run out.
3. Something to cover their bodies
Babies do not need socks or hats. These will fall off, get lost, and also get stuck in your washing machine filter. And please lah. This is Singapore leh. Not Finland. If you’re not wearing socks all the time, then why make your baby wear socks all the time?
They do need mittens. Even though you cut/file their nails (scary experience, let me tell you), they still find ways to claw their own faces. It’s weird. The hospital gives you mittens, though, so you can wait a few days to get it also.
Clothing: You need 8 day sets and 8 night sets. Anything above that is nice but unnecessary. When choosing clothing take note:
- Opt for clothing that is stretchy, because it’s more comfortable for the baby AND it fits for longer. Materials with a high percentage of bamboo or polyester tend to be stretchier than 100% cotton. But not all bamboo is made equal. I’ve gotten bamboo/cotton clothing (not cheap, I tell you) that shrunk or tore after a few washes, or that became stiff and couldn’t fit the baby after a few months. And I’ve got good quality bamboo sleepsuits that not only fit pretty well for for over a year, but also lasted through multiple kids.
- Do not buy anything that says ‘handwash only’. And if it says ‘cold gentle machine wash’, then either you gotta be prepared to ignore the washing instructions, or live with stained clothing. You have been warned.
- White clothing stains more easily. And I’m sure you know, young children are notoriously dirty. You may not know that some of the best kid friendly food (bananas, tomato pasta sauce, blueberries…) is SUPER stainy. So if stains bother you, then maybe opt for coloured clothing instead.
Swaddles are a game changer. They help babies sleep better (it’s backed by research! Google it), soooo important. I like these traditional ones, which can also double as towels and burp cloths and stroller covers and nursing covers. They’re also more customisable because you can swaddle the kid with one arm out (some kids won’t sleep with both arms swaddled. So annoying, hor? Parenthood - it’s a life of constant experimentation). Bonus - they work great as shawls for mum and blanket for baby when you’re in the shopping mall
(Personally I wouldn’t invest in a jacket for the baby. Babies are often very resistant to putting jackets on, and in Singapore where you can move from a really cold mall to a really hot carpark very quickly, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.)
4. Something to feed them
Do not buy more than one bottle first. Trust me. A large proportion of babies are suuuuper picky with their bottles and teats, and you might need to try several brands before you find one that they will accept. They don’t feed continuously, anyway, so you will have time to wash and reuse the bottle in between feedings.
If you are planning to breastfeed, I highly recommend getting a silicone suction pump to stimulate the other breast while you’re feeding. (You can get them free from baby fairs. Or else new-but-lower-price from Carousell.)
5. Something to clean them
Some of the private hospitals in Singapore provide baby bathtubs free of charge for babies who are delivered there. Otherwise, a small basin (the kind you wash clothes in) will work for a few days, until your online order arrives. No need to rush to buy it before your baby arrives.
Any parent will tell you that wet wipes are super convenient and also greatly necessary (because you use them for everything). It’s true that you need something damp to clean everything around the baby and whatever they’re touching. However, I actually found cloth wipes to be superior to their disposable cousins, both in terms of cost and cleaning-effectiveness. And of course they’re more environmentally friendly too.
My favourite are these bamboo velour wipes, which are suuuuper soft but also really grip the dirt well. They have a gazillion uses (I use mine for wiping off makeup and putting on toner) so they continue to be useful even after the baby phase.
P.S. don’t get drawn in by ‘antibacterial’ wipes. Unless you’re planning to leave the wipe on the baby’s face for more than 10 minutes (not recommended), it’s basically the same as a normal wipe. And if you’re using cloth wipes, you can just use a sanitiser spray on the wipe before you use it to wipe anything!
6. Something to carry them in when you’re going out
A baby carrier or wrap can be a lifesaver for busy parents. It allows you to keep your baby close while keeping your hands free, it can help the baby to sleep, and it can also just feel really nice, like you’re always hugging your baby (but without the arm ache).
Personally, I recommend getting a personal baby carrier consultation AFTER your baby has arrived. Based on your body type and your baby’s size, some carriers may feel much more comfortable compared to others. The professional babywearing consultant can also help you get a good fit to ensure that the carrier is ergonomic for both your baby AND you. It may look easy but actually it’s quite complicated the first time. After you got the pro help, then it’s much easier to do it yourself next time. I consulted with Kai Hui from Warabeehs and found her incredibly friendly and professional.
You may not need a stroller. I didn’t really use mine until my toddler hit 18 months old (aka a bit too heavy to carry in arms, but too young to walk far herself). But if you get a stroller, the No.1 thing to consider is: can you fold AND unfold the stroller with one hand? Trust me - you do not want to be trying to unfold the stroller while your 13-month-old is trying his best to throw himself off the pavement (another #truestory, sadly).
If you have a car, you will need a car seat. Ignore the nurse who says it’s safer to carry a newborn in your hands than in the car seat - she’s wrong. Car seats can be life saving. They’re also legally required for anyone below 1.35m in height in Singapore.
Aaaand these are the true essentials for baby, pared down for you. If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this info-rich post, YAY! You are ready for your new arrival and I am so proud of you.
If you still need a little bit of clarity, or you want a detailed guide that breaks down exactly what you’ll need before baby arrives, what you can get after baby arrives, and what you can leave for friends & family to gift, click here.
At Little Lalang, we offer a range of sustainable and high-quality products to help you on your parenting journey. By embracing sustainability and simplicity, you can create a peaceful and clutter-free space for your new arrival, allowing you to focus on the moments that truly matter.