Knit Nat’s 17 Most Essential Infant Items

I’ve been a mama for nine weeks now and I wanted to write about the items and products I find myself using on a daily basis. There is so much advice out there in the Interwebland, but it doesn’t hurt to throw in my two cents.

In case you don’t know me well, I’m a thrifty girl at heart; therefore, my baby is a thrifty baby whether he likes it or not. Most of the things on this list I got second hand, I made or they were gifts, but they are all totally useful and I’ll explain why. Just a note: these are in no particular order, so the top of the list is not most important. It’s just what came to my mind first.

1. Bottle drying rack
When I was a non-mom perusing the kitchenware aisles at thrift stores, I would always see these bottle drying racks on the shelves. And when it came time to actually needing one, I had no trouble at all finding one for two bucks. No, you don’t actually NEED a bottle drying rack, but if you find yourself washing bottles on a daily basis this is a great tool to ensure you don’t have bottles rolling all over your counters (which is what was happening to me before I bought a drying rack). It’s a handy piece of plastic that usually folds flat, although I never store mine since I’m always using it.

2. Cloth wipes
When my granola-type friends told me they use only cloth baby wipes to clean their babies’ bums, I thought, “Yuck, no way do I want to wash and reuse soiled pieces of cloth!” Well, call me a granola, but I totally love cloth wipes. Just wet them with warm water (or cold if your baby doesn’t care) and they really do the job better than any disposable wipe I’ve used. You spare your baby from the soap and chemicals in the disposable wipes and you are doing your tiny part to save the environment, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The cheapest way to go is to make them from flannel receiving blankets you find at garage sales. Just cut them up into 7-inch squares and if you want them to last longer, sew a zig-zag stitch around the edges. I found that I only need about 24 wipes. I stuff them into a disposable wipes dispenser and toss the dirty ones in the wash every couple of days. This is like a 50-cent investment that is totally worth more than 50 cents. Check out my blog post about it.

3. Homemade detergent
I cloth diaper my son part time and every few days I’ll do a diapers-only wash in my front-loading HE machine. Instead of buying pre-made detergent, which can be sort of pricey, I researched the vast Interbabynets and found a recipe for homemade detergent that costs just pennies per load.

Mix together equal parts Oxy-clean, Borax and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda — it’s right near the Oxy-clean at the store).

When it’s time to wash the diapers or wipes or anything else that’s been pooped on, I first do a wash on cold with 1 tablespoon of detergent. Then I do a hot wash with an extra rinse cycle with another tablespoon of detergent. If I lived in a dry, sunny place I’d line dry them, but instead I make sure to dry them for more than an hour in the dryer.

Keep in mind this is a process for my infant who is only two months old. I think it’ll be a whole different ball game when he starts eating solids.

4. Automotive shop cloths
This is where I credit my husband for being a thrifty genius. When our son was a week old, my husband came home from Target with a pack of jersey-knit shop cloths from the automotive section. These cloths look like white t-shirt rectangles. They are the perfect size for pretty much everything: baby spit-up, a tiny changing pad, when I leak everywhere, when I can’t seem to find a napkin while eating breakfast, etc. These were less expensive than burp cloths and they are really soft because people treat their fancy cars like babies. Brilliant!

5. Travel changing pad
Yes, it’s important to have a huge diaper bag in your car for any foreseeable crisis or explosion, but the best thing I’ve made for my baby so far is a changing pad that folds up and looks like a clutch purse. I found this simple pattern here and it’s just the perfect size for a travel wipes container and one or two diapers. I’ll keep the diaper bag in the car and just bring the changing pad when I’m running errands or visiting a friend. It makes me feel like a mom in disguise….sort of…except that I’m carting around a baby.

This is the one I made, unfolded in the back of our car

6. Muslin swaddling blankets
When the nurses at the hospital swaddled my son, they used a thick flannel blanket and my little guy was sweating from day one. I’m so happy I had brought with me an Aden and Anais blanket. They are a tad pricey at Target, about $30 for four, but I managed to find a couple at the thrift store and I love them. They are stretchy so you can get a good swaddle on, but they are also breathable. I also use them to cover my baby’s stroller while going on walks on sunny days because he can still feel the breeze but is protected.


Swaddled and loving it on day one

7. The Miracle Blanket
Ok, this is my one commercial endorsement on this list. I added the Miracle Blanket to our baby registry thinking it might be useful, but we ended up loving it that we got an extra one in case the first is in the wash. This blanket swaddles your baby like no other without velcro or other fasteners. If our boy is fussy or is having trouble falling asleep, we wrap him up in this blanket and he is instantly soothed. No joke. He seems to love it. Too bad he’s getting too tall for it. It’ll be a sad day when we retire these blankets.

Look how passive he is!

8. Bouncy chair or automatic swing
One thing I didn’t really think about all the months I was pregnant was where do I keep my baby during the day when I need to make breakfast, clean the house, take a shower or use the toilet? The answer can be found on Craigslist. Never, ever buy a baby bouncer or swing brand new. It’s a total rip off and these things are floating around Craigslist like moths to a lamplight. When their babies grow out of them, people want these contraptions out of their house and are willing to sell them for super cheap. I bought two for $7 total just to see what our son would prefer. It just took a few C batteries and Jack is lulled to sleep by soothing vibrations. Now that he’s old enough to interact with things we re-hooked up the bubbly music electronic toy bar to his bouncer and he actually loves it. I guess Fisher Price knows what’s up.

9. Digital camera/iPhone Instagram App
I’m not going to delve into this, but photos of your baby are priceless and I use a camera every day. I do feel a little bad for my Facebook friends, but I’m really trying hard not to flood Facebook with photos of my baby. It’s pretty hard since he’s obviously the most attractive baby on the planet (I might be a tad biased).

Can you deny the cuteness?

Cool thing about Instagram is you can order teeny-tiny albums and stickers from their Web site. How cool is that?

10. Gallon Ziploc bags
These are useful for so many reasons. I skip the fancy dry bags when I’m on the go and just stuff soiled items in Ziploc bags. If I’m in a bind I’ll just toss dirty diapers in grocery bags because people tend to have those lying around. Ziplocs are also useful when you’re packing for trips. Keep baby’s small clothing items and necessities contained.

11. Giant old-school water bottle with accordion straw
As a non-mom I never drank enough water, but as soon as I started nursing I became the thirstiest woman alive. Luckily the hospital provided me with a gigantic water bottle (although my bill wasn’t itemized, I’m sure I paid for it severely). Before going to bed each night, I fill up my giant water bottle with ice cubes and water and drink it down like there’s no tomorrow. Who knew having a baby would force me to stay hydrated?

12. Thrift store books
No nursery is complete without books. I have to have the classics, such as Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, but I really love those thick cardboard books because my baby will inevitably want to eat and destroy everything in his path. Books can add up if you buy them new, but I’ve found great books at the thrift store for next to nothing and there’s such a great variety. You can find books that are out of print, ones from your childhood, and it’s fun to find ones already inscribed. I just make sure to wipe down each cardboard page with a weak bleach water solution and let them air dry. I can’t trust thrift store dirt.

13. Womb Lamb
This isn’t a necessity, but it was a gift and I end up using it every day. My mother-in-law gave us a stuffed lamb that makes sounds such as rain, whales, ocean and heartbeat. It Velcros to the crib and for 20 or 45 minutes it will sooth your baby to sleep. I’ve read the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner to a baby in utero, so the outside world can be sort of quiet. This little lamb is pretty helpful, although I think the whales freak Jack out a bit.

14. Bottle warmer
Again, a total non-essential, but we actually use this thing regularly. After four weeks I started pumping so that dad could be a part of the feeding frenzy at night. It’s kind of a process for him. He has to take the milk out of the fridge and warm it up, then pour it in a bottle, all while Jack is screaming his face off. I found a bottle warmer at a garage sale and it became a lot easier for him. This device has a little cooler in the back that stores bottles for up to eight hours. When you’re ready to warm it, just pour the required amount of water in the front, place the bottle inside and press the button. In a few minutes the milk is ready for baby and dad can get a little taste of what mom’s been doing for four weeks.

15. Homemade hooded towel
Hooded baby towels are super cute. Sometimes there are animal faces on the hoods, which cuten your baby even more. But my baby is too tall for these towels and I feel like our grown-up towels are far plushier and softer than any baby towel. I’d rather be wrapped in the luxury of a Kohl’s Apt. 9 bath towel so I figured so would my baby. Luckily, I found just this towel at the thrift store for $1. I cut about a foot off the end of the towel, cut a triangle from the cut piece and sewed the triangle to one corner of the towel. I also turned under any raw edges. Presto! My boy can be all snuggled up as soon as bath time is over.

16. Garage sale clothing
Summer is the time for garage sales and never before have I actually been excited when I walk up to a garage and it’s full of baby clothes. I have yet to buy any new article of clothing for my boy. He is currently sporting jammies with mice and acorns that I bought for about 50 cents. In the winter I was shopping at thrift stores, but as soon as I went garage sailing (yes I know that’s not the right spelling) I realized I was being ripped off at the thrift store. Ok, so $1 for a Onesie isn’t so bad, but usually people sell clothes for a quarter at garage sales. We were able to dress up Jack for a wedding last week in a nice three-piece baby suit we purchased for $3.

17. Pacifier
I didn’t foresee us being a binky family, but a pacifier comes in handy at some point every day. Sometimes Jack just wants to suck on something and I don’t have time to leave my breast out all day. Buying the right pacifier was a bit like a baby wine tasting event. We bought several different types and let Jack figure out what he preferred. Turns out he likes the latex kind over the silicone kind. Who knew there was so much to learn about pacifiers? Jack’s full-bodied Nuk pacifier has a smooth, velvety texture with a hint of blackberry tannins.

So yes, those are 17 things that I use almost every day. Of course not everything on this list will be useful to each and every reader, but I hope my recommendations help you be a frugal, happy parent. What is something you can’t live without while caring for your infant? Feel free to leave a comment!


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