Finding it hard to narrow down what baby stuff to get? Our shopping checklist breaks down the essentials and the nice-to-haves!
Pregnant mamas everywhere love to shop and get prepared for the new arrival. And sometimes they go overboard (we have all been there!) and get things that they don’t really need or never use. We can never really say for sure how many clothes your baby needs, or how many diapers he or she will go through in a day. We don’t know which stroller or diaper bag is right for your family’s needs, but after speaking to a lot of mums, we have arrived at a newborn baby essentials checklist that should help you with your shopping. So when that nesting instinct kicks in, don’t go buying everything you see at the store. Look at this comprehensive baby essentials checklist, add some to your baby shower registry and then pick up what you most need or love. We’ve divided each category into must-haves and optional items because space and financial constraints differ for everyone.
Many of the things you might buy for baby beforehand (like sippy cups or straw bottles) won’t come in handy for months; so we have focused on newborn essentials that will get you through those first few bleary months. Click on the checklist below to download. Happy shopping, mamas!
Shopping For Baby: Clothes
Bodysuits/Onesies/Kimono tops: Your baby will live in these so you can’t have enough (long or short sleeves). To have a wide range, you could get a lot from any of your favourite stores (M&S, Next, etc. have a nice selection) and opt for some special onesies from Ganas Kids, The Wee Bean and the like. There are some great sustainable kids’ clothing brands in Hong Kong that you would love to try for your bub. Snap or tie-front kimono tops are also a good option for newborns as you don’t have to pull them over their teeny tiny delicate heads! We like the options from Naomi Wear.
Hand mittens: Essential from the get-go to keep baby from scratching itself; particularly since cutting baby fingernails can be pretty terrifying for parents!
Sleepsuits/Pyjamas: Depending on how your bub will sleep, you may want footed or footless pyjamas.
You don’t need too many of these items. Whether you will need socks, sweaters and hats for your bub usually depend on when you are due (how hot/cold it is) and your baby’s temperament. Many little ones kick accessories off as soon as you put them on.
Shoes and dress-up outfits are probably only for special photoshoots, 100-day celebrations and the like.
Shopping For Baby: Cleaning And Changing Items
You will be amazed by how often you need to clean your baby. In the early days, it often feels like an endless cycle of pee, poop, throw up and more! Stock up on baby wipes, diapers (reusable options preferably) and make sure that you have a place to change your baby. If you don’t have the space for a fixed changing table or station, you will probably need a portable changing mat that will help you change your baby at the most convenient spot. Of course, the same changing mat can also be used on the go.
Other personal care items that you will need will be soap or shampoo (often it’s one baby wash for all needs), some oil or lotion and diaper cream for sore bottoms.
Depending on whether you have space for it, you can always get a baby bathtub or a diaper pail. If not, trust your maternal instinct – you will discover a way to bathe and clean your baby even in a tiny Hong Kong bathroom!
Shopping For Baby: Sleeping And Nursery Furniture
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns sleep in the same room with their parents (for six months at least), but not in bed with them (due to suffocation risks), so a small, portable bed like a Moses basket/bassinet or co-sleeper might be best. If baby will sleep in a crib, make sure it’s on a flat surface free of blankets, bumpers or drop-rails.
Mattress And sheets: Depending on your nursery furniture, mattresses and fitted sheets will be needed. Try to make sure that these fit perfectly and there are no large gaps left where your baby can get stuck in as they thrash their hands and legs about.
Swaddle blankets: Many mums swear by swaddle blankets; chances are you’ll receive heaps of them as baby shower gifts. If you’re like us, have the nurses at the hospital teach you their folding techniques because they are true pros!
Sleepsack: Since blankets are not recommended for newborn babies, sleepsacks or a “gro” can help keep your baby warm at night. However, some babies never quite get used to it so buy just one to try out.
One tip to all new mums – diapers leak. Sometimes because they are full and at other times because you forgot to fasten it correctly! A waterproof sheet or mattress protector would help.
Also, if you would like to keep your baby stimulated and lying down in his or her cot for a while, try using a mobile. Of course, babies can’t focus very clearly (or very far) in the first few weeks so it might be a while before your little one notices it.
If you have a car and plan to spend the day at a friend’s place or even do a family staycation, you could invest in a travel cot.
Shopping For Baby: Health And Safety Items
Newborn babies can be quite delicate and you have to be careful about a few things. A thermometer to check baby’s temperature is always important (speak to your paediatrician about which one is best). At the same time, ask the doctor if there are any medicines that you should keep as an SOS. While you will not want to administer any drugs without checking with a medical professional, there are some over the counter (OTC) remedies that can help with less serious but equally uncomfortable baby ailments, such as colic, constipation, cradle cap, etc.
Do remember to keep clipping your baby’s nails as these grow out really fast. Use a nail cutter or baby scissors for this.
Sassy Mama tip: Always cut nails right after a warm bath. The nails are so tiny and soft, they almost peel off when they have been well-soaked!
You know the extent of your love when you have sucked the snot out of your baby’s nose! Don’t worry, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Snot suckers can be a lifesaver for babies with colds (and their exhausted mums!). We love the Nose Frida one but there are others that work as effectively. A balm to soothe eczema, diaper rash, mosquito bites (if you are in a rather green area of Hong Kong), etc. can be helpful as well.
Shopping For Baby: Feeding Items
While we all know that breast is best, breastfeeding can be a challenge. Whether you choose to breastfeed your babies for years or wean them early, whether you love the skin-to-skin contact or would rather pump and bottle feed instead, there are some items that can make this easier.
Nursing bra: This will make breastfeeding in public a lot more comfortable and discreet. Here’s where you can buy nursing bras in Hong Kong. While you’re at it, stock up on v-neck tees or button-down shirts/dresses!
Breast pads: Engorgement and leakage are inevitable joys of the first six weeks while your body settles into its breastfeeding rhythm. Best be prepared, mama!
Burp/washcloths: These come in handy if your bub struggles with reflux or drools. Also, remember to burp your newborn after every feed and expect a little bit of spit-up.
Breast pump: Obviously a must for any breastfeeding mama but it’s quite an expense to consider and you need to do your research well. If you are not sure of what your breastfeeding journey will be like, perhaps you could rent or borrow one, to begin with.
Bottles: We have listed this as essential because whether drinking formula or breastmilk, your baby will almost definitely need bottles. As with a breast pump, it may be better to see what suits your baby best before buying too many of these. Some babies want fast-flow bottles and teats while others will gag on those. It’s always a bit of trial and error.
Milk storage containers: If you’ll be storing excess milk in the freezer, make sure to stock up on sturdy, sealable bags or have enough bottles to use. If you choose not to or cannot breastfeed, you may not need these, but you are likely to need formula containers that help you carry the exact amount of powder you need per feed when you are not at home.
Nursing pillow: We found this made nursing a lot more comfortable in the first couple of months (otherwise your arms and back will get awfully achy from all those feeds), but you could probably find any number of suitable pillows around the house!
Steriliser: Once again, this is not essential – any large vessel in which you immerse bottles, pacifiers, etc. in boiling water would do just as well. That said, we have found that having a steriliser saves a lot of time and leads to less frayed tempers!
Bottle cleaning brush: Not an expensive investment, but also not strictly necessary (though it’s probably best to have a separate cleaning brush of some sort).
Milk formula: Not necessary if you’re breastfeeding; to each mama her own!
Bottle warmer: This isn’t necessary because most mums have mastered the art of warming bottles in little bowls of hot water at restaurants and on flights, but they also come in handy for jars of food once the baby has moved onto solids, so if you have space, go for it!
Bottle drying rack: For mums who are using bottles and would like to clean and dry them separately, this might be useful. Some sterilisers come with a dryer or a drying function.
Shopping For Baby: Items Needed Around The House
Activity gym/playmat: A great place to lie bub down and keep them engaged (the good ones will usually have interchangeable parts to keep things interesting); also great for tummy time. Most mums find this indispensable until our babies start crawling.
Soft/Crinkle books: Reading is actually a nice way to fill the days when baby can do little more than lie in place. And soft and crinkly books were among the first things to truly delight our baby.
Assorted toys: Rattles, rings and danglers (especially those that attach to your stroller and car seat) and anything squeaky are all winners. Jellycat and Lamaze toys are always popular and are easily available at baby and toy stores across the city.
Baby monitor: This is important for keeping tabs on bub’s sleeping habits when you’re out of the room. However, given that Hong Kong homes are so small, you may not need it immediately or if you are keeping the baby in the same room as you.
Bouncer/Rocker: We know many parents who swear by their Mamaroo infant swing or Baby Bjorn bouncer, but then there are others who have bought these only to discover that their baby hated them! We’d suggest holding off to see what your bub likes before making this big-ticket purchase; borrow from a friend or try out in a store if you need to.
Pacifier: Not every mum chooses to go this route, but it doesn’t hurt to have one on hand in case your bub is inconsolable and nothing seems to work. The American Academy of Pediatrics even suggests offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime as it can help to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Shopping For Baby: Items Needed When Out And About
Stroller: Whether you’re taking a walk in the park or picking up groceries, there’ll be lots of times a stroller is easier than a baby carrier. Check out our picks of some of the top options in Hong Kong.
Sling/Carrier: For those times when you need your hands free (or bubs just wants to snuggle), baby wearing will be invaluable. Make sure you snag yourself an infant insert for the early days but be mindful of overheating (those with mesh materials are a good idea for the Hong Kong heat).
Portable changing mat: These make diaper changes on the go a snap; the best ones will have space for a couple diapers and wipes, too. We love the Ben & Ellie clutch designed by two mamas (one who’s based in Hong Kong). Not only is it practical but it looks like you’ve got your date night purse with you when heading to the loo! The SkipHop Pronto is another good option.
Diaper Bag: No matter which style you favour – tote bag, backpack or a very large handbag – this is a must for getting out and about. It needs to include extra diapers, wipes, a changing mat, a change of clothes and more. Take a look at our handy diaper bag checklist here.
Car seat*: In our eyes, this is an absolute safety requirement. However, since many strollers come with detachable car seats or you might not own a car or might be avoiding taxis at the moment, so we have kept this as optional. We understand that Hong Kong has rather relaxed car seat laws, but our advice is that you always err on the side of caution.
*Please consider the safety risks of not using a car seat, even if not mandated by law.
Stroller caddy: Stroller accessories are not strictly necessary but it can help you make your trip outside a lot more organised. You can have all your essentials easily on hand without reaching for an inaccessible pocket in your bag or trousers.
No matter how much you try to buy only what you absolutely need, you won’t always get it right. There will be items that are just not for you and your baby and others that ended up being a godsend. We have left a little space for you to write down your own personal notes. Simply download this list and pop it into your purse so you can strike off all the must-buys before your baby arrives and turns your life upside down in the most beautiful way!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and updated in January 2021.