Last Updated: February 21, 2023
When you’re expecting your first baby, and starting a baby registry, one of the first things to consider is where baby will sleep. While creating a baby nursery is really exciting for first-time parents, the truth is, you probably won’t spend much time there in baby’s first year! Most parents keep baby pretty close in the first year. But it’s still a really nice nesting activity to have everything ready. So here’s everything you need to know about prepping your house for newborn sleep. And all the baby sleep essentials you’ll need! Plus, jump below to download the spreadsheet for the Minimalist Baby Registry Checklist.
You’re not going to know exactly what you need or what kind of sleeper your baby is until your baby gets here! Plus, they’re constantly changing. Many families start with a small bassinet beside the bed for the first few months and then move baby to a crib. Having the baby close by is reassuring in the early days, and also makes nighttime feeding more convenient.
So here are all our favorite baby sleep essentials for those newborn days and beyond! And feel free to ignore everyone that tells you to “sleep while you still can! har har har!”. That’s just not how it works. Yes, you’re going to be a bit sleep deprived. Then you’ll get used to it. Eventually it gets better. Promise!
12 Baby Sleep Items You Need:
Here’s everything you need to know about setting up your baby’s nursery and all the newborn sleep essentials to register for. If you’re wanting the bare minimum effort, you could start with bassinet (and wait on a crib, crib mattress, mattress pad, and crib sheets for 4 months)!
1. Bassinet vs Crib: 0-4 Months
A bassinet is optional, but great for the first few months of newborn life. But by about 4 months, many babies are starting to roll over. As soon as they are able to do that you don’t want them in a bassinet with short sides that they could then pull themselves up or roll off onto the floor. Then it’s time to make the switch to a crib! So some families skip a bassinet.
Some people are more comfortable with co-sleeping*. We did do a little bit of co-sleeping when our baby was a bit older but to start with we were nervous to do that and wanted the baby to be close to the bed but not actually in the bed.
The most basic version of a bassinet is a pack n play. This serves a dual purpose of having a more portable travel crib later. If you’ll be on the go a lot in the first year, the Guava Family Lotus travel crib is worth the splurge! We loved the Guava Family Lotus travel crib with bassinet upgrade. It also has rocker leg attachments. We found a free one on Craigslist and then I bought the Bassinet conversion kit for $120. After we made the switch to a crib, the travel crib/playard moved to our living room, as a safe place to put the baby when I needed to be hands-free!
Most modern cribs are convertible from 2+ mattress positions and with a rail off for a toddler bed later. IKEA’s crib is affordable and high quality. This is also a great baby sleep item to look for used. We found a great condition Babyletto Hudson 3-1 crib for $75 on Craigslist.
By about 4-6 months, a crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep. You can lower the mattress so there isn’t fall potential. And if you have the space, you can put the crib in your room. This can make for an easier transition from bassinet to crib and then later from the crib in your room to the crib in their own room.
3. Crib mattress
Cribs don’t come with mattresses. Even though all the product pictures show a mattress! So this is an extra thing you’ll need. And there are a lot of options in this category. You can generally find a mattress in the $80-100 range. And this one really depends on your priorities of budget, organic etc.
As a hormonal pregnant lady, I was perhaps overly concerned about off-gassing smells etc. and spent too long researching mattresses. And then ultimately, we found a used Babyletto crib with a mattress. So problem solved I preferred a mattress that had already “off gassed” for 3 years vs a brand new organic mattress for twice the price.
4. Crib mattress pad protector: Buy 2
We have both of these covers, for a total of 3 mattress pads. A new mom trick is to put the mattress pad cover on first, then a sheet, then a liner pad, then another sheet. If you have to change the sheets in the night, all you have to do is take the dirty sheet and liner off and voile fresh sheets. And goodnight! The crib liner pads also work great later for night potty training!
If you’re starting out with a bassinet, then you might need a bassinet mattress protector since they’re a different size. However, the Guava Family one has a wipe clean surface so no mattress protector was needed.
5. Baby crib sheets: Buy 2-3
The Cloud Island $10 sheets are still our favorite sheets. Our three year old still uses them with his crib in toddler bed mode. They have so many adorable prints. Get at least 2-3 fitted crib sheets. You don’t want to be doing laundry at night if you need to change sheets. Same with bassinet if you go that route, get 2 bassinet sheets. We were also gifted an Aden + Anais muslin crib sheet. These are great and stretchy so we used it with our travel crib instead of buying exact fit (once he was a bit older, and no risk for getting tangled), and still use it in our travel tent peapod!
Mom hack/tip: Light colored or white sheets are actually the best for easy cleaning and also being able to spot things like a bug or spit up etc!
6. White noise device or app
You probably have an old iPhone or iPad laying around that you can use with a White Noise app. Another option is the Hatch Rest which is a night light and white noise in one. We just used an iPhone for white noise in the newborn days, but ended up getting the Hatch Rest around the 3 year old sleep regression time. It’s a great light to help toddlers visualize as an “ok to wake” clock. “When the light is green, you can get up!” And you can control it via an app.
7. Sleep Sack vs Swaddle Blankets
Did you know babies startle themselves awake? Enter, the swaddle and sleep sack! The aden + anais muslin swaddle blankets are popular for a reason. These were my most-used item! We used them for swaddling, for covering the carseat on way to the car, for naps, for burp clothes, cleanup, as an extra wrap around baby carrier, on the floor for play etc. They’re worth the hype! And since they come in fun patterns, its an easy way to personalize your baby stuff. Especially if you are getting lots of other items handed down or used.
We used swaddle blankets first, and then moved to adjustable fleece sleep sack and finally the wearable blanket sleep sacks.
As they get too big for swaddle blankets and start to wriggle out, the fleece swaddle sleep sacks and wearable blankets are great. As they get older, the 3-way adjustable velcro swaddle is great too transition them to sleeping with their arms out. And finally the vest style wearable blanket keeps them warm at night since they don’t use blankets yet. Halo also makes muslin swaddle blankets if you live in a warmer climate.
8. Black out shades or curtains
Just like white noise, having a dark place to sleep is one of the ingredients for happy baby sleep. Having blackout shades can also help train your baby as they develop their circadian rhythm for sleep cycles. We ended up layering room darkening cellular blinds installed in the windows and then blackout curtains on a curtain rod over it.
Mom hack/tip: Use binder clips to clip any gaps in the curtains together.
9. Baby monitor – audio or video
Depending on the size of your house and your anxiety level, having a baby monitor can be very reassuring for first time parents. A security camera works great for this. First, security cameras have historically had better security around hacking issues and second, it’s cheaper and more future proof for using elsewhere in your house in later years. We used the Foscam camera.
Note: the video freezes sometimes so we used it more for periodically checking on the baby (“oh he rolled over”, or “oh he slept in and slept through the night and yes, his chest is moving up and down”. Yeah, the first time that happens you’ll wake up, with a start, like omg what time is it? Is the baby still alive?!”) Depending if you’re traveling with baby and how large your house is and how easy your video monitor is, we ended up getting a cheap audio monitor for traveling and used it some at home too.
Baby Sleep Items: Nice to Haves
Newborn Sleep Items You Don’t Need
Pillow or blankets until age one, crib bumpers, baby crib mobile, or a wildly expensive sleep devices like the $300 Owlet smart sock or the $1,500 Snoo bassinet that you will use 4 months make our list of baby items that you don’t need.
Note: please don’t feel like you have to buy super expensive items for you baby to rest! It could work for your family and it might not. But guess what? You don’t know what kind of sleeper you’re going to have and as soon as you think you have something figured out they change anyway. So was it the Snoo? Was it the this? Was it the that? We’ll never know. I’ve known families who swore by and those that it didn’t work or the transition away from it was torture. Ultimately it’s a huge expense $1500 and most families can’t afford one item that is almost the price of an entire budget baby registry list. That said, the Owlet can be helpful for some medically fragile babies or parents with extreme anxiety.
So no shame, if you decide you do want to splurge on an expensive baby item! Just a reminder that you don’t need the $1000 stroller, and the $1500 bassinet and the $300 baby swing etc. “Influencer lifestyle” makes us feel like everyone is buying it all and that you need it for a happy baby. But your baby will be just as happy with more basic stuff! And you’ll be just as good of a parent! Or maybe better, because you’ll be able to afford to send your baby to college someday. ;)
I hope you’ve found these baby sleep essentials helpful! Check out the the spreadsheet download below and let me know if you have any questions!
Download the Minimalist Baby Registry Checklist Spreadsheet
This post is part of my Minimalist Baby Registry checklist series. You can download the spreadsheet for a “Pay what you want” price. Consider your checklist spreadsheet a planner for everything you need and a baby budget! While your Amazon registry is your shareable list with friends and family for gifting.
*And remember, the best products to help baby sleep will follow best sleep practices! Back is best = put your baby to sleep on their back until age 1. This has been correlated with reduced SIDS cases. And make sure there’s nothing in the sleep space with baby – no pillows, blankets, pets, co-sleeping etc. Those are the current baby sleep guidelines.