Minimalism & Family: Baby Essentials

Having children is often the moment when the amount of stuff starts to get out of hands. It’s a shame because new parents should be able to use their energy in a positive way focusing on their families and not fighting against clutter.

There’s a fake illusion created by baby magazines and TV commercials. The fact is you don’t need to buy a lot of things for a newborn.

I wish I had known that before my own children, now school age, were born. I wish I had realized to go for minimalism when my kids were small, everything would have been so much easier. Babies need to feel safe and loved. They need to be fed when hungry and changed when wet. They don’t need much stuff.

What you need for a baby is a few cotton/wool shirts and pants, a couple of hats and a warm outfit for a winter baby. In a cold climate soft, warm and practical wool is the best solution. A pile of diapers. Cloths/pieces of fabric for covering and cleaning. A sling (extremely useful). Blankets to keep the baby warm or to put on the floor. A couple of books. A car seat in case you use a car.

That’s basically the essentials. Whether you go for disposable or cloth diapers depends on your situation and personal decisions and priorities. For my firstborn I used mostly disposable diapers. For my two younger ones I got cloth diapers from a friend and found them easy and ecological.

In the end most of the stuff I had seen on baby magazines was unnecessary. We didn’t use bottles or pacifiers. Again. Whether you breastfeed or use bottles depends on your situation and personal decisions. I had a lot of problems when I started to nurse my firstborn but luckily got some professional advices, got over the problems and eventually chose long breastfeeding for all three.

We didn’t use a baby bouncer, a changing table or even a baby bed. The easiest option is to let the baby sleep next to you and for changing to use a desk or your own bed with a plastic mat or a towel. We never had a baby alarm or any safety helmet hats. My boys took their naps in a sling so they were always near me and I still had my hands free to do other things.

We had a few massive plastic baby toys which all ended up being clutter. Babies don’t need many toys either. First they love being entertained with baby books, songs and nursery rhymes. Then they move on playing with (safe) kitchen items. Yes, every kid loves them! A toddler starts to enjoy blocks and later drawing, puzzles and games.

Every Finnish baby is lucky to get all the essentials as a free gift from the government. The kit is called the maternity package (look inside the package here). The sturdy cardboard box is meant to be used as a baby’s first bed – many Finnish babies literally start their lives sleeping in a box – and the content is good quality. Every mother despite of their background or wealth is happy to receive their boxes.

The package is known around the world and has got a lot of publicity lately. The main idea behind the box is not sleeping in it, of course. The idea is to give every baby an equal start for the life and the package was a part of the major maternity/child health care program launched in Finland after the war and helped to decrease the infant mortality among one of the lowest in the world.

The symbolic value of the maternity package is hard to describe. Becoming a parent, especially for the first time, is magical, emotional, overwhelming, confusing, wonderful and scary at the same time. My mother received the maternity package when I was born and I got packages for my sons.

I never forget the moment I opened the box for the first time, touching every little item inside and finally realizing my life was going to change forever, we were having a baby.

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