Really, you don't need a lot to bring baby home from the hospital, they don't care about toys, books, exersaucers, play gyms, mobiles, quite yet. They don't even need the scads of clothes that you think they need. Every baby is different obviously, but they don't generally get really drooly until about 3 months. So, unless your baby is spitting up a lot or has explosive diapers, you won't be changing their clothes out during the day.
There are a few things that I have that I would have never considered essential, but would have to replace if something happened to them. These are normally on non-essential lists but are essential for me. Hear me out on my explanations before you judge.
My Non-essential Essentials
- Wipes warmer - We have the Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer, it's the ultimate non-essential that made my life easier. Before babies are sleeping through the night you are getting up often to change and feed them. Everytime I wiped my baby girl the cold wipe would startle her and she would start crying. It would take an hour to change her and feed her and settle her back to sleep. As a new first time mother I thought all this was normal and just did it. I received the wipes warmer for a baby shower gift. We started using it and no more startle or crying, and what was once an hour ordeal took 20 minutes at the most. It has a night light, which is all but useless. If you can improvise with a warm water bottle or something else, try it, see if it makes a difference for you. If you live down south where it's always warm you are probably laughing at me. I live in North Dakota and it's cool or downright frigid here a lot! All I know is if ours breaks, I'm buying a new one.
- One-Hand Operable Diaper Disposal System - We have the Genie II Elite, I just step on a pedal on the bottom and drop the diaper in. Whether you just use a garbage can or a system, once baby gets squirmy one-handed operation makes life easier. We had an old Genie that we had picked up from a garage sale and sterilized, but it requires both hands to pull the top parts off, put the diaper in and twist. She rolls and squirms and skooches (totally a word!) around now, so I'd be moving her from her changing table to her crib or a blanket on the floor then disposing of her diaper every time. This just makes my life easier.
- Baby Swing - We have a Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Cradle Swing that I bought used, and hubby calls it her off switch. This is 100% non-essential, but having somewhere to put her down for a while where I knew she was safe and didn't make her start fussing made it easier to be a normal somewhat functioning adult her first few months. She was very congested and would fuss a lot if put flat on her back anywhere, I'd prop her and set her down but then I didn't feel comfortable stepping away for anything. I wouldn't buy this new, and I'd also consider smaller portable ones for less of a footprint. These are BIG and take up a lot of room. We did use the cradle motion when she was smaller and have now switched to the swing motion a couple of weeks ago.
- White Noise Machine/CD - What works to get baby to sleep is different for everyone, especially if they are in an overstimulated/overtired state. We have a sound machine that was given to us as a hand me down, I have no idea of the brand, but it clamps on to her top crib rail. It has 5 sounds but the one that sounds like waves works best. We also travel and camp quite a bit and sometimes spend long days outside of the house so we also got a Cloud B Gentle Giraffe. I also downloaded a Pink Noise For Baby Sleep MP3 from Amazon, we burned it to a CD for our bedroom, it is on my laptop, phone and MP3 player. Some babies like swaddling, some like white noise, some like vibrations, some like combinations. So, the white noise is an essential for me, it might be swaddlers for someone else. The MP3 is 89 cents, it's a cheap way to find out if that's what your baby would prefer.
- Playpen with Bassinet Insert - Ours is a Graco Pack 'n Play G Galore line which is now discontinued, however it's similar to this Pack 'n Play. For the first few days she slept in her crib, slept is using the term very, very, very loosely. Her newborn congestion was so bad that she didn't sleep well at all. After two days we set up the playpen with bassinet insert in our room and used it as a co-sleeper of sorts for 2 months. Now she is back in her bedroom in her crib, however the Pack 'n Play still gets use for camping and visits to family. Also, when my family visits if someone is sleeping in her room we can use the Pack 'n Play in ours and it has a changer built in so no need to interrupt family for diaper essentials.
*In the United States, we aren't allowed to leave the hospital with a baby without a car seat, even if you'll be putting baby into a pram and walking a few blocks to your home.
I love the conveniences of the modern nursery, but just because all that stuff is available doesn't mean we need it. Figure out what you need and what works for you. Just for a little comparison, this room was designed in 1933 by Bertha Sanders, found at the Domestic Interiors Database.