As first-time parents, my husband and I had a general idea of what to get for the baby thanks to guides posted online and magazines. However, every baby and every family is different so we weren’t entirely sure what would work for our family and what would possibly be a waste of money. It’s even more difficult when you’re a foreigner in Japan trying to figure all of this out when pregnant and exhausted. I’ll admit that I relied on Japanese magazines and my husband a lot when it came to what would be a good product and what wouldn’t be, and some things just ended up being trial-and-error. We also tried to buy as much as possible before the baby came and we’re glad we did because that meant not having to go out that often with a newborn.
Now that I’m a year in, I want to share with you what my husband and I felt were great buys and what we felt like we didn’t really need in the end.
Must-Haves for Newborn Babies in Japan
Clothing（ベビー服 or baby fuku)
The type of clothing you need of course depends on the season but try to have a week’s worth of onesies. I found the ones that tie up (kimono-style) to be easier to work with than button-up ones. For nighttime, buy some sleepers and thick onesies if it’s cold and if it’s hot, UNIQLO’s AIRism inner onesies are great. I felt better about swaddling my baby when she was wearing one of those underneath her swaddle. Outerwear (hats, socks, jackets) also depends on the season. I would have at least two of each in case something gets dirty and needs to be washed so you’ll have a backup. (This goes for bedding as well, Baby A has sometimes gone through more than two bedsheets in one night!)
For winter, I highly recommend footed pajamas, especially ones that allow you to unzip from the bottom-up to make nighttime diaper changes easier. The ones I own are from Old Navy as I have not found these kinds of pajamas (both footed and the zipper at the bottom) in Japan yet. (Update: an Australian mom shared that you can get 2-way zip rompers/all-in-ones from a site called Cotton On, which ships to Japan! Thanks for the info, June!)
You can also pick up used clothing if you want to save money by visiting recycle shops like BOOK-OFF or Treasure Factory, auction sites like Yahoo or Mercari, or even Facebook groups for foreign moms in Japan where some people have gotten entire wardrobes for their babies for free. End of season sales are also a great way to stock up. I got a whole bunch of new stuff from Nishimatsuya (西松屋) for 99 yen each!
My haul at 99 yen each
I preferred to swaddle my daughter when she was a newborn and although she’s now a year old, I’m still concerned about SIDS so she only sleeps with a towelkete or in a sleep sack from H&M Japan. If I did use a blanket on her, it was only during naps and when I was able to supervise her (i.e. she was napping on me or I was able to watch her while she slept).
Laundry detergent for babies (赤ちゃん用洗剤)
I use baby arau, which you can buy from any baby store or Amazon Japan. I also picked up a huge jug of baby laundry detergent from COSTCO called Dreft (which you can also get from Amazon Japan) and it’s been fantastic at getting out stains. One jug should last about a year, which means not having to worry about buying new detergent for a year. (Of course, the downside is that if you don’t like it, you’re stuck with it for a while.)
For a diaper bag, I use an anello bag that I had before my baby was born but you can find various kinds of diaper bags at baby stores in Japan, stores that sell maternity clothing, and even Amazon Japan.
To see what I was in my anello diaper bag when my daughter was 3 months old, check out this article.
Bottles (哺乳瓶 or honyuubin)
Even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it’s good to have a few of these on hand so your partner can feed the baby too! My daughter preferred Betta bottles as a newborn before becoming a fan of Pigeon bottles. Amazon Japan has a great selection of baby bottles that sometimes even go on sale.
The hospital or clinic you give birth at will likely provide you with a pack or two of these but just in case, have a pack for newborns ready at home or buy cloth diapers from any baby store or online retailer, such as Amazon Japan, in advance. For more information about what to look for, check out my review of newborn diapers in Japan.
Baby wipes (おしりふき)
There are plenty of baby wipes to choose from in Japan and you can find most popular brands on Amazon Japan or at any baby store. I would recommend buying a single pack from a few brands rather than committing to a box so that you can see what works best for your baby. Personally, I quite like moony wipes because they’re thick and gentle on my baby’s skin, come out of the package easily, and are not too big.
It’s an absolute must to have a bottle of baby lotion as well as baby vaseline. If your baby has sensitive skin (which may be likely if you have sensitive skin), you might want to try ordering Aveeno from iHerb or Curel from any drugstore or Amazon Japan. I have eczema and Aveeno and Curel are the only lotion brands I can use without my skin getting irritated, and the same goes for my daughter. Click here to see other lotion and creams for babies listed on Amazon Japan.
Bath soap/Body wash（ベビーソープ）
I used Pigeon for my daughter when she was a newborn, which was ranked the best baby soap in 2020 by たまひよ, a brand that publishes information for pregnant women and parents. It’s fragrance-free, paraben-free, and hasn’t irritated my daughter’s skin. I have eczema and used it once and my skin wasn’t irritated either. If your newborn has especially sensitive skin, you may also want to consider using Curel bath milk or body soap, which is great for both parents and baby. You can check out other brands that are available on Amazon Japan here.
Baby bath (ベビーバス)
We got an inflatable type and I’m glad we did because we don’t use it anymore, so it’s easy to put away and ship if you decide to sell it like we did. (From two months onwards, I washed Baby A by sitting on a bath chair in the shower with her on my lap.) At a recent trip to Babies R Us, I also spotted this incredibly cute one that works five different ways and has a seal design — if I ever decide to have another kid, I’m definitely getting this!
To see a great range of baby baths in Japan and their reviews, visit Amazon Japan.
Gauze handkerchiefs （ガーゼ・ガーゼハンカチ)
These can be used in many different ways, such as cleaning the baby in the bath and wiping away spit-up. We found that 手口ふき (hand and mouth wipes) for babies were too harsh for my baby’s skin, causing her to break out into a rash, so now we just use damp gauze handkerchiefs to wipe her mouth after she eats.
I knew I needed towels for the baby after she had a bath but I never imagined how much I would need towels for spit up! I have a bunch of hand towels that I use as burp cloths or lay on the crib horizontally and tuck into the sides, which I change if she spits up after a feed. It makes it so much easier in the middle of the night so I don’t have to change the entire sheet on the crib. I had to remove the towels when she was older and more active though as she started to pull at it and it became a suffocation hazard, so that is something to keep in mind.
Bibs (よだれかけ or スタイ)
I bought a few bibs because they were cute but with spit up (and eventually drool), I end up using several bibs in a day. My favorite bibs for my daughter when she was a newborn up until 6 months were from Nitori because they are large and absorbent (unfortunately I can’t find any online to provide a link) but for the first two months, I also liked ones that easily tucked in the collar like these ones from MIKI HOUSE.
Bath thermometer (湯温度計 or yuondokei)
I didn’t really end up using the one I got from my baby registry because I can digitally adjust the temperature of the water in my apartment, as with most Japanese apartments and houses. However, if you’re interested in getting one, you can check out the selection of bath thermometers on Amazon Japan.
Baby thermometer (体温計 or taionkei)
I got a simple OMRON one because it had good reviews, was very affordable, and was easy to use. I tried these kinds in the store and it seemed to work quite well but some people who have bought and used it consistently said that it is not that accurate. However, I can see the appeal of non-contact thermometers as you can check your baby’s temperature fairly quickly and while they’re sleeping.
You can find plenty of baby thermometers on Amazon Japan.
Crib (ベビーベッド) or baby futon (ベビー布団)
Baby stores in Japan as well as Amazon Japan have nice selections of cribs and baby futons. We decided to get a new crib from IKEA as it didn’t have drop-sides, which are banned in North America. The crib also converts into a toddler bed, so it felt like a good investment. If you’re thinking of buying these used, be careful as something dated or worn may not be safe.
If you don’t want to have to deal with getting rid of a crib after using it or want to try out some cribs before purchasing, you can rent one from Babyrenta. This service lets you rent a variety of things for your baby, such as cribs, strollers, car seats, scales (great for if you’re breastfeeding to make sure your baby is drinking enough and gaining weight), and even appliances to make your life with a newborn a bit easier (psst, they rent out Roombas!).
Baby Breathing Monitor
When you have a newborn, one of the greatest worries you will likely have is whether they are safe, especially during those few precious minutes you get to sleep at night. Due to concerns about SIDS, I looked into baby breathing monitors, such as Snuza and Owlet, but I had read cases where babies had been burned by the device. That was enough to make me decide against getting a breathing monitor for my newborn. However, a friend of mine who had a baby after me used the Angelcare monitor and recommends it. As it’s affordable and has an under-the-mattress sensor pad (so it doesn’t touch the baby’s skin directly), it may be something I would consider using if I had another child.
Great Buys for Newborn Babies in Japan
We got this pack from Costco and although the fabric felt kind of rough, looking back I’m so glad we bought it! Not only was it a great deal, after washing it became softer and unlike other swaddles (like Aden Anais), the fabric wasn’t too stretchy so I was able to easily swaddle Baby A without the swaddle coming undone overnight. Around 3 months when your baby is starting to roll over or breaking out of the swaddle, you may want to consider getting a sleep sack. H&M Japan has a lot of great ones with enclosed bottoms like a little sleeping bag and won’t break the bank, especially if you keep your eye out for a sale. I got a few, including cute ones with Disney designs, for less than 1000 yen each! (Try to get ones that zip up from the sides. The ones with buttons in the front are very annoying.)
Betta Baby Bottles （ベッタ哺乳瓶）
We got a bunch of baby bottles to see which one would work best for Baby A, and the winner was Betta! Although I’m not the biggest fan of the plastic (you can get a glass bottle but it’s quite expensive), the design is perfect for my gassy baby. She has significantly less gas when she drinks from this and usually finishes her bottle. (Update at 4 months: Baby A no longer likes Betta because the flow from the nipple is too slow and will only drink from Pigeon bottles now.)
Konny Baby Carrier（コニー抱っこ紐 or konny dakko himo)
The Konny Baby Carrier is a Korean product that was recommended to me by my husband’s cousin (who is a pediatric nurse with two kids) and I’m so glad she did! It’s lightweight, very affordable, and incredibly easy to use. Within a few minutes, Baby A is fast asleep in it and usually doesn’t wake up until I take her out. However, as your baby gets bigger, this may become harder to use and cause some pain in your shoulders. Once Baby A reached 7 kgs, I hardly used it but I was able to sell it on an auction site for a decent price.
Pigeon Electric Nasal Aspirator (電動鼻吸い器 or dendou hana sui ki)
The price of the Pigeon Electric Nasal Aspirator scared me off at first but after using a manual nasal aspirator, I think this is one of my favorite purchases. When Baby A has a cold, this machine is excellent at clearing up her little nose. It’s also portable and very easy to clean. Note that your baby may hate it and scream like ours does but it gets the job done. I’ve heard of some babies learning to really enjoy using this when they’re older so fingers crossed the same happens with our little one!
Ergo Omni 360 Baby Carrier （エルゴベビーOMNI360 抱っこ紐)
The Ergo Omni 360 Baby Carrier is a product that is recommended by my husband. He uses it all the time to get the baby to go to sleep while he does things around the house and takes Baby A for long walks (sometimes more than 2 hours!) in it. I began using it when Baby A got too big for the Konny carrier and I loved the support. The one drawback is if you’re short like me (152 cm), the carrier might touch the ground when you take off the straps.
Combi Microwavable Bottle Sterilizer (コンビ電子レンジ除菌)
This is so easy to use and a must-have for any new parent. We use it several times a day and have had no problems whatsoever. We got a set that’s only sold on Amazon which includes brushes, dish (bottle) soap, a pacifier, and a bottle with a nipple replacement. (The bottle was really annoying to use, but we loved everything else so that made it worth it.) This Combi sterilizer was also ranked as the best out of microwavable sterilizers in 2020 by たまひよ.
Amazon also has a limited edition Shiba Inu set by Pigeon which is very adorable and Pigeon bottles are nothing short of awesome. But it’s also quite expensive at almost twice the cost of the Combi one (might be something worth putting on your Amazon baby registry, though).
MUJI (無印良品) Nursing Tank Tops
These tank tops from MUJI have a built-in bra, make breastfeeding so easy, and are super comfortable. I wore it almost every day when my daughter was a newborn and as it looked like any old tank top, I didn’t feel the need to have a shirt over the top of it. When the baby needs to be fed, it’s easy-peasy. There are sales from time to time for these so keep your eyes out! Amazon Japan also has a great selection of nursing tank tops.
IKEA Babycare Mat
The IKEA babycare mat is light and perfect for not only changing the baby’s diaper but also as a place to lay her down to dry her after a bath.
Combi Electric Nail Trimmer（コンビベビーレーベルネイルケアセット）
Initially, we bought baby nail scissors but only used it a handful of times as babies move around and we were worried we would cut her, even when sleeping. This is why we decided to invest in this electric nail trimmer by Combi. This nail file is amazing, it’s gentle and gets the job done easily even when the baby is awake, and you can use it even after your baby turns one! It has a variety of attachments that allow even you to keep your nails trimmed and smooth.
The Aprica NIOI-POI Diaper Pail is another recommendation from my husband. It makes throwing away diapers very easy and locks in the smell. I like this one better than the type that twist to seal in each diaper because it’s easier to throw a diaper away and not have to worry about searching for the small handle and then turning it. When changing the baby’s diaper, I just don’t have time for that! If your baby has particularly stinky poo (especially if they have diarrhea), you might want to try out these little packs of diaper pail deodorizers.
Picture books (絵本)
Whoever says newborns are too young for books are absolutely wrong. I read books to Baby A while I was pregnant and the way she listens and looks at the pictures when I read to her now makes me think she remembers.
Babies especially love high contrast colors (black, white, and red) and one of the only books Baby A never tires of (and tends to stop meltdowns) is Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal. I highly recommend it.
If you’re interested in Japanese picture books, you can check out my recommendations here.
We got a bunch of toys for newborns when they were on sale for up to 50% off, which is why we bought some in advance. I wouldn’t say go crazy if things are on sale but it doesn’t hurt to have a few toys on hand, especially so you can cut off tags and sterilize before the baby comes. Our baby really enjoys using her tummy time mats and playing with her rattles. You can find a great selection of baby toys on Amazon Japan (and make sure to keep your eye out for sales!).
アイクレオ (ICREO) ready-made formula (アイクレオ 赤ちゃんミルク)
These little packs of ready-made formula by ICREO are great for when you’re on the go and don’t want to hunt for boiled water or carry a thermos with you to prepare the baby’s formula. It’s light, small (125 ml), and doesn’t need to be heated up – you simply shake the carton and pour the contents into a bottle for the baby to drink. It’s especially great to have a few on hand in case the power goes out or there is an emergency and you don’t have access to boiled water. Our baby was already drinking ICREO formula before we bought these so she was used to the taste; however, if your baby isn’t drinking ICREO already, it may be a gamble on whether they will take to it.
As cute as it was, I wasn’t sure whether putting this Disney baby mobile on my Amazon Japan Baby Registry was necessary at first but looking back, I’m glad I did because Baby A absolutely LOVED it. It helped her go to sleep at night and she enjoyed looking at it when I had to pop her in the crib to quickly go to the washroom or put away laundry. It has a variety of songs and you can slow down the melody to help lull your baby to sleep. The light is also a great function, it really helped me when she was a newborn because I was so nervous about whether she was breathing or the swaddle was too tight so I would turn it on at night to check on her and it never woke her up. You also don’t need a crib for this; as illustrated in the photo, it has a stand so you can just put it on the floor next to your baby.
Compact Bottle Drying Rack (コンパクトほ乳びんラック)
We use this compact bottle drying rack several times a day. I love how it doesn’t take up too much space, is portable if we need to take it anywhere or store it, and easy to clean (unlike the grass type). For other bottle drying racks that are available on Amazon Japan, click here.
This portable changing mat has been incredibly useful when going out with the baby. I always use this on top of changing tables because I’m a germaphobe. It’s light, easy to clean, and I can unfold and fold it back up one-handed while holding the baby in my other arm. You can check out other changing mats available on Amazon here.
Nitori Diaper Caddy (整理用バスケット)
This diaper caddy by Nitori has been great for storing diapers, creams, wipes, etc.
IKEA Rocking Chair
Although it takes up some room, this rocking chair by IKEA was an excellent purchase for taking care of our newborn baby. We were able to rock her to sleep and still use it to calm her down when she wakes up at night.
Baby Monitor App
Okay, this one we didn’t buy — we downloaded it for free! We use the AtHome Camera app for our baby, which we downloaded onto an old iPhone and attached to a tripod next to her crib. We then watched our baby sleeping in realtime using the AtHome Video Steamer app on our smartphone and tablet. If you don’t have an old smartphone or tablet to put in your baby’s room, Amazon Japan has a lot of options when it comes to baby monitors.
We had one of these by SHARP before our daughter was born to help with my husband’s allergies so when our daughter was born, we didn’t hesitate when it came to buying another one. These help with not only breaking down airborne pollutants/allergens but also keep your house smelling fresh and prevent mold from growing in your home and on your belongings in the summer.
Como Tomo Bottles
This is not a Japanese product but I felt that it should be included in this list. I had read good things about Como Tomo bottles but my husband and I both hated it. The material attracted so much random fluff from fabric and the nipple pushed inward easily, which made feeding the baby difficult at times. Because of its shape, it was also hard to feed the baby the last 10 ml or so, which meant wasted milk.
I have so. many. white. onesies.
I guess I imagined I would be putting these onesies under the baby’s clothing but for a summer baby, it was just too hot! I never ended up using them. I ended up just using the mesh-type onesies that are available in Japan because it was super breathable so I wasn’t worried about my daughter overheating. To know more about how these onesies look like and where to get them or other tips to keep babies cool during summer, you can check out this post.
Combi Water Warmer (調乳じょ〜ず)
At first, having this water warmer by Combi was useful because we didn’t need to warm up water for the baby’s formula each time and the temperature wasn’t as hot as freshly boiled water. However, depending on the formula you use, the water might not be hot enough to dissolve the formula powder. There was also shiny material floating throughout it, which the Combi website states are minerals, but it was still enough that we stopped using it after one month. Now we just boil water in a kettle, fill the bottle halfway and after dissolving the formula, add refrigerated 赤ちゃんの水, which is sterilized water that can be given to babies. You can buy this at any baby store, like Babies R Us, Akachan Honpo, or Nishimatsuya, or from Amazon where you can get 500 ml bottles and 2-liter bottles (we went through about one 2 liter bottle a week at one point).
Buying cans of formula (粉ミルク or kona miruku) in advance
As every baby is different and has their own preferences, try to get as many samples as possible before committing to spending a lot of money on an 800g can of formula that may not agree with your baby. Check out this post to find out how you can get free samples or go to a baby store and buy travel-sized formula to see what your baby likes. It’s also best to see what formula the hospital gives your baby if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding or supplementing with formula from Day 1 and buy that one.
Before I had Baby A, I was positive that I wanted to breastfeed until she was at least 6 months old, so naturally, I bought a breast pump, specifically this one by the brand Pigeon. Unfortunately, breastfeeding didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped and in the end, I didn’t really need the pump. I probably used it less than twenty times, which feels like a waste for something so expensive. It did work fairly well, though, for the few times I did use it, and it did receive first place in a ranking of breast pumps by たまひよ in 2020. Some mothers, like a friend of mine, also went without using a pump throughout the entire time they breastfed so it may not be entirely necessary.
Breastfeeding/nursing goods in general (授乳グッズ)
See above. I didn’t end up using the nursing covers, nursing pads, nipple cream, etc. But for those who are breastfeeding, it’s probably a good idea to get these. I would suggest getting samples, seeing what you like, and then going from there, and for items that don’t have samples, there’s a lot of breastfeeding products available on Amazon Japan.
Hats and socks （帽子・靴下)
I bought two pairs of each because they were oh-so-cute but as Japanese summers are oh-so-hot, I didn’t use these often except for the occasional chilly day, so I guess having one or two on hand is useful. But if you’re having an autumn or winter baby, even a spring baby, it’s best to buy a few of these, especially keeping in mind that socks and hats can fall off so you want to have some extra ones in your diaper bag when it’s cold.
If you’re lucky, you might have a baby that enjoys being in a stroller. Mine did not until she was about five or six months and finally got used to it. Sure, taking a baby for a walk or to the mall in a stroller is easy because you don’t have to carry the tiny human around. But having a stroller can be annoying in Japan, especially if you live in an apartment as it takes up room and with no elevator, can be a pain to carry downstairs. This also goes for when you travel on the train as trains can be packed and stations have few elevators. I remember a coworker telling me she had to wait for almost 30 minutes to get onto an elevator at a mall because there were so many people. If you’re not sure whether you want to invest in a stroller, you can always rent one from services like Babyrenta.
I hope this list is helpful for all you parents-to-be living in Japan or interested in Japanese products! Remember, one great way to try products out without breaking the bank is to get samples or sign up for an Amazon baby registry and add products that your friends and family could possibly buy for you. You can read more about my experiences with samples and the registry here and check out the video below for what you might get in your free welcome box.
Do you know of any items that are a must for new parents? If so, please let me know in the comments!