My closest friend recently confided in me that she and her husband are expecting their first bundle of joy. She asked me, “So what do we need?” I dedicate this little post to her and her fantastic husband.
When you are having a baby, it feels like you are preparing for a picnic without knowing what the weather will be, how many guests are coming and so on. You want to be a good host, so you prepare for every single thing that could happen: rain, snow, mud, hay fever, broken bones and so on. Next thing you know, planning a pleasant little picnic has prevented you from saving money as you should and crowded your entire home with who-knows-what. This is the same mentality that puts three strollers in your garage and gives you a mountain of clothing that cannot possibly all be worn.
When I was pregnant I made the mistake of doing all sorts of Internet “research” on baby products. Perhaps you wiser folks reading this already know where I am going with this one. Internet research = being exposed to a ton of advertisements. Pregnancy hormones make you weak where shopping is concerned. It is the gathering instinct at its worst. You are quite possibly doomed to succumb to marketing tactics. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!
As always, keep it simple. Maybe you will have a baby who is difficult to soothe, or loves to be rocked to the point of needing a fancy swing, but then again, maybe not. It is impossible to know until Baby arrives what his specific quirks will be. There are, however, a few things every baby does “need”. (I use that term loosely.)
1. Safe Place to Sleep
This should be self-explanatory. You can do research on what is considered “safe” and do what you think is best.
If Baby is sleeping in a crib, I highly recommend double-making the bed. This means putting a sheet on the crib mattress, putting a waterproof mat on the sheet, and placing a second sheet on top of the mat. Following this method means you need a minimum of two crib sheets and one waterproof mat.
2. Car Seat
You may not leave the hospital without one. I suppose if you have a home birth, you could get around it for a while. In the United States, all of the car seats must meet the same safety standards, so just pick one in your budget.
3. A Method to Eat
Breasts, bottles/formula, or a combination of both are basically your options.
For those who choose to breastfeed: you do not need much. Maybe a nursing cover, but that is a personal preference. A receiving blanket works OK as a cover. You will need a pump and a couple bottles should you choose to feed expressed milk. I also liked having an ice tray with a cover for freezing milk (to avoid buying freezer bags).
It also helped me to put a lap-sized waterproof mat in my bed during the first couple weeks. Those breasts mean business and they are always open! Lanolin for sore nipples is also a fantastic thing to have on hand. Citing the picnic example above, I recommend assuming breastfeeding will go well. There are 24-hour stores with formula for sale if you become desperate, but you do not need it in your home as a back-up.
For those who are using bottles: a bottle brush is highly recommended. D and I sterilized our bottles in boiling water, but there are also bottle sanitizers on the market.
In lieu of burp cloths, I recommend using receiving blankets to burp Baby or to clean up his messes.
Decide how often you want to do laundry. If you are like me, that would be about every three days, but I like doing laundry. Whatever you decide, add one day and multiply that number by two or three. That is how many newborn “outfits” you should start with. In my example above, I should have eight to twelve changes of clothing. If babies in your family are big, skip the newborn size and go straight to 0-3 months. Baby will survive if the clothes are a little big for a couple weeks.
By the way, coats are a no-no for little ones in car seats. Use a blanket over the car seat harness straps to keep Baby warm in transit.
5. Diapering Supplies
I love cloth diapers. My baby pooped every two hours around the clock for several weeks, which is about the most mess anyone might have to deal with. Noting how much mess we did have to clean up, you will understand why I chose to have a diaper sprayer.
In my house diaper laundry is done every other day, so we needed 24-30 changes, about 30 cloth wipes, a spray bottle for water (to make the wipes wet), and we used receiving blankets to cover the changing pad. Dirty diapers go into a dry pail (a.k.a. 13 gallon trash can). We use washable pail liners, of which we have two, but you can get away without them. For the diaper bag, it might be nice to have two wet bags to store your dirty diapers when out and about (one to use, one to wash).
We also bought “cloth-safe soap” and a hanging clothes-drying rack, but, like the diaper sprayer, those are not necessarily needs. Once you get into cloth diapering, your laundering needs will become apparent within a couple washes. Another idea is to connect with local cloth diapering parents to find out how the water in your area may have affected their washing routines.
For folks using disposables, I have no experience to reference to advise you. My hunch is that you just need a stash of diapers, wipes, and zinc oxide (which you usually do not need with cloth diapers).
6. Bathing Supplies
We bathed our newborn in a dish tub that fit inside our kitchen sink beautifully. It was something we already had, so no need to buy a baby bathtub. We put one of those contoured sponges in the tub and that made a perfectly safe place to put the baby while bathing her. Those sponges are about $6.
Technically Baby can use the towels and wash cloths you already own. I happen to like the size of baby wash cloths and would recommend them. Towels marketed for babies are usually too thin in my opinion.
If you use soap for sensitive skin for yourself, it is probably safe to use on Baby as well – ask your doctor if you are unsure. If you want to use baby-specific soap, shampoo, and lotion, there is nothing wrong with that. Baby will need a comb and maybe a brush as well.
7. Safety Kit
Baby may not have any over-the-counter medicines until he is 3 months old or as directed by your doctor, so do not worry about stocking up on medicine at first. You will probably want to have a nasal aspirator, baby nail clippers, and a thermometer that is specific to Baby’s use (I’m never sticking that thing in my mouth again!). We kept alcohol around too, but only used it a couple times to clean Baby’s umbilical stump.
When Rie was two months old, she fell in love with her mobile. She also loved toys we hung from the car seat handle, and her activity mat with hanging toys. Some kids love pacifiers, though that was not our experience. All of that stuff is great and all, but the absolute best thing you can do is talk to your baby and hold him as much as possible. It is the touch and sound that stimulates him and creates a bond between the two of you. For that matter, I highly recommend having a method by which you can wear your baby. In addition to keeping Baby close, this also eliminates the need for a stroller and discourages strangers from touching your child (super annoying during the cold season).
Hope this helps! Folks who have been there and done that – feel free to add your advice in the comments for my friend and anyone else shopping for a new baby.