I got a request from a dear reader (and one of my best friends in the world who has seen sides of me very few people have, literally) a week or so ago. She's expecting a baby, but it's been a few years since she had her last one. And as any parent knows, they come out with all kinds of new baby gear all the time. She asked me to write up a list of the things a new parent needs, as opposed to the lists you find in magazines and specialty baby stores.
Truth is, with those lists, most of what is on those lists is stuff you really don't need.
I'll try to organize this list into sections. First, the things you really need. Second, the things you will probably need. Third, the things you should buy only if you really need them. And fourth, the things you truly do not need.
The Things You Really Need
- Diapers - I have always tried to get my husband to do cloth, but he resisted. I personally love the Pampers Swaddlers. Don't buy huge quantities of diapers in any small size, chances are the baby will outgrow them before you use them all up. Most newborns go through 10-14 diapers a day.
- Wipes - Unlike diapers, these are something you can stock up on fairly safely. Even once your kids are potty trained, which won't be for years, you will still find uses for wipes. Before purchasing giant boxes of them, make sure you try them first.
- Basic Generic Clothing - Onesies, long sleeved kimono style shirts, soft knit pants and one piece outfits. Newborns don't wear clothes yet, and everything should be soft. Don't go crazy buying too much, it will all be outgrown in a few weeks.
- Burp Cloths - You will probably want to have at least 12 of these on hand, since you will use a few a day at least in the first few months. The best ones I've ever found are actually the plain cloth diapers. You can spend more on the fancy ones if you want, but just because something costs more doesn't make it work better.
- Receiving Blankets - You will need at least 4 lightweight blankets to wrap the baby up in. Most flannel receiving blankets sold in the stores work fine for newborns, but the baby outgrows them quickly. Some companies are now making cotton larger blankets. I made my own out of flannel in larger sizes.
- Infant Car Seat - You need a car seat that is safe for a newborn. Whether it is a portable carrier or one that stays in the car, you need to make sure it is safe for the baby. The portable carriers are easier when they are tiny, and are often sold with stroller combinations. Make sure your car seat is properly installed. Most fire stations will inspect it for you.
- Somewhere to put the baby down - Even if you intend to co sleep with your newborn, there will be times that you need a safe place to put them down alone. Whether it is a crib, a playpen or a bassinet, you need something. Bassinets are nice and convenient, but will be outgrown quickly. Playpens these days usually come with bassinet inserts and will serve more practical purposes longer than a bassinet will. I had a playpen downstairs for the baby, which I recommend if you have a multi-story home. Get a few sheets and mattress covers, you don't need more than a few.
Things you probably need
- Stroller - If you get a travel system with your car seat, you will most likely have a full size stroller to go with it. Keep in mind that you only have so much room in the trunk of your car, and if it is completely full with the stroller, you may not be able to get groceries in there too. Full size strollers have their benefits but their drawbacks as well. I'd highly recommend going to a store where they are assembled already and test driving them BEFORE you get one. Practice folding it, locking it, opening it and carrying it. Then imagine doing it quickly, in the rain, holding a baby, etc. We opted with our last one to get a travel system that came with a lightweight stroller. I also recommend getting an umbrella stroller once the baby can sit up. I know people who swear by the car seat carrier strollers, but I personally don't see the point since it won't be used very long. It might be a good temporary option if the car seat you love doesn't come with a stroller, or if the stroller you love won't work with a car seat.
- Baby Carrier - I used slings in the first months with my babies. Again, this is a personal preference, and you have to get used to wearing them. The baby has to like being in them too. This is also something that you should attempt to test drive before purchasing. If you aren't comfortable wearing them, ask for help. Chances are someone around can give you tips. I loved my slings and my babies did too, plus you get your hands free to do other things. When the baby is sitting up, I'd also recommend a backpack style carrier.
- Swing - This is something you will probably need, but might not. Most babies like the rhythmic motion of a swing, but not all of them. Baby swings saved my sanity. Pay the extra and get the kind that can swing front to back and side to side like a cradle. Also, get one that has a cord, you don't want to be constantly replacing batteries. They cost a little more on the front end, but you will save a lot in the long run. You can probably wait until the baby is born, then go test drive a few swings at the store or borrow a friend's before you make the purchase.
- Highchair - You won't need it for a while. A fairly long while, since it won't be used until the baby is sitting up. Whether you get a freestanding one or one that sits on a regular chair doesn't really matter. My only important piece of advice is this: get one that is easy to clean. Do not get one with lots of padding and crevices and spots food can get shoved into. Gross. We have a solid wood highchair. Easy to clean. The ones that sit on a regular chair are often even easier, with the tray being dishwasher safe.
- Bottles - Whether you are bottle feeding or nursing, chances are you will need bottles at some point. Buy one of a style before you commit to a whole bunch of them. Babies are sometimes picky, and you dont' want to spend a ton of money on bottles they don't like. Again, expensive isn't necessarily better.
- Baby Monitor - If the baby will spend any time in a room away from you, you need to get a monitor. Get one that has a higher frequency and several channels to avoid interference with other signals. Ideally, get one with more than one transmitter. If you anticipate being the kind of parent who needs to check on a sleeping baby (and we all do it to some degree), there are video monitors and motion sensor monitors. These are not necessary for most parents, but may help ease your fears a little.
Things you should buy only if you really need them
- Exersaucers - Test drive them. Some kids like them, some don't. It's a big chunk of change if it never gets used. Even if they like it, they will use it for a very short period of time.
- Breast Pump - If you are nursing, chances are you will need a pump. I recommend renting one from a hospital first. If you plan to return to work, get a double electric, and do not go cheap. This is one thing that you really do need to spend the money on. Cheap motors burn out....trust me. I have had and loved two Medela Pump in Styles. I also highly recommend the Avent Isis manual hand pump for times you aren't able to use the electric. It is by far the best on the market.
- Breastfeeding Pillow - A regular pillow will do, but there are specially designed ones that may make it easier. They may also just get in your way.
- Changing Table - No, you don't really need one. You can get a changing pad and change a baby anywhere. A changing table, if you get one, should be designed to last longer than the time the baby will be an infant. The one we currently have is a dresser with a pad fitted to the top. I do recommend having a little basket with diapers and wipes in every room you might be in throughout the house.
- Glider or rocking chair - You can live without this, but you might want it. Only buy it if you have room for it and can foresee using it more than a few months.
- Diaper bag - You don't really need any special bag. A decent sized bag of any sort will work fine, whether it's a purse or a backpack. If you get a diaper bag, look for one that has a changing pad included. You may want a waterproof wet sack for soiled clothing as well.
- Infant Thermometer - This is one of the things you won't think about until you need it. With newborns, if they are running even a low fever, it can be a sign of a serious problem. Temporal thermometers work the best (the ones that you glide across their forehead), but are pricey. We have gone through dozens of thermometers over the years, and the only one that we have kept is the temporal one. It's probably better to just get one and hope you don't need it than wait until you do.
- Infant Medications - I'm not a huge fan of these and don't recommend buying them until you need them. The dosages change as babies get bigger and you may not use them before they are expired (or recalled! gasp!)
- Diaper Rash Ointment - I recommend Burt's Bees, and I know people who swear by Mustela and the Butt Paste. Major brands don't work in my experience at all. I'd have a tube on hand just in case you need it.
- Lanolin, breast pads, breast soothers - These are things you can wait and see if you need them. These days, they are carried by even grocery stores and are easier to find than they used to be.
- Baby bathtub - You may not need one. A foam insert for the sink or larger bathtub works great and is easier to use than most baby bathtubs. I would get a few of the soft baby washcloths and towels though.
- Formula - Unless you are planning from the beginning to bottle feed, you should try to avoid keeping this in the house. The first few weeks of nursing can be frustrating, and having formula in the house can serve as a temptation. Stick with nursing, resist supplementing for those weeks if possible, and you increase your chances of successful nursing.
- Pacifiers - This is a personal choice. If you want to give your baby one, assuming they will take it, then get them. If you don't, don't. Simple enough.
Things you really don't need
- Wipe warmers - silliest invention of all time.
- Bottle warmers - a large cup of hot water works fine.
- Sterilizers - a pot of boiling water works fine.
- Bumbo seats - they shouldn't sit up until they can.
- Floor gyms - none of my kids ever liked these.
- 90% of the stuff they sell in baby specialty stores - Really, you don't need most of that stuff. My advice for everything else is that you really think about whether you need it before purchasing it. Read reviews.
- You should also avoid buying too many things in advance. Clothing may be the wrong season if purchased in advance. You won't need to childproof until they are crawling, so don't bother doing it with a newborn. Newborns also don't need bowls and spoons and sippy cups.
I am sure there are things I am forgetting. And I am sure they will have invented something new by the time she has her baby. Whether she'll need it or not, well, that's anyone's guess.
Before I even begin to write anything here, I must premise this post with my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. This information...
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