When I was seven+ months pregnant, I was kind of a lot freaked out. I had no idea what I "really" needed to have at home for the baby. I consulted the internet and books, and the more I read the more freaked out I became.
I thought, even if I GET this stuff, how will I know what to USE? And WHEN to use it?
Well. It turns out, I needed a lot less than I thought, and things just sort of worked themselves out. (I swear.)
BUT! At the time, I was freaked. And I remembered being freaked. And I remember saying, when this part is all over, I'm going to write about it so other people might freak less.
Thus. This post. Compiled from having asked you, having asked friends, having asked my sisters, and having consulted the end-all, be-all book on the subject (GET THIS BOOK): Baby Bargains.
(Note: this book isn't just about buying stuff affordably/saving money. It is an up-to-date list of the exact products you need, which ones you don't, and includes detailed consumer reporting about which are the best, safest, most durable, etc. for the money. If you are pregnant and shopping, this should be your bible. I am grateful to my BFF for giving me a copy!)
But because I know that a 1000 page reference guide is kind of daunting, here is my personal list, crystallized for you. I hope it proves useful!
Note: This list is based SOLELY on my own experience. Your mileage may vary. Also, this is for what you need when you bring the baby home and to get you through the first few weeks.
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My List Of Things I Actually Used In The First Month (Explanations Below)
- A bassinet in our room, next to our bed for Eve to sleep in at night
- Onesies (long and short sleeved; with and without legs/feet) in size "newborn"; socks and hats
- Lots of burp cloths
- Nursing pillow (God Bless the Boppy)
- Blankets, all different sizes and shapes, especially ones for swaddling
- Car seat
- Stroller (we did the combo car seat/stroller and love it)
- Something for baby-wearing (sling, pouch, wrap, Ergo, Bjorn, whatever)
- A couple sleep sacks
- Fully loaded diaper bag
- Diapers, wipes
- Baby "toiletries" including: hypo-allergenic shampoo/body wash; moisturizer; diaper cream
- Baby medicines and baby first aid kit (at least a rectal thermometer and nose bulb) and nail clippers. We also needed/used baby Tylenol, Mylicon, and gripe water.
- A playmat
- Small (4 oz) bottles and formula to have on-hand
- Diaper Champ
- Hand sanitizer
- Breast pump
- Nipple cream (Lansinoh! Miracle worker!)
- Quick reference guides: What To Expect The First Year, Happiest Baby On The Block, Nursing Mother's Companion
My List Of Things I Thought I'd Use In The First Month But Didn't (Explanations Below)
- Baby tub
- Baby washcloths and towels
- Breastmilk freezer bags*
- Toys, books, stuffed animals*
- Baby monitors*
*All of these things we use now, we just didn't need them in the first month.
Thing We Spent A Lot Of Money On But Didn't REALLY Need:
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Where will the baby sleep?
There are about a million options here, and this was by far the most confusing aspect of baby-shopping.
We knew that we wanted Eve in our room with us at the beginning. We considered getting a co-sleeper (the thing that attaches to the bed so the baby's sort of in bed with you but you can't roll over on her), but -- for lots of reasons -- decided that having a bassinet RIGHT next to the bed would be a good compromise. When she got bigger, we moved her to her crib in her room.
I know of people who put the crib in their bedroom instead of buying/getting a separate bassinet, and then just moved the crib to the baby's room eventually.
I know LOTS of people who just put the baby in the crib in the baby's room right off the bat.
It's totally up to you.
Where will the baby be changed?
We bought a fancy Pack-n-Play *with changing station* for downstairs. We decided that this made sense because it would serve as her changing station during the day, as well as her daytime napping station.
In actuality, we could have just as easily changed her on the sofa, the floor, an armchair, wherever. Newborns need to be changed a million times and yet they take up like, no space. The Pack-n-Play's changing station was awesome height-wise and convenience-wise. HOWEVER? Eve still all but refuses to sleep in it. (For the first several weeks, Eve would nap in my arms or on the Boppy pillow on my lap.)
Now the P-n-P is still a changing station, and is doubling as a toy chest. We only just recently actually "packed" it and brought it with us for a weekend trip, and she did sleep in it, but with protest. And that's after 7 months.
My point is: it's a useful thing, sort of. It does come in handy, and I know of older babies who use it as a playpen. It's just not the all-in-one Godsend I had hoped it would be.
Will the baby need a swing? A bouncer seat? A jumper?
Some people SWEAR by having a baby swing. I've read my fair share of parenting confessions about how they've let their otherwise fussy baby just hang out in the swing for hours (hey, whatever works!). Eve, however, was not a fussy baby, and never much cared for the swing. In fact, we've NEVER successfully had her in it for longer than 15 minutes that I can remember.
She also HATED the bouncer seat for the first month.
(Of note: Eve eventually learned to love the seat, and this was a lifesaver. If I needed to actually do SOMETHING, I could set her in the seat in front of a Baby Einstein DVD and she'd be happy as a clam. It's the only reason I got anything wrapped this past Christmas.)
Same with the jumperoo: these aren't even recommended for babies who can't support themselves, so unnecessary at the beginning.
What about the baby carrier? And carseat? And stroller?
I am not an expert, and entire giant manuals have been written about strollers alone. So here's my best advice:
- Go to the store and try these out. Look at them and decide on what carrier and stroller makes sense for you and your lifestyle.
- We loved the Graco SnugRide that is also a baby carrier for a few reasons:
1) It snaps in and out of its base in the car, meaning if baby's sleeping, she can stay asleep while you transport her
2) The carrier also snaps into all kinds of stroller bases (some very affordable, like the Snap-n-Go) which is awesome and has held up to all kind of abuse by us. So far, it's been the only stroller we've needed
3) The carrier part rests easily and fairly securely into the base of high chairs at restaurants (you flip the high chairs over). We eat out all the time, so having a comfy place for the baby to "go" was key. The carriers also fit into a lot of shopping carts.
For the first few weeks of her life -- and even now, seven months later -- Eve lives in onesies. I was told you can never have too many of these, and I agree. With caveats.
- A mix of short-sleeved and long-sleeved creepers. (These are onesies without legs.) Sometimes it gets hot, sometimes it gets cold. Use creepers as the under-layer instead of "shirts" which are practically not even sold for newborns. So a typical newborn "outfit" is a creeper, a pair of pants, and a sweater/coat over the top if needed.
- A bunch of "footies," too. These are the long-legged onesies with feet. If it's chilly in your house, this is a nice way to keep the baby warm during the day. Also great for wearing under swaddling at night for sleeping.
- Fleece footies in particular. Personally, we LOVE the fleece. It's warm, and it's less likely to get soaking wet when there's drool/spit-up, which there always is. If you clean up the spit-up fast enough on fleece, it won't penetrate the surface and you don't have to change the baby's clothes.
- Socks. They won't stay on unless you get fancy ones, and then those won't stay on, either. But you should try to cover baby's feet when you're going out.
- Or just buy the Zutano booties. They're expensive if you think of them as socks. But ONE pair of these suckers is worth every other sock you'll ever own because they stay on. I cannot recommend highly enough.
You Do NOT Have to Get:
- 80 million hundred onesies in size "newborn." Well, I mean, you can -- I wish we had -- but you're safer to get the 3-6 month, or at least 0-3 month size. Because, duh, some babies are born big and outgrow "newborn" sized clothes quickly. My nephew fit in newborns for about two weeks, and we assumed we'd have this same issue. Instead, we had the opposite problem. When Eve was born, we had about two items in size "newborn" and a handful in 0-3 mos. which were too big for her! Eve continued to wear newborn and 0-3 size clothing until she was about four-and-a-half months old. So, yeah.
- Anything in the order of "outfits" or much in the way of "outerwear." I mean, not right away. (Obviously some outerwear is needed if you live in a cold place and it's winter.) But newborns don't need to be put in complex outfits or stuffed into coats. Mostly they sleep, and like sleeping in your arms and against your body. A cozy onesie, a sling, and a blanket should be good for a long time. And don't underestimate the use of blankets when the baby's in a stroller.
- Shoes. Those come later. At this stage, they're purely decorative. (See Zutano booties above!)
Here's what happened in my experience: I hated the baby tub we bought because it felt really awkward. I think a flat plastic box-like thing (shaped like a litter box) (sorry, the only thing I could think of) would have worked far better than the angled tub with all the bells and whistles. If I'd had a sink in our home that was sized well enough, I would have just bathed her in that. Ultimately, I gave up and just took her in the shower with me for the first couple weeks. (I'm not necessarily recommending this, I'm just saying that's what I did and it worked.) Once she got a little bigger than "tiny," Ish or I began sitting in the tub WITH her, and that's worked out well for all of us.
However you choose to bathe the baby, you do NOT need to buy fancy/baby-specific washcloths or towels. The ones we grabbed at Target sucked. Soft normal people towels or super soft (and expensive) baby towels work better.
We do like having some container next to the tub to help rinse her with.
Helpful but not necessary: thermometer to make sure the water isn't too hot.
We swaddled Eve and she loved it. We loved it. So lots of swaddling blankets. The ones we liked best were a little large and stretchy, like this Ladybug swaddler with cute little cap (they make one in a cow pattern, too!) The give in the fabric helps keep it tight.
Or just buy "swaddlers" (velcro) -- you don't have to worry about doing it right.
If you don't swaddle in the beginning, I would still highly recommend sleep sacks. They're great to throw on over creepers, great for naptime, and easy to put on. Eve still sleeps in them.
Tip: since we can't use blankets these days, zipping Eve into a sleepsack for daytime naps is a great way to let her know it's time for sleep. The second I start slipping her into one, she starts yawning.
We did not go the environmentally friendly route. You may mock and shun us. But we used Pampers Swaddlers in Newborn, and they were amazing.
CREAMS, PHARMACEUTICALS, TOILETRIES &TC.
Let me start off by saying that Lansinoh Nipple cream is the best stuff on earth even if you AREN'T breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, it doesn't just sooth dry skin, it actually makes the whole boob feel better, from deep within, for no reason that I can understand. But who cares?
It's also gentle enough to sooth any of baby's dry skin anywhere.
Likewise, Aquaphor -- specifically as a diaper cream but also as a baby moisturizer -- is fantastic. It is clear and it is scent-free. Score!
There is some controversy (shock!) about using gas-relief drops (Mylicon by brand name). Apparently, if you are feeding your baby properly and burping her properly and massaging her tummy properly, digestion and gas shouldn't be an issue. But just say that it is? I don't know -- a couple drops of this stuff came to our immediate mid-night, mid-screaming rescue.
If you want to go the more natural route, try Gripe Water, too. It's an herbal thing (Target carries it) and soothes sore tums. Awesome.
Have Baby Tylenol on hand just because that's the go-to fever reducer, and you don't want to be without it when you need it most.
I still don't understand the difference between all the washing stuff out there, and there are entire websites devoted to the evils of baby creams manufactured by some very reputable companies. So, I will just suggest you opt for organic stuff (like California Baby). For what it's worth, we LOVE the smell of the Burt's Bees products.
FEEDING THE BABY
I was so confused about all the breastfeeding/bottle stuff. I knew I wanted to BF, but I didn't know if it would work. Or if I needed a pump. Or if I needed milk storage. Or, really, anything at all.
Here's my advice:
- If you plan to breastfeed, chances are it will go just fine and that will be that. You won't immediately need bottles or a pump or storage bags or anything. (Except maybe some nipple cream.)
- I, however, had two issues. My milk took a while to come in, so I was super sore. I also got a clogged duct almost immediately. Nothing (including bf'ing) was helping, so Ish ran to the hospital to rent a hospital-grade breast pump. That helped a LOT. After that clog, however, I didn't really need the pump again for a few weeks.
- Regardless of whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will probably come home with samples of formula from the hospital, and probably a couple bottles just in case. Those could be all you need to get started.
- We had extra formula on hand, and a few extra bottles. (We got the Dr. Brown's in 4 oz size.)
- A word about formula: it's about a thousand times easier to prepare than it used to be, from what I remember of my mom preparing my little sister's bottles. Now you just plop the formula into the bottle, add water, and mix. Et voila. Eve never cared for her formula heated.
- A LOT more could be said on the topic, but starting at about three months, we started supplementing breastfeeding with formula. I continued to breastfeed until Eve was five months. I would have continued, but she lost all interest, and I decided not to fight it.
- After I was able and willing to leave the house while I was breastfeeding, I learned that I HATED HATED HATED doing it in public. I decided instead to pump ahead of time, and just bring the bottles full of breastmilk. That's when the bottles and pump (and storage bags) came in handy -- but that wasn't until Eve was about 6 weeks.
Baby toys baffle me. Since you're not supposed to put anything in the crib with them, and the baby can't really "play" (they can't really do anything except stare at stuff for the first couple weeks), having a crapload of toys in advance of the baby is really pretty useless. Makes for a cute nursery, sure. But otherwise, you don't "need" any of these things when you first arrive home.
The only "playtime" thing we used almost immediately was the "baby gym" -- the mat with overhanging arches with dangling toys. We just set this in our bathroom so she would have something to do while we showered. We also used it for tummy time.
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So that's all I can think of. What did I forget? What did you have that you needed?
And for you expecting moms: Does anything here need more explanation?
Please, chime in!