This post is about all that stuff you need. Or don’t need. Or might need. Or want. Or… well, you’ll see.
A Place for Sleeping
A place for your baby to sleep is a good thing to have ready in advance, but be prepared to be flexible on this. After all, it’s your baby who will ultimately decide where he or she will sleep, and he or she is certainly not going to let you in on the secret right away!
Myself, I was convinced that a side-car co-sleeper was the way to go. It seemed so simple! The baby would sleep right there next to me, and all I had to do was roll over and pick him up when he woke. Believe it or not, I thought I would actually be sleeping for a couple hours at a time between these wakings. I know, I know – what dreamland was I living in? Well, I had our Arms Reach Co-sleeper all set up and ready to go, but as it turned out, Gus never slept in it for more than a few minutes (yes, minutes) at a time. He slept with me. On me, actually, and usually attached at the breast. I eventually learned to sleep propped up with him in my arms, and we did that for a while before he moved on to the Pack-n-Play ay 6 months. The co-sleeper, though, only ever served as a handy place to set my phone, books, breast pump, and snacks.
So who knows how your baby will sleep? Some babies take right to a crib or a bassinet. Others only sleep in a swing or in your arms (Gus was one of these babies). There are plenty of babies who prefer to sleep in a sling or other carrier. There is nothing wrong with any of these, though I personally support co-sleeping. It can be very comfortable and rewarding for the whole family, especially in the early months. Just make sure to have some kind of barrier to prevent a fall. Gus may have enjoyed his little roll off the bed when he was 2 months old, but it was scary for me!
There are so many options (all with pros and cons) that with some experimentation, you can find what works for both you and your baby. If you are going to get one thing, the Pack-n-Play has been the most useful thing for our family – it was great for vacations, it had a nifty changing table attachment, and we used it as a crib for awhile, too.
The Big Stuff
An infant car seat is a requirement. We had the more economical Graco Snugride 35, along with an extra base for our other car. The base makes it really easy to take the car seat in and out of your car without compromising the secure installation, so just get it. As far as brands go, there are lots of choices and lots of opinions – if you are feeling a bit lost, check out the most current Baby Bargains book. It can give you reliable direction depending on your budget. Don’t forget to have your car seat checked for proper installation! We had a meeting with this lady, and she did a great job educating us on proper car seat safety!
Now, you may think you need to just get a Bob right away, but stop and think before you do. What are you going to need a stroller for? Walks around your neighborhood? The mall? If you plan on jogging or running marathons right away, by all means, get a nice jogging stroller (and all the accessories to install your infant car seat)! But if you choose to wear your baby (which I think is a great thing to do in the early months), you won’t really need a stroller for much. We found that the Graco snap-n-go stroller was perfect for times when we did need a stroller. It fit easily in the back of the car, our car seat just snapped in, and we were good to go! If your car seat has a matching stroller like this, get it! Later, when your baby is older (sitting up and more active), you’ll have a better idea of what will be right for you and your family. We now have a second-hand jogging stroller, which is wonderful (and Bobs are admittedly nice strollers), and a compact umbrella stroller in the car. Just right!
You won’t really need a highchair right away. If someone offers you one, take it! But otherwise, don’t worry about this just yet. When you are getting ready to start solids, get a Bumbo – these things are fantastic for the baby learning to sit up, and can be used for feeding, too.
When you are ready for a highchair, you’ll find plenty of choices. If space is a premium, consider a booster-style chair like this one. You can travel with it, take it to restaurants, and use it well into toddler-hood. Plus it is super-easy to clean!
Bouncy Seats and Swings are also a great tool for a newborn, especially for sleep. It can be really hard to tell if your baby will like these, so if at all possible, try to borrow these or buy used. As with sleep, they work for some babies, but not others.
Eventually you will have to bathe your baby – an over-the-sink bathtub worked really well for us. There are hundreds of these at consignment stores, though, so see you can can borrow one or buy a used one before getting one new. It won’t be long before it starts gathering dust in your basement.
Extra large swaddling blankets are what you need for swaddling (and swaddling is a really wonderful thing for a newborn)! You can get flannel or muslin, just make sure they are big – 44″ x 44″ at least. Trying to swaddle a baby with anything smaller is just not possible, and swaddling is too useful to do wrong. If you can’t find flannel blankets in the right size, try buying some yardage of cute flannel and make your own!
But what about all those cute little receiving blankets everyone gave you? They’re too small for swaddling – don’t even try. Instead, use them to protect your clothes from baby messes. (Try to protect, I should say. I think it was at our 6-week appointment that I went home with spit-up and pee all over me, and really didn’t care anymore.) These blankets and a good supply of burp rags are a good thing to have in stock.
Lots of bibs – you can’t imagine all the drool that will come out of your little bundle of joy.
A Boppy or other nursing pillow can be useful, but it’s kind of hard to say how it will work for you! I bought a used one thinking I had to have one, but I never used it for breastfeeding once I began to have milk supply issues. (It didn’t support little Gus in the ideal position for nursing, and therefore was more harmful than good). I did use it for tummy time, though. Its size and density was perfect for supporting a baby on the floor. Still, I wouldn’t consider this a necessity, and you can find plenty of these on consignment, too.
It will be some time before you’ll need to worry about feeding supplies, but you may need to start some bottle feeding after the first couple weeks. Everyone I talked to swore by the Dr. Brown’s system, so of course that is all I ever tried. They were nice enough, but a total PITA to clean, so choose wisely. If you plan on pumping breastmilk for some bottle feeding, the Medela Pump In Style is a nice choice. Having a pump on hand before birth is a good idea – you never know how soon you’re going to need it.
Pacifiers? Up to you. I never got Gus to take one. Now I’m glad we don’t have this habit to break, but at times I wish he would have taken one and calmed down like the other babies.
Stuff for Mamas
Let’s not forget about stuff for you, the new mother. I’m not talking about cases of wine and chocolate (though those would be nice, too). I’m talking about things you need to feel well postpartum. First, forget the idea that you’ll be “dressed” in the normal sense of the word, especially if you are breastfeeding. I spent the first couple weeks in button-down flannels and leggings before I finally got myself some basic nursing tanks from Target. I still wear those same nursing tanks at home all the time – I don’t know why I spent any money on nursing bras at all! Okay, fine, I needed one for work, but that was it.
A couple good things to have ready before baby arrives: lanolin for your boobs and enormous maxi pads (soaked in witch hazel and stored in the freezer) for your lady bits. Trust me, it will be heavenly!
Try and stock your freezer and kitchen with healthy meals and snacks, but keep it simple. Healthy snacks like dried fruits and nuts can be a boost when you’re breastfeeding. Just make sure to eat enough and drink lots of water! Your body needs it in this time, and you can worry about proper meals later. Just remember that chocolate has caffeine that will keep you and your baby awake, so be careful!
Toys and Play
Sophie: Everyone has one, just get it, or you’ll feel left out. I admit that was the only reason I got one, and Gus never really liked it that much. The lengths we had to go to to keep Summer from eating it, though…
I also really like the Lamaze collection of toys for the newborn/infant ages. Captain Calamari was the first toy Gus really responded to, so maybe I’m biased. Another nice item to have is some kind of playmat. It could make tummy time a lot of fun for your little one – a lot of babies like mirrors, and Gus loved the flashing lights and music.
Speaking of music, there are a lot of great children’s albums out there. I’m a particular fan of the TMBG albums, but local Caspar Babypants is a hit, too. Here’s a little tip – Pandora internet radio has an amazing Children’s Folk Music station that plays all the classic children’s songs. A Pandora lullaby station could also be a helpful tool, too.
Baby-wearing is a choice that I strongly recommend, but I advise trying different carriers out before settling on something. Everyone is different. I loved my Moby Wrap for the newborn/early infant stage, and the Ergo later on, but some friends preferred their ring sling or Baby Bjorn. Mike used a hand-me-down carrier similar to a Baby Bjorn, and nothing is sweeter than a dad wearing a baby! Birth and Beyond now offers a baby-wearing workshop to help take the mystery out of this subject. You can also find a lot of carriers at consignment stores where you can try them on.
I chose to use cloth diapers – they are cheaper in the long run, better for the environment, and I think better for your baby’s skin. See more…