It’s easy to want every new baby item that you see, particularly when you’re pregnant. You envision your baby playing with the latest electronic whistles and lights ball while you pop in the current Baby Einstein DVD.
Everything marketed for babies is so cute and clever, it’s near impossible to resist. But the truth is, there are only a handful of baby items that you can’t be without when your baby makes his or her entrance into the world.
We’ve parred these items down to 10 absolute essentials. Any other items can easily be bought as you need them after the baby is born. This way, you won’t get overwhelmed and overcrowded with things you don’t need and/or can’t afford.
No sooner is a baby born, than he or she is swaddled snugly in a blanket. Blankets offer a safe, secure cocoon of warmth and comfort that mimics the familiar womb environment. Buy at least four blankets, including lightweight cotton receiving blankets and thicker, warm fleece blankets. The versatility of blankets is wonderful. They provide a clean place to lay a baby down for a diaper change, then double as a nursing shawl for instant breastfeeding privacy.
Inevitably, the first thing a baby is “dressed” in is a diaper. But the first one won’t stay on for long. From now until potty learning time, you’ll need to have a constant supply of clean diapers. You’ll go through a bag of disposables faster than a bag of potato chips. A newborn will need at least eight diapers a day, likely more. You may want to weigh the pros and cons of cloth versus disposable diapers. Wipes will also be a necessity, although cotton balls and plain water are recommended for cleaning a newborn baby for the first few weeks, as well as any time diaper rash occurs (the soap in the wipes irritates the rash).
The newborn clothing to have on hand varies somewhat by your climate. If you live in a cold area, you will need more warm clothes that can be layered on, such as sweaters and pants. Otherwise, a basic newborn wardrobe should include several onesies (basically a shirt that extends to snap together at the crotch), a couple of footed sleepers or blanket sleepers, several nightgowns (these are long gowns for both boys and girls with elastic at the bottom–just move the gown up for easy night-time diaper changes–no buttons to fumble with. Also make sure to have socks or booties to keep little feet warm, as well as cotton hats to keep those relatively bald newborn heads cozy (most heat is lost through the head); you will likely be using these no matter the time of year.
You may not need to buy anything for newborn food, but it’s such an essential, it must be mentioned. If you choose breastfeeding, everything you need is built in. You’d be wise, however, to get a breast pump and bottle for times when you need to pump a bit to relieve the fullness, or to freeze a milk supply for future use. If you are not going to breastfeed, you definitely need formula and at least four bottles on hand.
5. Car Seat
You can’t go anywhere with your baby without one–including home from the hospital. Even if you plan to have your baby at home, you need a car seat installed before labor in case of an emergency trip to the hospital. Finally, make sure the seat is properly installed. It is too easy to install it the wrong way! Research and read reviews to find a highly rated car seat. Your baby’s safety depends on it.
Unless you plan to let your newborn sleep in your arms only (and you may be tempted to at first, until the aching muscles and weariness set in), you’ll need a safe, comfy place to lay him or her down. This could be a crib, bassinet, cradle, or co-sleeper. Check out reviews and ratings. If you choose a crib, make sure it is new enough to meet safety requirements and that the spaces between the slats aren’t too wide (simple test: you should not be able to pass a soda can through the slats). You can get your money’s worth from a crib that can later be transformed into a toddler bed.
Bassinets and cradles are convenient in that they are smaller and more easily moved from room to room. However, a newborn will outgrow these much sooner than a crib, and will then need to be transitioned to a crib. Same goes for a co-sleeper, which can be put in or attached to your own bed–a baby will only fit in it for so long. However, co-sleepers are very nice for the tired new mother in the early weeks or months, so she doesn’t have to constantly get out of bed for the baby.
Whatever newborn bed you choose, keep in mind that a mattress, waterproof pad, and fitted sheets will also be needed. Comforters and loose blankets or sheets are not advised, however, as these increase the risk of strangulation and smothering.
7. Nasal Aspirator
Yes, you do need one of those funny-looking squeezable rubber bulbs with the long stems. For such a simple device, it works wonders! When your newborn is sputtering from mucous in the throat and/or nose, you’ll be very thankful you have a way to help.
How to use a nasal aspirator: It’s fairly simple, unless the baby struggles so much that you can’t get the end inserted into his or her mouth or nostril, in which case, enlist someone’s help to hold the baby while you insert. Squeeze the bulb BEFORE inserting the stem into the nostril or mouth. Once inside, let off squeezing and let the bulb fill with air and mucous. Repeat as needed.
To clean a nasal aspirator: Use a bowl or sink of clean, warm water. Immerse the stem end and squeeze and release repeatedly, changing the water as needed. This likely won’t get the aspirator completely clean, but it will be better than not trying at all!
Chances are you won’t be dipping your baby in a real bathtub any time soon. Little washcloths are indispensable for quick wipe-downs with warm water. Have a nice stack of about ten on hand.
Indulge in several cute baby towels–you’ll be needing them! A soft terry towel serves as a quick wrap to keep a naked newborn warm before and while being washed, as well as dry and cozy afterward.
Last but not least, a cute set of newborn-sized baby bibs is highly recommended. (Larger bibs simply overtake newborns.) Keep a few clean bibs handy throughout the house and in the diaper bag; this will make it easy to keep your baby clean while saving those adorable baby clothes from stains. Remember, it’s easier to change a little bib than an entire outfit!
Finally, the most important thing your newborn needs can’t be bought or categorized: your unconditional love. If he or she has that, then warmth, shelter, food, and happiness will follow naturally.