(This is a companion to my last post on baby “essentials” you can actually live without)
Dear expectant mother:
Hooray! You’re pregnant! I’m so excited for you. I hope you’re feeling well and getting enough sleep.
I considered starting this out by telling you something trite like how your life is about to change completely, blah blah blah, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all by now so I’ll just cut to the chase. You’re here because you want to hear my take on what you’ll need in preparation for your new baby. (Either that, or you’re a friend or relative just being polite and reading my blog. Either way: thanks for stopping by!)
Before I offer my personal list of baby essentials, I want to let you in on an important secret that Babies R Us doesn’t want you to know:
You don’t need everything before your baby is born.
I know, right?! Who would have guessed?
See, your baby won’t be able to roll over for at least three months, and probably won’t be crawling for at least seven. She won’t be able to grasp toys or sit up or really do much of anything for months. Which means you actually have tons of time to get stuff like rattles, play pens, baby gates and high chairs. (You might even find you don’t need them at all.)
This also means she won’t be getting dirty for months, either. You hardly need any clothes for the first few months. (After the solids start, though, look out: the laundry will start a-pilin’.)
The other thing is this: barring a natural disaster or zombie apocalypse, stores will still be selling baby things after your munchkin’s arrival. No kidding! So if you all of a sudden realize you need a soother or a hairbrush or baby nail clippers, you can buy them then. After the baby is born.
(In fact, healthy newborns are generally very portable, so you can even take him/her with you when you go to get these items. Or you can send your husband to get them. Or request them from friends and family when they come to visit you. There are lots of options.)
What I’m saying is you can buy or borrow things as you need them.
You don’t have to do it this way, of course. I’m just letting you know that it’s an option.
The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to clutter up your house with stuff before you need it. It also helps prevent stuff from ever getting in that you will never actually use.
I know, I know, I know: the nesting instinct is powerful. Your whole being right now is bent upon making your home a welcoming and safe place for your baby. I understand that. I went through it too, and have a closet full of useless baby crap in my basement as a result. (I freeloaded on everyone’s unwanted castoffs, feeling that it was imperative I accept whatever I could get my hands on. You know, in case I needed three strollers and two nursing pillows. Note: I didn’t).
I know it’s common practice to have baby showers before the baby is born these days. Because you need all that stuff before your baby’s born, right?
I actually had my shower two weeks after my sweet girl was born. And I fared just fine without a stroller, playpen, or clothes (aside from the few used sleepers I was given) until then.
In fact, after the shower, I just had the added chore of having to figure out what to do with all that useless stuff I would never end up using.
(Sorry, my dear, charitable friends who lovingly showered me with adorable gifts. How were you supposed to know I wouldn’t use shoes, sleepers, onesies, plastic toys, or disposable wipes, or that she’d grow out of most of the other clothes before they were in season? Or that I’d end up with eight times the number of receiving blankets I actually needed? You couldn’t have known. I was deeply moved by your generosity anyhow.)
So without further ado, here is my list of absolute baby essentials, which you will want before the baby is born. Following that is a list of items I personally found very useful in the first few weeks and months but may not be 100% necessary in all cases.
What You Absolutely Should Own or Borrow Before Baby is Born
- 2 nursing bras
I think this is often overlooked. But they get gross really fast in those first weeks. Invest in good ones.
- 3-4 newborn-sized outfits and a hat
You’ll probably want a few sleepers or gowns or those zipper sleep sacks. Unless you’re a weirdo starting with elimination communication right from birth, in which case some t-shirts and leg warmers would be ideal, but these are hard to come by.
- 3-4 receiving/swaddling blankets
- At least one pack of newborn-sized diapers (disposable or cloth)
I personally recommend the Bummis Newborn Pack for the first weeks if you’re going with cloth — most other cloth diapers, despite their claims to fit newborns, are too big for teeny-weeny freshlings.
I recommend cloth (at least 20). We use those cheap baby washcloths and moisten them with a spray bottle.
- A dozen burp cloths
These don’t have to be “official” store-bought burp-cloths — cut-up receiving blankets or prefold diapers also work well.
- Carrier or sling
So you can still do things around the house or go for walks while keeping your baby happy and close. I recommend the Moby Wrap and/or a ring sling. If possible, try to borrow a few different kinds of carriers to find out what you like.
- Someplace safe for baby to nap
This could be a playpen, a bassinet, or a crib. You don’t need all three. Some blankets on the floor work as well, really. Lydia has done most of her napping in her stroller since birth. (UPDATE, June 24, 2012: I’ve been reading about Montessori homes, and they recommend a “child-bed” — i.e. a low mattress on the floor. Sounds like a decent idea to me).
Don’t overlook the value of information! You should have at least one book on breastfeeding in your library to help guide you in those crazy early weeks (I recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding). You should also own at least one pediatric book, so you’re not freaking out about green poop or copious amounts of spit-up. (I, of course, recommend Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two for all things baby).
Other Items I Found Very Helpful For Those Early Weeks
- Baby bathtub
This is not essential. Babies can be wiped down with a warm, wet washcloth. But a bathtub made the job a little faster.
- Diaper bag
I didn’t have one for the first few weeks, so I just stuffed everything (diapers, burp cloths, wet bag, change of clothes, etc) into a fabric shopping bag, and it made going out kind of complicated. I recommend getting a good one with compartments.
- Breast pump
I found this handy for expressing milk when I got kind of engorged. (Not essential, though — you can hand-express).
- Breast pads
I got way WAY too many of these, but a few are handy — maybe a dozen. Breastfeeding is messy business in those first few weeks. (Update: some of the comments regarding breast pads made me realize that I didn’t clarify that I’m referring to reusable cloth breast pads. If I were talking about disposable, I’d want a lot more than a dozen!)
* * *
Anything else, you can get later. I promise.
Am I forgetting anything important?
Other awesome lists:
A Minimalist Guide to Baby Essentials – Minimalist Mom
Baby shower gift ideas for the crunchy mom – That Married Couple