Monday, July 02, 2012

Baby Essentials and Not-so Essentials

A friend recently asked me what "stuff" is really necessary for a first baby. She wanted to get purchases out of the way before her baby arrives, so what can you get before and what should wait till later?

I typed out my must-have list with one hand while nursing a baby, so I though I would share my hard typing efforts here. I never know, someone else might be helped with this list.

As far as gadgets go, you are right.... all that "stuff" isn't really necessary. But it can be necessary, or at least really helpful, depending on the baby. And that is where things get confusing if you are trying to buy before baby comes. I'll mention a few things that all babies need and then a list of stuff that can wait until you have the baby and know a little better what you want.

These are the essentials, according to what I have packed in Tommy's diaper bag right now:

2 pacifyers (not all babies need/like a pacifyer, but for my babies, it seems to help especially in public to sooth w/o nursing),

2 receiving blankets for burp cloths,

2 changes of clothes (jammies and an outfit),

1 zip-up sweatshirt,

1 pair of socks (we might lose one when we are out, or in extreme cases, poop could get on them),

1 hat,

5 or more diapers,

a small package of wipes,

travel size hand sanitizer,

diaper rash cream,

sun screen (not that we've needed it in the crazy, cold NW lately),

nursing pads (for mama),

plastic bag (for getting messy stuff home for washing),

Baby carrier (I keep this in the car and "wear" the baby when grocery shopping, berry picking, ect)

As you can see, it's a pretty simple list. You (or a helpful husband) could go out and buy this stuff while you are in labor and you would still be okay.

Now, more specifically....

Clothes... You'll be given tons for a first baby. People can't help themselves. "Minimalism" doesn't enter into most people's thinking when a baby comes along (especially for a girl!). Here are some things to look for when you are sorting through all the gifts: Size, most babies stick to the size/age that is appropriate, so think about what baby needs for what season. Newborn size is good to have for the first few weeks. It's okay to take stuff back if you know the baby isn't going to have a chance to wear it (like a sundress in the winter). I try to take the outfit and exchange it for the correct size in the same style, that way I can remember the particular person's kindness when the baby wears the outfit.

Also think mix/match. I'm pretty sure baby clothing manufacturers design outfits that match no other outfits so you have to buy more outfits. A great "rule" I try to follow with my babies and big kids is plain/solid colored bottoms and patterned tops. Then I can put on pretty much any pants with any shirt, it makes life so much easier.

Also, think ease of wear for the baby and for you changing clothes many times a day (and night). Zipper jammies, long sleeved onesies (shirts that snap in the crotch), elastic waist pants, and those gown things with open bottoms are great for newborns. Super cute "outfits" look super cute on the hanger, but for every day, they aren't practical. It isn't unusual for a baby to need his/her clothes changed with EVERY diaper.

Beco Baby Carrier
Baby carrier.... I have a Beco (American made), also popular is the Ergo. The important thing to look for is the weight distribution on your hips. This style fastens around the hips and back, really comfortable and baby can go on mom/dad's front or back. For air travel, make sure the one you get has no metel parts, then you can wear it through airport security. Moby wraps are really popular and I have friends who love them. They look confusing to me. Newborn hats...the ones designed to fit a newborn's head (they are the really tiny, stretchy ones). Babies need to keep their head's covered for the first 2 weeks.The ones that come with outfits in a set do not fit a normal baby's head, they work great for baby dolls we've discovered.

Oxi-clean or a really good spray and wash.... newborn poo stains (it is bright yellow) and it is set if it goes through the dryer. Try to catch it when it is still fresh and before it goes through the wash. Then you'll keep all those cute clothes looking good.

Swaddling blankets.... there are many different designs and all work well (when used properly). I like the really big, gauzy fabric ones. It makes it easy to wrap the baby tight. There are also knit ones that have velcro, no elaborate wrapping required.

Our pack n/ play is similar to this one.
The raised mattress works well for small babies,
then goes to the bottom of the frame once
baby is mobile.
Baby bed.... unless you plan to co-sleep, you'll need a place for the baby that is close to you in your room. Options are a small bed that attaches to your bed so the baby is right there with you or a pack n' play with a raised bassinet for baby to sleep (this is great for the first few weeks). You have also probably seen cradles and bassinets on their own. Unless someone gives you one of these, they aren't necessary. The baby is tiny for such a short time and then you have this big thing to store. I like the pack n' play because it grows with the baby. You can use it until they are about 2 years old and it is very practical for traveling to other people's homes (when/if baby needs to nap). With Tommy, we had the pack n/ play in our room on my side of the bed for the first 6 weeks. I had a bouncy seat in it that I bounced with one hand while I sort-of-slept. It worked!

Carseat... the rear facing infant carrier is a must. All the brands are going to be good, but make sure the straps are adjustable in front (usually a strap comes out between the baby's legs that you can pull to tighten and has a release to give more room in the straps).

Misleading picture:
Your hair will not look this good
for months after having a baby
and you will rarely find yourself
striking this sexy pose.
Nursing bra... one of the ones that is more like a shelf bra. It is impossible to tell exactly what size you'll be after the baby and then after you've been nursing about 6 weeks, things change again, and then after about 6 months (for me), things change again. You'll want something more supportive later on once you've leveled out (2 or 3 weeks?), but one to two nursing bras that are this style are essential. You will also need nursing pads to control leakage. Let the fun begin.

Diapers and wipes... A few packages of newborn size (Pamper's Swaddlers are good). Babies will go through 10-12 a day, so get at least enough for the first week. Going to the store isn't a big deal after that. You can always use bigger sizes, so if people give them to you, just store them until needed. Baby wipes are baby wipes. There isn't anything terribly special about them. I have friends who do cloth diapers and cloth wipes from the beginning. There are solutions and cleaning products you'll need if you plan to do that. More on that if you are curious.

Soap for baby... some say Johnson's. There are a lot of different opinions on this. For my first 3 kids I just used whatever is recommended for baby. Now I use Dr. Bonner's bar soap for Tommy. It is made with cocoanut oil and is all natural and so it nourishes the skin as well as cleans. I am no longer a fan of commercial lotions and potions after learning what is in them. For lotion, you can use straight plant oils. Cocoanut oil, avocado oil, or almond oil are good ones. You really don't need anything unless the baby has cradle cap (scaly skin on the head) or dry skin (not common).

Bulb syringe... we use this thing ALL the time. Babies can't blow their noses, so they often get stuffy. The bigger the better (more suction), the ones in sets of "essentials" are too small to work very well.

Here's a how-to.

Okay, now on to the stuff you can wait to buy:

Swing... you'll have people tell you that you "have to have a swing." For my first 2 babies I would have agreed, but my third baby hated the swing. I sold it on Craigslist and bought a new one on Craigslist after Tommy was born because he loved the rhythmic action of swinging. Babies typically enjoy swings for under 6 months of age. When you do get one, make sure it has a place to plug it in instead of just batteries. Another feature that is nice is being able to twist the seat to sway side to side or back and forth.

Bouncy seat... it is a seat the baby sits in that easily bounces, they also have options for vibration and music. I flew over to target and bought one of these a few days post-partum because Tommy was so incredibly gassy and fussy. I couldn't put him down otherwise, but the vibration and the bouncing really helped him. I didn't use one at all with Mandy and rarely with Emma. Depends on the baby. You'll know it is a practical thing to buy if the baby loves the car and/or doesn't like being sat down on a bed (you need to shower at some point and having a "place" to put the baby for a few minutes is helpful). 

ORANGEStroller... this one is up for debate depending on who you talk to. I recently sold a couple strollers because I had 5. Five! There is the convertible stroller that works with the infant carseat and then as a regular stroller, the umbrella stroller that is great because it is small, the regular stroller that is bigger has storage underneath and is a bit taller and easier to push, a sit n stand designed for a toddler and a baby, and the jogging stroller, (a must for uneven terrain). It's hard to say what you'll really "need." If I had to pick just one, I would go for a nice, compact jogging stroller. Jogging strollers tend to be the size of compact cars and you'll hate maneuvering it through small areas if it is huge. "Bob" strollers are very popular because they are small and practical... also some serious $$$. Start looking at people's strollers, if you see one you like, don't hesitate to talk to the mom about it. Parents LOVE talking about baby gear. It's weird, but true.

Cloth diapers... I've known so many moms who swear they are going to do cloth diapers and then the baby comes and they realize HOW MUCH STINKIN WASH you have to do and the cloth diapers never get used. I have cloth diapers and I use them when the baby gets a bit older. They save money because you don't have to buy disposables so much. They are totally doable for 100% use and it is becoming popular from an environmental standpoint and also the health of the baby because disposable diapers have so many chemicals in them.

Fancy diaper bag.... a bag is a bag. Find something that is easy to carry, that your husband will carry without embarrassment, and has a few different compartments. Diaper bags designed as such have the benefit of coming with a changing pad. I did without one for Emma, Mandy, and Rem (I just used a blanket underneath for diaper changes and it worked ok). A friend gave me a super cool changing station for Tommy and I LOVE it. Very cute, very practical, and works with any diaper bag or purse. She designs and makes them, check them out on Etsy.

Blue Birds: Changing station clutch
Changing station (Tommy's has bikes on it.... so cute!)
Blue Birds: Changing station clutch

Burp cloths... You'll want a couple of these no matter what, but in general, a baby either spits-up a lot or he/she doesn't. My babies, with the exception of Mandy, spit-up tons (an understatement). Immature esophaguses run in my family... the little burp clothes you see in the store are not adequate. Flannel receiving blankets work great for us. I have a stack of about 20 that I wash every other day. You'll know if your baby is a spitter after about 3 weeks after birth.

Catching spit-up in the act.

It's a regular occurrence around here.

baby bath tubBaby Bath Tub... for the first while, the kitchen sink works fine for bathing a baby. You hold the baby with one arm, soap with the other and he/she is in and out in a few minutes. I managed without a baby bath tub for my first 3. When he/she gets a little older (a month or so), I put them in the regular bath tub with a few inches of water and a rolled up hand towel under his/her neck (little babies aren't supposed to get water in their ears). I now have a lounge-chair type thing for Tommy that sits in the water and props him up. I found it at a garage sale for .25c. I like it and gives me a bit more flexibility because I don't have to hold him with one hand the whole time. Buy something like that or an actual tub only if you find yourself thinking you would really need/use one. Otherwise, it is just another big baby gadget.

Just remember you won't ruin your baby by doing something "wrong" or not having the right gadget or gizmo. You'll learn something (or 100 somethings) new every day. It will be overwhelming... that's normal. First babies are really hard to adapt to (but SO worth it). An easy-going personality will suit you well. Try not to get stressed out as much as possible. Ask for help and ask for advice.

Lots of love....


PS Ok moms, how did I do? Did I forget something essential? Do you disagree with my essentials list? I'll still love ya if you do. If you have something to add, leave a comment and I'll refer my inquiring mama-to-be friend to your advice. :)


Sara said...

Great list! I'd have to disagree with the last one though - I couldn't imagine trying to bath my first baby in the kitchen sink without a baby tub! I was so scared to hurt her and they are so slippery when wet! I'm a huge fan of our baby bath tub that we received as a gift (4moms Cleanwater Collection - ours is a bit different than the newer one now found on Amazon). We used it at the kitchen sink (so no back-bending over the bathtub!) and I loved how fresh water is constantly circulating into it and how it keeps track of the temperature. I always keep my babies bathing in that as long as they will fit! :)

And a few quick comments: (1) Yes, "burp cloths" are a joke! Receiving blankets are definitely better for that use! (2) Even babies that hate riding in the car (all three of mine) can like bouncy seats. :) Bouncy seats are the best - where else would you set baby while you are making dinner or taking a shower? :) (3) I've never heard of a gauzy fabric swaddling blanket...must look into that - it does sound like it would work better!

Stacy Coleman said...

I would just add a change of clothes for yourself, maybe not in the diaper bag but in the car. Blow-out diapers can sneak up anytime anywhere ;)

Melanie said...

This is an awesome list! We are currently in the middle of trying to figure out what we need and don't need. My one tricky factor that differs from almost everyone I know who has had a baby is that we won't have a car ... so what do we REALLY need to fit in that diaper bag? I'm sure it will become obvious with a little experience. Hopefully, that experience won't be too nasty!