Since baby W was born weeks early and we were neck deep in house renovations, Hubby and I were woefully under-prepared for all the gear we’d need for a newborn. To make matters worse, I had a baby shower scheduled for two days *after* W ultimately arrived, so I had deliberately not purchased those items yet, hoping I’d get them for my shower. Not that I had much of a baby shower registry list–I knew nothing about babies.
As a result, we had basically nothing (okay, actually nothing) when W was born. That made me realize in short order what is actually needed for a baby, not simply recommended. If you’re anything like me and feel overwhelmed by gear shopping for a tiny but apparently consumer-oriented creature, here is a pared down list of what you can’t live without. This might also help if you’re on a budget.
Here is what you absolutely *need* when you exit the hospital:
- a car seat
- diapers, wipes, and butt paste (prevent diaper rash now!)
- weather appropriate clothes
- swaddling blankets
- somewhere to sleep (crib, bassinet, with you?)
- baby soap for baths
- baby grooming kit, especially nail clippers
- nipple cream (like Lanolin) for you, if you’re nursing
This is obviously the short list. You can add all sorts of other gear, but this is the stuff I needed within the first day(s) or even hours. They won’t let you leave without strapping your baby into a car seat, and you’ll be amazed how quickly something so small goes through diapers!
Little babies have a hard time with temperature regulation, so keep them dressed, but not buttoned up for 90-degree weather (they overheat too). The baby will pee through or spit up all over swaddling blankets, so keep a stack handy. Sleeping is up to you: a crib, bassinet, (I used a Rock n Play Sleeper that kept him at an incline while he slept), or in the family bed.
The two things that are not optional are baths (though you could use just water, I suppose), and nail clippers. You’ll be shocked (and mildly grossed out) by how straggly, long, and scratchy newborn nails are. To keep the baby from slashing her face, you’ll have to trim them. The first time (or ten) you do this, you’re sure you’re going to cut off a finger. That’s why you need small, baby-specific clippers.
Notice I didn’t say anything about bottles or feeding items. I nursed exclusively at first, so if that’s your jam too, you don’t need anything other than your own boobs. Obviously if you plan to use formula or have other family members help feed the baby, you’ll need a supply on hand as well as bottles (you don’t have to have a sterilizer or a warmer–you can use a dishwasher, boil them, and reheat in a mug of warm water).
Things That Make Life Easier:
- a changing table (it saves your back, and it’s nice to have everything at-the-ready)
- a mat, foam, or even tiny tub for bathing (though a sink with a towel in the bottom for cushioning will do)
- a breast pump (electric is best, by far) and bottles, if you choose to pump
- a nursing pillow (I wish I had gotten one sooner–you can prop baby on it and not have aching arms)
- a nursing apron (if you’re modest)
- nursing bras and shirts
- mittens for infant hands if you can’t bear to cut those tiny nails
- baby wash cloths (adult ones dwarf the child and are too thick)
- sound machine or CD player or device that plays lullabies or white noise (doesn’t necessarily make the baby fall asleep, but reduces wakeups from household noise)
- a couple of board books (extremely simple with one word per page–get literacy started immediately!)
- a rocking chair or glider
- a baby carrier and/or stroller
- their own room or at least some shelves/drawers to keep their stuff together
- some babies like pacifiers (mine didn’t, but many parents swear by them)
- an electric swing–they often lull baby to sleep
Registering for a baby shower is overwhelming, and I know it seems like you have to do research on everything. I’m here to assure you that babies have been born and thrived in much less consumer-driven, research-oriented environments. They just want food, sleep, safety, nuzzling, and loving, especially in those first few weeks. You can get the basics and add-on as you see fit. After all, you’re almost certainly within driving or shipping distance of a store!
Q: What helped your newborn? What do you wish you had when you came home from the hospital that you didn’t? What was your most well-used gear?