Top 5 Things You’ll Actually Use For Your Baby
written by Casey Young
So, we’re all parents here, right? Or at least, gonna be soon? Anyways, whether you’re pregnant for the first time or have a new little bundle joining your family in an alternative way, figuring out what’s going to be used and what’s gonna sit in a corner in the bedroom can be a little daunting. I’ve taken on the task of helping you out with a K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, sweetie) mentality! While we all love a little luxury every now and again, I’m keeping it bare bones this time ‘round.
1. Diapers and Other Supplies That You’ll Need To Deal With Their Shit.
You’ve got a few options here when it comes to diapers.
1a. If you prefer convenience, don’t like to do laundry, and want to just forget about the diaper you just changed, then disposable diapers are for you. Expect to change about 70 diapers in baby’s first week home. Yeah, seriously. Ask for them at your baby shower, in all brands, including the dollar store brand. Brand-wise, it’s hard to make a recommendation, because what may work for your bestie’s kid may give yours a horrible rash. But if those dollar store diapers work well for you? Your diaper bill just got a lot cheaper than most. Don’t forget rash paste as well! Triple Paste has always worked with a quickness on everything except a yeast rash for me and mine.
1b. If you want to coordinate diapers with baby’s outfit, don’t like to generate a lot of waste (heh heh heh) and don’t mind the extra laundry every other day or so, look into cloth diapers! While the varieties of type of cloth is beyond the scope of this article, they’ve come a long way from the towel-and-pin method of the days of yore. And, though the initial investment is a good bit higher than with disposable diapers, you’re likely to spend less money in the long run. Expect to change your newborn every 1-3 hours, so you’ll need about 12 diapers for each day. A good stash is about 24-30 diapers, so you won’t have to wash them every single day. That way, they last longer!
I also recommend getting a diaper sprayer, which is like those sprayers you have on your kitchen sink but it’s attached to your toilet (pretty easily, I may add: I did it myself!). That way you can just spray the poop off into the potty. If that’s not the route you’d like to go, you can always get disposable inserts to put between the booty and the diaper, so you can just toss it in the trash. You can also use Viva paper towels for that purpose, but make sure you get the cloth-like kind if that’s the route you go.
For the actual diapers, you’ll need a wet bag or dedicated trash can to put them in. Open air containers smell less bad than the closed ones! In case of rashes, make sure you get a cream that is cloth-diaper safe. If you don’t, you risk making your diapers non-absorbent, which means baby pee will run right down their leg instead of getting soaked up! When you wash them, you’ll need a good detergent with enzymes in it. This means no free-and-clear, unfortunately. You don’t have to buy a special detergent made for cloth diapers, however. Tide and Foca work fantastically!
Whether you do cloth or disposables, though, you’ll need wipes. But that wipe warmer you’re probably going to get, though? Not necessary, and sometimes they can be a prime breeding ground for mold. You can warm disposable wipes on the fly by holding them firmly in the palm of your hand for a few seconds before cleaning your little stinker up (and this is invaluable advice for middle-of-the-night changes when you don’t wanna wake them!).
I’m gonna go ahead and add a diaper bag to this section of the list, too. Babies need the same stuff whether they’re home or away, so you gotta carry a lot of it with you.
The Short List
Lots of diapers in, like, every brand (at least 70 for the first week)
Wipes. Without fragrance is usually the best!
Lots of room in the trash can
Cloth diapers in a style(s) of your choice. At least 12, but 24-30 is better so you don’t have to wash daily.
Wipes. They make cloth wipes you can wash with your diapers!
Diaper sprayer or disposable inserts
Cloth diaper-safe rash paste
Wet bag or extra, dedicated trashcan to keep them while they’re waiting to be washed
Laundry detergent with enzymes
2. Clothing (AKA, People Whisper Mean Things If You Take Your Baby Out Naked).
So, it’s no secret that babies need clothes, and also not a secret that babies secrete many fluids that will make these clothes dirty. When you’re shopping for them, keep in mind not only the season they’ll be born, but the seasons they will grow into. For a baby born around this time of year, pick up lots of long-sleeved sleepers. I loved the open-bottom ones because they made changing diapers easy! If you get nervous clipping your newb’s nails, keep an eye out for the sleeves that have the built-in hand covers. This keeps them from scratching up their own faces and saves you a little bad-parent guilt. If you prefer something that wraps their legs separately, lots of little pants are great, too.
Honestly, whether at home or out doing shopping or visiting family, you really can’t go wrong with a onesie. However, though, choose ones with snaps instead of zippers. With the zippers, you risk pinching them if they decide to jerk around when you’re zipping them back up. And, clothes typically zip from the neck to the foot. If you have to change their diaper in the middle of a cold night, that zipper opens everything up in that same area. With snaps, you have the option of only opening the area of the clothes that you need.
When it comes to weather, Baby needs as many layers as you have on, and then one more. They have a hard time regulating their own body temperature, so it’s important to be able to add or remove layers in case they get too cold or too warm. And remember, when baby sleeps, it’s unsafe to use blankets, so dress them appropriately for the night, too.
The Short List:
Clothes for Babies
Plan for two to three changes of clothes each day, depending on how often your baby spits up or has a diaper blow-out.
Lots. And. Lots. Of. Onesies. They’re cute, and are easy to work with.
Thin shirts and pants for layering purposes
Remember to buy clothes not only for the current weather, but the weather you’ll have in a few months
3. A Place to Sleep.
There are so many places you could put your baby down for sleep. Where your baby goes depends on what works best for your family. If you’d like to have them in their own space from the beginning, opt for the crib—bonus points for one that turns into a toddler bed down the line! You’ll need a firm crib mattress and a few different sheets for them. Remember, though: nothing goes in the crib but the baby. No blankets, no pillows, no teddy, and no bumpers. With these in the crib, your baby has a risk of getting tangled up or having it pressed into their face, which can compromise their airway. If it’s chilly, add more layers or their pajamas or get a sleep sack for them, which is like a sleeping bag, but with arms.
If you’d like them a little closer to you, but still in their own space, you can get a sort of side-car for your bed, which is called a co-sleeper. You park it right up against your mattress and open up one of the sides, tucking that side between your mattress and box spring. These are ideal for deep-sleeping parents who want that extra awareness that comes with the baby sleeping so closely. However, these are usually bassinet-sized, which means once baby is able to roll over, you’ll have to figure something else out. They also make ones that you put into bed with you, but these models have not been evaluated for safety.
Some parents prefer to share their bed with their baby. This is an especially good option for breast/chestfeeding parents. You can “dream feed” while you co-sleep with your baby, and that means not having to get up, or go warm up a bottle, and that’s just a win for everyone all around! However, this will still change the way you sleep. While co-sleeping, you cannot take any drugs that may make you sleep more deeply, and you can’t be a deep sleeper to begin with. You need to be able to wake up at any point in time, and you need to have spatial awareness even as you sleep. On top of that, you still can’t have any pillows or blankets in the baby’s sleeping area. So, your bed will have to be big enough for you, your partner if applicable, and the baby to have their own space. This means a bed that’s at least a full/queen. The mattress needs to be very firm, and the sheets need to be tight-fitting for this method to be safe for your baby. Also, once baby can roll and crawl, you’ll need to lower your bed pretty close to the floor if yours is pretty high up. If you can meet all those requirements, co-sleeping may be a great, rewarding option for you.
The Short List
Several changes of tight-fitting sheets
Co-sleeper (Arms Reach is an example of a brand that makes them!)
A plan for when the baby outgrows the co-sleeper
At least a full/queen sized bed, to allow for adequate room for everyone sharing the bed
Several changes of sheets, in case of blowouts
4. Baby’s Gotta Eat, And You Need Supplies For That.
As far as this goes during the newborn period, there’s pretty much three (two and a half?) options here: formula feeding, breast/chestfeeding, and a mix of the two.
Formula feeding is a great choice for those who need to go back to work ASAP, or for those who simply do not want to lactate for long. For this, you’ll need the formula itself (which can be trial and error to see what your baby tolerates the best), you’ll need bottles, and you’ll need bottled water. Most every place that gives recommendations on this sort of thing specifically recommends NOT using tap water to mix formula. You can typically find gallon jugs of the appropriate water in the baby section of any store that has a baby section.
Bottles need to be thoroughly washed and sanitized, so you’ll need a bottle brush for that, and a way to sanitize them (if you find that necessary, some parents do not!). If you’re one of the parents who do, you can sanitize bottles in the microwave. When you’re on the go, this makes things pretty simple as you can mix formula on the fly, making cooler bags unnecessary.
Breast/chestfeeding is really simple. At the absolute minimum, you’re already carrying around all the equipment you’ll need. If you have no issues with latch, and you don’t need to pump, this makes feeding baby essentially free!
If you do need to pump for times you’re away from baby, hand pumps typically work very well for short-term use (only a few hours away at a time). If you’re returning to work before weaning your baby, you may want to get a double electric pump, which is covered by many insurance companies. There are models that are portable as well, making it easy to take it to work to pump there, if you choose to do so. Remember that pump parts need to be thoroughly washed, but there are wipes available to temporarily clean them if you can’t get to a sink until you get home.
To store the milk, you can use bottles, or you can pump into bags (some attach directly to the pump). At home, keep these in the fridge, or freeze if you’re building a stash. Pumping on the go requires a cooler bag with an ice pack, as you can only keep them at room temp safely for two hours. Having an insulated cooler with totally-frozen ice packs extends that time frame to 24 hours.
If you end up having any issues with latch—and don’t feel bad if you do because it happens to the best of us—get some lanolin ointment like Lansinoh’s HPA Lanolin. Lansinoh’s lanolin does not need to be wiped off before latching baby on, which makes things super easy, and if you still have some of it left over, it makes a great lip balm!
If you’re leaky, or are prone to random let-downs in public (which will probably happen anytime you hear any baby cry, not just your own), get yourself some breast pads, which come in both washable and disposable models. For comfort, you can use any sort of pillow to prop your baby up to breast level, but I personally really found value in a dedicated pillow like My Breast Friend.
The Short List:
A way to sanitize the bottles, if you so choose
A pump, if necessary for your lifestyle
Cooler bag and ice packs if transporting breastmilk
Bottles, if you need to pump
Milk storage bags
Boppy or other pillow to keep baby propped up for correct positioning, if you so choose
5. Where Do I Put This Kid When I Don’t Want To Hold Them Anymore?
So, yeah, this is a great question! You’re gonna need a place to put your baby down when you have other things to do, and they’re not asleep. And, well, you can’t exactly just put the baby on the floor while you get the dishes done. Luckily, there are literally hundreds of products out there catering to this need. What you get entirely depends on preference and space in your house.
You can get a Pack-n-Play for nap time in the living room, and those come with all sorts of bells and whistles nowadays. I’ve seen some come with attachable bassinets, with mobiles that spin over the top, and more. These are especially useful when your kid can stand up or climb out of other devices meant to keep them captive, and they arguably have the most longevity of all products meant to hold your baby. They’re also portable, so if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have a crib available, these make a great stand-in.
There are bouncers with almost every variation you can think of, from a simple one you bounce with your foot, to a high-tech version that bounces baby for you like the MamaRoo. These hold your baby in a reclined position while also allowing you to give them that movement and stimulation they need, while giving your arms a break. Trust me, you’re gonna want that. Some have attached toy bars that they can bat their little arms at, as well as ones that play music or vibrate. None are necessarily better than the others, so that choice is completely up to you.
If you don’t necessarily need to put them down, but just need your hands free to get some things done, consider an on-the-body carrier like the Tula or Lillebaby. These just strap the baby to you, allowing you to take a walk, do some light chores, go shopping, read or write, or play video games, and baby will still be close to you. Take caution eating or drinking, however, because very young babies can only be carried on the front of your body, not the back, so there’s a risk of dropping food or spilling your drink on them, and if it’s hot, that’ll hurt. Many areas have a group of volunteer babywearing educators (but not in an official capacity anymore, as Baby Wearing International ceased operations in August 2018). Many have a library of carriers to help you choose what will be right for you.
The last common baby-holder is the swing. Most are pretty similar. They’re typically electric, so plan on getting some batteries, or an AC cord to plug it in. They’re pretty effective at calming a crying baby, so when you just Can’t Even anymore, you can strap your loud little bundle in and take a step away to collect yourself. Maybe collect a cup of coffee, while you’re at it.
As this is pretty much a pick-and-choose scenario here, I don’t have a short list for you. Shop around, ask your friends, accept hand-me-downs, read reviews, and see what works.
I hope this article helps all you stressed and/or new parents of babies recognize that you don’t necessarily need every single baby product out there to be a good parent. Keeping it simple allows you to focus less on the material things you need, keeps your house free of the clutter that is baby stuff that you never use, gives you less to get rid of later, and keeps you from spending excess money that could be put to better use somewhere else.