There’s no denying it. We live in a commercial culture. Just as we’ve convinced ourselves that we need a big house with a fenced yard and a 2-car garage (to house the requisite 2+ cars), we live under the delusion that babies are *gasp* expensive. They may be small, but they need soooooooo much stuff.
As a matter of fact, there is very little your new baby needs, materially speaking. What he will need in excess is your time, your patience, your self-sacrifice, and your love.
You may want to fit out a beautiful nursery, fill a four-drawer dresser with adorable baby clothes, and purchase all the cool new gadgets that promise to make life as a new parent easier–and that’s fine.
If you can afford it, and it makes you happy, go for it! I am not hear to rain on anyone’s parade. However, as a mama of (soon-to-be) five, I can tell you that a lot of the things I thought my first baby needed have now been happily gifted away to friends and family or packed off to the local thrift store.
There are, however, some things your baby is going to need.
1. A Carseat
Unless you exclusively walk or ride public transit (in which case, this urbanite-turned-suburbanite is insanely jealous of you), you will need a carseat. It’s the law. Hospitals won’t let you go home without one. Check the expiration date before purchase to make sure you can get the longest use out of it as possible. (For longevity, I really love Britax Convertible carseats. No, they aren’t sponsoring this post; they just have a later expiry date than most other brands.)
Personally, I’m a big fan of the bucket seat when my babies are small, then I switch them into a convertible 5-point harness for the next couple of years. Since I have a lot of children, close in age, this makes sense: one baby in the bucket, toddler in the convertible. However, if I was only planning on having one child, or if I suspected my kids would be far enough apart in age that the older one would be in a booster by the time the next baby came along, I’d just go with the convertible and skip the bucket seat. Despite all the hype of being able to carry your sleeping baby from car to house, it’s actually not safe to let your sleeping baby lie in a bucket seat.
2. Diapers + Wipes
Ah, diapers. From birth to toilet training, they will be your best friend and the bane of your existence. Paper or cloth is up to you. Personally, I use disposables for the first couple of days, just to make sure all that tar-sticky meconium is out of baby’s system. Then, I switch to cloth.
- I don’t have to ever leave the house to purchase diapers when I run out.
Of course, services like Amazon Prime Now can take care of that for you these days. I started this parenting gig in the stone ages when, you know, you had to get in the car and drive to a store. What can I say? I’m a lazy homebody, and I don’t intend to change.
- No blow-outs.
Before I started using cloth with my first baby, we had regular massive blow-outs that would reach up to her shoulder blades. I kid you not. I had to bring extra clothes with me everywhere I went. With cloth, I have never, ever had this problem. In seven years of cloth diapering 4 babies, I have never had a blow-out. A couple of pee leaks around the legs, but no more scrubbing poopy clothes in public restroom sinks. That, my friends, is reason enough for me to do an extra couple loads of laundry a week.
3. A Safe Sleeping Space
Notice that I did not specify a crib. The truth is, a baby does not need a crib. If you don’t have room for one, don’t sweat it. Now, I’m not suggesting you stick your baby in a dresser drawer, like some of our grandmothers might have done with our parents, but any safe sleeping space really will be just fine for your baby.
Think about your home and your habits. What would work best for you? If you’re planning to co-sleep, you may not need anything at all. (But be sure your mattress and bedding are baby-friendly.) Would a pack-n-play in the master bedroom work–bonus, you can take it with you when you’re out and about! A bassinet or co-sleeper is perfect for a baby who is not yet sitting up. (You will need to replace this once your baby is able to go vertical.) Or, a crib might be the best option for you. Just don’t assume you need one.
You know what’s best for baby? A satisfied tummy.
For most women, breast will be best because, frankly, it’s the simplest option. Breastmilk is a complete source of nourishment + antibodies, always warm and ready at the drop of a bra strap. However, just because it’s the right choice for most moms doesn’t mean it’s best for you. If breastfeeding isn’t your thing, or if it just doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it.
You will need to purchase some more items if you decide to bottle feed your baby: bottles, cleaning brushes for the bottles, a small portable cooler, and either formula or a breast pump. Fortunately, many insurance policies will now pay for the pump, but for the rest, you’re on your own.
A note to breastfeeders: If you choose to cover up, you will need some sort of nursing cover. I choose to wear one with a neck strap. You could use a baby blanket. Or nothing at all! It’s totally your call.
5. 7-10 Seasonally Appropriate Outfits
If this is your first baby, you probably received 10x that many at your baby shower. Don’t pull those tags off yet. Babies really don’t need that many outfits, especially if you’re cloth diapering. (See above, regarding blow-out prevention.) I know they’re cute–and if you don’t mind the clutter, feel free to have as many as you like. Personally, I find too much clothing overwhelming. If you do laundry 1-2 times a week, there’s no reason your newborn should need more than 7-10 outfits.
I kid you not, that really is all your newborn baby needs to get by for the first few months. The rest of it can be fun, but it’s really not essential.
You can bathe your baby in the sink. You can let her play with a wooden spoon from the kitchen (she’ll probably prefer it to those cute stuffed animals, anyway). She won’t care about the cute mobile that you hang beyond her range of vision or about the adorable board books you stacked so carefully on the nursery table, not for at least a year. Unless she’s an epic spitter-upper, you won’t even need bibs for 6 months.
By then, you’ll know yourself as a parent, and you’ll know your child. At that point, you can pick up any other items that will make your life easier. Until then? Save your money for some take-out and a deep house cleaning and call it good. Trust me.
However, for those of you with generous friends who really want something to bring to your baby shower, here are 5 optional items most moms would agree can be highly convenient, if not exclusively necessary.
1. 2 Swaddle Blankets
Most babies like to be tightly wrapped. It helps them to sleep better, since they won’t be startling themselves awake. My babies have all been fairly strong little squirmers, so I prefer the brands that velcro shut. However, I have lots of friends who swear by Aden + Anais muslin blankets, which are convenient for doubling as a nursing cover or a clean surface on which to change the baby while you’re out.
2. Changing Pad or Table
Many moms find they wind up changing their baby wherever they happen to be. Personally, I like keeping all my diapers in the top drawer of my babies’ dresser. (Each kid also gets one drawer for their clothes.) On top of the dresser, which happens to be a hand-me-down from my own childhood, I secured a changing pad. That’s it. Once the baby days are over, I’ll just remove the changing pad and voila! A dresser once again.
I know this suggestion is going to strike some people as a little granola. So be it. The truth is, it’s something most moms wind up turning to out of necessity with Baby #2, even if they resisted with their first. Having a carrier is like having an extra set of hands–a set of hands that often lulls your crying baby to sleep! Personally, I love the Moby wrap for newborns. Later on, I switch to a front-to-back carrier. Currently, I have a Gemini that I bought used from a friend. I suggest checking out a baby carrying class in your area to test out different models and see which you like best.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I bought a Graco stroller for $25 off craigslist when my oldest was little. It was sturdy and useful, and I’ve since passed it on to another friend, who uses it now, almost 9 years later. Now that I have multiple littles, I’ve upgraded to a double stroller that lends me the option of attaching a ride-along board for my preschooler.
Some moms don’t care for strollers; a carrier will do them just fine. For me, there are situations where it’s worth it to have both my baby and my toddler securely fastened somewhere that is not my body when we are out. To each her own.
5. A Good Diaper Bag
A good, sturdy, useful diaper bag can be something like a good man: hard to find. Frankly, these days, I steer clear of anything that is sold as a “diaper bag.” Unless you have $300 to splurge on the good ones, it is almost certain to fall apart within a year. (And even some of the pricey ones break down by that time.) For 5 years now (and 3 babies!) I’ve used the same Vera Bradley “Miller” bag. It’s got a lot of room, great pocket space, and it’s sturdy. It’s also washable for those applesauce spills and the times when I’ve been caught without a “wets” bag. It’s a pricey investment, but it’s proven its worth.
If you just can’t bring yourself to spend that much on a bag–or if you’re not a “bag” kinda girl, I have lots of friends who just use a backpack. Since I sometimes carry my baby on my back, this isn’t useful for me, but it’s a very good and inexpensive option if it works for you.
Note: If you don’t buy a true diaper bag, you’ll still want to have something to serve as a changing pad and something to carry your wipes in.
P.S. Vera Bradley now carries diaper bags. If I wasn’t still so happy with my “Miller,” I’d check them out!
Well, what do you think? Did I miss anything? What do you consider to be “the necessities” for a new baby–and which things do new parents not need?