Note: Hello lovelies! If you are a regular reader here, you are probably used to my commentary on parenthood, family structures, social justice, and gender. TODAY IS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT. It’s more of a classic “mommy blog” style post. Why am I doing it? Well, when we were preparing to have a baby, I read approximately one thousand “what you REALLY need for baby” lists and I found people sharing their perspective to be really helpful. Now that our little human is over seven months old, I feel like I have a little bit of insight (what we used, what we didn’t use, etc.) and I’d like to share it with others!
So non-parents, you may want to sit this one out, or maybe share it with friends on the verge of parenting? I don’t know.
When I was in Junior High, in health class, there was a whole unit that should have been called Having A Baby Is Awful And Will Totally Kill You So Don’t Have Sex. When I pointed out that this unit actually had nothing to do with health, the teacher scolded me. Here she was, trying to convince teens not to be “loose” and the last thing she needed was my semantics!
Mind you, we could have easily talked about how horrible pregnancy can be, and it would have at least been related. But we didn’t. Instead, we each received a list of all the items we would need for a baby, and a catalogue for a department store. Our job was to find the items, tally up the total, and cry in fear because there was literally no way we could afford all that shit.
When I showed my mother the assignment, she scoffed. She assured me that we could get most of those items elsewhere for cheaper, that I probably wouldn’t use them, that baby showers were a thing, and that if I was a teen mom I certainly wouldn’t be getting that four hundred dollar crib.
Basically, she didn’t understand that the assignment was not actually about baby furniture, it was about slut shaming.
(apparently I can’t write a blog post without social commentary!)
Ok, without further ado, here is what I, one biased mother on the internet, believe you probably need for your new baby.
Stuff You Really Need
This is the stuff I would suggest trying to have on hand, or mostly on hand, before there’s a baby in your house.
1. A Place For the Baby to Sleep
It could be a crib, a basinet, a cosleeper, whatever, but even if you are planning on exclusively cosleeping, there’s a huge benefit to having a dedicated plan to put the baby down when/if you need to. I suggest a crib, because the baby will grow out of all of the other options within three months (or two months if your kid is like mine) and a crib is safe even when they start rolling.
Speaking of safety, I also suggest buying the crib new. I know plenty of people who have got used cribs and been super happy with their children all survived. But you don’t want to accidentally end up with something that’s been recalled, and safety standards have changed. Beyond that, however, I don’t think what you spend or what you get makes much difference (outside of personal taste). We got our crib for something like $130 at target. We also used a moses basket in his first two months for the convenience of having him right next to our (low to the floor) bed. But we could have just put the crib mattress next to our mattress and that would have done the same thing.
2. A Carseat, even if you don’t have a car
Carseats are another safety issue, obviously. Even if you don’t have a car, it’s likely you’ll need to ride in a car with your baby at some point. If you give birth in a hospital, they won’t let you leave without one.
Do your research on this! What makes a carseat the safest possible way for your child to ride in a car is that it is installed correctly. If it’s not installed correctly, well, you almost might as well not have it. It turns out lots and lots of people are all installing their carseats wrong. Sorry. So you might not want to listen to your friends and relatives on this one, because they’re likely all doing it wrong. I know I sound like a jackass, but this is an area worth being a jackass. If you own a car, get one that’s easy to install in your car. If you don’t, get one that’s easy to install in lots of cars (it will still be harder in some). And for the love of — your child — take the time to learn how to install it correctly ahead of time. You can spend a lot or a little on your carseat, and spending more probably doesn’t make your kid any safer.
We don’t have a car, so we opted to skip the infant seat and start with a convertible carseat that supposedly was suitable for babies 5 pounds and up. Our baby was 8 pounds, and I will tell you getting him into that giant carseat was hell for the first month, and I deeply regretted our money making scheme. But after surviving that first month, it’s been great, and I’m routinely smugly happy that we didn’t get a seat we could only use for a year. I don’t know what to tell you, is what I’m saying.
3. Swaddling Blankets
You will need baby blankets. If you have a choice, get muslin swaddling blankets rather than those tiny receiving blankets. The reason is they will last longer if you are actually swaddling your baby, eventually you won’t be able to keep them in a receiving blanket at all (and that eventually could be soon, depending on your baby’s size). You will also probably be given blankets by well meaning friends and relatives, so you may be able to just coast on those. I like the swaddles though! We got a four pack of the a brand that isn’t that fancy brand everyone talks about. They’re cute, the baby still loves them, and sometimes my wife and I borrow them and pretend they are scarves.
4. A decent first aid kit
You’re going to want a thermometer, a nasal aspirator, a medicine dropper… maybe a couple other things? We got two different baby first aid kits that came in little pouches to keep everything in (handy for the diaper bag!) but honestly two is overkill. Also if you just have those items you could just put them in a small bag or container, then you’re good.
5. Some bottles, like three, and a drying rack
Even if you are determined to never give your kid an artificial nipple, something could go wrong. You could end up in the hospital like I did. It is better if no one has to run out and buy bottles in that case. Just have a couple. Not very many, a couple. I guess if you are exclusively bottle feeding, it makes sense to have more, but I don’t have any experience with that. In my experience, more bottles just means more dirty bottles in the sink. You don’t want that, that’s annoying. We ended up with hand-me-down bottles from friends and family, the bottles that came with my breast pump, the free bottles from the hospital, and the two bottles we registered for. We could have easily got by with just two bottles. Get three and you’re planning ahead.
Also get a dedicated drying rack. It doesn’t have to be one of those cute ones that’s FOR baby bottles, but it’s nice to have a separate place to put those things, especially if you are also washing breast pump pieces.
6. A breast pump if you are breastfeeding
Ok so your mileage may vary here. If you plan to formula feed, disregard.
I registered for a high quality hand pump and I love it. I also have a double electric pump, but I hate it. For whatever reason it hurts me to use, even though the hand pump doesn’t. I also don’t pump all that much, so using the hand pump isn’t a big deal. Friends who work full time out of the home assure me that they need the electric pump.
You can absolutely use your friend’s old pump, you just want to get new membranes for it, because they wear out.
7. Cloth diapers, like 25ish, a handful of covers
If you even think you might want to cloth diaper, I think it’s worth it to have some ahead of time. You could run out of disposables in the night and need something to put on the baby’s butt RIGHT NOW (this has happened to me) or you could decide disposables are too expensive for your family, in which case making the switch will be easier if you already have the stuff in the house. If you don’t end up cloth diapering, I hear the flat ones make great burp cloths. We got lucky and never really needed burp cloths, so that’s just what I’ve heard.
We like prefolds, and we got ours hand-me-down from a family that decided they were done with cloth. Do get enough to make a decent load of laundry, don’t get enough to make multiple loads. I think 25, 30 at the most, is a good number. The reason is you don’t want your diaper laundry to sit for more than 48 hours, so you don’t actually need to have diapers to last more than 2 days, unless you really really just like storing extra things you don’t use. I don’t. And if you’re anything like me, if you have more than 2 days worth of diapers, you’ll accidentally let the laundry pile up. It will get so gross. It has poop on it, for crying out loud.
Also obviously you need covers, but not as many as you need diapers, because you’ll probably only use 1-2 covers a day.
Before you buy a massive amount of fancy brand new cloth diapers, bear in mind that how much money cloth diapering saves you is variable. It was great for us when we lived in a house with a washing machine in the basement. Now that we live in an apartment with coin op machines, we save a whole nine bucks a month…
8. Disposable diapers, even if you plan to exclusively cloth diaper
The bottom line is you need to have a back up, kind of no matter what. They don’t have to be fancy, but they do have to exist. There are going to be times when you want to be able to just throw the shit away. Maybe you don’t have the energy to keep up with the laundry right now (I have been there!) or maybe you want to go out with the baby and don’t want to have to carry nasty diapers home (I’ve been there too!) or maybe the baby wakes up in the night because their diaper is soggy (oh yeah) and you think the disposable will hold more of the moisture away from their skin (it will).
In almost everything else, I say skip the newborn size. But for diapers they’re actually kind of handy because they have a cut out for the umbilical cord stump. I’d get one pack of newborns, one pack of size ones, and see what you need down the line.
9. Washcloths/rags/cloth wipes/you get the idea
Pretty self explanatory, you want something you can wipe your kid with. I love baby washcloths because they are TINY and therefor a handful of the things seems to fit in any load of laundry no matter what.
10. Disposable wipes
Get the unscented/sensitive skin kind just to be safe. It’s better to just wipe your baby’s butt with plain water, but a package of wipes is hella convenient.
11. Baby soap
Yeah you are going to need gentle soap with which to wash that baby. We get hippie stuff because our child’s skin is so sensitive and because I hate Johnson’s. But you do you.
12. Something for diaper rash
I’m not going to get into the multiple kinds of diaper rash, the different schools of thought for dealing with them, the environment sustainability of various products and the baby-to-baby differences involved in dealing with diaper rash. Here’s the thing. It’s going to happen eventually. Treating it is going to be at least some trial and error. Get the thing you THINK you’ll like for diaper rash, that way it’s in the house and you can start by trying that one on that fateful day when you open a diaper to find a red butt and feel like a terrible parent.
13. A handful of toys
Your kid is going to need a few objects (that are safe for babies) to play with and explore. If you have any friends or family buying for your kid at all, you almost certainly do not have to worry about this, baby toys will just be a thing that happens to you. If you want to get a couple of things, I’d suggest going for variety, but sticking to basics, as simple toys tend to inspire more creative play. It’ll be a little bit before your baby is interested in them.
This is another area where, in all likelihood, you won’t actually need to buy anything at all and will end up with more than you need. If you are picking up (or registering) for items, here’s my two cents.
*skip the newborn size, get 0-3mo instead
*if you want to plan ahead and get a few things in bigger sizes, stick to basics like onesies that your kid will wear year round. My kid is literally 7months old wearing an 18mo outfit right now. Growth rates and sizes cary vary so widely for babies… I tried to plan ahead and get him some bigger things for winter, but they all fit him in September and never even got worn.
2-3 footed sleepers
2 hats (more for a winter baby)
2 long sleeve hoodies or sweaters (more for a winter baby)
1 pair baby leg warmers (seriously they are great)
some bibs, I don’t know, we always just had plenty
literally as many socks as you can get your hands on
15. Some books
Stuff You Probably Need, But Not Right Away
Depending on your situation, it might make sense to get these items ahead of time, or register for them, or it might make sense to wait until when your baby is bigger and they will actually get used.
1. A highchair
I just found out the ikea one is only twenty bucks, and it’s easier to clean than the one we’ve been wrestling with for the last month.
2. A baby gate
Eventually that kid is going to be moving around and you will want the ability to contain them as needed.
Your Mileage May Vary Stuff
Whether or not you need or use these things will probably vary widely based on your family and lifestyle.
Initially, we thought we wouldn’t need an infant stroller, but would want an umbrella stroller later on. Then, because of my health issues, I wasn’t able to wear him for most of the summer he was born, and we decided we did need a stroller. We managed to get a good used one (for free, thanks internet!) but it was so cumbersome that it wasn’t actually much easier on my body than baby wearing. I think we used it four times, maybe five. The umbrella stroller is lighter weight, and is easier to get out the door with. It would also be easier to take on the bus (though we haven’t done that yet) and collapses faster. We still haven’t used it as much as I imagined we would.
2. Baby carrier/s
Depending on your parenting style, you may or may not want a way to strap your child to yourself. We have a moby wrap, and an ergo carrier, which feels really luxurious considering how minimalist we are in other areas, but we really do use them both. The moby wrap was great when he was a newborn, and is still my wife’s go-to because she has back issues, and it distributes the weight in a way that is more comfortable for her. I like the speed of putting the ergo on, and that it has the back carry option. Although we DID get the newborn insert for the ergo, and we never even used it because the moby was so great. Because we don’t own a car, so far, if we’re taking the baby out of the house, one of us is probably going to be wearing him.
3. Diaper bag
We were given three, count them, THREE, diaper bags as gifts. We use one of them sometimes, but half the time we just throw what he needs in the tote bag I’m already carrying. I have plenty of friends who just put the baby stuff in a backpack… but then know other folks who prefer having a dedicated baby bag.
4. Those cute hooded baby towels
Yes, we use them. Yes, the hoods are kind of nice to keep his little head warm. Yes, we like the one that looks like an alligator because we are suckers. And yeah, we’ve just used an adult towel in a pinch and it was actually totally fine.
We wanted one and never got one. Honestly there were a handful of days when he just wanted to be walked around the house endlessly and we thought “if only we had the swing our lives would be saved!” but that got better within a month, and now I’m glad we don’t have one taking up space. I’m putting it in this category only because I know a LOT of people who swear by them (which is part of why I intended to get one). Bouncy seats are a similar issue.
I would skip this stuff
I think you probably don’t need these things, we either had it and didn’t use it, or never got it and never missed it.
1. Playpen/pack n play
I didn’t know what a pack n play was until my sister explained that it’s just the new name for a playpen. Also sometimes called a “play yard,” we do not have one of these and that’s fine. I feel like it’s probably the kind of thing that you use if you have it, but our baby just plays on the floor and that works great for us. I guess the exception would be that some of them have like, a bed attachment thingie, so if you were using it as a regular sleeping place I could see it more.
2. Changing table
We have one. We have never once changed our son on it. It’s basically a funny shaped shelving unit in our home, now. I was told that changing the baby on the bed would hurt my back, but pro-tip: if you sit down on the bed with the baby it seems to be fine, it’s only when you stand hunched over a bed that it’s a problem.
Walkers do not actually help babies learn how to walk any faster, and depending on the style they can be quite dangerous. They’re also expensive, cumbersome, and take up a ton of space. Skip it. I promise your child will not feel deprived.
4. Sensory boards
These things are all over pinterest. Let me let you in on a secret. You’re baby is going to explore their senses no matter what. You can easily let your baby grab things that are different textures and learn what the world is by… just exploring the world. Whether DIY or store-bought, the sensory board is not actually going to make your baby smarter, sorry.
5. Baby shoes
So uh, wow. This is actually the longest post I’ve ever written? Also now that it’s done I’m not actually sure if anyone will even read it. Oh well, happy Friday!