I'm about to have my fourth baby in five years, and when I had my first, I was nineteen and particularly irresponsible for my age, so this has all been an enormous learning curve for me. But now that I have some experience, looking at the baby registries of my first-time mama friends makes me quite sad, because BuyBuyBaby, Amazon, Target, and all those niche businesses that bombard you with ads on Facebook don't necessarily have a mama's best interests in mind. They are businesses who want to make money; they are not mental health counselors or baby experts. They will sell you things you don't need, and chances are hefty that all the baby junk will only make motherhood a more overwhelming and difficult transition!
Before I get to the actual list of needs, here are some other things you need to keep in mind (besides what I've already written here, Babies Aren't As Expensive As You Think They Are):
-Babies are born all over the world---and they always have been---and they have thrived with virtually no "baby gear." There really isn't that much you need to parent a newborn, and you might find that you love motherhood a lot more when you cast all that stuff away.
-Every baby is different, so you really won't know what will work best for you and your baby until you have him or her. But chances are, you won't need too much. You will, however, need diapers (unless you go the Elimination Communication route, ha!) Since you're going to spend money on those anyway---either by making a cloth-diaper investment or buying disposables---that's the best thing to ask for at your baby shower, and it frees up your finances a little to buy the things you do need after the baby is born. It's a little boring, but you'll be sick of those cute outfits everyone wants to give you. Trust me, as a recipient of hand-me-downs and yard sale finds, it's unbelievable how many baby clothes I've accumulated for free or cheap that still had the tags on them. This means money was wasted on items that were not truly needed.
-If you care about environmental impact: a lot of companies boast about how eco-friendly their items are because they're organic cotton/responsibly sourced/recycled/etc. But you know the best way to save the earth when you need an item? Buying something that has already been made and bought. That's one of the many reasons for buying used items; so what if a baby carrier was made with synthetic fibers? If it's getting use from you, you're keeping it out of the landfills!
So now to the [very short] list of things you might want to have on hand before baby is born! Here's a free PDF checklist I made if you want it.
Actual needs for your baby:
-Comfortable clothes. Footed pajamas---preferably with zippers, not buttons---are so much more convenient than shirt/shorts combinations and socks. And your baby's supposed to have a hat for the first few days, but your hospital/midwife will probably provide that.
My babies live in footed pajamas for the first few months, especially if the weather is cold.
-Diapers (obviously.) Cloth diapers are a great option, but if they make you hate your life, buy disposables in bulk. A Costco membership might be worth it for you solely for the diaper discounts. And not all diapers are created equal! Walmart-brand diapers are garbage and need to be changed like three times as often.
I dress my babies in diapers one size too big because then we're able to go longer in between diaper changes! Bwahaha!
-A Pack n Play. You can buy these used. Pack n Plays are extremely helpful because a) they can sleep there, b) you can travel, c) it serves as a safe place for your baby to play unsupervised, d) it's also a safe place for you to place your baby when you just need a minute to calm down. After I had my first baby (a fussy one), I realized that it's better to let my kid cry for a couple minutes so I can breathe, pray, and eat a marshmallow (lol) than to hold my baby every moment until it drives me mad. Your baby needs you to not lose your mind more than he needs you to be with him every second.
We forgo the crib and put our baby in a pack n play until he or she turns two. Walk-in closets make great baby nurseries; they're dark and quiet and can most likely fit a Pack n Play! Just make sure the ventilation is okay.
-A car seat. As long as it's safe and not outdated (yes, car seats have expiration dates) this is a great item to buy used. If I'm not mistaken the car seat we've used for the past two years cost $7 from a yard sale.
-A couple receiving blankets. These serve as burp cloths, diaper changing pads, and, of course, blankets for warmth. If you use a big swaddle blanket like Aden + Anais (or a knockoff), you can swaddle your baby in those too, if that's your style.
-Note: I don't like living in Florida, but it's probably the easiest place in America to raise babies. I'm sure if you live in a cold climate, there are other things you need to make sure your baby is safely warm, but do a lot of research before buying car seat accessories because there is definitely a safe and unsafe way to keep your baby warm in the car.
Helpful to have for your baby:
-A forehead thermometer. You don't need to obsess over checking your baby's temperature, but especially for those first few days, your doctor or midwife will probably want you to casually monitor it. No-touch thermometers make it a piece of cake.
-A bouncy seat (like this one, about $20 new) could be extremely helpful for you so you can pacify your baby hands-free while you sit and eat.
A lot of moms complain about not being able to eat their food while it's still hot, but I just bounce the baby on the bouncer with my foot while I sit at the table and enjoy the noms.
-A simple baby monitor.
Unless you live in a mansion or you're an extremely heavy sleeper, you'll probably hear your baby when he or she cries, but monitors are good to have on hand. We keep our baby in our room until he or she is a good sleeper, so most of the time I don't need a monitor, but if I need to do something on the opposite end of the house or if we're visiting friends, the monitor is helpful.
I will say that one time our baby monitor accidentally picked up on a neighbor's frequency and I heard her screaming at her kids. I don't completely trust the safety or privacy of monitors. (But no one should scream at their kids anyway.)
-Diaper rash cream, or at least some coconut oil. (This is assuming you don't feel comfortable with squeezing some breastmilk on your baby's bum whenever a rash occurs.)
I love Burt's Bees diaper rash cream. Quick tip: squirt some on your baby's bum, then rub it in with the diaper so your hands don't get messy. Diaper rash cream is a pain to clean off your fingers!
-A Wubbanub or Dr. Brown's Lovey pacifier that has a stuffed animal attached. It's not recommended to use a pacifier until your baby is two weeks old (or more) so as to avoid nipple confusion, and you don't even know if your baby will take a pacifier or not, but they can certainly make your job easier.
What you don't need:
-A crib! A pack n play does everything you need, and co-sleeping for at least the first couple months can make your life a lot easier (and more enjoyable!) I was appalled when I first found out that some people in modern times still co-sleep, but the more research I did---and when I actually tried it---I realized it's super-safe as long as you follow the guidelines...and it's super enjoyable too.
-A stroller. Strollers that accomodate newborns are big and clunky, and for safety reasons your baby really shouldn't be in a carseat when you're not driving. Babywearing is sufficient for those first few months, and you can make your husband do it so you can have a break! I start putting my baby in a stroller when they're big enough to sit in an umbrella stroller, at about four months. (Decent umbrella strollers cost $20 max, by the way.) With a couple regrettable exceptions, I exclusively use either a single or double umbrella stroller and it makes life so easy!
-A baby bath. Look into all the research about giving your baby baths; bathing babies is completely overdone in our culture. They shouldn't be bathed right after birth and they really don't need to be bathed later either. If you enjoy it and it helps your baby sleep, sure, go for it, but you really don't need to give your baby a lot of baths. I promise that your baby is too little to get BO at this point; a bath isn't really going to accomplish much other than drying out his or her skin!
Since I don't bathe my babies regularly until they're old enough to sit up in the big tub (gasp!) I don't use a baby tub.
-Toys. It's okay for your baby to be bored. This will teach him or her to find interest in the real world from a very young age. The last thing they need is another plastic piece of garbage that you're going to hate cleaning up. If my babies were fussy, I would hand them a wash cloth, a measuring cup, etc. and they seemed more pleased with that than anything made specifically for babies.
-New clothes. You'll be a lot less frustrated with your baby's blowouts and spit-ups if you know the now-stained clothes didn't actually cost you anything. Hand-me-downs in younger sizes are so plentiful that I didn't buy my kids new clothes until they were at least two.
-Virtually everything else. I'm racking my brain and reading checklists, and I can't think of anything else that a normal, healthy baby would absolutely need upon birth.
Actual needs for you:
-A babywearing item that works for you. Again, this is something you probably won't figure out until you have the baby. Research plenteously, try out your friends' items (using baby dolls!) and seek advice, but you might want to buy your wrap or carrier used because you never know what will fit you and your baby best.
I've tried something different with each baby and I'm still learning in this area! But I know that I will not carry my baby around in his or her carseat. That's a rule for me, both because it's easier to just carry my baby and because it's better for their bodies!
-Lanolin and ibuprofen for the first couple of weeks! Your breasts will probably get chapped as they adjust to nursing, and as your uterus shrinks back to normal size, the contractions are going to hurt, especially if it's not your first baby. I try to avoid painkillers, but in those first few days, a little bit of pain relief can be a game-changer for my attitude and happiness!
-A calming music playlist. This is probably the most important thing! Even if you have an easygoing or sleep-trained baby (which you certainly shouldn't assume will happen) there will be nights when you have to rock your baby to sleep and you might feel a little frustrated. 2/3 of my babies were of the needy variety where I had to do this, oftentimes waking every single hour to console him or her. The thing that got me through Baby #1? Shawn McDonald's Roots album. I survived those nights with Baby #3 thanks to Psalms by Sandra McCracken and I Dream of You by JJ Heller. Even now, whenever I hear music from those albums I feel so much warmth from memories of exhausting and frustrating yet sweetly intimate times with my baby. Make sure that none of the songs on your playlist have an abrupt/loud start or anything that will wake you or your baby. Some other gentle-music, rich-lyrics artists I recommend are Young Oceans, Jill Phillips, Rain for Roots, and select acoustic songs from Jon Foreman, Shane and Shane, and Andrew Peterson. I use Amazon Music on my phone to listen to music.
-All the fun post-partum goodies such as adult diapers or heavy-duty pads, witch hazel wipes (such as Tuck's pads or an off-brand), a peri bottle (make sure your hospital or birth center will provide that), prune juice, etc. Yep, prepare yourself for an embarrassing trip to Target. The reality of post-birth is that your baby isn't going to be the only one wearing diapers, you'll most likely struggle with constipation and probably even hemorrhoids, and you're going to be a tad sore. It's amazing how quickly you can recover from a vaginal birth given what your body just did, but the first weeks---the first days especially---will be a big adjustment on your body since it's no longer hosting a human. At least you're not pregnant anymore though! And those first days aren't impossible; I remember going to Publix, the chiropractor, and Green Boutique only seventeen hours after my first baby was born, ha! (But remember, I was 19. By the time I had baby #2, I enjoyed lounging on the couch, ha! Also, keep in mind that you can't drive a car for the first two weeks after your baby is born. I cheated once and it was not healthy for my recovery.)
-ESV Bible app and a journaling Bible (like this one.) If you're used to whipping out your study Bible, journal, devotional books, etc. every time you sit down for time with the Lord, you might have a difficult time transitioning to motherhood. Alone time is going to be much more limited now, so a Bible app where you can take notes for those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions and a Bible with margins for writing what you learned might be the most helpful, all-inclusive tool right now. I plan on writing an entire post about this later. You might also enjoy the Bible.is app, which is a free audio Bible that's easy to navigate by chapter.
-A nursing cover or scarf. I believe in modesty and you'll never see me in a bikini (even if I had a super-hot bod, lol), but I'm persuaded that you can be a virtuous woman and not cover up when you nurse. You are simply feeding your baby, and covering up makes it more difficult for your baby to eat. That said, I choose to cover up if I'm around men that I know would feel uncomfortable, but I have no problem letting my baby eat unhindered if I'm out and about. The only reason people feel uncomfortable about it is because our culture has trained us to do so. I'm working on a little rant about this topic that I hope to post later :)
What you don't need:
-A diaper bag! After my first baby I learned that I do not need to carry around a big ugly bag! Babies need so little that a regular purse or bag big enough to fit diapers, wipes, a nursing cover, a blanket, and an extra onesie is fine. Plus, using an everyday bag makes you feel a little more normal; having a baby does not need to strip you completely of your former self-expression.
-A specific nursing bra/nursing clothes. If you'll observe mothers who have mastered breastfeeding, they usually aren't wearing fancy tops with flaps and openings, but they just lift up their shirt for the baby. This approach doesn't feel quite so baring and works wonderfully, and there's no need to find those frustrating nursing bra snaps. Any bra without underwire should work! Also, nursing can really change your body, so I wouldn't buy any bras until after you've had the baby and you have an idea of what size you are! Also, some moms need breast pads to catch leaks (lol), but you can't really know whether you'll be the "leaky" sort until you start nursing, so I would wait until you see that nursing works out and that you have a bountiful supply before buying things like that.
-A fancy breast pump, bottles, and supplies (assuming you're a stay-at-home mom who doesn't need to bottle-feed.) Some moms are almost bovine-like in their pumping efficiency, but some moms only pump half an ounce after twenty minutes of work. Some babies refuse to drink from a bottle. You don't yet know what your body or baby will do, so you don't need to spend money on a hypothetical need. But you can get a decent manual pump for less than $20 (or free from a government-sponsored lactation consultant), so go with that if you need to. Also, if nursing doesn't work out, you can buy the bottles you need after the fact. I used the cheapest bottles I could find and they worked splendidly.
Anyway, I hope this helps you. Preparing for a newborn doesn't have to be overwhelming. Simplifying your perceived needs is going to take away so much stress. I'm still an extremely lazy and irresponsible person, but I've learned that baby care is not impossible or even miserable. Enjoy your little one!
Leave a comment if I'm missing something major! I checked some "must-have" lists, however, and I don't think I'm forgetting any true essentials.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today