When you find out you are going to have a child, that you are to become a parent and be in charge of a new, little person, the next thought is often “How am I going to take care of him?” or “How do I even begin to know the best way to provide for her?” It can be overwhelming. How do you know which are the right things to buy ahead of time, or what are the best things to ensure you’re prepared and fully supplied? During pregnancy this can be so overwhelming. There are lots of places to go, books to read and stores to purchase what you might need. All these resources provide lists of what they think you must have but those lists are often full of unnecessary things that are included so someone can make money off of you, not because they’re what you honestly need as the basics to be ready for a new baby. Here is a starter list that has been compiled from practical moms, keeping in mind that the basics are all you need.
1 Baby clothing: You’ll need enough pieces to get you through about a week before laundry day becomes necessary, but be aware that many new babies go through more than one outfit each day. You need enough baby clothes on hand to provide two or three outfits each day. Baby clothes come in sizes preemie, newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9-12 months. Because there’s not a reliable way to determine what size your baby will be when he or she is born, it’s best to stock up on a few outfits in each of the lower three sizes and then be ready to go shopping a few days after baby is born to purchase the rest of what you need in the size that’s right.
2 Diapers: Again, because you don’t know what size the baby is going to be, you’ll need to stock up on a few sizes ahead of time. You may also want to try a few different brands, because many parents find that one type or another suits their baby’s body better than another. This is simply a trial and error process you have to go through. If you can avoid opening the packages of diapers until you know the size is right, you may be able to return them after the fact if they turn out to be too small.
3 Car seat: Car seat and seat belt requirements for infants and children vary state by state, and it is important to verify the requirements where you live. A good online resource can be found at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association website, where seat belt and restraint laws are summarized by state. In a new policy published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics magazine, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced updated recommendations from their previous 2002 stance. They advise parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. When you are looking at all the options available, it can be very overwhelming to know which one is the best, which one is safest, and which one is right for your baby, but keep in mind that all car seats must meet federal standards to be sold in the United States, so all of them meet the minimum safety requirements put forth by the government. There are additional safety features that some brands offer, and you need to decide which ones you might feel are best for your baby. However, no hospital can let you take your child home after being born without a car seat properly installed and ready for transporting your new bundle of joy, so be sure you take care of this purchase ahead of time.
4 Breastfeeding or bottle feeding pillow: No matter how you decide you’re going to feed your baby, having a u-shaped pillow to rest your arms and the baby on while you feed him or her is one of the most highly rated “must-haves” by moms polled in the past few years. Whether it’s a Boppy brand, a knock-off or something made at home by a friend or yourself, this type of pillow is considered indispensable. It makes the whole feeding experience so much easier and you’ll find you can’t live without one.
5 Baby blankets: Baby blankets will become a necessity as well. They can be used in a myriad of ways, from swaddling baby, covering them to keep the night air off their legs when they sleep, wiping up spit-up, covering their stroller or carseat when they’re taking a nap, and many other ways. You’ll find it’s good to have a stash in several places in the house so one is always within arm’s reach and they’ll be in constant use. Most moms like to have 8 - 10 baby blankets so they can rotate some in the wash but still have a good supply available for everyday use.
6 A crib or bassinet: Unless you plan on co-sleeping with your infant for years into their childhood, many parents eventually move to the traditional practice of their child having their own bed, and you’re going to need a crib. There are lots of options available, and again be reassured that to be sold in the United States, all cribs must meet basic federal safety standards. Assembling the crib is a rite of passage many expectant parents go through before the baby actually arrives, and it is best done before then when you don’t have the stress of a new baby (and possibly some sleep deprivation from a new baby who doesn’t have a good sleep cycle yet) making assembly more complicated. Some parents purchase a bassinet as well, and use it as a portable sleeping arrangement closer to the parent’s bed without actually being in it.
7 Stroller: Eventually you’ll be brave enough to leave the house with your newborn, and you’ll want a way to move them around without disturbing them from their nap in the infant car seat. Basic frame strollers have become very popular recently, and for good reason. They are very light, easy to get in and out of the car, and almost every brand of infant car seat has a basic frame stroller that is compatible with it. Many have a basket underneath to carry your baby bag and any other things you need while running errands or going somewhere. A larger, more substantial stroller may be useful as well if you like to go jogging or for long walks.
8 Baby monitor: Being able to check on your baby without actually standing over them to see if they’re breathing is a stage you will eventually get to, although it may not seem so when you first bring your baby home. When you get to this phase, having a good baby monitor system really helps. There are good video baby monitor systems available, but the basic setup that you need is a one-way baby radio system that allows you to hear when your baby wakes up and is ready for whatever is next after naptime. A system that has more than one channel is nice, so you can avoid crossing signals with your neighbors who might have cordless home phones or a baby monitor system of their own that could interfere with your own if you can’t adjust the radio channels.
9 Safety measures: These aren’t anything you need right away after you bring your baby home from the hospital, but they are something to consider and plan for, and the need for baby gates and baby locks comes sooner than you think. As soon as your baby starts crawling, they’re going to be getting into everything, so at a minimum, planning for the areas that could be major problems is critical. Stairs and cupboards under the sink that contain cleaning supplies are the bare minimum you should think preventatively about. There are lots of options available to make sure your baby doesn’t get into trouble in these areas, and so you should at least begin looking at them before baby arrives so you can make an informed decision when the time comes to baby proof your house.
10 Baby toys: Again, these aren’t something you’ll need right away, but sooner rather than later your baby is going to be interested in more than the things attached to the ends of his or her arms (those would be their hands, and it’s fascinating to watch baby figure that out!). There are lots of good toys out there that are interesting to baby and stimulating at the same time. This isn’t somewhere that you need to go overboard because just as quickly as they get interested in a new toy, they can move on to something else. Find a few good toys that other moms and dads around you have had success with, and then look for other toys similar to those as your baby’s brain and hence their interest in playing grows.
As you begin to get ready, keep in mind that there is no one way to be the best prepared parent. Enjoy the process and you’ll find it’s much easier. Parenting is a challenge. Listen to everyone’s suggestions (even those we’ve made here) and only adopt them as your own if they feel right for you. The best sort of parent is one who is comfortable with their decisions and one who is calm, collected and confident!