There are SO MANY baby products on the market right now! As a doula, many of my clients come to me for product recommendations and help with building their baby registry. Often, they ask, "How much of this stuff does a baby really NEED?" My answer? Not much! There are basically five categories of things you really, really need before bringing a baby home. The rest is bonus. (I'll be listing some nice-to-have items further on down this page!) For a complete printable list, including must-haves, nice-to-haves, and some lagniappe if you want to go all out, click here.
Here is the short list of things a newborn absolutely needs in their early days:
1. A safe place to sleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced updated recommendations for safe sleep. Included in these recommendations is a firm, flat, bare sleep space for the baby (not in the parents' bed). The crib or bassinet doesn't need to be anything fancy, but beware of buying these items used since some discontinued items are no longer approved by regulatory agencies. Buying new also allows you to sign up for alerts in case of a product recall.
My personal favorite cribs are the simple, economical, sleek cribs from IKEA. Ours has gone through 4.5 years and 2 energetic boys and shows no signs of wear! Just to compare, our first crib we got was actually more expensive and started to chip paint after just over a year.
Sooooo many cute clothes. But what does a baby really use on a daily basis? Comfort is key; you can't beat cotton onesies and button-up footed sleepers. White is excellent because it can be cleaned easily! Depending on how often you want to do laundry, you'd want anywhere from 6-12 of each style and size. It's too easy to go overboard and buy so many outfits that the baby doesn't have a chance to wear each outfit before it's outgrown. Also keep in mind that grandparents LOVE to buy baby clothes, so it's highly unlikely that your baby won't have enough, haha!
Babies poop and pee. A lot. After the first week, you can expect your baby to wet and/or soil 8-12 (or more) diapers daily. You'll need a good stockpile of diapers to avoid middle of the night grocery store runs! I would figure about 100 disposable diapers a week when calculating how many you need. When it comes to deciding how many to buy in each size, bigger (size) is usually better. Babies usually only stay in newborn size diapers for a maximum of a couple of weeks and some babies are born too big for size N. Size 1 diapers generally fit babies from 8-14 pounds. What age your baby will reach 14 pounds is widely variable, but it's generally safe to say that a baby won't double their birth weight until 4-6 months.
For cloth diapers, you'll probably want disposable liners to catch those first meconium poops so they don't stain. You can buy specially sized newborn cloth diapers, or go with a one-size model. Keep in mind that most "one-size" cloth diapers don't fit babies really well until they reach around 10 pounds, but I have had wonderful luck getting Lil' Helpers one-size diapers to fit down to 7 or 8 pound babies! There are many websites that serve as resources for information about cloth diapers, plus FaceBook support groups. So don't be intimidated!
Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two, the baby needs to eat. The only foods that are appropriate for a newborn baby are breastmilk and infant formula. For breastfeeding, some supplies you might want to have on hand are comfortable nursing bras, a breast pump, and possibly a nursing pillow. For bottle feeding, you'll want to make sure you have bottles and an easy way to clean and sterilize them. Some dishwashers clean and sterilize, or you could simply wash them in hot soapy water and rinse, boiling clean bottles periodically to sterilize them.
5. Car Seat
You'll need an infant car seat installed correctly before you leave your birthplace to take your baby home. The nurses and hospital staff cannot install the seat for you, nor can they buckle the baby in due to liability concerns. Therefore, you'll need to ensure that your seat is properly installed and ready to go by 36 weeks of pregnancy at the latest. Also, make sure you understand how to properly buckle a baby into the seat. A CPST can help you with both of these tasks. Lauren Standridge of Baton Rouge Birth Services recommends the Chicco KeyFit 30 and Britax B-Safe infant car seats.
While a baby doesn't truly NEED much, there are some things that are super nice to have.
Here are my top 10 picks for items that make those early parenting days a little easier:
1. Baby seats, swings, and bouncers
True, a baby doesn't need a seat in every single room in your home, but it is really really nice to have somewhere the baby can hang out and be entertained while you shower, prepare dinner, or exercise. Consider having at least one of these items be something that is easily carried from room to room (not while the baby is in it, please!) like a Rock 'n Play or bouncy seat.
2. Bathtub with newborn insert
There's not much in this world that is sweeter than a freshly bathed baby. However, newborns are notoriously wobbly and slippery at bathtime, so a newborn-specific tub insert can make those first baths a little less daunting. I've seen some really clever infant tubs that are designed to fit into a sink, which can be game-changing for a parent who is recovering from vaginal or cesarean birth - no bending, kneeling, squatting, or carrying a heavy tub full of water!
3. Hooded towels and soft washcloths
Yes, you can use normal washcloths and towels to bathe and dry a baby, but there are some pretty amazingly soft baby washcloths out there! Bonus: if you have too many, they can be repurposed into reusable wipes if you're using cloth diapers. After your baby is all clean and sweet-smelling, they will love to be wrapped up in a soft hooded towel. I prefer towels that are the same thick, absorbent terry cloth as normal towels; extra points if it has teddy bear ears on the hood :)
4. Bottle and nipple cleaning supplies
Cleaning bottles, nipples, pump parts, and pacifiers can be a real pain. Bottle and nipple brushes make it a little easier, as do those clever drying racks with spots for all the tiny parts. For sterilization, many parents find that microwave sterilizers work beautifully - just remember to add enough water or you might melt your parts!
5. Diaper bag
Whether you want your diaper bag to double as a purse, or you want it to be a little more dad-friendly, a well-stocked diaper bag makes outings a breeze. You'll want lots of pockets for things like pacifiers, several changes of clothes for the baby, burp rags, blankets, a portable changing pad, toys, and of course diapers and wipes. Some diaper bag models even have an insulated section to keep bottles cool! Other things to have in the bag include bottled water (for rinsing soiled clothes), hand sanitizer, baby powder, diaper cream, a wet bag for wet and dirty diapers, another wet bag for soiled clothes, and sunscreen or a hat.
6. Swaddle blankets
Most newborn babies love a good, snug swaddle. Keep in mind the environment they just came from: they were hugged securely from all angles in the womb. We can mimic that sensation with a good swaddle blanket! My favorite are muslin swaddle blankets; for example, the swaddle blankets from Aden + Anais are light enough so the baby won't overheat, but large enough to get a really secure wrap. Halo also sells a combo sleep sack/swaddle that is very easy to use.
You're going to want to look for a stroller system that is easy to set up and collapse, has ample room for carrying the diaper bag and the parent's drink, phone, and keys, and has a decent tray for when the baby gets older. Many stroller systems have compatible infant car seats that can easily click in, which is lovely when you don't want to have to unstrap a sleeping baby. It's best if you can actually test the stroller before buying since the handling can vary widely between brands.
8. Baby carrier
Wearing one's baby(ies) is a centuries-old tradition, but it has recently gained lots of popularity in modern cultures. Parents love that they can hold their babies and keep them close while still having their hands free to work on other things. The two most accessible and popular options I've seen with my clients are ring slings and soft-structured carriers, such as the Tula or Ergobaby. Both of these options can be used from the newborn stage all the way into toddlerhood. There are so many instructional videos, babywearing instructors, and support groups if you'd like to give it a try!
9. Changing table
While not a true "necessity" since a baby can be changed on basically any flat surface, it's helpful to have a dedicated place for diaper duty. It's very convenient for a changing area to have a contoured changing pad and organization containers like baskets or drawers for items like diapers, wipes, diaper cream, burp cloths, lotion, changes of clothes, and anything else you want to have within arm's reach during diaper and outfit changes. If you have a multi-level home, make sure you have a changing station on each level, or you could assemble a portable diaper changing caddy that goes where the baby goes. You really don't want to have to traipse up and down the stairs with a baby who just had a massive blowout!
10. Rocking chair/glider
Generations upon generations of parents have used rocking chairs as a place to feed, soothe, and bond with their babies. It doesn't have to come with all of the bells and whistles to get the job done, but most parents appreciate some well-placed padding to make feeding more comfortable for everyone. It's also handy to have a side table nearby with items like breast pads, burp rags, snacks, and water bottles to make your sit more enjoyable.
With all of the various baby products and advertisements out there today, it's hard to know what items are actually helpful. I hope this gives you an idea about how to build out your baby registry! For a complete printable list, including must-haves, nice-to-haves, and some lagniappe if you want to go all out, click here.