I’m about ready to pop and certainly ready to meet my newest child. I have been actively preparing the home to welcome our newest addition and taking an inventory of what we have and what we need. Today, I was asked what is absolutely necessary for bringing a baby home. So, here’s my take on this subject.
Keep in mind as you read that many of these items can be acquired at garage sales, thrift stores, at your baby shower, or you can borrow them from others. Since most of these things are only used for one year, they may be taking up precious space in people’s homes so you could be doing them a favor by “storing” them at your place for a year! 🙂
car seat: I prefer a convertible infant/toddler seat. It is useful much longer because you can use it from the day you bring baby home and throughout the entire first year (often a baby can grow too big for the infant seats and you have to get a convertible seat anyway). Then you just turn it around when your baby reaches 1 year AND 20 pounds and the seat is good for another year or so. Some people prefer the infant seats because you can take it out and carry it and the baby around with you without waking the baby. Keep in mind how heavy that is though. If you still want to go that route, look into acquiring a Lille Baby EuroTote. Your back will thank you! Also, a car seat is an item that, in most cases, should be bought new. You aren’t likely to notice hairline fractures on used car seats picked up at a garage sale or thrift store. Also be aware, car seats have an expiration date!
baby carrier: My favorites are a ring sling or a moby wrap. Both are highly versatile carriers that keep the baby close to you. Babies that are worn cry less, sleep more, and are often happier than babies not worn! These carriers are easy to use, inexpensive, useful from day one and are still in use up to age 3 years. They do not take up much room in a diaper bag and are truly indispensable. Check out my entries on ring slings and moby wraps.
crib: Of course! The baby needs a place to sleep. Even if you plan to co-sleep at night, you will need a crib for nap times, especially as your baby grows more mobile. There are mainly two main types of cribs–traditional and convertible. If you are planning to have more than one child, the traditional crib is probably your best bet since it will get it’s share of use. A convertible crib would be fine for an only child, but if you have to buy one for each of your children, well, that isn’t really a frugal option. When considering your frugal options for a crib, make sure you buy a safe crib. If you’re garage sale hopping or thrift store shopping note that older cribs often do not meet the safety criteria that is standard today. The crib slats should be no wider than 2 3/8 inches. You also need a firm mattress that fits snugly in the crib. Don’t forget a few sheets too!
stroller: Don’t go overboard on this one. You need a stroller that is easy to maneuver, easy to fold and unfold, easy to lift, and one that easily fits in your car. The key word is easy! This does not mean bulky and with all the frills. I like having a stroller that is versatile–will lay back for a newborn or older sleeping baby as well as sitting up. A visor is very nice, as well as an accessible and good size basket underneath the seat. A frill that is handy are a cup holder or snack tray for you and the baby.
You can buy a “system” that includes a car seat and carrier. That makes sure everything matches, but does limit your frugal options. Don’t rule out used strollers, even if they don’t match the car seat. You will only use the car seat in the stroller for a short while anyway. Then you will just be using the stroller for an active toddler.
diaper bag: Not too big and certainly not too small, this item is something you will be carrying for a long time so choose it wisely! I often see moms carrying a bag that is as big as the car seat carrier–ouch! Don’t do that to yourself! You really only need a bag that can carry a few diapers, a small package of wipes, a few toys, your baby sling, and a small first aid kit. I also like to have a little space for my wallet so I can leave my purse at home and only carry one bag.
diapers: cloth or disposable. (Really, cloth diapering is not difficult, works better than disposables, and will save you possibly thousands of dollars, as well as save the earth one diaper at a time, especially if you CD more than one child.) If you are doing cloth, you will also need diaper covers. See my posts on cloth diapering.
diaper wipes: again, cloth or disposable. If you’re doing cloth diapers, it is really easy to do cloth wipes. Beware, if you use cloth wipes, you will never be satisfied with disposable wipes ever, ever again! See my posts on cloth diapering.
layette: You’ll need 8-10 sleepers/outfits. (Probably more sleepers than outfits since a new baby will spend most of his time sleeping and you won’t be going out much. Of course, as the baby gets older, you will need more, larger outfits.) Also, you’ll need a few light delivery blankets, a hooded towel, a hat, a few onesies, and socks or booties. To complete your clothing accessories, you will need several burp clothes. This can be as simple as a hand towel, cloth prefold diaper, or a pretty flannel design with a beautiful thread-crocheted edge.
hygiene: you’ll need baby shampoo/baby wash (I really like the lavender scent), a tiny pair of clippers (not scissors), cotton balls, corn starch (instead of talcum powder) for diaper changes, and moisturizing cream (not lotion). You can use baby oil for cradle cap, but I prefer olive oil–you can use olive oil on the rest of the baby’s body too. (I use it for me too.)
first-aid kit: There are lots of lists for this. (Here is a useful one.) My essentials include a chart of infant CPR and rescue breathing handy–just in case. Also, a list of emergency phone numbers (the pediatrician, poison control, and a few close family and friends) I also keep a thermometer handy (I use an ear thermometer–I just can’t do the rectal temperature!). You’ll want to have a liquid non-aspirin pain reliever/fever reducer. Band-aids are always in stock as well as an antibiotic ointment. There is a lot more you can, and should, have. Check out the link or google the subject for a more complete list.
baby bouncer or swing: You will need to set the baby down at some point and these items are proven winners. You probably don’t need both. Or, buy one and borrow the other. You baby will outgrow them soon, but it is so nice to have while they are so little.
a few toys: Babies are easy to please and do not need a ton of toys. I have banned most anything from my home that requires batteries–those toys usually limit creativity and also increase insanity in those around. Nothing smaller than what would fit through a toilet paper roll too. Soft cloth toys are ideal–they don’t break, they are washable, and you don’t have to worry about lead recalls. You can make your own black and white art for the first few weeks–just make some designs with a black marker on white paper. As the baby grows, let them play with pots, pans, lids, wooden spoons, etc. You’ll have the happiest kid in the neighborhood!
books: Read to your child! Even if it is the newspaper or your textbook–read, read, read! Dr. Suess is a great place to start your baby’s library. Even better, go to your public library and check out new books each week! You’ll find what you really like and then can purchase your favorites. Public libraries often have baby story-times too.
You will also want a good book for advice: What to Expect The First Year is a great book. There are lots of books at the library so check them out and see what works for you. There is also tons of information on the web so you don’t need too many of these books.
breast pad protectors (if breastfeeding): These can be disposable or cloth. I keep disposable ones handy for going out and about. I prefer cloth ones at home–they are much more comfortable and absorbent. They are easy to make if you are interested. You need a layer or two of terry and a couple layers of flannel. Sew or surge these together in a circle and there you go! You’ll probably need at least 4-8 pairs.
breast pump (if breastfeeding): If breastfeeding is going really well, you may be able to get away with a simple hand pump. However, if you have a finicky grazing type eater, you may need a more substantial pump. For my second I had to get a nice electric double breast pump to prevent getting mastitis the sixth time! (My first was a breastfeeding poster child–he did it by the book and I never had a problem!)
bottles, nipples, formula, and a portable formula holder (if bottle feeding): There are lots of varieties so you’ll have to experiment to find out what works for you and the baby. Formula is expensive! Call the formula companies and ask for samples and coupons.
a good pillow:You will need something for support while breastfeeding. Boppy pillows are very popular and for good reason. They are very versatile, and can be used throughout the entire first year. I found a Boppy to be a little too much for when I was nursing and just used a regular pillow folded in half. (I sewed it to stay that way so that it was one less thing to deal with.) But I do use a Boppy to help the baby when he is first learning to sit.
rocking chair or glider: You will spend a lot of time sitting, soothing, and adoring. Make sure this chair is comfy! You might also want to keep a little table nearby with good books and a water bottle. Another sitting item you may want is an exercise ball. It is good for you and baby loves to be gently bounced in your lap on this ball–it’s fun for you too.
Lots of LOVE and time: This is the best part of being a mom. It is so easy to love such a sweet, innocent, amazing little baby and this is what the baby needs the absolute most. Love freely! And take all the time you need to adjust to this amazing transformation into motherhood. Trust your instincts and be willing to try things. Love being a mom! You’re going to be one for eternity.
Nice to have but not essential:
bassinet: I splurged on a bassinet for my second child and loved having it. It worked well for the first 4-5 months before he became too mobile for it to be safe. I loved the convenience of moving it around to where I wanted to keep my baby. Also, keep in mind that there are lots of other alternatives to a store bought bassinet. I have known people to modify laundry baskets or dresser drawers for the purpose!
infant mittens: these are nice because baby’s fingernails grow soooo fast and cause scratches to his delicate skin. If you are able to keep you baby’s nails clipped, this won’t be an issue, but not all babies are cooperative about fingernail clipping.
changing table: You can easily get away without this one, but it is nice to have something to change the baby on with all your accessories handy. Save yourself some money by using a dresser or a desk that has been modified to be a changing table. Then you can continue using it after it’s usefulness as a changing table is done.
baby monitor: This is nice to have, but not a necessity. Be aware that the channels on a monitor are the same for your neighbors. They may be able to hear what is happening in your house if you both are on the same channel!
exersaucer: Some people will disagree with me on this, but I never needed one. They are great if you have the room (they take up a lot of room) and if you need to corral your baby for a while so you can make dinner. My kids were walking and climbing really early so I didn’t feel it was a good investment for my family. On the other hand, a lot of people really like them and you can pick them up fairly inexpensively at garage sales.
tons of cute clothes: your baby will be content in just a few outfits (for pictures and showing off) and some great sleepers (which is what your new baby will wear most of the time). As you won’t be going out of the house much for the first weeks, limit the newborn size wardrobe. You baby may hit a growth spurt and never get to wear some outfits.
shoes: Believe me, baby shoes are cute, but they don’t stay on those little feet. Nor are they necessary or even good for your child. Even after the baby is walking, unless you have good, soft, flexible shoes, your baby is better off in bare feet or with socks. However, with socks, make sure there is something on the bottom that grips to the floor for safety. (You can make your own grip socks by painting the bottom of the socks with puffy paint in fun designs.)
wipe warmer: true, a warm wipe feels better than a cool one, but warmers breed bacteria, use extra electricity and just aren’t really something you must have.