(This is from our family blog, we've been asked what sorts of things we thought were crucial and what we ended up not using with our six babies. Here you go! Disclosure, some of these links are affiliate links and if you purchase through them I receive a small return - so thank you!!) Written May 2011, updated November 2015.
Kit says to add olive oil to the list, I think it's become a joke now but we keep a little bottle of olive oil to rub on the baby's bum immediately after birth, it lets you wipe the meconium off really quickly instead of traumatizing you and baby by having to scrape it off their tender rear. We use it for the first couple days, until all the meconium passes. I know, sounds odd but IT WORKS. Take some to the hospital with you.
- Lansinoh Nursing Pads but the pink ones, NOT the white "ultra soft" ones which fell apart for me. I use cloth pads after the first couple months when my milk supply becomes less extreme but with my hyper-lactation super power the only thing I don't soak through in the beginning are the Lansinoh ones with their crazy absorbent core.
- A baby carrier, and it's best if you try on a variety because they are so unique to you depending on body type, what you want it for (around the house or exercising?) and so on. I love Ergo Baby Carrier, which we got initially for a back pack type carrier. I've also heard good things about the Mei Tai carriers, though I've never tried one. The most comfortable carrier I've ever worn (to include taking walks with) has vanished and it looks like the company went out of business, but this Sleepy Wrap looks like it's the same design, but it's a stretchier fabric. The Moby Wrap seems to be the closest fit I see now available. I love that it is great from the tiniest baby up through a toddler. Worth trying some on and getting lots of opinions on types! And I've heard from a lot of couples that Mom may love one type of carrier and Dad love another, the fit can be really different so try on many. This saves my sanity when a fussy baby needs to be held and I need to be able to do something with my hands (like eat!!)
- Comfortable bras for nursing (and sleeping in, as you need something to hold those breast pads in place during nighttime nursing.) I am small chested enough to wear the spaghetti strap type shelf bras, which are comfortable enough to sleep in, but I've also seen actual nighttime nursing bras (for a lot more money.) The hooks and clasps on standard nursing bras were more than I could manage in my sleep deprived state, I just needed something I can pull up/down quickly before my child's head bursts with impatience as I try to get them latched on fast.
- Onesies, Gerber 5-Pack Onesies
or Gerber 4-Pack Long Sleeve Onesies
(Very fun for decorating, too!) Good as undershirts for cold places or alone for warm places. There are many adorable varieties, of course, but I like the universal ease of white. Plus you can Oxyclean them when they're stained and they look like new.
- Not essential but fun, baby leg warmers. Make for easy bedtime diaper changes, keep legs warmer when babies kick off blankets and their nightgowns scoot up, and lovely for babies crawling to avoid carpet burn on knees. They have some adorable argyle prints and fun boy themed ones or super cute girly ones.
- Carter's Gowns are our favorites, super easy to get on/off with the wide shoulders, longer than average so they fit even now (at six months), and you can just fold the sleeves up for when they are newborn. And they're so soft.
- Carseat, we like the infant carrier one when they are itty bitty but once they are over 15 pounds it's HEAVY and I like the rear facing infant-toddler convertible seat that goes up to 30 pounds (and 2 years) as it seems to hold her more upright and give her a better view out the window. It does mean you have to get them in/out at the car instead of loading them up inside (which can be an issue in the cold/heat) and you wake them up if they fell asleep on the drive, but infants should not be left to sleep in a carseat anyway as it decreases oxygen levels. If you want to avoid the expense of the infant carseat then just get the infant-toddler as you'll get more years of usage out of it. But if you are in and out of the car a lot and get the infant carseat/stroller combo then it is handy to snap the sleeping baby in the carseat into the stroller... but then there's the sleeping baby in carseat/oxygen issue again.
- Someplace to sleep. We've tried it all - bassinet, Mose's basket, pack-n-play, crib. Okay, we've not tried the bedside co-sleeper or in the in bed basket/insert thing. But it's all a great experiment, use whatever helps you sleep best/safest. 🙂 For reflux babies (and aren't they all?) we had the best luck with the Fisher-Price My Little Lamb Deluxe Infant Seat - White/Brown which really nicely cradles them and is a soft seat. Not a necessity but fantastic when you need to safely put the baby somewhere that they cannot escape from. (Which yes, could also be accomplished with a crib but that's not portable so you can keep an eye on baby and we don't own a crib anyway. 🙂 ) I liked being able to set the baby safely up on the table near me or keep them in the room while I ate. The papasan seat has edges/handles so you can carry the sleeping baby room to room.
- You don't need a breast pump and I rarely use it but it can be a lifesaver in that first week when your breasts are about to explode from the engorgement. I would pump just enough to get the boulders softened so baby could latch on (do NOT pump long or you'll stimulate more milk.) And if your child is ever willing to take a bottle then a pump is handy for those theoretical date nights with your spouse. I liked the Avent Isis best (even when double pumping for the NICU) but your mileage may vary. I've used two hospital grade double electric pumps and two "personal use" double electric and a couple single side pumps and Avent Isis is still my favorite. Though I do have that hyper-lactation super power and I've heard from other moms that the double electric did help them get a lot more milk per pumping. If you need to work and pump then I think the double electric is the way to go, if you're only going to need sometimes bottles then Avent is a less expensive but still great option. A popular non-hospital one for double electric pumping is Medela Pump in Style. A less expensive but similar one is the Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. However, DO NOT BUY A DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP UNTIL CHECKING WITH YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER! They should be covered under new healthcare laws.
- Gas drops (Walmart has generics of the Mylicon drops), infant tylenol (for emergencies, don't give to a newborn unless doctor says to since any fever warrants a call in the first couple months), Boudreux's Butt Paste - the only one that didn't give our kids' an even worse rash. And we only use the ointment when we see a rash, which is thankfully rare. We don't normally use powder or ointment or anything. Most diaper creams had lanonlin (wool based), parabens, or petroleum (we prefer to use Un-Petroleum Jelly) instead of vaseline.) So we avoid most diaper ointments but Boudreux's and the Alba are both great.
- A simple, basic baby wash/shampoo just for their scalp and only a tiny bit. We just use warm water on their body. And we don't use the lotions, none had ingredients we were comfortable with and babies generally don't need lotion. For baby massage we use coconut or almond oil (and no, it doesn't make them smell like coconut though I don't think that would be bad.) I like Burt's Bees no tear shampoo as it's one I've found with few scary ingredients and it doesn't dry out their skin (or my skin, I use it on my face all the time at the suggestion of my eye doctor to help with allergies. That sounds odd, but it's wonderful for cleaning allergens off your lashes.)
- A journal or baby book or notebook, something to let you record your thoughts and write to the baby, jot down milestones, etc.
- Allergy friendly baby wipes, we like the ones at Costco and Sams Club. They are more cloth like, unscented and soft.
- Aden & Anais or some other type of receiving blanket,and a lot because they get used as burp clothes and changing pads and such. The Aden + Anais blankets we consistently hear rave reviews about because they are BIG (good for swaddling) but very lightweight so even in the Texas summer the babies don't get overheated. But we also have at least one heavy blanket for going out/winter, a couple big quilts/blankets for spreading on the floor for tummy time, and some soft fleece ones for cuddles and bedtime. (Who am I kidding, we have DOZENS of beautiful blankets of all sorts, people love to make baby blankets and we've been blessed with some gorgeous ones. I've kept our favorites from each child to pass onto their babies.) But the ones used the most often are the flannel receiving blankets for swaddling and burping and such. We go through a lot of those. (Plus if you are handy you can buy some baby flannel on sale and make a ton of blankets & burp clothes really easily.)
- Some place to put clothes. With our first baby it was in the unused crib! With later babies it was a dresser but clothes ended up dumped out anyway. Now it's a wicker basket where I throw all of her hanging around the house clothes/pajamas/onesies/leg warmers and I hang up her cute "going out" clothes. They get washed so often it just seemed easier to put the clean laundry into a basket and let the kids grab me something when we need a change.
In summary - Shopping/Registry List for the beginning:
Lansinoh nursing pads (pink ones, not white) - 2 boxes to start
Depends or any generic adult diaper - 1 pack
Baby carrier - there are so many options, see if you can find a local baby wearing group to try them on before you buy one.
Good, well fitted (professionally measured) nursing bra - 2 to start
Onesies - in sizes newborn and 0-3 months to start
Sleeping gowns (elastic bottoms) - 3 or 4 to start
Toiletries - Gas drops, infant Tylenol, baby thermometer, Un-Petroleum jelly, coconut oil or diaper ointment, and a gentle/safe baby shampoo (like Burt’s Bees)
Perineal herbal bath for mom
Diapers - don’t get too many newborn size, size 1 will last longer
Wipes - hypoallergenic, avoid any with perfumes
Swaddle/receiving blankets (you don’t need thick quilts)
Dresser or some type of storage space for baby’s things
Sleeping place for baby (bassinet or cradle, but will only last a few months), arm’s reach co-sleeper, or crib which I suggest waiting on until you see if the baby will sleep not touching you. 🙂
Hypoallergenic laundry soap (does NOT need to be "baby" one.)
Eventually you will probably want a stroller, winter clothes/hats, and a seat, swing, or some type of play station for baby once they're a few months old.
Things we've tried over the years but didn't find essential:
- Boppy/nursing pillow It was easier to nurse without it or just use throw pillows (if there were any left on the couch that my children hadn't yet thrown.) I did use it to prop up a swaddled baby but that only lasts a couple weeks before the baby learns to launch themselves over the top of it. 🙂 Also good for helping a baby learn to sit up but I like the Bumbo better for that. (Update: This is good for c-section recovery to help with nursing.)
- A Bumbo seat though is only good for a couple months, I learned, before baby can arch their back and almost fling themselves out of it so that's better to borrow. As is a swing, exercise seat/walker, play gym, etc. Short term use, bulky for storage. Very nice to have but can often be borrowed or found used in good shape since they don't get used for long. When no longer needed you can pass them on in the great circle of baby-loaning, or donate it to a women's shelter or children's charity.
- Crib. HA! Crucial for some, waste for us.
- Pack-n-play: we had one child love to sleep in it, the rest thought it was prison. I know some people love them, and it's handy if you travel a lot and have a child that's willing to sleep in a confined space. (Why are they called a pack-n-PLAY, has a child ever played in one of those things? I thought they were for sleeping. In theory.)
- Stroller: they are handy and we do have one but we find the baby carrier much easier for travel. Depending on how much you are out and about and where, this may be essential or completely unnecessary.
- Pacifiers. We tried them, our children just don't believe in them. Ditto bottles, we just start our kids on sippy cups around 6 months (with pumped milk.)
- Baby laundry detergent (like Dreft), it's heavily perfumed and irritates our kids' skin. We just use All Free & Clear or an allergy safe soap.
- Hats: we use newborn hats for the first day, but we are in Texas. We use winter hats for going outside and sun hats for summer but the cute little baby hats for indoor use we didn't need, those little beanie caps. Winter & sun hats, yes. We do use a sunblock baby blanket.
- Socks: they kick them off so quickly, it's amazing. Except the Mary Jane sockswhich somehow stay on and are absurdly cute. But again, we're in Texas so it doesn't matter if our babies are naked all the time - in a winter climate socks would be an essential, not so much here. And as far as shoes, I do like the little slip on, soft soled shoes with the elastic around the ankle. But not until they are a year old or so.
- Pants unless they are soft and elastic waisted. We have some with snaps and zipper flies and they are cute, but they are NOT comfortable for baby. We want easy on, easy off and soft. Baby leg warmers can often replace pants for us.
- But I do like at least a couple super cute dress up outfits for the baby per stage (newborn, 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, etc.)
- Most baby toiletries, too much fragrance and chemical bleck.
- Baby towels, they are cute with the little hood but any soft regular bath towel works and is more absorbent. Plus they are small so by the time our kids are toddlers the baby towel isn't big enough/absorbent enough to handle a dripping two year old streaking across the house.
- Toys for any child under 3 months. Their own fingers are fascinating enough and they don't have the coordination to do anything with a toy anyway. Exception for mobiles if your baby is tolerant of a crib, B loved his photo mobile in the NICU crib. It's true, a parent's face is a baby's favorite toy. They just want to stare at you anyway. (I do believe in books, though, babies love to be read to - well, they just love your voice in general. It's what they've heard for nine months and if Daddy reads to them in the womb then they recognize his voice, too.)