How many new moms to be have a vision of a picture perfect nursery, painted in a well thought out, adorable color scheme, a closet full of tiny, perfect little outfits and every convenience we are told that we absolutely must have to make life with baby easier? From nursing pillows to butt creams, even if you do decide you need/want something you still have another hundred decisions to make to find the “right” one. The baby clothing, furniture, accessory market has exploded in recent years. And with the trend in first time parents being older (often translating into more disposable income) companies are catering to that market more and more.
So, what’s a parent to do? You want to make sure you are prepared when you bring that little bundle of joy home but you also don’t want to go overboard and have a house full of stuff you will never use. A lot of this is personal choice and what one parent thinks is a wasteful luxury another might not want to live without. Almost three years into this parenting gig, and being surrounded by other parents, I can share with you the items I loved, liked and had no use for.
Car Seat – Ok this one is obvious right? They won’t even let you leave the hospital with out one (assuming you are leaving in a vehicle). So make sure a car seat, a new car seat, is at the top of your list. You will have a lot of options here so do your research and talk to other moms and dads to see what they recommend. We started with an infant seat and although some parents will tell you they didn’t bother, I wouldn’t have given ours up for anything. When you have a “colicky” baby who finally falls asleep in the car, being able to just click the seat out and carry her into the house, store etc. without waking her up is worth every single penny.
Stroller – I consider this an essential (for us). Even if you wear your baby, which I did a lot, a stroller can really come in handy. If I had to do it over again though I would not have wasted the money on a “high end” stroller. There is no need to spend hundred of dollars here. Ours was pretty, had some cool features and handled like a tank. Explore your options, make sure you take them time to wheel it around the store, a lot, before you commit. It has to be comfortable for you as well as baby.
Baby Carrier or Wrap – Another must have here. Forget about labels like “attachment parenting” and do yourself a favor and buy one. I highly recommend a wrap to start with. Something along the lines of a Moby (brand name isn’t important) is a great choice. Baby wearing can be really beneficial for both baby and mom/dad.
Bottle Warmer – This is one of those items that I let people convince me I didn’t need. I am so happy that I finally gave in (when I found one on sale) and finally brought one home. Whether it was warming pumped milk or formula, being able to have it safely heated to the perfect temperature in 30 seconds was a real treat.
Change Table – I’ve ready countless “things you don’t need” lists and this is always in the top ten. We had one and used it most of the time. Yes, you can use a diaper pad and a dresser if you don’t have room for another piece of furniture. The change table, however, is generally at the perfect height (unless you are very short or very tall) and they really aren’t the waste of space that you read about. We bought ours at Ikea and love it. It’s actually a tall cabinet (secured safely to the wall) with loads of storage space and a change table that can be removed when you no longer need it.
Baby Swing – We received one as a baby gift and except for about a week where it was the only place she would sleep, our little one hated it. If you think you’d like one I recommend trying to pick up a second hand one. Just make sure all of the straps are in good shape and give it a good cleaning. If you are undecided I’d wait until the little one comes and go visit a friend that already has a swing and take a test drive.
Nursing Bras and Pads – More must haves. Invest in a handful of nursing bras. They get dirty quickly (with all of the leaking) and having a few just makes life for the nursing mom easier. Remember you will be wearing them pretty much 24 hours a day. No more sleeping without a bra on (unless you don’t mind sopping sheets).
Diaper Pail (like a Diaper Genie) – Yet another item that I was sure I didn’t need and once I brought one home I can’t believe I didn’t do it months earlier. We only used disposables so I can’t speak about the needs for cloth diapering but keeping that stink under control without having to visit the dumpster every night was nice.
Wipe Warmer – I have never owned one but have seen them in stores. I’ll just say I don’t get it. Unless you keep your wipes in the fridge I’m not sure what purpose they serve.
Bouncy Chair – This was a life saver in our home. Our little one had bad reflux so needed to be upright (which usually meant being held) at all times. The bouncy chair held her in a comfortable position and allowed me at least brief moments to do essential things like go to the bathroom or maneuver things on a hot stove without a baby in my arms. Baby wearing is handy but sometimes you really do need to put the baby down.
Baby Clothes – Well of course baby needs clothes but it’s very easy to go overboard in this area. Keep in simple. Stock up on a few sleepers and onesies, some socks if it’s cool and maybe a couple of “nice” outfits. Babies look cute in anything. You don’t need to spend money on brand name outfits that they will outgrow in a month. Don’t bother with shoes until baby is getting into the toddler age and even then you should let them go barefoot in the house most of the time, it will really help them when they are learning to stand and walk. I know baby shoes are adorable and it’s nice to have a pair or two around for photos or going out. But for the most part babies don’t need and shouldn’t really wear shoes. Cute soft “bootie” (knitted, crocheted, felted, etc) type shoes are generally ok for the little ones in cooler weather as long as they have plenty of room.
Snot Sucker – Another must have. Don’t waste your money on the bulb type and go straight for the ones that have an end that goes in you mouth to suck the boogers out – Like the NoseFrida or the HydraSense Nasal Aspirator. It’s also a good idea to have some saline nose spray on hand.
Hats – Large brim hats for sunny weather and something warm for cooler weather.
Sun Glasses – Protecting your eyes from the sun is important at every age. If you start your little one wearing them right off the bat you will have probably have fewer problems later on getting them to wear shades. My little vampire won’t leave the house without them.
Blankets – Skip the fluffy cutsie blankets but stock up on receiving blankets. They have a million uses – burp cloth, swaddling, covering up when breast feeding, etc. You cannot have too many receiving blankets.
Crib/Bassinet/Pack N Play – We had all three of these. Did we need all three? Nope. The pack n play got very little use so I wouldn’t buy that again. The bassinet came in handy a little bit, and had our little one not needed to be upright all the time I think the bassinet would have been used a lot actually. As for the crib, well we ended up primarily co-sleeping so it didn’t see much use but it was still nice to have as a safe place to put her when necessary. This is another area where you really need to evaluate your needs before buying. It’s recommended that babies sleep in the same room as parents (not necessarily in the same bed) for the first few months. If you don’t have room for a crib in your room then the bassinet or a pack n play with the bassinet insert is a good option.
Baby Tub – I know lots of parents that use the kitchen sink (I’m sure my parents did too) for bathing baby but I found a proper baby tub to be way easier, safer and more comfortable for the little one.
Sleep Sack – We all know that babies should not have things in their sleeping area. No stuffed animals, no pillows, no blankets. It’s just not safe. That’s where a sleep sack comes in handy. I’m amazed, living in a cold climate, how hard it was for me to find these. They are the safest way to keep baby warm at night. Three years later that’s changed and sleep sacks are MUCH easier to come by. I highly recommend getting at least one.
Baby Food Processor – OMG do not buy one! Ok, let me rephrase a bit. If you do not already own some kid of food processor and will never, ever use one for any other purpose then I guess buying a “baby” one might make some kind of sense. However, if you already own any sort of food processing device don’t bother with buying another one just because it says it’s designed for making baby food. If you don’t already own one but really want to make your own baby food then it makes more sense to me to just buy a small, regular food processor. It will be cheaper and you can use it for years to come. You do not need a baby food making system! You probably already own everything you need to make your own perfectly yummy, healthy and safe baby food. If you are looking for a small, affordable processor consider the Magic Bullet (not the baby one just the regular one). It works great and, bonus, comes in handy for making Margaritas.
Baby Monitor – Until the little one was sleeping without us (at least for short spurts) this really wasn’t necessary. When a baby needs you they will let you know and you won’t miss it. There is nothing worse than being glued to a baby monitor, fretting over every little sound they make and believe me, those things pick up, and amplify every little sound, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Now, once she started going to bed by herself in a bed I actually picked up a video monitor and I love it. We live in a two story house and even though I keep the baby gate closed at the top of the stairs when she’s up there by herself it really does give me piece of mind to be able to keep an eye on her when she’s napping. Babies don’t get out bed and get into trouble, toddlers do!
Crib Bumpers – I actually can’t believe they still sell old fashioned crib bumpers. They should be outlawed. They are a terrible, terrible hazard in a crib with a young baby. However, I absolutely adore the breathable crib bumpers. They are a soft fine mesh that do not pose a suffocation hazard, they have no dangling ties (they attach with velcro) and when baby is old enough to stand in the crib they collapse if they are stood on so they can’t use them to try to climb out of bed. This is not a necessity by any means but I liked ours. It helped keep the sucky in the crib and put an end to those fat little legs getting stuck in the bars (which was really just an annoyance not an actual safety hazard).
Bottle/Accessory Sterilizer – If you have a dishwasher and/or a stove and a pot you don’t need a special gadget for sanitizing. I know what you’re thinking. I fully endorsed the bottle warmer so why wouldn’t I go for the sterilizer. I have no hard answer to this. To each his own. The bottle warmer was cheap, took up not much more room than an actual bottle, took less energy than the kettle or microwave and was just something I adored.
Toys – Newborns don’t need toys. They have no ability to use them. Skip them. Yes, once they are a few months old a few toys are nice and appropriate but the thing is people will probably buy those for you as baby gifts. So don’t stock up on a bunch of toys right away because they will just collect dust.
I highly recommend only getting the “must haves” before having a baby shower. You have no idea what you’ll get. I had a registry for mine. Do you know how many people actually bought something from that registry? One, that’s how many.
What baby items are on your must have list? Which ones do you wish you had never bothered with?