A survival guide.
So you have a brand new baby. Congratulations! Brand new babies are hands down the greatest things on the planet. They’re so sweet and tiny and totally dependent on you…which is terrifying and exhausting. The good news is they’re tougher than you think, and you’re tougher than you think and you can totally do this!
When I was pregnant I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of baby supplies out there. I had a lot of experience with babies so I had a pretty good idea of what I didn’t need, but even so getting what I did needed was daunting. I did TONS of research, and came up with a registry that has served me pretty well. A lot of the blogs I came across that talked about baby gear were written by people who live in NYC, and their lists were great, but their needs are totally different than mine. While they were all about saving space and travelling by foot/subway/cab, I needed info for living in a two story house in a city where you drive everywhere. I never did find that, but now I can make one for you (plus everything else you’ll need regardless of your location)!
What to register for:
Gear – From travel systems to baby carriers to diaper bags.
- Stroller/Car Seat – I had a checklist of things I wanted in a stroller. Super safe (duh), cup holders for mom and dad, an extendable handle (we’re tall), soft cushioning for baby, gender neutral color, big basket underneath, room to grow, ability to stand when folded, and it had to be a travel system. Graco is probably the most popular travel system brand, but we went with the Maxi Cosi Piazzo Travel System. I love it. I have two issues with it. It’s kind of bulky, and you can’t remove the cover to wash it (it’s spot clean only…that’s not something you want to find out after a diaper blowout). Overall we have been really happy with this travel system, and we would definitely recommend it.
- Baby carriers – We registered for the Moby Wrap, and an Ergo and we got a Heavenly Bundle sling as a gift. I know most people LOVE the Moby, but it didn’t work well for us. My baby didn’t like being so restricted, and I live in Texas…it’s really hot being all wrapped up in a giant piece of fabric. When she turned four months old we started using the Ergo and she and I both love it. It’s really comfortable, and she feels secure without feeing trapped. The other sling we have is also great, and we’ve used it quite a bit (most notably for my sister’s wedding reception) but the Ergo is the way to go for day to day because it evenly distributes the weight of the baby and leaves you completely hands free. I cannot recommend it enough. There is also an infant insert so you can use it before four months. I will definitely order it before I have my next baby.
- Diaper Bag – We wanted a bag that was gender neutral so my husband and I could both use it without switching everything between bags. We also wanted one that was both a backpack and a messenger bag so we could wear it on our backs when we were wearing the baby (it’s a really cool look), or so we could hang it on the stroller, or use it as a shoulder back when necessary. We got this one, and it’s awesome.
- Car sear mirror – Someone got this for me even though it wasn’t on my registry, and I’m so glad they did! Because babies have to sit rear facing in the back seat you can’t see them without a mirror. Having one has made things so much easier. It’s so nice to see your baby’s face in your rear view mirror, and it really gives you peace of mind to be able to see what she’s doing back there.
- Sun Shades – as I mentioned before, I live in Texas and the summer sun is brutal. They don’t provide perfect coverage, but roller shades for your windows really help. I also recommend a windshield shade for the times you have to park outside. I’ve had one forever and never really used it until I had the baby, but it’s amazing how much cooler your car will be if you use it. In fact, get one even if you don’t have a baby!
- Boppy – I was flabbergasted when a friend said she never used her Boppy. I use mine ALL THE TIME. It’s great for nursing and holding your baby while she is tiny, but unlike other nursing pillows you can use it for other things. When baby is learning to sit it provides some cushion and support (especially if you stack them…the Boppies, not babies). You can use it to prop them up for tummy time. They even make a good stand in for a high chair. I definitely prefer them to Bumbo seats because they are more versatile, and they’re safer.
Sleep – You won’t get a lot of it, but these things will make those long nights more bearable
- Bassinet – I would have liked a co-sleeper, but they don’t make one that works with my crappy Ikea bed, so we got this cradle instead. I liked it better than a bassinet because I could see through the slats, and it was big enough for her to sleep in for a while. You could also just set up your baby’s crib in your room if it will fit. One thing I know for sure is you won’t want to walk to the nursery every hour or two. Babies who sleep in their parents’ rooms are also less likely to be victims of SIDS, which is obviously a big deal.
- Pack n’ Play – We set ours up in our living room downstairs so we would have a place for baby to nap when she was very young (now she naps in her crib). I would consider Pack n’ Plays to be necessary for anyone who travels. You can throw it in your car and take it to a friend’s house if you’re going to be there late, you can take it to the beach, you can fly with it. Get one. It also doubled as a downstairs changing table, which my husband loved.
- Gowns – If you only take one piece of advice take this one. Register for baby gowns. At 3:00 in the morning, when you’ve woken up for the fourth time to feed and change your baby the last thing you want to do is deal with snaps. Gowns are the BEST. On a related note…footie pajamas for newborns are the devil. Don’t even bother even though they’re super cute. Wait until your baby can go longer than five minutes between diaper changes.
- Night stand changing station – A few weeks before the baby was born I cleaned out my nightstand and filled it with diapers, wipes, and changing pads so I could change her on my bed in the middle of the night. Do this. Especially the part about the changing pad…I had to change my sheets in the middle of the night a couple of times because I got lazy.
- Swaddling Blankets – They’ll teach you how to make a baby burrito in the hospital using receiving blankets, but swaddlers are so much easier, and much more secure. In the beginning I would use the Miracle Blanket. It’s easy and comfy, and it doesn’t use Velcro, which is loud and jarring in the middle of the night. When your baby gets stronger and can escape from the Miracle blanket they stop being safe. At a certain point my baby could pull her arms out really easily, but couldn’t sleep unswaddled so we switched to Swaddle Me blankets, which do use Velcro and were better able to contain her Hulk arms. Also, if she did escape there wasn’t tons of fabric floating around in her cradle.
- Sleep sacks – Blankets aren’t safe, but babies get cold. When your little one outgrows swaddlers, get a sleep sack.
- Pampers Baby Dry – When my baby was brand new she would cry if she was wet. Even if it was a tiny trickle she would LOSE HER MIND until we changed her. It was ok during the day, but torturous at night. Pampers Baby Dry made all the difference.
- Video Monitor – When we finally did move the baby to her own room, I started relying heavily on a video monitor. We have this one. It’s a bare-bones, cheap one but it serves its purpose. There’s nothing wrong with audio monitors, but it’s nice to see if she’s fussing because she’s just woken up on her own (so we can leave her for a bit to see if she’ll go back to sleep) or if she’s got her arm stuck between the bars on her crib (and she needs to be rescued). It’s so nice to have.
- The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. I love this book.
Food — I already covered a lot in my breastfeeding post, but here are a few other tips.
- Bottles – Resist the temptation to buy a full set of bottles right away. You never know if your baby is going to like the ones you pick, or if you will for that matter. I originally bought Breastflow bottles, but I didn’t like the two nipple system. Now we use Tommee Tippee and we’re both happy, but every baby is different, so buy one or two bottles and go from there.
- Bottle Drying Rack – This might seem like an extra, or a gimmick, but it’s really nice to have a place to put wet bottles. Otherwise they will take over your kitchen.
- Microwave – If you have a microwave you don’t need a bottle warmer. You’re not supposed to microwave formula or breastmilk, but you can microwave water in a bowl to warm a bottle in. Of course, if someone buys you a bottle warmer, there are worse things. Electric tea pots are also a handy alternative.
- Dishwasher – If you have a dishwasher you can use it to sanitize your bottles, nipples, pacifiers, and breast pump flanges (and even some baby toys). If not, you can buy a microwave steamer. If you don’t have a microwave you can boil them. Or you can stop being such a germaphobe!
- Immersion Blender – If you want to make your own baby food an immersion blender is the way to go. That way you don’t have to clean out your whole food processer or blender in between purees. I have this one (in orange) and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s my best friend.
- Ice Cube Trays – Use them to freeze cubes of breastmilk/formula to mix with baby cereal, and to freeze single servings of baby food purees.
- Other – I probably don’t have to tell you about bibs, tiny spoons, etc.
- Baby tub – I have this one.
- Baby Wash Cloths – Not necessary, but I do have some. Mostly because they were cute.
- Hooded Towel – Again, you can use a regular towel, but our baby towels are really soft and really cute.
- Baby Wash/Lotion – I use Burt’s Bees Baby Bee. It smells AMAZING. They also make an unscented version if your baby has sensitive skin.
- Safflower Oil – If you do baby massage Safflower Oil (it’s with the vegetable oil at the grocery store) is super cheap and really gentle on baby’s skin. Mom’s skin too.
Remember! I’m not a doctor!
- Acetaminophine (Tylenol) – Babies can’t take anything else for the first six months. Ask your doctor, of course, and make sure you have the new formula (but you probably will because they don’t sell the old one anymore). The old concentration was 80 mg per 0.8 ml, and the new is 160 mg per 5 ml. The old one is 3X stronger than the new…so make sure you check (even though they don’t actually sell the old concentration anymore)!
- Rectal Thermometer – I know…gross…but it’s the most accurate way to take your baby’s temp and your pediatrician will want that temperature if your baby gets sick. I have the Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer, and I really like it (as much as one can like one of those) because its shape prevents over-insertion (sorry guys…babies are kind of gross).
- First Aid Kit – The First Years American Red Cross First Aid Kit is handy to have around. http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2667190
- Nasal Aspirator and Saline – They’ll send one home with you if you have a hospital birth, but the ones they use don’t work very well unless you’re a nurse…props to you guys, I don’t know how you manage to get those flimsy things to do anything! The one that came in our Red Cross First Aid Kit is my favorite, but I know a lot of people who swear by this one http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3946499. I haven’t tried it, because it makes my stomach turn, but I hear it’s really the best. A drop of saline before snot-sucking helps loosen things up.
- Sunscreen – We use California Baby. I balked at the price at first, but I forgot that tiny babies only use a tiny bit of sunscreen. A small tube has lasted us for a while.
- Pampers – I know cloth diapers are awesome for many reasons, and I think it’s great if you use them. I really do! I feel guilty about how many diapers we throw into landfills, but I also don’t have time to wash diapers on top of all the other laundry my tiny baby generates. Pampers really are the best. Huggies leak like crazy. We use Pampers Baby Dry at night, to help keep her skin dry. Also, don’t bother with newborn size diapers. You can fold down the front of size one Pampers until the cord stump falls off, and if you have a big baby the newborn diapers won’t fit anyway.
- Diaper Cream – We have been lucky not to have a problem with diaper rash, but we use Boudreaux’s Butt Paste if we feel like we need something. I like that it doesn’t leave a sticky mess in her diaper like some of the others do.
- Diaper Trash Can – We have the Diaper Dekor. I prefer it over the diaper Genie because you don’t have to do anything but throw the diapers in the top. No twisting required. It can also be used as a regular trash can when you’re finished with the diaper phase.
- A set of grooming supplies – we just got this because it has everything you need. Brush, nail clippers, etc.
- Tooth brush – Dental care starts early…even before the first tooth arrives. My sister is a dental assistant, and she gave us this set.
What you don’t need:
- Bumbos – They’re all the rage. They’re also dangerous (they’ve just been recalled for a second time) and bad for baby’s hips and spine. Don’t use them.
- Swings/Bouncy Seats – Some people will tell you I’m crazy, but we don’t have either. I don’t like that babies are cooped up in a seat that limits their movement, so we just put a pallet on the floor and let our baby hang out there, or we wear her when we need to do things around the house. That said, I have a really easy baby, so if you need one go ahead and get one, but I wouldn’t go out and get a swing and bouncy seat unless you find you need one after the baby is born.
- Wipe Warmers – I just don’t think they’re necessary.
- Crib Bumpers – They’re a SIDS risk.
- Most other things – Really all you absolutely have to have in the beginning is a boob, a sling, a carseat, diapers, and a place for baby to sleep. If something doesn’t sound 100% necessary it probably isn’t, and it’s best to figure out what you need as you go instead of filling your house with a lot of junk you won’t use. Even a lot of things I listed aren’t necessary, they’re just things that I really liked and I thought made my life easier.
I hope this makes your life easier!