No matter how much you prepare for a baby, there’s no real way to prepare for a baby. It’s impossible to avoid some trips in the early weeks to the baby superstore or drugstore for things you either didn’t know you needed or thought you wouldn’t need (like a nose suctioner), only to find out you did. Or, there are lots of things you find out you need to try various types of before you find exactly what works for you and your baby (such as pacifiers, bottles or nursing pads). Then there are the things you simply can’t buy in advance (like mass quantities of nursing bras because you don’t know how big you’ll be). Maybe I’ll make lists of those separately. But for those who like to be prepared (like me), there are ways you can minimize your stress. This post is about the things you can definitely anticipate you will use and should have ready to go. They will make your life easier and from my limited experience with two babies, here they are:
If you are planning on nursing:
1. Boppy or My Breast Friend nursing pillow – You can take this one to the bank – and the hospital. If you want to nurse, a nursing pillow is essential when you spend half your day with a newborn attached to your nips. You have to be able to get comfortable. With Eliza, I carted the Boppy all over the house with me. With Zach, I bought a spare from a consignment shop so I had one upstairs and one downstairs. A neighbor of mine just had her second baby, and she loves My Breast Friend because she can strap it to herself and nurse the baby (or just let her fall asleep at the breast) and walk around with her arms free. The Boppy does not strap onto you, so you can only use it while sitting.
2. An electric pump – If you have any nursing issues, want the convenience of being able to give your baby a bottle at some point while nursing, or if you have to go back to work, a good quality pump is non-negotiable. With both Eliza and Zach, I required a hospital-grade pump to get my milk going in the beginning with 2 jaundiced kids. But you should probably rent one of these as they’re super expensive and not needed for very long. The consumer electric pumps are perfect for the job once your baby is a few weeks old and nursing is established. And if you introduce a bottle around 4-6 weeks, you will most likely have a much easier time getting your baby to let you get out.
3. A lactation consultant – Find a friend who’s had a baby and get the name and number of one to have on-hand should you need help. I had terrible issues with Eliza and if I had gotten help on her first, second or even third day of life, it would have made such a difference. Your hospital or birthing center should also have a lactation consultant on staff who can help you while you’re there. Even if you think everything is going peachy-keen, still get a consultant to watch you nurse and give you pointers. You can be latching improperly the first day or two in the hospital and seem fine, and then get home and experience agonizing latching pain and bleeding and chafing because you’re doing it wrong. Get all the free help you can wherever you birth your baby, and then have someone you can follow-up with just in case. If you do a home birth, have your midwife help and do a follow-up.
4. A fashionable nursing cover – If you’re going to have to nurse in public, or are just more modest about nursing, it’s nice to feel like you have something stylish to put on when you’re generally wearing sweat suits everywhere. If you lay a blanket over you, your baby can wave his arms and move it out-of-place. Having something that straps around your neck makes a difference. I like Bebe Au Laits (in stores) and uddercovers.com.
No matter whether you nurse:
5. A pediatrician – The practice we ended up choosing does not visit the hospital where we delivered, and it made things harder having our kids real pediatricians not see them until they were 4- or 5-days-old (both were born right before the weekend). When searching in the last trimester, make sure you find someone who can visit your baby in the hospital or birthing center with you.
6. Sleep and swaddling blankets – Whether it’s summer or winter, loose blankets are a no-no in the crib. It’s nice to have blankets you can zip up around your baby, as well as swaddling ones. Some babies like being swaddled, and others prefer to have their limbs free. You will want to try both. For summer I like the Aden + Anais muslin sleep blankets and swaddling blankets. Any of the fleece sleep blankets are great for winter. I would get 3 different kinds of swaddling blankets because some babies seem to break free from some fabrics, while others really hold together.
7. Lap pads – I bought a pack of these thinking I would give them to people to put on their laps and protect themselves from spit ups or other various and sundry fluid leaks. They are useless for that because they’re about 1 foot square. However, I decided to use them on top of my changing pad covers right in the area where I changed diapers. To this day I still do it so I don’t have to wash a whole changing pad cover when a diaper change gets messy.
8. Burp cloths – Again, Aden + Anais makes some great ones because they are shaped to fit around your neck and they have snaps so they convert to regular bibs. I also used cloth diapers as burp cloths and kept piles of them everywhere around the house because Eliza spit up ALL. THE. TIME.
9. Diapers and wipes – Don’t buy mass quantities of these before your baby arrives. Get one small pack (24 or so) of 3 different brands of disposable newborn diapers. These should get you through roughly the first week. Try them all to see which one seems to work best. If none of them leak for your baby, then go with the least expensive option that you like. Most babies grow out of the newborn size within the first 2-4 weeks (and some are born too big for them anyway). Having a huge supply of newborn diapers doesn’t make a lot of sense. You will need to go to the store to get diapers in the early days no matter what, so don’t freak out about needing a supply to get you through a month. It’s silly. If you are planning on using cloth diapers, I would recommend trying 3 different types as well. If you’re comfortable with it, you could borrow the outer casings of a few different brands from friends who have used them and just buy the inserts so you don’t spend a lot. Some of my friends swear by FuzzyBunz and bumGenius. Econobum is another brand. There are also hybrid systems that combine the convenience of disposable with the earth-friendliness of cloth, such as the Flip System and G Diapers. (I did not have good luck with G Diapers, but that’s just me.) I would also try 3 different brands of wipes. Some babies have sensitive skin and do better with less wet wipes than others. Once you find the brand you like, then buy the huge, economy-size packs.
10. Some changing station on every floor of your home – Keep a basket with wipes, cream, diapers, and some sort of changing pad (it could even be a receiving blanket you lay on the carpet) in all the major areas where you will be spending time so you don’t have to climb flights of stairs 12 times a day just to change a diaper (especially if you end up having a C-section).
11. Netflix – When you spend hours and hours in the early days feeding your baby, you often want to keep the lights down while you do it so the baby can go right back to sleep. I remember trying to read Sarah Palin’s book in the faint shine of Zach’s night-light (because I wanted to read something that wouldn’t wake me up too much). During the day, it’s also nice to have something to do when you’re feeding. This is a great time to catch up on past seasons of shows you like or movies you’ve been wanting to see.
12. Bjorn or Ergo Baby or Moby Wrap – You can register for these and return the one(s) you find you don’t like or don’t use, or you might find you like having options depending on what you’re doing. There is no price value I can place on being able to carry a young baby while having both hands free to do dishes, vacuum, make yourself a sandwich, go to the bathroom, or take a hike through the woods. I personally loved the Bjorn and never had luck with either of my kids in a sling. But I never tried the Ergo Baby.
13. A baby swing or bouncer – Again, you will need to do some things that require you not be holding your baby. It’s great to have somewhere safe to strap the baby down while you do something. Bouncers are more portable and smaller than swings (and some bouncers actually swing babies, too). If you want to have your baby nearby while you load the dishwasher, and also when you go to the bathroom, a bouncer is great.
14. A portable crib – Although I have a regular pack-and-play, I would highly recommend the PeaPod Plus if you like to travel and want something light. At home, it can be another option for a safe place to set your baby (away from pets, for example).
15. A stroller for your car seat – One of my most favorite pieces of equipment was my Snap ‘N Go stroller. Although it doesn’t specifically say it is compatible with Chicco car seats, it worked for me. Babies sleep a lot, and often fall asleep in the car. Having to transfer your infant and wake her up to move her to a stroller is no fun.
Obviously, there are some things I’ve left off the list such as a crib, a car seat and clothing. But I think it would be hard to forget those, and I don’t have a specific recommendation for any of them.
What have I forgotten?