I've had a couple of friends recently ask me for thoughts on what I consider to be the real baby basics. I guess they figure since I've had two I ought to know by now what is really useful and what is really not. Anyway, I figured someone would probably ask me again someday and I'd rather have it already documented somewhere. So here is my edited list of consumerreports.org "New baby basics" and a list of some of my favorite things that I've used to help me and my babies. If I don't mention it, it means that I agree that it's a necessity (or that I have no personal experience with it; i.e. cloth diapers). Let's start with pregnancy basics. I'm not going into clothing - get as much of it second-hand as you can, though. It's crazy expensive to buy new. Let the rich people do that.
I never had a maternity belt until my third pregnancy. Love it! Wish I'd had it sooner. I recommend this one. Works great, and it didn't break the bank. I also recommend that you purchase one of these. At the end of your pregnancy very few things will give you quite enough coverage. It's unsettling to worry that some of your belly may be hanging out for people to see. It also seems that Palmer's Cocoa Butter Lotion for Stretch Marks is actually effective - wish I'd started using it sooner. Perhaps I'd have had less or even no stretch marks at all. As it is, it does seem to prevent new ones, and fade old ones. Cool. If you want to do a drug-free birth I recommend the Bradley method. It's husband-coached child birthing which totally appealed to me b/c it made sense to me that the person that supports me the most in other aspects of life would be the most capable of doing so during labor. My husband continues to claim that he's done nothing for me during labor, but he was SO helpful. Seriously. Would not have done as well without him. I also strongly recommend that during the last trimester of pregnancy and as long as it's needed after you've started breast feeding that you use Lansinoh ointment. And once you've become pregnant, stop using soap directly on your nipples. Lather up around them, but not on them - it really dries up the skin, even if it's mild soap. You may want to use a clean washcloth on them while in the shower to try to toughen your nipples up. Breastfeeding is not for wimps. That said, if latching is done right it will not be continuously painful. Just for the first little while as your nipples get accustomed to it. One more thing - if you don't already have an exercise ball, you may want one for sitting on postpartum. That's pretty much the only thing I can sit on comfortably for the first little bit after I've had a baby. Seriously. Moving on - the italicized is the consumer reports list, and my comments follow some sections.
I thought about a jogging stroller, but those things are super expensive plus I don't know if they make models that have a car seat that you attach right to it - or if they do, then they're insanely expensive. I got a stroller/carseat combo with sturdy tires (Safety 1st brand) so it could be used for jogging and still be able to transfer easily from car to stroller. The stroller was, of course still useful for after baby outgrew the car seat.
Beds and linens
_____Bassinet/cradle (if you don't want to put your baby in a crib right away).
_____Two to three fitted crib sheets.
_____Four or more waffle-weave cotton receiving blankets for swaddling baby
_____Two mattress pads.
_____One to two waterproof liners (for crib or bassinet).
I have a bassinet that is on permanent loan from my in-laws. Bless them! Love it - it really is a necessity for the first few months when the night feedings are very frequent. However, if money is a problem you could get a combo bassinet/play yard (a portable crib is super nice - I highly recommend the Cosco brand), or you could use a padded dresser drawer. Maybe it seems ghetto, but by golly if money's tight it just is!
I'd say skip the liners and just get two waterproof mattress pads. I got mine at Walmart, but I imagine they're available other places. You NEED to avoid washing them in a machine with an agitator - it really does ruin the plastic, even on the gently cycle. Although, if you don't have that option, the gentle cycle will work. You'll only have some breakage. :)
_____Diapers. Disposables: One 40-count package of newborn (birth weight under 8 pounds) or of
size 1 (birth weight over 8 pounds). Cloth: Two to three dozen, plus six to 10 snap-on, waterproof
outer pants, and two to three sets of diaper pins, eight to 10 all-in-ones or diaper system covers;
two to three dozen diaper system inserts.
_____Diaper pail (with refills or bags as needed).
I have had a diaper pail, similar to a Diaper genie. What a waste. We haven't even used one since my first was still pretty young. We just use plastic grocery bags to collect them. They do have diaper pails available that just use standard plastic bags. Safety 1st brand is the one I would choose, if any. It does have an odor barrier, too. Since it uses bags you collect at the store anyway, it's more cost-effective.
Diaper bag - I have never purchased one. I haven't felt the need. I use a side bag that I used in college. It has some extra pockets and is plenty roomy, plus my husband has no problem carrying it because the material doesn't scream BABY! Win-win. :)
I also personally recommend Pampers' Swaddlers for the first few months. ALL diapers will leak, but this brand really actually absorbs baby's BMs as long as they're not the explosive type. :) For the first few months the BMs are quite runny. Later, they're a little less messy so I think basically all brands have roughly equal performance at that point.
_____Four sleeping outfits or one-piece sleepers with attached feet.
_____Six side-snap T-shirts.
_____Four to six one-piece undershirts that snap around the crotch.
_____A small baby cap (although the hospital will probably give you one).
_____Six pairs socks/booties.
_____Two to three soft, comfortable daytime outfits. Get only a few items in newborn size. Then, go for
clothing in the 6-month size--your baby will grow into it quickly. But don't buy baby sleepwear
that's too big--it's a safety hazard.
_____Cotton sweater or light jacket.
For newborns, you really just want the sleepers that have no snaps, just elastic bottoms. Think middle-of-the-night diaper changes. Who really has the mental clarity to do up any snaps when their sleep has been untimely interrupted? I also don't care for the side-snap t-shirts. Onesies make much more sense to me. Skip the shirts and get 10-12 onesies. You will use them all (diaper blow-outs). Daytime outfits I'm going to interpret as "going out" outfits. You want to show off your baby in cute clothes, but if you stay at home most of the time, then you want the footed outfits that are pajama-like to mostly fill out the wardrobe. 10-12 will do (again, diaper blow-outs). And absolutely get very few newborn size items. 0-3 and/or 0-6 months will be great. These babies grow fast usually!
_____Snowsuit with attached mittens or fold-over cuffs, or heavy bunting.
_____Heavy stroller blanket.
_____Warm knit hat.
If you're planning to breast-feed:
_____Three to five nursing bras.
_____A box of washable or disposable breast pads.
_____Breast pump if you expect to use one (manual or electric).
_____Four small baby bottles with newborn nipples for storing expressed breast milk.
_____Insulated bottle holder for diaper bag (the hospital may give you one).
_____Three packs of cloth diapers or burp cloths.
If you're planning to bottle-feed:
_____Six 4- to 5-ounce bottles, plus nipples, rings, and a dishwasher basket if you use a dishwasher.
I breast feed, and I totally recommend these nursing bra tanks. They are SO great. And I'd recommend getting a breast pump even if you won't be working outside the home - buy an electric one. My brand is "The First Years". It's one of the less-expensive electric ones, and it works just great. If you will be working outside the home you'll probably want one that's even more efficient. It could be helpful to have expressed milk for a babysitter, or just to relieve really full breasts when baby's eating habits change. My babies so far have not done bottles at all. It could be b/c I didn't try hard enough to find a nipple that they liked. I think it would be wise to start with only one or two bottles, and then have a variety of nipples for baby to try to see what you have the most success with. A word on burp cloths - get the BIGGEST burp cloths you can find. These little babies don't aim for the little 6x10 rag on your shoulder, so the bigger the burp cloth the greater chance you'll have of protecting your clothing. It WILL get spit-up on it anyway, but less frequently. :) When it's time for solids, I'd recommend getting a booster seat with a removable tray rather than a more traditional high chair. It saves space, and is less expensive. If your chairs are wooden, you will want something to protect it from being scratched.
_____Plastic infant bathtub.
_____Three soft hooded towels.
_____Two packs of baby washcloths.
_____Baby body wash that doubles as shampoo.
_____Pair of blunt-tip scissors or baby-sized nail clippers.
_____Zinc-oxide-based diaper rash ointment.
_____Soft brush and comb.
_____Mild laundry detergent.
I despise Desitin and other similar products (the white creams). That stuff is messy. Effective, but messy. Equally as effective is Aquaphor, but it's a clear ointment so it's not messy! Plus, it can double as lip/hand ointment for mom (or dad)! Yes, I'm being totally serious; if you've sanitized your hands after taking care of baby's bum there's nothing wrong with slathering some of that Aquaphor on your hands or lips. And laundry detergent - don't bother getting the detergents specially formulated for babies. Insanely expensive for one, and unnecessary for another. There are plenty of effective detergents out there that are formulated for sensitive skin that will work just fine on yours and baby's clothes. Go ahead and give baby's clothes an extra rinse cycle though.
Medicine chest essentials
_____A pain-and-fever reducer recommended by your baby's doctor, such as Infant's Tylenol.
_____Digital rectal thermometer.
Rubbing alcohol is also good for removing pen from surfaces. Really! Keep that in mind for toddler years. :)
Keeping baby happy
Extras: Nice but optional
_____A rocker or glider.
_____Sling or strap-on soft carrier.
_____Boppy, a doughnut-shape pillow designed to make holding baby during breastfeeding or
_____Nursing coverup. Attaches at your neck and allows for private breastfeeding when you and your
baby are in public.
I don't really think that monitors are optional unless you live in a studio apartment. Video monitors are, but sound monitors aren't. Changing tables on the other hand, I think are optional. The dresser you got for baby can double as a changing table if you want to just get a padded changing pad, or you can be like me and just change their diaper on the floor (with a changing pad underneath baby, of course). I keep a couple of stashes of diapering things in my house so I don't always have to go to the same place for a diaper change - that can be terribly inconvenient, especially if you've already got a little one around.
A Boppy or some kind of nursing pillow is a MUST in my mind. Get one pillow and two slipcovers for it. You won't be sorry!
Unless you don't mind nursing in public, a cover-up is NOT optional. Get two!
Infant swings and bouncy seats are nice - my babies prefer the swing. I'm changing to a portable swing b/c they're smaller! Even if space is not at a premium in your home, it's nice to have smaller items so you're less likely to trip on them. :) I'd say if you can only get a swing OR a bouncy seat, get the swing.
I don't consider a night light to be optional either. You can hurt yourself on the way to the crib, or grab the wrong end of the baby if you can't see (you'll be that tired)! Safety first. :)
If you're a serious hiker, then you'll want a serious backpack carrier; I'm not. I've had a baby carrier and a baby sling. Didn't love either. The carrier was one of those backpack looking ones that you strap on your front. They're kind of tricky, plus the weight capacity was too low for the rate my babies grow at. A different sling I may like better, but I like (and will be getting) a wrap baby carrier. I used my sister-in-laws' once, and I REALLY liked it. Very versatile; it will take some learning to do the wrap, but my sister-in-law assures me it doesn't take long.
Another necessity for me is this timer. I don't know why, but I have a really hard time remembering when the last feeding was, when the last diaper change was, etc. This timer covers all of that. It is seriously one of the best purchases I made. I didn't have it until my second baby - it's just a shame I didn't have it for the first! Poor little guy got fed WAY too much the first night we brought him home from the hospital. It's possible that I caused his un-diagnosed GERD. But he survived - quite well. Both of my babies have doubled their birth weights by two months (which was extremely surprising for my second nine-pounds+ baby). It wasn't until my first was 8 months old that I figured out that he only needed to eat for about 6 min. on each side. Everything you read says something like 20-30 minutes per side, and "wait for the baby's cues". My first NEVER got off on his own. For real. So it's not entirely my fault that I didn't figure it out until he was eight months old. haha
I think that's all! If I think of anything else later, I'll add it into the post. :) That's my "brief" pregnancy and baby 101 class. :D