Our Experienced Moms' Guide to the Baby Things You Need
During my third trimester, I realized that I had absolutely no clue what I needed to get ready for life with a baby or where to begin. My husband and I were living in Toronto far from family and friends who already had babies and could answer our questions. One day, we found ourselves shopping in the baby section of a large department store, trying to figure out what all this stuff was used for. I was so confused and I remember wishing for my mom to beam herself to Toronto for the day, just to be there to help.
Then a beautiful grandmother-type lady started walking down the aisle towards me. Before I knew it, I found myself saying, “excuse me, would you mind telling me what this does and if I really need it?” She laughed and spent ten minutes or so answering questions like, “do I need to buy a top sheet for the baby crib?” (Her answer was no) and many others. She was kind and patient, and I remember thinking that we all need someone like this in our lives when we are baby shopping.
Well, we did the next best thing for you. Our experienced moms have all agreed that these are the basic necessities that you need to make your life easier:
A list of things you'll need before your baby's birth
If you plan to use cloth diapers, look for biodegradable liners that you can flush down the toilet to reduce rinsing and washing. Also, pick up some waterproof diaper covers with Velcro fasteners to keep the diapers securely in place and to prevent leaking.
If you plan to use disposable diapers, buy one package of newborn size diapers at time – this is the one time when a huge box from Costco is not a good option. Newborn diapers are for babies up to 10 pounds and, as babies tend to grow quickly, you won’t use them for long. Most newborn diapers have a cut out for the umbilical cord so that the front section doesn’t rub against your baby’s tummy.
For newborns, unscented wipes are best, and it is economical to buy them in bulk. Buy a travel-sized package that comes with a hard case for your diaper bag, and refill it as necessary.
Babies usually wear undershirts and most experienced moms prefer onesies. Onesies are baby T-shirts that are fastened with snaps at the baby’s crotch or have a long section that extends from the back and threads through the baby’s legs to fasten at the baby’s waistline. Onesies are comfortable and keep a baby’s undershirt smooth along his back and stomach instead of riding up to his armpits.
You’ll need at least ten. One cost saver is to buy a few onesies in newborn size and the rest in the 3 months size.
A common mistake that we have all made is to buy too many newborn sized clothes and not enough bigger ones. Your baby will quickly grow out of the newborn size and, if you’ve bought designer newborn clothes, you might find that you’ve spent a fortune on something you don’t get to use much. Most of us bought the 3 months size and had our babies wear them, even if they were a tad big.
Babies average 16 hours of sleep per day. Baby clothes are cute, but waistbands tend to cut into a baby’s middle. When you’re at home, experienced moms let our babies wear pajamas all day as they are so comfortable. We like the cotton ones best. You’ll need at least five or six, but remember that you’ll probably get quite a few as gifts.
Babies wear hats for their first few weeks to keep their body temperature more constant. You’ll need at least two (one to wear while the other is in the wash).
Baby outer wear for cold weather climates
If you live in a cold climate and it is winter, you’ll need baby outer wear. Some of us have used what looks like a baby snow suit that you place over your baby’s clothes before putting him in his car seat. Sometimes these are bulky and hard to get the baby in and comfortably sitting in the car seat.
Some of us prefer car seat covers, which are like a fitted blanket that is secured overtop of the car seat and functions as a winter jacket. Once your baby is strapped into the car seat, you simply zip it up and it keeps your baby warm and cozy. If your baby is asleep when you get to your destination, you can unzip it so that he won’t overheat. Car seat covers can be found in most baby stores or over the Internet.
Burp cloths or receiving blankets
The best burp cloths (sometimes called receiving blankets) are flannel cloths that you wear over your shoulder to protect your clothes in case your baby spits up. You’ll need at least 10 to start as babies spit up a lot. When you first buy burp cloths they feel brittle and are not great at absorbing liquids, but after you wash and dry them a few times, they become softer and more absorbent.
Cotton baby blankets are generally more comfortable than ones made from synthetic fibers. With a few baby blankets, you’ll have the ability to adapt to changes in room temperature by adding or subtracting them as your baby sleeps.
Our favourite baby blankets can be found at the Gymboree baby store. They wash well and our babies liked them the best. They are also fabulous for swaddling babies.
A diaper bag
These come in many shapes, sizes and colours, so choose the one that you like the best. Look for one that has a vinyl-coated baby changing pad so that you can change your baby’s diapers in places that are less than clean.
There are many types of baby fingernail clippers available in the baby section of most stores. They are relatively inexpensive, so buy two or three different models and see which one you like best. Another option for nail clippers is to use an Emory board to file your baby’s nails.
Baby soap and shampoo
Choose baby soap that is gentle and has the fewest chemicals possible. Just after birth you will need to use baby soap to clean off vernix, which is an oily, sticky substance that covers a baby’s skin at birth. You’ll find vernix all over your baby, especially where the skin has creases – under the armpits, behind the ears and in the groin area. Once you’ve cleaned off the vernix, you won’t really need to soap down your baby’s body that much. Baby shampoo helps to prevent cradle cap, but it should be used sparingly.
Please note that some baby products aren't baby friendly at all. Babies put everything they find into their mouths, especially their fingers and toes, and you don’t want your baby to swallow chemicals. Take care to avoid baby oil and jelly made from petroleum by-products. The best oil to use is sweet almond oil, grape seed oil or coconut oil. Buy organic if you can.
Also, diaper creams containing zinc are not necessary to use for every diaper change. Use them for diaper rash only if your baby has one.
Baby Laundry Soap
Choose one that is baby friendly - many brand name baby laundry detergents contain fewer chemicals and no scent. You'll find many choices at your local health food store, the baby section of your favourite department store, or your grocery store.
A baby thermometer
Some work better than others. We like the battery operated ones that you place in your baby’s armpit, as they are accurate and relatively inexpensive. You can also buy ear thermometers, which are faster, but they cost considerably more.
A baby sling
Baby slings have much to offer new parents and babies. Wearing your baby throughout the day offers so many benefits. A baby carried in a sling is held over your chest, feels safe and warm, hears your heart beat, is included in your conversations and you tend to play with them more. Baby wearing promotes better bonding time, better brain and nervous system development, better speech development, better emotional maturity and less crying! REF
Baby slings are better choices for newborns, rather than baby carriers, because baby carriers require the baby to sit at time when their back muscles aren’t strong enough to do so. Constant sitting places too much pressure on a baby’s developing spine and sacrum. With a baby sling, your newborn can lie across your chest in a semi-reclining position, which takes the pressure off of his low back.
A car seat
Newborn car seats are rear-facing to support your baby’s head and neck in the event of a car crash. Many car seats are now available as convertible baby strollers, where the car seat and stroller come together as a package. This is one purchase that you should never buy at a garage sale, as government safety requirements are always changing and many older models are no longer considered to be safe.
You’ll need to learn how to properly install your car seat and we recommend you to do this far in advance of your due date. It is not at all fun to assemble and install your car seat in a hospital parking lot when you’re tired.
A place for your baby to sleep
Some moms like to have a crib for their baby, some like to start with a bassinet or a playpen with a newborn insert that sits right beside their bed. We find that we like to keep a newborn in the room close to us. We wake up when they do, and we can get ready for breastfeeding when they are still sleepy. It helps when you are first learning. For the bottlefeeding moms, you can get a jump on preparing the bottle for your next feed.
A list of baby things that can wait
Let’s face it. First babies are expensive! If funds are tight, you can certainly wait to purchase the following:
If your car seat is not a car seat/stroller combo, it usually takes you a few weeks to be ready to get out and about with your baby, and early on in your baby’s life, you might like to use your sling to keep your baby close. You can absolutely take your time in purchasing one if funds are tight. When you are choosing your stroller, make sure that it is comfortable to push, easy to fold up and expand with one hand and that the handle is at a comfortable height for the tallest parent.
A breast pump
Once you’ve established a good milk supply, you may want to freeze extra breast milk for times when you need to be away from home or for when you go back to work. There are many types of electric or manual breast pumps that you can purchase.
Instead of purchasing a breast pump, some women rent a higher quality one from their local pharmacy. Many women going back to work choose to take a more efficient breast pump with them to pump milk as necessary throughout their day. They bring the breastmilk home in an insulated lunch bag. If this option is appealing to you, check with your local midwife, lactation consultant, postpartum doula, or pharmacy.
A baby carrier
Once your baby is able to sit up on his own, his back muscles will be strong enough to support his body weight. At this point in his neurological development, your baby will be very curious about everything around him, and with a baby carrier, your baby can face into the world as you go about your day.
When choosing a baby carrier, it is important to find one you like that is a good fit for you and your partner. There is no sense in creating back pain because your choice is not a great fit. Make sure that you physically try out your options and choose one that is comfortable for you both. Make sure that it is washable. Babies spit up and sometimes have diaper explosions. Take it from us, washability is absolutely necessary.
Once your baby is old enough to eat solid food (usually after about six months of age) you’ll want to purchase a highchair. Again, there are many models and styles to choose from, so have some fun and find one that you like!
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a pregnancy and pediatric-focussed chiropractor, a breastfeeding counselor, an infant massage instructor and a mom of three awesome kids.