Must-Have Newborn Items:
What You Actually Need For A New Baby
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It can be easy to find lists and lists of popular baby items that claim to be Must-Haves. But really there are only a handful of items that really are essential. Some other items can definitely make new parent life easier and others are superfluous. After two babies of my own and helping many other mamas with their newborns, here is a collection of necessary items for your newborn.
The True Necessities
A Car Seat
Baby can’t leave the hospital after birth without a car seat. Plain and simple. Or if baby was born outside the hospital, there still may be trips you need to make in the first few days. Those who live in a city with bus systems and taxis readily available might be able to get way without this mus-have newborn item.
Whether that be the pediatricians office, a check up at the birth center, or a visit with a chiropractor.
There are two main types of car seats to choose from: infant seats and convertible seats.
An infant seat is the classic kind most people think of for a newborn. It clicks into a base in the car and some can click into a matching stroller too. The benefit is you don’t need to wake a sleeping baby to get them out of the car. And you have a clean place to lay baby down in a restaurant or other destination.
These are exclusively rear facing only seats that have a lower weight limit. Babies should stop using these seats somewhere around 9-12 months depending on their size.
The other option is a convertible seat. It will go in rear facing for a long while before flipping it to forward facing. Some people choose to skip the infant seat and start out with a convertible seat that can accommodate a newborn. In this case you may want a baby carrier for the times a stroller just feels too much. May favorite is the Britax Click Tight line of seats. They are so easy to install quickly and there is zero wiggle.
Either way, I highly recommend testing out your chosen seat in your car. Be sure there is enough room (the front seat should not be touching it) and it can be installed snugly (no loose, floppy seats). I went to Buy Buy Baby and tried my two favorites out. There was a clear winner with ease of installation, snugness, and fit. I got it right there, on the spot. I also had an extra seat given to me be family. But I could never get it snug and ended up never using it because of this.
A Safe Place to Sleep
There are many different set ups for baby’s sleep situation. From a crib in a separate room, a bassinet next to the bed, the crib in your room, a side car attached to your bed, bed sharing… So many choices! The bottom line for baby’s sleep is that you will need a dedicated place for baby to sleep that is safe. Where you choose will determine what this looks like.
For example, a crib should not have the fluffy bumpers, blankets or pillows. Any of these could be a suffocation hazard. Also, if you buy a second hand crib, check for safety recalls. Drop side cribs should be a thing of the past (pre-2011) but just be aware in case you run into one in your searches. Healthy Children has extensive guidelines on crib safety.
Similarly, when bed sharing there are guidelines for doing so in a safe manner. All adults in the bed should be smoke-fee, drug-free and alcohol-free. No pillow for baby, just one for each adult. No overly fluffy or heavy blankets.
At the University of Notre Dame Mama-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, Dr. James McKenna has decades of research of mother baby pairs sleeping in different situations and really interesting data. There are also great guidelines to ensure you are co-sleeping (can be same room or bed) or bed sharing (same bed) in the safest manner possible. Things taken into account include how is baby fed (breast or bottle), full term at birth or not, and other mama-baby specific factors.
A popular choice is the use a bassinet. This could be for naps during the day and then bed share or the crib at night. Or baby might sleep here day and night until baby out grows the bassinet around 4 months. It can be moved around the house as many have wheels or a Moses basket can be simply carried by the handles.
Of course you will need something to cover that cute little bottom! But there are choices.
Disposables or Cloth Diapers? is the big one.
Every family is different and there are pros and cons for each. Let’s briefly discuss them…
These are what most people consider using when diapering their baby. They come in cute prints now. One and done, throw it away. It’s fairly easy. However, once baby has solid stools, the diaper should be shaken out into the toilet. Read the box next time you are in the store… it says right there. But most people don’t do this and landfills are not intended to handle solid human waste.
One of the biggest downsides of disposables is that you will need to keep buying them. Estimates average that disposables will cost roughly $1500-$2000 for two years of diapering a child.. See here and here for sample cost breakdowns.
An additional concern many people have is the chemical composition of disposables. Dioxin is the most well known toxin contained in disposables but there are others. Disposables also take a very long time to decompose: on the order of hundreds of years.
Cloth diapers are becoming increasingly popular. I have used them for two babies. About half my diaper stash from my daughter, I was able to reuse with my son. The flowery and pink ones were saved in case I ever have another girl. So I only bought 13 (if memory serves me correctly) new boy themed and colored diapers.
Benefits of Cloth Diapers:
- They come in some darn, stinkin’ cute prints! With my daughter I almost never wanted to use the bloomers that came with her dresses because the solid color diapers coordinated well or I had a beautiful print I didn’t want to cover up.
- I have definitely saved money.
First with my daughter: I estimate the cost of the diapers I bought for her to be approximately $540. They lasted me until she was three and fully potty trained, night and day.
And with my son, I used about half of those diapers again. I did spend about $250 on new diapers for him.
So with 4 years of diapering under my belt, I have spent less than $800 on diapers for two kids. That can’t be beat by disposables! And I use one of the premium brands, Charlie Banana one-size diapers, which are about $20 each. (Pssst… I love their Black Friday Sales!!)
- Less diaper rash. My daughter had some only in the first few months. My son has never had a diaper rash. And this less rash thing is a common theme for cloth diaper users.
- Less exposure to toxic chemicals, including endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
Blankets have an obvious use. If you have limited baby experience, you may not realize that blankets rarely stay on children. They are masters of casting them off in the middle of the night. Even babies and toddlers. But blankets have so many other uses!
They are most widely used for swaddling. This means wrapping baby up like a little burrito. The main benefits are keeping baby warm and to soothe baby. Most newborns love to be swaddled, some even have a difficult time settling without being swaddled.
Now not all blankets are created equal when it comes to swaddling. BEWARE!! Some are just frustratingly small (somewhere in the range of 28″ by 28″). This makes it difficult to wrap and keep all limbs in place without the whole thing falling apart.
There are larger, thin muslin ones available in most stores with a section devoted to baby essentials. These are stretchy and huge. If you want thicker ones that have the consistency of a normal baby blanket, you can buy something like the Kuddle Up Baby Blankets. Eight of these were perfect and have lasted well through both babies. Typical sizes are 40″x36″ and 40″x30″.
Blankets can also be handy as burp cloths, changing diapers in less than ideal places (like in a grassy field in the park or a friends living room floor), shade or while in the car seat or stroller…. the list goes on.
A few outfits will be needed for trips to the pediatrician or if you live in a colder environment and it’s winter.
In warmer weather, your baby may not wear much more than a diaper and a blanket.
I am guilty, as most new parents are, of having much too much newborn clothes. Especially with my first! She didn’t wear but maybe half of it. I found myself pulling things out she hadn’t gotten to and putting them on her, saying, “Let’s quickly wear this before you get too big!”
So what is needed for clothing?
- A handful of onesies and/or shirt and pant combos.
- Sleepers / Sleeper Gowns / Sleep Sacks (it has many different names). Essentially a long “dress” with elastic at the bottom opening. This is so convenient at night with diaper changes. I was so over snaps, zips and trying to get legs back into outfits in the dark. This way just lift up, change and pull down. Done! Socks are optional and if they tend to slide off, there are nifty little sock holders to keep them in place. I never needed them but could see cold climates or babies with more wiggley feet benefiting.
- a few cute outfits are optional but always nice
Everyone’s routine for keeping baby clean will look a little different. It is actually better for skin to not be washed daily. You can decide for your baby, but if you do wash more frequently, also use a lotion to replace the oils the soap will strip off.
Rather, washing every few days to one per week can work well. Some even just do a hands, feet and diaper area sink-bath more frequently, and save whole body baths for once a week or less. Babies don’t really get dirty as newborns.
Thus, you will want some kind of soap (or Norwex, if you are going that route). A gentle baby soap is recommended. Earth Mama Angel Baby has a nice unscented castile soap. I have used it on both kids for body and hair. I have even started using it for my hair too. (If you do too, hair that has been washed with regular commercial shampoos can have a less-than-pleasant transition period, but it is so nice on the other side!)
Next, baby’s nails will grow quickly. Some are even born with little manicure length nails! You can peel in the beginning becuase they are so soft but after some will bite their baby’s nails, not preferable for me, or you can get little baby sized nail clippers.
Another items to get is a thermometer. There are many types: forehead, under the arm or even pacifiers with a built in thermometer!
What items you get depend on how you feed your baby. Some mamas will use bottles and all the accessories regularly if they are formula feeding, having someone else feed baby due to need or preference, or choosing to pump and bottle feed the baby herself. And even exclusively breastfeeding mamas may have items they use to make life easier.
There are a variety of bottles and some babies put their parents through the works finding a bottle that baby will take well. Others seem to not care and easily take any bottle put in their mouth. The main features you will decide on are nipple shape and material (glass or plastic). On top of that, some bottles have fancy features such as devices claiming to reduce air intake and the need to burp (as much… nearly all babies need to burp with each feed).
Cleaning Soaps and Tools
This can Include bottle brushes, drying racks, special soaps meant for pumping equipment and even a little accessory dishwasher basket. What you will want and need will vary based on how you feed baby.
This is a fantastic contraption that saved breastfeeding for many mamas I know, including myself.
A nipple shield is soft silicone barrier for use while nursing. It covers your areola and nipple and has several uses. It can protect sore nipples while they heal, making nursing more comfortable in the mean time. It can help women with flat or inverted nipple latch a baby that is having a difficult time.
Typically, use of a nipple shield lasts from a few days to a few weeks, up to 6 or eight weeks on the longer end. I only know of one mama that used it for all 7 months she breastfed, but she thought it was worth it. Usually as baby’s mouth gets bigger, baby learns, you learn and your nipples stretch, the shield becomes unnecessary.
Now it is a pain in the behind to use. Another item to juggle while trying to latch a floppy or fussy baby. It is clear and I have almost thrown mine out several times, folded up in a paper towel. Not to mention it fall on a couch cushion and then is lost in plain sight. Or in the middle of the night, trying to use it without turning on too many lights. Oh the memories!
Some people are against the idea of using a shield, but for that mama that was crying and ready to give up, I have seen it make the difference.
I have also been with many who never need it. Just know that if you find yourself in a tough spot, it is available.
A nipple cream is specifically intended for use on tender nipples between feedings. Most, but not all, do not need to be wiped off before breastfeeding again. Also f it is something that is important to you, some are animal based (lanolin) while others are not. Read the labels for information on either aspect.
Beyond healing, it is great to use with a nipple shield. It helps the shield stick but also helps your nipple glide rather than rub.
Then there are the items that just make your life a little easier. And who doesn’t want that? There is enough going on in the newborn period with learning your new little one and all their preferences and temperament. These are my two favorite extras…
My Ergo was my life saver. I started from the beginning with a convertible car seat rather than an infant car seat. And I did not use a stroller in those first few months. Instead I would take baby out of the car and straight into the carrier.
This was fantastic in so many ways. My arms were free to be used. My arms were not killing me from constantly holding baby. (It is surprising how heavy 8 lbs can feel after 45 minutes. Strangers resisted the urge to touch my baby without permission. Rarely does someone have the audacity to practically reach down my shirt.
And best of all, my babe slept like… a baby.
Hearing my heartbeat, hearing my voice, smelling me and my milk???
Not all babies love carriers but so many do as long as you start in the first month or two. Throwing in a
4 month old that has never been in a carrier may not go well.
This was a nice one to have around the house. I could move baby around with me. Especially inconvenient areas such as when I shower. I could set it on the bathroom floor outside the shower and see through the glass everything was fine. I didn’t need to rush like crazy.
And in the beginning toys are unnecessary. The newness of the world is entertainment enough.
Feed. Change diaper. Snuggle a moment and settle into the bouncer. And I can get a full ten minute shower!
Did I miss anything?? If you have an essential newborn item that you loved, share it in the comments!
My name is Laura and I am a midwife and a mother. I have walked the path of discovering pregnancy as both a midwifery student learning and a woman birthing (twice!). In the years since becoming a licensed midwife I have continued my journey for knowledge surrounding natural concepts relating to pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I would like to share with you some of what I have learned, both through study and experience.