At prenatal visits, I’m often asked what the necessities are for bringing baby home. The lists offered by most baby registries are long and overwhelming. Keep in mind, too, that the more “stuff” you register for, the more profit the store makes when your friends and family come to shop for you there. What’s a new family to do?
In short, as long as you have your breasts, your arms, and some diapers, you’re going to be ok in the beginning. Tiny babies don’t need much. Here are a few things that, as a doula, I see most families use and enjoy.
1) A Carseat. Don’t skimp here. Get the best one you can afford, and please make sure that it’s correctly installed. Call your hospital and ask if they offer carseat safety checks, or if they know who does. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although most parents believe that theirs is installed correctly, seven out of ten carseats are improperly installed. Get it checked by a professional. I’m serious about this part.
2) Onesies, newborn gowns, and sleep sacks. Tiny babies tend to be leaky at one end or another several times each day, and require changing of diapers and clothing. It’s amazing how much laundry one little person can generate in the course of a week! Onesies are easy because they’re simple, soft, and low-fuss. If a diaper is a real blowout, the folds on the shoulders of a onesie allow the whole thing to be pulled straight down toward the baby’s feet – no need to take a messy thing off by pulling it over baby’s head. Newborn gowns, which have long sleeves and simple elastic at the bottom, are the best invention ever when, at 3am, you can’t keep your eyes open when your little one needs a diaper change. They pull up and pull down – easy to do one-handed, and no tiny snaps to fuss with in the dark. Sleep sacks are a warmer version of nightgowns, for when the temps are cooler. Remember that your babe will only be in newborn sizes for about five minutes, so don’t buy a ton. Half a dozen onesies and gowns, and a sleep sack or two is a good place to start.
3) Light, thin blankets. These are great for covering baby and parent for skin-to-skin time, which is so important for bonding and breastfeeding success in the early days. They’re also great for throwing over Aunt Irene’s shoulder when she asks to hold the little one who has just been fed, so that she doesn’t get blurped on. If swaddling is your baby’s thing, light blankets are just the right weight. Remember that babies don’t need blankets for sleeping, though. That’s what nightgowns and sleep sacks are for.
4) A safe place to sleep. In the “Safe Sleep Seven” handouts written by Sweet Sleep author Dianne Wiessinger and published by La Leche League International, guidelines are given for the safety of babies who cosleep with parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their guidelines for safe sleep, recommend room sharing, though not necessarily bed sharing, in the early weeks. Whether bed-sharing or room-sharing, newborns need to be close to their parents, and aren’t ready for cribs in separate rooms just yet.
5) A sling or soft carrier. Very small babies tend to be happiest when they are in-arms and at-breast. How is a parent to get anything done that requires two hands? Babywearing is a great solution to keep parents and babies both happy. There are many soft carrier options to choose from. Babywearing International has good safety guidelines on their site, along with great information on how to choose the carrier that’s right for you.
6) One safe place to set baby down. There are so many options – bouncy seats, swings, rocking seats, and the list goes on and on. Really, it’s not necessary to have one of each. No need for your house to look like you’ve decorated in Early Fisher Price. Just one thing will do. Pick one. Will your baby like it? Probably not, at least in the beginning, but in a few weeks, the beloved bouncy seat may be the one thing that allows you to get a shower.
7) A way to get baby fed. If you are planning to breastfeed, hold off just yet on the bottles, pacifiers, sterilizers, and warmers. Breastfeeding has a bit of a learning curve in the first month. It’s best to get really good at breastfeeding before adding other things into the mix. That can come later.
8) Diapers and wipes. Whether disposable or cloth, you’re going to use a lot more of these than you might think you will.
9) SUPPORT. Whether you have a postpartum doula or family and friends who can pitch in, let someone else do the laundry, the errands, the cooking and the housework. It’s Mom’s job to take care of the baby, and it’s everyone else’s job to take care of Mom.
That’s it – the “Doula’s List” of what you really need. What would you add? What did you use more than you thought you would? What did you have that didn’t get used at all? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.