As a new mom, you may have a hard time knowing what you really need for your baby. I know I did. In fact, there is absolutely nothing more overwhelming than walking into a baby store as a first time mom (FTM) to start shopping for your coming bambino. There’s so, so much you just don’t need and it’s hard to see clearly when everything is so unfamiliar, yet so shiny and seemingly useful (check out our previous post here on my list of 18 baby products I could have done without!!).
Truthfully, and I can’t stress this enough (having learnt my own lesson the hard way lol), you really don’t need all that much for a baby and hopefully, this posts serves to help you separate needs from wants and get down to the essentials.
So, in no particular order, here is my list of top 13 bare necessities which have been very helpful to me as a new momma.
1. BEDDING: YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE A PLAN FOR YOUR LO TO SLEEP SOMEWHERE.
• Crib, cradle or bassinet – depending on your plan for sleeping, you might want a Moses basket, or a bassinet, or a crib, or a family bed to co-sleep, or a pack n play (with a bassinet insert). We used a bassinet when J was much smaller but he quickly outgrew it and has slept in his crib ever since.
• If you go the classic crib route, look for sturdy, fixed sides. You also want a durable, nontoxic finish (babies gnaw on their crib rails) and a strong mattress support that adjusts to different heights. Most cribs do not come with mattresses, so you may need to buy a mattress too.
• If you want your baby close to you but not in your bed, choose a bedside bassinet with straps that securely fasten the sleeper against your bed.
• For whatever sort of sleeping arrangement you choose, you’ll need to get some fitted crib / bassinet sheets.
Our stroller has been one of the most useful items to us so far. We’ve used it through thick and thin lol for several trips with J and sometimes to lunch and park outings with J in Nigeria. However, if we didn’t travel so much, I don’t know how useful the stroller would have been, because quite frankly I’ll say we’ve used it approximately 6 – 10 times in Nigeria. It’s not exactly easy to stroll around a baby here because there’s hardly any provision for ramps so you end up lifting the stroller a lot through flight of steps.
In getting a stroller what was important to me was manoeuvrability (because of travel) and multiple reclining positions; the ability to lie flat was a must for me. Also I wanted (and got) a stroller that we could use both with the infant seat and once J outgrew the seat. So we ended up with the Graco Modes Click Connect Travel System, which transitions from an infant car seat carrier to an infant stroller to a toddler stroller (up to 50 pounds.) Talk about saving big for years to come lol
All strollers are not created equal. If possible, test-drive different models at a store before you buy. Some have ultra-smooth handling but are large when folded. Some are fabulously compact but sheer drudgery to push.
3. CAR SEAT
Somehow we ended up with 2 car seats, long story – short version – one came with the travel system and the other I had to get because (it turns out) the nurses at the hospital (and most hospitals in the US – I gather) won’t let you leave the hospital without one and our Graco travel system had long been purchased and shipped home to Nigeria.
Anyway, if I knew what I know now I would have chosen a convertible car seat, which would have served J into toddlerhood – basically it’s designed to face the rear (for the first year at least) as well as the front and will accommodate a child up to about 40 pounds (some also work as boosters for children up to 100 pounds).
If you are getting a rear-facing infant seat (for babies up to about 30 pounds), consider getting one that snaps into a base installed in your vehicle’s backseat as well as into your stroller model. Also, look out for easily adjustable straps and seat angles and comfortable cushioning, especially around the baby’s head.
4. NURSING BRAS
Nursing bras are heaven. I mean regular bras will work — at first — but then it will be uncomfortable. Good advice – invest in a few nursing bras —more than one so that you still have a few to wear even after laundry.
5. DIAPERS AND WIPES
You may go through as many as / more than 6 disposable diapers per day!! And a lot more (pieces of wipes) than that, but don’t stock up on so many at once because some brands may fit your baby better than others and you may need to experiment, plus some babies outgrow these disposable diapers really quick so you may be stuck with smaller sizes if you stock up on too many, too early.
Oh and you’ll also need a Powder or Diaper Rash Ointment to keep baby bum squeaky fresh; my favorite is Desitin, we swear by it.
6. A DURABLE DIAPER BAG
You can actually use an oversized handbag or a backpack for a diaper bag but I couldn’t resist getting a stylish durable one; we’ve done a post on this before (you can click here for that) You should consider features like whether it’s too girly for your partner to carry, if it’s comfortable to carry, easy to clean, how heavy/ bulky, and how happy you’ll be carrying it when your baby weighs 18 pounds lol. Also, make sure your diaper bag comes with a changing pad for outings.
Let’s be honest, in Nigeria, we hardly have public bathrooms with changing stations, so this is really useful and even when you have changing stations (anywhere in the world) do you really want your baby touching that surface — which could very well be dirty?
7. FEEDING NECESSITIES
If you plan to breastfeed and will be returning to a full-time job (like I did), or you simply want others to help with feedings, or you have a newborn who can’t nurse then you have no choice but to get yourself a breast pump.
Working moms, if you can, do yourselves a favor and invest in a big electric double pump (like the Medela Pump In Style) for maximum efficiency – at least that was what I did and I was a pumping machine, easily pumping out the liquid gold every 2 hours lol from both boobies at once.
For less frequent pumping, for instance, if you’re not planning to return to work or you don’t plan on being away from your bambino for more than a few hours, you can use a lighter, less expensive pump (like a manual Medela hand pump or Medela mini electric that’s teeny and zippy) even though this may take longer.
Manual pumps require the most patience, and skill too!! Uurgh but I’ll say they are great for long haul flights – if you don’t want to be engorged half way through your flight (in case baby refuses to nurse) I used the Tomee Tipee Manual pump sometimes.
Also, if you want others to help you with feedings, you’ll need milk storage bags, a few bottles and nipples so your baby can be given pumped milk when necessary. Just one glance at the dizzying array available will make your head spin – be careful not to go overboard with bottles, soon you LO would be eating solids – I swear you won’t know how the time went by so fast!
I used the Medela Calma nipples with the Medela bottles. I think the Medela Calma teats are arguably one of the best bottle teat / nipples for colicy babies – a bit tricky to put together, a little pricey too for a bottle teat (in my opinion), it also makes bottle washing more tasking BUTTTTTT totally worth it. Also used Babies R US and Avent breastmilk storage bags for preserving milk.
If you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll need formula (obviously lol), bottles, and a hot water bottle.
A bottle brush would also be very useful for cleaning.
If your baby wants to be held constantly, you can either hold him or her and do nothing, or wear him or her and do everything. Obvious choice, right? Lol
My favorite carrier was the Baby Bjorn (which is extremely comfortable, and yet sturdy) but The Hubs is totally down with and obsessed with the Stokke (which, personally, I think is overpriced, over hyped and has so much buckles and straps lol). However, to be fair, the Stokke carrier still serves J till today, at almost 2 years old.
I think the Bjorn may still hold up J but I don’t have the upper body strength to even try lol.
A good baby carrier should keep your LO tucked in as if in the womb –same effect as swaddling. In selecting a baby carrier you should consider looking out for one that is designed to work as both a front and a back carrier. Also look out for thickly padded shoulder straps, a hip pad for extra support and comfort, sturdy but easy-to-use buckles; substantial head support for baby; and cushioned leg holes that can be adjusted for a newborn’s safety.
9. BABY BATHTUB
Using an infant bathtub made the job easier for me, even when I gave J a bath J lying on my thighs (for the first few months) like my grandma taught me – I still had my legs inside the bathtub – in case he slipped out of my soapy hands lol. He didn’t. phew.
For tiny babies, you can get tubs sloped with a foam pad inside. You’ll also need a few bath towels, washcloths, baby soap / body wash and/or tearless shampoo, brush and comb – for everyday grooming.
10. LAYETTE / BABY’S ESSENTIAL CLOTHING
Consider taking a casual layette to the hospital too; you probably wouldn’t be too pleased with the hospital issued garb your baby has to wear on those few first days!
A new-born’s wardrobe should essentially contain: Bodysuits, soft Caps (that covers baby’s head and ears if it’s really cold), Hooded towels, Socks or booties (4 to 6 pairs), Sweater (at least 1), T-shirts (short and long-sleeve), some undershirts or vests (snaps at neck or wide head openings, snaps under crotch), some pairs of one-piece pajamas, a few dress-up outfits.
11. HEALTH AND HYGIENE
There’s usually health and hygiene packs / sets for babies which would usually contain:
– Nail clippers, Homeopathic teething powders (I understand that teething powders are no longer recommended – please ask your pediatrician and conduct necessary research before bothering with this), Purell, Petroleum jelly and sterile gauze (for male circumcision care – if it’s within your belief to circumcise)
– Digital thermometer – you will likely be obsessed with how warm or cold your newborn is. This helped me check J’s temperature to determine whether he has a fever, how warm he is after receiving immunizations, and during / after long haul flights.
– Medicine Cabinet – Please talk to your pediatrician about his or her recommendations for the kinds of medications or ointments you may need in your baby’s medicine cabinet. Mine contained the typical – Baby Tylenol, Baby Orajel, Baby Mylicon, Gripe Water.
P.S: Does anyone know if gripe water actually works *rollseye*
12. Mama Wellness and Happiness
– Huge maxi pads for the (possibly) long “period” you’ll be having after the baby is born.
– Disposable breast pads
– Nipple cream – Should your nipples get sore, cracked, or chapped from breastfeeding, you will be thankful to have this. Honestly, I used it religiously – Lansinoh brand is the best I know of.
– Lactation Tea – I used the Organic Milkmaid tea by Earthmamaangelbaby
13. A swing / a bouncy seat / a walker
As a new mom, you will probably want a baby swing, a bouncy seat of some sort, and a walker but for the most part, you can go without too many extras. Stressing over everything you need to buy just isn’t worth it. The baby will be fine.
And so will you.
But any of these 3 can be fantastic for soothing a baby when you need a second. A swing would hold an infant but for older babies a bouncy seat / walker would do great too. We got a Fisher Price swing (which moves side to side) and one of my brothers gifted us a Fisher Price walker; so we were blessed with both.
In my opinion, a swing that moves side-to-side is a more comfortable and soothing motion than a back-to-front motion swing. Anyway, like I said, the babies….they like different things so I can imagine tons of other babies love the front to back motion.
The following items aren’t essential (to me) per se, but I (and I assume some parents also) find them convenient.
• A baby monitor that allows you to keep track of baby while you are in a different part of the house.
• A changing table for diapering, with storage for diapers, wipes, ointment, etc.
• A camera. It may not feel like it now, but time is going to fly and you’re going to want to remember it all. Same goes for video; I don’t feel like I have nearly enough video footage of J as an infant and it kills me.
• High chair or booster / feeding chair: Your baby will eventually get older and eat real food, crawl around, stand up, walk away, and speak in sentences. As long as you have your wallets out, you might want to shop for some future-oriented furniture too – like a highchair.
NEW VS. USED
You should take advantage of whatever hand-me-downs you can get hold of – great toys, clothes, strollers, swings, high-chairs, baby bathtub, etc. The most important thing is to ensure they pass basic / current safety standards and are still safe and durable.
So what did I forget? Please share with all if there is a really useful baby item I missed. What’s your top pick for the most useful infant / baby product / gear?
Love & Light,