Being a new mom is one of the most overwhelming things you’ll ever experience. But preparing yourself for the journey doesn’t have to be. Babies NEED very few things and the best advice I can give you is to find someone whose parenting style you admire, and ask them what they found helpful and what they could have done without. You can always pop on Amazon or send someone to Bed Bath and Beyond for a “nice to have” so don’t stress about having all of it because more stuff doesn’t make things easier–more stuff makes things more overwhelming.
Here is my list of MUST HAVES as well as a few NICE TO HAVES (and even a few things you absolutely don’t need.)
New born Must Haves
For breastfeeding: This is one thing you NEED to prepare for to set yourself up for success. Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s hard at first, especially if you don’t have support. So getting your thoughts around what it’s going to take, having all the essentials, and knowing how to get help is crucial to success. Make sure you check out your local La Leche League and often hospitals will have a lactation consultant on staff. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The Haakaa: this amazing little silicone breastmilk collector will be your best friend. Seriously. You literally just suction it to one side and while you nurse on the other side it collects the milk that is let down during the process. It’s incredibly helpful to have on hand for when your milk comes in (which isn’t until day 3 or 4 post partum). You can get super engorged and it can painful AF (like I didn’t take any meds after delivery but HAD to take something when my milk came in). The goal is to get milk out to lessen the pain BUT you don’t want to pump because that will just tell your body to make more milk. In comes the Haakaa–it doesn’t actively pump milk out so it will allow for your boob to drain just enough milk to make you comfortable without making engorgment worse.
Manual breast pump: Yes, you should have an electric pump (I love the Spectra2 over the Medela for many reasons–see if your insurance covers a pump and go from there). But you also NEED a manual pump. It’s so much easier to sit and pump a few ounces of milk if needed vs hooking up to an electric pump. It’s also helpful for engorgement if you need to relieve the pressure and the Haakaa isn’t getting enough out and you’re still uncomfortable. Manual pumps are often a lot more effective than electric pumps–but nothing is more effective than a baby (so don’t freak out about how much you pump and think you’re not making enough milk!)
A nursing pillow: A ton of people recommend that Boppy. I’m going to tell you the boppy is NOTHING compare to a pillow called My Brest Friend. The boppy is great for tummy time and for generally having a pillow to rest on while you (or someone else) holds baby BUT it is not the best for actually breastfeeding. My Brest Friend clips around your waist and can actually support baby while you walk around (you’ll appreciate this feature, I promise). It is more structured so it helps position your arms and therefore baby much better than the boppy, and it has a little holder in the front for nipple cream, nursing pads or whatever else you think you need to keep close while nursing.
Nipple Cream: Have lots of this on hand–it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I like this one by Earth Mama and this one by Motherlove. I prefer not to use lanolin. Also, have your doctor call in a prescription for APNO (all purpose nipple ointment) because this is something that’s better to have just in case. Your OBGYN or midwife should know what this is and where to call it in for you.
For bottle feeding: I would highly recommend you use glass or stainless steel bottles. Even BPA free plastic is not ideal, especially if you are using it for warm liquid. I like the Pura Kiki stainless steel bottles and the Dr. Browns glass ones.
You do NOT need a bottle warmer…
Cleaning and drying bottles (and beyond): Having a dedicated place for bottles and eventually cups is a nice to have, and a bottle brush is a must. I love this one by OXO–it has lasted us through three kids and is still going strong and used every day for holding cups, reusable straws and pouches.
Burp cloths: I mean regardless you’ll probably get baby spit up pretty much everywhere but on the actual burp cloth, that said, it’s good to have a few for good measure. These are the only ones we have and I love them. They are super absorbent, big and drape nicely over your shoulder.
My first piece of advice is to do some reading about infant sleep PRIOR to having baby. You will have way more time now then you do once baby arrives AND it will give you time to process and prepare to help set your little one up for healthy sleep habits from day one. There is a science to sleep and knowing a little about that can help you in the long run. A good book to have on hand for baby’s first year is The Science of Mom by Alice Green Callahan. Bassinet, Crib, or Playard: I am obsessed with the Halo Bassinet. It swivels to basically rest on your bed, you can gently rock baby to sleep by literally jiggling the bassinet with one finger, it has a built in little light which makes feeding and changing in the middle of the night super easy–it’s awesome. If you would rather a multi function playard I would stay away from the pack and play–I hate them. They are heavy, bulky and a pain to open. I would get either the 4Moms version (if you want to use for very small infants because it has a bassinet space) or the Guava family Lotus which is made from all non-toxic materials. We kept our babies in our room for a little while and then moved them to a crib (Pottery Barn is my go to for all things kids furniture).
Swaddle: Babies have spent the past nine months squished up in a warm dark space with limited mobility. Then they come into the world and it’s overwhelming AF. They crave closeness and the security of pressure. Hence the swaddle. You should have two types of swaddles. Some babies like arms in and some like arms up. Some people say their baby hated being swaddled but it’s often because they just wanted to have their arms up. The Woombie is hands down the best swaddle for arms in. Don’t even bother with anything else. No velcro, no wrapping. Just put baby in and zip that straight jacket up. It unzips from the bottom to make night time changes easier (yes you should keep them swaddled while you change and feed–this will make it easier for them to fall back to sleep afterwards). If you find that baby is really trying to get their hands by their face, then they may prefer hands up. We will only use the Love to Dream–it allows baby to have “access” to their face but still stops their moro reflex (a big reason why babies have a hard time sleeping if not swaddled)
Babies don’t really need toys. The best thing you can do is to carry your baby in a wrap or carrier to allow them to feel day to day motion and see things around you. Keep in mind that little babies are very quick to become overstimulated which can lead to sleep issues. Narrate everything you’re doing during the day. Lay them on a flat surface for them to begin exploring their body and own movements. We love the DockaTot for lounging, our Ruggish play rug for a soft place to put baby down.
In general I try to stay away from stuff that contains babies–but it is nice to have one spot to put them aside from the floor. We got rid of every single “bouncy seat” except for the Baby Bjorn mesh bouncer and toy bar. I like this because it’s soft enough to not cause a flat spot and is super easy to move around–I would often shower with this in the bathroom and could move it one handed with ease.
You do not need exosaucers, bumbos, walkers, sit me ups or ANY type of thing that puts babies in an unnatural position (a position they can’t get into themselves). Being in these types of gadgets hinders development, costs extra money and take up tons of space. The best thing for your baby to develop properly is to be worn and to be on the floor. Learning to sit, crawl, walk…it ALL starts from the floor.
Infant car seat and Stroller: We love our Uppababy Cruz stroller and have used the Mesa car seat and the Nuna Pipa infant seat. I prefer the Pipa car seat but it requires an adaptor for the stroller–both of which can be purchased at Nordstrom. We also found having the infant insert for the stroller was helpful so we could lay the seat all the way back and use the insert vs having to buy the bassinet attachment. Ideally you don’t want baby in the car seat more than they need to be, so being able to use the stroller in multiple ways was great.
Carrier: The more you can avoid having baby in a “container” like the car seat, stroller, bouncy seat, the better for their development. So having a carrier is crucial to being able to hold them but still be hands free. I have a Tula, an Ergo 360, a Sakura Bloom ring sling, a K’tan and a Lillebaby. So I’m pretty well versed in carriers. If you are new to carrying babies, I would recommend the K’tan for the early months, because it’s a wrap without actually having to wrap. Then I would suggest the Lillebaby as a soft shell carrier for when baby is a few months and big enough for the carrier. I would NOT recommend the Baby Bjorn–it does not position baby in the best way, the wider base of the Tula, Ergo and Lillebaby are preferred and I found the Lillebaby to be the most comfortable for myself and for my husband.
Diapers: If you choose to use disposable diapers please consider using diapers that are made from more sustainable materials and are more biodegradable than traditional disposable diapers. Each diaper you use takes 500 plus years to biodegrade–you’ll use hundreds, possibly thousands of diapers while diapering your kid(s). And if you’re even remotely interested in cloth diapering (it’s not your grandma’s cloth) read this and feel free to reach out with any questions.
You do NOT need a diaper pail or those little baggies to tie up each individual diaper. Please save the plastic, your planet will thank you.
Wipes: You need these. Lots of these. People love the Water Wipes but I felt they just pushed poop around–maybe it’s just me. I actually love the wipes from Costco because they are thicker (we mostly use these for on the go) and we make our own for around the house.
Bum cream: We never had any real diaper rash with any of my kids (one benefit of using cloth) but I pretty regularly use the Natural Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to keep them nice and moisturized.
Bath and Body:
- This bath tub
- Some wash cloths–I love these one by Aden + Anais
- Body and hair wash–our go to is California Baby
- Hooded towels
- Saline nasal spray– They have the smallest little nose passages so this is an absolute must.
- Acetaminophen (This one if dye and alcohol free)
- A rectal thermometer-you NEED to use this to take temp as it is the most accurate. Anything above 100.4 is a fever and if baby is younger than three months you will need to call your pediatrician immediately.
- Aquaphor– to make taking rectal temp more comfortable
- Maty’s chest rub
- OCCOBaby nasal sucker or Nose Frieda
- Nail clippers–you do NOT need fancy nail clippers. These will do. We still use them with my older two (2.5 and 4). Anything else is just more trouble than it’s worth, and good luck trying to file a thin tiny baby nail.
For a list of other medicine cabinet must haves you can read this article.