The Only 5 Things You Really Need for a Newborn

Family Matters on 09.13.12
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When I was expecting my daughter, experienced moms told me I didn't need to buy anything special to take care of a newborn. I didn't believe them. Pregnancy magazines and retailers have lists suggesting over 100 "must haves" for a new baby. Walking into a baby store can evoke a feeling of,  "I defintely am doing to need (insert any random baby item here)". Not only can it be stressful trying to accumulate all of these items and store them, but also it can get expensive really quickly.

There are certain items that are not needed in the first few weeks, like toys, and many things can be easily substituted with what you already own, like the kitchen sink for baths instead of a newborn-sized plastic one. Buying a bunch of stuff might make you feel better prepared for your little one's arrival, kind of like stocking up on supplies before heading into an uncharted jungle. Focus on the truly basic items you need before your baby arrives. The most important things to give a newborn are gifts you already possess: love and lots of time. 

1. A Method of Feeding

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Have a plan for how you want to feed your baby. It's a great idea to start reading about breastfeeding or attend a breastfeeding support group. I felt like reading about breastfeeding before being able to actuallt do it was like teaching myself to swim without being able to get in the pool. If have already decided to formula-feed your baby, have a supply of bottles, and formula ready to go. For breastfeeding moms, buy a nipple shield and nipple cream, which can help make things easier in the first few days. If you run into any nursing glitches, you can easily rent a hospital grade pump and pick up a few bottle-feeding supplies.

2. A Diapering System

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Whether you chose to use cloth or disposable diapers, you'll want to have enough on hand to get you through the first week. You'd be surprised how often a newborn needs to be changed-- around the clock. We went through 83 cloth diapers during my daughter's first week. Having baby wipes or washcloths handy for keeping baby clean between diaper changes it also important. The meconium (baby's first bowel movement) is very sticky -- almost like tar -- for a number of days after birth.

3. A Way to Safely Travel

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It is mandatory in all states to have a car safety seat in order to leave the hospital in a motorized vehicle. There are two options to choose from, either an infant or a convertible seat. An infant rear facing car seat is especially designed for a baby under 22-35 pounds. A convertible seat can be used for newborns rear facing and then turned to forward facing for toddlers. For safety reasons, a child should always be secured in a car seat when in a car.

A car seat is one item that is worth buying new to ensure it is safe to use. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for information about how to properly install a child safety seats in your vehicle. Should you borrow one, make sure it does not have any:

  • visible cracks or stress marks
  • has not been recalled
  • is not more than six years old or have an expired date of use sticker 
  • has not been in a moderate or severe accident 
  • has the instruction manual, manufacture date and model number

4. A Place to Sleep

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Newborns spend a lot of time sleeping and can fall asleep anywhere. Many parents prefer to have their infants sleep with them, either in a cosleeper or a bassinet for the first few months. I never bought a crib for my daughter. She co-slept in my bed until she was 10 months and then she transitioned to a mattress on the floor in her own room. I did utilize a travel crib for her naps and as a changing stations during the first few months.

For under $100, you can buy a Pack n' Play that offers a changing station and a bassinet, and that can later be used as a play yard or travel crib. They have wheels so you can even move it as needed. It is a great, versatile investment that you will get a lot of use out of. A friend of mine had her daughter sleep in one exclusively past her second birthday. Pack n' Plays are also often readily available at consignment stores and a good item to acquire second-hand.

5. Layers to Wear

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Newborns aren't great at regulating their own body temperatures. It is recommended that a they wear an extra layer of clothing than you would wear yourself. In warmer months, you can get away with a onesie and a receiving blanket. In colder times, a onesie, a one-piece sleeper, and a receiving blanket will keep your baby warm. Hats aren't just a fashion statement. Keeping a baby's head covered will keep them warmer all over.

Even if you know your baby's gender, having about 5-7 gender-neutral pieces is a better long term investment. You will definitely reuse them if you have another baby. It doesn't hurt to buy more 0-3 month sizes over the newborn size too. You might end up with a bigger birth weight baby and by buying a size up you are sure to get a lot more use out of the clothes.

What was your one most essential item when you brought your baby home?

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