Stuff is important for utility and comfort when having children but it’s easy to get lost in the miasma of things you need. Everybody needs a start point and something to help you shuffle through what you need. Because I constantly see bewilderment at necessity (and was bewildered myself), I’ve made a list with some tips and tricks here to help or just offer some outline of things you might need.
This list is for one child and not all of these things are ‘essential’ for everyone — you can be very minimalist and successfully parent. You can ask me to add stuff to this list, too, if I missed something blatant. All of this stuff varies from person to person and what your family has decided to do, what your financial situation is, and how much space you have to work with so work with it and don’t feel confined to this or any particular list.
Additionally, I highly suggest second-hand shopping for gently used kids stuff — go through it, see if you like it, make sure it’s in good operational order and safe but you can save the worth of things by shopping this way (especially for clothing, toys, and high ticket retail gear). Things you shouldn’t skimp on are up-to-date safety gear, car seats, boosters, etc. Be reasonable and prudent. Be leery of well-intended clothing dumpers and garbage giveaways — I got stacked with several large batches of ‘give away’ shit that we ultimately had to pay to dump since I won’t intentionally foist useless shit off on people.
You have every right to say ‘no’ to stuff offered. It is not a matter of being ungrateful but a matter of not inundating your family with trash at a particularly upturning time in life.
I’ve outlined helpful baby gear, clothing, and saftey items below (I have added some links but they are NOT affiliated):
Rock ‘n Play — these were great for us to help settle the kids after a meal and keep them somewhat upright. Not meant for sleeping when eyes are off but worthwhile.
Pack ‘n Play — Great for traveling and play areas when you need to do what parents do and the small one get more active but needs secure containment
Bassinet — room sharing is advisable to form of ‘cosleeping’ for the first few months as long as the child has their own flat surface without plush objects or suffocation hazards; actually co-sleeping in a bed with infants is VERY dangerous and vastly increases the risk of SIDS — however you choose to sleep is your choice, I grant, but be wise about safety first. Nobody wants to learn the risk the hard way by losing their kid because they rolled over on them or they suffocated against the pillow or bedding.
Pocket Nanny Baby Timer http://a.co/17KKEWu
Charting book — http://a.co/6OwfL2E – I designed what I needed myself but you can save yourself that trouble and get this or something like it. I found analog better than apps because it was easier to hand over paper charts than a phone or iPad to a variety of medical professionals — no need to test my pediatrician’s skill with various apps or phone types or verbally recite stuff while trying to manage multiple infants, who often detested doctor visits in our case.
Monitors (Angelcare/Owlet/Video — whatever you need) — Read reviews and get what you need. If it’s going to broadcast over WiFi you need password protection and a firewall otherwise videoed events can be broadcast to whoever wants to watch the ongoings in your house.
Humidifier (for just water; aromatics or menthol or even the VICs can be dangerous) or Dehumidifier depending on what you need.
Temporal Thermometer w/good reviews (we use an Exergen Thermometer)
Rectal thermometer — As a backup (note: rectal temperatures my delay readings so if you use a temporal thermometer and check with the rectal you may need to re-check with the rectal 30 minutes later to catch up to what the temporal was reading.)
Baby nail clippers
Car Seats — infant or convertible – check that it fits your vehicle and if you are having multiples that two will safely fit inside. Additionally, check state laws.
Diaper changing station w/rail and storage
Diaper changing pad w/strap
Diaper Bag(s) — Go, look, feel, see, handle before you put it on your registry. I was very specific and thus very pleased when someone got me mine; it’s amazing even 4 years out. My biggest deal was that it had space for what I needed, the style I wanted and that it is washable/impervious to the grossness that children exude.
Waterproof Wet Bags — various sizes –for when you’ve no idea where to toss a diaper, wet rags when traveling (we still use ours during swimming months). I also carry grocery T-shirt bags to carry unspeakable diaper grossness in them for trash. Clean wet bags, or even dollar-store zip-locks, are great to carry around baby wipes or clean wet washcloths for the day.
24x Regular Terry Cloth Wash Cloths (Backup for wipes, bibs, and burp cloths)
Baby Towels — higher end ones with soft terry cloth work better. Yes, the cute creature ones you’re going to get and that’s fine but they don’t absorb worth a damn.
Burp Rags — A good hack here is that you can get used cloth diaper prefolds for this and also buy gear for prefolds and waterproof covers as backups if you ever get into a diaper pinch – very budget friendly when you buy gently used lots of prefolds.
Pacifiers/Dummies (my kids never used these but they are handy for those that need them, obviously)
Pacifier/Dummies Snap Strap (they get spit out everywhere so it’s easier to have them latched)
Medicine administrators — Depending on what you might need for a newborn, we administered medicine using a regular bottle nipple without the bottle on it. Once they started sucking we’d squirting the medicine into that as required. This was taught to us in the NICU instead of using other medication applicators or just squirting it in their mouth. This includes Iron or Vit D supplements we needed. You may not be on anything but it’s just a little hack if they put your little one on a liquid vitamin supplement or other stuff. Keep a record of all medicines administered because your memory is fallible and things like iron are dangerous.
With clothing, it can be hard to suss out what you need versus what you want versus what you get. I’ve broken down the minimums a singleton needs on average per age and size — if you do laundry less or more frequently it will change what your needs are. This is for cheap and replaceable workhorse baby attire that you can get on the cheap (or free). Pricier cute stuff is great for getting as gifts but not ideal or even practical for every day unless you have the money to spend on such wears. I advise you to constantly cull clothes — some for donation, others for garbage disposal. The more it lingers the more it builds up. So, what do you need?:
7x- Pairs socks
Cloth diapers — this varies depending on type and form. For our All-in-One pocket style diapers, we needed at least at least 15x cloth diapers and equal inserts per child (I advise at least an extra 10 inserts for heavy nights and doubling up. If you want more information you can ask; we did not cloth diaper the entire time because I burnt out with the twins and the laundry.)
Seasonal Clothing for first year (1-2x Coats, 2x Shoes, 1x Sun hats, 2x winter hats, etc.)
3x Sleep sacks for under 6 months (once they begin to roll over stop using these).
5-7x Swaddle Cloths — I had about 10 which worked great for us with the twins; again, once they begin to roll over, stop using these.
Mild Baby Detergent for kid’s clothes especially if any history of sensitive skin in the family – we used Nelly’s and Dreft for clothing, and we had RLR to strip anything that has a lingering ammonia smell or buildup of any gunk.
Diaper creams – Vaseline works fantastic with disposables, as does coconut oil. We also loved CJ’s Butt Butter. Do not use coconut oil if poors keep getting clogged and never use coconut oil on the face — causes pours to clog.
1x Crib — I highly advise one per kid even if you are having multiples. In the beginning, it’s not as big of deal BUT it’s too risky, in my opinion, once they begin to roll, to sustain sharing a crib.
1x Crib Mattress
1x Crib Mobile
7x crib sheets (or more; you need lots)
3x+ mattress protectors (Yes, I know most kid mattresses are plastic coated but this is the stripping speed hack I used: Put one sheet on the mattress then put a mattress protector on it, then add another sheet that will be slept on. That way if they have a diaper explosion you can clean, strip to the clean sheet, and be done; Reprep the mattress the next day. You can modify this if they have multiple issues per night by putting one sheet ton, then a mattress cover, then another sheet, then another mattress cover etc.)
Blankets for floor play/car rides/etc. I was inundated with blankets and thought we’d never need them. We did. From cushions to carseat liners, they became a huge help in our house. All sizes, density, padding, etc. Just be aware kids will demolish a lot of them so save any high-end ones for later usage on beds as they get older.
Rechargeable lamp (ex. http://a.co/9zEf4sE ) I hate cords in the kids room so this is my preferred method. We charge ours regularly and it works great.
Glider Rocking Chair or any place for you to sit and zen with baby — it needs to be comfortable for you and your tastes.
Nursing Pillows and/or Boppies
Extra Nursing Pillow Covers
Nursing Supplies (if you plan on breastfeeding)
Medical Grade Breast pump (if you plan on pumping)
Bottle Supplies (if you plan on bottle feeding at all – more on this below)
Remember that Fed. is. Best — that’s responsible feeding with either your breastmilk, vetted formula, or tested and passed donor milk from a milk bank. Anybody that tells you differently, sanctimommies you, can go piss up a tree. Tell them I told you so. Responsibly feed your baby because there are consequences if you do not or if you go an irresponsible route. Children die because parents refuse to supplement waiting for their milk to come in. Do it. Feed the baby. And RELISH the fact that you can. You are mom/dad and you are giving your child what they need.
Also, plan on getting a few bottle styles to test before you get the whole system. Babies vary with what works, so for one kid won’t necessarily work for another. We went through about 10 different bottle types before we found the kids did the absolute best on Dr. Brown’s (but some kids don’t do well with Dr. Brown’s).
Light Switch Covers
Full Shield Wire covers (especially in nursery for any wires in there)
Occupied outlet covers — http://a.co/bGahpnr
Munchkin Latches — http://a.co/8IoAA8n
Stove Knob covers
Cabinet Latches (If you don’t want to use the munchkins the interior ones work well)
Corner covers for on sharp furniture edges
TV Anchor straps
GATES – I have tons of gates. Measure and figure out what you want/need. Large, Small, Compression, or Anchored. It’s a cornucopia and if you want any suggestions I can tell you what we use in depth. The pressure ones WILL tear the paint off your walls and indent the drywall if they are any good, so be leary; it’s somewhat easier, in my opinion, to just anchor the damn things and be done with it. You can get pressure gate shields to protect walls but watch reviews.
Door Knob covers
Hallway/doorway motion detectors
Pool alarms (if you have a pool)
Other Helpful Items You May Want/Need:
Baby Weight Scale
High-End Formula Mixers
Wash Cloth/Wipe Warmer
Some extra cloth diapers w/diaper covers in an emergency (they work great as rags too — you’ll need lots of rags and blankets, I can’t stress that enough)
Jumpers/Bouncers — We had our jumper from Merry Muscles and the girls LOVED it: http://www.merrymuscles.com/
Rattles/Keys/Play places, etc.
Toy Bins/storage bins — My advice is to organize early, starting around viability at 24 weeks; kid-stuff and kindacrap multiples in the night.
Screwdriver sets of various sizes. Why? Well, everything with batteries for baby safety should be secured with a screw or be an otherwise giant pain in the ass to open. Batteries kill babies if ingested so be aware of small circular batteries especially but all batteries are a threat. Varying screwdriver sets are essential to parenting.
An electric drill, if you don’t already have one (because you have to put all this stuff up!)
High-quality rechargeable batteries in a variety of sizes
Rechargeable Battery Station
Rechargeable battery organizer
Extra plugs/cords/etc. for any gear you get.
Room Décor/Wall Decals
Wet Pads for when they start hanging out and peeing on furniture (especially if they are susceptible to butt rash and need a few days to air out)
Baskets/Bins that you can stock up with changing supplies around the house and memo notebooks with pens for notes on the fly that you can chart later.
Finally, if you have access to this, people close to you and far who can help with things, from moral support to physical help. A list of people who are willing to come over and help do chores, give you time alone (with or without the little one(s)), babysit, and their typically available times, etc. Get all their contact information at the baby shower and/or via social media for those who can’t attend but extend the offer.
Some sent us lasagna, others brought us chicken and biscuits, some brought pizza and wings, another twin mom rescued me from the NICU (where I was going stir-crazy) and took me out for pizza. Others stopped in and just helped out with daily work ever so often. Those things helped tremendously. In fact, if I talk about it in person I can still burst into tears about it. Contact, conversation, food, and a shoulder to lean on was imperative to surviving for me that first year with twins. I distinctly remember the reprieve when the people who brought it were here. I remember them and, in my darkest hour, can’t even express how important that contact and help was. When we were so out of it, when we were shells of ourselves, there were people who do give a shit so reach out if you need help. The people who helped me do my dishes after a terrible week with singular hours slept. The people who stood guard while I took a showered for the first time in weeks. We didn’t have a lot of help but those that came were worth their efforts in gold. If you let people know how to help (lists!) and that you welcome it, you’ll find people are pretty damn amazing.