What Does Baby Need? Shopping and Registering for Baby Showers

This week, you can

• Determine what you need to have on hand before the baby arrives, what can wait until after he’s here, and what you might not need at all
• Register for baby gifts

I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS for you. Despite the shopping frenzy you might feel obligated to embark on, babies come into the world with pretty simple needs. They don’t pay any attention to the commercials that constantly barrage expecting parents with the idea that babies need a bunch of gadgets to be happy and healthy.
First, let’s consider a newborn baby’s needs. Babies need to be warm, they need to be dry, and they need to be fed. If you’re breastfeeding, the third need is already taken care of. While bottles may still serve a purpose for a nursing mom, you probably won’t need any for a while. And even bottle-feeding moms don’t need an arsenal of nipples and bottles right away, especially since the hospital will provide them during your stay. That leaves “warm” and “dry,” and it doesn’t take too much to provide for those needs.

While it’s good to be prepared for “wants,” there are relatively few things you’ll absolutely need to have on hand before the baby makes her arrival. So don’t panic or feel like you have to have everything you could ever want already purchased ahead of time. Your baby will be just fine if he enters the world without a fully stocked nursery. And remember, you can always send a spouse or family member on a quick trip to a discount store or pharmacy for a forgotten item.
If this is your first baby (and possibly if it’s your second or beyond), a friend or family member is likely planning you a shower. Baby stores and department stores like Target offer you the opportunity to register for gifts you’d like to receive by walking around and “shopping” with a little scanner. It can be difficult to keep yourself in check as you wander the stores zapping the barcodes on this adorable blanket or that oh-so-cute outfit. So I recommend you make a plan before you ever set foot in the store. Here are two lists you can consider while planning your shower strategy. The first is the list of items you’ll want to have on hand while your baby is very small. The second is a list of items you can probably wait to purchase.



As with maternity clothes, consider your lifestyle before you decide how many of each different item of baby clothing to purchase. How often will you (rather, your spouse, friend or family member, or hired help) do laundry in those early weeks? That will help you determine how many of each of the following items to have on hand:
T-shirts or bodysuits (i.e., “onesies”). You can expect a baby to go through at least one undershirt per day; often two or more if she’s the type to “blow out” her diaper.
One-piece sleepers or gowns. Your baby will probably live mostly in one-piece sleepers or gowns for the first few weeks; be sure to have at least two on hand for every day you’ll go before doing the laundry, plus a couple extra just in case laundry plans don’t go as expected.
Baby socks. You can never have too many of these elusive little items, since they will go missing like crazy (did you know washing machines actually do eat socks? It’s true—small items occasionally spill over the top of the drum in top-loading machines.) A small mesh bag for keeping them all together in and out of the laundry will help, but still expect a few to go missing. Buy several pairs in the same color and style.
Receiving blankets. Great for everything from mopping up milk to wrapping up babies nice and snug, you’ll want at least four or five of these soft, lightweight blankets on hand. Look for a couple of extra-large ones for swaddling.
Burp cloths, pre-fold or flat cloth diapers. Babies create an awful lot of liquid of all sorts, and burp cloths and cloth diapers are easy to fling over a shoulder or lap for extra protection. Have several on hand.
A few “cute” outfits for photos, visits with Grandma and Grandpa, etc. Don’t go overboard here. You have no idea how big your baby will be when he’s born nor how fast he’ll grow. Some babies stay in the newborn or “0-3 month” size for quite a while. Others will outgrow it practically before they leave the hospital. You don’t want to invest lots of money (or space) in adorable newborn outfits that never have a chance to be worn!
Diapers. Just get one package of the newborn size—they are often outgrown really quickly.
Cloth diapers are a great ecologically friendly choice and can be handed down from baby to baby. The cloth diapers of today are not the fold-and-pin nightmares your mother probably wrestled with! Nowadays, there is an array of cloth diaper options that are just as easy to use as disposables—promise. And laundering them is no big deal as long as you get a system in place. No need to spend a mint on fancy “designer” diapers (yes, they exist!). A couple dozen high-quality prefolds with four to six covers with snap or Velcro closures will get you started. For more information on different styles and brands and where to buy, visit thediaperpin.com.
Furniture and Gear

A place to sleep. Perhaps you’ll be receiving a crib and/or bassinette or cradle as a gift, or maybe you’ll be purchasing Baby’s bed yourself. If you’re looking at cribs, consider purchasing one that converts into a toddler bed later so you get more mileage from your purchase. Another option is borrowing or finding your baby’s bed second-hand on Craigslist, on eBay, or at a rummage sale. Just investigate the model, brand, and serial number online before you use it for your baby—many cribs have been recalled over the years because they have been found unsafe.
Somewhere to hang out. Babies love to be held, of course, but you will have to put her down occasionally so you can use the bathroom or take a shower. She’ll need a place where she can be near you while she’s awake and you can’t hold her. A Moses basket, a bouncy seat, a swing, or even an extra car seat can fit the bill. If your budget is tight or space is limited, get something portable so you can move it from room to room.
Other furniture for the baby’s space. We’ll talk more about specifics next week, but it’s a good idea to get the baby’s area set up ahead of time if possible. Whether he has his own room or will be using a corner of yours, having a place to put all the stuff you get at the shower will help you feel ready for his arrival.
Medicine-chest tools like nail clippers, thermometer, and a bulb syringe. Little babies’ fingernails grow amazingly fast and can be sharper than you’d think. And you’ll want to have a thermometer on hand when they’re little—newborns aren’t good at regulating their own body temperatures, so if there’s any question of whether Baby’s too hot or cold, you can reassure yourself. A note on the bulb syringe: The two-piece models you can get in the baby aisle at the store are all but useless. Get the one-piece blue kind you’d find at the hospital from the pharmacy section.
A good carrier. A well-made sling or supportive, soft infant carrier is a must-have for new moms. Not only will it allow you to keep Baby close while going about your business during the day, but it’s usually a more convenient way to get around with a small baby than pulling out a bulky stroller. Meagan loved her Moby Wrap or Ergo Baby carrier for longer trips, and opted for a Mod Mum pouch sling for just puttering around the house. There are endless options for slings, front packs, hip carriers, and backpack carriers, so be sure to read reviews before you buy. A good resource to help you choose is thebabywearer.com.


Throughout the ages and still today in many cultures, the idea of a baby sleeping in a crib would seem very odd. In the West, it’s the other way around: Babies sleeping alongside their parents has come to be regarded as strange and even dysfunctional. But a growing movement of parents and experts embrace the idea of “co-sleeping,” “bed sharing,” or “the family bed.” Benefits include easier breastfeeding, better sleep for both Mom and Baby, and more opportunity for bonding.
Though there have been some highly publicized cases of babies dying while sleeping with adults, it’s important to note that babies also die in cribs and other baby beds. Any sleep space has the potential to be unsafe, and experts believe that when done safely, co-sleeping is no less safe than crib sleeping.
Even if you don’t plan on co-sleeping, you may change your mind when your baby is here. You may think you will “never” take your baby into your bed, but until you’ve spent half the night walking the floor with a screaming baby who finally falls asleep in your arms (but won’t stay that way in the crib), it’s hard to know exactly what you’d do!

I believe it’s important for all adult beds to be baby-safe zones because you never know when you may decide you need or want to sleep next to your baby, even if it’s just for a night or two or a nap now and then. Here are some things to consider when setting up a baby-safe adult bed:

1. The surface should be flat and smooth. Waterbeds and very soft mattresses are not safe for babies.

2. The sheets should be snugly fitted. Yank the corners to make sure they won’t come out and cover the baby’s head.

3. The bed should be pushed up against a wall, or have a mesh guardrail on one side to keep the baby from falling out.

4. Keep pillows and blankets away from Baby’s head. Give Mom and Dad each their own blankets. Baby can sleep in a “sleep sack,” which is a built-in sleeper and blanket in one. (This is also recommended for crib sleeping.)

5. Only mothers should sleep next to their babies. Extensive research conducted by James McKenna, Ph.D., at the MotherBaby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame University has indicated that mothers and babies share breathing and movement patterns and move in and out of sleep cycles at the same time. That is, moms seem to have an instinctive sense of their babies as they sleep next to them. Other adults—even dads!—may not have the same instinctive sense of where the baby is at all times.

6. Moms who are under the influence of alcohol or medications that make them sleepy should not sleep next to their babies.

7. If you want to have Baby at arm’s reach but aren’t comfortable with having her in your bed (or don’t feel your bed is safe enough) consider the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. It’s a “sidecar” baby bed that sits flush with your bed. You’ll have easy access to your baby at night, but you’ll both be in your own space.

Even if you plan on co-sleeping full time, you’ll want someplace where you can safely put your baby down for naps when you aren’t holding her. This may be a crib or bassinette. Or you might opt for a portable playpen, which is convenient for taking to Grandma’s house on the weekends, too.
A car seat. You’ll need one of these before they’ll let you leave the hospital with the baby, and it’s nice to get it far in advance so you can practice putting it in and taking it out of the car. It’s best to buy these new or borrow one from a trusted friend or family member who can tell you about its history. If an infant safety seat has been involved in a car crash (even a minor fender-bender) in the past, its integrity could be compromised and it’s not considered safe to use. If you do borrow or buy used, be sure to check the model for recalls.
A breast pump and/or bottles and formula . If you plan on breastfeeding, you don’t necessarily need to buy a breast pump or bottles. Many women never use them at all. But if you’ll be returning to work while your baby is still small, or want to have a stash of milk on hand for emergencies or outings, you’ll want to either buy or rent a pump. Sometimes your health insurance will pay for the expense, particularly if your baby is small or has a hard time getting started with breastfeeding, so you might want to put this purchase off until later. In either case, don’t waste your money on battery-operated pumps from the big-box store. They aren’t effective and can be uncomfortable to use. Avent makes a good manual model for once-in-a-while pumping, but if you plan on using the pump regularly, you’ll need to invest in a high-end electric pump. Medela and Ameda are brand names to keep in mind.
As for bottles, if you’ll only be giving them occasionally, one or two is plenty. You can always purchase more later if or when there is a need. Opt for glass bottles or BPA-free plastic ones like those found at www.newbornfree.com. Regular plastic bottles have been shown to contain chemicals that can interfere with your baby’s hormone levels and have been linked to certain cancers. Now that your kitchen has been cleaned out, you will no doubt have space on a shelf you can dedicate to these products. As your needs change, the bottles will one day give way to sippy cups and some dishes for the baby.
If you won’t be breastfeeding, you’ll need to have infant formula on hand as well as bottles and nipples. You’ll be giving eight or more bottles a day in the early weeks, so purchase accordingly. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing formula in bulk just yet. Sometimes babies have sensitivities to certain formulas and you may need to switch brands or types. Formula is expensive, so it’s wise to wait and see whether the type you’ve chosen is a winner before you invest in a lot of it.
A humidifier. Your baby probably won’t need this right away, it’s true, but for little babies, who can’t take cold medicine, a humidifier is one of the most highly recommended comfort measures. And if your little one is unlucky enough to get a cold in his first month or two of life, your life will be a whole lot easier if you already have one of these tucked away in the closet. Eventually you’ll need it, so you may as well put it on your list (or pick one up) now.
A small table-top water fountain produces moisture in the air and a soothing sound that may help Baby relax. He has, after all, spent nine months in a water environment. At the very least it may calm you on nights when you’re both in the rocker in quest of sleep!
Mom stuff. Don’t forget about your own needs when you’re purchasing and registering. In the early days of motherhood, some items can make your recovery a lot smoother. This includes nice, absorbent breast pads if you’ll be breastfeeding, a heating pad or rice pack (nice for soothing post-birth cramps), and nipple cream. A nursing pillow is a nice investment and can make breastfeeding much more comfortable. Meagan loved her organic Nesting Pillow from blessednest.com. The buckwheat filler adjusts around the baby, creating a supportive surface to lift her up and hold her in place. That way Mom doesn’t have to hunch over or struggle to keep the baby still while she’s getting the hang of breastfeeding.
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