Your 40-week Journey : Do Babies Need All this Stuff? Shopping for your baby (part 1)

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Q: What will I need for my baby after the birth?
A: For hospital births, it is recommended that you pack a labor and birth bag for yourself and a bag for the newborn baby. You will need some clothes for your baby: tee-shirts and onesies or a receiving gown are easiest, especially when learning how to dress and undress your baby. If you are in the hospital for several days your baby can wear hospital provided clothes although pack an outfit, blanket, and hat for the trip home. Babies can get overheated so dress them as you would yourself. Hats are usually provided by the hospital or birthing center but you can bring your own from home. Diapers, formula, and bottles, should you choose not to breast-feed, will be provided by the hospital. Any footwear should be loose so that it does not restrict your baby's movements or circulation.

You will need to have ready a baby car seat, since most hospitals won't release you without one and the law requires that your baby travels in a car seat.

Q: When is the best time to buy the essentials? I'm nervous about getting anything too early.
A: Many parents feel superstitious about buying baby items too early, especially if it is their first baby or they have had a previous difficult experience. However, some planning is needed since you may find that by the end of your pregnancy you are too tired to shop. You should also leave enough time in case you need to exchange items. Try to buy items gradually. First, buy items that you will need for the baby after the birth; these should be ready by the 37th week of pregnancy, although many parents have these by about 34 weeks. Other essential items, such as strollers, should be in the home before the birth . Once you have bought the essentials, you can purchase any additions when it suits you, which may depend on how mobile you are after the birth and your access to local stores. Many parents choose to shop online because shopping with a baby can be difficult.
Q: I don't have a lot of money—do I need to buy everything new?
A: Having a baby does bring financial pressures and so it is sensible to acquire second-hand items, whether handed down from friends and relatives or bought. Clothes in particular are worth acquiring second-hand because babies grow out of them long before they have made full use of them and most mothers admit to buying more clothes than necessary, so quite often you can receive unused, second-hand items from another mother.

One of the main items parents worry about getting second-hand is the crib mattress. Some experts believe that you should buy a new mattress with each baby to reduce the risk of SIDS, while others believe that if the mattress is clean and dry this is not necessary, so this is a matter of preference. A baby car seat should be bought new. Some fire houses conduct safety checks on installation of infant car seats.

Q: What do I need to consider when choosing my baby's mattress?
A: It is important for your baby's well-being that you buy a mattress that is the correct fit for your sleeping equipment. For example, if you use a crib, the mattress should fit properly with no gaps between the mattress and the crib sides that a baby could get stuck in. As it is also important that the mattress is clean, dry, well aired, and firm, it may be preferable to buy a new rather than used mattress.
Q: My mom wants to buy US something. What can I suggest?
A: The gift will depend on what you need, your mother's budget, and what she would like to spend it on. You could plan a day shopping together and decide on that day, or you could browse a baby catalogue together for ideas. It also depends on whether the gift is for you and your partner, or for the baby. Good gifts for moms include underwear, nightwear, a photo frame or album, or a baby album or naming book. If your mother wishes to purchase something for the baby, this could include clothes, a baby bath, a sterilizing kit and bottles, a crib, a car seat, or a carriage/stroller system.
Q: Do I need a carriage/travel system/stroller? Help!
A: Most parents are unsure about what type of transportation they will need for their baby and, since there are a number of options and types available, this can make choosing the right item difficult. You will certainly need to have some type of travel equipment for your baby and what you choose will vary depending on your circumstances. If you mainly drive a car, you may want to consider a car seat that attaches to a carriage or stroller, or a car seat and travel crib. If you intend to walk a lot, you may find a lightweight stroller or front-pack type baby carrier or sling more suitable. What you choose should be practical, and within your budget, so it's worth taking a look around in stores and online to compare different models.
Q: Is it OK to get a second-hand car seat?
A: Generally it is best not to use a second-hand car seat since you cannot be certain of its history and it may have been in an accident or damaged. Car safety experts suggest that if you must use a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend, and then only if you are absolutely certain that you know its history, that it comes with the original instructions, and it is not too old. They strongly discourage purchasing a car seat through a second-hand shop or classified ads.
Q: Do I need to buy a crib yet, or can I start with a Moses basket?
A: It may help to think about the amount of space you have and where you want your baby to sleep. A Moses basket has the advantage of being small, so your baby will feel snug and may settle sooner than in a crib, and it also means that your baby can sleep beside your bed. Some models come with a rocking motion, so you can rock your baby to sleep while you are in bed. A disadvantage is that your baby will grow out of the MOSES basket in a few months. Once your baby starts to sit up, there is a danger of falling out of the MOSES basket since the sides are low.

At some stage you will need a crib. Although at first your baby will look small in the crib and may feel less secure, there is plenty of growing room and your baby can stay in the crib for at least a couple of years (some cribs convert into beds and last even longer). Some cribs are available with adjustable bases, making it easier for you to put your baby into and lift her out of the crib. You will need a bigger space for the crib, which ideally will be in the baby's bedroom.

Q: What bedding do I need?
A: Most parents choose sheets and blankets. Cotton sheets can be used in layers along with a blanket, so that you can add or remove layers to keep your baby at the right temperature. If your baby sleeps in a MOSES basket or portable crib, you should buy sheets designed specifically for these. It is important to get the right fit so that your baby is not too exposed or too covered up. Nowadays, many parents opt for baby sleeping bags. If you use a sleeping bag, you will still need a few bottom sheets for the crib.
Q: What are the pros and cons of baby sleeping bags?
A: Baby sleeping bags, also known as grow bags, baby sacks, or sleep sacks, have been around for 25 years, but recently have become more widely used . They can be used without other bedding with the baby in a tee-shirt and onesie. Many parents prefer these since they keep the baby covered, regardless of how active they are during sleep, which in turn helps the baby feel secure. However, the CDC advises that parents and care providers dress an infant the way that you would like to be dressed for the temperature around you. Make sure blankets stay at or lower than the baby's waist.
Q: Which baby monitor should I choose?
A: Baby monitors first appeared in the US in the 1980s and today there are numerous models on the market, so choosing one can be daunting. Although monitors vary, they have the same basic component—a minimum of two units: one to transmit your baby's sounds and one that stays with you so that you can monitor your baby. Additional features include dual channels, a moving lights-sound display, a sensor pad, low power and an out-of-range warning, the option to use electricity or batteries, a talk-back function, and a temperature sensor.
Q: Should I buy disposable diapers?
A: Although many parents opt for disposable diapers because they find them to be more convenient, particularly when out and about, nowadays many people look for a more eco-friendly alternative, since disposable diapers, dumped in landfill sites, may take hundreds of years to decompose. Also, it is estimated that it costs parents about $50–80 a month to use disposable diapers for each child. You may want to investigate the different options such as cloth diapers that might come with laundry service so there is no extra work for you. (See Eco issues).
Q: What baby changing items do I need besides diapers?
A: You need a waterproof changing mat that wipes clean. Some parents use warm water and cotton balls or pads to clean their baby's genital area and bottom, or you can use baby wipes. You may also want to use a cream to prevent diaper rash. Avoid overuse of oils and creams on your baby's skin.
Q: Should we put a dimmer switch in the nursery?
A: The benefit of a dimmer is that you can control the light, so your baby's eyes can adjust slowly, but a dimmer is not essential, if you have access to a soft light, such as a lamp or mobile that can project light.
Q: Should we buy a baby bath or can she use our big bath?
A: A baby bath is useful since you can use it in any room. Most parents are a bit apprehensive when they first bathe their baby, and even experienced parents say that it can be tricky to hold a wriggling baby safely while trying to wash them, so a smaller baby bath helps you develop confidence. For newborns, a plastic tub can also suffice. However, a baby outgrows a baby bath by around six months and the bath can take up storage space. Once your baby can sit up you could use a bath seat in your main bath, or enjoy a bath together as long as you avoid hot water.
Q: I want to breast-feed, but should I buy some bottles just in case?
A: The problem with having bottles is that it may weaken your resolve to breast-feed, and evidence shows that women are more likely to continue breast-feeding if they do not have an alternative available. Having said that, if you want to give your baby some water, or to start expressing once you are breast-feeding confidently, then you will need some bottles.
Q: I plan to bottle-feed. What do I need to get in advance?
A: You will need plastic bottles (nipples are included), a sterilizing unit or kit, which often has everything you need, and your preferred formula. Each comes in a range of options. As you get to know your baby, you may have to change the type of nipple and/or formula, so it is not advisable to buy too many before the birth. There is a range of sterilizers available.
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