What does a kid need its first year?
March 20, 2011 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Okay, what does a baby actually need to survive it's first year?

Mrs. Furnace.heart and I are expecting our first child soon. We've never done this before. None of our friends have done this before. Our parents want to buy the entirety of China for this child (dear god save us). We need help narrowing it down, and the ubiquity of really bad mommyblogs and unsolicited opinions out there aren't helping.

What does a baby actually need to survive its first year?

We need two lists.

First, absolute necessities. What does a child actually need to LIVE aside from food and shelter, and us not dropping it?

Second, what made your lives as brand new parents actually better/easier/awesome/livable?

We're struggling paring things down...i mean, babies R us wants us to buy enough stuff to pack into a 2nd and 3rd apartment, but we're pretty simple-living utilitarian folks. We like nice things things that are well made, and make our lives easier... actually easier, not iphone easier. We're trying to find a balance between purchasing things only in the first list and living like pioneers, and buying everything deemed 'necessary' by helicopter parents and suffocating under piles of useless shit.

Well? Help a clueless couple out?
posted by furnace.heart to Shopping (64 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Diapers. Lots and lots of diapers.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2011

A good quality carseat.
posted by jenny76 at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

As much as you want to be an architect and raise your child in the best way possible, you'll end up winging most of it.

There are many things you have control over and so many things you can't do anything about.

I guess my advice is just to be smart, but relax. There will be triumphs and mishaps.
posted by jykmf at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2011

Best answer: Simple:<>
6 onsies, 4-6 hats, 2 sleep sacks, 4 swaddle blankets, 2 pacis, 2 washable changing pads, 2 packs (12 each) cloth diapers for spit up, etc. and a mini pack n' play w/ bassinet with extra sheet. Lotion, butt cream, diapers and Target brand sensitive wipes. This is what I would consider the minimum, basic requirements. Just enough so that you can wash one set while the other is being used.

Luxury: lots of onsies and elastic bottomed gowns, Aden & Anais muslin swaddle blankets, Imse Vimse flannel wipes, a bottle warmer (if you're going that route) a glider, a boppy, microwave sterilizer bags, white noise machine, mustela bath products, Arm's Reach co-sleeper, counter height changing table, Primo infant to toddler bathtub and a housekeeper for the first few weeks.

Sorry for not linking, but I'm sure in your exploration of baby stuff you've run across most of the stuff I've listed. Congrats on the new human!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [20 favorites]

Honestly, just get stuff as you need it, and not before the kid gets here. The one thing you know you're going to need are tons of diapers (either cloth or disposable).

"Gosh, thanks for the offer, but honestly we're kinda short on space right now, so we're really just happy with a gift certificate or cash right now."

One day you'll be walking through a store or browsing online and see a product that definitely meets your needs, and you'll get it then. Until that point, just don't buy anything. Diapers, maybe a crib, maybe some soft receiving blankets. You'll know what you need when you need it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

diapers, wipes, clothes (consider how often you want to do laundry), somewhere to sleep. feeding accessories depending on mode of feeding.

some books, some toys, although you won't need the latter immediately. (I read to my kid from the outset just so I felt like I was doing *something* but really they just want to be held, changed, fed, burped, and to get enough sleep for the first few months.)
posted by gaspode at 6:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

And a Britax Advocate carseat. AlbeeBaby.com has them on sale every few months. Sleepy Wraps are the bomb - you really don't need a stroller for the first few months (if at all).
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Britax. Every model they make is great. We went with the Roundabout. Lots of friends have every other model, and they're all awesome. LATCH system FTW.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:38 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Must have: diapers of your preferred type, a small amount of clothing appropriate to the season in which the baby is a newborn (what they say about newborn clothing is true, it has an almost immediate sell-by date and then they are sailing into the 3-6 month size), bedding appropriate to the season, either breast feeding or bottle feeding supplies (see the young roperider's question), car seat ( if you have a car).

Nice to have: a rocking chair, baby carrier (such as Baby Bjorn), small supply of medications for middle-of-the-night emergencies, baby towels and washcloths, along with a baby tub, small number of toys (no need to buy those, grandparents love to get this sort of thing!), still and video cameras, diaper bag.

Ignore the big box stores' lists...they'll make you bonkers. You need way less than you think you do, at least for the first six months or so. Good luck to both of you!
posted by Ginesthoi at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Healthy babies need to be fed, kept clean, & allowed lots of rest. Medicines aside, prettymuch everything else is optional.

In terms of what *I* thought was necessary:
-Diapers, dear God yes. And I think the advice I got to lay in two sizes was not bad, although happily we did not need the premie ones.
-I was very happy a friend gave me a baby medicine kit: Droppers, measurers, thermometers, ear thing, that sort of stuff.
-Car seat. They will not let you leave the hospital without one, so get it straight in time for early insanity, should it happen. Btw, I know several happily adjusted little kids who slept entirely in their car seats for the first several months. So know that crib falls in the "optional" category.
-Bassinett. I assumed no, but after one week of not knowing where to put the kid when I had to put her down, I sent a friend to Walmart to get one. As a new parent you're terrified the kid's going to roll off something or smother, so having a 'guaranteed' safe basket on wheels is not a bad deal.
-blankets, clothes, towels.

That's about all the necessary. Don't let anyone talk you into a Diaper Genie unless you actually want one. I hear they're great, but stick to your guns on what you actually believe you want & need. Let them have a *little* fun, of course...
posted by Ys at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

And nthing the butt cream.
posted by Ys at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't need a change table.

I got one for my firstborn and never ever used it. Her nappies, sorry, diapers, were changed on the floor, on the bed, on tables, on any level surface available when the need arose. The change table ended up cluttered with unused stuff and was an total waste of space.

That said, a gift of a nappy bag with a built-in change mat was a godsend. You can change the sproglet on grass or on floors of unknown cleanliness and you know he/she is lying on a clean surface.

If you're going with cloth nappies, try to get Snappi's instead of pins. That's an Aussie site I've linked to, but no doubt they're available in the US. While you're getting used to this tiny little bundle who has a bad habit of wriggling, there's no concern about accidental stabbings.

Congratulations, and best of luck for a safe arrival!
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2011

If you are having a hospital birth, you most likely will be surprised by the amount of "swag" you get. We got all the newborn diapers our baby ever needed just from the hospital, so when we started buying diapers, we went right to size 1s. We also got little long sleeved teeshirts with attached foldover mitten things. And we got a bunch of cloth diaper/spit rag things.

My advice to you is to buy as you need. Most likely, the people around you will be generous and give you stuff. Accept wholeheartedly!! Also, listen to other parents talk about how their baby LOVES LOVES LOVES certain things. That's how we decided to get our then 5 month old a Jumperoo. (which he's crazy about, even though it's ugly and plastic and takes up too much space)

Get a big pack of flat cloth diapers to use for burp rags/spit up rags.

On the subject of bottles..... we never bought any bottles, we just used the ones that came with the breast pumps I had bought. This was enough for us. I breast and bottle fed my baby, now he's solely bottle fed, and we still use the same bottles.

The boppy pillow has been my favorite baby item. It's good for so many different things. Right now, I'm actually using it as a laptop desk.

Place to sleep... the pack and play was a total waste of space for us. He has a crib that he's in now (Starting from about 5 months). Before that, he was in his bassinet. However if you're short on space, I know people who use the pack and play as a bassinet and also as a crib when they get older. But you most likely don't need a crib, bassinet, and pack+play.

People gave us enough clothes, I'd advise not to get any yourself.

Babies don't need toys until they're a few months old.

We bathed him in the sink, so we didn't need a baby bathtub.

We never used out changing table, we actually used his crib when the mattress was the highest when he was new, as a changing area. Now we just use the floor or bed or whatever.

Carseat...we got a travel system which is the stroller and carseat in one. I use it every day, but the stroller is bulky, I tend to keep it in the trunk of my car, since we're short on storage space.

When they're brand new, they need swaddle blankies. We used a 4 pack of receiving blankets that we got, and the 2 hospital blankets he went home with.

A swing... We never got a swing. With the next one, I plan on getting the Fisher Price Papasan Swing. I think it's over 100 bucks. My baby slept for 4 hours in that swing over at a friends house one day, and I regretted not having it at home for him. But, he's 8 months old now, and really has never had a swing, and he's alive and happy, so, maybe not a necessity.

As for linens, We have only ever had 2 sheets for his crib, we put a receiving blanket on top of the sheet and tuck it in to make the sheet last longer in between washings.

Get the biggest thing of diaper wipes you can. I swear by the Target brand sensitive (they're purple). Whatever the biggest box of those are, get that. And keep getting that. I also love Target diapers, if you're wondering whether to go Huggies or Pampers, go Target.

That's all I can think of at the moment.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to buy things as you need them, keep the tags on things until they get used, and get things for YOU not the baby. I.E. A changing table for someone who has bad knees, etc. YOUR COMFORT IS KEY!!! The baby just needs food, sleep, clean diapers, and love :)
posted by katypickle at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

You'll be fine as long as you've got somewhere to put the kid to sleep, enough clean diapers, and either some formula or a boob.
posted by foodgeek at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2011

Like everyone said, diapers - we joined Amazon Mom, which gets us free Amazon Prime, and subscribed to the diapers.

We also go through a lot of Triple Paste. Boudreax's Butt Paste is also good, but gets really sloppy in the heat.

As for you, you probably need two things between now and the day. A good fast reliable camera and get ahead on sleep. Seriously - most of the first 6 weeks of our daughters lives is
posted by neilbert at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2011

(hit return too quick)

"Is a blur. " is how that sentence was supposed to end.
posted by neilbert at 6:47 PM on March 20, 2011

General stuff, that comes pretty close to essential when you realize you need them: nose suction bulb, ear thermometer, baby nail clippers (and mitts for newborns, who have sharp nails and unwittingly scratch their face), and TriDerma diaper rash cream.

If you go the formula route: portioned container and stainless steel thermos.

Travel system (stroller, detachable car seat). Clothes, clothes, clothes, and far more burp cloths than you think you'll need.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2011

Best answer: Childless former nanny here. First, go watch this movie. Next, lists:

List 1:

- Love.
- Food (breast milk or formula, take your pick)
- Bottles for food
- Something on the bottom end to catch the food (cloth or disposable diapers)
- Onesies & socks (do not bother with more than a couple of the newborn size - kids grow fast)
- A blanket to swaddle the little tiger in (most babies like to be smooshed - reminds 'em of the womb)
- Someplace to sleep that keeps said kid out of drafts & also keeps said kid from smothering him/herself (bassinet/crib)
- Car seat
- Medical paraphenalia (blue sucky-bulb-thing, baby thermometer, etc.)

List 2:

- Rocking chair or glider
- Baby sling or papoose
- Some toys to mouth/teeth (a damp frozen washcloth is awesome)
- One of those bouncy chairs that hang in a doorway - great for stashing/occupying Wiggles when you need to wash some dishes
- Easy to manage Stroller (with a rack or pouch to store your stuff)
- Cheap bare-bones (circa 1982) stroller with no bells & whistles for when you don't want to lug to Caddy stroller around
- Boppy
- Comfy fluffy robe for mom

List 2 can go on and on, but really, those are the basics.

P.S. Don't get a special in-sink bathtub for the kid. They're pretty much useless in my experience.
posted by muirne81 at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Don't have kids, but this is second hand info from a friend who assumed, as I would have, that babies didn't need bibs until they were eating solid food. Apparently babies drool...a lot (even before teething). There probably not in the top 10 items that you absolutely must have, but it might save you one or two drool related changings (and they're small and relatively cheap, so no harm, no foul, if you don't end up needing them right away).
posted by kaybdc at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2011

Milk/Formula, food eventually, clothes, diapers, wipes, hats, a few toys/books, place to sleep (up to you whether it's your bed, a co-sleeper, or a crib), car seat, mode of being carried (stroller, sling, other carrier) and happy, healthy parents.

As for your second question, Foodler or any other means of having food sent to you will be priceless. As much sleep as you can manage. The parent who isn't recovering from birth should understand that his/her role is supporting the parent who gave birth for awhile. The best thing that parent can do is make sure the other parent is fed, hydrated, and getting whatever attention he/she needs and making sure all other household tasks are handled.
posted by zizzle at 6:50 PM on March 20, 2011

Oops - should have also added, "stuff" for what may be mom's very-tender getting-used-to-baby chest. Lanolin if she's not allergic, nipple shields, etc.
posted by muirne81 at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2011

oh *bibs*

Depends on the kid, but if you end up with one like mine you will need about 8000. She had mild reflux that didn't worry her in the slightest but was constantly spitting up milk. You'll want to play it by ear of course.

Most of this stuff you will of course want to play by ear.
posted by gaspode at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2011

Also, if breastfeeding, you want to set up an appointment with an Lactation Consultant (preferably one with the IBCLC credential) to come to your home after the baby is born. And you would ideally call around and set this up before the baby is born with the understanding you would call for a set appointment after.

If you have medical insurance, odds are LC visits are covered for some period of time. Mine was covered up to 6 weeks.
posted by zizzle at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

btw: Don't go cheap on diaper wipes. They are one of the things in life that it pays to buy name-brand. Red butt babies are hugely unhappy babies.
posted by Ys at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2011

Was just about to say what malibustacey9999 said: don't bother with a changing table. It's a waste of space; you're going to end up changing the baby wherever's handy, anyway, so get a few changing pads instead.

It's very worth figuring how often you are able to/want to do laundry. If you use a laundromat, for example, you want lots of burp cloths and onesies and receiving blankets, because they'll get wet constantly.

Get a rectal thermometer and learn how to use it; it'll help you decide when it's important to call the doctor, whether the tylenol has brought a fever down, and so on.

In my experience a battery-operated swing was practically a necessity, but ymmv (or yb'smmv, that is). Noise machine or fan, also. These are just simple sleep aids that might help you retain your sanity.

Packnplay, crib, carseat, stroller. (We skipped straight to an umbrella stroller and skipped the fancy newborn kinds.)

You don't need much more paraphernalia than that. (And technically you don't NEED all of that, but these are kinda the basics for making life easier.)
posted by torticat at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2011

I'm going to weigh in with an apparently controversial stroller suggestion. Get a nice one before the baby is born.

We splurged on a second-hand bugaboo. It had an adapter for the carseat, which was amazing since it allowed one parent to manage the baby by themselves. (Not fun for a new mom to lug a car seat days after having a baby, and sometimes the dad needs both hands.) It had a bassinet, so we had a place to put the baby anywhere in the house, or out of the house, and - crucially - we could soothe the baby by WHEELING HIM AROUND IN THE BASSINET! Nice big fat wheels make it comfortable to spend as much time walking around as we want and have even tolerated a trip to the beach, and the adjustable main seat means that we can tip him back to sleep,let him sit up to look around, face him towards us or face him outwards. It's so comfy that when he has a really bad cold, we can let him sleep in it to help congestion drain.

I'm cheap as heck, but if we lost ours today, I'd still throw down full price to get a new one immediately.
posted by synapse at 7:06 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

The rocking chair was an utter necessity for me. That's where I sat and nursed both my kids for basically the first three months of their lives. Even if it doesn't rock - and I really, really recommend the rocking - Mom will need a comfy place to sit with the baby.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2011

Forget the rocking chairs and gliding rockers. If you have room for it, get a big, clunky, cozy, and ugly (because they're all ugly) recliner. Add a properly placed pillow and boppy to support mom's arms, and a neck pillow for mom, and she will love it for nighttime feedings. I spent the first few weeks living in that setup.

(on preview: my recliner rocks when the leg support is retracted, because YES, rocking is necessary)
posted by ellenaim at 7:10 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

This list only covers the first 3 months.

(FYI, since we're breast feeding, someone told my husband not to go too crazy and all we really truly need is an infant carseat and diapers. Wise wise advice. I pass it on to you.)

- Everyone has told us you end up buying and returning a heap. This is true. Also, I'm starting to understand that everything for the first 3 months of life will be donated or sold on craigslist, so spend wisely here.

- After doing lots of research, I'm going with a manual breast pump since I'll only need it for back-up in the beginning + bottles and nipples. YMMV.

- Bedding. We first bought the arm's reach universal co-sleeper, then returned it and went with the mini convertible co-sleeper since it is a lot smaller and we'll be moving when Baby Jbenben is 6 months old, and I don't know how long I'll breast feed. But in the beginning, I want the little guy close by for feedings:) Bassinet sheets seem to fit this bed. I also bought those mattress gripper alligator clip things to keep the sheets on tight.

- I've got outfits, but everyone says onesies are the way to go in the beginning, so we have heaps.

- Same thing for swaddle blankets and burp cloths.

- Changing table (or just a contour pad) and changing pad covers.

- Got a nap nanny so I can put him down occasionally without worry of him rolling off the table (I keed!)

- I have a bad back, so I got the most expensive back-supportive infant carrier (the type where you wear them) ever made.

- You want some mittens and a gentle way to clip nails because little babies scratch themselves if we're not careful.

- Nursing bras if applicable. A nursing pillow if applicable.

- Infant bath + some swaddle towels and extra soft hand cloths

And finally... a word about infant car seats, stroller travel systems, and the snap-n-go type strollers...

TRY THEM ALL OUT IN-PERSON AND FIND THE COMBINATION OF PRODUCTS RIGHT FOR YOUR NEEDS. Sometimes brands are compatible, so try them together and don't feel like you must stick with this seat and that matching stroller if the stroller from another company is easier to fold and unfold, etc. Also, read the reviews online. Then go try them out again. Go online and find the best price for the one you want.

Keep in mind you will probably switch strollers a bunch depending on your needs. This could just be my family, but when testing we often found the full "Travel Systems" are a bit bulky and probably won't make it through past a certain age/size, so it is doubtful you will be able to keep using that expensive system through the first few years - it probably won't end up being the bargain you think. (OH YEAH - YOUR KID WILL OUTGROW THE FIRST CAR SEAT IN HEIGHT LOOONG BEFORE HE OR SHE REACHES THE MAX WEIGHT. Plan accordingly.) All that said, I did go with this plus this.

- Get a second car seat base if you have two cars!

OK. That's kinda everything I can think of besides diapers and wipes.

posted by jbenben at 7:21 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

A sling hovers between "need to have" and "nice to have." We ended up using a sling or front carrier instead of a stroller most of the time. It's simpler.

If your experience is like ours, you are going to get a lot of junk, um stuff, from well-meaning grandparents. No amount of gentle suggestions will convince them to stop buying, because shopping for baby is FUN! Keep the tags on everything until you actually need it, is my strategy. The excess can go "new" to Vina Moses or the local women's shelter.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a 5 month old and here are the things that have been super important for us:

27 pocket one size cloth diapers - it cost about $300 for all of them. There are cheaper ways to do it, but these are simpler to use than the ones you have to pin & fold. We do a load of diaper laundry about every other day and will not have to spend another dime on diapers until he's potty trained.

3 SwaddleMe blankets. Our little dude was breaking out of regular blanket swaddles before we left the hospital. He still gets swaddled for bedtime and it keeps his hands from waking him up.

A hand-me-down pack n play with a bassinet attachment. It lets him sleep in the same room as us, but in his own space. Early on, it made the many night wakings much easier when he was right at the end of the bed. Plus, if you're anything like me, you'll want to peek and see that he's breathing about 300 times a night. It's also nice to have somewhere portable for him to sleep when we go to Nana's house.

Boppy! This made the hours and hours of breastfeeding so much easier in that first month.

Moby wrap. It's got a bit of a learning curve, but it's a godsend when you have it figured out and your kid needs a little help calming down and napping or you don't want to wrangle a heavy infant carseat into the grocery store.
posted by chiababe at 7:32 PM on March 20, 2011

Get a couple of cheap, dark-colored bath towels at Target or wherever in a color that coordinates with your living room. Spread said towel on your seat when you are freshly home and having lochia, and up the back of the chair/over the back of the couch when you are burping the baby, especially if you have a spit-uppy baby like mine was. This saved me hours of spot cleaning the couch. And then when we had Baby's First Vomiting Illness, we were glad for these towels again. They just sit neatly in the end table with the blankets when we're not using them, and when he was tiny and eating all the time, they just were spread across the couch and it looked a little more homey and coordinated.

As a clumsy person, I loved my baby bathtub. Not a necessity by any means, but it made me feel a LOT more secure and the peace of mind was worth the $18 or whatever it cost. He also LOVED the bath as soon as he could sit up and I preferred using less water to just put an inch or two in the baby bath instead of putting an inch or two in the "real" tub.

I do Nth the necessity of a well-stocked baby medical kit -- butt thermometer, small bright flashlight for looking in mouth/ears/nose, booger sucking bulb, etc., plus your baby tylenol, baby motrin, children's benadryl, neosporin, and some single-serving pedialytes (they keep longer that way; you're not using half a big bottle and being stuck with the other half). These are all things you want BEFORE you need them. You can get small sizes and always send someone out for more if you need a lot, but the LAST thing you want at 3 a.m. is to realize baby has a fever, the on-call doctor wants you to use tylenol, and you have none in the house! (I would add baby orajel. Also baby orajel tastes way better than adult orajel, in case you are prone to cankersores yourself.)

I also Nth the necessity of figuring out how often you'll do laundry. We started with two sets of crib sheets and undersheets, but now we have four sheets and three undersheets and there are days I still feel like it's a rush to get them all through the laundry before they have to be changed again. (Those days were, notably, when he learned to take off his diaper during naps. Awesome.) For the bassinet we had even more than that because he was so spitty. In his early weeks we were doing laundry seriously every day because he spit up so much (reflux). Between his copious laundry and my desire not to DO laundry, we were better off on the "more" end of linens than the "less" end of linens.

I also could not have survived without my Boppy, which was particularly helpful because I had a C-section so comfortable nursing positioning was tricky at first, and the Boppy made it much, much more comfortable.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

and by you having lochia I mean, um, your wife. :D
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:33 PM on March 20, 2011

I found the swaddling blankets with Velcro closures to be immensely helpful.
posted by gnutron at 7:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a 2 year old and a 10 week old. So here's the longview and the shortview:

-Diapers. I have used cloth with both kids. The easiest way to do cloth is bumgenius or fuzzibuns. It's pretty much just like a cute-colored and washable disposable diaper. If using disposables, don't bother with newborn sized unless your kid is far under 8lbs at birth because you can take a bunch home from the hospital and size 1s fit at 8lbs.

- Things Where The Baby Is Put. I bought a mini cosleeper and never used it for much, because both kids slept in our bed at first. I am using the carseat at times, also a boppy pillow on the couch. For bathing, I bought This. So I can put him in the big bathtub with his brother, and also he can lounge in it while I shower. Indispensable to me for both kids. I have the fisher-price papasan swing mentioned above and my kids rarely use it. I could've saved that money.

- Clothes -Don't go crazy with the onesies. Seriously, my kids rarely use them. The one-piece footie sleeper type outfits are my go-to. My kids were both infants during winter, though. Summer does lend itself to onesies or lighter outfits.

The best part is that ALMOST EVERYTHING CAN BE FOUND CHEAP OR FREE ON CRAIGSLIST OR FREECYCLE. I know how the grandparents are, my in-laws are maddeningly generous and keep ignoring my requests to please god stop bringing cheap plastic toys for my sons and instead maybe throw that $5 into a college fund, but my pleas go ignored.
posted by kpht at 7:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

All we needed at first:



Boob (or formula/bottles)

Temperature-appropriate clothing


Some blankets

Burp cloths

And that was literally it. We also had a Pack n Play which was where we planned for Baby Rabbit to sleep but then we ended up co-sleeping -- baby is 3 months old now and has never slept in the Pack n Play. We use it to change him, though, and that is convenient, and it's also where I put him when I shower (though the carseat would also work for this, or a swing).

Other things that I have found useful and/or have needed over the last 3 months:


Rectal thermometer


Moby wrap (best carrier ever), though now I use the

Ergo since it's a little quicker to get on when he is fussy

NoseFrida (seriously, don't even bother with those bulb thingies, this is what will actually work when your baby has a cold)

Breastpump (double electric Medela Pump in Style) since I have gone back to work and all the accoutrements:

milk storage bottles and bags (I like Lansinoh bags better than Medela since they lay flat),

and Dr Brown's bottles
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I loved my son's bouncy seat so very much, I highly recommend having one.
posted by lemniskate at 7:53 PM on March 20, 2011

Oh, also: I did need the Lansinoh nipple cream, but only for the first week or two (like, literally five or six applications and I was done with it).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:53 PM on March 20, 2011

Oh yes, the bouncy seat! It's where he sits when we cook and eat our meals and when he had a cold last week, we set it in the bathroom during our showers so the steam would help his stopped up nose drain a bit.
posted by chiababe at 8:00 PM on March 20, 2011

Congratulations. We didn't use a changing table. My aunt had made a lovely basket, and it help diapers, wipes and one of these flannel mats to use beneath the baby when we changed him on the bed, couch, wherever. The waterproof flannel mat is easily washable, and we had several.

Onesies, sleepers, blanket sleepers. Socks. It's easier to have 6 pairs of the same socks, so you don't have to worry about matching them up after washing. And they come off all the time. A warm outfit for wearing in the car or stroller in cold weather. A couple little hats.

Blankets, both cotton and warmer acrylic. My son slept next to our bed in a bassinet. We used disposable diapers, but also bought a set of cloth diapers and used them as bassinet sheets, shoulder cloths and blankie.

A good car seat. Stroller. A seat for the baby to sit in and watch you make dinner, fold laundry, etc. We just used a canvas bag as a diaper bag.

Nursing bras. Somebody gave me nursing shirts, but I liked the combination of a tshirt with a button down shirt over it, which allowed me to arrange for some privacy.

If you don't have a washing machine, you'll wish for one. There's a lot of baby stuff at yard sales, Goodwill and freecycle.com. I likes the broken-in softness of hand-me-downs, and washing and hanging to dry in the sun was sufficient for me to feel they were clean.

We were quite broke when my son was born, and had a minimum of stuff, and it was fine, really.
posted by theora55 at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2011

regarding diapers and wipes:

like kpht, i use bumgenius and fuzzibunz cloth diapers (pocket, one-size) but if you decide to use these, be aware they are too big for most newborns (even my 9-pounder was too little). you can either use disposable until they fit and this is certainly the cheapest/easiest solution, but if you're stubborn like me and refuse to use disposables, the kissaluvs size 0 are great newborn diapers. they have a snap-down for the umbilical stump. you will need diaper covers for them, i liked the thirsties covers.

wipes: if you have a costco membership, get the kirkland brand box of 900 wipes. they are great.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:10 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Car seat. They will not let you leave the hospital without one, so get it straight in time for early insanity, should it happen. Btw, I know several happily adjusted little kids who slept entirely in their car seats for the first several months. So know that crib falls in the "optional" category.

It is essential to have a car seat, but using it in place of a crib may be dangerous. That said, the crib is still optional if you plan on co-sleeping.
posted by TheCavorter at 8:24 PM on March 20, 2011

Everyone else has great answers, but our particular species of newborn really, really thrived in a sling. He slept in it, nursed in it. I carried that kid in the sling nonstop for months. He still loves it at 14 months. Get an Ergo. Don't bother with those crappy Bjorns or infantino "slings." Ergo.

Of course, I also have a moby, a Maya wrap ring sling, a seven sling, a mei tai, a cotton gauze wrap... All useful and awesome, but I love that Ergo.
posted by LyndsayMW at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

No kids of my own, but as a babysitter I find it really helpful to have a swing/seat/bassinet/packnplay/etc in multiple places so that I can easily plop baby down when I need to. Also they really seem to love noisy/vibrating swings.
posted by radioamy at 8:32 PM on March 20, 2011

No matter how many baby wipes you have, you will end up using them all. The only reason not to buy huge amounts at a warehouse is that you might like some sorts more than others - perfumed vs fragrance-free, connected vs separate, the ones that you pull through a hole in the box vs ones where you open a lid. But do make sure that you have, oh, at least four packets or so before your baby comes home.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:33 PM on March 20, 2011

I'm not going to re-hash the great lists above with all the basics, but instead just note a few things that have been particularly useful for us (4.5mo here):

1) Change table with flip-up top revealing a bathtub. This was donated to us for free (like so much else) & we probably wouldn't have chosen it for ourselves, but bathing a baby at that height was a great relief for the back (you have to hold the baby under its neck the entire time - try doing that in a regular bathtub or even a kitchen sink!). He was too big for this after 4 months, but that was 4 months less backache.

2) Co-sleeper. This had little bolsters to keep him snugly in place & could be carried around as a convenient portable mini-"cot", eg when visiting, or you could put it on the dining table; wherever.

3) Sling! Good for walking to the shops, settling the baby to sleep, doing housework, etc. Also, an Ergo - same reasons. Many times, lil ubu just wants to be carried, but this can be a nuisance if you need your hands free. With slings, there are also all kinds of different positions & configurations you can use as baby gets older - right up to a couple of years of age.

4) "Love me wrap" (?) - basically, a little suit like Maggie Simpson wears. Takes ALL the difficulty out of swaddling wraps - which come undone, letting baby's hands fly around & wake him up. The little suit keeps him feeling snug & secure, and he can suck on his hands through the little suit as well.

5) Playmat with dangly toys - sometimes bubs just wants to lie on his back & look up at or play with the bright colourful objects. A great way to free up some time for yourself to do housework or browse Metafilter.

6) Lots of hand-me-downs. You really don't need to buy anything new for yourself much. People will flood you with so many clothes & things that you don't need to stock up heavily beforehand.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

PS - the car seat / capsule: you can rent these. Ours was $100 for 6 months, after which they grow out of the capsule & need a new one anyway. Far more economical than buying one. You can buy a fancy one later for when baby moves on to the next size up (which should then last a couple of years).
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they're determined to give you presents ask for these: plenty of frozen casseroles and other yummy easily prepared food for you two parents for the first couple of months;someone to clean the house for you for the first few months; diaper service; weekly massages for both of you; basically anything that maximizes and enhances the time you two can spend enjoying your baby.
posted by mareli at 8:53 PM on March 20, 2011

Eucerin skin cream, Baby oil and Vaseline. Mix Eucerin/Baby oil together in your hands to grease up your little critter right after bath time, followed by a second coat of Vaseline. This keeps infant eczema at bay, as well as being adorable baby nakie-time.
posted by Scoo at 8:54 PM on March 20, 2011

Father of a now 5 month old - here is what you need - must have list:

-An extra set of hands.
-A car seat that fits your car and that both parents know how to install, and secure a child in to. This can be harder than you think.
-Boob or formula, if you go with boob do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant and pick up plenty of lanisol. If you go with formula, pick up a couple kinds of nipples to see which one the baby takes to, but start with the slowest flowing ones.
-Freezer with meals that can be ready within 3-10 minutes. You'll need this the first week.

Nice to have:
-An extra set of hands.
-White noise generator that gets LOUD - can be ipod with portable speakers/etc. You'll also want this for the car.
-Yoga ball. You may be like us and bounce the kiddo to sleep all the time.
-3-4 types of swaddles, you'll want to find which ones that seem houdini proof and that you can put on while you're half asleep.
-Kleen canteen or other water holding substance at the nursing station that can be kept full at all times.
-Old diapers - use them for burp cloths/adhoc changing pads, etc etc.
-2-3 kinds of diaper cream - we keep boudreuxs and burts bees on hand when one doesn't work on an incoming rash we swap it out.
-Ipod touch/etc for one handed internetting. Our kid likes to be held, which means laptops no longer work for keeping up with things.
-Socks. No, not those ones. The cheap kind you get from old navy because they are the only ones that stay on. No really.
-Borrow baby carriers from everyone else, buy after you've borrowed. Baby carriers are very kid specific.
-Half a dozen blankets of varying warmth.
-Water proof crib sheet/pad, you'll want this for tummy time and wiggle time.
-Rumble chair/swing/something to go hands free from baby when you *must*.
-Baby monitor, but we didn't use ours for 3 months - ymmv and depends if you do co sleeping.
-Either dim-able lamps in the commonly used rooms or dimmers installed on the rooms light switches if you have ceiling fixtures.
-Binkie bungie x 2 - odds are your child will spit the freshly cleaned binkie out every 5 minutes. It's nice to not have to clean it all the time.
-Co sleeper, if you decide to do that - stock co sleeper with extra diaper materials/blankets/burp cloths/binkie/etc.
-There are more options to diaper than you would believe, do yourself a huge favor and buy some disposables and wipes for that first week, regardless if you go cloth/etc. The first week is about survival.
-A willingness to switch up feeding (formula vs boob), or diapering (cloth vs disposable vs compostable), or sleeping arrangement (co sleeper vs in bed sleeping vs crib) when you need to and just go with it.
-A room that you can get totally dark if needed for either you or the baby to nap in.
posted by iamabot at 9:13 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Easy to use camera with video function, plus back up camera batteries is a luxury I really appreciated.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:42 PM on March 20, 2011

I have a 2 year old and several family members for whom gift-giving is their language of love.

Books are a good request if they're going to buy you something, like it or not. Can't have enough books.

If you have room for storage, suggest they stock you up on consumables like baby aspirin and ibuprofen (can be alternated in shorter time-periods when there's a high fever), baby wash, every size diaper, lotion, teething tablets (pretty sure these just make parents feel better, but whatever works), etc. I'd rather have diapers to the rafters than another cheesy picture frame I have to feel guilty about thrifting.

Also, and maybe it's just me, but we could not buy enough footie pjs from about 6-18 months. There was always a leak or a spitup or something and I was doing laundry constantly. So there's that.

And last but not least, if they won't give you cash, have them write you an "IOU" of sorts - promise that when you find that thing-you-must-have, you'll let them buy it for you. Makes family feel more involved than just handing over a gift card.
posted by shopefowler at 10:42 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's something I forgot, that fits the "living like pioneers" approach: for bathing, forget every single kind of fancy baby bath gel, shampoo, soap, cream, talcum powder etc etc etc. Detergent / soap based products will dry baby's skin out, creating a vicious circle where you try to replenish the skin with even more fancy products.

All you need is good old water, with a few droplets of olive oil - get the pharmaceutical grade "B.P" stuff from a chemist.

We used shampoo very occasionally, though. Not needed much, as lil ubu has such wispy little near-baldy hair.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:13 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

PS - if that sounds like kooky hippie theory, this was what we were advised by the professionals at the hospital, in our baby washing one-on-one class. It's worked perfectly well so far, although you'll still need butt cream to combat nappy rash.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:20 AM on March 21, 2011

My one essential item suggestion, for baby and for you (if you're the mum): singlets that clip off at the strap to reveal your breast. I wore them all summer. They were the only top that I wore - cardigans and shirts were thrown over if it got cold. You don't need a huge amount as you will end up doing so many loads of laundry and you can just throw them in with the baby's things.

One warning: I bought about half a dozen before my baby was born, but when I tried to put one on in the hospital after bub arrived it was far too small even though it was a size larger than my usual size. Luckily I had a friend that was more than happy to go out and buy me a few. Apparently she showed a just-taken picture to staff at the store who recommended a size D. When she bought them to me I laughed at the size, and thought 'oh no, what a waste of money!' But it fit perfectly. It still does (4.5 months later).
posted by skauskas at 3:45 AM on March 21, 2011

"make our lives easier" -- Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads and a box of disposable underpants. Couldn't have been happier with the Tenas in the early weeks. Works much better than shifty bunchy pads, saves you from yet more laundry/ruined underpants, surprisingly comfy.

If you look through previous threads you will see that the Ergo is the MetaFilter carrier of choice. I would really put a stroller on the "hold off" list.

I couldn't stand commercial wipes -- hard to clean a poo, drying on the hands, nasty smells no matter the brand. Several packs of Ikea Krama washcloths wore like iron, worked perfectly, probably saved a pile of money.

Put as much as you can bear on the "hold off" list. Within a few weeks (or days) what you and your baby need will be much clearer. I was in the shops with a three-day-old finding gigantic-size stretchy bras, and with a three-week-old finding a better baby carrier. Do shop, just don't buy, as your knowledge of where to get a good baby whatnot at a good price will be valuable as it will be harder to browse and comparison shop.

(My "Infant Motrin" ended up in the trash at the end of the year, I still don't know what the nose-sucker things are for, and I never used the thermometer, either. If you are at all near a 24h drugstore I wouldn't overstock the medicine cabinet.)
posted by kmennie at 3:56 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

"teething tablets (pretty sure these just make parents feel better, but whatever works)"

They are "homeopathic" and therefore don't do much, except that they were recalled last year for inconsistent quantities of the poison belladonna after babies got belladonna toxicity from using them. So teething tablets are best avoided because if they were made "right" they'd be nonsense (just sugar pills ... and you can just feed the baby sugar water yourself if you find that sugar water has an effect, which it may, on minor pain; there are a few studies), and because the manufacturer both includes a poison AND has such shoddy manufacturing processes it can't control the dose.

Tylenol and Motrin are regulated and subject to much more stringent safety standards and have ingredients that actually work ... though you still have to watch for recalls!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:03 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Food (breast milk or formula, take your pick)

Read up, don't just toss a coin on this.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:26 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best money we ever spent was on pacifier "leashes," which clip onto the kid's outfit, so that each spitting out of the pacifier doesn't land it on the floor (which leads to the inevitable progression from new parent to seasoned veteran, over the course of months: from sterilizing the dropped pacifier, to rinsing it, to putting it in your own mouth, to wiping it off with a blanket, to the five-second rule)

I'd say buy about 8,000 blankets for swaddling; going from non-kid to kid laundering means a huge increase in the amount of time you'll spend doing laundry, and you just can't keep up with 4 (or 8, or 12) blankets.

We used our ginormous changing table about 2 times ever.

For each thing, remember, "start as you mean to go."
- bottle warmer means never being able to use a cold bottle if you're out & about*
- wipe warmer (biggest waste; we bought one for our first) means never being able to use cold wipes when you're out
- letting grandpa walk the baby around singing it to sleep every night during their 2-week visit means having to do same when he's gone
- picking up a "dropped" bottle immediately = we will now play a game where you drop the bottle repeatedly and I pick it up each time

*all of these have the qualification "without significant time & effort to change the routine." This applies equally to things that may make sense for the first x months, but not thereafter. Plenty of folks do the "family bed" long past the point where it really makes sense for them, because of the two-week crying phase they know they'd have to go through to get the, say, 2-year-old kid into a crib and sleeping through the night.
posted by mabelstreet at 10:27 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Congrats! We just had Little Melee 14 weeks ago. He's our first too.

There's a whole lot I want to tell you but I'm going to limit myself because "friendly baby advice" tends to become "DO THIS NOW BABY ADVICE", read: milk vs. formula, cloth vs. disposable, cut vs. uncut, natural vs. epidural, etc.

Please,please feel free to memail me about our experience. We had a 100% uneventful pregnancy (yay!) and then everything went sideways during the birth. I learned a lot real fast.

Anyway, there's one thing in particular I want to point you towards:
Amazon.com's universal registry

The reason it's AWESOME is that it aggregates all your lists into one...now my fiancee's family doesn't do The Computers, so we still had registries at Target/etc---BUT the universal lets you add any item on any website, so you can actually only register at the place where something is cheaper, for example. Or they can get it from Amazon. But one link, and everyone can see everything and know when it's been purchased. BONUS, 3 free months of Amazon Prime.

So check that out, even as you're scoping out stuff to register for, especially stuff that may not necessarily been easy to find locally.

What's worked best for us, and we have seriously The Easiest Baby In The History Of The World (TM), have been the following things:
-we got the Graco pack-n-play with the napper and changing thingie all-in-one. He slept in the napper through about ~10 weeks. Perfect.
-We like our bottle warmer, Ms. Melee was pumping and it let me feed him too.
-We like our wipe warmer too, 100% luxury item, but it's nice.
-I have chemical sensitivities, so we've got chlorine free on everything. I can give you recommendations on this, but I won't spam here.
-We got a big Graco swing, and then I modified it to not use batteries (plugs in the wall.) Epic.
-We swore by "The Happiest Baby On the Block", as recommended by my question, which I'll post below. The book SUCKS, but download/rent/buy the video.
-I swear by Dr. Brown's bottles. Our little man never ever had colic one time. Ever.
-I bought us an Ameda "Purely Yours" pump. We really liked it. I got it very inexpensively used on ebay, that may squick some folks out. We chose this pump because almost nothing touches milk, so it's super easy to keep clean. As I said, we pumped and breast fed.

He's the question I asked, which may or may not be useful. And seriously, feel free to MeMail. There's no instruction manual. :)
posted by TomMelee at 11:19 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a 3-month-old. The Woombie made the difference between Little Man sleeping an hour at a time and three hours at a time, which is HUGE. He was able to break out of every other swaddling device out there.
posted by feathermeat at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2011

Seconding "Happiest Baby on the Block" DVD; recommendations worked wonders. Swing was essential too. Buy a Flip camera if you don't have one: it's an amazing time of life. Good luck!
posted by azure_swing at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2011

car seat (get an infant seat now, spring for a convertible seat with highest rear-facing limits you can find when he/she outgrows the infant seat)
a safe crib or co-sleeper
footie jammies and a couple of those swaddler blankets
a stroller or baby carrier
earplugs - we breastfed, so most of the time I was the person getting up at night with the baby. Every few weeks I'd have a sleep night and let Dad answer baby's cry - couldn't have done that w/o the earplugs.

nice to have:
Ergo baby carrier (know lots of moms who love the Moby, too)
Maclaren stroller (esp if you're urban, we loved ours for subways, trains and buses)
a jogging stroller for walks and runs
a baby swing that swings both side to side and back and forth (kid #1 in my house liked side-to-side a lot better than back-and-forth)
a bottle warmer -- even if you're breastfeeding it makes life easier for dad and other caretakers
cloth diapers -- kid #2 in my house broke out in a rash to disposables, so we ended up CD her until she was 7 or 8 mo old and I'm now a fan
a WashPod instead of a typical baby tub - kid #2 LOVED LOVED LOVED her WashPod (here's proof)
bottles with some sort of built in vent (we used MAM anti-colic bottles - got one for kid #2 to try, and she wouldn't go back to any of the others)
a nice high chair - one that reclines, has tray inserts that can be popped into the dishwasher, folds up for storage, and has a removable seat cushion
a college savings account - open one the minute you get his/her SSN, then get grandparents to make deposits at birthdays and Christmas - your kid will thank you in 18 years
posted by hms71 at 9:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cloth nappies, regardless of what you use on their butt, can be used as:
Cot sheets - alternate 3 layers of them with waterproof sheets directly under the baby, so you just pick up damp baby, change the baby, strip a layer of the cot back and put them down again. So much easier in the middle of the night!
Swaddling wraps - actually better for swaddling real 'strugglers' than the stretchier sort. My nephew was much happier when really really secure. At least til he grew too big for nappies to work.
Spit up cloths - put them everywhere, on shoulders, underneath them, where ever mess is likely to go.

So much easier to find *one* thing to do all of that, than to be hunting round for the slightly varied 'square of cloth' for different tasks.

Baby carrier thing - piece of fabric, or more fancy. Just as long as it doesn't take more than one hand to have a baby secure, and is super-easy to put on.

I concur with no-change tables. In NZ, the recommend babies be changed on the floor. Just easier and safer.
posted by Elysum at 3:36 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

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