First-time parents + shopping = nightmare!
April 30, 2012 7:32 PM   Subscribe

So. We are going to be new parents by the end of September. Yay! Thrilled, scared, worried? Yes, yes and yes! The problem is that I do not enjoy shopping. Shopping for myself is hard enough. But shopping for new baby? Overwhelming! And so I am turning to the collective wisdom here. Experienced parents: any time/money saving tips, hints and recommendations would be most welcome.

Last weekend we made our first shopping trip and it did not go well. There are just so many things and I dont know which are essential and which are accessories. My man-brain says car-seat is essential, but which type? Stroller? Yes, but there are thousands of types. Baby cot is necessary perhaps, but do we really need a separate changing station?

So you probably get my problem. I have no clue what is essential, what is important, and what are the things we can live without with.

Location: Melbourne, Australia; but online shopping makes any US product accessible!
posted by coolnik to Shopping (34 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

My one suggestion is this - Invest in the latest edition of Baby Bargains. It's like Consumer Reports for baby stuff, with lots of suggestions on stuff that's "nice to have" v. "must have", suggestions for various price points, etc.

It is somewhat "US-centric", but I still think you'll get a lot of value out of it.
posted by dotgirl at 7:38 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Relax. You do not need everything the first day. Most of it you do not need at all. Much is only useful for special circumstances, and you ask around for suggestions if that situation comes up for you.

But car-seat, yes. It should be safety-approved, new, and comfortable to carry and install.
posted by lathrop at 7:41 PM on April 30, 2012

Safe place to sleep
Safe place for when mom/dad have had it and need a break (usually same as above)
Something to wear
Something to poop in
Something to throw up on
Something to eat
Something to eat out of (bottle is good to have handy even if breastfeeding)
A pillow to help mom with breastfeeding
Something to be swaddled in
Something to be in while mom/dad go outside (carrier/stroller, we didn't get a stroller till 6 months)
Car seat
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:43 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids but I have many friends now with multiple kids. I would imagine that if I was to ask, I could probably get pretty kitted up just with hand me downs. And definitely with advice! I know for sure you need a car seat just to be allowed to leave the hospital with the baby. But mainly- do you have local friends who are just a couple of years/months etc ahead of you in the baby production process?:)
posted by bquarters at 7:44 PM on April 30, 2012

Skip the mega-expensive strollers. You'll only fret about scuffing it up and baby really doesn't give a hoot what he's riding in. In fact, since you need a car seat, look for a car seat that docks into a stroller attachment and collapses easily. I'm a fan of the Graco SnugRider.

Many of those fancy strollers don't collapse easily. I also had an Inglesina Zippy, which collapses and folds single-handedly. Makes you looks like a freaking PRO if you want to splurge (or your parents want to give you a nice gift).

Random thoughts: Changing tables hardly get used. Crib mobiles are pretty much never played with. A waterproof pad will serve multiple uses, invest in a few. Diaper Genies don't work. Double-tied plastic bags will hold for an hour or two until you get to the trash.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:54 PM on April 30, 2012

I've been finding Lucie's List very helpful. From the description: "Essential Baby Products
Do you really need 37 pages of baby gear on your registry? Heavens no!
Learn what you *really* need... ahhhnd what you don't."
posted by judith at 7:56 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I had a dedicated changing table, and used it maybe twice with each kid. An utter waste of money, IMO. You have your baby bag full of nappies and wipes and changes of clothes (mine also had a foam changing pad you could lay on the floor or a bed or wherever, which was awesome). You end up changing the baby on the nearest flat surface that's convenient, even at home.

Test your pram/stroller before you buy to make sure it fits your needs. My first pram was an elaborate work of art which required two hands to collapse it. Not much fun when I had a newborn in one arm, and tried to fold it down prior to getting on a bus, whilst also wrangling the nappy bag, groceries, etc. If you have a small car, make sure it fits in the boot.

Breast is best, we all know, but have a bottle and formula on hand in case mum has trouble feeding and is stressing about it.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:57 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The best stroller we bought was a $20 Target umbrella stroller we took to Germany intending to leave there when it wore out as it surely would. We ended up handing it down to someone about ten years later, still going strong. That particular model wouldn't work for brand new babies, but I guess the larger point is that you don't have to buy top-dollar stuff.
posted by chazlarson at 8:07 PM on April 30, 2012

Another thought: if I gave birth again, I wouldn't buy a baby bath. I was a sole parent when my second was born, and I just took him into the bath with me from day one (well, day 7 by the time we were released from hospital, but anyway...). Initially that was because I didn't want to leave him alone with no other adult supervision, but it kinda killed three birds with one stone - he got a bath, I got a bath (and warm'n'fuzzy mummy time with my lovely baby boy), and I didn't have to stress about filling a plastic baby tub or emptying it afterwards.

Everyone above, particularly the young rope rider, has pretty much nailed the list, I reckon.

Oh, and Australia has fairly strict standards required of carseats. (Just don't buy second-hand, I believe it's illegal to resell them but that may only be in NSW.) Something cheap from Kmart or Big W meets the Australian standards and will do the same job as something triple the price.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:11 PM on April 30, 2012

Seems like all these baby threads say "no changing table!" but I'm an older mom and I very much appreciated having a tall flat surface to change my kids on. My oldest is 3 1/2 and my youngest is not quite 2 and still in diapers which means I've been using my changing table constantly for 3 1/2 years.

A good baby carrier, a pack 'n play w/ bassinet, some nice muslin swaddling blankets, a few pacifiers (babies are picky!), lots of large waterproof felt pads (good for layering between sheets in the crib or for nekkid baby time), some Imse Vimse cloth wipes, and a bottle warmer if you're going that route. Just the basics at first, you can acquire things as you go - babe just wants to be safe, warm and fed, and really doesn't care how you accomplish the feat.

For mom, bring some Depend Undergarments to the hospital with you. Those ridiculous disposable mesh panty things they give you in the mat ward are a total joke. Put on the grandma panties and rest easy knowing you won't leave a gory mess on the bed.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:19 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can't think of many things that we got and didn't use for baby mooselini. I have to disagree with the previous poster -- I found our bathtub to be absolutely essential. I also was deliberating about whether to get a changing table, and am glad that we did. You can never have too many receiving blankets and washclothes. Lots of diaper creams (I learned that my baby's bottom does not flare up only when I use mustela products, but I have gone through lots of different brands before I got there). Newborns don't really care about anything other than comfort and food in the first month or two, and only then do they start in exploring their surrounding, needing toys, books, etc. You have plenty of time before then to see what works and what doesn't. It's fun. Good luck!
posted by mooselini at 8:29 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

We use a dresser as a changing table. Just throw a pad on top of the dresser and use the drawers for supplies. The good thing about this is that it will still be a useful piece of furniture once he's done pooping in his pants. And I use it for every diaper change at home, and have done so for 18 months now. But we also live in a one story home. If I had to climb stairs every time, that probably wouldn't happen.

Do your friends and family know you're expecting? I got hand me downs and gifts and more stuff than we needed just by putting the word out.
posted by chiababe at 8:35 PM on April 30, 2012

Over fours babies, I never used a change table, but you should maybe try one out with an imaginary baby, a lot of people love them. I did/do nappy changes on the floor or a bed.

Obv you need a car seat - do check if it will physically fit in your car, sometimes they are a lot wider than you expect (this is less urgent if you'll never have anyone/thing in the back with the baby). If you are a family that never walks anywhere, you won't need a pram for much, possibly a stroller when the baby is bigger, but small ones can be more easily carried about from car to wherever in a sling or carrier of some kind.

I'm ambivalent about baby baths - I had a few, and some of mine used them a lot, and some never did. They are the sort of thing you can get easily as hand me downs so you might see if someone has one you can try. I was handed down a neat one from Fisher Price (I think) with a shaped inside shelf thing, so the baby could be propped up safely. She loved waggling her feet around and splashing, and I didn't have to hold that tiny slippery body.

I used a bassinet and a cot for all four, none were in the bassinet for long (four to five months?) so that's certainly optional (I had the one I slept in as a baby and some cute tiny bed bedding I wanted to use, you could totally do without one altogether), and they all spent some time co-sleeping.

I exclusively breast fed, but I had a nice pump kit just in case. If you're interested, I'll have a look and see what brand it is, it came enthusiastically recommended, and I found it super fast and painless.

People will buy/give you a lot of nice other things you will need, like blankets and clothing, so don't stress too much. You can always pick up a wondersuit from the supermarket at the last minute, but you can't take the baby home without a car seat, so focus more attention on that. Lay in some tiny disposable nappies even if you're planning to do cloth, they are a GODSEND in the earliest, mad days, imo.

I'm in NSW - drop me a line if I can be any help, and congrats!
posted by thylacinthine at 8:37 PM on April 30, 2012

I'm the father of an eight month old. You hardly need to buy anything. Friends and family will buy you a billion clothes and toys, so don't buy those. The baby doesn't care *at all* about having nice things. Seriously, her favorite toys are things like cardboard boxes and crinkly paper. Her favorite outfit is naked.

She bathed by being held by her mother in the shower now she's bigger and she sits on the floor of the tub while her mother leans over the edge and bathes her.

I picked a car seat by buying the one with the highest rating on amazon. We didn't get a stroller. We didn't get a changing table. We got a co-sleeper thing and never used it (the baby slept in our bed with us until she moved to her own room).

You need diapers, a million tags, some onesies (which other people will buy for you) and some blankets (which other people will buy for you).

Conventional wisdom will probably call me a bad parent or something, but our daughter is as happy and healthy as could be.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:54 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

WittleBee sounds like it was designed specifically for the shopping averse. Apparently, keeping a kid in fitting clothes is a big pain in the ass... Maybe it can help you?
posted by milqman at 9:00 PM on April 30, 2012

I was pretty poor when my first child was born. Yes, we had a carseat. You can't take the kid home without one. Ours was probably given to us. For the first three months, all his clothes fit in a shoebox. I can say that with certainty because that is exactly where we kept them. He was born in June in Texas, where it is quite hot. He had some socks, t-shirts and two cutesy outfits. I don't think I bought any of it. I think it was all given to me. When he was three months old, I also acquired a couple of sweatshirts and some overall type thing with feet.

I had no stroller until he was like six or eight months old. He got strapped to my chest. In cold weather, I buttoned my coat over him. He never had a crib. He never had a changing table. He never had a baby swing. Me second child, born in winter in Germany, had two dresser drawers full of clothes. I did have a baby swing with him and generally more stuff, in part because we weren't so poor anymore. Yet he also never had a crib or changing table.

Babies existed long before our largest buildings in town stopped being churches and became shopping malls. What you need and cannot live without will depend on a number of factors. For example, I breast fed my oldest so I did not really need bottles (or only s couple, for juice) but my youngest is lactose intolerant so he quickly rejected the breast and had to be bottle fed. Still, if you have a carseat, diapers, and some clothes, a lot of other things are very much optional or nice to have. And you typically discover the must-haves based on need, on your specific needs in a specific situation.

I took care of my infant niece for a month when my oldest was eight. My sister was an older mom with more money than I ever had and she had tons of stuff for her baby, which was nice and convenient and useful. So I am not bashing the idea of having stuff to help you take care of the kid. I am bashing the idea that you need to stress about it.

Peace and best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:02 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sleepers. You can never have enough sleepers (I found this out the hard way. Requiring my mom to drive across town during a blizzard, and buying every sleeper the store had). Babies, especially formula babies, spit up A LOT.

And burp rags, a swaddling wrap if you can't get swaddling down, white noise machine, and of course the ultimate possession: The perfect blanket to become babies beloved blankie.
posted by Sweetmag at 9:08 PM on April 30, 2012

A tiny thing: Usually when the baby is new, you wash his/her clothes in the most super-hypo-allergenic laundry detergent you can find. After a few weeks either the baby will seem toughened-up enough to put all the family's laundry together, or the baby will have signs of sensitive skin and you'll have that to deal with. Anyway, get some of the extra-mild stuff now so as you procure clothes and bedding, you can start washing them in that.

Have a nice chair area set up for feeding the baby. I think it's worth getting a comfortable glider or rocker with a footrest of some kind. Have space within arm's reach for something for the grownup to drink, reading material, and burp cloths.

Burp cloths are actually the solution to a lot of problems. Traditionally people use the old-fashioned non-prefolded cloth diapers for this. They can be rolled up as a head support in a carseat, a light blanket when out in an air-conditioned store, sacrificial towel in case of a diaper blowout in a public place...

I vote yes on the changing table. They're not too expensive and if you don't get one of those, you'll have to rig up some other means of having what you need for diaper and clothes changes within arm's reach of where you are when you do those things. I suppose you can do it on the floor all the time, and that has the advantage of being impossible to roll off of, but you'll do it a lot, and it's more comfortable to be standing, imo.
posted by lakeroon at 9:15 PM on April 30, 2012

Clothes that make it easy and that you don't have to take off to change nappies/diapers.
Anything with feet makes it great for sleeping in then you don't have to worry so much about blankets coming off at night.

A cot/crib with a nice firm mattress and a few sets of sheets and light blankets (you can often get sheets second hand from other parents) you will need more of these than you think. You don't need pillows, quilts or bumpers for cots/cribs no matter how pretty they look and these are actually actively discouraged by most SIDs groups.

A stockpile of whatever sort of diaper you decide to go with.

Carseat, get a new one, though I think that is now law in Australia anyway.

Something to carry the baby in be it a carseat, something to put them down on when your arms get tired (cots are great for this or a bouncer).

Wash clothes for wiping up either end and something for the kid to chuck up on, cloth nappies/diapers are great for this even if you decide to go for disposable for the other end.

A lot of kids stuff can be picked up at second hand stores that specialise in secondhand baby stuff. Going into one is an amazingly fast way to realise just how little you need when you see how new looking all the barely used stuff is.

Oh and as a voice of dissent I loved having a change table (though really just a change mat on a dresser) as I have a bad back so bending and stretching to change on the floor wasn't really an option.

If Grandparents are involved in anyway you might actually have to fight off the flood of equipment, toys and clothes they will buy you if this is their first grandchild so be ready to find space for it all if that's the case.
posted by wwax at 9:22 PM on April 30, 2012

You don't need a lot of the things that are marketed for babies, and you don't need to get everything before the baby is born. Needs will show themselves once baby arrives.

Car seat is important if you're going to drive. All the major brands meet safety standards, so pick one based on looks or ratings or whatever. I liked having a bucket-style newborn seat (one that has a base and detaches) for my newborn, but you can also get a "convertible" which stays in your car and can be used for a wider range of ages. Up to you.

Baby can sleep in bed with you if you're careful, or you can get a side-car style bassinet like an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper, or you can get a free-standing crib/bassinet. Think about how you might want to sleep, be open to changing your plans when the baby gets here, and look on Craigslist for a cheap used version of whatever you want.

We don't have a stroller and we don't need one. Do you think you'll need a stroller? We've always just used a carrier, which keeps the baby strapped to a parent. First we used a Moby and now we have an Ergo and a mei tai. You don't need to get any of these things before the baby is born. You can wait till the baby is here and see what you feel like you need.

No, you don't need a changing table. Some people like having changing tables and you can have one if you want. You can get one after the baby is born if the need arises. We use towels or waterproof pads on the bed/floor/wherever and I really appreciate not having yet another piece of furniture around.

We found that, early on, a bouncer seat was very useful. It's a nice place to put the baby so she doesn't get stepped on.

A swaddle was helpful. We used the Halo Sleepsack swaddle, first in newborn size, then in small. It was super.

Diapers, onesies, some warm things, a couple hats to wear outside, socks, a few blankies, baby nail clippers - those are all nice to have, but no need to get them now unless something really appeals to you. People are likely to give you these things, and whatever you need you can buy anywhere at the last minute. It's good to have wipes/towels for cleaning up pee and poop and barf and milk, and it's nice to have some diaper cream.

A nursing pillow is nice for breast or bottle feeding.

You can get loads of totally decent baby clothes at thrift/consignment stores.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:34 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Congratulations. Here's a previous thread.

We didn't use a changing table. My aunt had made a lovely basket, and it held 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, including one in the diaper bag when we started going places. We had a small dresser for the tiny clothes and baby paraphernalia. It was used as a changing table when he was a toddler, then it was his dresser (he grew up).

Onesies, sleepers, blanket sleepers. Onesies and sleepers can be layered if it's a bit chilly. 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 flannel 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. They are certified in the US, and I think they all provide great protection, so the rest is convenience. Stroller - ours was a cheap umbrella stroller, and I would have enjoyed a nicer one, but it was okay. We just used a canvas carrier bag as a diaper bag. A seat for the baby to sit in and watch you make dinner, fold laundry, etc.

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. A friend gave me a (non-electric) pump, which was used occasionally. I enjoyed sitting in a rocking chair to nurse, but we already it. I used folded paper towels as breast pads, because we always had them in the house.

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 I liked 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.

Get a digital thermometer. They sell diapers at lots of places, as well as baby lotion, shampoo, diaper cream, etc., so unless you're in the boonies, you can pick up supplies easily.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 PM on April 30, 2012

Oh, +1 on theora's mention of a place for baby to safely watch you work in the kitchen. I used our reclinable high chair a lot from day one.
posted by lakeroon at 10:32 PM on April 30, 2012

Get away from baby-marketed stuff where possible. E.g. We bought a kitchen island and put a $15 changing pad on top -- perfect height, and way more storage than "proper" changing tables have.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:00 PM on April 30, 2012

My LO just turned 11mos, so I was in your shoes a year or so ago. I don't really like shopping either, but more than that I hate having things around that go unused. So I try to make sure everything is a bargain or does double duty somehow.

I used Baby Bargains, together with reviews on Amazon and the Babies R Us website to decide what I wanted. Then I looked for those items on Craigslist. Got some good deals that way.

We use our video monitor daily. We are both tall, so we really appreciate having the changing table, as opposed to having to get on the bed or floor for changing. Very helpful in the beginning when I was so sore, and very helpful now that Short Story is wiggly and likes to try to crawl away during changes (for instance, he got away from Grandma when she was changing him on the sofa, that ended in a HUGE mess. That was two weeks ago). I fretted the most over the carseat, insisting that we had to get one rated to the highest weight because, again, we are big people, so surely Short Story would be big too. And he his. Did you know that babies almost universally outgrow their carseat by height before they do so weight? Yeah, me neither. So we got a new carseat a month ago, which ticked me off to no end because I was figuring to keep the first one for a couple of years. Get a snap-n-go stroller to go with your carseat. They are the lightest weight and you will appreciate that when you are loading it in and out of the car.

Don't buy clothes, you will get a ton. Let people gift to you a swing, bouncy seat, and a jumperoo. We put Short Story in his at 3mos, and he still occaisiinally goes in it now, although a lot less because he,is practicing walking. But it got a ton of use.

That's about it. People always ask how many diapers you will need; we used 6 or 7 packs (40-count) of newborn diapers before we graduated to size 1. Our LO went up in sizes fairly quickly, so keep your receipts.

Most importantly, Amazon is a godsend to new parents. Get on Amazon Prime and get free second day shipping. It is awesome not having to run out to the store with a newborn.
posted by vignettist at 11:26 PM on April 30, 2012

I was totally broke when I had my first kid and my mother-in-law threw a lot of stuff our way. Some was fantastic (baby wipes, nappies, singlets, what Americans call onesies and Australians call Bond's wondersuits) and others cute but unnecessary (and actually a bit of a nuisance) nappy holder (a sort of hammock thing), a swinging crib for first three months.

I could not get by without my baby carrier (worn on the front) until they were too big, and I did like the baby bath. I could do it on the kitchen table and pop baby onto a towel there too. I found them (the babies) too slippery in the shower or the bath, and that was my only alone time.
posted by b33j at 11:49 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

What you need is a friend who has children slightly older. Once you get downstream from someone/s like that you will never have to worry again.

The one thing that I absolutely wouldn't go without is an Ergo baby carrier and some diapers. The clothes and rest came to us in huge bags.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:55 AM on May 1, 2012

We've used our changing table every day with our now-almost-2-year-old. My husband likes to build things, so he got some wood and built it himself. Saved some money, and it was sturdier than anything we found in our price bracket at stores.

So many of these things are personal preference. I love the diaper genie, but our kid's room is upstairs and I didn't want to be hauling small trash bags downstairs every day.

The two things I could definitely live without were wipes warmer and bottle warmer. Never had a wipes warmer, used the bottle warmer twice.

There are tons and tons of baby carriers, we love the Action Baby Carrier (started using it when he was maybe a month old, still sometimes use it now that he's a toddler).

I thought a Pack & Play (playpen) would be not worth it, but it turns out that we use it all the freaking time. Depends on how touchy a sleeper your kid is, ours ends up in a Pack & Play in our room most nights because he refuses to sleep through the night in his crib.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:54 AM on May 1, 2012

We lived in a one bedroom apartment when our son was born and as such, tried to keep all of the STUFF down to the bare minimum. We acquired stuff as we needed it, which I think is really the way to go and absolutely how I'll do things again when we eventually get to round two. Babies R US (or whatever the Australian equivalent is!) will still be there after the baby is born! Stuff will still be produced! You don't have to get it all at once!

Our set-up:
- changing table/dresser: Due to space concerns, I made sure that our changing table doubled as a dresser for storing all of the baby's clothes. Not just one or two drawers to hold some diapers. We got a six-drawer model which, yes, fit each and every onesie in it in addition to all of the diapers, burp rags, etc. Having nannied previous to having my own kiddo, I personally wanted a changing table that was the right height rather than leaning precariously over a bed, which gets tiresome on my back after the eighth change of the day. We'll still be able to use this simply as our son's dresser when he stops needing to be changed on it.

- Co-sleeper/bassinet: We didn't have a crib until we moved when our son was six months old. He slept in our room with us - first in a co-sleeper, then in a Pack N Play when he outgrew that. We were co-sleeping out of necessity, but second time around I'll still start with the baby in our room just to make the midnight feedings easier.

- Car seat. I picked an infant carrier based on which one was the lightest since car seat + baby gets heavy after a while. For the second baby, considering I'll also be wrestling a toddler, I'll probably skip the infant bucket style seat and go straight to a regular convertible car seat. The downside there is that you have to fully remove the sleeping baby from the seat, but the upside is you only ever buy *one* seat.

- Babywearing aparatus: We only had the Ergo when we started and for a newborn, it wasn't really the right fit. The infant insert works fine, but it's super bulky and hard to wear around the house. I got a ring sling, which was ok... but will probably end up buying a mei tai next time around. This is largely trial and error. Find something that you like using and get it, but you won't know until baby arrives how *baby* feels about it, which will be a crucial factor. Try to borrow this stuff if you can before buying it!

Stuff we had but didn't use right away:

- The stroller was kind of a dud until around six months. He'd go in it ok, but didn't really LOVE it and it was easier to wear him. We still mostly wear him and he goes in the stroller for long walks and that's pretty much it. We do take said walks pretty often now that he likes the stroller, but for day to day stuff, we could have easily put off buying it until he was six months or so.

I think that's it for that category anyway.

Stuff we NEVER used:

- Baby tub. We had one, but I took the first bath *with* our son and after that the idea of bathing alone did not appeal to him. He's 13mos now and I still bathe with him as a safety thing because he's a wiggly, squirmy fellow who is likely to slip and bang his head without someone keeping a hand on him.

- Rocking chair. When it did come in handy, it was a lifesaver. That said, this wasn't enough to really get our money's worth. The rocking chair came in most handy for me when I was in labor, and for that it was worth every penny, but I wouldn't recommend that all new parents go out and buy one. Ours wasn't comfortable for holding the baby for long stretches - a casualty of buying online and not testing it out first. Be sure you test the chair while holding something in your lap as you would hold a baby to be sure the chair doesn't whack your arms funny.

Stuff we didn't think we'd use and had to acquire:

- Swing. We had a vibrating type bouncy seat, but this didn't provide enough *motion* to soothe the cranky newborn. Went out and got the cheapest swing that Target had and oh, it was a lifesaver. I recommend buying something cheap and seeing how baby feels about it. Some babies go for the bouncy seat. Some don't. Some need a swing. Some hate it. No way to tell before hand.

- Play mat. Oh, I scoffed at the baby gym. "Baby doesn't need a silly gym!" Then he hit three months and started wanting to actually *play* with things and it was a genius way of keeping him occupied and happy for moments at a time. He even fell asleep on it occasionally!

- Exersaucer. This is bulky and we got ours after we moved into a bigger place, but really, after he discovered sitting up - the swing wasn't enough for him anymore. He wanted to be really upright. We've used our bouncy saucer every day for the last seven months and he's going to outgrow it any day now and I'm a little sad that it won't be so easy to keep him in *one place* while I make dinner!

Stuff we purposefully waited until later:

- Highchair. Didn't need until he was six months.

- Crib. Waited until we moved into a bigger place, but even then, he wasn't ready to transition out of our room until five months at the earliest.

Last tip: you can never have too many onesies or blankets. Ever. The concept of "too many" does not exist in these categories.
posted by sonika at 6:03 AM on May 1, 2012

I won't add to the list but will just give this piece of reassurance: Anything that you will REALLY need urgently can be purchased at a supermarket or drug store/pharmacy. Anything that you find you want can be ordered by mail and will arrive in a few days.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:25 AM on May 1, 2012

Congrats! You might want to shelve the shopping and just ask friends who already have kids and are done with babyhood for stuff and then once you have a base of stuff then go shopping. Also, some friend of yours probably loves to go shopping, bargain hunting and comparing items - ask them if they want to help. Part of what makes it so hard is that we don't know yet what you will need - some babies love to be rocked so a rocker and a bouncy are really helpful, others do not; some parents are comfortable with baby being on the floor (for changes, sleeping, playing while you cook dinner, in the shower), some are not; etc. You can also buy everything used (except a car seat (you would not buy a used helmet so don't buy a used car seat) and breast pump tubings (we don't share our sex toys either)) and you can buy as you go.

A basic list for your first weeks that I made for friend - lots of this stuff you have, some stuff will be just given to you.

For You
witch hazel (treats hemorrhoids and perineal swelling)
frozen maxi pads (same)
2 nursing bras (you will need to be resized after your milk comes in and buy 2 more) and breast pads for leaks (or old t-shirts cut up)
Night light to see if the baby has latched on properly
a visit from lactation consultant/doula/midwife - it is worth it to have her come to your house
pillows and water stations around the house for nursing/resting/being
make some foods that you like and freeze them

Things you probably already have
washcloths (which are good for spit up, cleaning babe and babe butt, and a whole host of other things)
large towel for patting dry after wash cloth bath
bag to carry stuff in (they give you a "formula bag" at the hospital is the US or something - take the formula out and use the bag until you figure out what you need)
trashcan for diapers (they do not smell much at first so you can use any old can with a lid)
nail clipper or scissors (you can use a small adult version or get a baby version)- you could also use your teeth

Things you need for babe

onsies and sleepers (newborn to 6 m size because you do not know how big yours will come out or how fast yours will grow) - people will probably give you these
hats (again you want a couple sizes) - again you will get these
diaper cream
I liked the calendula cream for itching/skin irritations
car seat
stroller or carrier - (moby or other cloth wrap)
light wrapping blankets (we loved the the linen ones)
waterproof pad/changing pad for diaper area and for diaper bag (you can also just use towels stacked on top of each other)
(you will probably need a slightly heavier blanket but someone will give that to you)

Diapers: (one package newborn and small disposable (and wipes or you can just use washclothes or cut up old t-shirts) because it is a pain to work around the umbilical cord with cloth and if you decide to do cloth - you will need diapers and/with covers and fasteners (snappi or pins))

We did not discuss where this person is going to sleep because, well, that is a big kettle of fish. But I have yet to meet a baby in the first weeks that slept anywhere but within arms reach of mama.

You do not need much in the beginning and there will be plenty of time to go shopping (but with purpose) once the baby arrives.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 6:32 AM on May 1, 2012

I don't have babies, but I have lots and lots of friends who do.

One thing I liked, and I think it's a great idea is the bedroom set that starts out as a crib, then goes to a mini bed, then goes to a double bed. It's way more attractive than a regular crib and I like that it morphs as your baby grows.

Also, in that same set is a dresser with a changing tray on top. You can always use the storage. If you like the changing table, hey! If you don't, it's a dresser!

I never met a baby who didn't like to bathe in the kitchen sink. The Ikea Domsjo was perfect for this. Most kitchen sinks will do.

I have a Diaper Genie for my cats! (Technically, it's called a Litter Locker, but it uses the exact, same inserts.) I like it, YMMV.

You will get tons of clothing and gee-gaws from friends, so don't go nuts with that stuff. In the first few weeks a t-shirt and diaper will work fine for your newborn.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:01 AM on May 1, 2012

We're due in July and haven't bought anything yet! We have gotten a lot of hand-me-downs, though. People will probably start offering stuff to your wife soon.
posted by yarly at 7:14 AM on May 1, 2012

Do work the friends who have an attic full of old Pack'n'Plays, but also, all these answers have to be filtered through your own lifestyle and circumstances. For example, we live 2 blocks from the hospital where we delivered, so we did *not* need a car seat on day 1, but instead spent our early money on a good stroller with rubber tires that could go up and over broken bricks and generally navigate our urban environment. Similarly, I cared that groceries could fit underneath; for others, folding into the trunk would be more important.

You don't need that much at the beginning. Clothes you'll probably have too much of (from friends), which turns out to be good, but other stuff is flexible -- you can always make a run later. It is good to have some kind of bassinet or Moses basket for that first disconcerting time you actually want to set the baby down (!), and to let yourselves occasionally do something else while it's napping, but otherwise a heap of diapers, some burp cloths (although cloth diapers are the best for this, and cheap), and some kind of carrier (to wear or shlep) will get you through the beginning maelstrom....

Good luck!
posted by acm at 7:59 AM on May 1, 2012

Our baby is 4 months old, so this is a topic that is fresh in my mind.

I hate shopping, too, and the process of figuring out what we "needed" was completely overwhelming. Luckily, we are "downstream" from a couple of other families. I am not going to tell you, "Oh, don't worry about it, people will just give you stuff" because it is entirely possible that they won't. But if there are people in your social circle who have children already -- especially toddler/preschool age -- connect with them now. What I found, without trying, is that families with toddlers still have the baby gear taking up space and are anxious to get rid of it. They are also usually ecstatic to welcome you to the Baby Club. So, connect with them now - obviously not just to get their baby clutter, but to have some friends who have been-there-done-that. Take whatever they offer - you can get rid of what you don't need, and it's helpful to not have to overthink any of it.

As mentioned above, babies don't actually need all that much, and what they do need, you can get in short order.

So, my disjointed list of tips:
1. Let friends/family know that you are open to hand-me-downs of clothes, gear, whatever. Especially things like swings/vibrating seats/rocking bassinets/etc. There's no way to know if your baby will like one thing over another, so it's awesome if you can try these things out without investing any money in them.
2. Ruthlessly de-clutter your home now. Create space for all the baby gear that's coming in over the next year, even if you don't know what that stuff is yet. Make your home comfortable.
3. Stockpile cash. Once you have baby at home, it's unlikely that you are going to want to go on the hunt for the best deal during the early months. For example, we didn't get a breastpump ahead of time because the plan was for me to exclusively breastfeed until Baby was a few months old, so we figured we had plenty of time. We struggled with breastfeeding the first couple of weeks and our action-plan required using an electric pump, starting the hour after the "oh crap Baby has lost too much weight" appointment at the pediatrician's. It was really nice to not have to sweat the cost. And then we only needed the pump for a week or so. (Now I'm using it again that I'm back at work.)
4. Yes, babywearing is wonderful. Again, things didn't go as planned - we had planned to be babywearers for the first couple of months, and I did try, but I had a pelvic injury from giving birth that made it painful to walk. It wasn't until we caved and bought a proper stroller that I was able to heal properly and enjoy taking baby out and about. But our baby does enjoy her "baby sling" (some discontinued brand, don't know how to describe it) and the Ergo, but hated the Moby. Again, like with other baby gear, you can't know ahead of time what will work for your baby. The sling is sometimes the only way my husband can soothe the baby, YMMV.
5. Car seat, yes.
6. My vote is yes for some sort of changing table/station. A relative bought a dresser of an appropriate height and added a rim to the top to contain a changing pad. It's handy - plenty of storage and easy on the back. Yes, I do sometimes change my baby on the bed or somewhere else, but, it's nice to have a dedicated space to do it. Also, my baby mastered the art of projectile pooing, so I'd rather have that happen at the usual spot rather than all over the house. YMMV. The "changing table" will return to being a piece of regular bedroom furniture when the diaper days are over.
7. Swaddling blankets - nice big ones - and a link to the YouTube videos showing how to swaddle a baby. Tellingly, we did not receive these as hand-me-downs, but as brand-new presents.
8. Co-sleeping is really great, but it's handy to have somewhere for baby to sleep that's not your bed.
9. For mum: a friend of mine gave me a large shopping bag filled with a variety of brands of super-absorbent menstrual pads. I can't describe how awesome it was, but it was. I will do the same for other friends. A tube of lanolin. A big water bottle. I only wear nursing bras when I go out, so they didn't get worn too often during the early weeks.
10. Oh! Waterproof mattress liner for your bed. My friend urged me to get one because she insisted that all pregnant women or new moms wet the bed at some point. Well, I didn't, but our mattress is protected from breastmilk, baby barf, baby leaks, etc. They are pretty cheap at Ikea.

So how it turned out for us is that before the birth, the only things we bought were the diapers, wipes, and "diaper pail" (plastic trash bin with washable liner - we use cloth nappies); that mattress pad; one nursing bra; and a car seat. We easily made do with the hand-me-downs for everything else. And because we didn't overbuy during the pregnancy, we didn't feel like we had to work too hard to optimize price/quality on the things we bought after baby was born (stroller/pump).
posted by stowaway at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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