It's been a long time since I had a newborn at home (with no current plans to have another), but after an expectant friend asked me to share the must-have items we swore by, I realized I never shared our list. The amount of advice, tips, and "must-have" items you hear about when pregnant can feel overwhelming, so my goal here is to alleviate the stress for those who felt as flustered as I did. Keep in mind that these are just the items that worked for us and not necessarily the right products for everyone. I'd love for this post to serve as a resource and sounding board so that other people can add their favorite items, their biggest regrets, and the not-so-obvious pieces that made a big difference. Here are the essential things that made the first few months (and years) the easiest with a new baby:
We bought a beautiful bassinet that Sloan never slept in, not once (the only one who went in it with any consistency was Luna). We were very fortunate in that we were gifted our crib, from DucDuc, which was gorgeous and sleek and fit in with the overall vibe of the nursery. But there are lots of other options, at a fraction of the price, like this Ikea crib, which can be lowered as your child grows, and also transitions to a toddler bed. Be sure to also get a hypoallergenic mattress and at least two sets of 100% cotton fitted sheets (there's nothing worse than a middle-of-the-night laundry session). We've always used a noise machine (on the Brook setting) that stays on all night or can be programmed to turn off at a certain time.
We didn't buy a specific changing table and instead transformed a West Elm dresser and added a changing pad on top (make sure to get one with a clip!) so that it could eventually be used in Sloan's room once she got older. And be sure to stock up on changing pad liners that you can easily clean instead of having to wash the entire pad each time it gets dirty. Another very important purchase: a diaper pail. We did a lot of research on the best one, and we decided on the Ubbi (plus their plastic bags), which takes up very little room and does a fantastic job keeping odors at bay. As far as an additional item you totally don't need, but will make it lovely for your child and easier on you: a wipe warmer. It's basically a holding case for wipes (we liked these) so you can grab them with one hand while changing your squirmy baby and also eliminates having to use cold, wet wipes. Plus, we still use it today—it's easy enough to open that Sloan can access it herself when she's sticky or messy.
As for other things in the room, we kept it really simple. And while a glider isn't necessary, it certainly makes it much comfier for you and the baby, especially during the first few months when you're hardly sleeping and up feeding at all hours of the night. Ours was from Serena & Lily, which we positioned by a little side table where I could keep easy-to-reach essentials nearby. Along those lines: Investing in a fantastic breast feeding pillow proved to be really important for me. It clips around your waist so the baby can balance on top, which means your arms won't be as sore while holding them up and feeding them. We also set up a Nest camera in Sloan's room, which allowed us not only to check on her while we were at home, but it also allows you to have access to the camera even when you're not there. It also has a playback feature, so if you're curious about something (i.e. when Sloan broke out of her crib and appeared in our room in the middle of the night), you're able to see exactly what happened.
For breast feeding, I rented a hospital-grade pump, but I've heard rave reviews from my friends about the Spectra S1, which is the same strength but portable and rechargeable, so you're not glued to one place while pumping. You'll need extra parts, bottles, storage bags, a bottle brush, and a rack to dry it all once it's been cleaned.
Of course the time of year and weather should determine what you need for your baby... but when it comes to basics, we relied on newborn side-snap tees. These are ideal for when you first bring a baby home and you're dealing with the umbilical cord situation. Other essentials: pants, onesies (short and long-sleeved), socks, a pair of gloves (some babies are born with razor-sharp nails at birth), a hat, and some layers in the form of a sweater or jacket if he or she gets cold. People love to buy babies blankets, so you most likely won't have to stock up on those and same goes for shoes, since they really aren't necessary until they start walking.
Swaddles were a life-saver for us because Sloan took to them immediately. The idea behind them is that babies are used to being very cozy inside the womb and when wrapped up in a blanket (a.k.a. swaddled), they feel safe and secure. The Aden + Anais ones were our favorites since they're breathable and large enough to get a good burrito-like grip :) Some kids like them and others don't, so just try them out and see. Once we graduated Sloan from swaddles, we put her into a sleep sack, which is kind of like pajamas-meets-a-sleeping-bag. Since it's not advisable to have anything in a baby's crib at first, that also means no blankets. Each night, we put Sloan into long jammies and then zipped her up into her sleep sack, which kept her warm. Three other important things to register for: diapers (we like the ones by Honest Company and Seventh Generation), burp cloths (babies make ALL kinds of messes constantly) and bibs. Sloan was a major drooler, so we had to basically swap them out on her multiple times throughout the day. She never took a pacificer (only her two fingers), but a lot of other parents I know swear by these, which come attached to adorable little stuffed animals.
Though you can technically bathe a newborn in a regular tub or a sink, I wouldn't recommend it (especially if, like me, you didn't have a lot of experience with babies). We loved this one and used Mustela baby hair and body wash, which is good for sensitive skin and also smells amazing. Also, since there's nothing cuter than a baby in a hooded animal towel, get a couple of those too. Other things to keep on hand in the medicine cabinet: a thermometer, a Nose Frida (a device that allows you to clear your baby's congestion since they're too young to blow their noses), a nail file and/or clippers, and a hair brush (even if they don't have hair, brushing can help deter cradle cap).
One of the biggest purchases you'll make is a stroller. I remember stressing so much about this decision since there are so many different routes you can take, but honestly, they all do the same thing and it's really about figuring out what makes the most sense for your lifestyle. If you live in a small apartment, consider size. If you're going to be throwing your stroller in the car a lot, make sure you find one that can open-up easily with one arm (since most likely your baby will be in the other). For us, since we knew we'd mainly be walking around our neighborhood, we wanted one that could hold a lot of stuff beneath and that handled nicely on uneven sidewalks. We went with the Bugaboo Cameleon3, which takes you from birth to toddler-aged, and is incredibly sturdy and durable (don't forget to add on a cup holder, whether it's for a bottle or your to-go coffee). If possible, I'd suggest visiting a store where you can push around several different styles of strollers to get a feel for it before pulling the trigger.
For those times when you want to go for a walk without a stroller, we loved the original Baby Bjorn. As with everything, there are a ton of wonderful options, and it's all about figuring out what's most important to you. I liked this one since no infant insert was necessary, it was supportive for my back, and you can either wear it so the baby's facing towards you or away.
Easily the most stressful part about baby prep is figuring out which car seat to buy and making sure it's properly installed (SeatCheck.org is a helpful resource). You'll need to set up a base (we bought and liked this one), which you then can click your car seat into (this is the one we chose). Since this is about your child's safety, do lots of research to make sure that everything will fit properly in your car and that everything from the direction your child is facing to the angle of the seat is taken into account. Another thing that gave me comfort when we first brought Sloan home was a little mirror that let me check on her while we drove since they face backwards.
I'd love to hear: Are there any items you would add? Anything you would do without! Share in the comments below!