What Does a New Baby Need Anyway?

There are no mobiles on my "musts" list. But we made this one for Harper and thought ourselves verrrrrry funny.

I happened to see that a facebook friend – my husband’s cousin, actually, who lives in Minnesota in something called a “house” – posted a query about new baby essentials, and that people had posted lists of suggestions that seemed faintly ridiculous to me.  Baby bouncer?  Exersaucer? Bottle warmer?  Wipes warmer?  Nah!  I was overcome by the urge to disagree.  And here I am, disagreeing!  I disagree!

Of course part of it is the small space I live in.  Maybe if I had a whole house at my disposal I would be less likely to recoil in horror at words like “Jumparoo.”  But honestly, who wants to spend money (or ask others to spend money) on a bunch of stuff you may never use?  Doesn’t that make anyone feel a little, I don’t know, dirty?  Here’s the thing about small babies: their needs are so few, and pretty soon their needs will be so many, and for so long.  I figure, why not take advantage of the brief time when all they really want is to be fed and held and sleep occasionally?  Also: each stage lasts about fifteen minutes, so if you can borrow stuff from friends and then pass it along a few months later, why not.

But thinking about this all is is a good reminder to me too, as our preparations for new baby Boombox have been minimal at best.  By that I mean nonexistent.  His crib is waiting vacant for him, so he’s got that going for him.  But let’s see if I can remember what we really ended up needing for baby Harper…here I go…in the way-back machine…all the way to…2009…

1)      Place to sleep.  Since our space is tight, we got a mini-crib that she really has only gotten close to outgrowing now, at almost 2 years old.  I love our BabyMod Roxanne mini-crib which is awesomely an inexpensive Wal-Mart knock-off of a fancy modern crib.  You are somewhat limited in what bedding you can find for a mini-crib, but we wanted plain white sheets anyway so didn’t care.  We never did a bassinet or anything like that.  Also, really — shhh! — she ended up sleeping with us a lot.

2)      Carseat. Well, duh.  We got a Britax convertible one that you can use until the kid is like ten, but everyone else in the world seems to have a Graco snap-and-go.  Whatever. Boring.  Next.

3)      Stroller. Hm, this is actually a tough one.  It really really depends on your lifestyle.  We walk all the time so needed a big-enough-for-groceries-and-stuff-but-not-too-big-to-pull-up-stairs kind of deal, and when someone gave us (!) a hand-me-down Bugaboo Bee we thought we’d scored big, since it can take a kid from infant to toddler and is relatively lightweight and even cute in a space-age way.  But the minimalist in me is sad to admit you really do also need another stroller or two — a super duper lightweight cheapo umbrella stroller for traveling and lugging up and down subway stairs and such, and maybe even also a slightly more tricked out foldy stroller for those inbetween times.  Sorry.  I was disappointed too.

4)      Sling/baby carrier. We pretty much wore Harper for the first year of her life.  She wasn’t crazy about the stroller and it’s just so much easier, and also snuggly.  At first when she was still, as a boy in the park said once, in the curly stage, I used a pouch-style sling– very easy to use.  Then we moved onto the Beco Butterfly, which I loved.  It’s basically the Ergo, which is more popular around here anyway, but better suited for smaller-framed-mamas.

5)   Place to change packages from stinktown.  I know plenty of people who don’t have a changing table.  Top of the dresser, wherever.  Doesn’t matter.   And I hate to admit it, but once they start eating solids, a diaper pail is nice.  Before then nothing’s too terribly stinky.

6)     Bottles and a pump, just in case.  We literally own two bottles.  But buying pump beforehand actually is a little silly since you don’t know how serious a pump you’ll need yet.  I used the little handheld Medela one because I almost never pumped, but if you’re going back to work or end up having breastfeeding troubles or something you’ll need a big serious one.

8)      First aid kit with thermometer. It’s easy to forget about the non-cute stuff (and no one wants to buy it off your registry!), but get a first aid kit just in case.  And remember that unless you live in the woods or something, there is some 24-hr-pharmacy nearby and that it will still exist after the baby’s born.

9)      Some clothes: pack of onesies, long nightgownie things, little hats.  Depends on the season.  But really, at first, some onesies and pjs and blankies will do.

Don’t need, but nice to have:

1)  Swaddle.  The nurses at the hospital gave us a tutorial in swaddling Harper all neatly that made it look so easy you could do it blindfolded, which these nurses could.  Whenever we tried, though, she looked like a wad of matted-up napkins leftover after a hurried meal.  So it was helpful to have an awesome straightjackety Halo Sleep Sack swaddle.  But some babies hate being swaddled, so don’t bother stocking up.

2)      Baby bathtub.  But not really.  For the first few months we used a big wooden salad bowl in the sink and she was snug and happy.  Then we moved on the Primo EuroBath which frightened me at first because it was so big (and takes up half our bathroom, so has to be stored in the regular tub) but which we can still use with our enormous toddler child, so I like it.

3)  Buzzy chair. Before Harper was born I thought these baby bouncer chairs were really stupid, but got one for free and was really happy I had.  Sometimes you just need to put the kid down for a second, and the rocking and vibrating would soothe Harper for up to 20 seconds at a time, allowing me a chance to pee or whatever.  In my perfect world I would get one of those really beautifully designed ones that realistically babies probably like a lot less than the awful bright plastic ones.  But whatever.

Hm, yeah, that’s really all I can think of!  I’m sure I’m forgetting things.  Oh, diapers, but come on, everyone knew that.  The first time I was pregnant, I saw lists that included all sorts of stuff for feeding solids (you won’t need that for AGES! Or I mean months) and all these toys and stuff, and it just stressed me out, and this time around it feels nice just not to stress out about any of that.  Trust me, people will give you toys and cute clothes and more stuffed animals than you’ll know what to do with.  We borrowed a playmat that Harper was moderately into, but no more than she would have been into any blanket and pile of rattles and things.  We also borrowed an exersaucer that’s been awesomely, Park Slope-style, making the rounds amongst our neighbors, that I think Harper hung out in for a total of like ten minutes.  We never missed having a swing or wipes warmer or screaming plastic mobile or any of that.

But I don’t know, maybe this list is too minimal.  Any other musts?

13 responses to “What Does a New Baby Need Anyway?

  1. My Brest Friend – http://www.mybrestfriend.com/

    Miracle Blanket – http://www.miracleblanket.com/ Our daughter went from sleeping 6-7 hours a night to sleeping 11-12 hours a night when we committed to swaddling her arms down, even though we thought she didn’t like it. (Based on advice from the book, Happiest Baby on the Block)

    Agree that bouncy seat is essential, because that’s where I put baby when I take a shower, in the bathroom with me. For safety, and sanity, some place to safely set baby down is essential.

    Might add white noise machine to this list. Bed, Bath, and Beyond has affordable ones for nursery. This is once the baby is sleeping in her crib, it helps to dampen noise and soothe baby. My friends say “it makes a small home seem large.”

    I’d also add protein shakes and organic food bars to the list. Parents must nourish themselves, and meals can fall by the wayside.

    • You know, we took a breastfeeding class (silly, in retrospect!) and the lactation consultant who taught it LOVED the My Breast Friend. I was always happy with just a regular pillow, but I know some babies are fussier nursers, and that nursing is less comfortable for a lot of moms. For a white noise machine, we’ve always just used a fan or humidifier but that’s a totally good idea. And protein bars, yes! I should add Fiber One bars to my list. They are delicious, quick, and were the only thing that allowed me to poop. I mean, I’m sorry but after having a baby you don’t poop for like six months and it’s awful!!
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Probably depends on the kid, but wow, did Owen ever love the thing you hang in the doorway so the kid can jump and swing. HOURS, I tell you, he spent in that thing: three jumps forward, swing back, flapping a potholder in each hand the whole time. It kept him out from under the boiling pots while we were cooking. Fan-flipping-tastic.

    Buzzy chair, though? Not a fan.

  3. The one and only thing I recommend to all new mamas, because it was seriously the most useful, helpful, multi-purpose, can’t-go-a-day-without-it gift I got from anyone, is a 4 pack of those nice lightweight cotton blankets that Aden and Anais makes. Perfect size to fold in half and make an easy swaddle. Roll up and put under elbow to support when nursing smally or holding a sleepy smally. Sling over shoulder to hide nursing in public (or make a distraction-free zone for smallers). Flop over stroller when sun is in smally’s eyes or when smally is sleeping and needs a little breathable cocoon. Throw down on grass when you’re at the park. Absorbs barf and drool. Can be warm or cool. Do not be a fool. GET THESE BLANKIES.

    In fact, merry baby birthday, Amy, I just ordered you some for Boombox. So there.

  4. That crib makes a cute double bed.

    Also, I definitely needed swaddling blankets of the right size — both of my babies couldn’t settle without swaddling.

    • Could you actually competently swaddle them in a blanket? Come over please and show us how. We needed the velcro-y ones because apparently we are ham-fisted.

      • I am an expert swaddler. It’s one of the only new baby things I feel competent doing. The key is to have blankets of the right size — most so-called baby blankets are more like large burp cloths.

  5. Also, different strokes for different folks. I purchased six different slings and carriers trying to find one that would work with my babies and I never used one of them for more than five minutes. I still don’t understand it.

    • So true. Harper was a firm believer in attachment parenting and wanted to be held at all times and hated her stroller until…actually she still kind of does. Although I will say I remember she squirmed at first and then once she got comfy in the carrier never wanted out. It was awfully snuggly, although I admit to sometimes being jealous of moms with babies peacefully snoozing in strollers while they had a meal out or something. Oh well.

  6. Thanks for a good run down of the major needs for a baby. I won’t be getting a wipes warmer (lame) or a bottle warmer for that matter. The kid will barely have need for a bottle with me around. And if s/he does, putting the bottle in a cup of hot water would do the trick.
    I’ve looked at a lot of lists of “must haves” and some seem silly to me. True, I would have more than enough room in my “house” to store all the junk but who wants to?
    I’ll look into the Beco Butterfly and a sling for early on. There are so many to choose from that it’s nice to have a recomendation.

    • Jenny, I think you are on the right track. Also, as a nanny I’m sure you have tons more experience with kiddos and what they actually need/use than most expecting moms. ALSO CONGRATULATIONS OH MAN IT’S SO AWESOME! You guys are going to be incredibly cute parents.

  7. Oh, Siobhan, that is a good one! So true. And they are so pretty, too. And YAY FOR ME! I was going to write, I never had those for Harper, but now I can write, Boombox has one new thing to call his own and it is a pack of beautiful blankies. Thanks!!! I knew there was some point to this blog!

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