by Holly Lindsay-Miller
When I first got pregnant, I was on my way to becoming ever more conscientious in the way I lived. Truth be told, we were getting ready to go down to one income, and our home was not going to be spatially accommodating. We had to be thoughtful, and let’s face it, that’s hard to do in our modern, materialistic, consumerist world! We are told we need so many things as parents, and that has the subconscious effect of making us think that what we already have, who we are, isn’t good enough. We’re told we need THINGS to make us good parents. Just walk into a Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby! We might need 5-7% of what is sold in these retail superstores.
Well, first-time parents, we may not know that. We’ve never done it before. Yes, we know we have to follow the safety laws and get a car seat, and yes, we know our sweet babies need clothes and diapers. Everyone we know wants to buy toys galore, but what are those things we truly need and what are those things we absolutely do not? As they say in La Leche League meetings, treat this information as a buffet. Take what you want; leave what you don’t. We’re all in this together, after all!
Top 10 Must-Haves:
1. Breastfeeding support – We’ve all read or been told babies were born to breastfeed and that’s basically true, but often the beginning is tough. We now have nursing pillows, nipple creams, nursing bras and tanks, absorbent nursing pads, hydro-gel pads, nursing books, IBCLC’s, and what I deem most important, OTHER NURSING WOMEN! In our culture, we rarely grow up watching our mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends and neighbors nursing. We don’t necessarily know what normal looks like and how it feels.
2. A baby resource book – When our children get ill it’s unsettling, particularly in the first weeks of a baby’s. Children tend to have issues at night or weekends when we feel alone already. A good baby reference book, such as Dr. Sears’s The Portable Pediatrician, is such a nice go-to when you don’t know if what your wee-one is doing is normal, requires an after-hours nurse call, or a helicopter lift to your local emergency room. (Things feel so much bigger when the sun is down!)
3. A good baby carrier – Babies want to be carried. A lot. Finding a carrier before your baby is born can be hard. Deciding what brand to get can be anxiety-inducing. It doesn’t need to be! Remember, people have been wearing their babies since the beginning of time, and I doubt they had to research which brand or type. Choose a carrier based on what you’re drawn to. Borrowing or buying a used one is ideal before investing in a new one (they’re not cheap!), but even if you do buy a carrier and you hate it, it’s NO big deal. The resale value of carriers is quite good and you can try another one that catches your eye.
4. Thermometer – Not much else to say. It’s a good thing to have around the house if you don’t already.
5. Colic/Gripe Water – Babies get gassy; it’s a fact. Our diets have changed significantly since our hunting and gathering days and babies are still dealing with that on top of an immature digestive system. Food intolerances are not that uncommon, either. Having a homeopathic remedy for gas, irritability, and pain is just a good idea. Homeopathics have no side effects and are perfectly safe for our little ones. Some products have more inactive ingredients than others. Read the label and choose one with which you feel comfortable.
6. A safe place for baby to sleep – Ask yourself what will work best for YOUR family. No one knows you or your home life like you do. If that means sharing a bed, using a co-sleeper or a crib, so be it.
7. A Breastpump – (This will also show up in the 10 Items You Don’t Need! I like to keep you on your toes.) If you are a mama who will be going to work outside of the home, then this is essential. Get a double electric pump if you need to be efficient and quick while at work. Otherwise, a manual pump may be fine and more affordable. Do your research and stick with a reputable company. Do not buy used unless you know it’s a brand that is made safely for multiple users. Many health insurance companies are now providing pumps or reimbursing families the cost of the breastpump.
8. Healthy food – No matter how you get this done, whether it’s cooking a ton when you’re pregnant and freezing, having friends and family supply meals after the birth, creating a meal calendar, it’s a must. Cooking and meal prep tends to fall on our partners when they are already doing so much else taking care of mama and baby, cleaning, laundry, and sometimes hosting a vast numbers of visitors. A good supply of energy bars, easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and the like are great to grab and eat while nursing or anytime.
9. Blankets/burp cloths – I put these two together because I find that any kind of fabric is helpful for absorbing or covering. Babies are messy, and really let’s keep it real, so are we. Blankets are helpful for swaddling, lying on the floor to change a diaper, cover a nursing mother who wishes to be covered, cover a baby in the car, and on and on. Burp cloths are great for the various fluids that our babies insist on getting all over the place. The best kind is prefold cotton diapers (think old school and affordable.) Not only can they be used for baby-type spillage, but for a number of other cleaning/absorbing needs throughout the home and car.
10. A high-chair – Having a chair or some seating with a tray is really important, not only for your sanity (again, babies are messy beings!) but for safety. No matter whether you begin introducing solids at 6 months or 1 year, you need a place to keep your baby in one place where they are upright, stable and safe. They are free to experiment with texture and taste without us worrying they’ll get the mashed banana all over the dog.
Top 10 Things You Don’t Need
1. Travel system – I know, they are everywhere. They are also short-lived, bulky, cumbersome, and expensive. You may have noted that there is not a stroller on my must-have list. I don’t think they are must-haves. I realize wearing babies is a hot heavy business at times and strollers are awesome for older kids at, say, zoos or museums. But the travel systems are made for your baby’s car seat to hook into the base. Car seats are for cars, however. It is unlikely you will find yourself in a head-on collision with another strolling mama. (I hope not!) So get a good car seat, get a good carrier, and then down the road get a perfectly adequate, not-over-priced, nothing fancy-schmancy stroller. Think simple, think quality; think, “do I have to buy a minivan or Mack truck to get this thing to fit and still leave room for groceries?”
2. “Exersaucers”, bouncy seats, swings, etc. – I’m feeling preachy so I’m just going to come out and say, they aren’t necessary. Your baby is fine to lie on the floor while you take a shower or cook dinner. There are enough things to look at in your home, I’m certain. When you have a mover, pick up the dangerous, gross items and let them explore while you enjoy your 10 minutes (okay, 2 minutes) of “alone” shower time. A basket of toys or board books that only get pulled out during shower time should be enough of a distraction.
3. A bottle sterilizer – If you’re not using bottles, then definitely don’t get suckered into buying one. If you are using bottles, you don’t need to sterilize unless you have an immune-compromised child. Warm water and an environmentally-safe detergent should be sufficient.
4. Wipes warmer – Babies fuss during diaper changes, yes. We want to do everything we can to make their life comfortable. But this is something they will get over. I bet they don’t even remember the discomfort of cold wipes when they are grown. Warmers take up a lot of room on your counter and they tend to burn and dry out the wipes on the bottom.
5. Nursery set – A safe place to sleep is important, as I’ve already mentioned, but you need not get all HGTV for your new baby. They won’t notice whether they have a rainforest or hot air balloon theme. If it makes you feel good to paint and get all kinds of new furniture, it is okay, but it’s not a must.
6. Bath tub – Another short-lived thing. If you shop consignment stores, you see over and over again this item. It’s just easier to take a bath with your baby. The skin-to-skin is good for bonding and milk supply, and bathing is so fabulous when you’re new mama.
7. Baby monitor – Unless you live in a mansion, you most likely can hear if your baby begins to cry. I had one for my firstborn and I never once used it. However, if you will feel better with it, get one! But you’re still a diligent and magnificent parent if you don’t use one.
8. Breastpump – (Ha! I told ya!) Breastpumps can be great, but they are not needed in most circumstances. Unless you know you’re going to be going back to work, you can wait on this purchase until you figure out life (and nursing) with your new family member. Breastfeeding requires a lot of trust, since you cannot see exactly how much your baby is getting. This can be really hard! But if you have a growing, happy, peeing and pooping baby, and nursing feels good not painful, then your breasts are doing just what they are supposed to be doing without a pump. Things are good.
9. Baby shoes – They are cute, no doubt about it. They are also an unnecessary expense. Let those piggies be free! Before you know it the wee-one will be a running-one then you can go to town.
10. Fancy toys that tell you your baby will be smarter after playing with them – The market for raising a smart child is vast these days. Have you seen the infomercial where 18-month-olds are reading words on a TV? Kids don’t need battery-operated, noisy, plastic, headache-inducing toys and TV. Babies have few needs, but adults have lots of wants. Our children will be just fine with simplicity. I promise.