Your Baby's First Year: Stocking Up for the Big Arrival

After Baby comes home from the hospital, you need to be ready to rock and roll with supplies and clothing. (In fact, you won't even be able to drive Baby to your house without an infant car seat, so that should be at the top of your registry list). The following list covers the items you need during your first few days and weeks:

The big stuff

  • Infant (rear-facing) car seat: Baby needs something sturdy that will last at least through the first couple of years, so don't cut corners on this purchase.
  • Stroller: As soon as you're up to it, you want to show Baby off to the neighbors.
  • Crib: These vary widely in selection and price, so assess your needs before you buy. If you're planning on having a large family, for example, look for a sturdy crib that can be used again (and again).
  • Changing table: Having a designated area for diaper changes makes life easier. Stock it with all of the supplies you may need (listed in "Supplies" section).
  • Baby sack or sling: Slings allow for discreet and instant nursing and constant cuddling. Sacks carry Baby upright on your chest (also allowing for lots of snuggle time).
  • Swing: Wind-up swings are cheaper, but you may wake a sleeping infant when it stops. Battery-operated swings allow Baby to rest comfortably and quietly with no disruptions.
  • Infant seat: This serves as a safe place for you to put Baby while you're preparing his bottle or folding the laundry.
  • Bassinet or co-sleeper: Most infants need to feed so frequently in the early weeks that it's just more practical to have them in the same bedroom with their parents. A Moses basket-type bassinet is portable, so you can easily move it from room to room during the day. Co-sleepers (cribs with a side that drops down and opens up to the parents' bed) are very convenient.
  • Baby bathtub: After the umbilical cord heals, you can wash Baby in this small tub that fits right into your sink.

Clothing

  • One-piece outfits: You'll choose between sleepers (long sleeves, long legs) and rompers (short sleeves, short legs), depending on the time of year and/or climate. You need at least eight to ten of these.
  • Drawstring nightgowns: These are easier to manipulate at changing time than clothing with snaps, but they're a bit harder to find in stores these days.
  • One-piece undergarments: Similar to rompers, with short sleeves, no legs, and snaps in the crotch. The one-piece design doesn't bunch up under Baby's clothes, and adds a layer of warmth. Have at least eight of these on hand.
  • Mittens: These little mitts are designed to cover Baby's hands and prevent him from scratching his face.
  • Outerwear: A baby born in Maine in November is going to need a bunting of some sort, a hat, and baby mittens.
  • Booties and socks: Look for foot coverings with fairly strong elastic around the ankles. Babies who kick a lot are often left barefoot while their moms are searching for stray socks.

Supplies

  • Changing table supplies: Stock the table with diapers, a waterproof changing pad, wipes, petroleum jelly (for care of the circumcision), diaper rash ointment, and a covered trash can.
  • Burp cloths and bibs: Spare yourself from wearing spit up. Have at least four tiny bibs and/or six burp cloths handy.
  • Bottles and formula: You need four to six 4-ounce bottles during the early months; when Baby starts to eat more, you need four to six 8-ounce bottles. You also need a bottlebrush and a drying rack.
  • Breast pump: After you and Baby have successfully established breastfeeding (around 6 weeks), you can start pumping your milk. Your partner can take over the occasional feeding at that point.
  • Breast pads to prevent soaking your clothes: You'll really come to appreciate these items.
  • Diaper bags: You only use one at a time, but it doesn't hurt to have a backup.
  • Bath supplies: For sponge bathing Baby, you need baby soap and shampoo, a waterproof pad, cotton balls (for cleaning her eyes), baby nail clippers (or scissors), a comb, a bath thermometer, and a medium-sized bowl for water.
  • Pacifiers: Some babies love 'em, some hate 'em, and some are very particular as to what type of silicone nipple they'll accept. Have several different types on hand if you plan to comfort Baby with a binkie.
  • Linens: You need crib sheets (at least four), a crib quilt or blanket, a bumper pad (protects Baby's head from the side of the crib), receiving blankets (for swaddling, stroller outings, and placing Baby on an otherwise unprotected surface, like the floor), and baby-sized towels and washcloths.

Medicine chest

Losing sight of your furnishings? Hold on — you also need to stock the medicine cabinet with a few must-have items:

  • Thermometer: Ear thermometers are easy to use, but they aren't as accurate as their digital or mercury counterparts. Infants usually have their temps taken rectally, anyway.
  • Petroleum jelly: To help with the temperature taking.
  • Nose syringe: Useful when Baby is congested. (You will actually remove the mucus from her nose, and you'll realize then and there how much you love this child, because you wouldn't do this for just anyone.)
  • Cool mist vaporizer: You may be a fan of hot steam when you're congested, but because those vaporizers can cause severe burns, cool mist is a safer option for Baby's room.
  • Medicine syringe and spoon: For easy, accurate measurement and delivery of medication.
  • Bandages, antiseptic, tweezers, anti-itch cream, and diaper rash ointment: Babies get cuts, slivers, and rashes. Be prepared.

Supplementing the shower goodies

As if the above lists weren't enough, there are some things you may not receive at your shower that you need throughout Baby's first year, such as:

  • Clothes, in all sizes: Sizes you need include infant, 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, 6 to 9 months, and 9 to 12 months. Although it's tempting to purchase everything now, you may want to wait and see how Baby grows. It's not unusual for a big 6-month-old to wear 9- to 12-month clothing.
  • Toys: There are educational toys, amusing toys, and hybrids of each type for every age level. Baby gyms, for example, are a good early toy. They dangle eye-catching toys above Baby's head and encourage development of his hand-eye coordination.
  • Bathtub ring: After Baby is able to sit (or almost), he's ready to move into the real bathtub. These rings are designed to help him sit upright (though you should never, never leave him unattended).
  • Ring pillows: Designed to hold Baby during breastfeeding, prop up a smaller baby, and to fit around an older baby's bottom, helping him to sit up.
  • Playpen and/or baby gates: If you wind up with a very active baby, popping him in the playpen may be the only way you'll ever find time to make your lunch. Gates protect Baby from those areas of the house that aren't baby-safe.
  • Exercise ring: Pediatricians generally discourage the use of walkers and jolly jumpers (also called Johnny jumps-ups). There are just too many accidents involved in their use (walkers can easily slip down a flight of stairs with Baby on board, and jolly jumpers can actually flip Baby over on his head). With an exercise ring or saucer, Baby can rock and roll to his heart's content but can't actually go anywhere.
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