What do you need to have ready for your baby before you head off to the hospital to give birth?
Once your baby bump starts to feel real (in case morning sickness and your ample bosom weren’t “real” enough), it’s a good time to start looking for the most essential things to get before your baby is born. Your home and accessories don’t have to be perfect for your child to be happy, babies are very easily satisfied as long as you’re around. But to make the first few days and the daily routines a little easier for you and your partner in your new roles as parents, it’s a good idea to have some of the most essential baby items ready.
Where will your baby be sleeping? Whether your baby will be in a cot next to you in your bedroom for the first few months, or in their own nursery, here are a few things that will come in handy:
- A cot or baby bed and mattress – some brands sell mattresses separately. If you order online, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you are buying. If you buy in a store, you get a good sense of its stability. Too tired to haul it home or too busy to assemble it yourself? Check if your store delivers and/or offers to set it up in your home.
- 4-5 sheets, (pillow cases) and duvet covers – You always need more spares than you think…
- Cloth nappies are handy for covering your baby’s pillow and swapping out for a clean one if you have a spit-up situation.
- Dummies – Friends and family will each swear by a specific brand. Since neither they, nor you, know your baby just yet, try a few on for size before you commit. Look for latex-free brands without artificial colours. Don’t be surprised if your baby spits out every model you try to offer; not everyone likes dummies. You can find other ways to comfort your baby, with a soft plush toy or security blanket.
- Baby Alarm – Even if your baby’s crib is in your bedroom, a baby alarm is helpful for when baby needs to nap during the day, and you’re somewhere else in the house.
Baby’s changing table
Your baby’s changing table can be in your bedroom, the nursery, or bathroom. If you keep your changing table close to your baby’s cot or bed, it will create the least interruption if you have to change your baby’s nappy and/or clothes in the middle of the night.
- Changing table – If you have room for a big changing table with drawers and shelves, you can store all your skin care products, nappies and other essentials in one unit. If space is a little tight, go for a wall-mounted changing table you can close when it’s not in use. One size doesn’t always fit all. You may want to look for a height adjustable changing table to fit your needs. Carrying around a baby can take a toll on your back, so giving yourself the best possible “work spaces” can make a huge difference.
- Changing pad – look for a soft, skin-friendly plastic or rubber cover that’s easy to clean.
- Cloth nappies or disposable changing mats to catch any nappy changing spillage.
- Skin-friendly baby wipes or wash cloths (soft cotton or eco-friendly disposables) to clean baby from head to toe. Frequent baths are nice but can dry out your baby’s soft skin. Gentle cleaning is fine for your everyday routine.
- Baby oil, lotion and cream. Your baby’s skin is naturally soft but frequent nappy changes, and the cleaning that goes along with them, can sometimes dry out their skin. Use perfume-free products based on natural ingredients that do not contain any harmful chemicals.
- Soft hair brush to prevent or gently brush away dandruff or peeling from cradle cap. (Neither is anything to worry about, and it’s easily treated with a mild, perfume-free baby oil. Check with your doctor if it persists or if you suspect it might be an allergic reaction or eczema.)
- A baby bathrobe or soft towel – This is handy for keeping your baby snug and warm at changing time.
- Nappies, nappies, nappies. You probably only need a couple of packages of the new-born nappy size, since your baby will most likely outgrow them very quickly. Lots of stores (both brick-and-mortar and online) offer baby starter packs with samples from various brands. Collect a few for your first days at home so you can test which ones suit your baby’s needs best. Then you can always stock up when you’ve found your favourite.
- Nappy waste basket – A nice-to-have, if you have room for it. This is a convenient way to get the dirty nappy out of the way.
How often should you give your baby a bath? Two or three times a week is perfect for a new-born. You can make bath time part of your baby’s evening ritual to unwind before bedtime.
- Baby shampoo – Most baby shampoos are gentle enough to be used for hair (if they have any!) and body. Your baby’s skin is soft and delicate, so choose a brand that is skin-friendly, and free of perfume and harmful chemicals that can cause irritation or allergies.
- Baby bath tub – A special baby-sized bath tub with a slanted edge and seat can help you prop up your little one during bath time. A simple, round or elliptical-shaped tub with a flat bottom is just fine, too – you can easily support your baby’s back and head with your arm. Ask your paediatrician to show you the best technique if you’re not sure how.
Breastfeeding requires very little extra equipment, of course, but if you supplement with formula or go for bottle feeding entirely, it’s not rocket science, either.
- Bottles. A lot of brands offer latex-free products. Look for products that can be easily sterilised using a microwave (to save time). Depending on how much you end up nursing vs. bottle-feeding, buy enough bottles to get you through a 24-hour cycle, typically 8-10 bottles will keep you going.
- Breast pump – This is a nice-to-have when you’re breastfeeding and want to stock up on extra servings if you need someone else to look after baby on a regular basis.
Clothes for a new-born baby
- Onesies – You almost can’t get enough of these. Choose cotton, wool, or other skin-friendly, natural fibres and materials.
- Weather-appropriate clothes. You WILL be accumulating a lot more laundry when you have your baby. On a busy day, your baby may go through several sets of clothes, if they have nappy spillage, spit-ups, (or accidentally rolls over the dog’s food bowl when they start scooting around). Have enough sets ready so you don’t have to stress about freshly-washed clothes drying in time for the next accident. But remember, your new-born will outgrow a clothes size within a few weeks, so if you buy too many items, your baby may not have time to even try them on before they’re on to the next size up. Your baby will need more or less the same type of clothes you wear. Shorts and t-shirts for summer, snow suits for winter, and everything else in between.
Baby to go, please
- Pram and/or Pushchair – if you have a car, look for a pram or pushchair that folds up and flips up easily with one hand (your other hand may be full of baby) and fits in your car. If you’re mainly using public transportation, choose a lightweight model you can easily lift in and out of busses and trains.
- Rain cover or sun screen – Depending on where you live, or where you plan to go, a sun screen or rain cover for your pram or pushchair can save you from trying to dry a soaked baby vehicle somewhere in your house after a downpour, or keep your baby’s skin and eyes protected from direct sunlight.
- Nappy bag – Look for a light bag in a material that’s easy to clean. Lots of rooms make organising easier. Some nappy bags have straps that hook onto your pram or pushchair so you don’t have to carry it around. You can also use a backpack if you’re carrying baby in a carrier or sling.
- Baby carrier or sling – Carriers and slings are cool. You can keep baby close to you, you don’t have to worry about dragging baby wheels around, and you have both hands free!
- Travel cot – If you plan for baby to have regular sleepovers, with or without you, at friends’ or family’s places, this is an easy way to make sure baby always has a safe place to sleep. It may not be ideal to lug around if you’re using public transportation, but it should fit in most cars.
Meals for your family
The first few days or weeks at home with a new-born can be a little overwhelming. Your time is spent getting to know your baby’s signals, so of course your attention to other details will have lower priority. I you have time in the weeks before your due date, fill up your freezer and cupboards with ingredients for easy meals, like complete frozen dinners, frozen vegetables, deli meats, soups, cake and bread mixes, etc. so you, your partner, family or friends can easily put something relatively nutritious together fairly quickly; or arrange a schedule with family and friends who can stop by with a quick bite to eat.
Nursing bras and nursing pads for you
By mid/end of your pregnancy, you may be cursing metal underwires to a very dark place. Nursing bras are soft, flexible, provide much more comfort and support, and have room for nursing pads in case you start lactating towards the end. Make sure you get a model that is size-adjustable to fit you both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Bring incontinence pads with you everywhere in the days leading up to your due date. If your water breaks, they will be your best friend until you can make it to the hospital!