Just like planning for a wedding, planning for a baby is all about priorities. There isn't enough money in the world to purchase all the products the baby industry tells you you "need". I'd like to tell you that I understood this from the beginning and approached our registry and baby gear purchases sanely and methodically. That would only be true though if we lived in opposite world. I'm embarrassed to admit that about 15 minutes after peeing on a stick I was researching nursery decor (and that's only a slight exaggeration). Within weeks I was drowning in contradictory product reviews, must have registry lists, and enough opinions to make my head spin. I think it was mostly my way of channeling my anxiety over being a first time mom and having absolutely.no.idea what I was doing.
Eventually I realized (with the help of my husband) that one way of prioritizing everything was to focus on what we would need to bring the baby home first. This helped a lot, which is why I'm choosing this topic to start the baby gear discussion. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of baby gear, there are two major things that you need to understand.
One: Remember that stores will be open after the baby comes!
As our lactation consultant laughingly said, "It's like new parents think Target is closing for good after their baby comes." I realized that I was acting as if I believed that. You do not need to have everything under the sun by the time the baby is born.
Two: Remember that regardless of how much research you do, you will not know exactly what you need until that little baby gets here!
And this applies to every aspect of parenting. So, even though I'm going to give you my take on the Newborn Must-Have list, know that you can only figure it out as you go along. As one of my besties told me a few days into this bliss called motherhood, "Welcome to parenting by the seat of your pants."
Truthfully, and don't tell Babies R Us that I told you this, but there is actually very little that you NEED to bring the baby home. Here's my bare bones budget list.
This is a non-negotiable item and one I feel should be prioritized very close to the top if not at the top of the list. We spent more on our carseat then we did on any other item. I'm going to do a whole post on new vs. used items but this is not an item you want to get used if at all possible. Granted any carseat is better than none, carseats should be destroy after an accident and also have expiration dates on them. Therefore, unless you are getting one from an extremely trusted friend, a new carseat is recommended. Also, keep in mind that all seats (from the $35 basic Cosco brand convertable to the $300+ Britax) have to meet the same basic safety standards. Therefore every carseat sold new in a store is safe for you child to ride in. Most of the variation comes in ease of use features and comfort features and the safest carseat is the one that fits your car the best and that you will use consistently and correctly.
Now there are two major kinds for babies. The infant carrier style and the convertible style. An infant carrier has a handle and a base. The infant can be loaded in and out of the carrier in the house and then snapped into the base which stays installed in the car. Infant carrier style seats are only rear facing and have a lower weight limit. With a convertible, the carseat stays installed in the car and the baby is loaded in and out in the car. Convertible carseats can be used rear facing or forward facing and therefore have a higher weight limit. No matter what anyone tells you, both types are equally safe! Ultimately, you will need a convertible at some point in your child's life so that's a given. The question then becomes do you want to invest in an infant carrier.
We chose not to. Turtle came home from the hospital in a Britax Boulevard 70 CS and it will probably be the only carseat she ever needs. Would I do this again? Yes and no. If I had it to do over again, I'd still invest the money we did into the Britax, but I would have purchased a basic, inexpensive infant carrier for the first few weeks. She was so floppy when she was first born that it was difficult to get her buckled into the Britax and the hassle it entailed kept me from going out and doing things when I was on maternity leave.
2) Somewhere for the Baby to Sleep.
This could be a bassinet, a pack and play, or a crib. At 4 1/2 months, Turtle is still in her co-sleeper bassinet. I've loved this thing and am so glad we bought it (purchased used by the way). The third side folds down so you can attach it to your bed or it can stand on its own and serve as a free standing bassinet. I've had it both attached and unattached. I recommend having the baby in your room whether you put the crib in your room, use a basinette or pack and play. Getting up in the middle of the night is so much easier when the baby is right there at your bedside. However, you certainly can put the baby in a crib in his/her room from the very beginning. It's up to you.
Along with whatever you choose for baby to sleep in, you will need a couple of sheets (at least two but I think three is better: one for the basinette/crib/pack and play, one for the dirty clothes and one to have in the linen closet). It's always nice to have one clean at all times for those middle of the night diaper leaks or spit up lakes. Layering is awesome. On Turtle's bed I have it made up like this: waterproof mattress pad, sheet, waterproof mattress pad, sheet. This allows me to strip one layer off in the middle of the night without having to put another one on. Since she hasn't slept in her crib for the night yet, we haven't had a chance to use this system but I do wish I could do this on the co-sleeper. It would make things easier but the special sheets don't allow for multiple layers.
3) A Wearable Blanket
Pretty much everyone agrees that babies should be put to bed on their back without any lose covers or stuffed animals or anything else in their sleeping area. This creates a problem with keeping baby warm. That's where Sleep Sacks come in. Sleep sacks keep baby warm without the worry that they will get tangled up in their blankets, impeding their breathing. We got the one with the swaddle wings and it worked wonders!
4) Something for the Baby to Wear
Footed sleepers are awesome! Newborns sleep so much of the time that these make life really easy. I've heard that the zippered ones are the best since sleep deprivation and snaps don't always go together, but we managed just fine. Now as for sizes. Some babies will be born wearing "newborn" sized clothes. Some will be too big and will go right into "0-3" which is usually larger than "newborn". Note that Carter's clothes are sized a little differently. Their size 3 is actually a 0-3 and their 6 is a 3-6, etc. Now just to make everything more fun, not all newborn sized clothes are the same size. Grr! So there's really no way to know ahead of time. My recommendation is to have a few footed sleepers (maybe a 3-pack or two) in size newborn and 0-3. When the baby gets here you'll know better what sizes to buy and can purchase more. I know some people who bought truck loads of newborn clothes that their children never wore and then others who had to go out and buy newborn sizes because all their baby was too small for the 0-3. There's really no way to know.
5) Something to Put on Their Butt
Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers Wipes which were used in our hospital but everyone swears by something else. This is another one of those things that you won't be able to know until after the baby comes. Some babies react better to certain brands and some fit better than others. So, bottom line... don't stock up before the baby and any boxes you buy, keep the receipts (one friend would tape it to the side of the box) so that you can exchange them if necessary. I recommend one box of newborn size and one box of size 1. That is of course if you are doing disposable diapers.
If you chose to use cloth diapers that's a whole other ballgame. Since we decided to only use disposables I don't know much about cloth, but there is lot so good information out there!
6) Somewhere to Change Their Butt
You can get a dedicated changing table, put a changing pad on top of a dresser, or simply pick up some puppy pads. I don't recommend a changing table since it's such a unique piece of furniture and is hard to use after the diaper stage. Putting a changing pad on top of a dresser is an option a lot of people are going with, or you can simply use the floor/your bed/the couch/etc. Whatever you choose to do, I recommend getting a pack of puppy training pads (available at Wal-Mart, Target, grocery stores, etc.). These make anything a changing pad and they work. Turtle peed without her diaper on when I was changing her on my bed. The puppy pad absorbed everything and my bed was no worse for the wear. Even if you get a changing pad, this will protect the cover so that you don't have to wash it as often.
7) At Least One Bottle
Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed have at least one bottle on hand when you bring the baby home because you never know how things are going to go. We had a hard time breastfeed and my poor husband had to run out to the drugstore to get one out of desperation. However, just like so many other things, you won't know what bottle type your baby likes until he or she is here so don't stock up on one type, or at least keep the receipts and don't wash them all. We use the Dr. Browns and love them even though they have a few extra pieces. Don't get overwhelmed by the bottle section at the baby stores. They are all equally acceptable and it really just depends on what your baby likes. I know people who swear by all the brands.
8) Pack of Gerber Tri-Fold Cloth Diapers (as burp clothes)
These are the best burp clothes out there, in my opinion. They are larger than the pretty ones, thicker and cheaper. Love, love, love them. You can use them as for all kinds of things. Trust me, just get a pack. You'll be glad you did.
9) Nursing Tanks
If you choose to breastfeed I highly recommend having a couple of these on hand. They make frequent breastfeeding sessions quick and easy and throw a cardigan or sweater over top and you're ready to accept guests. The ones I have are from Target and I love them but there are lots out there.
10) Boppy Nursing Pillow
So, there you go, my Top 10 Newborn Survival List. Next I'll do a Newborn Nice to Have List, but this should get you started.
Edited to Add: A good friend of ours, and new father, had a wonderful suggestion after reading this on Facebook. He recommends having a couple houndred dollars in the bank when the baby comes home because as you can see from above, there are so many things that you can't know you need until the baby is here! I would add as well to save those gift cards! If it came down too it, as long as you have the few things on this list, I'd save any giftcards you have and as much money as you can until after the baby is here and you can know what they like and don't like. I know we spent a good amount of money the first few weeks because we realized what bottles she liked and needed a few more, what paci's she liked and need a few more, she was smaller than we'd anticipated and needed more newborn sized clothes, and we realized that even though I'd scoffed at the swaddlers and said, "Oh! I can do that with just a blanket. I don't need no fancy velcro swaddler" our little swaddle Houdini had other ideas.
Bringing Home Baby:
2) A Pregnancy Must Have List
3) A Budget Newborn Survival List