I’m an expert now, so I know all the baby things you need. Here they are, sorted roughly by room.
- Crib. Necessary. Recent parents (2yo+?) will probably be eager to give you their crib because it’s hard to resell a crib. These are perhaps the most regulated things in existence and they are a simple box, therefore every crib is basically the same and they all work fine.
- Diapers. Necessary. Don’t buy many Newborns or Size-1s; they grow really fast in the beginning. Buy maybe a week’s worth.
- Changing table. Almost necessary. This will likely be a little tray on top of a 3-drawer dresser, but any table that’s a comfortable height will work. You could change him in the crib but this will be very annoying.
- Baby monitor. Almost necessary. There are a million of them; I guess you can get a fancy one with an app if you want but that sounds like a bad idea to me. This one works fine. The range is a little short for the far corners of our 3-story 1800-sq-ft house, so if yours is bigger, maybe search for one with more range.
- Adult bed. Recommended. it’s nice to have a twin bed in the nursery so a parent can sleep there too, during the earliest days. Make sure it’s comfortable for you to sleep in. (If you are 6ft+, twin beds may be too small and your legs may stick out, so get one without a footboard.)
- Rocking chair. Nice to have. it’s nice to have a comfy rocking chair to sit in while feeding the baby.
- Mini-fridge. Nice to have. If your nursery is far from your kitchen, it’s nice to stock this up with bottles for overnight and then not have to go back to the main fridge. There are two types; if you are safety conscious, usually only the bigger “compressor”-type ones are guaranteed to be <40 degrees, while the “thermoelectric”-type ones are not. But do what you want; bottles of mixed formula can last 4hr at room temperature, so I imagine that if you get a cute little thermoelectric one and it only gets them to 45 degrees, you’ll probably be fine.
Nursery Closet or Dresser
- Clothes. Necessary. Zipper sleepers (like these) are the best: cheap, easy to open/close, easy to wash, good for all weather except hot summer. Onesies (like these) are good for summer. Like with diapers, don’t get many/any “newborn” ones; they’ll grow out so fast. I’d get maybe 10 3mo ones to start. You’ll also get clothes as gifts; unless they are zipper sleepers or onesies, or unless money is super tight, thank the giver and then secretly donate them.
- Velcro swaddles. Almost necessary, and the “almost” is only there if you don’t value your sanity. Babies don’t want to be swaddled, but they’re happier and better-sleeping when they are, and velcro helps them not wriggle out. These from Happiest Baby are my favorite. Maybe 2-3 - you don’t have to change them as often, just have one to be in the wash and one to be on him.
- Merlin suit. Nice to have. After they can roll over, you’ve got to stop swaddling them, but they may not be good at just sleeping free; the Merlin suit was nice for the couple weeks of learning to sleep unswaddled.
- Sleep sacks. Necessary for later. After the Merlin suit’s done, they still can’t sleep with a blanket, so a sleep sack is their blanket. (no opinion on which ones yet; so far they all seem fine)
- Burp cloths. These are just a rectangle of fabric. Any is fine; cheap is nice. Turns out this is the perfect size to carry around, wipe stuff, put on your shoulder while burping baby. Kids spit up a lot; make sure you always have one in arm’s reach. I’d buy 10.
(This assumes your house is big enough that you’ll often be spending time far from, or up/down stairs from, the baby’s bedroom.)
- Second crib. Necessary if your house is big. This is not for your baby to sleep in, but for you to put him in for a few minutes and not worry that he’s going to roll onto the floor. We got a Pack’n’Play for this; it works fine and we could take it on a trip if necessary.
- Second diaper changing station. Necessary if your house is big. We just used the Pack’n’Play for this, and got a little bin for diapers/wipes/Aquaphor/etc.
- Toys? I don’t know? A friend gave us a couple of kits from Lovevery; they’re undoubtedly overpriced but as we didn’t know what else to get him we just subscribed to this for a “toy kit” every couple months anyway. Ugh, they got us.
- Rocking bassinet/Snoo: Nice to have. We have a rocking thing; our kid never liked it. But some people swear by the Snoo. If you have money to spare, maybe try it, I don’t know. Our doula doesn’t love it, though, because (in her opinion) it conditions your kid to need a Snoo in order to sleep.
Bottles. Necessary. I like the Dr Brown 4oz, for a couple reasons: 1. the lid is easy to screw on/off; 2. it’s a little more than 4oz, which is nice because the recipe for 4oz formula is 4oz water + 2 scoops formula which is therefore a little more than 4oz. These have a little “anti colic” green straw doohickey, which we have removed and never used, because one more part to wash is one more part to wash. Get 6-8 of them, as you’ll have to queue them up - like make 4 for overnight.
Formula. Necessary. Even if you plan to breastfeed 100%, buy at least 1 can just in case something goes wrong. Breastfeeding is hard. All formula is super-regulated, it’s all fine, we buy whatever says “organic” and is marketed to rich hippie yuppies; it’s all fine.
- you might be wondering “should I breastfeed or do formula?” Breastfeeding is a lot more work, might feel good, might build closeness with your baby, might be really painful. Formula is also Fine. Emily Oster in Cribsheet has a great chapter about this: there are about 1000 claims of benefits of breastfeeding or harms of formula, but after reviewing the data, only like 3 hold up, they’re temporary and pretty minor. (The most major is slightly fewer gastrointestinal upsets over their early childhood.) So breastfeeding is a little better but please just do whichever one you like. This shit’s hard enough.
Bottle sterilizer. Not necessary. Just wash them with soap and water. The sterilizer doesn’t even save this step; you sterilize after you wash! Even the hospital doctors, who have got to be the most cautious people in the world, said we didn’t need a sterilizer. Welp.
Drying rack. Recommended. For all your bottles, breast pump parts, etc. Something with a bunch of sticky up poles is better than a normal dish drying rack.
Distilled water. Not necessary. Doctors will recommend it for making formula just in case there’s a bacterial outbreak somewhere in the city water supply, but if you live in a normal city with normal water, you’re fine. (Also if you get a sterilizer, you need to use distilled; another reason not to get a sterilizer.)
Somewhere in your house
- Breast pump. Necessary (unless you’re going 100% formula - even if you always plan to breastfeed and never pump, it’s really good to have an option to get the milk out of you even when the baby’s asleep, because it can get painful otherwise). We got Spectra S1; it’s pretty good. Cordless is nice. There’s apparently new fancier “wearable” ones; we haven’t tried them.
- Pillow to strap around yourself while you breastfeed the baby.
- Places to put the baby in most rooms. These might be bouncers (little seat-type things where he can sit and bounce), your pack-n-play, a bassinet, or a “lounger” pillow. It’s a bummer when you find you can’t put him down. All of these are fine, and/or get donations, we got like 4 from friends, people have a lot of these for some reason.
- Baby carrier. Highly recommended. I find this easier than a stroller, actually; try them both out. We got two: this little Evenflo one and Ergobaby 360 for when he’s slightly bigger. There’s also the Solly wrap which friends love, especially for a little baby, but I haven’t tried it.
- Bassinet. Not necessary. We got a hand-me-down one. It’s not super useful, unless you need another place to stash your baby when he’s very small.
- Car seat. Necessary (assuming you have a car, or plan to ever take him in a car). These are the other Most Regulated Things In The World so they’ll all be safe; spending more money just gets you convenience, easy installation, clickiness. We got Nuna Pipa RX. It’s fine.
- Stroller. Almost necessary; of course there are some wackos who will never use a stroller, but that is crazy. We got the Uppababy Cruz. Yes, it’s very expensive. It has really good wheels, easy to lock/unlock, easy to fold.
- Car-seat-stroller adapter. Probably necessary unless you already know your car seat and stroller interoperate without one (probably only if it’s advertised as such). We got this one; it’s fine.
I have read about 8 baby books and I like about half of them. These are good:
- Expecting Better and Cribsheet by Emily Oster. There’s a reason every yuppie nerd parent has read these: they serve a real purpose. The purpose, though, is not the advertised purpose of “reviewing the data to help you make informed decisions.” The purpose is “help you worry less.” If you are prone to worrying, please read plenty of Oster and realize that there’s no good data to support most of your worries, you can drop them, it’s fine.
- Happiest Baby On The Block by Harvey Karp. This dude has about 5 pages of useful info that he pads out into a whole book, but it’s worth it. The 5 S’s: shush, sway, swaddle, suck, and side/stomach.
- The New Father by Armin Brott. This is not that exciting, but it’s like “what might happen each month.” I use it as a rough reference.
- The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. This is a probably-too-much-depth overview of all things about childbirth, but if you have time to read it, it sure doesn’t hurt! I think I retained about 20% of it but that was super helpful.
You should get kids books too. No big recommendations here yet, but ask for them as gifts; everyone loves to give you the book they or their kids loved.
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