What baby stuff do you actually need? …And when do you need it?

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Split personality We are unexpectedly expecting a baby, and have become very comfortable in our offbeat home. As we work on changing our house around, we are looking for some advice.

We’re definitely a little trepidatious about what an impending baby means for our lives — it’s all new to us!

First question: What baby items should we get before our baby is born, and what can we wait on?

Second question: We have an extra room for our baby, but are torn on what to do with it: should we convert the room right away, or wait and see if we actually need the space for a baby once he or she is here? -Elizabeth

Comments on What baby stuff do you actually need? …And when do you need it?

  1. Clothes, diapers, and a place to sleep (unless you plan on bed sharing.).

    We had multiple showers with our first and got every baby gadget and toy there is. If I could do it over I’d have made it a 2nd hand shower. Thrift stores and craigslist has anything you’ll ever need for much cheaper.
    I have a friend who gives us hand me down clothes and my daughter has triple the wardrobe I do. I only buy clothes or toys 2nd hand or on clearance.

    We are on baby 2 due in June and I don’t plan on buying anything new this time around.

    Also, I was told over and over that kid stuff would take over my whole house… it did for the first few weeks, but we’ve been able to maintain a good balance of adult and kid stuff since then.

  2. I would advise you to think about what you want, and what you feel like you need. And then, reassess. How do you think you want to parent, and does the stuff you want/need fit in with that style?

    Also, think about your resources. Do you have people dying to buy you stuff for a shower/blessing? Will it be you fronting the dough?

    As for baby-proofing, I would advise you to make 1 room completely baby-safe, and when the babe is moving around, see what else you may need to do. We didn’t do much, and we didn’t do it until we had a crawler, and it was fine.

    We also didn’t get much ahead of time. I’m of the mind that you need a blanket and some boobs. And a place to sleep. In the first week, we realized we should also have some more small clothes, and a dresser to keep those clothes in, so her dad went to Goodwill and picked those up. I think it’s only a problem if you really care about what they look like.

  3. I suffer from chronic disorganisation, so I tried to keep everything as paired down as possible. Do make sure you have a change mat or some such item. Have some nappies ready. Get 5 or so onesie vests and 5 or of the full body onesie things. A few cosy baby size blankets are nice aswell as a baby hat. And at least have access to a carseat! Oh, and I’ve found a wrap sling and a small rucksack more useful than a pram.

    Those were the things we found essential. We ended up co-sleeping so cots weren’t an issue and breastfeeding made a bottle system redundant.

    I really think anything else can just be left to evolve.

  4. My daughter seemed to take those little plastic ‘baby-proofing’ gadgets as a personal challenge. I never saw one defeat her. Even baby gates. (And people wonder why she’s an only child… just joking, mostly.)
    Lock up anything that you don’t want your child ingesting and can’t, for whatever reason, store out of their reach. With the kind of lock that requires a key. Make sure that anything they could fall off of, drop on themselves, or shank the cat with is out of reach – which generally means more than 4 feet off the ground. And then try not to leave baby alone unless he or she is put away securely.
    But you don’t need to worry about that until they’re mobile.

  5. For the first 6 weeks of my baby bird’s life we lived on our big ass sectional. I had a small basket with some sleepers and diapers in it so I didn’t have to get up much… Xa slept in his carseat perched on our coffee table and B and I slept on the couch. I had a forceps delivery so my insides were a little muffed up and my tailbone was broken from 4 hours of pushing. Until my broken booty healed we didn’t need anything more than his carseat, diapers, sleepers and my boobies!

  6. Some helpful advice from my mom: If you are planning to use disposable diapers, start buying a pack or two every week/every other week while you’re pregnant. Every few weeks, go up a size and start buying those. My mom did this when she was pregnant with me and didn’t have to buy diapers for the first year of my life.

    We are planning to cloth diaper, but I really thought this was brilliant. I guess I know where my super planner personality comes from — we’re not even trying to get pregnant yet!

    • Agreed re. the multiple sizes. We’re expecting our first any day, and we’ve held off on buying diapers because we plan to get them in large quantities at Costco. But we bought 2 packs (newborn and size 1) to get us through the first few days before we dispatch a family member to get us more, and we definitely appreciated the advice not just to get the newborn sizes — if you end up with a big baby, they may rapidly outgrow (or never fit at all!) the tiniest sizes. Same goes for clothing!

  7. 1 thing I could not have lived without for the first 5 months was my home made moby wrap! Hell with carrying a car seat everywhere! I took that thing everywhere I went, put my lil guy in it as soon as we got out of the car and off we went! If it was cold out i’d put 1 of my husband’s coats on over it and zip it up around me and the babe!

  8. As someone else said, declutter now. I would also save as much money as you can, so you can run out and get things as you need it when the baby arrives. If your space is really really limited maybe try to have gift card baby showers.

  9. Hi everyone, Thank you! I asked the question, and feel better about not wanting to go nursery crazy right now. I had a vacation day this weekend, and was able to buy a used bookcase with doors on the bottom shelves to use as a closet/storage since the kid’s room doesn’t have a closet. This has calmed me down a lot. It seems like you were all split between declutter now and don’t worry about it ’til later. I think we’re gonna go ahead and sell/get rid off furniture we know we aren’t going to use. I am going to take the suggestion to pre-make food. The biggest takeaway from your suggestions for me is that it is okay to stay chill about this, and not be worried that I don’t want to go crazy prepping a complete “perfect” baby sanctuary.

  10. The only essentials for my son (other than heaps of clothes and diapers) were the vibrating chair and stroller. He hated the swing, hated the carseat, hated anywhere that wasn’t somebodies arms…except that chair or going for a walk. I think he just liked constant motion. I was so panicked about not having enough space and things for him, but most of it didn’t seem necessary once he came along. We didn’t worry about babyproofing until he was moving around.

    We lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment til he was 8 months old and did just fine. And then we moved into a big one-bedroom apartment, and were still just fine. He didn’t get moved into his own room until he was nearly 3. He always had his own sleeping space in our room but often just slept in bed with us. When his dad and I split I would sleep on the couch when I needed some space. I got a futon to make it easier, but still spent plenty of nights co-sleeping.

    You worry about all the preparing you need to do before the baby comes, but really, just relax and see how it goes. It’s not impossible to get what you need after the baby comes. Nothing is as urgent as it seems when you are pregnant.

  11. I think you and I have similar issues! We are expecting a planned baby, and at the time we planned, we had a HUGE apartment with an extra room that could work easily as an office and a nursery. That apartment was also ridiculously expensive, and in a not so great neighborhood, so we moved.

    Now we are in a better neighborhood but the apartment is slightly smaller. Since I am only 5 months, we decided to just go ahead and set up the spare room as our office and decide what to do about redistributing everything later. However, as I read more and more, it doesn’t sound like our child needs a ton of stuff for quite awhile. Which has left us a little confused: Beyond the basics (somewhere for the baby to sleep, diapers, breast feeding stuff, clothes, etc…) what do we really need RIGHT NOW?

    Thank goodness for you asking what’s been on my mind for months. All these answers have been super helpful!

  12. You don’t really need that much! With both my girls I brought some clothes, second hand cot and a moses basket to sleep on. If we needed something after that baby was born I would go get it. No big deal if you decided to bottle feed/use a pacifier/ need a changing table. We have never used a changing table it took up too much room and we just use a mat on the floor. I saw so many people buy expensive things and not use them. I just didn’t want that waste and I felt that the less we had the better things were. They love toys made out of objects from home. I started baby proofing when I saw a need for it, when I noticed they were getting close to grabbing something it would get moved etc. You will be just fine!!! Good luck!

  13. as Leslie mentioned, it depends how you want to raise your baby. But even more, it depends how reality ends up demanding that you raise your baby! Many of my fancier, crunchier ideas went out the window once my guy got here. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping with the Arm’s Length co-sleeper? Uh, no, turns out we could not breastfeed, not even with months of pumping and lactation consultants.

    “Oh I’d never want to use that big ugly plastic automated swing thingy someone gave us. Ugh.” Ha. He *loved* that swing, and it made the early weeks much more do-able. Plus it also turned out that the big ugly swing thing was *way* less obnoxious than most baby gear with its shrieking colors and hideous patterns.

    So I think being flexible and mellow is the best favor you can do while preparing for the baby to come. Pregnancy can be so fraught, with guilt trips and hypochondria and a high degree of beating ourselves up because we’re not a 110% perfect organic BPA-free smug mama all the time. It’s a good time to get used to being imperfect, a great skill to have once you have a baby on your hands and find that all your Lifestyle Choices don’t necessarily align with that baby and your new needs.

  14. In terms of really getting ready, we were given almost everything we needed for the first 6 months, hand-me-down everythings. We have a big enough basement that it worked out fine. This is what sticks with me:

    – Diaper situation. We signed up with a diaper service & used two changing tables given to us. I love the tables; the baby & i actually spend a lot of quality time there, goo gooing and playing while he airs out his butt. It’s comfortable for me because it’s high up. I wish I’d have learned more about diapering and diaper covers ahead of time, though. (Hello, Snappies!)

    – Prep a C section recovery area. No one thinks it’ll happen to them, but somehow 30% of women end up this way. Prep a part of your house (downstairs) and prep your loved ones as though you were going in for major abdominal surgery, like a liver transplant. Seriously. Mentally wrap your head around that, THEN add in the idea of a new, screaming baby and no sleep, and you being on pain meds.

    – Carriers. We were given 3 different types (Ergo, bEcco, and old style Bjorn) and they’ve come in handy at different times. More important, turns out one of them is really great for me and my back, but it took a while to test out. See if other moms/local people would let you borrow theirs for a while at least to test?

    – Car seat. Ugh. Sigh. Needed it, though.

    – Stroller-wise, we were given several & I don’t like any of ’em. (I have medical problems that make most of them hard for me to push.) I usually just carry him in my “pouch.” I did buy off someone in my OB/GYN’s office her stroller/cart thing that goes with the car seat. You plop the infant car seat on the top and push it around. It’s also good just as a cart w/ the baby in pouch. I pile it up with groceries and push it home. Anyway, that was $20 for an ugly old thing, but it works great.

    – Sleeping situation. This one nearly drove me insane. Everything you read and everyone you talk to has a different sleep situation story. SIDS paranoia really got to me, also. Long term, what worked best: a used Moses basket for the first 3 months, often on a low love seat-ish chair. A big old-fashioned wooden crib later on. And the small, low, hard-mattress guest bed we’d left in what was now the baby’s room. Who knew I’d end up sleeping there most of the time, so my husband can get more rest (he works outside the home, I don’t)? And we’re co-sleeping 75% of the time on that bed now, though we hadn’t planned on it. You just never know! Waste of money: Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, though now he uses it as a playpen… Baby Delight, weird little box dealio for when a newborn is in bed with you. I guess it gave my SIDS-worried self a break early on, but largely it was mehhhh. I got it used, $10, so no big deal.

    – Ugly automated Fisher Price Papasan swing. Absolutely wonderful, esp early on.

    – Bottles! I put them on our registry (Dr Brown’s makes a wide mouth one that is supposed to be better for a baby that you want to breastfeed) & took a couple to the hospital. We put donor milk in those bottles instead of using standard hospital ones. I had no idea I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, so it was great to already have a half dozen of these waiting. (Also good to do: research formula ahead of time just in case, maybe even get some. Some people end up using non-organic crappy stuff because the hospital has freebies of it, and then it’s hard to switch your baby to a new formula later. We like Earth’s Best Organic.)

    – As you’re clearing out your house pre-baby – I cut up a bunch of old sheets & stuff. Little squares for butt wiping (why use disposalbe baby wipes? Save a tree!)… medium for burp cloths… a few bigger ones as blankets/pee-covered-whatevers. I didn’t bother to hem them. They’re great to have around.

    – One-piece clothing options, like footed pajamas. Tons of them. Some people are into treating their babies like dress-up dolls, but most of us secretly only put cute clothes on them for special occasions, like photo ops with the grandma who bought ’em all those difficult-to-change clothes. Also, I wish I would have known back then: the “fleece” kind are great in winter/fall, and that soft manmade fleece fabric hardly wicks at all! So the organic cotton onesies and pajamas were always wicking pee and having to be changed every hour.

    – If you have a big house – easily portable music setup because you may end up living in, nursing in, etc different places than you imagine.

    – Large BPA-free water containers to leave all over the house; tupperwares full of dried fruit and nuts. You may end up immobile a lot, and starving, and thirsty, not wanting to get up and wake the little one.

    – Swaddles. True lifesavers. I found the velcro ones much better than traditional swaddling blankets. Some babies love this; ours was one.

    – An Amazon Prime account. Seriously, it was amazing to know I could stumble online and buy some crap, not have delivery charges, and get it within a couple days. Turns out I’m saving a lot on organic formula and whatnot, too, stuff I normally wouldn’t buy from Amazon.

    – At each “station” (C section recovery land, breast pumping in my office station, actual bedroom, wherever you end up feeding or pumping) – a power strip, pleasant lamps you can easily reach the switch for (bring one to the hospital for your recovery, if you’re doing hopsital), water, Kleenexes or handkerchiefs, pile of burp cloths, snacks, something to read.

    – I think a subscription to the New Yorker was one of my best preggo/baby gifts ever. There’s a lot of pleasant, sitting around time for reading. It’s nice to read instead of getting glued to your laptop too much…

  15. The plethora of comments here shows that everyone has different perspectives on what is “necessary” for a baby, because we are all different. As the mom to a 3.5 week old baby, I wish I had listened to folks that said “get little”, but getting stuff was part of my emotional/mental preparation for the actual changes that have occurred in our lives. Truly, all you need are your boobs (and boob accessories — bras, pads, pump, nipple cream, etc.). But, if breastfeeding is hard, there are also more accessories — nipples shields and other things to keep them from getting rubbed by rough clothes. We have a co-sleeper, and I have just slept with the baby on my chest. It has been too hard to have him in the co-sleeper. I worry he isn’t breathing. The other thing I needed to have someone run out and get was HUGE panties. I had an emergency c-section (rather than my planned homebirth) and panties that didn’t end at the incision were crucial. Luckily, my parents were in town and my dad is a trooper at Target. 🙂

    Good luck — you will do great. Just follow your gut instincts.

    Oh, and as for clothes, we have just swaddled our little guy, so all the clothes are just getting outgrown.

    • I just wanted to second The huge panties. I went t buy some at Walmart and…gulp…they only suitable ones were the exact same underwear that my mom has worn…forever. depressing.

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