What Stuff Does a Baby Need?
You can spend a fortune on things for your baby. And if you don't, other people might. If there's a baby shower for you, you may wonder how you'll manage to get the gifts to your home in one trip.
Think about your finances and your lifestyle, and make a list of items you're pretty sure you really want. If the gifts you get aren't on the list, exchange them for things that are.
There are things you really have to have, no question. Then there are things that aren't absolutely required, but they definitely add convenience. Here's a list of what you need and what you'll probably be glad you have.
Here's what you need to have pretty much from day one.
Car seat (rear facing):
If you have a car, you need a car seat for the baby. This is the law in every state. Many hospitals have to see one in place before they'll release your baby to you. A lot of parents like car seats that have a removable seat. You sort of snap the seat out of the housing and can use it as a carrier.
Diapers, wipes, bottles if you're not nursing:
Clothing and blankets:
Here's what a practical mother of an 18-month-old has to say about this: "Fancy clothes are something you definitely don't need, because the baby poops and throws up on them. Onesies-those undershirt things that snap under the crotch-are something you can't get enough of." Another mother says, "Don't get too many things for the 0-6 month age range-toys or clothes. The babies grow and move on so quickly you won't get much use out of that stuff."
New mothers might not be up to going for walks right away, but it's nice for anyone in the household to be able to take the baby out for a walk.
Some people might think they have to have a snuggly thing for carrying the baby close to their bodies while out walking, at the store, etc. It's not a must-have for everyone, but for some it is.
Nice to Have
A changing table
Obviously, you can change a baby pretty much anywhere. Who hasn't seen parents doing the deed at airport gates, the backs of cars … But a changing table is nice to have. It's high enough so that you don't have to stoop over. There's storage space for diapers, wipes and other baby-changing needs. It's simply handy.
A high chair
You won't need that right away, but when your baby starts eating solid foods, it's nice to have a high chair. The baby can join everyone at the table, and doesn't have to sit on someone's lap. (The baby doesn't mind the lap, but adults can't eat and hold a baby and feel relaxed.) High chairs should have a strap that keeps the baby safely contained.
Some babies love them, others don't. See if you can try one out before buying one.
How big is your house or apartment? If you live in a small place, you might not need a monitor. But if you want to be able to go outside, or if your house is large enough that your baby isn't within earshot, a monitor can give you peace of mind.
In the beginning, most families use a bassinet for their babies. There's room for difference of opinion though, because some parents keep their babies in bed with them at night. For naps during the day, babies need somewhere to sleep, and bassinets work well. Cribs become necessary when the baby grows out of the bassinet and/or is able to climb out of it.
Should you get the best?
This depends on your finances and your lifestyle. If you're really into going for long walks or runs, for example, a well constructed stroller may be where you want to spend a nice chunk of money.
Consider a mother who loved her expensive high chair: "I say if you can spend the money on a high chair on wheels, with a seat that goes up and down, go for it. I had one like that for my second child, and I thought it was divine."
Ask your friends what they liked for their children. They may be able to give you some good tips, such as which brands offer the best value, and which items are worth spending a little more money on.
Look for Second-hand Supplies
Don't rule out buying second-hand baby gear. You can save a bundle by going to stores that sell used clothing. The classified section of your newspaper may list used car seats, strollers or swings.
Whatever you do, don't get caught up in the label game. Five years from now, is your child going to know or care whether the stroller was an Aprica or a Wal-Mart special?
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; A. Lieberman, L. Holt. Nine Months and a Day. The Harvard Common Press, 2000; P. Spencer. Parenting Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. A Ballantine Book. San Francisco, 1998