New babies come with all sorts of unexpected changes in your life, as well as all sorts of unexpected needs. No matter how hard you try to be completely prepared for your newborn’s arrival, chances are that not every duck is in a row. If this is your first baby, there are probably a few things you forgot. Here are things that are easy to forget or that you might not think you need right away. They’re the things I didn’t have when they were needed with my first baby – either I didn’t know I should have them, or I just thought there’d be time to buy them later. Trust me, you’ll never forget them again after that first baby.
Baby hygiene essentials
Thankfully, most hospitals know which items are likely to be forgotten and will provide them. Among these, the nasal aspirator – also called a nose bulb, or “snot sucker” – often escapes a new parent’s attention. Babies are born with a lot of extra fluid in their system, so this is an absolute must right from the start. Luckily, the hospital uses these too. They can’t re-use them on other babies, so they’ll likely send you home with the one they used on your newborn. If you want an extra, they cost about $2 in any store that carries baby supplies.
Nail clippers may find their way into your baby collection in the first few weeks, but you’d be shocked at the length of many newborn fingernails. Looking at your precious baby on his or her very first day, you will probably wish you had a way to snip those talons immediately. In fact, packing some baby-safe clippers or nail scissors in your hospital bag may save your baby a few scratches before you get home.
Of course you know that you need diapers. You might be surprised how quickly a baby goes through each size, though, and how much newborns vary in their required diaper sizes. Whether you plan to use cloth diapers or disposables, stock up on at least three different sizes before your baby is born. Baby will grow into any that are too big, and you don’t want to risk only having diapers that are too small.
Fundamentals for feeding your baby
Even if you intend to breastfeed, consider keeping a little formula on-hand anyway. There are a lot of different factors that go into successful breastfeeding, and it can quickly become overwhelming. Even a little “speed bump” can result in a mad dash to the store and a hungry baby if you don’t have a backup plan. It’s just a little extra insurance in case your milk doesn’t come in fast enough or your baby has latching issues. If the formula is still unopened by time you build up an emergency supply of breast milk, you can always donate it to your closest food bank, homeless shelter or help center. Baby-safe skin ointment or nipple cream is also a must – sore and cracked nipples can develop in as little as 12 hours since newborns nurse almost constantly.
If you do plan to formula feed, make sure to have a few different nipple options and flow levels available. Most babies will latch onto a “natural” nipple shape with slow flow, but not all. Test out a few different nipples and see which one your baby seems most comfortable using. Always have extra bottles or lined nursers available in case one gets lost, broken, or you’re stuck away from home where it’s not easy to clean used bottles.
Considerations for newborn baby clothes
Sure, everyone knows that babies need clothes – but what size? Just because a piece of clothing says it’s for newborns or 0-3 months, doesn’t mean that your baby will wear that size. My babies ranged from 8 ½ pounds to 10 ½ pounds at birth; the last and largest barely fit into 3-6 month clothes. Even if ultrasounds show that you’re going to have a baby of approximately average size, that doesn’t mean that he or she will have the right body length to fit standard sizes.
Be ready with newborn (and preemie if needed), 0-3 and 3-6 month clothes, but don’t stock up a ton of any one size until after baby is born. Use darker clothes in the beginning in case the umbilical stump leaks, and keep the season in mind when choosing what to take to the hospital or birthing center.
Everyday baby essentials you need right away
In the United States, it’s illegal for a hospital to release a baby into your care unless you have an appropriate car seat. Research how to properly install the seat and adjust the straps. If it’s used, check its expiration date and know its history. Any seat that has been in a wreck should never be re-used. Depending on the time of year, you may also need a car seat cover and/or window shade screens.
Finally, consider how you’ll keep the baby in his or her first weeks of life. During this time, babies crave almost constant contact and need attentive care. While most first-time parents know they need a crib, you may discover that you also need a portable bassinet, baby carrier or sling, or other ways of keeping baby near you as you perform normal everyday tasks.