Any expecting parent has seen The List. Stores and books put forth elaborate lists of what to buy in anticipation of baby's arrival and that list is long, expensive and rather daunting. Surely a little bundle less than eight pounds doesn't really need all of that stuff, will she? The answer to this, as many experienced parents can tell you, is yes…and no. There are baby essentials and then there are real baby essentials.
The Store List of Essentials
Obviously a store has a great deal to gain from you registering for or purchasing a long list of items. They are the ones selling it to you after all. Other websites and books are equally ambitious, but not always completely practical. Every parent will sing the praises of one item and wonder why in the world they even thought to buy another.
The most common misconception these lists cause parents is the sense of timing. For many parents it seems as though the world they know is stopping on an official due date and suddenly unless they have a swing, high chair, bassinet, fifteen t-shirts, twelve onesies, five brands of diapers and a wipes warmer they will never survive the coming apocalypse of Parenthood. Believe it or not, babies do not really need much right away. In fact, stores will continue carrying items long after your baby is born…and long before you really need them. Some items are necessities, and some are luxuries, and most parents find a happy medium between the two.
A baby's necessities are amazingly similar to our own. The newborn needs a place to sleep, something to eat, something to wear and lots of love. That's really about it. The details are up to the parents and this is where the variables arrive.
A Place to Sleep – Building the nursery is one of the most wonderful experiences of pregnancy. Adorable paints, stencils and decorations make the nursery a baby sanctuary in the midst of the house. Surely we all realize that the baby doesn't really care what the nursery looks like – for the first few weeks (or longer if you're lucky) he'll sleep anywhere.
Most of us just can't wait to build the nursery around the perfect crib, and rush to have it ready in time for the baby's homecoming. The irony is that the baby may not touch that crib for months - or even at all. A lot of new babies sleep in bassinets or pack and plays in the parent's room. Many also end up co-sleeping with mom in an official co-sleeper style bed.
Cribs are large empty spaces that might seem too big for your little one. She might even sleep in her car seat or swing if reflux is an issue. The crib is standard fare, but don't be limited to the crib as a bedding option – especially in the first three or four months. It's an expensive purchase, and not necessary right away. This is also true for second babies who are waiting for big brother to move out of the crib before they can move in.
Something to Eat – When it comes to infants there are really only two choices for meals. Breast milk or formula. While that seems straightforward, half of the items on a registry/purchase list are related to these two. Pumps, bottles, nipples, bras, measuring cups, liners, and more overwhelm you and force you to make decisions before you can even guess at what will happen.
While there are many items of convenience available for both formula feeding and nursing, they are for the parents, not the baby. Pumps might be your only option for breast feeding, but you may not know that until after the baby is born. If this is the case for you, you might strongly consider renting one from the hospital before committing to an expensive purchase you can't return.
If you decide to supplement with the bottle or formula feed exclusively you will need bottles. This is an area up for some debate. The hospital will most likely send baby home with a few sample bottles of formula. This will be enough to get you through the first day or two. Then you'll have to decide which brand of bottle you prefer. You might purchase a small set of bottles prior to delivery to have ready, but save the receipt. If breastfeeding works out or you realize that you can skip over the four ounce bottles, you want to be able to make an exchange.
Something to Wear – Baby clothes are highly addictive. And this is true for friends and family as well. For this reason, many well wishers will buy you clothing as gifts at a shower or hospital. After all, how can they resist the adorable bows or boats? Baby spends his first few weeks sleeping almost around the clock. Most of that time, you will decide to swaddle him in a blanket or keep him covered with a blanket. For this reason, it is not necessary to stock an entire wardrobe of Newborn and 0-3 month clothing.
Basic onesies and even the little pajamas with feet can be purchased for very little and will do wonderfully. Socks and booties are hard to keep on little curled feet sometimes, so the pajamas take care of that easily. Little babies look adorable in everything they wear, so there is no sense in dressing up a sleeping, wrapped-up baby for visitors.
You want baby to be comfortable and you want dressing baby to be as simple as possible. After all, you'll be dressing and undressing your newborn up to five or six times a day. Keep it simple for your own sanity. Besides, they will have outgrown everything by the time they are ready for real show-and-tell anyway. Save the expensive outfits for then.
Lots of Love – Babies are irresistible and you love to snuggle them, rock them, sing to them and fortunately, they are very accommodating. Parents try to show baby their love in countless ways, but simply holding him, feeding him when he's hungry and keeping him safe and comfortable are all that is required.
When you have to put baby down, you want to put him somewhere safe and comfortable. Swings and papasans or bouncers are ideal spots, but not the only ones. Babies are adaptable, and so long as their basic needs are being met, they will thrive.
Continue to the Short list and Semi-Necessities
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