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Getting Ready For Baby: What Your Baby Needs (And What You Need)

My sister is due in less than a month. After a summer spent across the country, she just got back to her home, which they’ve been renovating in preparation for the baby’s arrival. Of course, things are not as finished as she’d hoped, and now she’s starting to stress out about whether they’ll be ready by birth time.

To add insult to injury (or injury to insult?) she just threw her back out. How?  Running to put money in a meter—while the (obviously evil) cop stared straight at her 9 months-pregnant-self barreling down the street and wrote her a  ticket anyway, less than a minute after her money ran out.

So, now she’s three and a half weeks away from her baby’s birth, with an unfinished construction job and a bad back. Oh, and did I mention the toddler?

Clearly she’s not going to be at the point she hoped to be when the baby comes. So the question is, how ready do you really, really need to be to welcome a new baby? On the one hand, babies hardly need anything at all to be happy. Diapers, a place to sleep, and something to eat (which, if you’re breastfeeding, might not require any additional supplies).

But the baby isn’t the only person in the equation here.

Most of what’s available for newborn babies is actually for parents’ convenience. So the real question is, what do YOU need to feel comfortable after the birth? This is a tough question to answer as it’s so individual and hard to foresee your needs before your baby arrives. For some people, less really is more. Then there are those who favor the Boy Scout approach and are comforted by having products at the ready.Below is a summary list of  “essential needs”. You can find the full list in our book.

Beyond the basic sleeping, feeding and diapering supplies, you’ll need somewhere to bathe your baby safely. The sink is possible but newborns are floppy, and wet newborns are floppy and slippery.

You’ll need a supply of cloths to clean burps and other messes. You’ll want something to wrap the baby in, whether that’s a blanket, a swaddler, or a suit. Clothingwise your needs will depend on the climate and the time of your baby’s birth. General wisdom says don’t splurge on newborn clothing, since the phase is short and bodily fluids are rather free-flowing at this point. Quantity is probably more important than quality in the begining. Whatever you lack in numbers you’ll be making up in laundry.

A basic baby medical supply kit with a clipper will allow you to deal with your newborns surprisingly scratchy fingernails, though some moms have an easier time biting these off than worrying about clipping tiny fingers. A nasal aspirator can also be useful if your baby gets congested. You can ask your pediatrician what else she thinks you might need at home.

Then there’s the question of how to get the baby around. A car seat is a legal requirement for leaving the hospital in most cases. Most parents find a stroller necessary, though a lot of people prefer to carry their babies in slings or other carriers. There are infinite permutations of each option, which we can explore further at some point.

And lastly, don’t forget your own needs. You’ll have a much easier time transitioning if you take decent care of yourself. Remember that you’ll be in a fair amount of discomfort for the first few days. You’ll need some supplies to nurse your birth wounds, whether the baby’s born vaginally or via c-section. You’ll also probably want some pads to soak up the milk overflow if you’re nursing (and even if you’re not, because it might take a while to dry up). Ceridwen’s got a post coming up on postpartum challenges, so check back for more on this stuff.

What you really need for baby depends on the kind of person you are, and to some degree, the kind of baby you get. Your friend found her bouncy seat a lifesaver, but your baby might hate it. The same goes for the sling, the swing, and any number of other baby gizmos. It can sometimes help to borrow a few so you can see what you and your baby take to. Ask around- parents with older babies might be up for a brief exploratory loan. That way you won’t end up with a house full of unused baby clutter (a problem common to first time parents, myself included).

How are you getting ready for your baby’s arrival? Are you wondering about buying anything in particular? Ask away and we will be happy to tell you whether we think it’s necessary. But remember, babies are unique creatures and yours could be totally different….

photo: Pawel Loj/flickr

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