Birth Mythbuster 1: Buy all the baby things... NOW!!!
Have you begun to create your baby registry, and are already feeling that your living space will never again look the same? Are you envisioning piles of plastic in every square inch of your home? When you visit friends and family who have already welcomed children into the world, are their homes filled to the brim with SO much baby stuff that it scares you? Are you wondering how much of this stuff you actually need, and can't quite figure it out because EVERYONE you ask has a totally different opinion?
Well, it is quite possible that your sister-in-law could NOT have survived an infant without the fancy swing with all the bells and whistles. It is also entirely possible that your best friend never used hers. So if I were to attempt to go down the list of a typical baby registry and debunk or confirm the need for each item, and then sent that blog to 1,000 people to fact check---there would be 1,000 different opinions about what was necessary.
While I recognize that so much stuff is bought BEFORE the baby arrives because that's when it is most likely for people to buy things for you, the best way to eliminate getting a bunch of baby items that you will never use is to buy only the essentials now, and then figure out what your family actually will use after the baby is home. Not only does doing it this way save a lot of money in the long run, it can really save your sanity so that you don't get to the point of feeling like this tiny human has taken over EVERY ASPECT of your lives, including redecorating your entire house. What I can do is to give some tips about what items you MOST LIKELY need right away, and what might be best to save for later. And as I mentioned in a previous blog, this leaves room on your baby registry for people to buy you things you definitely need now, such as prenatal yoga classes or a doula (if you are wondering how to put these items on a registry-- check out the blog!) So without further ado, these are the items you most likely need BEFORE baby arrives:
The car seat: Unless you only use public transportation and will not be using a personal vehicle to drive the baby home, you need a car seat. Many hospitals actually require that you bring the car seat inside and secure the baby before you are released. It is highly recommended that you purchase this item pretty early in the 3rd trimester and go to a car seat installation facility (many local fire stations offer this service for free) to learn to install it properly. The last thing you want once you realize you ARE actually in labor is to be held up by your support person frantically trying to get the car seat installed! Just leave it installed your third trimester as a reminder of WHY you can endure being so uncomfortably scrunched up in your car.
1 or 2 Packages of diapers. Why not stock up on a bunch? Whether you are using disposable or cloth diapers, you JUST won't know which kind works best for your baby until you are using them. It would really be a shame to spend ALLLLLLL that money on a stockpile of diapers only to find out that the brand you chose leaks EVERY time on your baby. Between all your own postpartum leaking (boobs, vagina, tears, snot) and the baby's, you will be going through enough laundry as it is, no need to make your life harder by being stuck to a diaper brand that isn't your favorite. Personally, I did a hybrid of using mostly cloth and supplementing with disposables. The disposable brand my sister used DID not work for us, and it was the cheap pharmacy brand that did the trick. For the cloth diapers we were given some really great advice to just buy a few of each of the kinds we thought we would like and try them out after the baby had pooped all of the sticky meconium. The ones we liked most, we stocked up on after the trial period, thanks to Amazon, we didn't even have to leave the house to order them! Stock up on a few bags of wipes-- you will go through so many of these.
Some newborn clothes and even more 3-6 month clothes. It is so very easy to get caught up in buying all the adorable newborn onesies! This can sometimes be a real waste. Many new parents are shocked at how quickly their infant ditches the newborn sized clothing. Some bigger babies skip newborn clothing all together. Why have a drawerfull of items you will never touch and won't get sorted through until your little love is headed off to college? Get a few seasonally appropriate items, then hit up your local kid's consignment shop once you discover what size your baby needs. You could put a gift card for the consignment shop on your baby registry!
A safe sleeping surface, and the accompanying amenities, such as sheets, LOTS of sheets. It is no secret that you will be exhausted during the initial postpartum period, and you don't know which sleeping arrangement will end up being best for your family. Just like when writing a birth plan, it is important to know that sometimes the actual event calls for adjustments to the vision, such is the case with all of our best laid plans in regards to infant sleep. You may have every intention of ensuring that your infant sleeps in the crib from day one-- and it might work, or it might not. If you aren't getting any sleep with this plan, you need to have a safe Plan B-- which should never include the couch, a recliner, or a soft surface with lots of blankets. Read up on the most recent recommendations about infant sleep from The American Academy of Pediatrics. If you decide to sleep with your baby, follow these safe co-sleeping tips from Dr. Sears.
A way to feed your baby. If you plan on breastfeeding, and most women I talk to these days are planning to, have support lined up in advance. Seriously. This could make or break your breastfeeding relationship. Some hospitals have in house lactation support, which can be fine, but many women need support long after they've left the hospital. While you are pregnant, try to attend your local breastfeeding support group and ask for the contact info of a highly recommended IBCLC or CLC who can help you during those first weeks at home if a problem arises. La Leche League International and Breastfeeding USA are two groups which offer evidence based mother-to-mother support and both will have great recommendations. If you are going back to work immediately and plan to pump, seek out a pump supply place that carries a variety of brands and can help you get reimbursed through insurance. Vital Milk is one such company here in MA. Normally they help women around 32 weeks to select a pump, but you can contact your local pump supplier to find out their timeline. As far as bottle selection goes--wait. Buy one or two of the brand you think you want to try. If intending to breast and bottle feed, make sure to select a bottle that has slow flow nipples, and there is no need to ever change the speed of the flow for as long as you are also breastfeeding. Don't stock up. If you buy 30 bottles of the brand your sister swears by, and then discover your baby refuses to use them, that's way more difficult than trying out one and then going back to select another. And remember that lactation consultant you found? She can help with bottle selection, too!
A few essential first aid items. This can be added to your registry as a whole set, or you can put together the individual pieces based on the brands you want. You definitely don't want to be caught without a nasal aspirator bulb (or two) and a way to take your baby's temperature. For a more extensive list of items you might consider, check out this first-aid shopping list from babycenter.com.
There are some items which you mostly likely want in advance that I wouldn't quite call essentials-- and I'll just list them with no explanation here. A diaper bag, a changing table (remember that consignment shop I mentioned?), a stroller, a way to wear the baby, (I recommend going to a baby-wearing shop and trying a few out with the in-store life-like baby dolls. The one with the cutest design might not be the best one for your back. And know that if you end up wearing your baby A LOT you may end up investing in a few different styles for different occasions), and maybe another place to be able to put an infant when you are alone and need to jump in the shower or grab the laundry. Remember that the car seat and the stroller can serve that purpose too.
That's it. That's all the baby stuff you need. Now, go find a baby registry that lets you put stuff and service items on it (I've heard babylist.com is great!) and give those generous baby shower attendees the opportunity to support you with stuff that matters-- like the dog walking service you could use in your early postpartum period, gift certificates for your favorite restaurants so you don't have to worry about cooking every night once baby is here, meal trains, lactation services, and of course---your birth doula!