All a newborn really needs is two boobs and some love. One boob will do in a pinch.
A few other items make life easier though. When I was pregnant I looked around for some decent, bare bones list of what I was gonna need. I didn’t know a damn thing about babies. It’s harder to fight the American Consumer Mentality when you’ve got no idea. I’m hoping this retrospective list can help out some other confused soon-to-be-mamas. Most of this stuff is easily and cheaply gotten at any Salvation Army. There are a a few important things (diapers and a carrier) which might have to be bought new, and can be expensive. Put them on your wish list to the grandparents. I’ve heard cities have resale shops for baby/kid stuff, where you might be able to get quality things like cloth diapers for less than new, but probably not cheap.
(If there are any friends of mamas reading this looking for shower gift ideas, here’s my advice: People always want to give baby things, cuz they’re cute and fun to buy. But since the most essential thing of all for a newborn is a healthy and happy mama, I think some of the best baby shower gifts are things for mama herself– like a homemade dinner delivered to the door, a big bag of organic groceries (fresh fruit, yogurt, nuts, canned soup, Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese, and definitely some fair trade chocolate!), yoga classes to help her get back in shape, massage, a couple of great books to read during the 12 daily nursing sessions or just the offer to come play with the babe for awhile so mama can take a quiet bath.)
As baby grows up, more stuff will start to be more useful. But you’ll figure that out as you go along.
Here’s what to have stockpiled before baby arrives:
- diapers, wipes, covers, etc. I don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but here in Cordova as soon as you start to show, people start giving you stuff. One thing I got a lot of was cloth diapers. Really fancy modern ones that were hardly used at all, some brand new. From well-intentioned mamas with plenty of money, who had apparently given up early on. At the time I thought, ‘Jesus Christ! What am I gonna do with three huge boxes of diapers?!?!?’ But of course, what I was gonna do was use them, all. Because babies grow. Every time Willow grew out of her dipes, I’d just climb up to our storage area, and find the next size. It’s been awesome, I feel damn lucky. Must be a few hundred dollars worth of diapers.
- a waterproof changing mat We were given a couple of these great ones that aren’t plastic or vinyl, but appear to be just really dense cotton. Not strictly waterproof I guess, but extremely resistant, and washable.
- onesies, several Babies really do go though clothes. But they are a dime a dozen at the Sally.
- fleece sleeper bag thingies They’re like a dress that’s sewn up at bottom. Awesome. Those are the only two items of clothing we used for the first long while. Short of that, just any cozy warm clothes.
- washcloths or rags Lots. At the Sally you can get bags of old washcloths and towels for a buck. Between spraying milk and dripping puke, you’ll want washcloths strewn all over the place.
- blankets Of course. A few, ‘cuz of the constant need for washing.
- towels I don’t know how other women solve this problem, but I leaked a lot in the night, and Willow spit up sometimes. So we slept on a folded in half towel. I also put a wool blanket on the mattress, under the sheet, as backup.
- nursing bras and LOTS of PADS I had 10 pairs, and I still wished I had more. Hopefully for your sake you won’t leak like I did. I spent $24 on two pairs of ultra fancy European ones (just ‘cuz that’s all the snotty yuppie baby store had) that I didn’t like at all. They’re felted lambswool, ultra soft. Claimed that the lanolin protects against bacterial growth, and you just dry them out between uses, and rinse them in cold water once in a while. So that you only need two pairs. That did sound worth it, the cotton ones must be washed after every use (they get crusty) so you need lots. But I found the wool uncomfortable, despite its softness, and that when my nipples dried, the wool hairs stuck to it, and were painful to peel off. Also, it made me smell like a sheep.
- nursing shirts This wasn’t on anybody’s list, but why not? It seems as important as anything else to me. I only had two, and the thing is, though I normally will wear a shirt for a week or more before washing it, that doesn’t work when nursing, at least not for leakers like me, for the first month or two my milk would often leak right through the pad and soak my shirt (which dries crusty and uncomfortable). I’d say at least three shirts, but better four. Any kind of button-up shirt will do, or those fashionable cross over the boobs kind. You actually can nurse in any shirt if you pull it up and nurse underneath, which can be handy in public, but it’s tricky at first, and not practical until the baby can control it’s head good, and nurse without help from you.
- a good carrier “Baby wearing” has really come into style lately, and the carriers have come a long way. These are not your mama’s Snuggly. Click here for a detailed rundown on all the kinds I’ve tried.
handy but not essential:
- bassinet This is one of those things that just showed up on our porch one day. I open the door and there’s a giant white lace monstrosity. My first thought was, ‘god help me!’ My second thought was, ‘what ditch can I leave this in, under cover of night?’ But I didn’t leave it in a ditch, and good thing, because it turned out to be pretty handy. Once the white lace was off, it wasn’t so hideous, and I put it in the kitchen, so I could set Willow down while I made dinner or whatever. It’s easily movable from room to room so I could take advantage of all the times when she would let me set her down. I’m all for “wearing” your baby, but come on, not all the time. The bassinet’s also great for naps.
- receiving blankets Everybody talked like these were on a par with diapers, and I just never saw it. Handy certainly, for nursing under in public and at home as a lightweight all purpose rag. If you swaddled your babe this is what you’d use, but Willow never tolerated swaddling. Of course we did use one for the actual ‘receiving’ of her, out of the womb.
- nursing pillow Pretty handy, but a regular pillow works fine, or nothing. As much as for the actual nursing, we found the big fat ‘u’ shape perfect for propping her up in a sitting position so she could see around, before she could sit up by herself.
- baby bathtub You can just use the sink for the first several months, and when they outgrow that go straight to the grown-up bathtub, but filling up the big bathtub with water for one little baby seems a waste until they start playing in the tub. If you find a used baby tub, it would be worth it. A short rubbermaid tote would work too.
Okay! Good luck fighting off the hoards of well-meaning relatives bearing pink frilly nonsense.