Preparing for a new baby doesn't have to be overwhelming. Experienced parents have learned that newborn babies just need some basic items at first. These include a warm and safe place to sleep, food, clothing, and diapers.
Many baby products are available, but listed below are the essential items you'll want to have ready for your new baby.
Safety is an important issue when choosing your baby's new furniture, especially for the bed. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers the following advice:
Baby cribs must meet federal safety standards. These include:
Slats should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) apart.
All slats should be intact, not missing or cracked.
Mattress should fit snugly. This means less than the width of 2 fingers between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.
Mattress support should be securely attached to the head and footboards.
Corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 inch (1.5 mm). This is to prevent clothing or other objects worn by a child getting caught on them.
The head and footboards should have no cutouts. Cutouts might let the baby's head become trapped.
Drop-side rail cribs are no longer considered safe.
All screws or bolts that secure parts of the crib should be present and tight.
The crib should not be placed near drapes or blinds, the CPSC says. This is because a child could become entangled and strangle on the cords. When the child reaches 35 inches in height, or can climb or fall over the sides, replace the crib with a bed.
According to the CPSC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, soft bedding may play a major role in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). These groups offer the following advice for infant bedding:
Place your baby on their back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
Remove pillows, bumper pads, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.
Don't use blankets for a newborn baby. Instead use appropriate-weight sleepwear or a sleep sack.
Check that your baby's head stays uncovered during sleep.
Don't place your baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
These small beds are helpful and portable in the first few months. The CPSC recommends following the manufacturer's guidelines on weight and size of the baby in determining who can safely use these products. For safety reasons, look for a bassinet or cradle that has:
A sturdy bottom and a wide base so it won't tip over
Smooth surfaces. This means no staples or other hardware sticking out that could hurt the baby.
Legs with strong locks to keep it from folding while in use
A firm mattress that fits snugly
Changing tables are a convenient place to change your baby's diaper. Always use straps to prevent your baby from falling. But straps are not a substitute for constant supervision.
These provide enclosed areas where a baby can nap or play safely. The CPSC recommends never leaving a baby in a mesh playpen or crib with the drop-side down. Even a very young baby can roll into the space between the mattress and loose mesh side and suffocate. Use only playpens that meet federal safety standards. These include:
Drop-side mesh playpens or cribs with warning labels to never leave the side in the down position
Mesh with a small weave (less than 1/4-inch openings)
Mesh with no tears, holes, or loose threads
Mesh securely attached to top rail and floor plate
Top rail cover has no tears or holes
Wooden playpen with slats spaced no more than 2 inches (60 mm) apart
If staples are used in construction, check that they're firmly installed and none are missing or loose
These are helpful in taking babies on outings. The CPSC recommends always securing the seat belts when using the stroller or carriage. Never leave a child unattended in a stroller. Keep children's hands away from pinching areas when stroller is being folded or unfolded, or the seat back is being reclined. For safety reasons, look for a stroller or carriage with:
A wide base to prevent tipping
The seat belt and crotch strap attached securely to the frames
A seat belt buckle that is easy to use
Brakes that securely lock the wheels
A shopping basket that is low on the back and directly over or in front of rear wheels for stability
Leg hole openings that can be closed when being used in the carriage position
All states have laws requiring babies and children to travel in an approved car safety seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers advice for choosing a car safety seat. These include:
Buy the car seat well before your due date.
The simplest and least expensive model often will work as well as one with fancy features.
Choose a seat that you find easy to use and that fits in your vehicle.
If you choose a convertible seat, try it facing both toward the front and rear.
Look for a seat you can use as long as possible that faces the rear.
Always put your baby in a car seat in the back seat. According to the AAP, babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat for as long as possible. This is often until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Check your safety seat instructions. Most convertible safety seats have height and weight limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.
If you buy an infant-only seat, you will need a convertible seat later. Most babies need to use rear-facing convertible seats as they get larger, because they outgrow their infant-only seats before age 2.
When you purchase a car seat, follow instructions on correct installation.
Nearly every car seat and most vehicles made since Sept. 1, 2002, are required to have the lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system. The LATCH makes it easier to install the child seat correctly.
The following is a suggested list of items you may want to have on hand before you bring your newborn home.
What you'll need
3 to 4 fitted crib sheets
2 waterproof crib pads
2 lightweight cotton crib-sized blankets (no fringe)
3 to 6 receiving blankets
4 waterproof lap pads
About 10 to 11 disposable diapers per day for the first few weeks, or 48 cloth diapers (plus 3 to 5 diaper covers or wraps)
Diaper pail at each changing area
4 to 6 baby washcloths
2 to 4 hooded towels
Mild bath soap
No tears baby shampoo
Choose simple clothing that's easy to get on and off, without long strings or ties that might be a choking hazard. Check that sleepwear is flame-retardant. You may want to buy mainly size 0 to 3 months and 3 to 6 months size clothing and a few newborn items.
4 to 6 receiving gowns
2 to 3 one-piece footed sleepers
4 to 6 undershirts or onesies
2 to 3 pairs of booties or socks
1 to 2 blanket sleepers (depending on the season)
Baby brush and comb
Baby nail clippers or scissors
Baby acetaminophen drops (given as advised by your baby's healthcare provider)
Bulb syringe for clearing baby's nose
Rectal digital thermometer
A front baby carrier or backpack
As you prepare your home for your new baby, look for sturdy furnishings and equipment. Check that all products meet current safety standards. This is especially important if you're borrowing or buying items secondhand.
Here is advice from the AAP on how to reduce the risk for SIDS and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1:
Breastfeed your baby. The AAP recommends breastmilk only for at least the first 6 months.
Have your baby vaccinated. A baby who is fully immunized can reduce their risk for SIDS.
Place your baby on their back for sleep or naps. Place your baby on their back for all sleeping until they are 1 year old. This can decrease the risk for SIDS, aspiration, and choking. Never place your baby on their side or stomach for sleep or naps. If your baby is awake, allow your child time on their tummy as long as you are supervising. This lowers the chances that your child will develop a flat head.
Always talk with your baby's healthcare provider before raising the head of the crib if your baby been diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn).
Offer your baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps, if they aren't breastfed. If breastfeeding, delay starting a pacifier until breastfeeding has been firmly established.
Use a firm mattress covered by a tightly fitted sheet to prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. This can decrease the risk for entrapment, suffocation, and SIDS.
Share your room instead of your bed with your baby. Putting your baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS. Bed sharing is not advised for twins or other higher multiples. The AAP recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents, close to their parents' bed, but in a separate bed or crib appropriate for infants. This sleeping arrangement is advised ideally for the baby's first year. But it should at least be maintained for the first 6 months.
Don't use infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to blockage of a baby's airway or suffocation.
Don't put your baby on a couch or armchair for sleep . Sleeping on a couch or armchair puts the baby at a much higher risk for death, including SIDS.
Don't use alcohol and illegal drugs, and don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth. Keep your baby away from others who are smoking and away from areas where others smoke.
Don't overbundle, overdress, or cover your baby’s face or head. This will prevent them from getting overheated, reducing the risk for SIDS.