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, 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. Always check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website at www.cpsc.gov for approved products. Check for recalls on your baby's products at SaferProducts.gov. The CPSC offers the following advice:
Baby cribs must meet federal safety standards. Follow these standards to keep your baby safe:
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 two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib. Only use the mattress provided with 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.
Correct assembly of cribs is very important. Follow the instructions provided. Make sure that every part is installed correctly. If you are not sure, call the manufacturer for help.
Don't use cribs older than 10 years or broken or modified cribs. Babies can strangle to death if their body passes through gaps between loose parts or broken slats while their head stays entrapped.
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, flat, 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, flat, mattress hat fits snugly
Changing tables are a convenient place to change your baby's diaper and dress your baby. But falls from a high surface can be serious. Follow these recommendations:
Choose a sturdy, stable changing table with a 2 inch (5 cm) guardrail around all four sides.
The top of the changing table pad should be concave, so that the middle is slightly lower than the sides.
Always use the safety straps to prevent your baby from falling. But straps are not a substitute for constant supervision. Keep at least one hand on your baby at all times.
Never leave your child unattended on the changing table, even if they are strapped in.
Keep diapering supplies within your reach, but out of your baby's reach. Don't let them play with a powder container. If they open and shake it, they are likely to inhale particles of powder. This can injure their lungs.
If you use disposable diapers, keep them out of your child's reach. Cover them with clothing. Children can suffocate if they tear off pieces of the plastic liner and swallow them.
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 and 3/8 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 harness when using the stroller. 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 with:
A wide base to prevent tipping
The seat belt and crotch strap attached securely to the frames
A five-point harness with straps over both shoulders, hips, and between the legs. Always secure the harness whenever your child goes for a ride.
Brakes that are easy to use and securely lock the wheels
A shopping basket that is low on the back and directly over or in front of rear wheels for stability. Don't hang bags or other items from the handles of your baby's stroller. They can make it tip backward.
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 specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to correctly install the car seat.
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.
Night-lights. Keep them away from drapes or bedding where they could start a fire. Buy only cool night-lights that don't get hot.
Smoke alarms. Install them outside every bedroom and any area where someone sleeps. Put them in furnace areas, and on every level of your home, including the basement. Buy alarms with long-life lithium batteries. Standard batteries should be changed every year. Test alarms every month to make sure they are working correctly.
Carbon monoxide detectors. Install these on each floor of your home. CO is a toxic gas that has no taste, no color, and no odor. It comes from appliances or heaters that burn gas, oil, wood, propane, or kerosene.
Window guards. Make sure these are secured to prevent a child from falling out the window.
Toy chest. The best toy chest is a box or basket without a lid. But if it has a lid, make sure it has safe hinges that hold the lid open and don't pinch. The chest should also have air holes just in case your child gets trapped inside.
Cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer. Use cool-mist to prevent burns. Clean it according to manufacturer instructions to prevent bacteria and mold growth.
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 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 if needed with the cloth diapers)
Diaper pail at each changing area
Diaper rash cream
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
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
Breastmilk storage bags
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:
Putting babies on their back for sleep and naps. Babies should be placed on their back for all sleeping until they are 1 year old. Don't lay your baby down on their side or belly for sleep or naps.
Not using sitting devices for routine sleep. Infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings are not advised for routine sleep. These may lead to blockage of a baby's airway or suffocation. If your baby is in a sitting device, remove them from the device and put them in the crib or other appropriate flat surface as soon as is safe and practical.
Putting babies in other positions while they are awake. Putting your baby in other positions helps your baby grow stronger. It also helps prevent your baby from having a misshaped head. When your baby is awake, hold your baby. Give your baby time on their tummy while awake and supervised for short periods of time beginning soon after coming home from the hospital. Slowly increase tummy time to at least 15 to 30 minutes each day by 7 weeks old. Try not to let your baby sit in a seat or swing for long periods of time.
Using correct bedding. Your baby should sleep on a firm, flat mattress or firm surface with no slant. Cover the mattress with a fitted sheet. Don’t use fluffy blankets or comforters. Don’t let your baby sleep on a waterbed, air mattress, sofa, sheepskin, pillow, or other soft material. Don’t put soft toys, pillows, or bumper pads in the crib.
Not overheating. Keep your baby warm, but not too warm. The temperature in your baby’s room should feel comfortable to you. Don't overbundle, overdress, or cover a baby's face or head. Don't put a hat on your baby when indoors.
Sharing a room. The AAP advises that babies sleep close to the parent's bed, but in a separate crib or bassinet for babies. This is advised ideally for the baby's first year. But you should do this at least for the first 6 months.
Not sharing a bed. Don't put your baby to sleep in a bed with other children. Don’t put your baby to sleep on a sofa, either alone or with another person. Don't share your bed with your baby, especially if you are using alcohol or other drugs. You can bring your baby to your bed for feedings and comforting. But return your baby to the crib for sleep. Bed sharing is also not advised for twins or other multiples.
Not allowing smoking around your baby. The risk for SIDS is higher for babies whose birth parent smoked during pregnancy. Don’t smoke when you are pregnant and don’t let anyone smoke around your baby. Babies and young children exposed to smoke have more colds and other diseases. They also have a higher risk for SIDS.
Taking your baby for checkups and vaccines. If your baby seems sick, call your baby’s healthcare provider. Take your baby in for regular well-baby checkups and routine shots. Some studies show that fully vaccinating your child lowers the risk for SIDS.
Breastfeeding your baby. Give your baby only human milk for at least 6 months, unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise. This means no water, sugar water, juice, or formula, unless your baby’s healthcare provider tells you to do so. Experts advise continuing to use human milk for feed for 1 year or longer. This depends on if both you and your baby want to do this. Using human milk for a year or longer reduces the risk for SIDS and many other health problems.
Thinking about giving your baby a pacifier during sleep time. You may give your baby a pacifier during routine sleep and nap time once breastfeeding is well-established. This is often after the first few weeks. But don’t hang pacifiers around your baby's neck. Don’t attach pacifiers to your baby’s clothing, stuffed toys, or other objects.
Not using positioning devices and home cardiorespiratory monitors. Don't use wedges, positioners, or special mattresses to help decrease the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant death. These devices have not been shown to prevent SIDS. In rare cases, they have resulted in infant death. Cardiorespiratory monitors sold for home use are also not helpful in preventing SIDS.
Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas. Be sure there are no hanging cords, wires, or window curtains nearby. This reduces the risk for strangulation.