When you begin shopping for baby equipment, you may notice that the advertising is designed to appeal to your most tender and protective feelings. Some ads even attempt to arouse guilt and anxiety in you if you choose not to buy the products. You may be tempted to buy everything you see, especially if this is your first child. Resist buying too much too soon.
The needs of a newborn are very simple. In the early weeks, a new baby requires only a safety seat, a few nightgowns, diapers, and a place to sleep. You can add other items gradually.
Babies quickly outgrow newborn-size garments. By 4 to 6 weeks, your baby may wear 3- to 6-month sizes. If friends ask what you could use for the baby, encourage them to buy 12-month or larger size clothing. Otherwise, before you know it, you will have a dresser full of “little” clothes that do not fit and nothing for your baby to wear.
Be sure that all the garments you buy or receive are soft to the touch and easy to put on. Babies dislike having their heads covered for more than a second. Also, choose clothing that has room for growth in the form of extra wide hems, extra long or adjustable straps, and so on.
Front-pack carriers and slings offer babies good transportation plus a warm place to sleep during the first months of life. As your baby reaches 2 to 3 months of age, you may prefer a stroller for shopping trips and other long excursions.
Pediatricians strongly discourage the use of baby walkers. Walkers cause more injuries each year than any other nursery product. They allow infants to be more mobile and more vertical than they normally would be at that age. As a result, unsupervised infants can fall down stairs or reach items on the stove or table tops. Serious injuries can include skull fractures, head injuries, lacerations, and scald burns. In addition, rather than encourage walking, baby walkers can impede a baby’s progress in learning to walk. Several companies now make bouncers or “saucers” to be used in place of walkers. These products allow the child to be upright, and they provide activities to entertain the baby without allowing him to be mobile.
You will not need a high chair until your baby is about 6 months old. Before then, your baby’s back and neck will not be strong enough for him to remain sitting upright.
Among the items that most parents feel are necessary for meeting an infant’s basic needs are the following:
- A sturdy crib with a firm mattress that can be used for at least 2 years. (For some important specifications, see “Baby-Proofing Your House”.)
- A bassinet to provide the small, confined space that most newborns prefer in the first weeks of life. This, however, is an expensive purchase considering the short time it is used.
- A set of crib bumper pads to protect your baby’s head, arms, and legs as he begins to move about in his sleep.
- One to two mattress pads to protect the baby against wetness and to absorb perspiration.
- Two crib sheets, one to use and one to wash. Fitted sheets stay on a mattress better than flat sheets do, and knitted cotton is the softest material.
- Four to five receiving blankets to cover the baby when he is sleeping or when you take him outside on a cool day.
- One to two warm blankets.
- Diapers. Disposable diapers are convenient, but they are also expensive and are detrimental to the environment. The initial cost of cloth diapers may seem high, but the money saved by not buying disposables more than offsets the cost of the fuel, hot water, and soap needed to wash them. Cloth diapers come in two types—flat and prefolded. Flat diapers are less expensive and dry more quickly, but prefolded ones are more absorbent and save time. Preshaped diapers with Velcro tabs are convenient, but expensive. If you use cloth diapers, you need three to four dozen diapers and four to six diaper pins. Most new mothers appreciate the gift of 1 to 2 months of a diaper service. Continued use of the service, however, is expensive and of questionable benefit ecologically if your particular one rinses its diapers five to six times. Do not begin using cloth diapers until your baby’s bowel movements have changed from meconium to milk stools. Meconium does not wash out and will permanently stain your diapers.
Most newborns go through about ten diapers a day. If using disposables, you will need to buy about seventy a week. Even if you use cloth diapers, you may want to use disposables for outings and trips. They are available in a range of sizes and absorbencies. If using the new super-absorbent ones, be sure to change your baby just as often as with the less absorbent varieties. Leaving diapers on too long can cause diaper rash.
- Diaper liners to make clean up after bowel movements easier. However, they will also add to your weekly expenses.
- A diaper pail that can hold 2 to 3 days’ worth of diapers and water, but that is not too large to carry.
- Three to six cotton nightgowns that close at the bottom to make diaper changing easier.
- Two to three one-piece stretch sleepers in the 6-month size. These are great for day and night wear as your baby grows and becomes more active.
- Three to six waterproof pants if the baby wears cloth diapers. Choose plastic-coated fabric pants that snap together at the sides to allow air circulation and to lessen the risk of skin irritation.
- Seasonal items, such as several short-sleeve snap-front shirts, a sweater and cap, or a snowsuit.
- A baby bathtub. The kitchen sink, lined with a towel, works just as well.
- Three to four soft washcloths for bathing and for wiping little bottoms.
- Two to three baby bath towels. Your regular towels will work just fine.
- Mild bar soap or liquid baby soap for cleaning tender skin.
- A safety seat. (For complete discussions of car seats, see “Buy and Install a Safety Seat” and “Automobile Safety For Infants”.) Your community may have a program that rents car seats for a minimal fee.
- A front-pack baby carrier or sling.
- A stroller.
If you spread out your purchases over an extended period of time, you will not be overwhelmed by their cost. You could also ask friends and relatives who no longer need certain items if they would loan them to you or sell them at a fraction of their original cost. Garage sales and consignment shops are other good sources of “nice as new” furniture, clothing, and toys. Babies do not wear out things the way older children do. However, if you purchase a used crib or other baby furniture, make sure to check for the safety features mentioned throughout this section.