After having four babies, I’ve heard it all when it comes to newborn must haves.
Some people insist you’ll need every baby-related gadget ever invented to keep your baby happy and healthy. And yet others say the only real newborn must haves are your boobs, some diapers, and a comfy bed to sleep in – with the diapers and bed being optional.
I fall somewhere in between the two schools of thought. My default setting is frugal and minimalist, but if there’s a gadget that will make the exhausting newborn phase easier on me or my baby, I’m all over it.
For example, can you survive without a changing table? Of course.
But after a couple weeks of changing 20 diapers a day while bent over your baby on the floor or your bed, you may end up looking a bit like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and wish you’d at least gotten a changing pad to go on your dresser.
How This Newborn Must Haves List Is Different
Most of the comprehensive newborn must haves lists are from big companies, not real parents who zombied their way through sleepless nights with a newborn.
And some of the newborn must have lists feel like they were put together by someone who saw something random on Amazon and thought, “Hey, that’s cool!” – as opposed to a parent who’s trying to decide between onesies and sleepers because there’s not enough money to get both.
I’ve had four babies in ten years, so I have a pretty good idea what’s a must and what you can skip. I’ve made the mistake of spending money on things I thought were newborn must haves, only to kick myself when we were well past the newborn phase and those things were still sitting in a corner collecting dust.
Nothing beats the firsthand experience of tired parents, and that’s exactly what you get in this list written for parents by parents.
The Newborn Must Haves That Will Make Your Baby Happy (And You, Too)
Start your registry on Amazon†, add these newborn must haves to it, and you’ll be ready to meet your little one.
Feeding Your Newborn
In the hospital, they give you a single sheet of paper where you’re supposed to keep track of when your baby eats as well as every wet and dirty diaper. This is so they can be sure baby’s getting enough milk and all systems are go. A sheet of paper sounds simple, yes?
But it seems a lot less simple when it’s 5:00 am and you’ve slept a total of 4 hours in 30-minute stints, and you’re trying to find that single sheet of paper to record a dirty diaper that ended up all over her foot and your hand and…your hair?! You finally find the stupid paper, but now you can’t find a freaking PEN.
My phone is never far from me, so the MammaBaby app worked much better for tracking the ins and outs of our little ones. The price is steep for an app ($4.99), but it’s worth it. You can also track sleep patterns, growth at each pediatrician appointment, and which side to nurse on next.
Your baby will need to eat every 1-3 hours in the early weeks, so he’s going to be on your nursing pillow a lot – eating and breathing, and sometimes even sleeping after that delicious milk coma sets in.
The problem with most nursing pillows you’ll find in the store is that they’re made of polyurethane foam, which is typically treated with flame retardants because the material is so flammable. Flame retardants are nasty stuff – they can cause abnormal brain development in children and lead to learning problems.
Why chance it with something your baby will be next to so often? The Nesting Pillow is a nursing pillow filled with all natural buckwheat hulls. In other words: no nasty chemicals. As an added benefit, the pillow conforms to your arm and the baby, which means it’s vastly superior at doing the job of actually supporting you once you get everyone into juuuuuust the right position.
3. Burp Cloths
You definitely do not need to buy special burp cloths. But you will need to have something on hand that’s soft (for baby’s sensitive skin) and absorbent (to catch or wipe up baby’s spit-up).
With my first baby, I didn’t realize the burp cloths I’d picked out – boring, brown prefold diapers – would be my fashion accessory 24-7. So for my second go-round, I decided to get something cute.
You may have your burp cloth of choice thrown over your shoulder most of your baby’s awake time, so if you want something a little nicer than an old washcloth, try something like the aden + anais Burpy Bib.
Bonus: This burp cloth doubles as a bib for later on when baby’s ready for solid foods.
Getting Your Baby to Sleep
Babies are used to a constant whooshing sound from when they were inside your body, listening to the Symphony of Organ Functions. The quiet of the outside world is a little disconcerting to them:
“Wave upon wave of blood surging through the arteries of your womb makes this harsh, whooshing sound, which is as loud and rough as a gale wind blowing through the trees…Imagine your baby’s shock at birth when she emerges from that rich uterine world of loud quadraphonic whooshing into the quiet world of whispering and tiptoeing that parents create for their newborns. Sure, we may enjoy resting in a still room, but for your baby the silence can be deafening.”The Happiest Baby on the Block
Every time you lay your newborn down to sleep, turn on some white noise to fill that void and help keep your little one asleep. But no need to get a separate gadget – just get a white noise app and stick your phone in a sound dock. (This sound dock is what we have.)
Full disclosure: You can find free white noise apps, but this specific White Noise app has 40+ different sounds to choose from. This is perfect because if your baby doesn’t like the popular brown noise or the research-proven pink noise, she may like the sounds of a rainstorm. Or a cat purring. Or a Tibetan singing bowl. Plus, you can get more sounds for free from the White Noise Market.
Diapering Your Newborn
In those early weeks, every single diaper was a poopy diaper. Every. Single. One. One of our kids developed a case of diaper rash that had us embarrassed to show our faces at her 2-week pediatrician appointment. We tried it all. Natural butt balms, mainstream barrier creams, and everything in between.
The ONLY product that cleared it up? GroVia Magic Stick. Side benefit: It’s in stick form, which means you can spread it on baby’s bum without getting goop all over your hands. Or you know, leftover fecal matter.
Keeping Your Baby Happy
When it comes to calming down a fussy baby, this book has all the answers.
The Happiest Baby on the Block will teach you how to get your baby from cranky to calm in minutes. You can’t put a price on the knowledge you’ll get from this book.
And if you’re short on time, it has pictures to show you all the techniques and handy reference pages to save you from having to read the book cover-to-cover.
The newborn stereotype is that they’ll sleep anytime, anywhere. But I was blessed with one newborn who did not want to sleep. Since week one, my second child never fell asleep on her own. We had to WORK to get her to sleep. And she fought it like hell.
But we discovered a trick that got her to sleep about 95 percent of the time, without much effort on our part: the Baby K’Tan carrier. When we noticed her eyes looking a little red or she’d yawned a couple times, we plopped her in the Baby K’Tan, walked around for 5 or 10 minutes, and she’d be OUT.
If you’d prefer something a little more structured than a wrap-style carrier, my babies also loved the Ergobaby Adapt. What I appreciate about the Ergobaby Adapt is that unlike similar carriers, it works from newborn to toddler and doesn’t need an extra insert to work for the newborn stage.
The Ergobaby Adapt is my go-to carrier for outside the house when we’re grocery shopping, running errands, or grabbing a meal at a restaurant. (Side note: I learned the hard way that a simple baby carrier is vastly superior to awkwardly lugging a clunky car seat into a store. Even if your baby is already asleep in the car seat, you can transfer to the baby carrier in less than a minute, and as soon as you start walking, your newborn will fall back to sleep.)
No matter which carrier you decide on, try to find one that’s easy and quick to put on and take off. For example, with my first baby, I loved the Moby wrap, but it wasn’t quick enough to put on. By the time I got it wrapped around my body and tied up the ends, my baby was annoyed and not so sleepy anymore.
First of all, you’ll want a safe, portable place to put the baby if you need to use the bathroom or move the laundry over. But here’s a side benefit of getting a bouncy chair for baby: A lot of babies need help getting rid of the gas (and other stuff) in their tiny tummies. You can bicycle their legs, massage their bellies, or lay them on their tummies to help. Those won’t help every time, though.
We stumbled upon a product that wasn’t intended to help in this situation, but it totally DOES. No list of newborn must haves would be complete without the BabyBjorn BabySitter Balance chair.
It took us a few days to pick up on the cause-and-effect relationship this chair has with our first baby’s digestive system. But now we know:
- Put baby in chair.
- Baby poops.
Works like a charm.
Keeping Your Baby Healthy And Safe
You’ll need a reliable way to suck the snot out of your sweet baby’s nose. Gross, yes. But when your baby can’t breathe due to snot blockage, scary will win out out over gross.
The hospital might give you a plastic blue bulb syringe to take home with you.
Free is good. But what’s not good is how you can never quite get those bulbs cleaned out after the first few uses. (Check out these photos of the inside of a blue bulb that was cleaned properly after every use.)
We loved the Nosefrida nasal aspirator as a more hygienic blue bulb alternative. But if you prefer old school, you may want to get a package of a few extra blue bulbs so you can swap out for fresh new ones every now and then.
A few days after we got home from the hospital, my second baby’s eyes suddenly had all this yellow goo. My first thought was “Pinkeye,” and my second thought was…a bad word.
Then I looked it up in The Baby Book. False alarm. It turns out some babies get plugged tear ducts, so you just have to massage them to open them up. Um…
HOW DO YOU MASSAGE A TEAR DUCT.
Baby Book to the rescue again!
Newborn bodies are just plain weird – flaky skin, swollen baby breasts, kaleidoscopic poo.
You need a reliable reference where you can look stuff up without having to wade through crazy search results that at best give you information like “my cousin’s next-door neighbor’s hairdresser said that’s totally normal, and she heard it straight from a nurse so I know it’s true” and at worst scare you into going to the ER at 3:00 am.
11. Nail Scissors
Nail clippers may seem like a nice-to-have – until your sweet baby draws blood on her own precious little face and you realize you need to trim the miniature daggers attached to her fingers.
But forget those medieval torture devices they call “baby nail clippers.” You’ll end up accidentally snipping your baby’s delicate skin, and what will appear to be BUCKETS of blood will pour out of the tiniest of cuts.
The Piyo Piyo Baby Nail Scissors are much easier to use.
More Must Have Baby Items
12. A Handy Camera
When you’re on the couch with your baby in your arms and she flashes you her first gummy smile, that fancy DSLR is going to seem an awful long way away. But I bet you’ll have your phone on you – or at least within reach. Splurge on the 99-cent Camera+ app to kick your phone photos up a notch, or ten.
Then check out these tips for using the Camera+ app.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What would you add to this list of newborn must haves? Share in a comment below!