1. Breasts! Or a warm chest and perhaps some resources to help you meet your goals. Check out Trevor McDonald’s blog and maybe the book, Breastfeeding After Surgery: Defining Your Own Success.
2. A lactation consultant (preferably an IBCLC who makes home visits)
3. A breast pump
4. Diapers, cotton balls
5. Newborn nail clippers (or scissors)
6. A Nose Frida
7. Burp cloths
8. Swaddle blankets
9. A place to lay your baby down which is able to fit near or right next to your bed
10. A way to wear your baby (I’m partial to the ring sling. Very versatile.)
That’s about it! Now… granted, this list is pretty one-dimensional. These items assume you want to breastfeed exclusively. Most parents who choose to do that have the potential to. People with all different sizes and shapes of breasts and nipples and chest configurations can generally make milk, provided the baby is latched on properly. (See item #2. IBCLCs can help ease many common latching problems, which also helps eliminate nipple pain. Finding an IBCLC who can visit you at home makes this process of learning less stressful for mom. She already has to go back and forth between home and her pediatrician in the early days, which can be stressful enough on its own.)
A side note about pediatricians: It may surprise you to know that it’s rare to find a pediatrician who is very knowledgeable about breastfeeding and can actively help a mom learn to nurse and help keep her committed to it if that’s what she really wants to do. Even lactation consultants vary widely in their ability to help. Pediatricians, and sometimes, the lactation staff who are working at the office, care about basically one thing: whether baby is gaining enough weight. So if that’s not happening right away and in a very obvious manner, many will be quick to recommend formula.
Of course we want baby to re-gain his or her birth weight by about 14 days old. Some women and babies have no trouble doing this without the need to supplement. For others, it’s a struggle. But it can be done without supplementing (with the right support)!
So, back to the topic at hand. The list. There are lots of wonderful baby items that can be really handy. White noise machines and swings are at the top of my list. But things like the high chair and bibs and spoons and creams and wipes and pacifiers and other gadgets are not really needed right away. You’ll need the high chair etc. later of course, but if you don’t want things taking up space in your home right away, you could save gift cards to use for those purchases when you need them.
What about wipes? Some babies’ bottoms are too sensitive for wipes. You could purchase a “free and clear” kind, or you can use just plain warm water and the cotton balls. Two small bowls, one with clean water and the other for rinsing, and you’re set. You can even use a little expressed breast milk to soothe any redness. In the very early days, the dark, sticky poop is difficult to clean. You can use a little coconut oil to help remove it.
What about clothes? Such a popular item to give at baby showers because they’re all so darn cute! But clothing is very difficult to size properly for a baby before birth. You don’t know for sure whether the baby will need newborn clothes or size 0-1 (yes, there’s a difference) or even 3-6 month clothes for extra big babies! And you need items that are seasonally appropriate as well. So many families end up with a closet full of baby clothes that never get worn. So it’s why I suggest you register for just the basics at first: a sweet and special going home outfit for baby (maybe a newborn size and a 0-1 so you can have an option that fits), and some basic Gerber or Carter’s t-shirts and onesies in several sizes. These are like undershirts and if you have the swaddle mastered, babies need very little other clothing (as cute as it all is). I also liked the basic Gerber gowns which made diaper changes easier. (No snaps to contend with in the dark.) And for cooler months you can get the long-sleeved t-shirts and gowns. These have the built-in mitten hands! So great! The mittens always fell off.
On that note, the mittens keep babies from scratching themselves when nails get longer, and some babies are born needing a nail trim! So I added the newborn nail trimmers to the list above. Most newborn care kits that come with a set of clippers will also include a bulb suctioner, but the Nose Frida snot sucker is far superior if babies get a little congested. Snot sucker! Gross! But I swear once you get over the weirdness of it, you’ll love it. That’s why it gets its very own spot on my top-ten list.
So aside from research about cloth diapers versus disposables, this list should get you through the first few months or so. If you’re a breastfeeding mom who’s returning to work or otherwise plans to have dad or another caretaker feed the baby a bottle occasionally, add a set of bottles, a drying rack, and a bottle brush to the list. Bottles are usually best introduced after breastfeeding has been well-established.