While some parents attest to their baby wipes warmer being a total life-saver, others will tell you that theirs sat on the floor of the closet for two years before being donated to charity. Some babies shriek at the touch of a room-temperature wipe on their sensitive baby bottoms; others wouldn’t mind if you stored the wipes in the freezer. Different baby personalities and parent preferences require different baby products to suit them. But although the usefulness of an incubator for disposable cleansing cloths is debatable, there is a whole slew of items that no parent could live without.
Here’s a laundry list of the bare necessities once you’re passed the first few days: items that nearly all parents will agree are essential in the early weeks at home with your newborn.
Rattle or toy. Your baby will enjoy having something to see, touch and hear. Choose a toy with contrasting colors, interesting textures and a pleasant noisemaker.
Bouncy seat or swing. Although we’re sure you’ll love holding your baby, we’re also sure you’ll need a break every once in awhile. Many babies love swinging or bouncing, so investing in one of the two can certainly be worthwhile. Bouncy seats can also work as a makeshift highchair during the time in which your baby is old enough for baby food but not yet able to support herself in a highchair.
Optional: Activity center. Sure, you could probably get by without one of these, but a comfy, colorful mat with shiny, adorable toys is a great place for your baby to play, learn and hang out.
Rear-facing infant car seat. You won’t be able to bring your baby home from the hospital without one (unless you live within walking distance), so make sure you choose a car seat well in advance of your due date. And consider a practice run (installing it in your vehicle, moving the handle up and down, and buckling the seatbelt) before your bundle of joy arrives. You may feel silly now, but you’ll feel even sillier fumbling with it in front of those adept hospital nurses later.
Stroller. Whether a fancy pants pram or utilitarian umbrella stroller is more your style, ensure that you’re able to open and close the stroller (and load and unload it from your car) with relative ease.
Diaper Bag. So much for the days of traveling light. Since you won’t leave home without your diaper bag—packed with spare diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, a pacifier and feeding essentials—for the next year or two, invest in a bag that’s durable, easy to clean and pocket-possessing so that you can stay organized even on the go.
Optional: Extra car seat base. For families with two cars, having one car seat base for each vehicle eliminates the otherwise inevitable instance in which one parent accidentally drives to work in the car with the base, leaving the other parent stranded at home.
Baby tub. Many parents like to use a pint-sized tub to bathe their pint-sized babe; however, some are just as comfortable using the sink. Whichever you choose, make certain you can safely and easily support your baby at all times.
Gentle cleanser. Choose a gentle, all-in-one cleanser formulated especially for sensitive baby skin. Tear-free options are great, as even the most careful parents can wind up with soapy baby eyes.
Washcloth. A soft washcloth will allow you to gently wipe your baby clean.
Towel. Hooded towels are a smart option for keeping your baby from shivering when she’s finished with her warm bath.
Optional: Bath thermometer. While a thermometer can help ensure your baby’s bath is not too hot and not too cold but just right, you can make a pretty good guess just dipping your hand in the water.
Brush or comb. Soft bristles will gently sweep your baby’s fine hair into place.
Nail clippers or file. Long nails can lead to your baby unintentionally scratching herself, so you’ll want to trim or file them regularly. Clippers designed with baby’s tiny nails in mind facilitate the sometimes tricky trimming process, and nail files eliminate the possibility of accidentally cutting your baby’s delicate skin.
Cotton balls or swabs. Cotton balls and swabs will allow you to keep all of your baby’s tiny crevices clean. Remember, never use a cotton swab to clean your baby’s ear canal; doing so could puncture the eardrum or result in pushing the wax you were trying to remove further inside.
Thermometer. Since so much as a single sneeze will leave you wanting to dial (from memory, of course) your pediatrician’s office, having a thermometer on hand will be an invaluable means of keeping you (and your doctor) sane.
Optional: Rubbing alcohol. Your doctor may recommend rubbing alcohol for keeping your baby’s umbilical cord clean and uninfected.