Bringing Home Baby: Your Baby Essentials Checklist
Updated: Feb 22
There is so much that new parents don't know about what you need to manage a baby in their life. They don't teach this in school. Hospitals only care whether or not you can properly install a car seat, not if you know when to feed your baby and how to change a diaper. The same can be said about how to outfit your home to welcome your new family member.
There are loads of baby checklists out there. But many of them list items that won't be relevant in your child's life for months to come. We created a list of essentials that you will need from the moment your baby enters your life and a separate list of what can wait for later when your baby is learning to get around on their own and eating solid foods. Not only have we created the list, but we will let you know why you need them. Our Essential Baby Checklist also makes a great reference tool when you are creating your rbaby shower wishlist. Click here for a printable pdf version of the list.
1. WHAT YOU NEED TO LEAVE YOUR HOME
We will begin here because most babies aren't born at home. So, in most cases, you will need to get your baby from the hospital to your home. Don't fret. We created a list of essential gear and a Diaper Bag Packing List for you to make sure you that you don't make that journey unprepared.
Baby Sling or Carrier & Stroller
First you are going to have to get your baby from here to there safely. This means at the very least you will need some sorry of carrying device. A body-worn baby sling or carrier will get you to your car, but you are going to need a stroller sooner or later... preferably one with ample storage underneath to hold your diaper bag with additional space for purchases if you will be taking your little one shopping. You want one that is as lightweight as possible and can close easily using one hand because I assure you that no one is going to help you do it even if you have your baby in your arms while holding your dog on leash that is lunging at another nearby dog in the rain.
Before you can take your baby (and Fido) on their first shopping spree, you need to get them home from the hospital. If your hospital was as strict as mine was, your baby isn't leaving the hospital until you can demonstrate that you know how to get your baby in and out of the car seat. They also observed the installation in the car to make sure that my son wasn't going to tip over at the first turn. My son was a 4 lb. preemie when he took his first car ride. I am going to tell you now that they don't make car seats for 4 lb. babies. We had to find an insert that would give him extra support and keep the straps from going over his face. So if your baby comes early, add that to your shopping list.
If you can get a car seat that snaps into your stroller that will be handy, as you DO NOT want to wake your sleeping baby while removing them from the car seat when you get to your destination. Your baby will not take the disruption lightly. Expect an hour or more of unsettled crying as your reward.
Diaper Bag Packing List
You need a diaper bag. I am going to say that again. You need a diaper bag. I was completely resistant to diaper bags because the manufacturers at time time made them unattractively feminine. I tried a backpack for a time, but you can't beat the ease of the access of a well-organized diaper bag. And rest assured, they make cool ones now that even the men in your life will carry without embarrassment.
Diapers and Waste Management
No matter how many books you read on the subject, your baby is not going to be potty trained for at least a year. So you need diapers. Loads and loads of diapers. Cloth ones are way better for the environment. We were lucky enough to be in the delivery radius of a diaper service founded in 1933. Needless to say, they had it down. I received a delivery of fresh diapers every week and they took away the dirty ones even if they were full of poop.
If you choose to use cloth diapers, buy at least 24 of them and you will need diaper covers. I would say 7 of them. One of them will live in the diaper bag with 4 clean diapers. You will thank me later when your baby has an explosive poop and you won't have to MacGyver a diaper cover out of a grocery bag like I did.
When our son got home, we realized that he was too small for even their preemie-sized cloth diapers, so we had to find disposable ones made for the tiniest babies. It was a challenge. Most stores don't carry them, but you are likely to find them online. Order them before your baby leaves the hospital.
If you are using disposable diapers, try to find ones that are eco-friendly. You will make 2200 diaper changes in the first year alone. Times that by the 3.7 million babies born in the U.S. every year and you have a mountain of dirty diapers sitting in landfills for eternity.
For the clean up of bottoms, fingers, or faces, you will need a large pack of baby wipes or a resealable container with damp wash clothes. Make sure that you have a leak-proof bag that you can put soggy diapers, soiled clothing, and dirty wipes. If you pack it in, pack it out. Don't count on trash cans being readily available every where you go. You don't want to be the parent who leaves a dirty diaper left behind in an unsuspecting business' dressing room. That is rude, unsanitary, and will make you zero friends with your local business proprietors.
For diaper changes on the go, you will need a foldable, waterproof changing mat. Let's face it, the baby changing stations in public bathrooms are not sanitized after every use. You want a barrier between your baby and a hard surface whose cleanliness you control. In a pinch you can use a baby blanket. But if you are changing a poopy diaper, you better be okay with it getting feces on it... it will happen. And that will be the last time that you use the blanket until you get home and put it in the washing machine.
Because of leaking diapers or explosive poos, you will need several changes of clothing when you are out and about with your baby. One set is the minimum. More will be needed on longer expeditions into the world. If your baby is wearing a onesie, bring 2 more. If you baby is wearing separates, you will likely need more pants than tops. But make sure you bring extra socks. I guarantee you that your baby will kick their foot right into the center of a messy diaper before you can clear the way. These garments can just live in the diaper bag until needed. Make sure you replenish your supply before going out again if you put them to use.
In order to keep your baby's shirt clean, make sure that you have a drool bib around their neck most of the time. Baby's digestive systems are not fully developed and you should expect unexpected spit up multiple times a day. I would leave home with one around your baby's neck and 2-4 that live in the diaper bag for emergencies.
Speaking of spitting up, feeding, regardless of if you are breastfeeding or not, takes gear of their own. Let's begin with burp cloths since every meal ends with a burp that may or make a mess when produced. Leave 2 in your diaper bag. You will use both of them, I promise.
If you are breastfeeding, you will need a privacy drape when your baby is enjoying their meal. This can be a nursing cover or a baby blanket. The downside of using a blanket is that it gets hot under the covers which is far from ideal during the Summer. Be sure to bring spare nursing pads/nipple pads because once one of your breasts gets going, the other one will join in as well.
Regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding, if you want another human to do the feeding, bring at least one bottle. You can bank your breastmilk and bring it with you in an insulated bag. If breastfeeding is not working out for you, fill the baby bottle with one meal's worth of powdered formula. Bring along a container of water to transform it into a liquid. Bring extra for yourself to stay hydrated. It wouldn't hurt to throw in a second meal's worth of formula just in case. Babies can cluster feed in their first months of life. This means that you will feed your baby for 45 minutes only for them to be hungry 15 minutes later. This happened to me frequently. Some days I never left the chair in which I was sitting to nurse because the feeding never ended.
With all of this talk of feeding and bodily fluids, make sure that you pack a travel-size hand sanitizer in the diaper bag. This is particularly important if eating and diaper changing happen in an unfortunate order when there is not a sink in sight.
You can take advantage of your baby's Sucking Reflex between meals with a small collection of pacifiers. I would attach one to your baby with a pacifier clip and keep 2 spares in the diaper bag. Even with the clip, they will sometimes end up on the ground and disappear. If your kid digs them, you want to make sure you have spares to plug the "holler hole" when you are away from home. Much to my chagrin, my fussy baby refused to keep them in his mouth so I never needed more than the 2 that came home with me from the hospital.
No diaper bag is complete without proper sun protection for both you and your baby. A sunhat with a chin strap is a must on sunny days when shade is scarce. In addition, get in the habit of slathering your baby in baby-formulated sunscreen with zinc that has no less than 50 spf. Sunburns, even when your child is a baby, can lead to skin cancer later in life. Purchase 2 bottles: one for home and one that stays in the diaper bag. Put the sunscreen on at least 20 minutes before leaving the house and reapply after 2 hours of being outside even if it is a cloudy day. Make sure you bring some for yourself. Nobody wants Melanoma.
Lastly bring a baby blanket. Much like versatile "towel" of Hitchhikers' fame, a baby blanket has many uses. It can be used for warmth or nursing cover in a pinch. You can put it on the ground on which you can sit or do an impromptu tummy time session. You can wrap up soiled garments if you are without a trash bag. You can also drape it over the stroller to keep the sun or stranger's gaze off of your sleeping baby. Choose the weight of the blanket based on the weather: thicker during cold Winter months and light-weight cotton for Summertime.
I also threw in a portable crib on the list, if you ever plan on spending the night somewhere other than your home. Baby shouldn't spend days sleeping in a car seat.
2. WHAT YOU NEED TO OUTFIT YOUR NURSERY
Cribs, mattresses, and bedding
I am sure that I don't need to tell you why you need a crib or a crib mattress. Even if you are co-sleeping, you still need a crib because unless you plan on laying in bed 14-17 hours a day (the number of hours babies sleep), you need a place to store the baby when you are puttering around the house. Now that I think about it, laying in bed 14 hours a day sounds like a dreamy lifestyle choice when your baby is fresh from the womb... but I digress. You need 2 waterproof mattress covers. Two. You need 2. One will be in the washing machine after your baby figures out how to remove their diaper and the other will be protecting the crib mattress from feces, vomit, and urine. You will be using this mattress for the next 4 years because this is the mattress that you will be using for the toddler bed. You don't want your child sleeping on a urine stained mattress for years. Likewise you will need at least 4 fitted sheets. Not every leaking diaper will require the mattress pad to be washed. But you will multiple sheets for those rough days when fluid containment becomes unmanageable.
Make sure that you place your crib in the center of the room to help your baby's eye development. If you want to read more about why or what to do if you don't have the room, read our post about 5 ways to strengthen your baby's eye muscles.
While you will need multiple baby blankets for a multitude of uses, you won't use them in the crib because it might suffocate your baby. I put 4 on the list: one for your diaper bag, car, nursery, and where ever you will be settling into feed your baby.
Technically you don't need a ton of furniture yet. You just need a dresser to store clean clothes, hamper for the dirty ones, as well as a changing station set up. Your comfy chair for feeding may or may not be in this room. If so, maybe a side table and lamp to put a glass of water, book, and/or bluetooth speaker to listen to podcasts or music.
Nursery items that help with your baby's eye development
A black & white crib mobile is a must to strengthen your baby's eyes. You read about why in the blog post to which I referred to above. A night light is also important to strengthen your baby's eye muscles. You can help build the muscles used for tracking if you shine the night light or rechargeable flashlight on the mobile at night. As the mobile moves, fascinating shadows will be created.
The last thing that you will need to outfit your nursery is a tummy time mat. These can be the foam ones that connect like jigsaw puzzles or a fabric one with a variety of sensory activities. Tummy time can begin as soon as your baby gets home from the hospital. Just make sure that you put down your phone and keep your eyes glued onto your baby during this time for safety. Your baby cannot lift their own head if something blocks their ability to breathe. You need to be present in case this happens.
Changing station and supplies
You will need the following items to set up your changing station: waterproof changing mat or pad, as well as baby wipes or washcloths for cleaning up baby's bottom. Speaking of your baby's bottom, a baby wipe warmer will be appreciated. Cold wipes can be very distressing especially for babies with heightened senses. Make sure you add water occasionally to the package of wipes that can dry out over time. Diaper cream will help to prevent diaper rash. You will need at least 24 cloth diapers or disposable diapers. You can change diapers up to 16 times a day. Make sure your station is fully stocked. If you are using cloth diapers, you will need 7 diaper covers. Lastly you will need a diaper pail to hold either soiled cloth diapers or act as a trash can for disposable ones.
3. FEEDING ESSENTIALS
Your baby will be consuming only liquids until they are 6 months old. So there is no rush to buy any of the adorable baby dishes or cutlery. Breast and bottle are the only tools needed to keep your baby growing.
But there are some things that you will need to support this method of food service. The first and arguably the most important is a comfortable chair. This can be a rocker or glider or it can just be a cushy loveseat. The most valuable feature is that you are comfortable sitting in it. You will be there a lot. This piece of furniture is all about you.
Regardless if you are feeding from breast or bottle, your neck will be happier if you have nursing pillow. This is a "C" shaped pillow that sits on your lap and wraps around your waist on which you lay your baby. When breastfeeding, it supports your baby at the correct height to reach your nipple. When bottle feeding, it takes the weight off of the arm that is holding your baby while your other hand holds the bottle. Nursing pillows are worth the investment. Believe me.
Things that catch fluids that come out of your baby's face
You will need burp cloths because not everything that goes in a baby stays in a baby. Their digestive systems are immature at this stage so burping after feeding can end with the meal on your shoulder unless you have a burp cloth there. You need 12 because this will happen a lot. You will keep 2 in the diaper bag and 4 will be in your hamper at any given time. That will give you 6 clean ones to ensure that you are prepared for every feeding.
For the same reason that you need the burp cloths you need drool bibs. Your baby won't start drooling in earnest until they start teething. However, since your baby can spit up at any time, you need to keep one of those suckers around their neck while they are awake and not doing tummy time. This way you can wipe their face when fluids come out of their nose or mouth. You will need 12 of them. Four will live in your diaper bag. Four in the hamper and 4 will be available for the day.
Ahh. Breastfeeding. I am here to let you know that your boobs are going to come to life once your milk comes in. No one will tell you this, but you cannot be away from your baby or a breast pump for more that 3 hours because your breasts will become engorged. This means that they will swell until they are rock hard and then start squirting milk. For this reason, you will need 7 nursing bras. You will likely need to change your bra more than once a day depending on your cleanliness threshold. Keep this in mind on Date Night. Get all of the milk out before you leave your home in order to give you the largest window of time. So leave time for 40 minutes of feeding/pumping - 20 minutes on each breast -before heading out the door.
Another thing that no one tells you about breastfeeding is that when one breast is being sucked on, the other breast is activated and will squirt milk into your nursing bra. So unless you want to double your nursing bra inventory, you will need at least 12 washable nipple pads. These are also known as nursing pads. They are circles of cotton fabric that you will place over your nipples when you put on your bra to absorb any rogue breast milk. They make disposable ones, but that seems unnecessarily wasteful when you are doing laundry every day any how.
Nipples can become sore and chapped. Especially in the beginning when your baby is relying on the Sucking Reflex to get food in their belly. Nipple cream will help with the chapping. At this to your bag of breast feeding tricks.
BOTTLE FEEDING NECESSITIES
Even if you are breast feeding, if you want to be able to be away from your baby more that 3 hours for work or to attend an event, you will still need bottles so that someone other than you can feed your baby. I recommend 10 4oz & 8oz baby bottles - 5 of each. In the beginning, you will only use the 4 oz bottles. But after your baby becomes a monster-feeder, you will only use the 8 oz bottles. Bottles with nipples that are shaped like a breast are better because they better match the breast feeding experience.
You are going to need a way to clean the bottles. Therefore you will need a bottle brush. This is a device with a pipe cleaner like tip that will help you get breastmilk fat or dried formula out of the nipple before you wash by hand or put in the dishwasher. Add some dish soap to the tip before scrubbing.
There are bottle sanitizing equipment that are sold. I did't buy any because I didn't want another appliance in my kitchen that was already short of counter space. If you have the money to buy one, knock yourself out. If not, you can do what I did and placed the bottles in a pot of boiling water for 8 minutes that I removed with tongs. It worked fine. Cost no money and took up no space. I would do this a couple of times a week or when you collect dirty bottles that sat out overnight, lived in the diaper bag all day, or rolled under the seat of your car for an indeterminate amount of time.
I have similar opinions about bottle warming equipment. They are certainly a nice to have. You will need a way to warm meals coming from a bottle, especially if it is frozen breastmilk. The idea is that you want the fluids that your baby is consuming to be body temperature like milk coming directly from the breast as some babies will reject cold liquids. I warmed frozen breastmilk for bottle feedings by putting the bottle in the pot of hot water on the stove. Check the temperature of the fluid before giving it to your baby by dripping a few drops on your wrist. If it is cold, put it back in the pot. If it is hot, take off the top and let it cool. You want it to be body temperature and not scorch your baby's throat.
4. WHAT YOU NEED IF YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING AND HAVE RETURNED TO WORK
If you have to return to work and you are breastfeeding, you will need a breast pump. I rented mine from the hospital where I gave birth to my son. I bought the doohickeys that cover the nipples and the storage containers. Since I owned my own business, I didn't need accommodations from management to pump every 3 hours. If you work in an office and don't have any privacy at your desk, ask your boss to see if they can find a private place for you to pump. It is the law in some states to make this accommodation.
Regardless of whether or not you are pumping at your desk or in a private office, you will need a modesty drape of some sort. I used my nursing cover. Believe me, you don't want any one, especially co-workers or your boss, walking in and seeing you straped into this oddly festishy milking device. That will be burned into their brains for all eternity.
You will need a bandeau with two holes in it that will hold the doohickeys in place for hands-free pumping, otherwise you have to hold them in place and that becomes tedious in short order. While you are pumping hands free, you can answer emails, eat a snack or lunch, read a book or listen to a podcast. Since I owned my own fashion house, I often sewed garments while pumping. Make sure you pay attention to how full the storage containers are. I made a mess several times when the containers were full and the milk sprayed out of the doohickeys because it had no where else to go.
Breastmilk storage containers
You will need storage containers that screw into the doohickeys for the milk and a fridge to keep them cool. Bring a cooler with icepacks to work, if your place of work doesn't have a fridge. You will need at least 6 containers. But it will depend on how quickly you fill them up and how often you pump. You may need many more if you are blessed with a lot of milk.
In order to order to clean up after pumping, you will need bottle brush, dish soap and towel to dry everything. In addition you will need 6 nipple pads to catch leaking and extra nursing bra just in case.
5. BABY'S WARDROBE
Here is a list of the minimum number of garments that you will need by the time you bring baby home. 8 shirts or onesies, 8 pants, and 5 nightgowns. You need to be careful around the umbilical cord stump making sure that it is not being irritated by a diaper or waistband. Nightgowns are perfect for this purpose and you can use them until cord falls off.
You will need 2 beanies to keep baby's head warm. 8 pairs of socks or booties to keep their feet warm. 2 pairs of scratch mittens to keep their razor talons from scratching their face or yours. 2 cardigans or jackets to keep their body warm when it is cool out. 5 baby swaddles for sleeping. Swaddles are great because it simulates the pressure that your baby felt in your womb. This pressure is soothing and will help facilitate sleeping.
I am not sure if anyone told you that you will be doing laundry constantly, but you will. It is amazing how much dirty laundry someone so tiny can produce. Between the leaking diapers and frequent spitting up, your baby will be making so many wardrobe changes that it would put the residents of Dowton Abbey to shame. For this reason you will need, hypoallergenic laundry detergent. You don't know if your baby has allergies to detergent until their body breaks out in eczema like mine did. I used the name brand baby detergent and then spend hundreds of dollars on a dermatologist appointment and prescription creams. We only use fragrance-free, all-natural, hypoallergenic detergent even though he is 13 now.
6. WHAT YOU NEED FOR BATH TIME
Baby needs an infant tub for the daily washing away of urine, feces, and vomit. The one that used had a hammock that stretched over a plastic tub in which I put warm water. I used the hammock apparatus until my son could hold his head up on his own. You can also use one of those large plastic tubs that fit into a kitchen sink. If you go this route, you will need a second set of hands: one to support your baby's head and another to do the washing. Use a floating tub thermometer to make sure that the water is not too hot for baby.
You will need washcloths to wipe down your baby and hypoallergenic baby soap that may or may not be shampoo to cleanse the skin and hair. After you wipe down your baby, use an unbreakable water pitcher to pour warm water to rinse. This is important for sensory integration. You will dry your baby with one of the 3 hooded towels that you have in your arsenal. Use a soft-bristled hair brush designed for babies to comb their hair after you towel dry it.
7. OTHER NECESSITIES
You will need baby nail clippers or scissors to trim your baby's razor talons, a bulb syringe to clean snot out of their nose because they have no ability to blow their nose yet, and a baby thermometer to check to see if you baby has a fever when the time comes.
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