I’ve done this mom thing for a while now. From online shopping for as many KicKee Pants as I could fit in my cart at 3 a.m. to asking that if my husband do one thing for me each day, that he please, oh god, please, fill up my water bottles, I know what new moms really want and need in the early days with a baby at home.
You can find plenty of checklists online or maybe in the final pages of your pregnancy book outlining what they claim are all the essentials you’ll need to welcome home your little bundle of joy. These usually list a few onesies, some diaper cream, a pack of diapers, a baby bath and soap, and a bassinet or crib for baby to snooze in. If you ask me, though, these lists are seriously lacking.
Part of the problem, in my book, is they never seem to quite accurately communicate the sheer volume of some of the supplies you will absolutely need — and need a whole lot of — in the first few days and weeks. Exactly how may times do you want to be running out to the drugstore, or sending your zombie-like sleep-deprived partner out driving to the market, for diapers and random supplies that (for some reason) no person, site, or book thought to mention to you?
At the end of pregnancy, many women are already on maternity leave. Some spend weeks just sort of waiting. The question I have for you is, when I was sitting on the couch reading the same sites and books telling me what size vegetable my baby looked like for the fourth time, why didn’t someone tell me to use this time to get in the car (or on the Internet) and start amassing the supplies I would need — the real ones — for the day that baby finally came?
I feel it is my duty, as a mom of two, now, to share my knowledge with the world: here are 15 things you really need to get ready to bring home baby.
15 Catch My Drift?
After you deliver in the hospital, nurses will likely help you to get to the toilet to urinate, clean up, and get outfitted with a very large, diaper-like sanitary pad. You will likely go through many of these in the first day or two after delivery as your uterus contracts to begin to shrink back down to its regular size, your body sloughing the extra fluids that you were carrying during pregnancy.
It’s sort of like having one really big, really long period, and I’ve heard nurses joke that it’s “payback” for those 10 months of having no period at all.
Is it a big deal? No, not really. You just change your pads (no tampons yet!) as needed when you go to the bathroom and go about the rest of your postpartum business. You probably won’t think too much about it as your body goes through this natural process of becoming more like it was in its pre-pregnant state.
You probably also won’t want to have to give too much thought to needing to run out to the store to buy sanitary pads. Believe me, I’ve sent my husband many times, and he’s happily obliged, but staring at that vast aisle, sleep-deprived or not, can be really quite confusing, between the wings, the no-wings, the thin, thick, short, long, and medium…
As you prep and collect the items you’ll really need in your postpartum days (think maybe six weeks or more, actually… ), you may wish to take the time to figure out an (absorbent) variety you favor and stock up.
14 Extra Padding
What else needs absorbent pads? Boobies! Nursing mothers’ breasts leak. Sometimes one leaks a little while you feed from the other. Sometimes they just go a little when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Maybe you heard a baby cry, saw a cute kid, or it just randomly sort of happened. You probably won’t even notice it some of the time.
That’s why breast pads are there. You can buy disposable options, and you can buy machine-washable reusable options, as well. I first bought the disposable kind, I think because that’s what came up first when I searched for them on the Internet. However, I found the materials to be scratchy and the waste (from the sticker-backing-like packaging to the wrappers) to be abundant. My thoughts on these? Might be good to stick a couple, especially if you’ve been sent some free samples or something, in your purse, diaper bag, or car just in case you need them (if you forgot to put some on or need to change them while you are away from home).
My go to, which I wear every day and night? Fairly soft, 100-percent-cotton, machine-washable breast pads. They almost always do the job of catching any leaks, and I often hardly notice that they’re there.
13 Pump, Date, Freeze, Repeat
Whether you plan to breastfeed exclusively, give just an occasional or once-a-day bottle of breast milk, give your milk primarily from a bottle, or some combination thereof (which you may not quite know exactly until the baby arrives and you see how it all goes), you will probably pump breast milk at least sometimes, especially in the early days and weeks as your milk comes in.
That precious liquid has to be saved, and it makes the most sense for many moms to have a rotating stock of milk in the freezer and / or fridge. It goes like this, for example: I pump every evening while my husband gives my baby a bottle. (The rest of the day, she breastfeeds from me.) I take out a couple breast milk storage bags, label them with the date, and put them in the freezer. Then I take out a few of the oldest bags from the freezer collection and thaw them in the fridge to be used for the bottle the next day. And so it goes.
This means a lot of breast milk bags — and a lot of labeling. I exclusively breastfed my first baby, so when I got started with the above routine with my second, after once attempting to label a milk storage bag with a regular pen, I realized that it simply did not work at all and it had to be done with a permanent marker. I, being somewhat of a pen enthusiast by chance, happened to have one on hand, and all was well.
How annoying, though, I thought, if you found yourself with no Sharpie to label your bags. It’s easy to forget what you need at what store during errands when you do make it out during the early days with a baby, and who’s making a special trip out to buy a pen? Trying to use a regular old ballpoint? That’s just incredibly frustrating, especially to a sleep-deprived brain.
I know it sounds silly, but I hope it helps expectant moms to cross one more thing off their baby-prep lists. Plan for pens!
12 Keeping Up The Stores
Milk storage bags — you may want to buy them in bulk. I’m being serious. I actually purchase them in bulk packs online.
Otherwise, it’s off to the drugstore or grocery store pretty dang often to stock up again. See, stocking up is exactly what you’ll probably be doing. Many women return to work and literally need to stockpile supplies so that baby will have plenty to eat during Mom’s absence. For others, it’s just part of the cycle of expressing milk daily, freezing the most recently expressed milk, and giving bottles from the milk with the earliest express date.
I was naïve enough during my first pregnancy that when insurance / medical supply company fails made it so that I did not have an electric pump by the time baby came, I didn’t think it really mattered. I was planning to be with baby around the clock and exclusively breastfeed. Flash forward, and there we were, my husband and I, taking exhausting, awful turns at the painstakingly slow hand pump to relieve engorgement and ensure that I would have enough milk coming in.
The second time I was pregnant, I made absolutely sure to have not only a pump but also plenty of milk storage bags.
11 What A Wardrobe!
There’s this thing that happens, super often in the early days, and hopefully tapering off slightly the older the baby gets, where you’ve just gotten the soiled or wet clothes off and have a new outfit entirely or almost entirely on.
You think, hey, look at me still smiling after three hours of sleep and nearly constant diaper changes, and you prepare to happily present your adorable little bundle in outfit number five of that morning to your partner in the next room, and then… blech! Another spit up. Or poof! Another blowout (when liquid-y infant poop literally blows out the back or leg holes of a diaper). Sometimes, they even decide to pee or poop right there on the changer or blanky or bed. I’ve even caught a few in my hand! (Yes, I am proud of that.)
The point is, before you can even move on to the next step, you are right back where you started — with a dirty or wet onesie, romper, or footie and a baby in need of a quick and skillful change, lest she get quickly chilled, restless, or otherwise unhappy.
I suppose there’s some balance to it. On one hand, you don’t want to spend all your money on the smallest sizes because these are the sizes you use for the very shortest amount of time, when babies are growing very, very fast. However, maybe take a look at what you have, make sure that it is (with the exception of a few really cute, just-for-fun outfits) super easy to get a squirming child in and out of on no sleep and in very low light, and then buy, get handed down, thrift shop for, or otherwise somehow obtain about twice as much clothing as you thought that you needed.
10 All The Agua
When a woman is nursing, she needs, as in other times of life, to stay hydrated. With hormones flowing, especially intensely, it can seem, in the very early hours and days, a new mom can also be hot. She’s also doing a lot of work (lifting, bending, feeding — all in new challenging positions using muscles differently than ever before). She’s also running on very little sleep, and this can mean she has a compromised immune system, and staying hydrated might just be the thing that helps her to stay healthy in a time that she really, really needs to.
Producing milk means using and expressing quite a lot of liquid. To do this job well, you have to put quite a lot of water into the body at the same time that you are taking milk out.
I recommend having, at each of your “stations” around the house, where you tend to be to feed and sit with the baby, a big, spill-proof, easy-to-drink-from-with-one-hand (so avoid screw tops, maybe) water bottle. And probably a backup one you can easily grab from the fridge, as well.
9 Special Support
The nursing bras I had from my first baby (which I never stopped wearing because I became pregnant the second time while still nursing my toddler) were a bit loose once I got out of the early days of massive and sometimes engorged breasts, right around the time the milk came in. Breasts, when lactating, can really change a lot in size and shape even within the same day, and multiple times, at that.
All you can do is get something supportive, comfortable, and easy to wear around the clock. Buy the best size for right now, whatever stage that is.
Here’s what I did during pregnancy number two, though. I bought a handful of the same bra I loved in one size down. That way, when things weren’t feeling quite so huge and swollen, I’d feel supported and fabric wouldn’t be shifting (or chafing) around on my sensitive nipples as I began to breastfeed again.
Notice I said not one more, not two more, but a handful more. Think you won’t go through that many that fast? You can tend to get sweatier and milkier when you are nursing and caring for a baby around the clock. You can also tend to get spit up on. Having a few extras that aren’t in the hamper? It’s a good thing.
8 Getting Down And Dirty
This one is also, perhaps, a balancing act of sorts. You do not want to run out of diapers. An extra trip to the store might seem like no big deal right now, but in the early weeks of newborn care, you really don’t need to be running out to the market, or sending your sleep-deprived partner out driving to the market, again.
Whether it’s more food, the food you forgot the last time you were there this morning, ibuprofen for a sore postpartum body, milk storage bags, or any of the other things life will require, you can end up going on or sending your partner or any other willing helper on a lot of shopping missions in the early days.
Avoid one or two of these and therefore boost your chances of getting to sit (or even sleep!) for a minute instead by buying plenty of diapers now.
Here’s the balancing-act part, though. Some babies never even wear the newborn size. Some wear them for, like, a day. Still, I’d say, stock up on those. And while you’re at it, stock up on some size 1s, too. You know you’ll need those soon, anyway! Count on using — no joke — upward of twelve a day.
7 It’s Okay To Cheat
There are many fancy folds you can learn to get a square, or sometimes rectangular, based on which ones you have, blanket tucked neatly, safely, and very snugly around a newborn who loves to feel all tucked in and secure like he did inside that cozy womb. You can’t lay a blanket over baby or tuck him in under that adorable quilt that came with your nursery set because it’s not safe to put loose blankets around a sleeping infant who might get stuck with blocked airways.
Swaddling infants in the early days and probably early weeks and months is often a must. Then they transition to being ready to sleep on their own or in looser wearable blankets without startling themselves awake all the time.
If you want to learn the art of the swaddle, great. It’s not hard, and it can even be kind of fun. You know what else is fun, though, especially when you’re really tired? Specially designed swaddlers that are sort of like tight sleeping bags you can fasten securely around baby with Velcro.
If you look closely at all the pictures you see posted of newborns sleeping angelically (in real, at-home settings, not those staged shoots where they’re propped up on their hands or resting in teeny baskets and so on), you will probably notice many of the babies in your Facebook feed are wearing these. Why? Because they’re easy, and easy is good. Plus, as I recall, they don’t cost anything much different from a normal blanket you’d use to swaddle.
6 Let’s Get Dry
Things around a newborn tend to be very, very moist. The fluids that you will find almost always soaking through your clothes, the baby’s clothes, your partner’s clothes, the changing pad cover, the crib sheets, and any other material the baby is in contact with at all include but are not limited to the following: breast milk, regurgitated breast milk, spit, vomit, poop (yes, it is a liquid at this stage of the game — a very soupy, very yellow liquid), pee, and — if you have a boy (I’m told) — even more pee (because it comes right out of that thing and shoots right up at you, your walls, your floors, and your fabrics).
So did you register for one really cute changing pad cover to go with your planned nursery décor? Might want to get at least one, maybe two or three more. Did you buy two fitted sheets for the mattress in baby’s crib? Might want to double up on that, too.
Even if you plan on laundering away in the early days, around the clock, what if it’s the middle of the night and baby has just soaked her bed for the second time? (Diapers are better than nothing at soaking up pee and poop, but they are not perfect at it. No, siree.) I don’t want to make parents feel like they have to endlessly spend and shop to be ready to bring a baby home. It really is, in the end, not a very complicated thing. But in the name of keeping things warm and dry? Might be worth getting a few extras.
5 Is It Hot As F In Here?
You know how menopausal women are always suddenly getting up to get some air and fanning themselves with whatever is available right then and there because they find themselves quickly, incredibly, and awfully hot? I think hot flashes, or just being hot, might be brought on by the hormones of nursing, as well. Plus, you are holding a warm little newborn tight to you, while exercising muscles in new ways to do this, so while feeding baby, it can be really, really warm.
Having cool water beside you can help, but, especially as you’re getting started, you can sometimes need both hands to get and keep the baby latched on to feed. Although I’m not suggesting everyone experiences these heat waves or that you’ll be sweating all the time, I’ve really, really enjoyed having multiple fans placed strategically about the house in front of areas where I tend to nurse. Nothing like getting nice and cool to help you feel calm and comfortable.
4 Double Trouble
My house has two stories. Even if yours doesn’t, you will likely find yourself wanting to spend some time, say, daylight hours, in one part of the house and then night times in another (the nursery and / or your bedroom). Being the tired, busy person that you are, new parent, you may wish to have not one but two changing stations set up and well stocked in your abode.
My house is not large. The changer that we have upstairs is attached to the crib. I did not opt for a separate piece of (space-consuming) furniture to serve this purpose. The changer that we have downstairs is a free-floating changer pad that I accidentally (serendipitously) purchased before I knew that the built-in-to-the-crib one came with it’s own specially sized pad.
At both “stations,” I have huge packs of wipes, diaper cream, diapers, some clothes, a cloth or towel to (hopefully) catch spit-ups before they wet another set of just-changed-into baby clothes… In the early days, I had a bulb syringe at each spot to suck out any problematic spit / booger issues.
Sure beats running up and down the stairs.
3 Show Me The Way
Do you ever do everything you can to avoid turning the bathroom light on in the middle of the night because you know it will wake you up so much that you’ll have trouble falling back asleep? (I’m looking at you, pregnant people who are up going to the bathroom about five times per night!) Alternatively, do you sometimes stare at the addicting little handheld square you carry with you constantly to check Instagram just one more time before going to sleep, only to find that the sheer brightness of it has you in the mood to do anything but catch some Z’s?
Well you’ll have to get up to do a lot of things in the dark of the night when taking care of a newborn, and switching on a bright lamp or overhead light will probably not be to your advantage if you want to quickly get the baby back to sleep or get any actual rest yourself.
The solution? Nightlights. So glad we figured this one out before too long and so happy to share it with the world. We put one in the girls’ room and one in ours, and aim for a soft light that’s just bright enough to see what you’re doing and avoid unintentionally spreading poo to too many places.
2 Blowout — And I Don’t Mean A Sale
As I’ve mentioned before, diapers are pretty good at catching pee and poop, but they are not perfect. I wonder if the word “blowout” is spoken more frequently than most others in a new parent’s early weeks and days. See, they happen a lot, and it’s easy to feel the need to tell other people about them, because once you’ve dealt with one or one hundred, it’s understandable that you feel pretty proud.
It can take a lot of finesse and not a small amount of bravado to deal with these frequent occurrences of liquid-y baby poop shooting right out the back or leg holes of a baby’s diaper.
Sometimes it’s from sheer force. The poops you hear the loudest are often those accompanied by the most, um, air, and those bad boys’ll blast right out the back of the diaper and up onto baby’s back, clothes, sheets, car seat, bouncer chair, you, etc. Then you get the blowouts that aren’t technically quite blowing out as much as they are trickling, slowly, warmly, out the leg holes of a diaper that was just not quite tight enough to contain them.
I find it’s very convenient, indeed — after boldly tackling the challenge of getting poopy clothes and diaper off while spreading said poop to as few surfaces as possible, then getting new clothes on baby and somehow not getting those poopy, too — to have an extra little bottle of detergent or even just dish soap nearby (upstairs in my bathroom), so that even if dealing with the aftermath of a blowout isn’t exactly easy, hand-washing that bright yellow stuff out of my cute little baby clothes before a gnarly stain sets in is (easier, that is, than running downstairs or out to the laundry…).
1 Grow, Baby, Grow
Have you stocked up on newborn diapers as I’ve recommended? Like really stocked up, like the really, really big pack, and a few or more, at that? Yes? Good for you! But that may not be enough.
See, some babies never even wear the newborn size of diapers. All the others outgrow said size really fast. After all, much of what they do in the early days is eat, eat, eat.
Often the way you finally realize that a diaper size is, in fact, too small, after perhaps struggling a bit more each time to get one fastened on properly for a few days, is that you start to get more and more blowouts, where the diaper simply can’t contain all that stuff your little angel is, um, producing out the backend.
Wouldn’t it be nice, if, instead of struggling, messily, to make those teeny tiny diapers work just until your next Amazon shipment comes or you have time to run out to the store (again), you just had some size 1s right there on hand? I sure think so.
With my first baby, I had a couple small packs of newborn diapers on hand. With my second, I had two economy-sized boxes. My advice to you? Have not only that much, at least, but the next size up, as well. You’re welcome.
Sources: WhatToExpect.com, BabyCenter.com