Preparing for a new baby doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Experienced parents have learned that newborn babies just need some basic items at first — a warm and safe place to sleep, food, clothing and diapers.
Although there are many baby products available, listed below are the essential items to have ready for a new baby. Safety is an important issue when choosing new furniture, especially for the bed. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers the following recommendations:
Baby cribs must meet federal safety standards, which include:
- Slats should be spaced no more than 2 to 3/8 inches (60 mm) apart.
- All slats should be intact, not missing or cracked.
- Mattress should fit snugly—less than the width of two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.
- Mattress support should be securely attached to the head and footboards.
- Corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) to prevent entanglement of clothing or other objects worn by child.
- The head and footboards should have no cutouts, which would allow for head entrapment.
- Drop-side rail cribs are no longer considered safe.
- All screws or bolts, which secure components of crib, should be present and tight.
- The CPSC recommends against placing a crib near draperies or blinds where a child could become entangled and strangle on the cords. When the child reaches 35 inches in height, or can climb and/or fall over the sides, the crib should be replaced with a bed.
Crib mattress and bedding
According to the CPSC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, soft bedding may be a major contributor to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These organizations offer the following recommendations for infant bedding:
- Place your baby on his or her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
- Remove pillows, bumper pads, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys and other soft products from the crib.
- Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
If using a blanket, put your baby with his or her feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, only as far as the baby’s chest.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
- Don’t place your baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow or other soft surface to sleep.
Bassinet or cradle
These small beds are helpful and portable in the first few months. The CPSC recommends following the manufacturer’s guidelines on weight and size of the baby in determining who can safely use these products. For safety reasons, be sure to look for a bassinet or cradle with the following:
- A sturdy bottom and a wide base for stability
- Smooth surfaces (no protruding staples or other hardware that could injure the baby)
- Legs with strong, effective locks to prevent folding while in use.
- A firm mattress that fits snugly.
Changing tables offer a convenient place to change your baby’s diaper. Always use straps to prevent the baby from falling. However, straps are not a substitute for constant supervision.
These provide enclosed areas where a baby can nap or play safely. The CPSC recommends never leaving an infant in a mesh playpen or crib with the drop-side down. Even a very young infant can roll into the space between the mattress and loose mesh side and suffocate. Only playpens that meet federal safety standards should be used. These include:
- Drop-side mesh playpens or cribs with warning labels to never to leave the side in the down position.
- Mesh with small weave (less than 1/4 inch openings).
- Mesh with no tears, holes or loose threads.
- Mesh securely attached to top rail and floor plate.
- Top rail cover has no tears or holes.
- Wooden playpen with slats spaced no more than 2 inches (60 mm) apart.
- If staples are used in construction, assure they’re firmly installed and none are missing or loose.
Strollers and carriages
These are helpful in transporting babies on outings. The CPSC recommends always securing the seat belts while the stroller or carriage is in use. Never leave a child unattended in a stroller. Keep children’s hands away from pinching areas when stroller is being folded or unfolded, or the seat back is being reclined. For safety reasons, be sure to look for a stroller or carriage with:
- A wide base to prevent tipping
- The seat belt and crotch strap attached securely to the frames
- A seat belt buckle which is easy to use
- Brakes that securely lock the wheel(s)
- A shopping basket which is low on the back and directly over or in front of rear wheels for stability
- Leg hole openings which can be closed when being used in the carriage position
All states have laws requiring babies and children to travel in an approved car safety seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers recommendations for choosing a car safety seat, which include:
- Purchase the car seat well in advance of the due date.
- The simplest and least expensive model usually will work as well as one with fancy features.
- Choose a seat that’s easy to use and fits in the vehicle.
- If you choose a convertible seat, try it facing both toward the front and rear.
- Look for a seat you can use as long as possible that faces the rear.
- Keep up with child safety seat regulations recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). An AAP policy advises parents to keep their infant in a rear-facing child safety seat until age 2, or until the infant has reached the maximum height and weight of the car seat’s manufacturer.
- If you buy an infant-only seat, you will need a convertible seat later. Most babies need to use rear-facing convertible seats as they get larger, because they outgrow their infant-only seats before age 2.
- When you purchase a car seat be sure to follow instructions on proper installation.
- Nearly every car seat and most vehicles manufactured since Sept. 1, 2002, are required to have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. The LATCH makes it easier to install the child seat correctly.
Supplying the home
The following is a suggested list of items you may want to have on hand before you bring your newborn home.
- Three to four fitted crib sheets
- Two waterproof crib pads
- Two lightweight cotton crib-sized blankets (no fringe)
- Three to six receiving blankets
- Four waterproof lap pads
- About 10 to 11 disposable diapers per day for the first few weeks, or 48 cloth diapers (plus three to five diaper covers or wraps)
- Diaper pail at each changing area
- Diaper wipes
- Baby bathtub
- Four to six baby washcloths
- Two to four hooded towels
- Mild bath soap
- No tears baby shampoo
Choose simple clothing that’s easy to get on and off, without long strings or ties that might be a choking hazard. Make sure sleepwear is flame-retardant. You may want to buy mainly size 0 to 3 and 3 to 6 months size clothing and a few newborn items.
- Four to six receiving gowns
- Two to three one-piece footed sleepers
- Four to six undershirts or onesies
- Two to three pairs of booties or socks
- One to two blanket sleepers (depending on the season)
- Baby brush and comb
- Baby nail clippers or scissors
- Baby acetaminophen drops (given as advised by your baby’s health care provider)
- Bulb syringe for clearing baby’s nose
- Rectal or digital thermometer
- A front baby carrier or backpack
As you prepare your home for your new baby, look for sturdy furnishings and equipment. Be sure that all products meet current safety standards. This is especially important if you’re borrowing or buying items secondhand.