These are things I was glad to have, or we had to go get at inopportune times.
For the home:
- Bran muffins, raisin bran, bran flakes to sprinkle on other things (for constipation)
- Extra Tupperware, because people will bring you big pans of food, and it’s handy to freeze some of it, and keep some of it in the fridge. This way you don’t get tired of spinach lasagna right away.
- Milk and cereal and sandwich fixings and reheatable servings of comfort food (for me, Italian Soup and homemade mac and cheese).
- Dishwasher detergent, if you have a dishwasher. You won’t want to be doing dishes by hand, and it’s great for washing bottles.
- Quarters for laundry (if need be). You never want to run out of quarters.
- Stool softeners. I ran out. You’d be surprised at how constipated you are.
- Whatever over-the-counter pain killers are OK’d by your practitioner.
- Ice packs or peas. For your lady bits the first few days. It feels marvelous. I put peas in ziplock bags. They conform nicely and don’t leak water like ice does.
- Toilet paper. I was instructed to use plenty of toilet paper, and to not fold and re-wipe, to keep infection away. I went through more toilet paper than usual.
- Good pads. I’m not a pad girl, but I learned that Kotex pads are more comfortable and absorbent than generic. Kotex specifically isn’t necessary, but DO have pads on hand. Also liners, as you’ll move to them after a few weeks.
For nursing (*and bottle feeding):
- Comfy chair*. You’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting and feeding your baby, so having a chair that’s comfortable to sit in while feeding is important. I got an Ikea rocking chair, which is incredibly comfortable, but actually tips me backwards a little too much. I wish I had gotten a glider.
- Nursing pillow*. Your arms are going to get tired holding up your baby while feeding, and a nursing pillow helps. I had a boppy which was easy to conform to different chairs. I also had a (sigh) My Brest Friend, which has a better baby surface, but a weird wrap-around part that sucks if you’re trying to sit back. I finally figured out if I flipped the back of it up at an angle, it supported my back rather than being a horizontal lumbar gouger.
- Figure out where the kid sleeps. We had a Snuggle Nest, which was great for us, because it provided a (mostly psychological) barrier against rolling over onto the baby. We could also prop up our pillows high enough to be able to look at her while sleeping next to her. This was great hovering. You’d be surprised how often you wonder whether or not they’re breathing. We then acquired an Arms Reach cosleeper, which may have been a better choice from the start, as the Snuggle Nest makes for a very small nest in a queen size bed. The Arms Reach (and similar) put the baby right next to the bed, where you can still position yourself to hover and be able to reach over and put your hand on their sleeping chest to check for breathing. (This only really happened for about the first week, then we realized we didn’t have to be so paranoid. That cycle continued with many other things.) After six weeks or so, we moved to cosleeper to the foot of the bed, so we could sleep better since her noises always woke me up, and she was down to feeding once or twice a night.
- Nightlights*. Night feedings are MUCH easier on everyone with low light options. You don’t wake up as much, your baby doesn’t wake up as much, and anyone else in bed doesn’t either. Also, if you’re bottle feeding, nightlights that take you from your bedroom to the kitchen mean not having to flip on blinding overhead lights. We used the oven light in the kitchen, and plug-into-the-wall lights in the hallway and bedroom. At first I needed more light in bed (I nursed in bed), so I used our reading lamp. After a few weeks, 80 and I were good at nursing, and we could do it by the dim light of the plug-in nightlight by the bed.
- Prenatal vitamins. You’re supposed to keep taking vitamins if you’re breastfeeding, so don’t run out.
- Massive water bottles. I drank so much water — at least a gallon a day — in the first few weeks. My routine was to drink half a liter (at least) every time I nursed. I kept a bottle in the living room, and one in the bedroom that I filled up before going to bed.
- Extra burp cloths*. We had 12, and they weren’t enough for the first few weeks. Even if your baby isn’t a spit-upper (ours wasn’t really), you still end up with milk on them and you.
- Nursing pads. These are like menstrual pads for your boobs. They’re circular, and fit under your clothes to wick breastmilk that leaks. I have some rewashable ones, and some Lansinoh disposable ones. The rewashable ones I wear at home since they’re a little bulkier, and because they don’t have a waterproof barrier which means they can leak through. That they don’t have a waterproof barrier means they breathe, and you don’t have to worry about things getting dank. I wash them with the baby clothes, with Dreft. The disposable ones are like disposable pads–they have some sort of magical chemical that soaks up liquid. They’re also waterproof, and thin. This makes them great for when I go out in public and don’t want to leak or look like I’m smuggling yamakas.
- Easy-to-use nursing tops for at night. I bought a bunch of spaghetti strap tank tops, and pulled the one strap off to nurse.
- Nursing tops and bras in general. I didn’t have any nursing tops. I had two nursing bras. Almost all of my teeshirts were too tight. So, I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. I still had a small chest post-baby, so lots of the nursing top designs didn’t work (they require a certain amount of curve to fold fabric below). I bought some teeshirts that fit a little looser, and were longer. I bought two more nursing bras (one fancy one and one cheap one from Motherhood [that’s a store, commonly found in the mall]). I bought some nursing tank tops from Target. This was summer, mind you. My post-partum doula gave me the tip of wearing a tank top under a teeshirt (this is for us with the small chests), so you can pull up your shirt and pull down the tank to nurse, and you leave very little bare.
For the baby:
- Extra pacifiers (aka dummy, binky, nuk). Controversy aside, we chose to use a pacifier occasionally. If you’re going to have them around, make sure to have more than one. They go missing. We got a really great gift of a little pacifier holder, which keeps the thing clean in the diaper bag, and helps you put the pacifier back in the same place, thus increasing the chance that you won’t use it.
- Really good receiving blankets for swaddling. Some blankets are better than others, and swaddling tightly meant the difference between 80 sleeping or not. You will not believe how easily a newborn will wiggle their arms free, then freak out at having their arms free. They should be big enough. They should have a bit of stretch to them. Alternately, you could get swaddler thingies with sleep sacks. They are to a swaddling blanket what a sheet is to a shirt. Especially if you have a Houdini, the velcro means swaddling them up tight, and their shape means less change of wiggling an arm up out the neck hole.
- Pampers with the color strip. We decided to cut ourselves some slack for the first few weeks, and used disposables. We tried Huggies, but if 80 was in them too long, the gel would come out of the diaper and onto her butt. Pampers never had this problem. Plus, they have a magical yellow line that turns blue with urine. It was handy to know when 80 had a wet diaper without having to take it off or stick a finger in the side.
- Waterproof pads for 80 to lay on. They’re soft, but waterproof, and we laid them under her when she hung out on the couch, so none of her many liquids would end up on the couch. It also works as an impromptu changing pad.
- Thermometer and infant acetaminophen. If your newborn may have a temperature, you don’t want to mess around. You need to have a thermometer to check, and Tylenol to bring the fever down.
- Couple of baby reference books. You’ll be infinitely fascinated to read them now, and it’s handy when things happen like scratched eyes, weird poop, or what developmental things you can expect.
- 3-4 boxes of wipes (or cloth ones). We went through a lot at first–sometimes two wipes per poo diaper.
- Long sleeve onesies with mitts for night. Unless it’s 90 degrees at night, a newborn is more likely to be cold than hot, especially at night. Some long-sleeve onesie have little flaps at the end, so you can fold it over and keep their hands warm. It means they’ll sleep uninterrupted longer.
- Hats. 80 wore a hat to bed for the first week, since she got cold so quickly.
- A few onesies in kimono style. It means not having to pull a onesie over your newborn’s head, which for a new parent is one of the trickier handling movies.
- Bottoms that snap open. If your kid is wearing anything that has a bottom to it, I’d go for the ones that have a closure at the bottom. You don’t want to entirely undress your child for a diaper change. Also, I’m not a fan of pjs that have a zipper from the foot all the way to the neck–you have to completely unzip them to change a diaper, and their little bellies get cold.
- Nail clippers. I hear some people just tear newborn fingernails, or bite them off. I didn’t find either of those feasible. We have a good pair of clippers, tiny ones with a round plastic handle so they’re easy to use. We waited till 80 was asleep. We’ve managed not to cut her, but I have a feeling you don’t pass through the gauntlet of parenthood until you do.
- Laundry detergent. Before, I’d buy whatever was on sale. Now, we have three detergents. Sale stuff for the adult clothes*, the generic equivalent of Dreft for baby clothes/blankets/burp clothes, and Tiny Bubbles for diapers and covers. (Apparently Dreft does bad things to polyurethane covers.)
- Car seat! Sure, we had acquired a car seat, but we hadn’t yet tried putting it the car for the ride home from the hospital. When we got to the part where we put the baby in the car seat and, oh my god, they’re going to let us take her home, we discovered that a piece was missing. Luckily, we had friends with a carseat we could borrow to get our kid home. You can imagine you’d be someone nervous about putting your baby in a carseat for the first time, so I highly suggest you figure out how the thing works, and clip it into the car at least once before you do it with your baby. Of course, if you give birth at home, or plan on walking home, this isn’t a problem.
So there you go. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
*By “adult clothes”, I mean clothes that Jason and I wear, not latex facemasks and furry animal costumes.