The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Here, in no particular order, is a list of essential baby products for minimalists.
1. BABY BED If you go the classic crib route, look for sturdy, fixed sides. Drop-side cribs pose the risk of entrapment and strangulation, and in June, it became illegal in the U.S. to make, sell or resell a drop-side one. You also want a durable, nontoxic finish (babies gnaw on their crib rails) and a strong mattress support that adjusts to different heights. If you want your baby close to you but not in your bed, choose a bedside bassinet with straps that securely fasten the sleeper against your bed. If you prefer your baby to sleep with you (note: this is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), a three-sided “bed within a bed” product is the way to go; the substantial support walls protect baby, and the open side allows for easy touching. Makes a great travel bed, too.
Our pick: Arm’s Reach Original Co-Sleeper, $220, armsreach.com
2. STROLLER For the short term, the handiest choice is a car seat carrier— essentially a frame with wheels onto which you snap an infant car seat. However, your baby will outgrow it after about six months. A longer-lasting option is a traditional stroller that holds an infant car seat; many work with most car-seat brands, but some accommodate only specific makes and models, so be sure to check compatibility. Look for an adjustable handlebar height, as well as easy maneuverability and multiple reclining positions; the ability to lie flat is a must with newborns. If possible, test-drive different models at a store before you buy.
3. CAR SEAT A great option is a rear-facing infant seat (for babies up to about 30 pounds) that snaps into a base installed in your vehicle’s backseat as well as into many stroller models. Or choose what’s known as a convertible car seat, which stays in the vehicle and will see your baby into toddlerhood; it’s designed to face the rear (for the first year at least; the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that toddlers ride rear-facing until they’re 2 years old) as well as the front and will accommodate a child up to about 40 pounds (some also work as boosters for children up to 100 pounds). Either way, look for easily adjustable straps and seat angles and comfortable cushioning, especially around the baby’s head.
Our pick: Lamaze Via infant car seat, $100, babiesrus.com
4. DIAPERS Stock up; you may go through as many as 20 per day! Some brands may fit your baby better than others, so experiment. Or go with a cloth-diaper service: You place the dirty diapers outside your door and voilà! Clean ones arrive the next day.
Our pick: Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers, $10, amazon.com
5. FEEDING NECESSITIES If you plan to breastfeed and will be returning to work, or you simply want the baby’s dad or a babysitter to help with feedings, get yourself a breast pump. For maximum efficiency (important if you have a newborn who can’t nurse or you’re returning to a full-time job), rent a hospital-grade pump or invest in a high-end electric type that lets you pump both breasts at once. For less frequent pumping, using a lighter, less expensive pump should suffice but will take longer. Manual pumps require the most patience. Even if you plan to nurse your baby, you’ll need a few bottles and nipples so your baby can be given pumped milk when necessary. Just one glance at the dizzying array available will make your head spin. According to Santa Monica, Calif.-based pediatrician Jay Gordon, M.D., the flow characteristics of the nipple (slow vs. fast, etc.) are more important than the bottle shape. Latex nipples are softer and more pliable than silicone but don’t hold their shape as long.
6. CARRIER Newborns and parents alike love slings, which allow for maximum hands-free snuggling. But slings don’t offer parents lower-back support and become obsolete after several months. A longer- term option is a soft carrier that adapts for newborns but also holds older babies. Some are designed to work as both a front and a back carrier and feature a hip pad for extra support and comfort. Look for thickly padded shoulder straps; sturdy, easy-to-use buckles; substantial head support for baby; and cushioned leg holes that can be adjusted for a newborn’s safety.
Our pick: Front Snugli soft carrier, $40, albeebaby.com
7. HEALTH CARE KIT A digital thermometer, nasal aspirator, infant nail clippers, medicine dropper and spoon—all in a single zippered organizer.
Our pick: Safety 1st Complete Healthcare Kit, $28, amazon.com
8. BABY BATHTUB Even if you plan to bathe your baby in the sink for the first couple of months, using an infant bathtub or a bath sponge that he can lie on will make the job easier and keep him from slipping out of your soapy hands.
Our pick: Fisher Price Animal Krackers Rinsin’ Fun Tub, $38, Babies “R” Us stores
9. CHANGING PAD Forget about buying a changing table; slap an inexpensive foam changing pad on a regular dresser and you’re good to go. For more protection from falls, you can place the pad inside a wood changing tray that sits atop the dresser. Better yet, always use the safety straps on the pad.
Our pick: Summer Infant four-sided changing pad, $22, amazon.com
10. LAYETTE This is just a fancy term for clothing (and bath) necessities. Stick with comfy basics, rather than posh items with fussy fabrics and extras, and don’t buy anything with feet because your baby will outgrow it almost instantly. Here’s what a newborn needs:
• Baby washcloths (4 to 6)
• Bodysuits (4 to 6)
• Caps (1 to 2)
• Gowns/sleep sacks (3 to 5)
• Hooded towel (1 to 2)
• Long pants (4 to 5 pairs)
• Socks or booties (4 to 6 pairs)
• Sweater (at least 1)
• T-shirts (4 to 6, short- and long-sleeve)
Our pick: The Children’s Place Bodysuit 3-pack, $10; Socks, $4; Take Me Home Knit Pants, $7; childrensplace.com