I am now two weeks into this parenting thing and it has been the best two weeks of my life! For months, I had researched every piece of baby gear and parenting advice I could find, preparing for this very moment. Yet, for all the planning and prepping that went on before my daughter arrived, most of it was thrown out them moment we met her.
We are parents now, and like all first-time parents, we continue to endure a trial-by-fire. No amount of planning will prevent us from the joys of the newborn phase. That being said, I did learn a couple of early lessons that I’d like to pass along.
First, there is some prep that you can do that isn’t totally useless. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you take classes prior to baby’s arrival. The hospital probably provides these classes for a nominal fee, or there may be other vendors out there that do it as well. Find them. Spend the money on them. They are worth it. Or, at least, most are.
Our “childbirth” class was largely useless when we found ourselves having to make decisions that were outside our ideal birth plan. Besides, there were nurses to help us along the way. But do you know what classes were invaluable? One was about breastfeeding. The other was about soothing an infant. I’d also recommend an infant CPR class, but thankfully, we haven’t had need of those lessons yet. We use the breastfeeding and soothing curriculum daily and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Second, I recommend having the right gear at home. First, the obvious stuff:
You will need a car seat/carrier. A bassinet set up in your bedroom is also important. If you aren’t breastfeeding, bottles and formula are a must. If you are breastfeeding, those can remain on the shelf for a bit longer, but you may want to invest in nipple balms or soothing gel inserts. Diapers, wipes, and ointments are important because your child will poop and pee a lot and it will get irritated down there no matter how quick you are to change them! Oh, and lots of burp cloths. And maybe a washable cover or two for changing pads.
My wife and I found a pacifier to be helpful. Our daughter doesn’t often take it, but when she does, it is a magic off switch for her screaming. Bath time sets, including washcloths, towels, baby-safe shampoo/soap, and maybe a hooded robe are great. Emery boards to file those sharp nails are good, as well as baby medical supplies (just in case). We get a fair amount of use from a nursing pillow in our living room, but in the bedroom, a regular pillow works just as good.
Beyond these obvious items, what else do you need? You should invest in a swaddle (or six). Swaddling is the key to sanity, especially at night. I recommend getting one made of stretch fabric and Velcro, so that it is almost idiot proof. Our swaddling efforts in the hospital made our kid look like Houdini. And as soon as she got her hands free, her movements would startle her awake. And this would happen hourly, day or night.
Since we got home and use our Ollie Swaddle (above), she has yet to bust free! Now the only time she wakes is to let us know she is hungry! Right now, we can count on a pair of four-hour blocks at night where she will sleep peacefully, and she is only 17 days old!
A Rock-n-Play has been helpful for those rare occasions when we wanted to set Evelyn down, such as when we wanted to make (or eat) dinner. Equally helpful is a baby lounger, which is essentially a pillow shaped to allow baby to sit at an incline. It is easier to move around than a rocker and great for playtime!
Finally, this may be my biggest tip. Forgo all of those footie pajamas for baby. It doesn’t matter if they zip or button, you will struggle to get a baby’s feet into the leggings of that outfit every time you need to change her. Honestly, they suck and waste a lot of time every time you need to change a diaper. Instead, opt for the nightgowns. They allow you to just flip them up and make quick changes without having to virtually undress your baby each time! They are a huge time-saver (and eardrum saver if your child hates diaper changes as much as mine).
Beyond that, have some baby-safe laundry detergent on hand from the get-go and you are set for the first few weeks of life! Babies don’t need much else, besides cuddles and love, unless you have a specific medical reason for needing more for them at home!