Last week, as I tend to do regularly and especially anytime I’m feeling stressed, I spent some time rearranging our linen closet. This time, instead of only folding pillowcases into neat rectangles, I also focused on making room for new baby essentials. Due to some nerve-racking complications, there’s an increasing likelihood we’ll have a little one making a February debut instead of a March one. As I do my best to practice letting go and deep breathing and all of the things required for moving forward into the unknown, I turned to my comfort rituals: shifting around towels and sheets and folding impossibly tiny onesies into neat rows to tuck inside an old wine crate turned makeshift drawer.
The process got me thinking about the list of tangibles we’ve really needed when readying ourselves for the arrival of a new baby in the past and what we have ready to go now. For us, the list of newborn essentials has shifted only slightly since Faye was born and my sister wrote this guest post, but in case it’s helpful, below is a breakdown of what we’ve found to be necessary and what we’ve found to be nice to have.
We’ve found that in terms of material goods necessary for our newborns, our list has been small and straightforward. We’ve opted for supplies without bells and whistles, but to be sure the baby industrial complex has made certain that there are endless iterations of and improvements on everything mentioned here, along with a great many additional items you won’t find here at all. The babies we’ve welcomed to this point have also had very straightforward needs. They didn’t require special care or equipment that are crucial for other families and babies. Whether you choose or need to go a different route is entirely up to you, but for folks who are hoping or able to keep things pared down, I hope this list provides some inspiration and guidance.
+ Diapers: We used cloth diapers for our first babies and plan to again this time around. Because we don’t have a washer and dryer in our apartment (or building), we’ve used the very terrific local service Diaperkind to launder our diapers, but for folks who aren’t local and who are equipped to launder diapers themselves, their newly launched Esembly cloth diapering essentials might be something you’d like to check out. (Full disclosure: I’ll be taking them for a test-drive once this little one arrives, so will have more to report on that soon enough.)
+ Wipes: We used disposable wipes with Faye and cloth wipes with Silas and with this new baby, we’ll likely use a combination of both. Either way, there’s a whole lot of bottom wiping that happens in the early months (and, yes, years) so being equipped to handle those messes quickly and easily has been essential for us. For disposable wipes, we’ve always used WaterWipes.
+ Coconut oil: I swear by coconut oil for diaper changes. As long as we’ve lubed up baby bottoms with coconut oil during diaper changes, we’ve been rash free and able to go on our merry way. In our apartment, it’s usually warm enough (summer and winter) for the oil to stay fairly soft and it warms up very quickly on tiny warm bottoms. We use whatever organic coconut oil is available at our local grocery store.
+ Burp cloths: Spit up, unexpected fountains of pee, or any other kind of body fluid that tends to show up in the newborn days can be quickly and easily sopped up with burp cloths. We’ve had best luck using thick, super-absorbent organic cotton prefolds (otherwise known as traditional cloth diapers) for this purpose.
+ Swaddles: We’ve only ever used classic square cotton muslin or linen swaddles for our kids. I love that they fold neatly and that they’re useful for a whole range of things beyond just swaddling. There are many, many kinds of alternatives out there with snaps and zippers and other kinds of fasteners that might prove even easier, but we haven’t felt the need to venture beyond the simplest ones.
+ Cozy clothes: Keeping a little thing clothed and cozy feels fairly essential. Again here, we’ve gone a simple route with an assortment of soft cotton and wool baby clothes, onesies, and footie pajamas. Specifics decidedly don’t matter, but we’ve especially enjoyed staples from Mabo and L’oved Baby.
+ Feeding supplies: I’ve breastfed both of my kids and have plans to do that with this little one, too. Because I work for myself, I don’t have a paid maternity leave of any kind, but this time around, James is taking parental leave from his job to care for our baby in the earliest months. In preparation for pumping, storing, and offering milk from a bottle when I’m not available to nurse, we’ve gathered some basic supplies: Mason Bottle Nipples to attach to 4-ounce Mason Jars we already have (we used Lifefactory Glass Baby Bottles in the past, but since I gave them all away, we’re going this route rather than reinvesting in another set of dedicated bottles) and a borrowed Willow Breast Pump in hopes it might improve my not-great relationship with pumping.
Nice to have:
+ A portable and ideally bouncy chair of some kind. We didn’t have any kind of baby chair when Faye was born, but I borrowed a Baby Bjorn Bouncer with Silas, and we’ve borrowed the same one from another friend in anticipation for the new baby. It was awfully nice to have a safe spot to settle a newborn, especially when there was another older child to also care for.
+ A crib. When Faye was born we waited months to invest in a crib and other families we know have opted out of cribs altogether. We had a simple Ikea Sniglar with Faye and Silas that we sold over the summer. This time around, we’re planning to use a mini crib we found through our neighborhood Buy Nothing Project group. It will be next to our bed in the earliest months and shifted into a little sliver of space in the kids’ room after that.
+ A sheepskin or other soft landing spot. We’ve liked having dedicated snuggle spaces for little ones, both to demarcate the space for the baby and to provide something snuggly. We were recently given this beautiful sheepskin. We love that it’s cozy and blends in with the rest of our apartment, but any soft landing spot you prefer would work here.
+ A baby carrier. Being hands-free with a newborn is a very welcome thing indeed. We used a Solly Baby Wrap and a Baby Bjorn One Carrier in the past and really liked them both, especially because they’re not sized and both James and I could wear them. Like most of our baby essentials, we passed ours along this summer, so this time around, we’re planning to use a second-hand vintage carrier we found and see how that goes. Like all of the above, there are endless options on the market and different people and backs and babies will prefer different models. If you can try on a carrier and test-drive it for yourself, that’s probably the best way to decide what’s right for you.