We’ve just emerged from the first month with our secondborn — whew! Here are some reflections on the essentials for surviving the first month with a newborn. (Hint: ix-nay on the drawers full of adorable outfits, baby shoes, the peepee teepee, and the stacks of baby blankets you’ve been ogling on Etsy.)
First, some context. Most newborns spend most if not all of their time sleeping, eating, pooping, or getting cleaned up after one of those activities — so most true essentials will make at least one of those easier. You’ll also need some basic clothing, and a few gear items to enable you to get out of the house together. In addition, it’s worth splurging on a few things that will make life easier so you can survive it all with a smile on your face. Beyond that, everything else is pretty much superfluous.
1. Portable sleeper
Babies spend most of their first month sleeping, so you’ll want to have somewhere your baby can sleep during the day in your primary living space where you can keep an eye on her. It could be a bassinet, infant seat, “newborn lounger,” swing, or playard (but you definitely don’t need all of those things!). Many moms absolutely swear by the Rock n Play. This time around we’ve been using the Lotus Bassinet (below) from Guava Family; I love the breathable mesh sides and the modern look, and most importantly our little one sleeps great in it.
2. Practical clothing
You’ll need 2-3 days’ worth of clothing (taking into account multiple changes per day due to spit up, blowouts, etc.) to get you between laundry days. Keep it practical! Those adorable newborn outfits or footies with a zillion snaps might look cute on the hanger, but we can guarantee you’re never going to reach for them (especially when you’re sleep deprived). In summer, bodysuits/tops are really all you need; side snaps (like those on the adorable owl bodysuit from Zutano below) are great for easy on/off (imagine tugging a vomit- or poop-soaked onesie over your floppy newborn’s head), and built-in foldover mitts are an added bonus. The basic white Gerber side-snap tees with foldover mitts are fantastic for the first week or two, before the umbilical cord falls off. For full-length sleepwear or footies, look for zippers vs. snaps or buttons.
3. A few high-quality, generously sized blankets / swaddles
Most first-time moms (including me with my first baby) go way overboard on blankets. I’m still not even sure to this day what a receiving blanket is for (despite having bought at least a half dozen of them)! You really only need a handful of high-quality blankets or swaddles; you’ll never reach for the crappy ones anyway. In moderate to warm weather, two or three light- to midweight swaddles and one midweight blanket (for cooler mornings or on-the-go) are plenty. If you’re the type of person who is able to master complicated handshakes or sailor knots, you might choose the classic and versatile lightweight muslin swaddles from aden+anais or SwaddleDesigns (which can double as nursing covers, car seat covers, etc.). If you prefer something more convenient, check out the velcro SwaddleMe wraps or the Miracle Blanket. If you have a baby who likes to sleep with her arms up, I recommend the Swaddle Up (pictured below), which our little one loves. For classic swaddles and blankets, don’t bother buying anything smaller than 44×44″ — it’ll be outgrown way too quickly and you’ll be wishing you hadn’t wasted your money.
4. Breastfeeding essentials
If you’re breastfeeding, take the time to set up a super comfy nursing station to make those hours and hours ahead as pleasant as possible. You’re probably already familiar with the basics: a comfortable chair, a footstool, and a breastfeeding pillow. Then don’t forget a side table to keep everything within easy reach: for example, burp cloths, nursing pads, drinks and snacks, entertainment (e.g., iPad, light reading), etc. I personally couldn’t survive without my Dutailier glider (uninspiring looking but crazy comfortable), my Brest Friend and Blessed Nest (pictured below) pillows, aden+anais Burpy Bibs (perfect not only for burping, but also as a nursing pillow liner), or Bamboobies nursing pads (for my overactive letdown). It’s also worth it to invest in a slew of high-quality nursing bras/tanks/tops (my favorite bra — which I wear day and night — is from Majamas).
5. Newborn-ready changing station
You’ll probably be visiting your changing station at least a dozen times per day in the beginning, so you might as well get it set up just right. In addition to the obvious (e.g. changing table/surface and pad), don’t forget ample changing pad liners (our favorites are simple and cheap cloth diaper prefolds) to catch the frequent and explosive accidents that are inevitable with newborns. For sensitive newborn skin, give scented, chemical-laden wipes a miss; instead use Water Wipes (shown below) or just dry wipes with water. Also, consider having a few different sizes of diapers on hand; also, don’t overinvest in any one brand or size until after you see what actually fits. (We had a huge case of Bambo newborn diapers ready to go, only to find that they were way too big for our little one. FWIW, we found that Pampers Swaddlers, Earth’s Best, and Honest Co. diapers fit much smaller than Bambo and Naty in the same “newborn” size.)
6. Newborn-friendly baby carrier
You’re going to be doing a lot of rocking and cuddling during those tender first few weeks; give your arms an occasional rest by investing in a newborn-friendly baby carrier. Alas, the most popular infant baby carriers (e.g., Ergo) are not suitable for the newborn stage, so you’ll probably need to get something else for the early months. My favorites are wraps (either woven or stretchy, e.g. the Moby or Boba Wrap) and infant-friendly SSCs (like the Beco Gemini, shown below, and the Boba 4G). (For more on the best baby carriers for the newborn stage and beyond, see our baby carrier guide.)
7. On-the-go essentials
With our firstborn, we were housebound for almost an entire month. With our secondborn, we managed to get out of the house at least once a day right after we got home from the hospital. The difference? Knowing exactly what we needed to make it happen: a lightweight infant car seat (which can be easily popped in and out of the car), a car seat-compatible stroller (ideally a lightweight car seat frame like the Chicco Keyfit Caddy or Graco Snugrider Elite), a convenient diaper bag and mini-changing kit, etc. One of my favorite little luxuries is a car seat canopy to protect baby from sun, wind, and curious strangers; check out this adorable new release from Bebe au Lait (pictured below).
8. Boredom busters
You’re about to spend hours upon hours doing laps around your living room and/or chained to a nursing chair. Trust us, if you don’t already have it, get Netflix. Or an iPad. Or, scrounge up some light reading (note, however, that this is not the time to tackle War and Peace).
9. Whatever will make your life easier
Whether it’s ordering tons of take-out, booking some extra help from your house cleaner, or subscribing to Google Shopping Express — whatever it takes to get some of those hours in the day back is worth the cost. Do it!
10. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, mama!
Last, don’t forget to take care of yourself! A happy and healthy mama makes for a happy baby. Whether it’s postpartum essentials, goodies to keep breastfeeding parts happy, or just some chocolate to perk you up :), sustaining yourself is important too. Don’t skimp on whatever it takes to make sure you can enjoy those precious first few weeks!