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We've being looking online for a to buy list of basic items we should buy before having a baby. We are planning to move so we want to buy just the basic needs.

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One thing to be aware of: parents who have 1-year olds will practically PAY for you to take their 0-6 months stuff away from them. We saved a FORTUNE when my partner spoke to one of her colleagues. –  deworde Mar 15 '12 at 9:23
    
I have so much stuff right now that I would give away if someone would just show up on my front porch and offer to take it--and clothes running out my ears! –  Meg Coates Mar 15 '12 at 13:19
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So true. Find out if you have any relatives who have just moved out of the baby phase. Even distant cousins and people you don't necessarily know all that well. Its amazing what people will beg you to take off their hands when it comes to baby items. –  Guthwulf Mar 15 '12 at 13:22
    
Doesn't even have to be 'just moved' - I tidied my attic and gave away 11 large refuse sacks of baby, toddler and small child clothes. My youngest is 6 years old! –  Rory Alsop Aug 9 '12 at 9:46

9 Answers 9

We didn't end up using everything that we bought before our baby was born. Some things, like baby oil, sounded useful but weren't. Someone may find a particular item necessary, but as time goes on, you may develop different opinions. I would recommend buying as little as possible before the baby is born, and then buy a few things at a time as you need them.

The only items that I found to be absolutely essential were:

  • a car seat (to get the baby home)
  • diapers
  • baby wipes
  • basic clothing (which will quickly be outgrown)

If you're not absolutely sure you'll need something, my advice is to wait.

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One thing you will need for child right away is a safe place to sleep.

You may want a crib, a co-sleeper, something like a Pack n Play, or something like a Rock n Play Sleeper - or more than one place to sleep.

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Car seat, diapers, wipes, clothes are obviously some good suggestions.

I would recommend a changing station of some kind. Yes, you could change them on the floor or a bed but as many times as you change a diaper, its a nice thing to have. We have something that lays on a dresser and helps keep the baby from rolling off while you are changing them. We use it every day.

Related to that would be a separate trash can or diaper pail for soiled diapers. In my opinion, a must have. We also use this every day.

Pacifiers and some kind of toy or blanket will help the baby sleep better. And believe me, sleep is important (more so for you). We use both every day.

Bottles are also convenient if you guys are breastfeeding and critical if you are not. Again, every day.

I also would recommend baby lotion. Especially when they are first born, their skin needs lotion after every bath. You guessed it, every day.

My wife and I both found gas drops to be useful too. Not something you would necessarily think of, but sometimes babies get fussy for no apparent reason and when you need them you need them. We use this sometimes - more when he was younger and less often now (1 year).

If you plan on leaving your house ever, a diaper bag to put diapers, wipes, pacifiers, toys, formula, bottles, etc. Also every day.

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Bathing on a daily basis seems a bit much: according to these answers once or twice a week might be better. Adjust as needed, of course :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 15 '12 at 6:58
    
I think it also depends on the babies age. At 2 months, my son was breastfed or bottle fed. Not much mess - we probably only bathed him every other day. Fast forward a few months. After every dinner (with real food or baby food), he needs a bath! –  Guthwulf Mar 15 '12 at 13:20

I could make a looong list out of this, but let's turn it into a group effort:

EDIT THIS ANSWER to add whatever you feel is missing.

For each item, consider adding a short explanation.
If we disagree on individual items then that makes for a great new question!


Useful consumables:

  1. about two million diapers :-) either disposable or cloth according to your preference, but even cloth diapers have consumables that you'll need aplenty.
  2. cotton cosmetic pads: used with warm tap water, these are all you need for diaper changes at home.
  3. wet wipes: For cleaning dirty fingers and soiled bums when on the road.
  4. pacifiers are consumables too. They get lost or damaged. Try a few different types in the beginning to discover which kind the newborn prefers, then stick with that.
  5. infant first-aid kit: check with your pediatrician what your infant first-aid kit needs to contain. Medication against high fever is a good start.
  6. earplugs: sometimes the screaming won't stop and you need to take the edge of it, or perhaps to allow one partner to sleep and the other to deal with the baby. (Don't ignore the screaming.)
  7. cotton swabs: useful for cleaning out dirty ears (outside only, do not insert into ear canal) or noses.
  8. saline nasal drops to work snot in stuffy noses loose for aspirating (may not need to aspirate after using saline nasal drops)

Other useful items:
You can get some of these things used, and some of them you'd probably prefer to buy new.

One thing to be aware of: parents who have 1-year olds will practically PAY for you to take their 0-6 months stuff away from them. We saved a FORTUNE when my partner spoke to one of her colleagues. Seriously, we got half the stuff on this list free. Try putting up flyers in nurseries, and hire a van.

  1. infant car seat: we rented an approved seat from the local automobile association.
  2. lots of onesies for warm-weather babies: hand-me-downs and gifts, and the occasional purchase (for cost-sensitive parents check your local thrift store).
  3. one piece long-sleeved footed outfits for cold-weather newborns. Determine if you prefer snaps - you can change a diaper by just unsnapping the bottom portion, thus keeping the baby warmer and, if baby was asleep, drowsier, but you have to actually snap each snap up - or a zipper. Zippers require opening the whole outfit for each diaper change and also require putting a leg in and out of the non-zippered side but are easier to manage as a sleep-deprived parent.
  4. lots of cloth diapers: useful for many things like cleaning up spit, covering against a draft or bright lights, and so on.
  5. a diaper bag: We thought that any old bag would do, but the bags that are purpose-made for this really are much more convenient.
  6. a crib or other safe sleeping place. (No toys/blankets/pillows for newborns!)
  7. bottles and storage containers for breast milk.
  8. a sterilization device: a stand-alone unit or something that goes into the microwave oven.
  9. a baby monitor: often a very simple device will suffice. Don't get a super-advanced model unless you actually require specific features. Make sure it uses DECT or the static will drive you insane. Also, some landline phones have a built-in room monitor feature that works pretty well as a a baby monitor. Note that this is only required in homes big enough where you cannot hear your baby when your baby needs you.
  10. a night light: it's useful to have only a little light when you go check on the baby at night.
  11. a nasal aspirator for clearing out stuffed noses.
  12. Large blankets for swaddling babies who back sleep as per medical guidelines. Swaddling prevents the newborn Moro reflex from waking a back sleeping baby. Hospital receiving blankets work in the newborn phase, but as the baby gets larger it is useful to have a bigger blanket. There are also special purpose swaddling products, but do your research because not all products work equally well.

May be or may not be needed:
The baby-product industry is trying very hard to convince you that you need a million essential products to take proper care of your baby, and first-time parents are often tempted to believe this. But babies have coped for thousands of years without special products, so perhaps not everything the industry offers is really needed? Your choices will probably be different, but here are some things that we did not need:

  1. baby wipes:
    We use small cosmetic cotton pads and tap water. It's much cheaper and has no chemicals.
  2. baby soaps:
    Except for really dirty work, bathing newborns and infants in warm water is enough.
  3. baby lotions:
    The skin of newborns and infants produces enough natural protection to not need further lotions unless they're washed with soaps in the first place.
  4. diaper trash can:
    Our bathroom trashcan has a lid, so smell is not a problem (until you open it). The trashcan is small and only takes 3-5 diapers in total, so there's not much stink in the first place. We use cheap small plastic bags as a liner to easily empty the trash.
  5. baby bathtub:
    At first we used our bathroom sink and later on moved to the regular bathtub with just a few centimeters of water in it. (Never leave the baby unsupervised!!) Note: if your child is big for his/her age, and you don't have an actual bathtub, you may wind up needing one of these for the a while once they outgrow the sink.
  6. diaper changing station:
    We do the diaper changes in the bathroom. The washing machine is next to the sink and it makes for a great diaper changing station when covered with a soft surface (e.g. two folded towels). Easy access to warm water is very useful too, of course. Oh, and sometimes you realize mid-change that baby needs a bath ... I wouldn't want to carry him through the home at that time! Note: This assumes you have room in your bathroom, or your washing machine is convenient. In my house, neither is true, and our diaper changing station, built onto the end of the crib, is something neither my wife or I would like to do without. Additionally, you don't need a specialized "changing table," a table with a changing pad and somewhere to put diapers, cream, etc. within reach is really all you need.
  7. bottle warmer: There's usually a microwave oven nearby. (Stir after heating to remove hot spots.) Alternately, for those that don't have microwaves (there's actually some controversy about safety) you can just hold the bottle under running hot tap water for a 20 seconds while shaking it around. You always test it by dropping a drop on your inner wrist, so there's no danger in overheating. This also works great when you're traveling. To defrost frozen breastmilk or warm a bottle that has been in the refrigerator you can place in a container of warm tap water. Note that breastmilk should not be warmed in the microwave, so bottles of expressed breastmilk should be warmed in warm water or, if you plan to do it frequently, a warmer can be helpful to speed the process and more quickly soothe your hungry baby.
  8. Pacifier. These are OPTIONAL. Many parents don't use them. They are a mixed blessing. Do some research before committing to use pacifiers. If you do use a pacifier do not stock up on a single type. Each baby may prefer a different pacifier. Find out if your hospital provides pacifiers and start with those, then try different brands from there.

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Note: This community-wiki answer is an experiment. See this meta discussion. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 15 '12 at 8:53
    
I just thought of this: for nearly every item, we could create a question in the style of "what factors are important when choosing..." –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 15 '12 at 9:03
    
I would like to point out that, at least in the US, experts say specifically to avoid warming bottles in the microwave because of "hot spots" caused by "uneven warming". I never tried it with any of our bottles with either child so I can't really say if this is a real problem, but the recommended methods for warming a bottle here is either bottle warmer, running it under hot tap water, or warming it the old fashioned way in a warm water bath. Again, I never used the microwave so I don't know if it's really the problem that "experts" would have us believe. –  Meg Coates Mar 15 '12 at 13:26
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@MegCoates: Hot spots are a fact, but it's ridiculously easy to fix: stir the fluid after heating. Then test the temperature as you normally would. I updated the answer. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 15 '12 at 14:12
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - this may be true for formula, but for breastmilk microwaving destroys nutrients. –  justkt Aug 9 '12 at 13:41

As a new parent I know how easy it is to over think this question. By doing so you end up with a lot of things you will never use and/or don't need. My list does not differ much from the other answers; I just suggest thinking about it differently. The basic needs of your child will fall into the constraints of the basic needs of any human being.

  • Food

    • Bottles & nipples (warmers and cleaners)
    • Breastfeeding supplies (bras, pads, pillows, and pumps)
    • OR
    • Formula
  • Shelter

    • Crib/Bassinet(sheets & blankets)
    • OR
    • Co-sleeping method of choice
  • Clothing

    • Diapers (Changing table, changing pad(s), wipes)
    • Onesies, Sleep sacks, etc.
    • Suitable trash/hamper for diapers
    • Suitable hamper for soiled clothes
  • Transportation

Everything else is probably extra. There are a few things I found that we would not want to do without and I'm sure your own list will come from the needs expressed after you get your child home. A few of the "non-basic items" we have added:

  • Infant seating (Boppy, hammock, bouncy seat, swing): Because sometimes you need your hands and you don't want your baby hanging in front of you in a sling.

  • Swaddling blankets: Our daughter has a really strong startle reflex. She probably would never sleep if we didn't swaddle her.

  • Heater: It turns out that this was for my wife as much as the babies now that she spends several hours a day topless.
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As a rule of thumb, if you are not absolutely sure you need it RIGHT AWAY then don't get it. If you live in a place where you can get emergency ("need it quick") things 24 hours a day and anything else the next day or within a few days then just wait. You'll know what you need when you need it. Having less stuff will make things easier.

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As an alternative to store bought baby wipes, you can easily make your own.

Cut a roll of paper towels in half and remove the cardboard tubes - personally I like to use Viva towels because they have more of a cloth-like strength and texture.

In two containers that can be sealed airtight, pour in two cups of water, 2 - 4 tablespoons of baby shampoo and 2 - 4 tablespoons of baby oil. Gently stir with your hand so that you don't get a lot of suds. Put one roll of paper towels into each container and seal. Then turn upside down until everything is thoroughly moistened.

Because these are made with water, you will have to be careful about leaving them in warm locations as they can and will grow mildew on them. But you also want to be careful about storing them in the refrigerator as they will also freeze more easily than regular baby wipes.

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This is not an item for the baby per se, but something absolutely essential for when baby comes home.

  • Food. Make sure somebody is available to buy groceries and cook some meals for you, at least for a couple of days and in any emergency, such as when you don't manage to sleep and are totally trashed.

Also, establish:

  • A sleeping agreement. There will be times when you and your partner are completely exhausted, more than you can possibly imagine, but the baby won't sleep. Worse still, the little one will scream or cry. Rather than both staying up, one looking after the baby, the other offering support, adopt the policy that one person looks after the baby and the other sleeps or at least hides away from the screaming. Swap over every hour or so. This is crucial for survival if you have a collicy baby.
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Some may see a video camera as unnecessary.

As a new grandpa, looking back, I can tell you that it =IS= a necessity. You will NOT be able to remember the kind of detail that a video camera preserves. And keep the date/time display TURNED ON.

When the kids are in grade school, THEN you can swap it out and use a regular camera. Make sure you carefully back this stuff up, too.

Whenever I feel down, I play those old videos. And maaaaaan, it really brightens your mood thinking back about how HARD it all was and that you DID it and that they were SOOOOO DAAAANG CUTE when they were sleeping and learning to walk and sitting up for the first time and peein' on ya and getting tickled and telling dumb jokes and all the things kids do.

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