Our baby is going to be born in a few months, what should we make sure we have before she gets here?
- A place for her to sleep
- A place to change her diapers
- Burp rags/receiving towels
- Baby wipes
- Diapers (in premie and new born)
A good question might be some things not to buy.
I'd avoid too many of the smaller clothes — you'll quickly find a shortage of the larger clothes when you need them and brand new smaller clothes unopened when the child has already outgrown them. Also, hard to predict what season your kid might be in for long sleeve sizes etc.
I'd avoid buying a dedicated changing table — we have used regular changing pads on a dresser and a trunk, and at the grandparents they just use a towel on the bed.
I'd avoid diaper pails with the fancy bags — we just used a simple one trapdoor one with ordinary kitchen bags.
Real shoes are basically pointless, I'd avoid wasting money on those until they can walk. The Robees are fine for crawlers. I wouldn't buy anything until you need it — who knows what season it will be when they are that size.
You will need a stroller, I would get one which works with the car seat. You'll use it heavily for the first two years, so you'll really get your money's worth out of that.
You'll want a bjorn, but not right away.
Assuming breast-feeding, you won't need bottles or anything like that for a while, but at some point you will need a breast pump and bottles. We never used a special bottle warmer or wipes warmer.
Also, a lot of stuff you may only use for 6 months to a year. Unless someone gives it to you, get it second-hand. Things like bouncers.
A rocking chair can definitely be good (we got one second hand).
Make sure in the baby's room you have a way to get subdued lighting with a dimmer or lamp or something. Maybe music. You can't tell what you'll really need on that front, so I wouldn't buy anything until you see what the kid is partial to.
Those various swings and bouncers can be good, but the newborns aren't going to really use them for a while (a couple months). We got a lot new and gave them away and got others second hand and gave them away.
Diapers, car-seat, onesies, burp cloth, wipes. That's it.
Steal a few swaddle blankets from the hospital (they'll usually give them to you for free). Don't buy needless furniture: change diapers on the bed, or the ground (you don't need to waste money on furniture that will only last 6–8 months). Breastfeed so you don't have to buy formula.
Forget everything else, because you can buy it when you need it.
Another strange thing that I wish I had the foresight to buy earlier are "Pool noodles". They are logs of some kind of high density foam plastic, and are commonly used to secure car seats. Properly securing a car seat is more difficult than the instruction manuals lead you to believe. You can also use rolled up towels, but pool noodles work better for some reason.
It's an even better idea to find a fire department or similar institution that provides car seat installation inspections.
Buy a wall-mounted hospital-style sanitizer dispenser or two. I have two PURELL NXT brand dispensers and use them a good deal. In a rush somewhat sanitized hands are better than nothing.
One popular item is a baby monitor. However, most cordless home phone systems have a built-in room monitor feature that you can use to the same effect. I found that it was much more convenient than the baby monitors as it was a lot easier to move a handset from room to room. Not to mention saving money.
General rule: If you find yourself asking whether or not you need something, you don't need it.
I'm a bit surprised that no one has so far stated one of the obvious things you'll need — clothing, and lots of it (yes, people will give you clothing as gifts, but not all of them will be for when you need them, and you don't want to rely on other people's gifts, especially if they give the gifts late).
Babies will puke up on their own clothing. Babies will also grow out of their clothing very quickly. You'll want to make sure you have clothing for newborns and size 3–6 months for starters. You can also get bigger clothing, but newborn clothing is essential.
What types of clothing should you get?
- Onesies — these are a kind of shirt you button under the waist.
- Shirts, pants and socks. You want to make sure your baby is properly clothed, especially because they cannot regulate their own temperature for starters.
- Coats & caps, especially if you live in cold weather climates (and even if you live in Florida, it's been known to snow there a few times during the winter.
- Pyjama outfits — sort of like onesies, but they cover the whole body from the neck down.
For baby clothing, give them a quick wash in the washer to get rid of any residue it may have from sitting on a shelf.
Another thing you may want to consider getting is a hot water bottle and a cloth cover for it. I don't know if they have them in America (I'm assuming they do, but I haven't actively shopped for them when I was there), but essentially you want something you can put on your baby's crib to keep the sheet warm when the baby is not there. The key here, though, is warm — not hot.
I wouldn't say this was an absolute necessity, but I absolutely love having a video baby monitor. It makes me feel so much better since I can just glance at it and see how baby is doing. I really use it now (around 6-18 months) a lot more than right after birth since he's sleeping in his own room now.
To expand on tnorthcutt's answer:
- Diapers — baby may outgrow newborn very quickly.
- A place for her to sleep — a hammock type sleeper that can go beside your bed is great for the first few months. After that, you'll need a crib.
- A place to change her diapers — I like having the changing table, but as many others have said, it isn't essential.
- Burp rags/receiving towels
- Baby wipes, butt paste, hand sanitizer
Clothes — babies grow so fast. The first size that seemed to last more than a week for us was 3–6 months, but our baby was big. They will outgrow the newborn sizes fast, so just make sure that you have 6 or so onesies in the small sizes and get more as you need, if you don't get plenty as gifts.
Pajamas — I recommend looking for pajamas that zip instead of snap. Trying to match all the snaps down the front and legs of snap pajamas in the middle of the night is no fun. Also, babies can pretty much live in their pajamas for a while.
A carrier — I liked the Moby Wrap. It is difficult to figure out, but very comfortable with a little one.
If you don't have a church or other group or family planning to brign you meals, I would start stashing restaurant gift cards to get to-go meals. Or start pre-cooking casseroles that you can just stick in the oven.
This may sound silly, it is not precisely for your baby but it will help you during those last months where your belly is getting really big. I bought my wife a very cheap plastic hand reacher and she used it a lot to pick up clothes or any stuff from the floor or from the washing machine/dryer (whenever I wasn't around, obviously). It saves you the pain of kneeling down or doing too much effort to reach things which could make your baby uncomfortable.
The other gadget we found extremely useful was the itzbeen. It is a multi-purpose timer that costs around 17-20 dollars and helps you keep track of when was the last time you fed your baby, changed diapers, or fell asleep. It also lets you set alarms for each category and it is very easy to use, it also has a very bright built-in lamp which helps you find your way to your baby at night. This thing is very small and ergonomic and it has a clip you can attach it to your pants or any clothes.
I know as parents we want to save as much as we can so you may find some app for your smartphone that does the same thing for much smaller price. We bought this one 'cause we don't have smart phones and our ipad is too big to carry it it around. So this pocket-size thing was the way to go. It is important to mention that my wife's and my own memory got very affected by sleep deprivation during the first weeks of our baby so you may need an aid there.
Finally, I would avoid buying a bassinet. Even though there are some very nice ones their real use-span is just a few weeks. Instead I would recommend buying a good and affordable multi-purpose pack-and-play like this Napper and Changer form Graco. We had one of those and put it right next to our bed and it was very useful to sleep and change the baby, you just push a button and turn the napper into a changer, then when they grow older you can use as a normal play yard. So instead of paying $100+ in the bassinet + $100+ in the play yard + changer you only pay half and it is a great product to transition between baby sleeping in parent's room and sleeping in his/her own room.
Noone mentioned breast pads - which may be useful if you're breastfeeding. My wife uses about 2 pairs per day.
A few blankets scattered around the house really helps making sure the baby has a clean and comfortable place to lay. We have 4 of those, but I guess 3 would be sufficient.