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Baby Gear Basics: A Checklist


A guide to the most important items for keeping your little one healthy and safe

By Joelle Klein

For a very little person, your new baby needs a lot of stuff! Ready to shop or create a registry? Here’s a wish list of the most important items, and some safety advice to go along with them.  

In many cases you don’t have to buy new products — hand-me-downs or second-hand-store items will do just fine. But keep in mind that some gear, such as car seats and strollers, may have expiration dates or been recalled at some point because of safety concerns. Before making a used item your own, always check with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or look on the manufacturer’s website, to make sure an item is still safe to use.


Things to keep baby clean and cozy:

baby smiling up at camera from bubble bath

Bathtub. The CPSC recommends a hard plastic baby bathtub, instead of a bath seat, to avoid tipping. Be sure to always keep a hand on your child while bathing him.

Gentle toiletries. Stick with mild and unscented shampoo, body wash and lotion.

Hooded baby towel and washcloths. Hooded towels do a nice job of getting your baby warm and dry quickly. 

Diapers. Cloth or disposable, it’s up to you. But whatever you choose, make the decision before baby arrives, so you have time to stock up on what you need. 

Wipes. Make them scent and alcohol-free, says pediatrician Tanya Altmann, MD. But keep an eye out for redness. “If you notice your baby’s skin is getting irritated, switch to a soft washcloth or paper towel dampened with warm water.”

Diaper cream. Use the petroleum-based kind as a daily barrier, suggests Patience Bleskan, CAPPA-certified birth and postpartum doula, to help prevent diaper rash. Switch to a brand with zinc oxide if you notice redness and irritation.

Baby nail clippers, baby nail scissors or kid-size nail files. Trim nails to help keep baby from getting scratches. (Do it while they’re sleeping for less wriggling and fussing.) 

Nasal aspirating bulb or syringe for clearing tiny noses clogged with heavy mucous (babies can’t blow on their own).

Blankets. You can never have too many for covering baby in the stroller, the car seat carrier or while you’re nursing. 

Burp cloths. Get lots of cheap ones (since they get stained and dirty), or use cloth diapers or baby washcloths. 

Clothes. Have at least 3 or 4 onesies, 6 to 8 t-shirts, 2 sweaters, 2 hats, 4 pairs of socks, and 3 or 4 sets of sleepwear, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Sleepsacks are great for safe infant sleep.

Gentle detergent free of dyes and colors.

Infant thermometer and infant fever reducer. Have these on hand, just in case. Rectal thermometers are still the gold standard, Altmann says, but many temporal artery or forehead thermometers will do the trick, as well. Check with your pediatrician on the right type of acetaminophen and appropriate dose.


Things to get around with baby:

Baby being secured in car seatCar seat. All car seats have expiration dates, so check yours for a current date if you’ve borrowed it from a friend. Never use a car seat that’s been in an accident. And always have the seat properly installed before the baby is born.

Stroller. Depending on where you live, you may not need a stroller right away. When you do get one, make sure it reclines, the brakes work, it folds up easily and has a cover for the weather in your area (whether sun or sleet!).

Diaper bag with changing pad. Make sure it’s not too heavy. Shoulder injuries are common in new moms, says Altmann.

Carrier. There are hundreds of brands and types; find one that’s most comfortable for you. If yours is used, check for any tears or worn fabric, and look up the manual to confirm the weight limit. 


Things for soothing and entertaining baby: 

Bouncy seat or swing. These items are great, new or used, for putting baby down for short periods of time. But they’re not meant to hold your baby all day, says Altmann: “Make sure you give you baby plenty of time out of these seats for tummy time and to push up or rollover.”

Playpen. Keep your baby in a safe, enclosed area if you need to step away.

Playmat or play gym. Check for loose pieces, if you pick one up used.

pacifier or binkyPacifiers. The AAP recommends you put your baby to sleep with a pacifier in order to reduce the risk of SIDS but don’t force it if baby doesn’t want one.

Toys, rattles, teethers, etc. Have a variety, make sure they’re age appropriate and store some in every room.

Baby books. The more, the better! Start with board books or cloth books so baby can gum or chew on them and not easily rip pages.


Things for feeding baby:

Breast pump. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires most health insurance to cover the cost of a breast pump. Call your provider to check your coverage. 

Bottle and nipple system, including bags for freezing milk. Find the bottle and nipple system that works best for your baby before investing in a whole system. If you're concerned about exposure to BPA and other toxins that might be in plastics, choose glass or aluminum bottles instead.

hands washing a bottleBottle cleaning gear. Soap, hot water and a bottle-cleaning brush are all you need to safely sterilize baby bottles. You can even throw nipples and bottles in the dishwasher, as long as the items are dishwasher-safe and you use hot water and the drying cycle. 

Nursing pillow. Regular pillows can help you get comfortable while nursing. But a nursing pillow is more versatile because it’s also great for encouraging baby to do tummy time when you’re not nursing; use it to prop up his upper body. 

Published on December 30, 2015.

Joelle Klein is a Denver-based health and lifestyle writer and mother of two.

Arkady Chubykin/iStock/Thinkstock
Reviewed by Susan Spencer, MSN, RNC, IBCLC on November 19, 2015.
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