Babies don't take up a lot of room, but their stuff sure seems to. While you don't need everything you see in the stores, you do need a few basic items. What follows is a list of the basic gear you'll need when you bring your baby home and on through the first year.
Newborn to 6 Weeks
3 Months to 6 Months
6 Months to 12 Months
Newborn to 6 Weeks
Your newborn doesn't need a whole lot besides your love, your warmth, and your breast milk or formula. There are a few items that will make your life easier, however.
- A crib. Your newborn can sleep in a padded laundry basket or drawer for all he'll care, but as he grows, he'll need a crib. Here are some important pointers:
- Make sure the crib slats are less than 2 3/8 inches apart and that none are missing or broken.
- Make sure the mattress is firm and fits snugly (you can get no more than two fingers between it and the rails).
- A cradle. If you choose this route, be sure the paint is safe, the mattress and padding are firm, and the rocking mechanism is secure. Be aware that these can rarely be used after a baby is about 3 months old.
- Mobiles. These should be 10 to 12 inches above the crib, with no dangling items.
- A car seat. Federal law mandates that you have one before you take your baby anywhere, and that includes home from the hospital. You can get an infant car seat specifically designed for newborns and young babies, or a model that can be used for small infants and later converted for use with an older baby. For more on car seats and car safety, click here.
- A front-pack. This holds your baby close to your chest and lets you get things done while keeping in close contact with him. Be sure there is good head support for your baby.
- A stroller. You will want to get outside with your newborn, and as he grows, these outings will become more regular and more important. Consider a stroller that converts from a reclining infant model into an upright version suitable for older babies. A wide base, firm locking mechanism, and straps to secure your baby are all must-haves.
- Bottles and nipples for formula feeding. Newborns generally use the 4-ounce bottles, while older babies will need the 8-ounce kind. Note: We don't recommend any bottle supplements for breastfeeding babies. And don't use a nipple as a pacifier.
- An infant seat. Many families like to use an infant seat to have a safe place to sit their baby while doing something else. A sturdy, well-padded model with a non-skid bottom makes it easier. Although car seats can be used for this, the reverse is not true. Infant seats are not safe as car seats. Also, never place an occupied infant seat on a high counter. And be aware: Babies usually outgrow these by about 4 months.
- Baby swing. Some parents swear a swing soothes colic like nothing else. Make sure you buy a safe, reputable brand, and follow the installation instructions closely. Pad the seat well for a very young baby. Use the straps every time.
- Bath items. You can give your infant a bath after his umbilical cord falls off. You'll need a small plastic tub or basin and a padded, safe place to set everything up. For complete details on your baby's first bath, click here.
- A thermometer. Digital thermometers are easiest to read but are more expensive. Avoid an ear thermometer until your baby is 3 months old.
- A changing table. Set this up away from windows or radiators. Use the safety straps, and be sure all changing supplies are in easy reach.
3 Months to 6 Months
By 3 months, your baby can probably hold her head up and grin at you, and by 6 months, she will probably be sitting up by herself and rolling all over. She'll be so adorable you won't be able to resist buying toys, books, and clothes. But remember, your love and attention are still what make her happiest.
- Crib. If you haven't gotten one already, now's the time to get a crib for your baby to sleep in. Make sure the mattress is firm and that crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. Keep the mattress lowered farther than twice your baby's "thickness" when she is lying down. No strings or mobiles once your child can sit up.
- Car seat. Keep your car seat rear-facing, and be sure it's installed correctly. Check out our car seat guide.
- High chair. When your baby is ready to start solid foods, typically at around 4 to 6 months, you'll want to have a high chair to feed her in. Find one that has a wide base and an easy-to-clean, easily removable tray. You might also want to consider a plastic floor mat to contain the mess. If you choose a seat that attaches to the table, check that all the brackets are tight and that your table can support it.
6 Months to 12 Months
Your baby is mobile and into everything, and that's how it should be! He's so excited and curious about the world around him that he can't help but get into trouble. Help keep him safe while giving him every opportunity to learn by having some of these items:
- Safety gates. Keep stairs and certain rooms of the house off-limits with bolted in safety gates. These should be screwed to the wall and installed at floor level.
- Crib. Keep lowering the mattress so the top rail is no lower than your baby's shoulders. Remove bumper pads and all large toys when he pulls up to a stand.
- Baby backpack. You and your baby will both love the freedom of a baby backpack. Make sure your child can't kick himself up or out of the pack, and be aware that he can reach things you can't see. A harness inside and a sling seat are a must. A heavy waist/hip belt will help you bear his weight as he grows.
- Shoes. Your baby won't need real shoes until he's walking outdoors, but when he does, choose shoes that fit him well and are easy to take on and off. Soft shoes are best. He doesn't need ankle support.
- Small, unbreakable plates, baby-sized utensils, sippy cups. Welcome to the wonderful but messy world of solid food. Use small spoons for small mouths, please.