2017-09-17 / Family

Baby items you actually need: A pee-pee teepee's not one

By MICHELLE COTE
Columnist

If I've learned anything this third Rookie Mama time around, it's been to simplify.

I know. Adding more children to one's inventory is au contraire, right?

But a great take-away in my husband's and my newest adventure is the realization that babies just don't need all the complicated gadgets and gizmos we're led to believe the first time around.

Announcing one's first pregnancy is an unwitting, inadvertent invitation for what will become nine months' inundation of flooded ads for items you may – or may not – necessarily need, ads that only contribute to the full-on swamped-ness a mama already feels.

Is the most expensive big-ticket item necessarily the safest and most important? The truth is: No way.

In my experience, I've learned that many items marketed to mamas and mamas-to-be are actually totally unnecessary.

It's challenging to weed these out from your must-haves, and by all means everyone's wants/needs lists are completely different.

But when it comes down to basics and baby building blocks, you may find you can whittle down your list quite a bit.

Baby's needs are not all that complicated. Without further ado – when planning for your little bugaboo – here's a list of registry items your wee babe actually needs.

A place to sleep – Be it a Pack 'N Play, traditional bassinet or crib (and never second-hand!), be sure your tot has a safe place to sleep, complete with necessary accompanying fitted sheets, mattress pads, and crib mattress. Your health care provider will tell you, but it cannot be stressed enough that babes shouldn't have anything more than a fitted sheet in their crib. Ditch the bumpers, stuffed animals and cutesy accessories that can impair breathing. Even mobiles aren't often recommended today.

Something to eat – Breastfeeding mamas will need nursing essentials: breast pads, nipple cream, quick-clean steam bags, breastmilk storage bags, nursing bras, nursing pillow and breast pump – check your insurance company to see about a free pump.

Formula feeding mamas: Hold off on stocking up formula in case your sweet little one has a sensitive stomach or requires a certain brand.

No matter how you feed your babe, bottles and bottle brushes will be needed. Finding the right brand may require a bit of trial and error, but don't let the selection overwhelm you.

Bottle warmers and sterilizers aren't necessary; you can warm and sterilize with items you already have in your kitchen. Place a bottle of breastmilk or formula in an oversized coffee mug filled with hot water and boom – bottle warmer fashioned. Sterilize parts in a pot of boiling water or use a quick-clean steam bag; double boom.

Register for a bottle drying rack, or a clean kitchen towel atop your counter will work fine, too.

Keep stacks of burp cloths in every room in which you frequent with your babe. Absorbency trumps cutesy every time; my husband and I swear by Gerber cloth diapers. They're plain, they're white, but our winsome, whimsical alternative burp cloths never absorbed all that well.

And on the topic of food, it never hurts to think ahead a few months and gear up for feeding items such as BPA-free sippy cups, plates, silverware, and baby food containers to store your home-made baby food or for on-the-go.

To wear – Chances are you'll receive plenty of adorable onesies, sweet bibs, hats, and busy toys such as rattles at your baby shower, not to mention hand-me-downs from mamas with older kiddos. And they'll be delightful. But you don't have to register for them. Do be sure you have a good stockpile of swaddle sleep sacks. Zippered outfits are faster and better than buttoned ones.  You'll thank me later.

For bums – Nix the pricey changing table; a bureau top works perfectly for changing baby bums. The essentials include diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment, changing pad and fitted covers, and diaper pail with refills. Wipe warmers seem adorable in theory, but they're not necessary. The art of diaper changing is meant to be quick, literally down and dirty. I promise your little one won't recall the precise temperature of a wipe which swabbed his bum for about 1.5 seconds.

And on the topic of clean bums – stock up on hand sanitizer; one for your diaper changing area and one for your living room where well-meaning relatives battling the sniffles may want to hold your baby who's not fully immunized. My husband and I love the large pumps with aloe because they keep our hands from drying out.

To travel – Travel systems, or car seats that include a stroller and car base attachment, make infant seats a snap, literally. This is a fabulous essential to have. Be sure any caregiver or grandparent who will travel with your babe also has a properly installed matching seat base. Properly installed car seats are among the most vital items to have on hand – you literally can't leave the hospital without one. Check safety ratings, and be sure the seat isn't expired.

Know your seat's history – if it's been in the slightest fender bender, you cannot reuse it.

You'll eventually need a convertible car seat and bigger stroller as your child grows, but he'll be rocking the rear-racing infant seat for at least two years.

Car seats don't need to be pricey – some of the least expensive ones on the market are the most safe and easiest to operate. Check with your pediatrician or hospital to determine which brand is best.

When on the go, don't forget your diaper bag. It should include diaper changing essentials, spare outfits, snacks and books as well as a First Aid kit separately from one you have in your home.

Baby carriers and slings are not just for travel, but fantastic to wear around the house when you need to get stuff done. My husband and I have loved ours. There are wraps such as the Moby and straight-up carriers such as the Baby Bjorn. Try one on that best suits you.

To keep clean – Keep an infant tub handy that you can place inside your kitchen sink or bathtub, along with baby shampoo or body wash, soft facecloths and hooded towels. There's nothing sweeter than a freshly bathed babe.

For home – These big-ticket items make great group gifts when listed on your registry. Research these items and decide if they are right for you:

• Baby Monitor

• Bouncer Seat

• Swing

• Jumper/Activity Center

• Play Mat/Gym

• High Chair

• Portable playard – If you don't already have one for a bassinet, this is fabulous to have on the go.

• Glider or rocker – ones with rocking foot stools are especially cozy.

• Safety Gate and other childproofing accessories such as door knob covers and outlet covers. You do not need the full gamut of all these accessories – I'm looking at you, toilet seat fastener – but get the basics.

• Blender – for making baby food after the six-month mark

• Camera/Video – Always have one at the ready. It's so important for parents to take part in moments rather than be photographing them all the time, but you'll want to be sure to snap some great pics and video in those early months – Believe me, it goes by too quickly.

Money-saving tips – When perusing big ticket items, I recommend neutral colors so that you can use them again for multiple babies.

Today, several online registries offer parents a discount toward the end as due date approaches for any unpurchased items. My husband and I were able to take advantage of 15% off all remaining items for which we'd registered for our third child – Believe it or not, there were many practical items we found we needed despite it being our third rodeo. Regardless, we were able to save a bit by using this feature that didn't exist not long ago.

In the end, what babies need most to thrive – is you. And to you, I say, remember to care for yourself. Sneak a super-hot shower when you can, binge-watch guilty-pleasure shows during night-time feedings while feeding yourself energy-boosting snacks. With baby's basic needs met and super skin-to-skin cuddles from you and your partner, the rest shall all fall into place.

And no parent ever said they regretted not buying a Pee-pee teepee – the little hat-like contraption placed on a baby boy to, um, prevent being sprayed while getting diaper changing gear in order.

Here's where a burp cloth would do just fine.

And you'll do just fine, too.

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