Going ga-ga over all that baby gear?

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by baby accessories. Megan shares her pregnancy journey and what gear is truly essential.

I admit it. During my first pregnancy 6½ years ago, I had no clue as to what baby supplies I needed. None of my friends were mothers. With few easy online resources available (the internet and mommy blogs have come a long way since then) and a 600-page book on baby essentials in hand, I was desperate for someone who knew what they were doing to just tell me what I really needed.

My sister asked her best friend, who has two kids, for a list of what I should get. We went to Babies “R” Us, and with a registry gun started zapping barcodes of everything on her list. I got a lot of stuff I needed, but also a lot of stuff I didn’t really need. I wish I had spent more time really figuring out what items were important to me before registering.

I have learned a lot since then. Here’s my rundown on what is truly essential:

Car seat: It needs to be brand new, since you can’t tell if a used one has been in a car accident, which is a big no-no! And you should get it installed and checked by a child passenger safety technician. Find one here.

Diaper bag and changing gear: A good bag has a million compartments to store diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifers, burp cloths, diaper cream and — my biggest piece of advice on what to carry in your diaper bag – a change of clothes for not only baby, but for you! I often have needed to change a shirt due to a blowout, spit up or milk leaking through my shirt — yes, that does happen.

Infant seat: These seats are easy to move around, and they go wherever you need to be in the house. With an infant seat, I could take a shower and peek out through the curtain to make sure baby was OK.

Bed: A Pack ‘n Play, Rock ‘n Play or crib will do the trick.

Stroller: This is what I wish most of all that I had researched more. The stroller for my first baby seemed fine, but if I had known the difference between a good stroller and a cheaper one, I would have saved so much money and avoided frustrations. You really use a stroller everywhere! With baby No. 3 on the way, I finally have a good one. You don’t have to buy a new one. I bought my latest double stroller at a church yard sale, cleaned it up and I love it as much as if I had just gotten it straight out of the box. And it was one-sixth of what the price would have been brand new.

Breast pump: If you plan on breastfeeding and want your baby to have your milk when you go back to work, this is a must. I have two — one for work, and one for home and travel. For my second baby, I had a hands-free pumping bra — so worth the money if you are trying to multitask while pumping. When you spend 15 to 20 minutes pumping per session, it’s nice to be able to have your hands free. And don’t forget the storage bags and breast pads (I am so serious — your breasts will leak milk, especially in the first few months).

Feeding supplies: Don’t go crazy buying multiple bottles for baby — I learned this the hard way. With Jude, he took every bottle I gave him. But Bryce would not have anything to do with a bottle — all she wanted was me. I bought at least $100 worth of every kind of fancy bottle out there trying to get her to take a bottle. She never did, poor thing (and poor me). So don’t spend a ton of money on bottles and nipples until you know which ones your baby prefers.

Baby first-aid basics: Thermometer (one that’s easy to read), baby nail clippers and petroleum jelly and gauze (for your little boy, if he is circumcised).

Extra must-haves, but not totally necessary:

A lightweight stroller that holds a car seat: I used a Snap-N-Go that easily popped open, and I could put the car seat in it. With my first, lugging around a 25-pound-plus car seat and baby to doctor appointments was hard. You’ve seen the woman trying to carry a sleeping child in a car seat, banging it against her leg and bent over Quasimodo-style? — that was me. This lightweight, inexpensive stroller saved me with my second baby.

A good wrap or infant carrier: With baby No. 1, I didn’t have to be mobile. I could sit on the couch, adoringly gaze at Jude in my arms and devote every waking moment to him. With Bryce, she pretty much spent her first six weeks attached to me in a Moby wrap. I could keep her close (babies love that) while being able to do things with Jude so he didn’t feel ignored. With baby No. 3, I’ve invested in a wrap that can get wet, so when I take the big kids to the pool, I can wrap baby to me and still keep an eye on the older ones in the water.

Baby bath: The first few weeks I usually just do sponge baths, but once baby is big enough, it’s nice having a bathtub (I prefer one that inserts into my kitchen sink).

Baby monitor: For my first baby, I had an audio monitor, and it did the trick. But for my second, I got a video monitor, and I loved being able to see and hear what she was up to.

Breastfeeding pillow: It is so much easier to breastfeed using one of these pillows. I bought the inexpensive kind and kept one in the nursery and one in living room so I wouldn’t have to fetch it when it was time to feed (which feels like all the time!).

There are other supplies you might want — a high chair, baby swing and rocker — but those aren’t essential for a newborn. Some things you can get later — such as your high chair — or just borrow from a friend or buy one gently used. There’s no need to break the bank on these items.

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