The first few days and weeks after childbirth tend to be a little overwhelming for new parents. Make it easier on yourself by having all the clothing and equipment you need ready and waiting for your return from the hospital with your new arrival. Whether you buy everything yourself or register for gifts, there are some specific items that are essential for the first six weeks of your baby's life.
A Whole New Wardrobe
Considering their size, newborns tend to make a big mess. Whether it's milk dribbles, vomit or something even more unpleasant, expect your baby's clothes to get messy quickly. Be prepared to change her outfit several times throughout the day and night. Unless you want to be chained to the washing machine, you'll need to have a large supply of newborn and 3-month-size clothes on hand. Go for simple, soft, comfortable garments that are easy to put on and take off. BabyCenter.com recommends up to seven one-piece outfits, up to seven pairs of leggings or pants, up to seven sleepers and a sweater or jacket to see your baby through the first six weeks. If your baby is born during winter, you'll need a snowsuit or a cozy, fleece-lined stroller sack. Remember socks, booties and a weather-appropriate hat.
An Endless Cycle of Feeding and Changing
If you're planning to breastfeed your baby, you'll need lots of burp cloths (at least six) and nipple cream to prevent and heal cracked skin. A breast pump is a good investment, as it means someone else can take over some of the feedings. You'll need bottles and newborn nipples for bottle feeding, and a large supply of infant formula if you plan to formula feed. All that milk has to come out the other end, so make sure you also have the essential changing equipment. A stand-alone changing table with a safety railing and storage space can make your job easier, but a cushioned changing pad does the job as well. Stock up on diapers; you'll need around ten per day during the first few weeks. Diaper wipes and diaper cream are other newborn necessities.
Time to Explore
You'll probably want to get out and about with your baby in the first few weeks, whether it's going to a friend's house or walking around your neighborhood. You'll need a sturdy, spacious diaper bag to carry all the things you can't leave home without, such as diapers, a change of clothes, burp cloths and bottles. You can't take your newborn in a car without a suitable car seat, either a rear-facing car seat designed for babies up to 20 pounds or a convertible car seat that can adapt to fit both infants and older children. A newborn stroller should recline to almost flat or accommodate your infant car seat, because your baby won't be able to sit upright until he is around 3 months old.
After the umbilical cord falls off -- one to four weeks after birth, according to KidsHealth.org -- you can bathe your baby in the tub. Until then, a sponge bath is recommended. You'll need washcloths, mild, unscented baby soap and shampoo, and hooded terrycloth towels. Your baby can be bathed in your sink or tub, but an infant tub may be a good investment. This smaller tub fits inside your bathtub, is specially designed for newborns and makes bathing slippery newborns more manageable. Remember never to leave your baby unattended in the tub, not even for few seconds.
And So to Bed...
Your newborn baby spends most of her first few weeks in the world asleep. The average newborn sleeps up to 16.5 hours per day, says Heidi Murkoff, author of the bestselling pregnancy book "What to Expect When You're Expecting." It may not seem like your baby is really sleeping this much because he's waking up frequently to be fed, and he won't yet understand the difference between day and night. Your newborn can sleep in a bassinet for the first several weeks, but it's wise to have a crib assembled in the nursery before you bring him home from the hospital. You'll also need a firm innerspring or foam crib mattress, at least two sets of fitted crib sheets and a couple of wearable blankets to keep your baby warm during nap time and nighttime.