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Getting Ready at Home

Preparing for a new baby does not have to be an overwhelming experience. Experienced parents have learned that newborn babies need just some basic items at first - a warm and safe place to sleep, food, clothing, and diapers.

Many baby stores offer a gift registry service so that you can list the items you prefer for others to consider when buying a baby gift. Although there are many baby products now available, listed below are the essential items you will want to have ready for your new baby.

Choosing furniture and furnishings for your newborn with care:

Safety is an important issue when choosing your baby's new furniture, especially for the bed and bed linens. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers recommendations for many of these items.

  • crib
    Baby cribs must meet federal safety standards which include the following:
    • Slats should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) apart.
    • All slats should be intact, not missing or cracked.
    • Mattress should fit snugly - less than the width of two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.
    • Mattress support should be securely attached to the head and footboards.
    • Corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) to prevent entanglement of clothing or other objects worn by child.
    • The head and footboards should have no cutouts, which would allow for head entrapment.
    • Assure that your baby cannot easily release drop-side latches.
    • Assure that drop-side latches securely hold sides in raised position.
    • All screws or bolts, which secure components of crib, should be present and tight.
    • The CPSC recommends to not place a crib near draperies or blinds where a child could become entangled and strangle on the cords. When the child reaches 35 inches in height, or can climb and/or fall over the sides, the crib should be replaced with a bed.
  • crib mattress and bedding
    According to the CPSC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), soft bedding may be a major contributor to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These organizations offer the following recommendations for infant bedding:
    • Place your baby on his/her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
    • Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.
    • Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
    • If using a blanket, put your baby with his/her feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, only as far as the baby's chest.
    • Make sure your baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.
    • Do not place your baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
  • bassinet or cradle
    These small beds are helpful and portable in the first few months. The CPSC recommends following the manufacturer's guidelines on weight and size of the baby in determining who can safely use these products. For safety reasons, be sure to look for a bassinet or cradle with the following:
    • a sturdy bottom and a wide base for stability
    • smooth surfaces (no protruding staples or other hardware that could injure the baby)
    • legs with strong, effective locks to prevent folding while in use
    • a firm mattress that fits snugly
  • changing table
    Changing tables offer a convenient place to change your baby's diaper. The CPSC recommends not leaving a baby on the table unattended. Always use the straps to prevent the baby from falling. For safety reasons, be sure to look for a changing table with the following:
    • safety straps to prevent falls
    • drawers or shelves that are easily accessible without leaving the baby unattended
  • rocking chair or glider
    For comfort, look for a chair with arms that are wide enough for you to hold your baby, especially when breastfeeding.
  • playpen
    Playpens are large enclosed beds where a baby can nap or play safely away from pets or other children. The CPSC recommends never leaving an infant in a mesh playpen or crib with the drop-side down. Even a very young infant can roll into the space between the mattress and loose mesh side and suffocate. Only playpens that meet federal safety standards should be used. These include:
    • Drop-side mesh playpens or cribs with warning labels to never to leave the side in the down position.
    • Mesh with small weave (less than 1/4 inch openings).
    • Mesh with no tears, holes, or loose threads.
    • Mesh securely attached to top rail and floorplate.
    • Top rail cover has no tears or holes.
    • Wooden playpen with slats spaced no more than 2 inches (60 mm) apart.
    • If staples are used in construction, assure they are firmly installed and none are missing or loose.
  • strollers and carriages
    These are helpful in transporting babies on outings. The CPSC recommends always securing the seat belts with the stroller or carriage is in use. Never leave a child unattended in a stroller. Keep children's hands away from pinching areas when stroller is being folded or unfolded, or the seat back is being reclined. For safety reasons, be sure to look for a stroller or carriage with:
    • a wide base to prevent tipping.
    • the seat belt and crotch strap attached securely to the frames.
    • a seat belt buckle which is easy to use.
    • brakes that securely lock the wheel(s).
    • a shopping basket which is low on the back and directly over or in front of rear wheels for stability.
    • leg hole openings which can be closed when being used in the carriage position
  • car seat
    All states have laws requiring babies and children to travel in an approved car safety seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers recommendations for choosing a car safety seat, which include:
    • Purchase the car seat well in advance of your due date.
    • The simplest and least expensive model usually will work as well as one with fancy features.
    • Choose a seat that you find easy to use and that fits in your vehicle.
    • If you choose a convertible seat, try it facing both toward the front and rear.
    • Look for a seat you can use as long as possible that faces the rear. Read the labels to check weight limits, as some are made to carry a baby over 20 pounds facing the rear.
    • If you buy an infant-only seat, you will need a convertible seat later. Most babies need to use rear-facing convertible seats as they get larger, because they outgrow their infant-only seats before age 1.
    • When you purchase a car seat be sure to receive instructions on proper installation.

Supplying your home appropriately for your newborn's arrival:

It is recommended that you have on hand the following items before you bring your newborn home. However, you can purchase the minimal amount and always add more.

  • three to four fitted crib sheets
  • two waterproof crib pads
  • two lightweight cotton crib-size blankets (no fringe)
  • three to six receiving blankets
  • four waterproof lap pads
  • crib bumper pads that attach securely
  • about 10 to 11 disposable diapers per day for the first few weeks, or 48 cloth diapers (plus three to five diaper covers or wraps)
  • diaper stacker
  • diaper pail at each changing area
  • diaper wipes
Bath Items
  • baby bathtub
  • four to six baby washcloths
  • two to four hooded towels
  • mild bath soap
  • no tears baby shampoo
Clothing Choose simple clothing that is easy to get on and off, without long strings or ties that might be a choking hazard. Make sure sleepwear is flame retardant. You many want to buy mainly 6 to 9 month size clothing and a few newborn items.
  • four to six receiving gowns
  • two to three one-piece footed sleepers
  • four to six undershirts
  • two to three pairs of booties or socks
  • one to two blanket sleepers (depending on the season)
  • one to two dress up/special occasion outfits
  • bonnet with brim
  • bibs
  • sweater
  • pacifier
  • baby brush and comb
  • baby nail clippers or scissors
  • baby acetaminophen drops (given as advised by your baby's physician)
  • bulb syringe for clearing baby's nose
  • humidifier
  • rectal or digital thermometer
  • crib mobile
  • decorations for room
  • a front baby carrier or backpack
  • laundry hamper

As you prepare your home for your new baby, look for sturdy furnishings and equipment. Be sure that all products meet current safety standards. This is especially important if you are borrowing or buying items second-hand.

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