When you're pregnant, it's a delight to browse the baby stores for those adorable outfits, colorful playthings, and stylish strollers. You might be tempted to scoop up lots of baby gear all at once, but so much shopping can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive.
Relax. Realistically, you'll have plenty of time before your baby needs sippy cups, a high chair, or a potty. In the early months, your baby requires only a few essentials. For example, you can't take your baby from the hospital unless you have an infant car seat. And once you get home, your baby will need diapers, clothing, and a safe place to sleep.
As you prepare to welcome your baby home, make sure you have these important items on hand.
This one's a biggie. Every state requires parents to have a proper car seat before they can leave the hospital with their baby. Your baby must be in a rear-facing seat until he or she is age 2. If you borrow a car seat, make sure it's not damaged and has not been recalled.
If you're not sure how to install a car seat properly, ask your pediatrician where you can find expert help, says Benjamin S. Danielson, MD, medical director of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic at Seattle Children's Hospital. He says his hospital recommends a car seat-fitting specialist to parents. You can also call your local AAA chapter to find out whether it runs a car seat safety inspection station near your home. Many fire stations and police stations offer free car seat inspection on a drop-in basis, too.
A stable bassinet or crib offers your newborn a safe, comfortable place to sleep. If you start with a bassinet or cradle, follow the manufacturer's instructions on safe use, taking into account the weight and size of your baby.
As for cribs, look for one with slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, and make sure the mattress fits snugly into the crib so your baby can't slip into any gaps on the sides. Avoid headboards and footboards with cut-outs, which could trap a baby's head.
While it's tempting to spruce it up with stuffed animals, pillows, or heavy quilts, these things can impair your baby's breathing or pose a suffocation hazard.
Some doctors even caution against using any blankets in the crib. As an alternative, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using baby sleeper clothing -- no covers needed.