Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on February 11, 2021
What Do You Need for Your New Baby?
Before you welcome your baby home, you'll want to have everything in place. Along with diapers, bottles, and baby clothes, you'll need to get the "big 4": car seat, crib or bassinet, stroller, and -- thinking ahead -- a high chair. Use these tips to make smart, safe choices.
Have the Car Seat Ready
It's a once-in-a-lifetime trip -- your baby's first ride home! Install the car seat ahead of time so everything's ready. Newborns should ride in rear-facing car seats. Follow installation instructions, or find a child safety seat inspection station for help. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website lists stations, or you can call 888-327-4236. The middle of the backseat is the safest spot to install the seat.
Types of Rear-Facing Seats
Infant-only seats are smaller than regular baby seats. The seat may come out of the base and have handles so you can use it to carry your little one. You can make a convertible seat rear-facing and then change it to forward-facing when your child gets older. But this kind does not have a separate base or carrying handles. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat.
Safe Crib Checklist
Buying a Crib Mattress
You'll need to purchase a separate mattress for the crib. Get a firm one that fits snugly inside it. A space greater than two fingers' width between the mattress and the frame means that you need a bigger mattress. To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), only use a fitted bottom sheet made for crib mattresses, and keep the crib free of pillows, blankets, pillow-like bumper pads, and stuffed toys -- those items can smother a baby.
How to Choose and Use a Bassinet
Some parents prefer to put their baby in a bassinet at first. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends choosing one certified for safety by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Look for a sturdy bottom with a wide base; smooth surfaces; legs with locks; and a snug-fitting mattress. Just as you would with a crib, make sure there are no pillows, quilts, comforters, blankets, pillow-like bumper pads, or stuffed toys in with the baby.
Which Stroller Is Right for You?
Standard strollers usually feature reclining seats, cup holders, trays, and under baskets. Some have a seat that doubles as a carrier and fits your car seat to make transfers easy. There are also lightweight strollers that can be easier to handle. Check the size and weight requirements, though. Many lightweight strollers may not work for babies under 6 months old. The JPMA also certifies strollers for safety, so look for its seal on boxes.
Stroller Safety Tips
Always strap your child in, even if your journey is a short one. You can choose a stroller with a T-strap or a 5-point restraint (with shoulder belts). Make sure the leg openings are small enough that an infant won't slide through them. Don't hang a purse or baby bag on the handles. That could make the stroller tip over backward.
When Baby's Ready for a High Chair
When your baby has good head control and starts to sit up and eat solid foods, a high chair is essential. Choose one with a wide base that won't tip over easily. Look for easy-to-use straps, and always strap your baby in with both the waist belt and the strap between the legs. Don't rely on the tray to restrain them -- it's for holding food, not a squirming child. Make sure they stay seated (no standing up) and never leave them alone in the high chair.
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American Academy of Pediatrics: "A Parent's Guide to Safe Sleep," "Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2011."
Consumer Product Safety Commission: "Crib Safety Tips." Consumer Reports: "Crib safety tips."
ConsumerReports.org: "On the go: Stroller safety."
Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association: "Safe and Sound for Baby."
KidsHealth.org: "Choosing Safe Baby Products: Strollers."
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "4 Steps for Kids: Rear-Facing Seats."
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: "The Safe Nursery."