Being a parent-to-be can be an overwhelming experience. I'll be welcoming my first baby shortly and have been completely shocked and inundated with the all the lists and books that tell moms-to-be that you need this gizmo or that doo-dad or else you're failing your child.
In reality, there are very few items you'll actually need for your baby, aside from an approved car seat, safe place for them to sleep, food and some basic clothing.
New moms, however, will find their lives vastly simplified with the addition of a few essentials, which is why we recently spoke with parenting expert and author Alyson Schäfer to get her thoughts on the top five essentials every new mom should have in her arsenal.
The perfect diaper bag
Your diaper bag will be going everywhere you and your new baby do, so it's worth taking the time to find one that fits your needs, style and is comfortable to carry, says Schäfer.
"You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a diaper bag either - there are plenty of affordable options," she says.
An unused backpack can easily be re-purposed to this task and suits both moms and dads. "Look for one with compartments that can easily organize your many tools and supplies."
Bring some comfort with you to the hospital
Hospitals are not 5-star hotels, and thus are appointed as such, so anything you can do to make your stay a little more comfortable will go a long way.
"Most hospitals will offer a bed and a single pillow, so it's a good idea to bring an inexpensive travel pillow," she says.
"Pack a pair of slippers for yourself, and even dad, to have handy when you get out of bed. These little things will go a long way when you're going through labour."
[See also: Things you didn't know about your baby's skin]
A go-to source for all of your baby-related questions
Everyone and their uncle (and maybe even your uncle) will want to offer up their tips and advice from the moment you announce your pregnancy. Many moms-to-be welcome this wisdom from family and friends, but are also looking for expert advice and information from others in the same situation. In fact, according to a recent survey from Huggies, 70% of new and expectant moms spend two or more hours per day researching baby-related information online.
"While the Internet is a helpful tool it can also be overwhelming for new moms who are looking for the best answers to important questions," says Schäfer.
Websites such as CanadianFamily.ca, and TodaysParent.com and TheBump.com offer excellent articles on pregnancy and parenting. A new site, Mommy Answers Forum is another great place to connect with other expectant parents and offers a wealth of baby information to answer any questions a new or expectant parent might have. The interactive design lets you type in your question and gives you an answer aggregated from leading parenting sites and resources including Doctissimo, Babble, Huggies.com and Baby Center.
The ultimate diaper-changing arsenal
"There will be A LOT of diaper changes so you'll need a supply at home and a supply in your diaper bag," says Schäfer, who adds that you should always carry a few diapers and a pack of wipes for any unexpected on-the-go changes.
"Diapers and wipes that are specifically made for newborns are a great option since they are suited for their ultra-sensitive skin. And baby wipes can go a long way — they're not only great for the little one's sensitive bottom, but also for their hands and face."
Mini wash cloths, receiving blankets and onesies
Schäfer suggests expecting parents buy a variety of mini wash cloths to keep handy in their diaper bag to wipe little one's face, hands and any spit ups. She notes that while receiving blankets are handy for swaddling, they can also be thrown over your shoulder to protect you from spit up.
"Onesies will be your newborn's uniform for months," she says. "Don't worry about having full outfits for the little one every time they need a change — it will happen often."
She says new parents should invest in combo packs of inexpensive onesies. "You'll be changing them constantly and babies grow so fast, they wear through their clothing pretty quickly."
Moms: What were your essentials when you were a new parent?
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