Part of the fun of getting ready for your baby’s arrival is shopping for all the little things you’ll need. There are those super-tiny socks and petite pom-pom caps, adorable onesies and too-cute burping cloths, tiny undershirts and (of course) diapers by the bagful. But don’t stop there. Being prepared for baby means you’ll need to stock up on a few baby care products, too.
What should you fill your shopping cart with? Happily, not much. When it comes to your baby’s grooming needs, less is best. Forget the fragrant lotions, shampoos, and soaps. Once you get a whiff of that sweet new-baby scent, you’ll realize there’s no need to mask it. And You’ll also want a few basic infant medical supplies to your shopping list so you don’t have to make 2 a.m. drugstore runs the first time your little one gets sick. Here are the baby-care essentials to have on hand when your brand-new bundle arrives.
Cotton balls. For the first few weeks, a cotton ball dipped in plain water is the gentlest way to clean your newborn’s tender tush. But that’s not the only reason to keep a bag of sterile cotton balls around. They’re also terrific to wipe that beautiful baby-blue (or brown or gray) eyes (skip the swabs since they aren’t safe to use on baby).
Baby oil. Your doctor may suggest baby oil as a way of getting rid of cradle cap — a crusty (but harmless) scalp condition. Baby oil on a cotton ball is also a gentle method to wipe away a particularly sticky poop from your baby’s skin. But there’s no need to use it routinely or to cover up your baby (oiled-up babies are slippery babies).
Baby wipes. After a few weeks of cotton-ball-and-plain-water cleanups, your baby will graduate to diaper wipes. Look for the hypoallergenic ones that are alcohol- and fragrance-free. Wipes are also great for hand washing on the go and for cleaning up leaky diaper spills and spit-up on clothes. There are also reusable cloth diaper wipes if you’d rather go green, or if your baby turns out to be allergic to certain brands. Just keep in mind, while you’ll want to have some diaper-changing supplies at the ready, definitely don’t overstock your changing table until you know what works best for your baby’s tender bottom.
Baby bath liquid or soap. When it comes to baby soap, the shorter the ingredients list, the better — look for labels without too many additives and fragrances. A gentle baby wash will do for now. Or ask the pediatrician to recommend a brand.
Baby shampoo. A tear-free formula’s the best since the foam tends to stay put — and infants don’t always keep their eyes tightly closed when they’re being bathed.
Skincare ointments. It’s best to get the pediatrician’s recommendation — at least to start. Then you can experiment to find the cream that works best for your baby.
Petroleum jelly. Slathering a bit of jelly (like Vaseline) on the thermometer to lubricate it before you take your baby’s temperature rectally will make the experience easier all around. It can also be used to prevent diaper rash, though not as a treatment for diaper rash.
Baby nail clippers or scissors. Wielding a pair of scissors near those teeny-tiny fingers is daunting enough, so you want the right-sized tools — not the adult kind, which is larger and sharper. Look for a pair with rounded tips and even a magnifier so it’s easier to see what you’re doing.
A wide-toothed baby-sized comb and a soft baby brush. If your baby is a baldie, these hair-styling tools will stay in the drawer for a couple of months (at least!). If your baby is a little fuzz-head, use the comb to detangle wet hair.
Baby Tub. New babies are slippery and squirmy when wet, which can unnerve even the most confident parents. To make sure baby’s first baths are fun and safe, invest in or borrow a baby tub, which follows a newborn’s contours and offers support while preventing your little one from sliding into the water. Opt for a tub:
Digital thermometer. Most digital thermometers are fast, accurate and inexpensive, so any brand will do (and you could decide whether to take your infant’s temperature rectally or under the armpit).
Nasal aspirator. Your stuffed-up sweetie can’t use tissues yet, so you’ll be using this baby care product (shaped like a mini turkey baster and fondly known of as the “snot sucker”) to clear congestion. Squeeze the bulb first, then insert the tip into your infant’s teeny nostril and release it to collect mucus.
Cool mist humidifier. If you choose to buy a humidifier, cool mist is the best (warm mist can lead to burns), but keep in mind they must be cleaned regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid bacteria and mold growth.
Heating pad. For soothing a colicky tummy or other aches — but be careful not to use one that gets hot, and always wrap it in a cover or cloth diaper.
Liquid acetaminophen for infants. Infant acetaminophen (like Infant Tylenol) can be used after age 2 months, and you can use ibuprofen (Infant Advil, Infant Motrin) once your baby is older than 6 months.
An electrolyte fluid (like Pedialyte). This can be used only with your doctor’s OK and dosage for fluid replacement if your baby has diarrhea or is sick and isn’t taking enough fluids.
Hydrogen peroxide. This is for cleaning cuts; a non-stinging, nonaerosol spray that numbs or relieves pain as it cleans can make the job even easier.
Rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes. You’ll want a bottle or box on hand to sterilize the thermometer.
Hydrocortisone cream (0.5 percent) or calamine lotion. You’ll want a stash of rashes and itchy bug bites.
Baby-friendly sunscreen. A floppy hat goes only so far in protecting your baby’s sensitive skin from the sun, so apply sunscreen to areas that can’t easily be covered with clothes (yes, even on a baby younger than 6 months).
Bandages, gauze pads, and adhesive tape. Buy a variety of shapes and sizes so you’re prepared for anything.
Tweezers. For pulling out splinters.
Remember to keep these and all grooming and medical supplies on a high shelf or bin so your little one won’t be tempted to grab and mouth them once mobile (your tot will be crawling and cruising sooner than you think!).