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What do babies need?

Posted by: Kate Published on: January 3, 2018

As I prepare for my second baby, I find myself wondering, what do babies need? I mean *really* need?

With my first baby, Winnie, I was so nervous about…everything… that I compensated by buying ALL of the things. I thought, somehow, that if I was just prepared enough, if I just had all of the tools, I’d be able to meet whatever obstacle might come my way.

Baby Love

Loving sweet Winnie

It’s a tempting thought, to be sure. I felt so much uncertainty about what life would be like after welcoming Winnie. I handled it the way I always handle uncertainty – insane amounts of planning for all possible contingencies.

That’s not really how babies, or life, work, though. Everything I had planned went out the windowthe minute that little girl arrived in the world. And, I was left with a bunch of stuff that we just didn’t need.

This time around, I’m trying to breathe through the uncertainty and be more selective about the baby support tools I’m adding to our collection. Based on my experience with Winnie, here’s what I think babies really need…


This one is obvious. But it’s also the most important, so it should be at the top of this list. As I freak out about what life with two kids might be like, I’m trying to remember that I just need to love them. No matter what else happens, as long as I love them, we’ll figure the rest out.

A safe place to sleep


Safe Simple Bassinet

Winnie in her Smitten bassinet box

Newborns spend the vast majority of their time sleeping. SIDS and suffocation are scary. Therefore, babies need a safe place to sleep. That can mean a crib, play yard, or… you guessed… a Smitten!


As a reminder, the ABCs of safe sleep are:

  • Alone, no loose blankets, toys, loveys, or pillows
  • On their Back
  • In a Crib, play yard, or baby box

Warm (but not too warm) clothes

Babies aren’t great at regulating their body temperatures. They also have a pretty high surface-area-to-volume ratio. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s easy for them to get too cold or too hot. What’s a parent to do? A general rule of thumb is that baby needs one more layer of clothes than you’re wearing yourself.

Footie pajamas are my favorite for this. Baby’s feet stay warm. There aren’t any tiny socks to fall off or get lost in the laundry. And, every baby ever looks beyond adorable in them. Fleece-y footies are great for winter. A lightweight PJ is best for summer. Personally, I love to pick up an assortment of footie pjs at local consignment sales – they tend to run $2-$10 each. Since my kid is just going to spit up/poop/pee on his outfit anyway, there’s no need to get something brand new. A quick run through the washing machine, and those PJs are as good as new.


This is another obvious one. Babies need to eat to survive. For some moms, this means breastfeeding. For others, it’s bottles and formula. Still others do a mix of breastmilk and formula.

Look. There’s a lot of judge-y judge-y stuff out there about breastfeeding. Give me five minutes on google and I’ll find something that says whatever choice I’m making is wrong. This is, pardon my french, some serious bullsh*t. I don’t care why a family has made the feeding choice they’ve made. The ONLY thing that should ever matter is that parents Feed. That. Baby.  

Ok. Now that I’ve let that little rant out, let’s talk bottles and breastcare.


Some babies can be really picky about bottles. One of my favorite shower gifts to give is an assortment of bottles. That way parents can test out different nipple types, shapes, and textures until they find the one that their little one will tolerate. The key is use a super slow nipple to start. I suggest trying three kinds:

  • A traditional nipple shape, like what you’d find on Dr. Brown’s.
  • A “breast-like” shape, like Comotomo Mumijumi
  • The in-between-er, like Playtex Naturalatch. It’s a little fatter than a traditional nipple, but not quite as “breast-like” as the others. This was Winnie’s favorite.
Breast care

Ok, now let’s talk about breastfeeding. If you choose to breastfeed, you might exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, or do some combination of the two. If you’ll be pumping at all, you need a breast pump. Happily, under Obamacare, all insurers are required to offer a breast pump to new moms. So, yay!

Next you’ll decide if you want an electric pump or a hand-held pump. I say let your insurer buy you the electric one. It might be more than you need, but those puppies are pricey (at least $100, usually more than $200) so take the free one while you can. If you decide a hand-pump is better for you, you can usually get one for about $20 later on.

For my larger breasted ladies, invest in the large-size phalanges (the pieces of the pump that go on your boobs). If you try to rock the phalanges that come with the pump, you’ll get some serious chafing. You’ve got enough challenges without raw nips.

Speaking of nipples…A key component of breastfeeding is nipple care. That means lanolin to help keep your nipples from cracking or bleeding. You might also want to try a nipple shield if you have inverted or particularly tender nipples. These are a little bit of a hassle to put on the first few times, but can make breastfeeding more comfortable for some women (raises hand).


Research shows that reading to baby is a great way to bond, helps prepare baby to read on their own, and boosts baby’s brain power. So, I’m including books on the “need” list. There are so many amazing titles to choose from – you truly can’t wrong. I personally love anything by Mo Willems, Sandra Boynton, and Todd Parr.

If books might break the bank, there are a couple of great options. First, the local library. Most libraries have awesome children’s sections. And, kids go through book phases, so it’s nice to be able to check out books, read them 8500 times, and then return them when you little one is over that story line. Another option is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Queen of Country Music has created a *free* program that mails a book to baby every month from birth to age 5. Yep. FREE. Dolly is everything.

And that’s my list. What did I miss? What do you have on your “must have” list for baby?

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