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New Mom’s Survival Kit, version 2.0

January 24, 2012

[UPDATE, January 2013: This post has been updated with reader input and is now available as a free download! Click here.]

A few years ago I put together a survival kit gift-basket for a friend about to have her first baby. It’s my personal take on those must-haves for a first-time mom. Since then I had another baby of my own and some friends and I started compiling a larger list. Here’s the updated version.

  • Soothies Gel Pads I list these first for a reason. These are the bomb. Seriously – there was no greater pain for me than my first child’s bad latch. It hurt worse than my c-section, only about 12 times a day. These made life livable; I wore them every moment I wasn’t nursing. Expensive, yes, and they last about a week. But well worth it. Really. Just try them. You’ll see.
  • Nursing tank tops. Way more comfy and flattering than any nursing bra I tried – and a great value for the price. They are great alone, or as a layering piece. Bring a couple for your hospital stay.
  • Newborn gowns. This is kind of like a pillowcase, but for babies…they stay all wadded up at one end and you have to root around in there just to find their feet. Newborns poop constantly and you can easily change diapers five or six times in one night. Who wants to snap on and snap off those durn little onesies at 2am (or 3am, or 3.30am, or 4am)?
  • Individually wrapped sanitary napkins. They give you these enormous ones at the hospital, but I found normal (or as my friend Heather put it: civilized) Kotex worked just fine. Keep one in your purse at all times!
  • A good tube of lip balm and some hand cream. You are perpetually thirsty when breastfeeding and lips get chapped!
  • Smelly, relaxing stuff. Someone gave me a gift set of Bath and Body Works Relaxation Aromatherapy Eucaplyus Spearmint and I’ve been addicted ever since.
  • A tube or jar of Aquaphor. This is the do-it-all miracle baby product! Babies chap easily. Chapped lips from nursing, chapped cheeks from blankie-nuzzling, chapped bums from diaper rash. It works wonders for eczema (also super common in babies) and a million other uses. A little goes a long way – one jar will last you about five years…

And then a discussion with my girlfriends created the following list – the must-haves baby will need. Ok, maybe not MUST-haves. Want-to-haves. Babies can get by with a lot less but the things on this list will make your life easier. This is a good place to start when registering for your baby shower, too.

  • Crib (While antiques are charming, they usually don’t meet with current safety standards. Buy carefully!)
  • Crib mattress
  • Waterproof mattress pads (2)
  • Crib sheets (4)
  • A place to change diapers. When they are small, you can use half the crib. A dresser with a changing pad (with safety belt and raised sides) works great. Or, a traditional changing table.
  • Diaper pail (debatable – never used one myself. Stinkies get bagged and go straight to outside garbage!)
  • Wipes warmer (Try putting a cold, wet paper towel on your backside at 3am and see if you don’t scream.)
  • Diaper organizer/baskets for easy access
  • Diapers (We preferred Pampers Swaddlers over any other brand! You can get the best prices at and two-day shipping is free. Also a great place to get wipes, baby shampoo and other toiletries.)
  • Wipes (Fragrance free and hypoallergenic! Pampers wipes, IMHO, are the easiest to dispense, and a free dispenser comes with every case pack. You’ll end up with three or four around the house. A good thing.)
  • California Baby Diaper Area Cream (Best one I found for keeping diaper rash at bay. Although naked baby butt is the best cure for diaper rash. Lay baby across a heavy towel on your lap for a snooze in the shade on a warm day…)
  • Thermometer (Several options out there but we liked a temporal artery thermometer – quickly scans forehead – more expensive but way easier than rectal or armpit!)
  • Bulb syringe (you can take the one they use for your baby in the hospital)
  • Nail clippers or nail file (You can also gently bite them off without hurting the fingers! Sounds weird but cutting their nails is REALLY hard to do. They grow crazy fast and newborns will scratch themselves awful if you don’t trim them weekly.)
  • Bathtub (One that comes with a mesh sling is nice to support the baby in the water, or a harness)
  • Baby wash (Johnson & Johnson Bedtime Bath was our favorite)
  • Baby towels with hoods and several washcloths
  • Crib toy that plays music (hangs on the side of the crib)
  • Bassinette or Co-Sleeper (if you choose to use one)
  • Pak N Play (Can double as bassinette, play pen, and some models come with an extra changing table that can be on the other side of the house. Nice to have.)
  • Infant car seat (rear facing)
  • Stroller (I loved our BabyTrend Snap N Go.  We used it and the infant car seat – same set lasted nicely through both kids.)
  • Sun shades for side and back car windows
  • 15-20 burp cloths (Pre-folded cloth diapers are great for this.)
  • Waterproof lap pads (at least four – you’ll want to put one underneath them in the car seat and a million other uses.)
  • Breast pump (usually can be rented from hospital)
  • Pumping bra 
  • Breast milk freezer bags or bottles
  • Nursing PJs and nursing bras (a sleeping bra that criss-crosses in the front is great to have)
  • Nursing cover (for when you are out in public. Hooter Hiders available at Target – they are open at the top so you – and baby – can see but no one else can.)
  • Lanolin cream (must have while breastfeeding)
  • Bottles/Nipples (Avent Newborn set comes with a much needed bottle cleaning brush)
  • Bottle drying rack
  • Microwave bottle sterilizer
  • Diaper bag (I had this irrational fear of running out of diapers with my first baby. I kept a dozen in the car at all times, and another dozen in the diaper bag in case of WW3. I got smarter the second time. Two is good – four if you’re going to be away from home for more than a couple of hours. In the end, I had no diaper bag at all, i just had a big purse with the changing pad wrapped around a spare diaper and a travel pack of wipes.)
  • Changing pad for diaper bag (Here’s a gorgeous one by Patemm.)
  • Pacifiers (Not all kids will take them. Mine never did.)
  • Baby swing (We liked the cradle swing that could swing front to back as ell as side to side. Only place Scrappy would sleep soundly for the first three months!)
  • Sound machine (ocean waves, heartbeat, rain, etc for sleeping time next to their crib)
  • Play mat/gym
  • Baby sling, or something for baby-wearing and to free up your arms.
  • Bibs (I had spitty-uppy babies – we kept about 20 on hand. Easily can go through 5-10 a day)
  • Swaddling blankets (You will get tons of blankets as gifts but only a few will be really good for swaddling. We liked the blankets made by Carter’s the best. Thick, but not too thick, nice size, and just enough stretch to make a perfect burrito of your baby.)
  • Clothing. I almost didn’t put this down because I’ve yet to attend a baby shower where the mother-to-be didn’t receive enough onesies to clothe a dozen babies.
  • Fragrance/dye free/hypoallergenic laundry detergent (You’ll want to wash all the newborn clothes, bibs, burpies and blankies BEFORE baby arrives!)

Anything to add to the list?


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56 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2012 10:24 am

    Aquaphor, also awesome for healing sore nursing nipples, and a tube of lotrimin (in case your baby is prone to yeast infections)- these two products were life savers for us in our early days!

  2. biteofpunkinpie permalink
    July 25, 2012 6:52 pm

    I would add one miracle product that saved us… my daughters were subject (usually around when they were 1 year old) to HORRIBLE diaper rash… all 3 got it right around that age.. probably something to do with transitioning foods and whatnot. It was really bad, where they would bleed. (sorry so graphic!) My pediatrician recommended a product that was a butt-saver, it is called calmoseptine. It isn’t marketed as a baby product, the tube says that it is for things like feeding tube sites and burns. Whatever is in that stuff, my kiddos little bottoms were ALWAYS healed up within a day. I swear it is a miracle cream. The only problem is that most pharmacies don’t carry it. We have a small privately (not walgreens/cvs) owned pharmacy that carries it, but I swear if they didn’t have it, I’d order it online.

    • July 25, 2012 7:24 pm

      Wow – awesome info! Thanks for sharing! I wish I’d known about that when my first was an infant. My rash-prone boy had a bleeding rash at just two weeks old.

      • Stacie Mead permalink
        August 15, 2012 9:23 pm

        Our pediatrician is having us use lotramine (for athlete’s foot) which seemed weird to me but has working amazingly well for our little girl’s diaper rash. We are using the lotramine every other diaper…using aquaphor on the alternating diaper changes.

    • andrea permalink
      December 31, 2012 11:00 pm

      calmoseptine is amazing. A nice thick smear and kiddo’s rash is gone by morning. I have found it at target. It is behind the pharmacy counter. It is in a white tube with a mint green label.

  3. Emily permalink
    July 26, 2012 1:10 pm

    The one thing that I use more than any other baby item (diapers not included) is the boppy pillow. My husband and I absolutely love it! I use it every time I nurse, and its like his personal mini loungy chair.

  4. Alee permalink
    August 3, 2012 8:29 am

    A Boppy pillow for nursing!! It has been indispensable for me during the first 6 months. And now I can use it to help him learn to sit up!

  5. Abby permalink
    August 7, 2012 6:51 pm

    Soothies were a god send for me!

  6. Lizz permalink
    August 12, 2012 1:39 pm

    Rear-facing carseat for two years.

  7. Elizabeth permalink
    August 15, 2012 11:51 pm

    for vaginal birth you do need those mega sized pads. As embarrassing as it is when I got back I got adult diapers.

  8. Tammie Scrivner permalink
    August 20, 2012 8:15 am

    I love this list! As a new mom expecting my first little blessing soon there’s a lot I don’t know. I only have one caution…make sure mom isn’t allergic to any lotions you buy for her or baby. I have a severe allergy to lanolin and therefore can’t use lotions such as aquafor on my baby or I’ll break out in contact hives. But a great alternative for the lanolin sensitive mama or baby is cetaphil. It works great on eczema too I’ve learned from experience. Thanks for the great list!!!

  9. Caryssa Treider permalink
    August 21, 2012 4:20 pm

    I had a vaginal birth three weeks ago and I have to say the main lifesaver for me was the ice pack pad you put inside the huge pad. It was provided by my hospital and I made sure to ask for a lot of extras when leaving. The soreness and pain gets worse when you get home, and these really helped me.

  10. Katie permalink
    August 21, 2012 9:34 pm

    Awesome list, thanks! I’m 20 weeks expecting our first little man in January! I am a pediatric RN and just wanted to point out that the American Academy of pediatricians no longer recommends using alcohol to dry out the umbilical cord stump, just keep nice and dry! 🙂

    • Keri permalink
      September 23, 2012 12:02 pm

      I was going to point out the same thing. I’m a NICU RN and we haven’t used alcohol for years.

  11. Bethany permalink
    August 29, 2012 4:24 pm

    Please do NOT buy a Baby Bjorn! It does not support proper hip alignment and can lead to hip dysplasia. The Ergo is a wonderful alternative, and you can get an infant insert. It will last you at least a couple years. Also, I found the My Brest Friend far superior to the Boppy. Johnson and Johnson products are known to have carcinogens in the them, and they are in the process of removing them. California Baby products are nice, as are Earth Mama Angel Baby.

  12. Anony M. permalink
    September 6, 2012 1:29 pm

    I wore depends adult diapers for the first few days after a vag birth and they were awesome. Just treat them like underwear (ie still wear pads) but big enough to catch any leaks, and you don’t ruin your undies. I also got a pack of Hanes granny panties in a size larger than I usually wear, since I usually wear thongs. I ended up with a forceps delivery and an episiotomy – which got infected. Thongs would NOT have been good! Also the depends are very thin.
    I also pre-soaked regular sized pads with about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water and froze them (re-wrapped in their packages). I even kept some in the “patient freezer” at the hospital. The nurses are busy and it’s nice to not have to bother them for ice. I’d wear a large overnight pad for the bleeding and put an ice one on top, with a little panty liner over that so the ice isn’t directly on your skin. TRUST ME this is worth doing! All of that tucked into a Depends, and it was very neat and tidy… No bloody underwear to throw away! No huge leaking bloody ice pack all over the sheets.
    The other tip that was a lifesaver is to nurse lying down at night. Even if you don’t sleep you will rest much more than if you’re sitting up, and WAY more than if the lights are on or you’re playing on your iPhone. You’ll fall back asleep more easily as well.

  13. Keri permalink
    September 23, 2012 12:17 pm

    My son is 7 months old and even as a NICU nurse I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about being on the other side of things. I had a c-section and an ice pack became my bff! While pain meds are great, they don’t tend to help with the pain from nerves that have been cut. Also, with a c-section you still need the big peri pads because there will still be lochia that will come out. My son could never latch on correctly because he was tongue tied. I met with 3 different lactation specialists and none of them caught on to this and my nipples were torn to shreds. If you don’t feel like the help you’re getting is really helping you, don’t be afraid to speak up. I ended up exclusively pumping my breastmilk for 6 1/2 months. Our bottle warmer has been amazing! We also have one for the car. I also agree that nursing tank tops are wonderful. Nursing bras should not have an underwire. Underwires will make you more prone to developing mastitis.

  14. Keri permalink
    September 23, 2012 12:22 pm

    Oh, I forgot to add that granny panties (high waisted briefs) are ESSENTIAL after a c-section. I didn’t consider this & all of my regular underwear hit me right at my incision. TMI, but I had to wear some of my husband’s boxerbriefs to the store so I could get some grannies!

  15. Davinder permalink
    September 27, 2012 10:42 am

    I’m a postpartum RN, you are not required to use alcohol wipes on the cord stump anymore, the best thing to do is to keep it dry and clean, don’t forget to fold down the diaper near the stump and if you have a boy, don’t forget to press the penis down when closing the diaper so that he doesn’t pee upwards towards the stump 🙂 But amazing info for all us first time mommies! Thanks!

  16. Joleigh permalink
    October 20, 2012 9:01 pm

    My 12 mo old son is now safely out of infantdom, but a few things I wanted to add. Get some kind of sling (wrap kind like Moby or ring sling) for those times your baby MUST be held and you need your hands free. My little guy got my narrow feet and it was impossible to keep socks on my fall baby in winter! I bought plenty of footie pants so I could use all the onesies, but then I had so many pants I couldn’t use! So I ended up sewing white or matching socks on the ends of the pants to make them footies. LIFE SAVER! (Oh and if you’re shopping, get solid color pants so you can put any onesie with, patterned pants are cute but only match the top it came with or a solid onesie. God forbid your baby is a different size up top than on bottom like mine). And let me reiterate what a previous poster said : It doesn’t matter HOW your baby came out (vaginal or C-section) YOU WILL STILL BLEED (lochia). I was a Paramedic and this shocked the hell out of me. Also, my BFF who had her baby the month prior swears by ‘Tucks’ pads put in the freezer then three or four laid down the top of the pad. Both the coolness and the medication in the pads helps the swelling/pain.

  17. November 3, 2012 6:33 pm

    The recommendation for rear-facing infant car seats is now minimum 2 years and ideally longer if the seat will accommodate the weight.

  18. uwec2000 permalink
    November 28, 2012 2:10 pm

    Thank you so much for this post and comments. I am a first-time mom to-be, 23 weeks pregnant now, and have no idea what to register for other than the absolute necessities. I love the recommendations and suggestions you have all provided. THANK YOU!

  19. Tammy permalink
    December 1, 2012 8:34 am

    A+D Ointment works great too. I would put this on my son everytime I would change a diaper and he would rarely get diaper rash once I started using it. Also a swing that plugs in the wall is a lifesaver. A bottle warmer. I breastfed, but when I went back to work it was nice for my mom to use. Plus when we switched over to formula it was so nice to not have to wait for the bottle to warm up in the water. (You don’t want to use a microwave or boiling water from the stove to warm up a bottle. You will have hot spots. Plus if you warm up breastmilk this way it takes away the nutrients. At least this is what I have read.) Good luck to all the new mommies!!!

  20. Kelly permalink
    January 1, 2013 6:13 pm

    I highly recommend the Miracle Blanket! My baby girl, now 3 months old, could break out of all other swaddle blankets, even the ones with Velcro. The Miracle Blanket has flaps inside that go over the babe’s arms and under their back, essentially making it impossible for them to get their arms out. At first, my husband and I felt bad, like we were putting her in a straight jacket, but she immediately started sleeping 6 hours stretches! I even keep her in it for her 2:30 a.m. bottle feed.

    • January 2, 2013 1:23 pm

      I love how my youngest was born only five years ago and I an already say “they didn’t have that when my babies were born!” Great suggestion – wish I had had one of those five years ago for our little Houdini!

    • Michelle permalink
      February 4, 2013 7:19 pm

      Miracle blanket is amazing!!! I have used it on all 3 kids and it works better than any other swaddle blanket! Highly recommend!

  21. Christy permalink
    January 21, 2013 6:51 pm

    A couple of Lingerie bags. Keep them by the changing table to throw socks in after the baby has worn them. It is a way to keep the sock monster from eating them.

    • January 21, 2013 7:02 pm

      GREAT idea! We always found stray socks inside the rubber gasket of the washing machine! This would have prevented that.

  22. Stacy permalink
    January 26, 2013 12:37 pm

    I would suggest getting some cloth diapers. Before I used exclusively cloth I had a few on hand for emergencies. Including when I went to get a new box of diapers out of the basement only to find that they were all gone and my baby had just pooped everywhere. There are some really easy options out there and they are get to have on hand when you run out of “regular” diapers and are in a pinch! Maybe everyone else plans better than I do. Put after five kids I was still forgetting to buy diapers before I ran out. 🙂

  23. Sarah permalink
    January 26, 2013 2:35 pm

    What kind of waterproof lap pads did you use? I’m looking for some relatively plain ones, but can’t seem to find any that got good reviews. Thanks!

    • January 27, 2013 10:18 am

      I think mine were by Circo from Target and ten years later, I still have one or two hanging around! They have held up through a LOT of washings! I also remember buying larger ones and cutting them in half. Hope that helps!

      • Sarah permalink
        January 27, 2013 12:22 pm


  24. Jessie permalink
    February 1, 2013 8:48 am

    This was by far one of the most helpful things i have read. I wish I would’ve found it before my baby shower cause a lot of people didn’t know what to get and got clothes and diapers which was handy but this would’ve been a great advantage. Is there any questions anyone would recommend asking before leaving the hospital or even asking the doctor before baby?
    I’m a new mom at 30 weeks and I always forget what to ask so I have started writing everything down, but I’m not sure what all to ask and when i get home I would like to be more prepped then ever. I’m a young mom and don’t know as much as I wish.

    • February 1, 2013 9:42 am

      Jessie – we were all first-time moms once, and NO ONE knows what they’re doing the first time around! You’ll be JUST fine! Congratulations and best wishes for a safe and quick delivery!

    • February 5, 2014 3:00 pm

      Even when you feel like you know a lot, you discover that head knowledge doesn’t help as much as you thought it might. Every baby is different and every mom and baby have to find their own groove. My advice to you is two-fold: remember to breathe (trust that you’ll learn and that you and baby will both be fine while you learn!), and remember that baby will not judge you for doing things “right” or “wrong.” You can’t hurt your baby or fail as a mom as easily as it may seem. You’re going to do awesome! It’s hard but like Adelle said, you will learn quickly! 🙂

  25. Sarah permalink
    February 1, 2013 9:58 pm

    The diapers I have been using since my now 6 year old was around 1 1/2 is Nature Babycare (unfortunately they’re mostly only available at and and I haven’t seen them at Target in a few years around where I live anyway) and I have used them for my other 2 children since then. With my first she used to have problems with rashes on and off and when I switched from Pampers they all went away. With my second baby I was out of town and ran out of diapers and had to get the Pampers Baby Dry and the diapers actually gave her a chemical burn on her girly parts that lasted a few days. From then on I continue to only use the diapers that use the least amount of chemicals in them such as Nature Babycare, Seventh Generation, or EarthsBest or as much as possible I try to use cloth diapers (but let’s face it, I’m a busy mom of 3!). (BTW-sorry to bash your suggestion on Pampers-I know lots of people who don’t mind that brand, but are also having constant issues with diaper rash, so I hope this helps)
    For new moms I highly recommend reading the labels on diapers so you become more aware of what will be touching your babies skin 24 hours a day for the next 2 1/2 – 3 years. You will have far less problems with diaper rash if you choose a diaper that doesn’t leave harsh chemicals on your baby’s skin. Also, if you are going to a baby shower make sure to get to know the mother-to-be and what her preferences are. When I had my baby shower I registered for mostly earth friendly items and all I got was Johnson and Johnson products and Pampers. As grateful as I was to my family and friends, I had to return a lot of stuff.
    Another good suggestion is to take home the Bulb Syringe Aspirator they give you at the hospital after you have the baby. For some reason the ones I have bought in the kits are flimsy and don’t suck well, but the ones from the hospitals seem to last for years! This will come in handy when baby starts getting teeth or when they get their first cold.

  26. Susan Warfield permalink
    February 7, 2013 11:05 am

    vitamin E oil is also awesome for bad diaper rash. You can break capsules open and squeen on rash…or get small bottles of the pure oil at drug stores. Provides a protective barrier against wetness and heals the sores. Have seen it clear up the worst rashes in days. Apply everytime you change the diaper.

  27. caira permalink
    March 11, 2013 8:30 pm

    Aden and anaise have amazing swaddle blankets that can be used for lots. Blankets, towels, spit up cleaner, a little shade maker in the stroller. And to save Money and space I would suggest instead of a noise machine just download noises onto an iPod or mp3 player and put in the nursery.

  28. Kelly permalink
    August 13, 2013 6:24 pm

    The nasal aspirator, the Nose Freida, was a life saver when my little guy got his first cold! The concept seems rather disgusting (you suck out the mucous from LO’s nose through a tube) but it works wonders, way better than the bulb syringe! They have replacement filters too, so just pop the aspirator in the dishwasher a new filter in with each use and you’re good to go! They even sell them at Babies R Us now!

  29. October 25, 2013 2:38 pm

    Lots of good ideas i do have to say little girl hairties ( i have 3 boys) from the dollar store the ones that would never stay in a kids hair work miracles at keeping baby socks on feet and footie jammies in place some just dont stay good for crawlers and walkers!

  30. Kelly permalink
    December 6, 2013 4:19 pm

    I have only been a mom for 6 weeks but I will say that the Arm&Hammer diaper pail is amazing as well as the Nose Frida and Zolibaby nail trimmer.

    • December 6, 2013 4:26 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! They are always coming out with new and better gear – it ALMOST makes me want to have another! ; )

  31. Jennifer permalink
    January 21, 2014 4:35 pm

    I have read several articles that say wipes warmers are breeding grounds for bacteria and can actually cause diaper rash and yeast infections. Just something to consider.

  32. February 5, 2014 2:56 pm

    Chocolate!!! Don’t forget chocolate! I had a stash in the nursery for about three months after my son was born. It was a lifesaver. 🙂 Also, a little devotional for moms was my best friend while nursing. Helped the time pass.

    • February 5, 2014 3:05 pm

      Elizabeth – you are SO SO right! How could it be we haven’t thought of that before?! And I love the devotional idea, too! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!

  33. April 7, 2014 12:06 pm

    Great info!! Thank you for sharing

  34. Tristan permalink
    October 1, 2014 9:23 am

    I second the California Baby butt cream–it nips most rashes in the bud before they go anywhere AND is cloth diaper safe (something hard-ish to find…)

  35. Michelle L permalink
    February 23, 2015 5:26 pm

    For my firstborn, 8 years ago, I used Balmex for diaper rashes. For my second, in 2015, I use coconut oil whenever I see redness. So far it’s worked fine. It is also safe for cheeks and chin from chapping in the dry winter. I got some Balmex just in case the coconut oil didn’t work but haven’t needed it at all. And I don’t have to worry if he rubs his hands in it and puts them into his mouth!


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