Baby Gear Part 8: Health & Safety

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Welcome to the Baby Gear Series! When you’re getting ready for a baby, long lists of “must haves” can be overwhelming. Here’s what you ACTUALLY need (and all the stuff you don’t). Click here for an introduction, links to the complete series, and a FREE baby gear checklist and e-book!

First Aid Kit (buy new)

  • INFANT (NOT Children’s) Ibuprofen OR Tylenol. Odds are you’ll need one of these at some point (if only to help a baby with a cold sleep), but you don’t need both. I preferred Ibuprofen, but you can ask your doctor. It’s good to have on hand. If you do administer pain relievers, talk to your doctor (or advice nurse) first and ALWAYS chart it to be sure you don’t overdose.
  • Digital Thermometer. Digital thermometers are easier to read (which is helpful when you’re tired or stressed, which you probably are if your child is sick). Rectal thermometers are very accurate, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. Ear, armpit, tongue and forehead (that you scan on or ½” away from the forehead- not the strips, which can be less accurate) are all accurate enough. I love our forehead scanner because it doesn’t have to touch him, which means you could use it on a sleeping child. It also means you don’t have to hold down a squirmy toddler. Man Cub loves it; we call it our beeper and he gets to take our temperature after we take his. Just remember: a baby’s temperature is a few degrees higher than an adults’ (97-100.3).
  • Adhesive bandages (Band-aids). Babies probably won’t need many until they become mobile. Then you can expect all manner of bumps, scratches and bruises.
  • Antibiotic Ointment (Neosporin). To go under said bandages, or even for bad diaper rash. You can also use coconut oil, but a petroleum-based ointment will form a better barrier.
  • Ice Packs. I always keep a few in the fridge for aforementioned bumps and bruises. Plus, holding a cold ice pack can soothe Man Cub when he is hurt or just upset.
  • Sunscreen. I recommend 50 SPF for babies. Coppertone is a solid brand with proven quality. This is one area where I get picky about brands. Slather it on your little one whenever you go outside (my rule is over 10 minutes needs sunscreen).
  • Sunglasses. Babies’ eyes are very sensitive. It is good to protect them with baby or child sized sunglasses- if they will let you keep them on. (Man Cub has currently hidden his, in protest, but sometimes he’ll wear mine). If they fight it, relax and try again in a few weeks.
  • Optional- As Needed:
    • Pedialyte: we never needed it, and you can send someone out if you do
    • Nasal aspirator (that’s the technical name for a nose bulb): they’ll probably give you one in the hospital. The one we got from the hospital was way better than any that came in a kit
    • Medicine dropper: they usually come in infant medicines
    • Humidifier: again, you may never need it. Wait until you do
    • Air purifier: unless you have a reason that your baby’s breathing is at risk (high smog area, asthma runs in the family, you live with a smoker…), you don’t really need this. If you do need it, get a HEPA filter that is noisy- it will double as a white noise machine.
    • Teething medicine (i.e. Oragel): You may never need this. Often a sleepy or hungry baby (or just a grump) is misdiagnosed by a parent as teething. Plus, if they do have teething pain, cold (i.e. frozen washcloth or frozen teething toy) seems to work better anyway.
    • Nasal Saline: This can be helpful for congestion, but again you may never need it.
    • Vitamin D: This can be good for breastfeeding babies, but your doctor will tell you if you need it.
    • Vitamins with Iron: Man Cub, unfortunately, seems to have inherited my tendency toward anemia (iron deficiency), so when his iron was low his doctor told us to give him a vitamin with iron. If you need it, your child’s pediatrician will tell you.
    • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline): If you are planning to circumcise your son, get a good-sized tube of Vaseline. You’ll want to apply it liberally to the site of the circumcision until it’s healed.

Bath Time & Hygiene

  • Bath Tub. You’ll need a safe (non-slippery) place to bathe your little one. What you use will actually depend on your counter set up. Having a large counter but small, shallow sinks, we used a baby bath that sat on the counter. A friend of mine recommends a soft baby tub that sits inside the sink (great for if you have small counters and large sinks instead). In a pinch, you can even set a towel inside a large sink to prevent slipping. We did this when visiting family. Remember, you won’t need a lot of water. Just a little warm (not hot) water, soft washcloth and mild soap will do. A cup can help you pour water over a newborn’s body (once the umbilical stump falls off- don’t bathe a baby before then).  Get it used? Sure! Just clean it thoroughly.
  • 2 Bath Mats. Once your little one is too big for a baby tub, you’ll want to move them to the big tub. If your tub is not non-slip, I highly recommend getting two suction-cup bath mats (one does not cover the entire surface). Place one in, as far is it will go on one end of the tub. Place the other on the other side. If there is overlap, cut off the excess with an exact-o (razor) knife. Between bath times, you can press a few of the suction cups to the wall of the shower (while wet) to hang dry. This will help prevent mold. Having a non-slip surface is important to keep your little one safe.  Get it used? Yes, if they are mold-free.
  • 2 Towels. You’ll need good soft towels for your little one (don’t worry about absorbency. Little bodies dry quickly). They don’t have to be hooded; in fact, adult towels work just as well (though I’d admit that the hooded towels are a lot of fun. Man Cub pretends they are capes and likes to run through the house in them- so, they double as entertainment, really). Get it used? As long as there are no weird smells.
  • 2-6 Washcloths. While adult towels are just fine, I do prefer baby washcloths, at least for a newborn. They are softer and much thinner, making it easy to get into all those little baby fat crevices. They are also pretty cheap. Man Cub uses a “big boy” (adult) washcloth now, but we still use the baby washcloths to clean his hands after eating. They are handy (pun intended), get between his fingers well, and dry quickly. Get it used? Sure.
  • Comb. You probably won’t need this right away (though we needed it soon because Man Cub has a LOT of hair), but it is nice to be able to comb a baby’s hair. You know, once they have more than one. Get it used? I wouldn’t, because I’m careful with that kind of thing after having had head lice as a kid.
  • Nail Clippers. I think you can use adult clippers, but honestly I don’t really know because I still haven’t tried. Baby nail clippers have smaller blades (for smaller finger nails) and big, easy grip handles (for the poor sap trying to cut said finger nails). This can be a scary experience, so just take it slow (if you can only do a finger or two at a time, that’s fine). Some parents cut a baby’s nails while their baby is sleeping. Man Cub is a wiggly sleeper, so that didn’t work, but we let him watch a rare episode of Doc McStuffins (I pretty much only use TV for nail clipping, haircuts, and sick days) to keep him still- well, still-ish.  Get it used? I wouldn’t because that kind of grosses me out, but I guess if you sanitized it that would be okay.
  • Soap/shampoo. Despite what the good people of certain brands (like that one with repeating names) would have you believe, this does not need to be an actual baby soap. Our favorite soaps have been a homemade soap from my sister-in-law and diluted (1/10) liquid castile soap. They both are super gentle and wash out very easily. We’ve also used good ol’ Dove bar soap (what Hubby and I use) on Man Cub. If you really like a baby soap, I can recommend Babyganics, though it is a bit harder to get out of hair if your baby has thick hair. “Tear-free” options just have a numbing agent for the eyes. A nice mild soap and careful washing is all you need.
  • Baby OR children’s toothpaste. There is a great debate over whether fluoride is wonderful or evil, so let me just say this: talk to your doctor. I have weak enamel, so safely using fluoride toothpaste makes sense for us. If you only use a grain of rice worth, it won’t hurt your little one, even if swallowed.
  • Baby/children’s toothbrush. Once you have teeth to brush, you’ll want to find a nice soft brush to do so with. The children’s brushes were ¼ the price of baby brushes at my store, and the only difference was about ½ inch in length, so we went with soft bristled children’s brushes. You may have to swap out the brush fairly frequently once your one begins brushing “all by themselves”- they can be a bit aggressive. Before your little one is spouting pearly whites, you can wipe their gums gently with a baby washcloth.
  • Faucet Guard. These protect littles in the big bath from scalds and bruises. I think they are optional. I just watch Man Cub around the faucet (you should watch carefully during bath time anyway) and always run cold water last (so that the faucet is cool to the touch). If it makes you feel better, though, go for it. Get it used? I would not, just because there are a lot of crevices where mold could collect.
  • You Probably Don’t Need: Lotion (it can interfere with the skin’s natural shedding process), Baby Powder (this can be very harmful if inhaled, so if you do use it be very careful not to send a dust cloud up), brush (unless you have a long- and thick- haired beauty), cotton swabs (NEVER put anything inside a baby’s ear- it is way too easy to damage the ear), baby robe (this just seemed like an extra step to me, but they are cute so go for it if you want to), water thermometer (to check the temperature of a bath, stick your elbow in. If it feels too warm, it is).

Baby Proofing

Other than the baby monitor, all of this can wait until your little one is mobile (crawling), so don’t worry about getting it all set up before your baby is born. Newborns can’t get into too much trouble.

  • Optional: Baby Monitor. This can be really useful, especially in those early days when you worry a lot. If you have a small one floor home, they are probably not needed though. I used to laugh at video monitors, but they are handy if your little one likes to play quietly (so you can know how much sleep they actually got). Get it used? Sure!
  • If Needed: Gates. If you have stairs, you need gates. Toddlers and crawlers can fall down stairs very quickly. They are also handy to keep an active baby or toddler in one area of the house (which is good for if you are sick or busy, to keep the chaos & mess down). Get it used? As long as they still work.
  • Outlet covers. This is one thing that I am very careful about. They are cheap and easy to install. Get it used? Definitely.
  • Recommended: Cupboard & Drawer latches. If you have anything that can hurt your baby (knives, breakable glass, cleaning chemicals) or anything your baby can hurt (fragile items), you’ll want to either put them up high or latch the door. Don’t stop at the kitchen- look in your bathroom, hall closet, and bedroom too. Get it used? If they are not broken.
  • Recommended: Toilet seat lock. I put a lock on our toilet to keep Man Cub from falling in or flushing things down the toilet. I do not recommend Lid Lok- he figured it out way too quickly. I put instructions to open it on the lock with my label maker. If you don’t want to lock the toilet, keep the bathroom closed at all times. Get it used? That seems a bit gross to me, but I guess if it was sanitized it would be okay.
  • Poison Control Number. Post the Poison Control Number (1-800-222-1222) on your fridge & anywhere else handy (save it in your phone), just in case.
  • Optional: Cord Wind-ups. If your kiddo can reach window blind cords, they may be able to strangle themselves with them. You can buy cord wind-ups (for a tidy look) or just tie them in a bow. By sure you are also corralling electronics cords (you can do this with rubber bands). Get it used? Sure.
  • Anchors for TV & Furniture. Toddlers (especially little monkeys) like to climb and can easily knock furniture over on themselves. Anchor any furniture you can to the wall. If you can’t anchor furniture, watch them carefully at all times and warn any babysitters to do so also. Get it used? If they are still secure.

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