elevating child care

What Will My Baby Really Need? A New Parent’s Checklist

Hello all! I’m a first-time poster, and an expectant mother (due May 2011)!
I find that I’m overwhelmed trying to determine what our little one will truly “need”, versus what mainstream parenting says we need. My sister just had her first child in July, and she and my mother have offered a lot of advice to me (with the best of intentions). I’m just trying to get to the meat of it and figure out what we will really need (such as a crib) as opposed to what “makes life easier” (such as a bouncy seat).
Does anyone have any good resources for a RIE-centered checklist of sorts, telling my husband and I what we can’t live without? Or, parents out there, what did you find indispensable, and what did you buy or receive that you didn’t use or found counter to this philosophy?

Very exciting news!

What a great idea – a RIE- based new baby checklist. As far as I know, one doesn’t exist, so I’m jumping in first to give you my list, but I hope this doesn’t discourage other parents and educators from sharing theirs. I really want to hear from all of you!

This is a list for parents who want to enable their baby to develop gross motor skills naturally, encourage independent play, and make care-giving activities (diaper changes, feedings, etc.) enjoyable opportunities for relationship building.


1. Crib (or not, depending on your desired sleeping arrangement)

2. Bassinet – cozy for babies and convenient for parents in the first months for night feedings

3. Changing table – as large as possible (with rails for maximum safety) to allow an older infant/toddler to move and re-position

4. Playpen or gated play space – creating safe play spaces is a vital necessity for independent play

5. Car seat

6. Carrier or stroller

7. Sofa or chair for a comfortable feeding place

8. Comfy, easy to move in clothes

9. Blankets, diapers, washcloths, bottles (if you will use them)

Might want…

1. Baby bathtub – I used the kitchen sink mostly, but some people prefer the small tub

2. Diaper bag – definitely nice and convenient, but any bag will do

Don’t need…

1. Bouncy seat – will not “make life easier” in the long run because it creates a dependency on being upright that makes it harder to establish the habit of independent play and interferes with natural gross motor development

2. Swings, walkers, jumpers, exersaucers – ditto, above. The motion of the swing puts babies in an unnatural, altered state (mine got a really scary, glassy-eyed, thousand-yard-stare on her face) before eventually sending them to sleep.

3. Busy, entertaining “play gyms” and toys – they won’t hurt if used occasionally, but keep in mind that babies can easily become used to us providing activity and entertainment. When we do less, our baby does more and learns more, we relax and enjoy most – yay!

4. DVDsdon’t get me started

5. New gizmos I haven’t even heard of yet – We’ve lived without them this long, so I highly doubt you’ll  need any of them now (but I always get a kick and an eye-roll out of hearing about them, so please share)

6. High chair – although many RIE enthusiasts use them and they are convenient for family gatherings, they aren’t necessary. We recommend lap feeding (see Mindful Mouthfuls) and then transitioning to a small table and chair or stool when the baby can sit independently.

7. Donut shaped propping pillows – I don’t recommend propping babies for the reasons stated above regarding “bouncy seats”, but I placed my pillow around my waist and it made a great nursing pillow/armrest.

8. Mobile over the crib – if you do get a mobile that you like, place it in the corner of the room so that the baby can choose to look at it rather than being stuck with it in front of his or her face

9. Pacifiers – I know it might be scary to go pacifier-free (and many RIE parents I know resort to using them) but pacifiers create an unnecessary dependency. If I did without them, you can. You really can.

10. Shoes – babies feel and grip with their feet, use them to develop gross motor skills, explore, hold, even suck their toes, and otherwise enjoy them. They don’t need shoes until they are well-established walkers and outside. At RIE we even recommend removing a baby’s socks or booties any time it’s warm enough (even if the socks have grips on the bottom), so they can have full use of their feet. Barefoot is safer for walkers and climbers, too.

11. Rocking chair – contrary to popular opinion, babies don’t need to rock, but sometimes tired parents do…so, might be nice.


1. Extra playpen for outdoors and umbrellas for shade if needed

2. More gates to make a play space (or two) for a mobile baby – establishing gates before a baby becomes mobile is best because he accepts them as part of his safe environment, rather than feeling suddenly “blocked” when he begins to crawl.

3. Indoor/outdoor play space – could never swing this, but if you have a safe room that leads to an enclosed, safe-proofed deck, patio, yard or balcony and can secure doors safely open…fantastic!

4. Outdoor crib for naps on nice days

5. Cozy chair outdoors for feedings

6. Car seat a baby can lie flat in – I don’t even know if they make these anymore, and my third baby grew out of it in a week, but it was great to go home from the hospital without worrying about the baby’s head being supported.

7. Pram – the old-fashioned kind in which babies can lie flat when they are tiny, and later roll and move freely in, sit up in themselves, etc. This was a fantasy of mine, but not affordable for the amount I would have used it. I don’t think they can fold up easily and fit into the car, so they might only be practical for talking walks from home.

8. Jogging stroller – great, especially if it’s the only way you can get out and exercise, but I rarely used mine. I realized that I like to feel free and alone when I run.

9. Changing table in a bathroom – I only had this set up with my third child, but it was luxurious to have a sink with running water handy for messes and hand washing

10. Wipe warmers – a minor indulgence that cheered me up on a cold night or morning, but certainly unnecessary

Okay, now I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, so I’m counting on you to chime in here…

For more about baby equipment, please read Set Me Free – Unrestricted Babies (And The Equipment They Don’t Need)

(Photo by emilianohorcada on Flickr)

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15 Responses to “What Will My Baby Really Need? A New Parent’s Checklist”

  1. avatar Karen Nemeth says:

    OK – here are some additional ideas from a grandma of 21/2 year old and 5 month old. Not everyone needs a changing table – plenty of families keep a basket with changing supplies and a changing pad on hand in several rooms of the house – and change the baby on the floor. Saves running up to a distant bedroom, and no worries about falling off. Some people are against playpens – and they shouldn’t be used for long periods of time – but you’ll be glad you have one for your baby if a pot suddenly boils over on the stove or a neighbor stops by with their new puppy. Plus – I protected my toddler by putting the Christmas tree in the playpen and keeping her out! Be careful when purchasing bedding – you’ll need plenty of sheets but avoid blankets, pillows and side bumpers that can create smothering hazards in the early months, or be used to assist little climbers later on. And don’t forget the safety items: outlet covers, cabinet locks, hooks for window blind cords, and so on. Best wishes!

    • avatar janet says:

      Karen, great additions from a grandma in the trenches! Seriously, thank you so much for adding stuff I forgot. Playpens should not be used once a baby is crawling (except in emergencies). Changing a baby comfortably makes the experience more pleasant, but an older toddler might need a cordoned-off place on the floor. I still believe in making a changing area a special place, if possible.

      Happy New Year, Karen!

  2. avatar Dulcey says:

    That is a great list above, thanks for sharing!!! One comment about the bouncy seat…as a first time mom, I found it extremely difficult to have time to take a quick shower and I didn’t feel comfortable taking a shower when she was sleeping, so the bouncy seat was perfect for taking her in the bathroom with me. It was the only thing that worked when daddy was working. Showering is primarily when I use the bouncy seat as I don’t keep her in it for long periods of time. Just wanted to share as a simple shower a day helps when you are very tired. Congratulations, May is a great month to have a baby. My little one was born 5/29/2010 and it was great because the weather is nice and you can spend a lot of time outside.

    • avatar janet says:

      Dulcey, thanks for adding this… Showers are a BIG necessity, very important. But rather than purchase a seat just for that reason, (and I know how disconcerting it can be to have the baby in a separate room in the beginning), I would recommend bringing the bassinet in the bathroom. The baby can move more freely and stay supported in a horizontal position.

  3. avatar Kara says:

    Thank you so much for this, and for responding so quickly! I have been feeling so overwhelmed as we’ve geared up for registering. I’ve worked in the early care and education field for a number of years, and I’ve always been interested in RIE, but it’s very different to be planning for my own child! Nothing you mentioned was particularly surprising, but it definitely helps me to focus. Next comes the challenge of explaining to my well-intentioned family members why I truly DON’T “need” certain items (like the can’t-live-without bouncy seat).

    • avatar janet says:

      I would just say that you are excited about trying to do things a particular way with your baby that might be a little different from the way they’ve done things, but you are counting on their help. 🙂

  4. avatar Dulcey says:

    Janet, great point! Wish I would have thought about the bassinet, it’s new mommy brain.

    • avatar Rosie says:

      Kia ora from NZ,

      My son is 5 months old and Janet has provided pretty much the perfect list. There is a chapter in ‘Dear Parent’ on what equipment you do and don’t need also. I think as a RIE parent the main thing is avoiding things you don’t want or need. I highly recommend having a gentle chat or sending a well worded email to friends and family with items that would be appreciated and things you wouldn’t use. Our most valued purchases have been:

      – A large ‘Moses’ basket and stand
      -Stroller with a bassinet and lie flat seat that are interchangeable and can face both ways. Expensive but worth every penny!
      – Blankets for lying on the floor (I bought some lovely old cotton quilts)and cloth nappies or similar for nappy free time
      – A comfy chair with arms and a foot rest that we have in the bedroom at night and lounge during the day
      – An answering machine
      – A baby feeding journal to build an idea of your baby’s emerging routine (and because you’re so tired you can’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago)
      -I agree with Janet that comfortable clothes that allow baby to move freely are a must. We used gowns for the first month or so – convenient and easy for us and comfy for baby.
      – A really good bedtime story or song. We have one called ‘Time for Bed’ by Mem Fox that has become quite special and we read it every night.

      If we could have afforded it we would have liked a lie flat carseat that attaches to a stroller base. My son was born at home and didn’t go out until week 5 but even then he didn’t look comfortable in a capsule. It would have been a bonus if he could stay asleep in his carseat too!

      Not particularly RIE related, but on a personal note my favorite gift was a beautiful pair of maternity pajamas. They made me feel good, were great for night feeds and I was never in a hurry to get out of them.

      I could go on and on but those are the main things. Getting ready for your baby is such an exciting, anxious and joyous time. Enjoy it!


      • avatar janet says:

        Great list, Rosie, thanks so much! You’re making me want another baby. Kind of scary for someone my age…

  5. avatar Meghan says:

    Just wondering whether it would be consistent with the RIE approach to consider having a floor bed rather than a crib/cot. I am a Montessori guide and find that there are many striking similarities in the two theories (although I am not very familiar with RIE, really just starting out!)
    It seems to me that RIE focuses on encouraging and nurturing each child’s capacity to act independently, be in control of themselves and to move freely. The floor bed (a common element in Montessori for infants and toddlers) encourages the child’s natural capacity for movement from birth, eliminates dependence on adults for regulation of waking/sleeping cycles and allows the new baby to create a mental map of his surroundings from an unobstructed viewpoint. Perhaps, if this were considered to be in keeping with RIE theory, some parents would contemplate eliminating the need for a crib or cot from their “need” list. I have used a floor bed with both my 5 year old, as well as my 6 month old with great success and would be happy to share my story with others.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Meghan! RIE doesn’t recommend floor beds for infants…for toddlers who have grown out of a crib, yes. But that doesn’t mean the floor beds would be inconsistent with the RIE Approach. I would like to hear more about them. The parents I know who have tried the floor beds found that the independence at bedtime was a distraction for the baby that made it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. The RIE philosophy is definitely about active participation, infant competency and independence during play time, but it is a supervised kind of independence.

      But, that’s my story, and what I’d really love to hear is yours!

  6. avatar Meghan says:

    Sorry for the delay in replying, Janet. When we decided to use the floor bed with our children, we met with some stiff opposition from parents, friends, child health nurses etc. But my training as a Montessori educator for the 0-3 age group had covinced me that this freedom for my children was something important. We started out with a cot-sized mattress on the floor of Noah’s bedroom, along with a cupboard for his clothing, and a low shelf for a selection of toys/books. I also had a low armchair for night-time breastfeeding.
    Noah started to crawl at 11 months, and we had put a safety gate in the doorway to his bedroom the month before in readiness for this time. We had a transition period of about 2 weeks, where he would crawl out of bed as soon as we put him down to sleep. We just stuck to the usual bedtime routine, and left the room allowing him to leave the bed if he wished. Sometimes he would crawl over to the gate and call out for us, and we would need to go in and re-initiate the bedtime routine. Other times he would crawl to the shelf and choose a toy to play with, and then fall asleep on the carpet and not in his bed (we would go in and transfer him to the bed).
    We had another transition period when he started to walk, and we moved him onto a futon bed low enough for him to climb onto himself. Same sort of thing as the previous time, culminating in his ability to recognise his own tired signs and take himself off to bed.

    This may sound very rosy, and I’m not glossing over the times when he would not go to sleep, no matter what we did (and then I secretly wished for a crib, along with a straight-jacket!) but looking back over the last 5 years, made me decide to follow the same route with our second child, Luke, who is now 7 months old. Noah is a fantastic sleeper and I believe that this is because he was given the freedom (within boundaries that were in place to meet everyone’s needs)to learn to regulate his own sleeping cycle. He was able to put himself to bed from 18 months of age, and regularly did so.
    Another benefit of the floor bed is the elimination of the crying and conflict that so many parents dread, surrounding bedtime and sleep. Noah did not need to cry for an adult to help him to leave his bed – this gave him an overwhelmingly positive feeling towards sleep and bed.
    One thing that the use of the floor bed does demand though, is that the adult prepares themself to relinquish control over the child’s sleep. Provision of a floor bed is essentially giving the child the power to choose whether to stay in bed, or get out as they please. If you are not willing to accept that they can choose (and it may not be the choice that you would prefer!) then perhaps it might not be the best choice for your family! In my experience with the floor bed, as a mother and a Montessori guide, is that children who are given the freedom to exercise this power of choice, spend substantially less time in conflict over sleep, since they learn to self-regulate their sleep cycles from the very beginning.

  7. avatar cypress says:

    Ear thermometer, nose sucker, teething rings, nail clippers

  8. avatar Helen says:

    We DID use bouncy seats (if you mean canvas seat on a floorstanding frame) and duplicate car-seats as well as blankets and the playmats which are like a quilt with a couple of novelty items stitched to them (mirror, rattle, ring, etc.) or a mat under a playarch . which was either played with or kicked away or played on by a kitten who baby watched with fascination.

    My boys did not always want to lie flat on the floor, or later bellies, rolling etc. and often seemed to want to ‘watch mum’. For short periods of time they were very happy sitting in a supported position watching what I was doing and I gave a running commentary or the activity – usually cooking, cleaning or getting washed and dressed. I showed things to them and chatted to them/with them in a way I wasn’t comfortably doing with them strapped to me – watching their facial expressions and responding to their eye contact with things or with me was an important part of our interaction.

    We also had a babywalker that was only used when I was trying to prepare a meal in the same room as a ‘refusing to be still but not yet independent’ small, inquisitive person. I used to put suitable kitchen ‘tools’ (mainly plastic spatulas and miniature plastic mixing bowls) on there and sometimes snack foods if it were a meal we could nibble whilst preparing.

    However if you mean the bouncy seat that hangs in a doorway then, no, neither of mine enjoyed it for more than a moment or two of ‘new sensation’.

  9. avatar Brooke says:

    Great list! I agreed with most of it, with a few exceptions.

    We really never needed a bassinet (baby was in crib on his first night).

    We changed on the floor most of the time because the changing table was upstairs in the nursery.

    A play pen was not really necessary. He did most of his independent play in the living room floor on a blanket. And, you aren’t supposed to use them once he starts crawling. However, I liked the Pack n Play as a travel crib.

    We did use a pacifier (gasp)! And, he gave it up on his own at four months. We also used the bouncy seat. Hubby and I both worked, but he was able to take baby with him. Baby loved being able to be propped up enough to see people. And, we had no problem once the chair was taken away because he was then old enough to walk/crawl.

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