Essentials for a First-Time Parent

With both my brother Mike and good friend Rick each expecting their first child in May, I made a quick list of things a new parent should have on hand. Many are obvious, but in any case, here's the first pass at a list, in no particular order:

  • no-tears shampoo - remarkably, they don't have this in Japan, so if you get the least bit of (Japanese) baby shampoo in the baby's eyes, you have a very very unhappy baby. Note that there's no baby bath in my list, as I found it substantially easier to cradle Anthony in one arm, bring him into the shower, and wash with the other.

    We used a baby bath just once (for his first bath), and had a perfectly awkward time with it, and never used it again. (Well, never again for a bath — we did use it, with appropriate padding, for his bed for many months).

  • “blue chux” — disposable waterproof sheets generally used in the hospital for a variety of keep-body-fluids-from-leaking tasks. They are absolutely fantastic for the new parent, for use in the baby bed, car seat, your shoulder, on the floor — anywhere where baby might go (because baby might “go” anywhere, ifyouknowwhatImean.)

    You can get them in bulk for about 10 cents each (in a 2-foot by 1.5-foot size) from a medical supply store. I've given these to many new parents, and invariably the initial reaction was “uh, well, thanks, I guess”, but after a while they invariable came back with “my gosh these are fantastic, where can I get more?”. Unfortunately, in a quick search for “disposable underpad” on Yahoo! Shopping I see only expensive ones. You need a medical supply store to get the good / lowcost ones in bulk, and the one from which I bought them years ago is no longer there.

    UPDATE - My sister found a place that sells them in bulk:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) suppositories - In the US, Tylenol is the fever-reducer of choice for infants, joined by ibuprofen (Motrin) at around six months. When Anthony had his fevers and colds, I would dutiful go out to the store and get Infant's Tylenol drops, and give to him in the dosages as per the doctor's instructions. It's a liquid that is given via an eyedropper or mini plastic syringe “injected” into the mouth.

    Unfortunately, there are a number of extremely bad things about Infant Tylenol:

    • it's artificially colored with a deeply red dye, so that when the baby spits it out or spits it up (both of which the baby most certainly will), it ruins anything it touches. (Another vote for the blue chux mentioned above).
    • It's sickenly sweet, a characteristic perhaps enjoyed by some four-year-olds, but to an infant who has never had anything except milk, it's utterly disgusting. Hence, the aforementioned spit up/out.

    I spent a lot of time and energy and frustration trying to get Anthony to take the medicine (which works wonders, once it's down and stays down), and even learned a special way to hold him (that allows me to lock his arms and legs and yet still have a hand and a half left to administer the red gunk) from my emergency-room-nurse sister.

    So, it was with wonderful amazement the first time I brought him to the doctor in Japan that I beheld fever-reducing suppositories. I don't know what medicine they had in them, although I suspect it was acetaminophen. Anyway, in a few short seconds, I can pull from the package, cut to the proper size (to adjust the dosage to his weight), and stick up his butt. He certainly doesn't care for the experience, but unlike his ability to spit out anything put into his mouth, in this case he doesn't have much choice about it (and also unlike the liquid version, and it's over in 5 seconds anyway). Wow, these were wonderful. I would have given my firstborn to have had these when Anthony was young. Er, um, well, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

    I don't know if they're available in The States, but it's worth it to ask your doctor. (UPDATE: see comment by my sister below)

  • non-bulbous snot sucker — babies can't blow their nose, and at first can't even breathe well through their mouth, so if they get a stuffy nose, you're in for trouble. The only way I've seen to clear a baby's nose in The States is with a bulb sucker — squeeze bulb, insert thin end into nose, and let go to suck snot out of nose and into bulb. It often works. At least a little.

    In Japan, Fumie found a product called “mama hanamizu totte” (literally, “Mama snot pluck”). This is two tubes connected to a little jar — put one tube into the baby nose, the other into your mouth, and suck. Snot comes up the one tube, and into the jar, mercifully stopping short of continuing up the other tube into your mouth. You can get a serious amount of suction. Excellent.

  • thermometer — a fast butt thermometer, along with disposable sheathes to keep things simple and clean.

  • “kimono” clothes — when Anthony first came home from the hospital and we were faced with removing the shirt the hospital had put on him, I opted to remove it with scissors rather than try to get the little thing over his huge (relatively speaking) baby head (which, as a new parent, I worried would pop off his body with but the slightest of tugs)

    Fumie had some infantwear from Japan which was fashioned like a robe, rather than like overalls or a shirt. It was wonderfully simple to put on and take off — no fighting with heads and arms and legs. Invaluable during the first month.

  • good lactation consultant - If you're going to breastfeed, do the research beforehand as to who is a good lactation consultant in your area, so that you'll have her available if needed. We used Bev Morgan, who was just wonderful (and who is now apparently in Austin, Texas).

  • microwave sterilizer — to get bottles and stuff really clean (or, more precisely, dirty or clean, but at least sterile), we found this sterilizer to be super handy.

  • A Costco membership — the cost of a Costco membership are easily recovered with just diapers (and particularly formula, if needed).

  • other obvious stuff — diapers, wipes, diaper-rash stuff (A&D ointment is just fine), infant/car seat, socks, blanket, hat, bottle, formula (hospital will give you some), bottles, breast pump

All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Tylenol suppositories are available without prescriptions in the united states, but you have to ask the pharmacist for them as they are stored in the refrigerator in the back. You use the same milligram dose no matter what end it goes in. Sorry Bro, I thought I’d told you about that while you were still in the States.

— comment by Marcina on April 19th, 2005 at 7:47am JST (19 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Instead of the bulb, my pediatrician recommended a new nasal aspirator from Sweden that works differently, more safe and definitely more effective ! It is called Nosefrida, and I got mine online, received it in a couple of days.

— comment by Don on January 19th, 2007 at 12:17pm JST (17 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Jeff, do you know where we can get “blue chux” in Japan? First child due in 5 weeks, need to get organised…


— comment by Dan on March 4th, 2007 at 2:33pm JST (17 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Do you know how I could get a mama hanamizu tote? I searched all over the web and I can’t find anyone who sells it. My friend got hers when she went to Japan and loves it. I prefer your suggestion better than Nosefrida because it doesn’t require a filter and the applicator seems smaller. I live in California. Thank you.

You should be able to order via Amazon Japan, either this or this —Jeffrey

— comment by sylvia on February 22nd, 2008 at 6:08pm JST (16 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey — I can tell you without any question that the blue chux sheets were the GREATEST baby-related present we received. Thank you!! You sent us a case 5 years ago (Gregory was scheduled for birth in early May 2005 but was born 2 weeks early), and we are now down to our last few sheets. The sheets saved our carpeting, upholstery, car seats, wood floors (and any other object upon which a diaper can leak or a baby can poop) from a lot of mess. Thank you! We miss you and your family. I hope everyone is doing well in Japan. We are about to head back to Silicon Valley!

— comment by Rick on May 19th, 2010 at 8:00am JST (14 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink
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