Newborns and infants don’t need much. Love, food, dry bottoms and safe transportation comprise the basic needs of a new baby. But what you receive at baby showers or check off on a baby registry can lead you to believe that 250 items are ESSENTIAL for survival…
From a mom’s and pediatrician’s point of view, keeping just the basics will help you in times of need, and free you from the anxiety attached to owning too many unnecessary baby items.
What Do Parents Need to Stock in a Medicine Cabinet for Baby?
- A RECTAL thermometer – Digital models are inexpensive, accurate and easy to read. In a young infant, the most accurate temperature is obtained rectally – stressed, ill infants may have subnormal skin temperatures, leading parents to believe there is no fever. Old fashioned mercury thermometers may intimidate those with less than perfect eyesight, or fear of breakage (as they are made of glass). Ear thermometers are notoriously inaccurate when used on infants and tots.
- Vaseline or other lubricant – For that thermometer. Petroleum jelly is also useful for aftercare of healing circumcisions.
- Cotton swabs – For gentle cleansing of infant girl’s labial folds (if contaminated by poop), for cleaning the OUTSIDE of baby’s ear canal (should wax appear), and for cleaning/drying the moist base of the umbilical cord (optional).
- Cotton balls – If moistened in warm water, often helpful if baby’s tear ducts are plugged. They can gently wipe away any discharge.
- Quilted paper towels – Ideal, when moistened with warm water, for cleansing baby’s bottom in the newborn period, soaking up spills and wayward pee.
- Nasal bulb syringe – In the hospital most parents are provided with a large syringe resembling an onion. This is meant to suck out saliva and secretions from the mouth. A smaller variety with a flexible soft tip is available in pharmacies (we give them to all of our new parents), so that if baby’s nose is stuffy and needs clearing, the appropriate vehicle is used.
- Sterile saline drops – Babies are obliged to breathe through their noses the first few months of life. Since a small blob of mucous can not only obstruct a nostril, but also disrupt the flow of eating/breathing, loosening it with a few drops of saline (followed by a little suction) can open that passage. There are several brands out there – consult your doctor or pharmacist.
- Nail scissors or clippers – Probably one of the most feared tools new parents hate to use. Unfortunately, growing babies have nails that grow as fast as bamboo – fingernails often need frequent trimming. Since infant nails are very soft, it’s often easy just to clip or cut the edge of the nail, and peel the remainder off.
- Acetaminophen (infant strength) is optional until 2-3 months of age. If you suspect your newborn is ill, has a fever (use that rectal thermometer – if temp is 100.5 or greater, that’s a fever), CALL YOUR DOCTOR – do not give fever relief unless specifically instructed by your child’s MD.
- Gas Relief – some parents swear by dimethicone drops (a popular brand is MYLICON) or gripe water (made from oils of dill and other naturals) for easing baby’s gas (a common observation in the newborn period). Consulting your baby’s physician for their opinion is important. There is divided opinion amongst health care professionals about the efficacy of these preparations. In addition, excessive gas or belly discomfort can be a sign of other conditions, so it’s important to consult your practitioner.
As a parent who might become ill during your infant’s early months, what is in YOUR medicine cabinet is also important.
If you are a breast feeding mom, consult your baby’s doctor whenever you are advised to take antibiotics or other medications. Even everyday over the counter preparations can have side effects for a nursing baby, so ask about those too. Sedatives and antihistamines should be used cautiously by parents, as judgment, coordination and alertness may be impaired (aren’t they already just by having a newborn?), placing baby’s health and safety at risk.
And as Baby Grows to a Tot…
Once your baby becomes a rambling tot, what is essential in your medicine cabinet has more to do with “on the job” injuries than anything else. Aside from the typical arsenal of fever/pain relievers, the following will come in handy for your junior tot:
- A tube of antibiotic ointment for scratches and scrapes
- A tube of over the counter hydrocortisone cream to apply to itchy bites
- A bottle of diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) in the event your child breaks out in uncomfortable hives or develops an allergic reaction
- Band-Aids, along with a small first aid kit
- A pair of really good sharp pointed tweezers to extract splinters and foreign bodies (forget about sterilized needles)
- Colloidal oatmeal based soap/bath powder in the event of itchy irritated skin
- Oral rehydration solution (some popular brands are Pedialyte, Kaolectrolyte) either in Popsicle or liquid form – in the event of diarrhea or vomiting
- Ask your healthcare provider about keeping an anti-nausea medication on hand in the event of repeated vomiting
- A digital thermometer to take either oral, rectal or temporal (forehead) temperatures
- Keep a card with your health care provider’s telephone number, and the address and phone number of local urgent care, and your designated community hospital/ER in a prominent place in the event your child becomes acutely ill or injured.
In addition, if your child takes medication on a regular basis for a chronic condition, monthly inspect your supply to ensure that your medications are not running low or expiring. Make sure ALL medications are securely stored so that your child cannot accidentally ingest/overdose. Remember that even multivitamins or iron pills can be poisonous, so keep your regular supplies of daily medications locked/secured from your child.