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The sleep deprivation is hands down the hardest part for me with a newborn. I just don’t function well on little sleep. And the little sleep we get with a newborn is interrupted at best. With each baby, I learned and tried some new things, but I have a list of my top 10 newborn must haves to help the baby (and you!) sleep. They’re definitely what I would add first to any baby registry! 

These are my favorite top 10 newborn must haves for sleep:

  1. Rock N Play. I wasn’t lucky enough to have one of these with my first two, but a friend insisted that I needed it with my third so she let me borrow hers. We carried it around the house for a safe place to put the baby, and she also napped in it during the day where I could keep an eye on her. I especially liked it for napping when she started spitting all the time around 2 weeks old. baby sleeping in a rock n play sleeper with swaddle and pacifier by dc nova newborn photographer
  2. Bassinet. Friends let us borrow the gorgeous Pottery Barn Kids bassinet with our third, and we loved it. It was so much better than using the bassinet insert in the Pack N Play that we used with the boys. We alternated between having her sleep in the bassinet in the living room during the day and in our bedroom at night.
  3. Swaddle Blankets. I tried several different swaddle blankets with my 3 kids. The gold standard for me is honestly the Swaddle Designs cotton flannel blankets. They’re the only blankets that my kids couldn’t kick out of immediately! I think the material is grippier than muslin. baby is sleeping in a bassinet with a swaddle blanket
  4. Sleep Sacks. My kids liked being swaddled until about 3-4 weeks. I know plenty of kids who were swaddled for months. But my kids grunted all night long very early on to work their arms out of that swaddle… At that point, I transitioned them to sleep sacks with their arms out. I have several different brands from my older boys. With our third, I discovered this brand and love it so much. We received it as a gift, and I went out and bought the next size up. My kids sleep in sleep sacks until age 3, which may be partly why they never climbed out of their cribs.
  5. Zipper Pajamas. I avoid buttons on pajamas at all costs. It’s terrible having to button pajamas in the middle of the night or when baby is crying to be fed. My favorites are Carter’s pajamas. I use those from newborn through 12 months, when babies are no longer so anxious to be dressed quickly for bedtime. 
  6. Pacifier. Personally, I’m a big fan of using pacifiers with my kids. I used them with all 3 babies until the pacifier fairy comes to take them away at age 3 when they transition to a twin bed. I tested out different ones with my first and settled on the MAM brand for all 3 kids. They make a newborn pacifier and one for 6+ months.
  7. Boppy Nursing Pillow. I really liked the Boppy nursing pillow, especially at night when you’re basically bleary eyed with exhaustion. It’s nice to have some help to hold baby’s weight.
  8. Sound Machine. I’d never heard of a sound machine when my first came along. But my second and third have never known sleep without one :) We have one sound machine for each kids’ bedroom. It’s a pleasant sound to sleep to, and it really helps to reduce the noise of city living. Or the noise of toddler feet when baby is trying to sleep…tiny newborn is sleeping in whicker bassinet
  9. Night light. Yes, you’ll need some light when you get up with the baby in the middle of the night. But you also don’t want to throw on all the lights so that baby thinks it’s day time and perhaps to let your partner sleep more. We use these IKEA night lights. They hold their charge through the night if you need to take it along or don’t have a plug available.
  10. Video Monitor. Chances are your newborn is sleeping beside you during those first few weeks at home, but a video monitor is nice to have if you’d like to check on them while napping. That’s especially helpful if you’re chasing a toddler around or just need to be away from your sleeping newborn for whatever reason. 

I’m always happy to share advice and my favorite must haves so I do NOT get any referral fees or credits. They’re all items that I’ve used personally and that have worked for my kids. For more advice, check out my hospital bag essentials and my baby travel gear essentials.

One last piece of important advice: Make sure you have at least 2 of the items that need to be washed like crib sheets, blankets, pajamas, pacifiers, etc. You don’t want to be scrambling in the middle of your short night!

Moments documenting brand new life is magical! I loved watching these new parents get to know the little person that they’ve been waiting for all these months. Fresh 48 hospital sessions are such a great way to freeze some of these precious moments. Mama and Baby are exhausted and recovering from the birth. Dad is also tired and trying to help as much as he can. There’s this mix of uncertainty and excitement and love that always takes me back to meeting my own little ones.  

Those first 48 hours go by so quickly, it’s hard to remember all of the little details. Baby girl’s Mama wanted to preserve it all! The hospital blankets and bracelets, the hospital bassinet, the baby’s red and wrinkly skin. I came across one of my boys’ hospital bracelets the other day and can’t believe it once fit. Babies go from being tiny to growing up too quickly! Even if we don’t feel our best after giving birth (I felt like I got hit by a bus after having my first), these moments are fleeting. Remember to document them!

sleepy newborn baby is swaddled in the hospital bassinet as photographed by holy cross newborn photographer stefanie harringtontiny newborn baby is wearing a "a dua come true" onesie in the hospitaltwo photos are showing tiny newborn baby feet with hospital bracelettiny newborn baby girl is giving the camera a quizzical looka newborn baby just hours old is sleeping beautifully in a white onesie and hata newborn baby with a full head of dark gorgeous hair is sleepingpeaceful newborn baby is asleep in the hospital bassinetsweet newborn baby is silently alert and looking around in the hospital bassineta new mom is smiling down at her new baby girl in her armsnew mother is cradling her sleeping newborn infant in her postpartum hospital roomgorgeous new mom with headscarf is holding her sleeping infantsleeping infant is cradled softly in momnew parents are cuddling with their infant baby in the hospital beda young mother is watching her husband soothing their baby girlbaby girl is asleep in dada new father is swaddling his baby in the hospitala young father is watching his baby sleepa brandnew infant is swaddled and peacefully looking around the hospital roomtiny infant is yawning and ready to sleep in the hospital bassinetI leave you with this adorable baby yawn and hope you enjoyed the glimpse into this family’s first 48 hours together! If you haven’t guessed it, she’s their wish come true. Such a sweet onesie!

I love it when couples set time aside to capture maternity images before baby arrives! It is such a wondrous time, especially if it’s the first baby. There’s so much joy and excitement bundled up into that baby bump. I know from my own pregnancies that there is also some nervous energy and anxiety mixed in. But time flies and pregnancy is such a very short season in life! My littlest love is going to be 7 months next week!!!!!! There’s no turning back or slowing down time. 

We had the most gorgeous sunshine for this maternity session! The parents to be were eagerly waiting for their baby to join them.

An adorable couple is cuddling bathed in gorgeous sunshine.Beautiful maternity photo by DC baby bump pregnancy photographer Stefanie HarringtonBlack and white images of husband and wife with their baby bumpA pregnant mom to be is smiling in a field of flowersMom to be is resting her hands on her pregnant bellyA young couple is enjoying a walk and kiss together with momDad to be is feeling the baby kick in momMom and dad to be are smiling at each other and at the baby bump

If you’re considering maternity images for your own pregnancy, get in touch! I’d love to help you show off your baby bump before your little one arrives. I can promise you that you’ll treasure these images.

And if you’re packing your hospital bag already, check out my list of hospital bag essential items. After three hospital deliveries, I’ve perfected my hospital bag for Mama and baby. I’m always happy to help other Mamas prepare!

Stefanie Harrington is a maternity, birth, newborn and family photographer in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metro area. She specializes in creative and modern photography with a timeless feel.

If you’re delivering in a hospital, you may be wondering what you should pack in your hospital bag. As the due date gets closer, it’s easy to stress over the hospital bag. There are so many things to organize and think about! Believe me, I’ve been there three times now. Start gathering your items early. Once I neared 34 weeks, I ordered things I needed and started a clothes pile and a last-minute packing list that I kept on top off my hospital bag. With 2 kids to think about, it can get complicated quickly.

With all of my hospital bag packing experience, I feel like an expert on what you should bring :) Essentials only for me. Pack light, because your stuff will somehow multiply overnight. And the hospital gives you stuff in addition to gifts that the baby may receive.

Image of hospital essentials for your maternity hospital bag by DC fresh 48 newborn photographer Stefanie Harrington

Here’s a complete list of what you should pack in your hospital bag: 

L&D Clothes. I packed comfy maternity leggings, my roomiest maternity t-shirt and a warm cardigan for labor and delivery. I’ve labored in the gowns before, but I get too chilly. Once labor progressed, I took off my leggings and underwear. My cardigan and t-shirt kept me warm and also kept my bum covered. Just before I pushed out the baby, I took off my shirt so that I could do immediate skin to skin.

Slippers and Socks. Hospital rooms are chilly, and your own slippers and socks are much cozier than those hospital socks. I used the hospital socks during labor, because you can swap them easily when they get wet. And they likely will, because you’re in labor. I had fluid leaking the entire time during labor. 

Pajamas and Robe. What you wear after the birth, may depend on how you feel. With my first, I brought clothes and just felt too tired and wrecked to bother for the first day. I felt great and like my normal self after the other two births. I brought a pretty yet comfortable robe and 2 outfits for visiting hours: maternity leggings and a maternity tank top; pretty pajamas. I wore my robe both days. 

Nursing Tank and/or Bra. The nursing tanks are super easy to use for those early days of breastfeeding. You can layer them with your lounge wear, PJs or robe. I wore a tank one day, a bra the other day. I only wear the nursing tanks early on postpartum and had some basic ones at Target. For nursing bras, I get custom fitted once my milk is fully in (if you’re near Friendship Heights, Sylene’s is great). I like nursing bras without underwire, because that can lead to clogged ducts. My most comfortable nursing bra is from Cake

Nursing Pillow. Whichever nursing pillow you pick based on reviews and friends’ recommendations, bring it. Newborns nurse a lot and fall asleep on the breast constantly so it’s helpful to have some support for baby. Otherwise, your arms will get very tired from holding baby at your breast around the clock. I used a Boppy pillow with all 3 of my kids and really liked it. 

Nipple Cream. Not to scare you, but the early days of breastfeeding suck. Your nipples will be crazy raw and painful. Every time. My third time was actually the worst, and nothing healed except applying breast milk and letting that air dry. The hospital will give you some lanolin, but that didn’t help me at all, ever. I used Soothies in the hospital with my second and third, and that helped quite a bit until my milk came in.

Music. Bring a small speaker to connect to your phone for your labor playlist. I still remember dancing in the hospital with my husband during our oldest’s labor. And Ellen’s playlist is still on regular rotation at my house.

TENS Unit. I used a TENS unit to help with natural pain management during my daughter’s birth and wish I’d had it for my other labors, too. It’s really pretty cool and easy to use.

Camera. You just had a baby. That’s kind of a big deal. Chances are you’ll likely want to snap some photos during your hospital stay. Your birth photographer can document siblings and/or grandparents meeting the baby during a Fresh 48 session, but I also documented our hospital departure and car ride home. 

Pillow. I’m particular about my pillow. Bring your own in an easy-to-recognize pillow case. You’ll be so much more comfortable when you’re sleeping… Which is rarely, because you have a newborn to cuddle.

Baby’s Going-Home Outfit. I recommend bringing 2 outfits in different sizes. My boys picked out a gender neutral newborn outfit for the baby and, since she was 9 pounds, none of it fit, not even the hat. I was glad that I had another newborn outfit that ran a bit bigger stashed in my bag. I also bring a blanket for the baby.

Mama’s Going-Home Outfit. The good news is that any of your maternity clothes will fit comfortably again. (Because let’s face it, during those last weeks, nothing fits anymore. Nothing.) I brought yet more maternity leggings and a top to wear home.

Toiletries. The usual: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair ties, deodorant, face and body lotion. I rarely wear make up so I only packed mascara. My hospital had things like shampoo and body wash. I like to pack light, remember? 

Lip Balm. Yes, it’s an essential item. I kept it in my bag’s outside pocket so that I and my birth support could easily get to it.

Small Tote. Tuck a reusable grocery bags into your bag to use for the hospital freebies to take home. For packing, I recommend a weekend bag, which is the perfect size for all of your gear from home.

Birth Plan. You likely have a birth plan. Put it somewhere easily accessible in your bag. 

Toys/Entertainment for Siblings. Depending on how long they stay, your older child may become bored with a sleeping and/or nursing newborn so some favorite books or quiet toys will come in very handy.

Image of a young mother holding her newborn baby in hospital room

Some things that the hospital provides that are well worth using:

Witch Hazel Pads. I’d never heard of these until my first delivery, but these little pads are wonderful if you have a sore bottom. I also bought some Earth’s Mama Bottom Balm to have on hand at home.

Underwear. While the one-size-fits-most hospital mesh underwear is super unsexy, they have plenty of room to accommodate the ice packs and sanitary pads that will be crammed in there to help you heal. By the second day, I like using my own underwear, because they hold the sanitary pads in place better. 

Baby Care. You don’t really need to prepare anything for the baby unless you want to. The hospital provides clothes, hats, blankets, diapers, wipes. I, personally, really enjoyed the hospital gear, because it’s a sweet reminder of those days in the photos. 

Image of newborn baby in hospital bassinet

For my older children, I packed them each a small overnight bag. Their bags were ready to go directly next to my bag:

  1. Clean clothes for 2-3 days
  2. Outfit for hospital visit in ziplock bag
  3. Pajamas
  4. Stuffed animals for sleeping + nightlight and sound machine
  5. Printed kids’ iCal schedule with birthday party, play dates, sports info, etc.
  6. Info sheet with pediatrician number, school contacts and logistics info, emergency contact numbers
  7. Sports equipment for their games

Image of newborn baby in hospital room with dad in background

Happy packing and preparing, Mamas! I can’t wait to meet your newest love.

PS: You may have noticed that I didn’t talk about dad’s clothes… He was on his own to pack and prepare :) :) I had enough going on.

My littlest is 6 months old today so what better photo session to blog than a newborn family session?! I have had the honor of accompanying this family on their parenthood journey since their daughter’s newborn session. It means so much to me that my families trust me to document their memories time and time again! I love seeing their faces regularly, hearing their latest parenting stories and watching their little ones grow. We become friends. 

Get ready for an overload of my favorites. I would apologize for this long post, but I don’t like to be insincere. I did stop myself from posting more than this, so, I don’t know, you’re welcome? 

alexandria va newborn family photographer | hello world

You know who sets the pace at my sessions? The children. So when the baby needs to nurse, it leaves us time to play and get silly. Big sister was adamant about climbing onto the bed by herself. And then the giggling and playing resumed. Dads are always the best at getting those belly laughs!

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Children are all so different when younger siblings come along. This big sister was not very keen on her baby brother yet. She was more interested in playing dinosaur, which I think was perfect. 

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It’s not often that the family cat wants to be included in photos! How great is she?!

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Admit it: You’re happy that I included so many favorites! It’s a nice distraction in your day to scroll through so much cuteness. Again, you’re welcome. I totally adore this family.