A few of my friends are (FINALLY) pregnant (yay!!) and because I’m prepping (in the loosest sense of the word) for numero 3, and have spent the best part of a decade rearing small people, they’ve asked me for advice on what they should buy in anticipation of their precious arrival. So I created a list for them and thought I’d share it here too…
In short, you really don’t need a lot. These newborn babies don’t want for much and they mostly just eat and sleep (and maybe cry). So you’ll need milk (but if you’re breastfeeding, that’s already on tap) and a place for them to sleep i.e. a moses basket, a stand, a couple crib sheets and a baby sleeping bag or two. Of course you’ll also need a shedload of nappies and some basic baby clothes like vests and sleepsuits. Maybe some baby-friendly washing detergent and softener. But that’s really about it, in terms of what you NEED.
Then of course you’ll probably want a pram or a sling so you can get out and about and a bouncy chair to put them in when you need a wee (because that’s the only time you’ll be putting them down. And no, you don’t eat, unless some kind person feeds you). Oh and you’ll also need a car seat if you’ve got a car and plan on using it (go for Maxi-Cosi EVERY time – I speak from crash-testing experience).
Muslins are useful. So are dummies (you might be anti them now but withhold judgement until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation coupled with screamy baby at 4am at which point you’ll realise you will try anything. And dummies really aren’t that bad and in fact they are said to decrease the chance of SIDS. So get a few in, even if only for emergencies).
If you’re breastfeeding you might need lansinoh (magic stuff that protects nipples and is safe for babies), breast pads and a pump. If you’re bottle-feeding, you’ll need bottles (obviously), formula and a sterilising device.
You can see how things can quickly get out of control and how easy it is for a first-time pregnant mama to feel overwhelmed with all the paraphernalia on offer. Also decision making is tricky at the best of times but near on impossible when pregnant and really, how can a first-time pregnant mama really know what they actually will need?! Maybe I only speak for myself here, but I certainly couldn’t differentiate between what would come to be a literal lifesaver and what would become just another T.U.P (totally unnecessary purchase)!
So to help you avoid too many T.U.Ps, here’s my list! I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have got a couple kids and as consequence have tried and tested a lot of baby paraphernalia! So let me at least save you from the mistakes I made…
You don’t need much. Firstly because you don’t really know how big (or small) your baby will be – they come in all sizes and scans aren’t reliable (I was told to expect a 4lb babe and I got an 8lb-er. I’m not alone). Secondly because you’ve got your whole maternity leave to go shopping and it’s kind of fun buying things for baby once they have actually arrived. So don’t deprive yourself by buying it all in advance! Thirdly you cannot over-estimate how much you will be given – either new gifts or secondhand stuff from friends, family, neighbours, colleagues etc.
So with that in mind, I suggest buying in newborn size (because although you will want stuff for them to grow into, you will also need some stuff that fits when they’re born and there is a surprisingly big difference between ‘newborn’ and ‘0-3months’!):
* six cotton sleepsuits (all-in-ones)
* six cotton vests
* two cardigans (you do not want to be pulling jumpers over baby’s floppy head)
* two hats (they have a tendency to go missing)
* blanket to wrap baby in / lie baby on
* baby socks (can double as scratch mitts/be used to keep hands warm – they get so cold when baby is sleeping!!)
* sock-ons (an amazing invention that do exactly as they say)
* snowsuit for the winter babes
* ecover or similar gentle non-bio detergent to wash baby clothes (which should be done before baby arrives and wears them).
* Moses basket – a really simple one will do because they really don’t stay in them long – definitely buy new – this one from John Lewis is perfect:
* Moses basket stand – useful, also easily foldable for transportation/storage. Can be bought secondhand for approx £5.
* 4 x fitted sheets to fit the crib/moses basket – you’ll find yourself changing them frequently – 4 times in one night is not unheard of.
* At least 2 or 3 grobags for aged 0-6 months – you need a few because newborns are prone to explosive poos that escape their clothes (sorry), and they can sick up quite a bit (they may be small but they are very, very, messy). Make sure you get the right tog for the season your baby is due.
* Swaddle wraps/blankets are good but they have such a short life so maybe get some second hand if you can or given as gifts.
*Dummies – trust me on this one. If your baby takes it(and some don’t) and it offers them some level of comfort, then you’re going to want to have them.
* Gro-egg – useful for knowing the room temp and therefore what bedding and clothing layers you should be using. Can’t really put a value on something that reduces the anxiety new Mums experience. Also works as a nightlight.
* You might be tempted (or rather your other half might be (forgive my gender stereotyping)) to buy an expensive, state-of-the-art, tech-lover’s dream of a baby monitor. In my experience when baby is really new you’re unlikely to be leaving them out of your sight for very long, so it’s definitely not necessary to have one at the start. And later on, a regular one will do just fine and you’ll be glad you didn’t purchase the one with a TV screen, light show, lullabies and two-way walkie talkie function.
Leaving the house (!!!)
* You might want to get a sling but again in my experience when baby is brand new, they are too tiny for most baby carriers and sort of sink down and crumple, leaving you worrying whether they can breathe! So wait until they are a little more robust and have some head control before strapping them to your front. There are loads of options when the time comes so try and test out a few and see what works for you. I can recommend the ergo baby carrier and I would say avoid the baby bjorn original because it’s a back killer!
* Pram-wise, I basically tried everything with my first son until I got a Bugaboo. Second-time round I knew to get one straightaway! Our Bugaboo Cameleon 3 has been our best purchase and I would recommend everyone get one if they can! Bugaboo are like the Rolls Royce of buggies but when you think how much you’re going to use it, it becomes worth every penny. It can be false economy buying cheaper prams because they break or are difficult to use. We got ours secondhand, which I would definitely recommend doing if you’re on a budget. Not only can you get a nearly-new one in immaculate condition for half the price, they also have a really good resale value, so even after a couple years of use, you can sell it on again for not much less than you paid for it originally! A Bugaboo is a sound investment, even if your other half cannot get over the RRP.
* Car seat – it’s a good idea to get a Maxi-Cosi car seat because they are compatible with so many prams including the Bugaboo. Also try and get an isofix base (or easybase if you don’t have isofix points in your car). Not only are the bases meant to make the seat safer as they ensure they are correctly fitted, but they also make your life tons easier as you can simply clip the seat in and out without having to faff around with the belt. Also having recently survived a pretty horrific crash, I can hand-on-heart vouch for the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix as despite a 70mph motorway crash which involved flipping our car (!!!) after a lorry went into us, our baby (who was in a Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix) escaped without a mark on him or a single injury.
* Change bag – I’ll tell you a little secret: you don’t actually need a designated change bag. You can just use a regular bag! Who knew?! But if you want to use the baby’s arrival as an opportunity to buy yourself a new bag (and why not?!) go for a Tiba & Marl one. Tiba & Marl design the best change bags out there, without a cupcake in sight, and you’ll happily use it when nappy changes are a distant (bad) memory.
* A small portable change mat with space for nappies/wipes is super useful for when not taking a big bag out. One like this does the job:
* Other useful items for leaving the house include a dummy clip and a portable Milton mini steriliser like this:
(otherwise dummy ends up being thrown overboard, resulting in you having to suck it clean and subsequently spend the day worrying if the residual germs will kill the baby…or you, leaving the baby orphaned. Save yourself the trauma and buy the dummy clip and steriliser pot).
Washing and changing baby
* Changing table – Get a basic one, better still a secondhand one, as again you don’t tend to use them for long and they take up valuable space.
* Changing mat – this wedge one from John Lewis is good and stops baby rolling over to a degree – NOT failsafe, I repeat NOT failsafe.
* Nappies – LOADS of them – buy in bulk for best value. We use Pampers because despite trying to be more eco-friendly and getting real nappies and biodegradable ones, we found Pampers to be the best in terms of absorbency (and therefore less bum soreness) and they also win hands down with the least amount of leakages.
* Cotton wool balls – you will use these with water at first until you tire of the faff
* Water Wipes – for when you tire of the hassle of cotton wool balls and water. Water Wipes are more expensive but they are also the best (causing no bum soreness). First time our baby got a sore bum was after we started using a different brand. Buy in bulk and look out for offers in Boots etc.
* Nappy bags – SCENTED ones! Breastfed babies’ poo looks gross but the smelly is relatively inoffensive. However once you start weaning… *GAG ALERT* Scented nappy bags are a MUST.
* Nappy bin with cartridges – we don’t actually have one of these and just take the nappies straight to the main bin because we don’t want them sat in the house but you might feel differently and want one for ease.
* Baby bath – don’t buy one! They take up loads of space and are unnecessary.
* Baby bath support – Buy one! Takes up so much less space! Get this fabric covered one from John Lewis because plastic is hard, cold and uncomfortable.
* Natural sponge
* Organic baby wash products
* Baby towel x2 – could just use a hand towel to be honest and I would put money on you being giving a ton of these for presents once baby arrives!
No need to purchase a highchair or stock up on bibs yet!
* Medela swing electric breast pump – The best pump out there. Also gives you the opportunity to have a night off and let your other half do the feeding. Can’t put a price on that.
* Medela bottles with a teat that works like a nipple (yes, really), looks like this. You’ll only need 1 teat but maybe 2 or 3 bottles.
* Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream – as mentioned before, magic stuff, 100% natural. Saved my life first time round.
* Muslin clothes – really useful for just about everything.
* Steriliser machine – get one for the microwave (if you have a microwave) – you can throw bottles in, dummies, plastic baby toys.
* Nursing bras – don’t bothing buying non-nursing maternity bras, which are rendered useless as soon as baby arrives due to the lack of easy boob access, go straight for the nursing bra option when pregnant. You will get a lot more wear out of them. Also they don’t have to be ugly: Google ‘Elle Macpherson Intimates Nursing Bra’.
* Nursing sleep bra (like a crop top but with easy access – offers support and holds breast pads in place at night – definitely recommend buying. They changed my night life).
* Washable breast pads – softer than disposable ones (less chaffing), cheaper (in the long run) and greener (got to try and offset the nappies)
* Nursing chair – waste of money! Do not buy! You will end up feeding in bed or on the sofa not on some ugly monstrosity that you’ve had installed in the baby nursery but looks like it belongs in a retirement home! If you really want to buy a new chair then get a lovely armchair that you actually like the look of and will want to keep beyond the nursing years.
* Nursing cushion – don’t even bother. Treat yourself to a lovely cushion that you actually like instead. Your elbow doesn’t need an odd banana-shaped cushion covered in stars to support it, anything will do.
Baby Health & Safety
* Digital ear thermometer – get an in-ear one rather than one of those forehead scanner types because they’re more reliable.
* Calpol – good idea to have in the house at all times. Solves almost every ailment.
* Baby snot sucker or nasal aspirator, as they’re more formally known, (yes these things exist and yes you will want one as the alternative option is much worse – sucking it out yourself!)
* Try and go on a pediatric first aid course, where you will learn what to do in an emergency and also how rare really serious emergencies actually are (which is kind of reassuring for an anxious new parent).
* All the other stuff like baby prisons, sorry baby pens, stairgates, plug socket covers etc. will be needed once baby is on the move, but not for a number of months, so just don’t worry yourself with that at the minute!
At home with baby
* Baby Bjorn bouncer – I don’t know about you but brightly coloured, noisy bouncers with flashing lights aren’t on my wish list. Nor a new baby’s. You can’t go wrong with the simple yet stylish Baby Bjorn bouncer which folds flat for storage/transport. The fabric seat is also really easy to remove and machine washable which is a BIG bonus as you’re going to need to wash it a LOT.
* Baby play gym – whereas the above is really useful, the play gym is less so. Once babies can move they don’t lie under them and beforehand, well, they would be just as happy on your lap, studying your face. This is once they can actually focus! So you could go without or get one secondhand.
* Rattles and soft toys – you will be given loads. They also aren’t needed straightaway so no need to buy as part of your pre-baby prep.
* Door bouncers – not needed for a while but great fun for baby, don’t take up lots of space and are relatively inexpensive. I mention this now in case somebody suggests you need a Fisher Price Jumperoo! Yes lots of babies love Jumperoos, but lots of adults like fair ground rides but that doesn’t mean we get one installed in our house. Jumperoos cost over £100 and proudly boast ‘lights, sounds and music’. Door bouncers are the way forward and if the baby wants music, pop the radio on and choose to stay sane instead.
This list may seem long but it’s intended to be fully comprehensive, all-inclusive. You can get a LOT of this stuff secondhand on eBay, gumtree or at NCT nearly-new sales which are brilliant! Find out where your nearest one is here. There is also freecycle and charity shops dedicated to children’s clothes, toys and equipment, such as Fara. You’ll also find people are happy to give you stuff when they’ve finished using it such as friends, family and neighbours. You should be able to get the above lot without breaking the bank.
The really great thing about buying baby stuff secondhand is because any given item is used for such a short period of time, it tends to all be in really condition and can be bought for a fraction of the price new. However there are a few things I would buy new and these include: car seat (unless you know where its come from), mattress, dummies and bottle teats. Everything else should be fine secondhand after having been given a wash.
If you think I’ve missed anything off the list, please email and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org xxx