Now I’m an old hand at parenting (well I’m a few weeks in!) I find that I am being sought out by new mums-to-be who have exactly the same saying that I did: ‘I don’t know what to buy!!!’ It’s true. I had absolutely no idea where to start but was determined not to be one of the proud newby parents that bought the entire Mothercare catalogue only to find that only a fraction of it came in useful.
Actually I think we did pretty well. We trotted off to Kiddicare with the intention of buying a pram/pushchair/travel-system (more on that later) and a few other ‘essentials’. Aside from that we bought various other bits as and when we thought of them. Grandparents and close friends also bought some things for us before the birth and it was amazing how much we were given as presents after the birth. So with that in mind my guide to essential purchases is as follows:
My advice would be do some shop and internet research, speak to other parents and be observant when you’re out and about then make a list of your requirements so you don’t miss any out. I have dedicated a separate post to this subject as I found it to be the trickiest part of our shopping trip though don’t let that put you off! We eventually settled on a Britax travel system (4 wheels) and couldn’t be happier with it.
Sleep Baby Sleep
Initially I was not convinced about investing in a Moses Basket as I found a lot of people telling me that they had donated theirs to someone else as their child had only been in it for a few moths so it was nearly brand new. With that kind of endorsement I simply couldn’t see the point in having one. I then discussed it with a friend (Mother of two) who confirmed that babies aren’t in them for long but while they are they’re invaluable. Twelve weeks on I have to say I completely agree. You don’t have to break the bank to buy one – ours is the basic one with basic base from Mothercare – but they give you a lot more flexibility and freedom when your bundle of joy falls asleep on you and you’re desperate to get some lunch, go to the loo, make phone calls or just sleep! Our little one was sleeping in his until recently and still goes for naps in it downstairs. If anything I would consider buying two bases (depending on your living accomodation) ; one fixed one for the living room and one rocking one for the bedroom (for when baby won’t quite settle but a bit of rocking will soothe it without you having to move out of bed). With the basket don’t forget to get sheets (around four or five) though I have heard that pillowcases work just as well, and a couple of blankets/shawls suitable for wrapping around baby. Quilts and bumpers are not recommended for babies under one year. If you’re in a flat or the baby usually sleeps in a room close to your living room etc I wouldn’t have thought that a basket would be quite as useful since you won’t be that far away from your sleeping baby at any time.
For when baby got big we invested (hopefully wisely) in a cot bed. Again we went for a pretty basic model and so far it seems to be suiting its purpose well. Our logic was one of saving money and storage space (no need to store a cot separately in case of having further babies). This is another unknown where we’ll have to see how it goes when we get there. One feature of the cot we’ve chosen is that the bed height is adjustable – high up until the baby can sit up, then it can be lowered down. Having had an unplanned cesarean I know that bending down to pick the baby up would have been a nightmare, especially as I’m not very tall. We’ve also found that he often wakes up as you lower him into his moses basket so having something at a similar height gives you the option of holding baby still for a few seconds before gently placing him in the cot. In terms of bedding we did splash out on a quilt and bumper set but, as previously mentioned these aren’t recommended before the baby is twelve months old. All you really need is bed sheets and blankets as mentioned before.
Eat Baby Eat
Bottle starter set, microwave steriliser, breast pump, spare storage pots and a pack of extra bottles. Obviously this depends on what your intentions are when it comes to feeding. My plan had been to breast feed but also express milk to give me a little more freedom and allow others to be involved in nursing our baby. I have been very lucky that this has all worked out as I planned. Some people plan to exclusively breast feed but want the bottles and steriliser just in case this doesn’t work and there’s a last minute dash for formula. Others feel this is setting yourself up to fail and you will turn to this at the first hint of difficulty. The choice is yours though don’t panic too much as most supermarkets carry the above items and if you’re in hospital they should help you with the breastfeeding before you leave.
Clean and Lovely
We have simply got baby sponges, a support chair for the bath, and grapeseed oil. We were advised by the midwife not to use any other products for at least six months as they have been linked to childhood eczema. As I suffered with this as a child I’m keen to try anything that will avoid my son having to suffer it too. You’ll find the grapeseed oil along with all other cooking oils in the supermarket. I also use it on my own skin and find it works well for baby and me 🙂
Time to Change
For nappy and clothing changes we have… baby wipes, cotton wool, pot for water, nappy sacks, nappies (pampers), and nappy rash cream (drapolene). We also have various boxes and baskets but I’ll explain our system in a separate post. In addition to this we have two changing mats (one upstairs and one downstairs) and a changing table (not essential but very useful at night when you’re trying to minimise disruption). When it comes to nappies we were advised to stock up whenever you see a promotion. The problem with this is that you may find that you’ve stocked up on a brand that does not work for you and your baby. I’m not willing to name the brand we had that didn’t work as I think that different ones work for different people. For this reason I would say you should listen to recommendations but make up your own mind. I would suggest buying a few packs of whichever brand you choose (or maybe a few different brands) then seeing what works for you. I was concerned about buying newborn nappies then having either a really tiny or really big baby. As far as that goes I wouldn’t worry. Most first size nappies will suit both situations even if it’s only for a short time.
All Dressed Up
Clothing is relatively simple in the early days. My personal recommendation would be to get around five to eight short sleeved baby grows/sleep suits, another five long sleeved/cosy sleep suits (depending on the season), around five pairs of matching plain white socks, five sets of matching scratch mits, and two or three hats. This may sound quite minimal but we were astounded by how much we were given. We also found that many people but newborn clothes but just as many bought 3-6 months meaning that we actually don’t need to buy anything new for some time. I have found that I’ve bought a few separate items – trousers, jackets etc but that’s purely in response to the changing weather and different activities and isn’t something to worry about in the early days. If you’re like us you’ll also be unable to resist various cute outfits you see while you’re pregnant, and why not? It’s lovely to get these then see your little one in them a few months later.
Elf and Beauty…. All we have is a baby thermometer – suitable for holding under baby’s arm (familiarise yourself with how to use it before you need it and make sure you know where you’ve put it!), a thermometer for use in the bath as well as generally in a room, and baby nail clippers (be careful not to clip babies skin (though I have done it and know very few parents that haven’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it). Check with your Doctor but generally speaking paracetamol will be the only painkiller you can take whilst pregnant and breastfeeding. I also understand that you shouldn’t use any medicines on babies younger than eight weeks old and then after that some kind of infant paracetamol based product is allowed, carefully following the doses. Obviously don’t take my word for it and make sure you seek medical advice before giving your baby anything.
Peace of Mind
We bought an all singing, all dancing baby monitor (Angelcare) that detects movement, temperature, sound, etc… For a long time aside from deciphering the instructions it has remained in the box. That is obviously a matter of choice but since our little one spent the first few weeks of his life always in a room with us it’s not something we immediately felt the need for. We have very recently started putting him alone upstairs to sleep on his own at bedtime. We haven’t attached the movement sensor (he tends to lay so still that I imagine the alarm would be going off every few minutes), and the temperature alarm kept going off as the room was a couple of degrees above the recommended temperature. We ended up switching off the alarm and we are now only using it to listen in and to view the temperature on the display. We still check on him regularly and I can’t imagine that would change even if we were using all the other sensors. This is the only thing I think we got carried away on so I would advise you think carefully before you start spending a fortune on these.
The Icky Stuff
The things they don’t tell you about…. Having a baby is a messy experience and your body goes through a lot and has to make a lot of adaptions. Following the birth you will need maternity sanitary towels. Buy several packs as you could be using them for a few weeks. As I am breastfeeding I am on my third box of bra pads (I don’t know how much you will need them if you don’t breast feed as I believe your milk supply will stop without the demand). I also found a lanolin nipple cream essential in the first few days though don’t use it regularly now (though it does help to get baby to latch on if your breasts are full). Also invest in some baggy/comfy trousers that sit on the waist(particularly if you have a caesarean) and some comfy knickers (thongs and low cut ones are no good after a caesarean. I found that paper pants and my partners boxer shorts were the most comfortable thing to wear. Although my birthing plan went out of the window I had planned for a water birth at home and was advised to buy a sieve (to keep the water free of unwanted additions). I was also advised to buy a jug to use in the bathroom to pour warm water over sore stitches while you wee. Other useful recommendations for the birth were: lip balm and drinking straws. The logic/experience behind this was that gas and air, hospital atmospheres, and panting/breathing heavily can all cause your lips to become very dry. It is also helpful to have someone hold a drink for you whether through a contraction or because you have restricted movement due to an epidural and/or caesarean. My midwife strongly recommended having energy tablets rather than energy drinks, and having snacks on hand to maintain energy levels. (Don’t forget your birthing partner’s when planning these.) I’d bought oat cakes and cereal bars which I think would have been excellent if they’d made it to the hospital with me! All, including the energy tablets, have come in very useful since we came home from the hospital though 🙂
Out and About
My only other real essential is a changing bag. I was lucky enough to have a group of friends who bought me one collectively. As well as the main sections in the bag this one has a changing mat, dummy holder, and thermal bag for bottles, all of which clip to the outside for ease of access. It’s full to the brim with everything we might need when we’re out and about but any kind of bag will do exactly the same and I am increasingly finding that chucking a couple of baby grows, two nappies, a small pack of wipes (free from my Bounty pack) and some nappy sacks into a medium sized washbag in my own bag serves just as well for most outings. I often take the thermal bag and changing mat too and if you need either they can be bought in different colours, shapes and sizes from many places. I’ve recently added a small purse with a spare bank card and a small amount of money to my changing bag in case of emergencies… Since becoming a Mother I’ve become the Mistress of What If’s…!
So that’s it. It’s natural to want to be as prepared as possible but don’t get bogged down in endless possibilities and spending a fortune. There’s plenty of time and scope for spending when your baby has arrived and you have worked out exactly what you need.