One thing I’m most looking forward to this year is the birth of my new nephew in the spring. I’m delighted and rather relieved that my noisy brood hasn’t put my brother and sister-in-law off having children entirely.
Now that the scans are out of the way, and with the January sales in full swing, they’ve been asking me what they need to get before the baby arrives. When I was contemplating the same thing before the birth of Little Boy, I remember someone saying ‘babies don’t really need anything’. Not the most helpful of answers. While it’s true that they don’t emerge from the uterus demanding the latest iPad or a new scooter, there are certain bits and pieces that they (or their parents) really do need. Some, like nappies, are essential. Others, like a sling, are nice to have and may make life easier. Anyway, I’ve put together a list of what I think are the most important things for the first few weeks. I hope it’s helpful for my brother and anyone else contemplating what to buy for their new arrival.
It’s always difficult to know when is the best time to start stocking up. One friend was stockpiling baby wipes from the 12-week scan onwards (not realizing that they’re pretty much always on special offer), while another didn’t buy anything until she was on maternity leave. Personally I waited until I was about 32 weeks before buying anything. I didn’t buy clothes until much closer to the time, always wary of tempting fate. Bear in mind, however, that some of the more desirable buggies have a waiting list so that might need to be an early purchase.
If you don’t get around to it, or the baby arrives early, don’t panic. As my NCT teacher said, the shops are always open. I’ve made many an Amazon purchase during a night feed. That said, I’d still recommend buying before the baby arrives. I had to send OH out to buy a nappy bin when the baby was a couple of days old and I was anxious the entire time he was away (ridiculous now I look back on it, but I blame the hormones). So you may want to get the main bits bought in advance so that you can concentrate on your lovely newborn instead.
Another thing to consider is whether to choose colours that are gender neutral or boy/girl specific. Going neutral might be boring but you’ll be grateful if you go on to have a baby of the opposite sex. I’d also suggest buying the best you can afford, within reason. You’re less likely to have to replace things and you should get a decent re-sale price on Ebay if you want to sell on at some point.
Here’s my list of essentials. Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything.
- Nappies – Disposable or reusable, and just a couple of packs to start with as you don’t know how big the baby will be.
- Nappy bin – if you think you need one. Some people put nappies straight in the bin outside. The main things to consider with a nappy bin are whether it will keep the smell out and how often you’ll need to change it. We have a very simple Angelcare one that does the job okay, though needs changing more often than I’d like. If you buy a bin that needs special bags, get plenty of refills.
- Sudocrem/other nappy balm – for nappy rash and other mild skin problems. Worth getting a tub, though you may not need it (my little ones have rarely used it, but it’s been worth having for the odd occasion).
- Baby wipes – always on offer so no need to go mad. You’ll be using cotton wool and water for the first few days/weeks so you’ve got time to buy these.
- Cotton wool – for those first few days/weeks of nappy changing, bathing and so on. Balls and decent sized pads are easier than the tear-off stuff that leaves white bits everywhere. Handy for getting rid of your mascara, too, should you be disguising your fatigue with make-up.
- Changing mat – we’ve got one that’s wedge-shaped so that the baby won’t roll off it easily, but they’re much of a muchness really. Just get the one you like.
- Babygros – a selection of long and short-sleeved ones and some sleepsuits. Buy more than you think you’ll need as explosive nappies mean regular costume changes. Lots of shops sell handy packs of five in different designs.
- Hats – essential for in the hospital and, once you’re home, for trips outside.
- Cardigans – a useful second layer.
- Other clothes – depending on your approach, your baby may live in babygros for its first few months or will be catwalk-ready from day one. Again, just buy what you like but bear in mind that you want things that will wash well and hide stains (or maybe that’s just me).
- Blankets – a couple of cellular blankets and/or swaddling blankets for the first couple of weeks.
- Sleeping bags – I love baby sleeping bags because I don’t need to worry about blankets migrating over the baby’s head during the night. Buy a couple in the right tog for the season. You’ll need a spare for those inevitable soggy bottom moments.
- Moses basket (plus mattress and sheets) – it depends on your set-up at home, but I found a moses basket invaluable. It’s only good for the first few weeks until the baby gets too big, but it’s portable and cosy in the way a cot isn’t.
- Cot (plus mattress and sheets) – for when the baby is too big for the moses basket. If you get one that turns into a little bed, you’ll get better value for money.
- Monitor – there are tons of types of monitor on the market, from simple listening devices to video monitors. We have a monitor with a movement pad that sets off an alarm if it hasn’t detected movement for 20 seconds. I absolutely love it because I’m paranoid in those first few weeks and it means I can relax and get a bit of sleep instead of staying awake to check the baby is breathing.
- Room thermometer – you’d be surprised at how cool the recommended 18 degrees is. I’d recommend a room thermometer so you can check it’s not too warm or cold. Very simple ones are fine – some baby sleeping bags come with a free one.
- Baby bath – if you think you’ll need one. We managed without one for Little Boy (used the sink initially and then he had baths with me in the big bath) but we have one now for the baby and it’s great.
- Baby towel – not sure about these, really. They’re cute but the baby will be too big for them very quickly. I prefer a big cosy adult towel.
- Baby sponge – a couple. One for the bath, another for washing their hair/face over the sink.
- Baby shampoo/soap
- Bath thermometer – unless you can guess whether the water is just right. I still prefer to double check with the thermometer (which was a couple of quid and is very simple).
- Bottles – a few, even if you think you’ll breastfeed, just in case.
- Sterilizer – we’ve tried a couple and found a microwave one easiest and most efficient.
- Breast pump – if breastfeeding. I much prefer manual to electric as it’s gentler, faster and quieter.
- Lansinoh or other nipple balm – if breastfeeding. Lots of women are evangelical about Lansinoh for cracked/bleeding nipples but I confess I’ve not tried it.
- Cushion – I’ve tried a specialist breastfeeding cushion and hated it, but some people swear by them. I’d recommend that you see how you get on before buying.
Out and about
- Buggy – things to consider: will it fit in the car? Is it easy to collapse? Will you have another baby and if so, should you get one that will convert into a double? Will it travel well? Will it work in town/in the country?
- Car seat – consider whether it’s compatible with the buggy if that’s important to you.
- Sling – it’s not for everyone, but was a lifesaver for me. We’ve used a Baby Bjorn for both babies and it’s brilliant for short trips when you don’t want to take the buggy. Also good if you want to do chores around the house but the baby is refusing to be put down.
- Changing bag – an entire industry has grown up around ‘something to put the nappies and a few wipes etc in’. Choose from the Boots freebie or a luxe leather version at a few hundred quid or anything in between. I have a fairly fancy one that I’m ashamed to say is gathering dust. Everything has ended up in a John Lewis canvas bag which is much easier to use and store under the buggy. In hindsight I think fancy ones are a bit of a waste of money.
- Baby on Board sign for the car – I used to think these were the epitome of smug (‘check us out – we’re fertile!’) but apparently they’re to tell the emergency services which car to prioritise in the event of a crash. I couldn’t argue with that, so we’ve got one. If you really want to buy one saying ‘Daddy’s little princess on board’, be my guest but expect your friends to laugh at you when behind your back.
- Thermometer – we have several of these that we’ve panic bought at various points. We’ve got ear thermometers, normal adult ones and forehead strips. Whichever we use, the baby wriggles so much that it’s almost impossible to get an accurate reading. But at least we feel better for trying.
- Calpol (after the first 2 months) – have some on standby so you’re not having to queue for the pharmacy to open after a long night with a feverish baby.
- Baby scissors – because babies’ nails are sharper than a sleep-deprived mother’s tongue.
- Thank you cards – for when you have time to thank people for their gifts. I’d also recommend writing down what they’ve bought as your short-term memory is likely to be, um, compromised. Failing that, a generic ‘thank you for the lovely/thoughtful gift’ should suffice.
- Play mat – because at some point you will need to put the baby down, and you’ll feel less bad if they’re not just staring at the wall.
*Not a sponsored post, in case you were wondering.