I read so many lists of "must have" items and spent a lot of time puzzling over cot bumpers, nappy bins and baby monitors online, wondering whether we actually needed them (no, no and that really depends on the size of your house but, in our case, no).
Even things which seemed like they should be straightforward turned out to be confusing. Sleepsuits, babygrows and rompers are all the same thing but it took a bit of research on parenting forums to convince me of this. And how many of the whatever-you-choose-to-call-thems was the baby actually going to require?
So, in the hopes of saving somebody else a lot of head scratching, here is my rundown of what you absolutely need and what it's really nice to have for your first few months with a newborn:
You Will Need
These are the absolute find-money-in-your-budget essentials:
- Somewhere for her to sleep (cot, crib, moses basket or co-sleeping). Bear in mind that she will need to sleep around the clock so you may want beds in a couple of rooms; alternatively, you can buy something portable like a moses basket but do be prepared for her to grow out of it quickly!
Two sets of bedding (either sheets and a cellular/knitted blanket or a flat sheet and a grobag).
- Somewhere to wash her (sink, appropriately sized plastic basin, baby bath or in the bath with you) and some small flannels (we use Cheeky Wipes as they're an ideal size for babies). Hooded baby towels are useful but you can use normal towels instead. Small babies don't need toiletries - water is enough.
- Some means of transporting her (pram, baby carrier and/or sling). We find a carrier or sling useful for shopping as it leaves our hands free for other things; we find the pram useful for meeting friends as it's somewhere for Matilda to sleep while we drink dangerously hot cups of tea. The pram is also more convenient in bad weather. If you can afford both, I would recommend it.
If your baby will be travelling by car, you must have a car seat.
- Something to carry nappies etc around in (almost any large bag with lots of pockets will do - a specialist changing bag is not essential).
- Clothes (10-12 vests, 10-12 babygrows, a couple of hats plus a few cardigans, a pramsuit and/or a snowsuit, depending on the time of year). You don't need shoes or booties. If you want to use scratch mitts, buy babygrows which have them built in. You only need socks when you start dressing your baby in "proper" clothes which, personally, I wouldn't bother with for at least the first month. Clothes don't have to be expensive - the best clothes Matilda had were from Sainsbury's multipacks.
Sizing is guesswork until the baby's born. We mostly bought 0-3 month clothes; they were comically large for the first couple of weeks but, as newborns don't crawl or walk, floppy clothes are not a problem!
- Nappies (plan to get through 10-12 per day in the first few months), lots of cotton wool pads to wipe/dry her with, baby wipes for cleaning up solids or for when you're out and about, and something for her to lie on while you change her (a changing mat or a muslin on a soft, flat, wipeable surface). Nappy sacks are optional but useful. You do not need a special changing unit - a table, chest of drawers or the floor will do.
- A lot of muslins. These can be used to wipe up sick, as makeshift bibs, for her to lie on and about a billion other uses. You will need them. I bought twelve and we received at least twenty more as gifts - in the early weeks, we regularly got to the bottom of the pile.
- If you are intending to bottle feed, 6-10 bottles with size one teats (the teats should be changed monthly as your baby grows) and a steriliser. Tubs of powdered first milk - we get through about one a week; there's not much difference between brands. Also, for getting out and about, you can buy little bottles of premixed milk or sterilise small tubs for transporting the powder in.
If you are intending to breastfeed, it's useful to have a few bottles and a steriliser to hand in case things don't go to plan or in anticipation of expressing milk later on. You will also need nipple pads - either lots and lots of disposable ones or enough washable ones to tide you over between laundry days.
Either way, get some nipple cream. If you're breastfeeding, it's great for its intended purpose; if you're bottle feeding, you'll be washing a lot of dishes and it's the only thing I've founded which sorts my chapped knuckles.
- Somewhere for her to play and learn. This doesn't have to be a super-fancy playmat but you do need somewhere safe for her to lie down, waggle her limbs around and look at the world. Your baby won't show much interest in toys for the first couple of months but will like having high contrast items nearby to gaze at.
A note about planning ahead: It's a great idea to buy larger sized baby clothes in the sales but, in my experience, people tend to give new babies size 3-6 month clothes as gifts. Spend your own money on larger sizes.
Our Best Investments
Some things which are not absolutely essential but which have made our lives much easier:
- A bouncer chair. It wasn't until Matilda was five weeks old that she could sit in this comfortably (and she'll have grown out of it soon) but it allows me to sit her down somewhere where she can see me when I need my hands free.
- Tiny Love rocker-napper. We bought this as somewhere for Matilda to sleep during the day but it will convert into a seat when she's too big for her bouncer.
- Microwave steriliser bags. Pop a bottle in a bag and sterilise it quickly and easily - we bought a pack of five and each can be used twenty times. They're handy for visiting people or for when we just want to sterilise one dummy. Speaking of which:
- Dummies. We were both opposed to dummies because, uh, they were considered The Root of All Evil when we were babies. Nowadays, the NHS recommends them. I'm not sure what made us try a dummy in the end but it made windy episodes bearable both for us and for Matilda.
- Playmat. It's nice to have somewhere specifically for Matilda. Ours isn't fancy but it does have an arch which we can hang toys/interesting items from.
- Gro-Light. This is so clever - you screw it into your ceiling light and it lets you choose whether you want a muted LED light or the full 100 watt glare of the normal bulb. Very helpful when you don't want the baby - or yourself - to fully wake up during night feeds.
- A sunshade for the pram and a sun tent for the garden. Babies under six months need to be kept out of the sun but, if you have a spring or summer baby, it just isn't practical to stay indoors on every single sunny day. Shades rated at SPF 50 are a great investment.
Save Your Money
The things we didn't need:
- Cot bumper. Apparently they're not very safe. But that's not why we didn't use it. We didn't use it because it didn't fit either the crib Matilda's sleeping in at the moment or her full size cot.
- Bath stand. We bought a baby bath - it was a great purchase. We also bought a special stand for it - this has never been used. When I was too achey to kneel down, we put the bath on the dining table; now, we put it in the shower tray. No need for a stand.
Parents - is there anything you would add or argue with?