When I had my first baby, I had so much stuff, some I used, some I didn’t, some I had just because someone had mentioned it to me, a lot I got for free but hadn’t researched thoroughly before accepting it and used once before realising it wasn’t right for us. I am fed up with unnecessary stuff cluttering our tiny London flat, and seeing as I flip flop between being a bit of a hoarder and a strict minimalist who wants clear surfaces and no clutter (when does that ever happen anyway?!), I tend to try to lean towards the minimalist side just so that we don’t drown in all the stuff! The picture on the left is the dream. The one on the right is more like the reality. Sigh.
So, what do you actually need? Here’s a list of the things that I think are absolutely essential when you have a newborn around the place.
- Somewhere for them to sleep – when they’re really little it doesn’t really matter about having the best, most beautiful cotbed that will last for years and take up half of your bedroom. They’re so tiny that they will look ridiculous in such a big bed, and you’ll ruin your back leaning in and out of it to pick them up for the millionth time in the night. A Moses basket is great for the daytime, and I would say night time too, but my hubby warns me that the instructions do say not for overnight sleeping. So, to be safe, I will recommend either a small, space saving cot (like this one), or a bed nest thing like a SnuzPod that means you can sleep right next to your new bubba and still have your own space. I wish we’d had one right from the start, we had Teddy Bear in our bed a lot at the beginning and we had him in the middle, between us. We had to move our pillows so far to the edges that we didn’t have much room left and if we wriggled too much our pillows would end up on the floor. When your baby is actually sleeping, you want to be able to sleep too!
- Nappies – definitely an essential item! They don’t need to cost the earth, and first time mums can be easy targets for the big brands. They are good, but the cheaper ones are just as good, if not better. Also, babies have different shaped bodies and bottoms (who knew!), so nappies that suit some will not suit others. The ones we have found work amazingly for us and lots of our friends, are the Asda Little Angels nappies, which are cheap, very good quality, and you can buy in bulk. They often have offers on too, bonus! But our favourite brand is definitely Aldi’s Mamia nappies. They are actually cheaper than Asda, but are better (we think so anyway – less poo-splosions).
- Good quality wipes – now, while you can get away with cheap nappies, you can’t get away with cheap wipes. Such a bummer (pun intended!). Always go for well known brands, especially at the beginning once cotton wool and water gets too tedious for you, when it’s a lot easier to avoid nappy rash altogether and prevent it, than treating a very sore, red little bottom that makes everyone unhappy. They’re often on offer too, so shop around if you’re after a bargain!
- A bag full of snacks – this is for you. Don’t let anyone else take anything from your snack bag. If you are breastfeeding this is essential. Night time feeds are a killer without a litre bottle of water and the snack bag on hand. Fill it with nice things like Nature Valley Oat Bars and mini bags of crisps or nuts, to get you through the hungry midnight hours. And make sure you send your partner a list of supplies to bring home from work to replenish it when it’s getting low.
- Muslins. A lot of muslins. – not every baby is a sicky baby, but believe me, it will happen at some point, probably when you’re least expecting it. You will suddenly hear the sound you will come to dread, and that will make you run for the stack of muslins that you will end up having in every room of the house. There will be a lot of milky sick and spit-up, and you will be very thankful for the 20 or so little cloths that soak it up, wipe it up, catch it, and save furniture and clothes from little white stains. And they do it so well.
Some kind of mat for them to lie on – something comfy for them, especially if you don’t have a carpet, and preferably with toys that hang over the top. Our first and second absolutely lived on the play-gym we got, they were happy to lie on it for 30 minutes at a time, just looking at everything and eventually batting things around.
- A comfortable backpack – don’t bother with a really expensive, pretty changing bag. Chances are it’ll be really heavy, and won’t be as useful as you think it will be. A backpack is more practical. You can hang it on a buggy with a clip, and is a lot easier to carry around with you if you’re using a sling, believe me! I’d recommend getting (or even making) a couple of pouches big enough for nappies, wipes, muslins and spare clothes, all different colours or patterns. Then in an emergency situation you’ll just need to reach in and grab the appropriate pouches and go, rather than having to rifle through your bag like you do for your keys.
- Baby appropriate suncream – just essential, non-negotiable.
- Audio books – for the first few months of Archie Bear’s life, I would be sat up feeding him in the night trying desperately not to fall asleep. But when the little monkey feeds for an hour at a time, it’s hard to stay with it. Audio books to the rescue! You will also be spending a lot of time walking around with the sling on or pushing a buggy around (if you’re anything like me!), and listening to a book really kept me sane and happy to just keep plodding around. For a couple of years now my Christmas present has been a yearly subscription to Audible. I get 1 new book a month, and my rules are nothing under about 8/9 hours long, and nothing depressing or gruesome. I reckon I’ve listened to all the Harry Potters at least 5 times.
- A lesson in breastfeeding (if you’re planning to feed) – I had a breastfeeding lesson from a friend who was training to be a lactation consultant, and if I had to put this whole list in order of most essential, this one would be at the top. I said to her afterwards, I could have done without a cot, but I couldn’t have done it without that lesson. Whether it is through an NCT course, or an independent class, please, please consider this. I know it might sound crazy, how hard can it be right?? But I can tell you now, when it hurts, it really hurts, and will keep hurting until things get sorted. It’s not worth having bleeding nipples and a hungry baby who wants to feed every 20 minutes (which is totally normal by the way), not for anything. So swallow your embarrassment and pride and go talk about nipples, latch, boobs and let-down!
- Something for them to wear – obviously. But there are so, SO many little tiny outfits out there, which do you choose?? Here’s what I recommend you have before your baby comes along;
- 6-8 vests (all in ones without legs, with long or short arms, dependent on season and weather)
- 6-8 sleepsuits (all in ones with sleeves and legs)
- 6-8 bibs (try to find ones with a waterproof layer in them, there’s not much use to a bib that soaks through in about 3 minutes and makes their clothing wet and clammy)
- 1-2 hats (you will only really need the teeny tiny baby hats for the hospital and any trips outside. Once you’re home you shouldn’t have your baby in a hat indoors)
- 1 pramsuit (again, the type will depend on the season and weather, but it’s also a good idea to get a thin one if you’re going to have them in a sling, so they don’t overheat no matter what the weather)
- Sleep bras & breast pads – you will need to wear a bra in bed, otherwise you will wake up in a milky puddle.
- Miriam Stoppard breastfeeding bras – these genius bras are just amazing. I cannot recommend them enough. They have a bit of material that sits over the top part of your boob, even when your baby is feeding, so you’re never actually getting your entire boob out in public. Changed my world. Seriously. You can actually get this style of bras in other shops now too, H&M stock them, go there, and make sure you get the right size.
- A baby bath – we got a folding one, so it didn’t take up too much space and we could put it on a table so we didn’t kill our backs leaning over the bath every night.
- Vacuum pack bags – if you are planning on keeping baby clothes as they are outgrown, or your old maternity clothes, you need some vacuum bags. When all your drawers, cupboards and suitcases are all full of tiny baby clothes, all squished into old plastic bags with no recognisable labelling system, you’ll understand. Always put a list of what’s in the bag on the inside so you can see at a glance what’s there.
Things that are NOT absolutely essential;
- a bouncer
- a nursing chair
- a nursing pillow
- a monitor – this will depend on whether you plan to have your baby sleep in a different room to you, and whether you can hear them from whichever room they are in. You might not need one for the first few months, then you can ask around other mum friends to see which is the best for you, and maybe wait for a sale to buy the one you want if it’s expensive.
- the best, biggest, highchair ever – they won’t need it for months and you will end up wishing you’d got a different one when you finally do get round to using it. Don’t waste the space on it until you need it. By then you’ll have seen lots more options of style, size and budget, and will know more the kind of thing you’re after and will fit into your home and into your family!
- lots of toys – such a waste of space, especially when they’re so little, and you will more likely than not get given more than you’d buy for them anyway. Have a couple of really nice ones that mean a lot to you, and wait to see what they like to play with before you get them more toys.
- a changing table – a mat on the floor works really well, and they can’t fall off the floor!
- baby towels – they’re normal towels but with a hood.
buggy – unless you’ve had a c-section and can’t use a sling. I know this is a pretty radical thing to say, but if you don’t have space for it, you really don’t need one. The first few months will fly by in a sling, and you’ll feel a lot more confident out and about with them close to you, rather than having to negotiate a big buggy onto buses, up and down stairs, and in and out of the boot of a car.
- bottles & formula – don’t spend a lot of money on things you don’t know if you’ll need. If you’re planning to breastfeed and ask for help if you need it, you shouldn’t need any bottles or formula at all. If you do end up needing them, make sure you do your research, ask around for information and advice about which to buy.
- a fancy changing bag – see backpack above.
- fancy nursing clothes – whilst a good nursing bra is essential, you can get by incredibly easily without buying expensive nursing dresses and tops. All you need are stretchy vest tops, a ton of shirt dresses, a or two dress you can easily stretch down over a boob, cardigans, and tops you can pull up (best to wear a vest top underneath those, unless you have abs like Gisele Bundchen right after giving birth).
Hopefully this has been a useful post for you, even if you’ve just scrolled through and taken in the bare minimum! Enjoy your new baby, here’s my favourite card to send to a new mum.