This is an epic post as an update to the one I wrote before Bea arrived. There’s a lot of information around on what you NEED for a baby and I thought it would be useful to document with what we managed with. These are the things we had and actually used for the first 6 weeks. Bookmark it for the future and if you are already a mum and can add an essential that you found invaluable (because this is what worked for us and I fully acknowledge everyone is different,) please do add it in the comments. I have linked to products we used and discussed what and why below.
Sleepsuits x 12 (2 x NEXT first size, 7 x JL/M&S newborn, 3 x NEXT 0-1m)
Short sleeve vests x 7 (H&M baby, George at ASDA, GAP)
For hospital: Hat for first 24h, optional scratch mitts.
Blankets: 1 for the pram, 1 for car seat, 1 for around the house. (But you could easily have the same one for all of these.)
This really depends on what kind of person you are but if you were looking to save money you could make do with just a wrap sling. We also had the Ergobaby but this was invaluable and I would say should be a pre-baby purchase for all parents to be as it’s so useful around the house too. Don’t forget sheets for your pram (we did,) or we use giant muslins doubled over and tucked in like a sheet (as I still haven’t got around to buying more fitted sheets!)
A changing bag could be seen as a luxury but I love our Pacapod and it makes life so easy leaving the house when it is ready packed. I just empty and top it up when nappies have been used or clothes changed in the evening and when we need to go out we just pick it up and go.
We also found as soon as we were taking Bea out and about in the car we wanted a mirror to be able to check on her from the front seat while on the move. This one doubles as a seat back iPad holder for later!
We didn’t bath Bea for 2 weeks (top and tailed instead,) and the first time we did was in the sink but I felt it was very hard for her to be lying in and as a result we have used the IKEA baby bath since, which she loves kicking around in. She has also been in the bath with me so you don’t ‘need’ a special bath, it’s just a preference. Also, you can use a baby bath anywhere (kitchen worktops, floor, the warmest room etc,) and we fill ours pretty deep to keep her warm and let her kick around, which would take a lot more water in the big bath. We forgot to buy baby wash stuff or a sponge which you obviously need, although you could use a soft flannel if you have one. Equally, you don’t ‘need’ a special baby towel but I included it here because I like the little hood on them that keeps their head warm as soon as they come out of the bath. Scissors or nail clippers are a must to avoid scratched faces! (We didn’t bother with scratch mitts as she didn’t need them but she did cut her face a couple of times grabbing her face until the nails were dealt with.) We also have a bath thermometer which I don’t feel I need to use but Pete much prefers to, so that’s an individual preference too.
You don’t need a changing mat but you do need something waterproof to put baby on to change them in case of sneaky wee’s when the nappy is off or nappy explosions! We opted for cotton wool pads to prevent cotton wool fluff getting in all the creases and WaterWipes were a saviour when out and about as they don’t irritate sensitive newborn bottoms yet make life super easy.
We keep Bea in sleepsuits most of the time. As she was a summer baby we also used to dress her in bubble or romper suits a lot because it was hot and I thought they were super cute She was 6lb 5oz when she was born, and even the tiny baby stuff was big on her. By 6 weeks she had grown out of those but she is still comfortably wearing her newborn and 0-1m size baby stuff and 0-3 is still drowning her (at her current weight of 9lbs). We had more sleepsuits than vests as we didn’t always use them, plus initially we needed to change her outer layer more often than the vest. You will probably need equal numbers for a baby at any other time of year though. As I said, we didn’t use scratch mitts, booties or socks as her feet were covered (all sleepsuits seems to have built in scratch mitts now too.) We used a hat in hospital for the first 24 hours only then it was too hot. It’s a little known fact (I think) that babies thermoregulate to the external temperature after 48 hours so don’t need to be wrapped in a million layers, plus not allowing them to overheat is part of the safe sleep guidance.
We had a lot of blankets as we bought 2, and were given some too. I love our aden + anais swaddle blanket which we don’t use for swaddling (although we could) but made a perfect blanket when it was warmer and we now use on the car seat. I prefer having a few as we spread them out on the floor to put her down and it saves hunting for ‘the blanket’ when you’re going out if there is always one ready.
For sleeping we use our Grobag Swaddle every night. We swaddle Bea under the arms as she doesn’t like having them tucked in and she kicks her legs free every night but it stays on her body and better than a blanket. At other times (when the swaddle is in the wash) we use a single cellular blanket doubled over and tucked in on all three sides. At almost 9 weeks, think we will be graduating to a Grobag at 3 months as she is almost getting too long for the swaddle.
One of my best discoveries has been Pampers Changemats (you can buy these in many forms, these are just the ones we picked up.) We kept having to wash our crib mattress cover (that zips off) along with the bedding as Bea would be a little bit sick in the night and we would find it wet. It was quite thick and took ages to dry so couldn’t be done in a day but then I found these lifesavers. Now we have them on the crib mattress and the pram and it means if she is sick we just change the sheet which is so much easier to dry quickly and replace.
I was told Lansinoh Breast pads were the best so bought them, but found out for myself when I forgot some on a trip home and had to buy Tesco’s own. It’s hard to explain the difference but I guess it’s the difference between an old fashioned or cheap sanitary towel and Always! They are more absorbent, don’t leak, stay put and keep you dry. Don’t bother with anything else! I had 2 tubes of Lansinoh cream and was very lucky in that I didn’t have any soreness so only used the cream after every feed for about 2 weeks, then morning and evening thereafter until about 2 weeks ago. Now I don’t use it at all and for that amount of use I’ve only gone through 1 tube, but I liked having one to hand in my BF box and one upstairs with the fresh pads.
I have put muslins in this category as I use them to tuck under my boob (between my folded down bra and skin) to catch dribbles and squirts when feeding. Realistically however you can use them for so many things – burp cloths, swaddles, blankets, to wipe up with… and my favourite use is in the cot or pram folded in half and tucked in across the head area, again to keep the sheet clean and swiftly/easily change instead of the whole sheet coming off. We only have 11 which has surprised some people but they drive me mad being all over the house so I have a system of replacing them daily (different patterns help to differentiate with this!) and keeping one on the bed upstairs and one with me downstairs, then one clean one in the changing bag although I often grab the one I have and take that out too. I find I’m washing that often that this is just enough, but I could easily use another 5, particularly when you have a day that burns through them with leaks and sick etc! The ALDI ones are actually softer but nothing beats aden + anais.
I haven’t expressed yet as I haven’t wanted or needed to and we didn’t buy a pump or bottles, and I can’t comment on the requirements for bottle feeding as obviously I have no experience of it!
Lastly, there’s you to think about in those first few weeks too! I think it’s really tough planning what you will need as you don’t know how you will feel or what kind of delivery you will have. These are the things you will definitely need though. Big knickers are a must – probably labelled ‘full briefs’ I bought 8 pairs, 4 black and 4 patterned from Primark. You will need them if you end up with a C-section but you also need them for the giant maternity pads as they simply don’t fit normal knickers. Speaking of maternity pads, they’re not glamorous but they sure do work. They are extremely absorbent and without going into too much detail, I found when I really needed them they worked brilliantly, despite my skepticism and with no leakage despite their lack of ‘wings’. I bought Boots own.
In the day time, initially I lived in H&M mama or normal vests which I pulled down to feed in. Use a muslin to cover the top half of your boob and chest if you feel self conscious. You do need to give some thought to feeding at night though – I have been through a a variety of things – specially designed nursing nighties, stretchy nighties to pull down, crop top sports bra’s and just my normal nursing bra. My Boobs are still huge, and as a result the biggest problem I’ve had is keeping my boobs in place inside the bra (as I lie on my side,) so the pad can prevent leaking. The best thing for this has been my normal bra’s and a soft sports bra I have from Primark. I did buy their crop top style bra’s but they were far too small even in the large (I’m about a 34E currently.) On colder nights now I’m using low cut jersey tops pulled down over my usual bra. In the winter I imagine I’ll keep a cardigan to hand to throw over my shoulders or feed lying down.
I also added a baby thermometer here for 2 reasons. Number one, as a GP it drives me mad when people say their child is feverish or has a temperature when they haven’t actually checked it. Children feeling hot and having a temperature are 2 different things – a baby can feel hot but not have a temperature and vice versa so it’s worth being able to tell unequivocally one way or the other. Secondly, if you are nervous they are too hot (and I have even done this,) when you check their temperature it will give you instant peace of mind, or conversely alert you that they need medical attention.
As a last note, the absolute best thing you can give new parents is food. Bake a cake or take food with you to visit and don’t expect to eat it with them or bring things that still need cooking other than just shoving in the oven. Lasagna, cannelloni, shepards pie or similar are perfect. Think carby all-in-one meals that need minimum effort and perhaps consider avoiding spicy things – I haven’t had problems with Bea but some people feel spicy foods affect their breast milk and hence the baby’s digestive system too. I promise, nothing will be better received than a meal!
Please do add any essentials that you couldn’t have lived without if I haven’t included it here!