Baby Essentials - What Do You Actually NEED?

by Jenny Lord

This post is my gift to you. There’s no bullshit, just what you really need for pregnancy and baby’s first year. There are infinite amounts of ‘stuff’ you can buy, but what you actually need is very little. Before I had children, I worked as a community Midwife, meaning I had a rare glimpse into people’s homes before and after their babies were born and saw all manner of gadgets, décor, and paraphernalia. I picked up what I thought was useful and thought I knew it all when I had my baby.

Haha hahaha.

Of course, I still had no clue when I had children, like all women before babies. Being a Midwife meant nothing. OK, next to nothing. At least I’d held a baby and changed a few nappies before and was aware of common breastfeeding issues. I still didn’t really know what you did with a baby all day after the first whirlwind few weeks. They cry a lot too, and seem pretty attached to you…

Anyway, three children and a hell of a lot more experience later and I am now the voice of an expert. Maybe. Trial and error is great, plus I’m a blogger and I have asked around, there are common themes when it comes to what you need, in our society anyway.

Right, nappies and wipes are a given. You’re going to need these. Lots. If people want to give you something, nappies and wipes are always useful. People want to buy you cute outfits, and they tend to get giant sizes like 3-6 months that sit in the wardrobe for ages whilst you look longingly at them and wish you had more cute babygrows and romper suits. If you’re expecting a baby over winter, long-sleeved vests are always hard to come buy so put those on the list.

Muslins

These used to mystify me. What do you use them for? Baby spit, dribble, vomit, bib, anti-sweat cloth, the list goes on. You used to only get them in white, now they’re all sorts of colours and patterns. Stock up on these. You can even use them as a blanket or swaddle blanket in summer.

Baby sling or carrier

Some might say they’re not essential, but I think so. Some babies don’t mind being put down and are amazing sleepers and never cry – I’ve never met one, but legend has it they exist. A sling has amazing calming properties and sleep dust, because shock horror, babies don’t like being away from their caregiver in case a lion drags them off or they get cut off from their food source. It’s survival 101. A baby sling will keep your hands free for phone browsing, maybe some light housework and to eat your breakfast. You don’t need an expensive one either, it just has to meet safety standards. Here’s some useful information on babywearing safely:

Some form of buggy, pram or pushchair and car seat

Hardcore baby wearers will say you don’t need one, but I personally still needed it. Especially when you go into town shopping, where else can you put your bags? I would often take the sling and if he wouldn’t settle in the buggy it was in the sling and pushing an empty buggy. I didn’t go to town much, especially after the third child. It became one of those magical alone outings I would do. What I would say, is that they all do the same job, and rather than go for an expensive brand name, think about handle comfort and height – is your partner really tall? Do the wheels go over the sort of terrain you frequent and swivel easily? If you don’t have a car, make sure the storage capacity is big enough for said shopping. Think carefully before getting one with a carrycot attachment, they hardly use it. I had one once and ended up using it in lieu of a Moses basket. All UK car seats have to conform to safety standards, but the more expensive ones have extra features. Check your buggy fits in your car for God’s sake.

Co-sleeper cot

Moses baskets are a bit of a waste of time in my eyes. I’ve had them before and the baby only fits for 2-3 months if that. If you use them at nighttime, you have to reach in to get them and try to settle them over a creaky basket thing. A better option nowadays is a sleepyhead or equivalent for daytime sleeps, then a co-sleeper cot for night time. These attach to your bed and are much easier for night feeds. They can also convert to a cot with sides. Remember, it’s recommended that your baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first 6 months to prevent SIDS.

The perfect prep machine

If you’re choosing to bottle feed, or can’t breastfeed, so many women extoll the virtues of the perfect prep machine. I’ve not tried it myself, but I’ve heard it’s a godsend. I breastfed my first 3 children for 5 months then switched to bottle feeding, but it wasn’t around then, and my last breastfed. It’s worth considering, but it’s not a necessity. Bottles and formula are expensive enough! If you’re bottle-feeding you will also need some form of steriliser, bottles, bottle brush, teats and formula. A flask comes in handy too.

A snoozeshade

You will become obsessed with sleep times, nap times and bedtimes. A tired baby is a grumpy baby and an overtired baby is a complete nightmare. If you’re out and about, often the movement in the car or buggy will lull them off to sleep (or the sling), but sometimes it’s not enough. During the summertime, if it’s hot, bright and uncomfortable, a snoozeshade (or equivalent) is a breathable cover for your buggy that blocks light and harmful UVA/UVB rays to your baby and allows them to sleep. Please don’t cover your pushchair or car seat with muslins or blankets, as it can increase the temperature rather than decrease it.

Are baby monitors essential?

Here’s one where you need to use your judgement. Essentially, they’re just fancy walkie talkies. If your house is small and you keep your baby close, do you really need one? When they cry, you hear them, and if you hear every snuffle and see every shuffle, you’ll drive yourself mad. You can get really fancy ones with video and everything. If you’re on a budget and you think you need one, get basic ones. Just remember to turn them off if you’re going to slag off visitors downstairs when you go get the baby. Remember, babies should be sleeping with or near you for the first 6 months, so no need to banish them completely. I was paranoid with my second as he was premature so I had one of those baby monitors that detected breathing at night time, which I found reassuring. It slipped under the mattress and didn’t affect him. I would wake up and peek at the little light flashing and go back to sleep instead of obsessing over his breathing. Some claim that these monitors make anxiety worse, but it didn’t in my case.

Baby nail clippers

I love my baby nail clippers so much we still use them now, they’re so much easier to cut nails with, even mine! The added safety part just gives you so much control. Trust me, you’ve never sweated so much when you cut a baby’s nails.

Changing bag

If you’re cutting costs, just use one of you’re existing bags. Of course, you’ll want a nice new baby bag, I now prefer the backpack ones, a heavy shoulder bag is a no-no. It depends how you’re going to carry it though, is it going to be on your buggy a lot or will you physically carry it. Waterproof lining is a must.

What’s not useful

  • A snowsuit – they’re so cute, but really, they’re only good if you carry your baby round in the cold. Even if you babywear, you can slip your coat over them or a cover. In a buggy or car seat they’re likely to be in a cosytoes or blankets. You’ll still buy one, of course.
  • Cot bumpers – they look nice but are against SIDS recommendations. Baby can pull them over their face and wriggle, even new-borns.
  • Scratch mitts – they fall off easily. Use built-in scratch mitts or baby socks on their hands, keep their nails short.
  • Baby bath – just use your normal bath with a foam support (or nothing), or kitchen sink.
  • Nappy bin or wrapper – just pop in a nappy bag or straight in the bin (outside if it’s a poo).
  • Too many blankets – they’re so cute and snuggly but unless your baby is super pukey you probably don’t need more than three. Cellular blankets are breathable and warm.
  • Breastfeeding cover-up- they’re so fiddly, and you don’t need it. If you’re nervous at first, just use a blanket or muslin. Wear a vest top under your main top so you can minimise exposure.

Desirable, but not essential:

Bouncy chair

Playmat

Breastfeeding pillow

A thermometer

Room thermometer

Breast pump

Baby stair gate if needed

Baby toys

I hope I’ve shed some light for you, is there anything you would add or remove from this list? What are your baby essentials?

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Written by

Jenny Lord

Blogger & Midwife
Jenny is a Midwife, Nurse and Mum of two boys and a girl, all under ten. She owns Midwife and Life, a pregnancy and parenting blog, and also educates other bloggers. You can find her with a cup of tea, her phone and usually a child or two. She loves giving real, honest advice about birth and beyond and will tell it like it is.

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