The essential baby kit list, by a sane and experienced Mum, rather than according to Kiddicare!
I thought I’d share my essential baby kit list with you as I remember being astonished at how hard it was to find one when I was pregnant that hadn’t been written by a baby store out to empty my pockets. This is your cut out and keep guide to use or pass on to a friend. See what you think!
She thinks her glorious secret is safe but actually she’s quite easy to spot. It’s a mere four days since she peed on that stick and saw the line turn blue but she’s congratulating herself on holding out this long. Now she can resist the irresistible urge to head to Mothercare no longer and has popped out on her lunch break “just to look”.
She glances around furtively from amongst the aisles of tiny clothes. If she spots a friend or, worse, her boss, she’ll pretend she’s buying a gift for a friend’s child. But why then is she stroking the soft blue bootees so dreamily then moving to finger the material on an unbelievably tiny pink dress? If it was a friend’s kid she’d either know the sex or be out the door with a good-for-either white sleep-suit by now. This is fun though. She’s waited many years for this moment and who knew that ears were compulsory on hoods these days? This stuff is so darn CUTE! She is as yet unaware of the confusion around what constitutes pyjamas, sleepsuits, vests, babygros and onesies. (Hint: no-one actually agrees.)
The reverie is interrupted by a left-turn into the equipment section. Suddenly she loses her nerve. This is Planet Baby and the confidence with which she gave that sales pitch this morning has disappeared as she is confronted with an alien world. She counts four types of steriliser, fourteen types of sippy cups and that Bumbo potty thing looks remarkably ineffective to her untrained eye. She looks around desperately for something recognisable. Thank goodness cots haven’t changed much since her childhood and that’s a buggy but what in heaven’s name is a travel system?
Suddenly she lurches unsteadily and looks pale. Is this one of those early pregnancy fainting spells coming on? No, she’s just seen the price tag on a Phil and Ted’s tandem buggy.
Four years and two babies on from this scenario, I can still remember running away from the helpful assistant in the John Lewis baby department mumbling something abut “just browsing”, utterly flummoxed by the unfamiliarity of it all. Barely a year later I was a master with a breast pump, knew my Baba Sling from my Baby Bjorn and could open the stroller single-handed. That’s LEFT-handed! By Baby number two, I was able to write a kit list for two friends on their first pregnancies of what you actually need, as opposed to what the shops suggest you get. Here it is with some added explanation. Because, unfamiliar it may be, but you’re still an intelligent human being who needs to know why this, why not that and what the hell is a Bumbo?
We personally had a fairly limited budget but whether or not this is your scenario, few of us like to waste money on the unnecessary. Your baby will go through, on average, five clothing sizes in year one alone so spending a mint there is not a great investment for a start. In fact, the only things you are likely still to be using at the end of year one are the cot, the car seat, the change bag and the buggy and/or baby carrier so let me discuss these first.
Cots are not particularly high tech but drop sides and adjustable mattress heights will save your post-pregnancy back. Second hand is fine (check the bars are not more than 6.5cm apart and that the cot has not been painted as older paint may contain since-banned chemicals). The main thing is that it is sturdy and safe. Cot mattresses should ideally be purchased new for each baby as lingering bacteria can pose a risk to your baby and have been linked to cot death but a mattress which has only been used while covered with a waterproof cover should be fine. Some cots are larger and convert to toddler beds later on but a regular cot will last for up to two and a half years for an average sized child. Some come with a removable side so that you can put the cot next to your bed in a side-car arrangement. We actually managed this with a normal cot which happened to fit the height of our bed at one particular setting and it was a great half-way house between co-sleeping and not.
Car seats are complicated because of the amount of regulation on them and not every seat fits every car. They are not safe if fitted incorrectly so the best thing is to go to John Lewis who will fit it for you the first time. (I have no affiliation with them. They were just very helpful). They will also patiently explain the different options which basically divide into the bucket type which you can lift out of your car and sometimes even fit into your buggy/travel system and the type which stay in the car full-time but last for much longer. We’ve used both types and both have their pros and cons. A second-hand seat is fine but only if it comes from a family you know well and trust as a seat which has been in a car crash can have invisible internal faults and the risk to your child is just not worth taking. This isn’t something to buy off E-bay even if, like me, you’re a black-belt frugalista.
Change bags can be surprisingly expensive but it may be worth holding off for a month or so and using an old rucksack in the mean time. If you’re using a pram, the shoulder bag can hang off the handle but if your baby prefers a sling, a shoulder bag may be useless. Do think of your partner. If you ever want Dad to take baby out on his own, he may not want to take a pink teddy print bag. He might even like his own change bag. By Baby 2, I was using an old but capacious Jansport rucksack which is easy on the back, if not super-stylish.
The pram/buggy – this is likely to be your most expensive purchase if bought new and it’s worth investing here as you will use it for around three years per child and it will make the biggest difference to your daily sanity. It may make sense to spend as much time choosing this as you would a car.
It’s also easy to get very wrong. Think about your house first – are there steps to your door? Do you live in a flat? How much space do you have in your hall? Will you need to put the pram in the car a lot? Remember your body will need looking after in the months after birth so lifting a heavy contraption in and out of the car could really do serious damage. Many families have a pram/buggy which they use from the house and a lightweight collapsible stroller which stays in the car but remember it must lower to horizontal to be suitable from birth and will need a foot muff or blankets both above and below the baby if used in winter.This stroller is about the cheapest which lowers to horizontal and has done us 5 years great service! You can get it bundled with a foot muff for only another £8 which is great value and there is a great range of colours. It was a great partner to the vintage Silver Cross pram we had found in a charity shop but which weighed a ton!
Some “travel systems” have a chassis onto which you can fix a pram/carry cot attachment or the car seat which comes with it for transferring a sleeping child out of the car and a push-chair attachment for later. Do your research, ask friends for recommendations and don’t forget, as 5 out of 6 of our NCT class did, that your first child may still need a buggy when your second baby arrives. The Mum who bought the Phil and Teds was the only one who didn’t need a whole new buggy!
Apart from these items, here’s my personal take on what I think you need to survive the first 3-4 months. If you are offered baby kit by friends, please do not be embarrassed to take it. You will soon find that you too are desperate to give away baby kit as the turnover on clothes especially is so high that you end up with nowhere to store it and the rest of the kit is all hugely space-consuming. Take pity on your friends and free up some attic space for them while saving some pennies yourself.
Note: newborn clothing usually fits for 3-4 weeks when, confusingly, you go to 0-3 month clothing.
Post natal for Mum:
Stock up on small packs of frozen peas for sitting on after the birth!
Breast pads – Sainsburys own were fine but do get some! Wet patches on T-shirts will happen but all the time is a bit grim.
1 pack of maternity pads and about 4 packs of normal brand super absorbency night-time sanitary pads
Arnica tablets if you’re a fan of homoeopathy, to reduce bruising in the undercarriage area
Lavender oil (drops in your pads will help healing)
A high strength hand cream as hands take a painful battering from all the post-nappy hand washing, I’m a huge fan of Attrixo.
10-12 old pairs of big pants or disposable paper ones – surprisingly comfortable! Buy Large as nobody fits Medium just after pregnancy.
You’ll be wearing maternity clothes for about 2-3 weeks after the birth, then bigger clothes for at least a several weeks more. Or months. Just go with it.
A cot mattress – see the discussion above on buying new
A Moses basket – handy in the house but only lasts about 3 months – definitely borrow
Cotton blankets (for summer), fleece are good for winter and the pram
NO COT BUMPERS for new-borns – there’s a suffocation risk
Fitted cot sheets and/or Moses basket sheets
Possibly fitted pram sheets if you get a pram
We found flat “pre-fold” style reusable nappies such as these made great absorbent ‘pillows’ for a pukey baby but otherwise no pillows should be used.
12-15 sleepsuits (with arms, legs and feet)
2-3 sleeveless sleeping bags – they don’t kick these off like blankets. Get the appropriate ones for the season your baby is due
2-3 swaddling sheets
1 baby monitor – A crappy one will drive you mad so go for mid-range here and check reviews
Babies can live in sleepsuits for the first month. You can pop a pinafore style dress on top for girls if you’re going out
Cotton sun hats or winter hats
3-4 cardigans in winter or summer weight – forget jumpers or any clothing that buttons at the back
Cotton clothing in 0-3 month size – 6-7 T-shirts with poppers at crotch and trousers or dresses. Don’t get too much as you’ll be given loads as gifts
6-7 pairs Socks – Gap are the only brand worth buying as no others will stay on (and even so you’ll lose some)
1 x Bootees – good if you get some that tie on (optional)
Snow suit, even if it’s as early as September or as late as April as babies get cold easily on chilly days
Muslin squares (muzzies) – start with 12 for burping then order more if you have a puker. We needed about 30! They’re cheapest off Amazon.
3-4 feeding bras – get a fitting booked in the last month of pregnancy. They get mucky so will need changing most days – don’t underestimate how little you will want to do laundry!
The big feeding pillows that fit around your middle are genuinely handy but a normal pillow will do.
If you may do some bottle feeding, then a pack of 4 bottles (get 260 ml/9 oz bottles as the teats are interchangeable even though the bottles themselves are ridiculously big for a small feed) and a set of size 1 teats. You’ll need 8+ bottles if you intend to bottle feed exclusively. Most people get on well with Avent, Tomee Tippee or Dr Brown’s. You can initially sterilise bottles with Milton fluid but you will need a steriliser if you end up fully bottle feeding – often offered around as they’re bulky to store.
A breast pump – grab one if you’re offered it as they can be handy and are expensive but you may well not need it. If you buy one, definitely fork out for an electric one and ideally a double. However, you can hand express quite quickly if it’s just for the odd feed or for comfort. Yup, issues you’d never dreamt of before you got pregnant!
Changing tables are totally optional and have a limited life-span but any large, sturdy chest of drawers or table with a mat on top will work and will save your back
A change mat
Allow about 60 new-born size nappies a week – buy the first month’s in for lower stress levels. Consider reusable after that if you like – buy these second-hand as they’re pricey otherwise. NCT sales are a great place to look. Do some research before you buy. There are loads of real nappy forums about who can advise you.
Large rolls of cotton wool for wiping bottoms at home
Unscented wipes for out and about
A little plastic bowl for water on the changing table
Powder is no longer recommended as it creates breathing issues
Basic zinc and caster oil barrier nappy cream
Baby bath – useful but optional if space is tight for storage
Plastic bath support for new-born – we found this brilliant as cack-handed new parents, despite our own parents laughing at us for getting on!
4 towels just for baby, ideally hooded.
Foam garden kneeler – unless your bathroom is carpeted, this is a real life-saver for knees. You are going to spend literally hundreds of hours on your knees next to the bath for the next few years and possibly doing nappy changes on the floor too.
Out and about
Nappy bag – as discussed above
Change mat – a foldable, portable one
Car seat – as discussed above
A sling/baby carrier – Even if you get a buggy, these are great around the house or for walks and often soothe baby better than anything. Baby Bjorn is the best known but isn’t supposed to be great for babies’ hip development. Different options suit different people but try to get one that Dad won’t feel stupid wearing or you may each prefer a different sling. The one-sided ring slings are lovely at first and allow hands-free feeding but are back-breaking after 3 months. Accept any you are lent so you can try different options. Slings can be very expensive and the more you pay, the more likely your baby is to take an instant aversion to it. True! Some soft carriers will still be useful for a two year old. The Ergo or Patapum both get rave reviews and I could walk miles with our Patapum on until my daughter was about three.
Pram or buggy – as discussed above
Foot muff – like a sleeping bag for the buggy (not necessary with a pram) Doesn’t fall off like blankets. Takes a battering so quality is worth paying for.
You can’t give Calpol till 2 months but get it in before those first jabs.
Nasal aspirator (or bogey-buster!) – a little pipette style gismo made by Nuk and sold in Boots which sucks snot out of little babies’ noses. They hate it but you’ll all sleep better.
A baby mat/gym, possibly with activity arches – the arches are only great from about 6 – 20 weeks so ideally don’t buy this first hand!
Some little black and white books and basic picture books for baby to look at
They’ll be given loads of toys so go easy on these. They need very little at first. Grabby things with different textures are nice from about 5-6 weeks as they start to reach out for things.
2-3 bouncy chairs – at least one per floor. One in the bathroom is ideal as a “parking space” when you nip to the loo! Totally indispensable. Easy to pick up second hand or borrow. You can remove the covers to wash them. Some vibrate to help baby sleep.
Well, there you go. You are now ready for Planet Baby. Congratulations and welcome to the parenting club.
If you’re an experienced parent, do you agree with this list? What would you add or take off? Let the readers know!
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