Recently I was asked by a friend (who will be a first time mama in June) what essentials should she buy. She’s only got a few months to go and wanted to get started on the necessities. She told me she already had her list, I asked her to send it to me and I’d cross off what I thought would be a waste of money. She responded with “it’s 7 pages long” 😳 girrrrlllllll!!!!!
She mentioned that she got it off a website and she just couldn’t believe all the items she needed to buy. I had to stop her right there and said “NO! Do not buy everything!” So once I started to explain some of the things I did when E was first born, it made me realise, she’s not going to be the only new mama who is going to think she needs to buy the whole shop to be prepared. I lucky in having some knowledge on what to have prepared for E as I’d helped raise my nephew, so my shopping list was a few essentials to get us going.
My pregnancy with E was really chilled, relaxed and “go with the flow” so we didn’t really buy much and just got items as/when we felt we needed them after she was born.
I’ve prepared a newborn shopping list of items that we found were essential when preparing for E. These worked for us and may not be the same for you, it’s based on my experience, so don’t panic if you feel you need more/less. The aim of this blog post is to help you save money and not wasting it on items that you’ll realise how little you end up using them. I’ve also given a cheaper alternative to some items that would work the same for the budget conscious buyer. Some items make things more convenient but are not essential. Most of the items were bought after E was born or when we figured out we needed it. So instead of buying everything before your baby is born you can wait and see if you need them. If you can’t physically pick them up from the shops, there is always the convenience of delivery and usually you have the option for next day delivery if you need something urgently.
- Sleep suit/body suit: (8-10 pieces) Your baby will change twice/three times a day, so to avoid doing laundry too often while you’re recovering from birth, get enough baby grows to last a couple of days. You may want them to fit your baby perfectly, but there is no harm in having a few bigger sizes at the ready as they will grow into them so fast. (Click here to read how I save money on buying baby clothes.)
- Blanket: (2 pieces) When baby is still newborn, they’re not used to the cold. They’re used to being warm and snuggly in your womb, so its important to keep them snug and wrapped warm when they’re sleeping so they stay comfortable. Have two blankets at the ready so you have a spare when one is in the wash. Be sure to ask your midwife how to swaddle your baby safely. Tip: Grandparents may not realise how much new research there has been on baby safety since you were a baby, so just ensure you show them calmly how your midwife has shown you to swaddle your baby and explain to them why it’s no longer safe for a baby to sleep on their front. (Research based on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) aka cot death.)
- Scratch mittens: (8-10 pairs) Like sleep suits/body suits, your baby scratch mittens will need to be changed often, so have some spares ready. You can also buy sleep suits/body suits that have mittens on the ends of the sleeves. You just fold them over to cover their hands. We found these really useful and only Mother Care had these. Tip: Have baby nail clippers and files at the ready. You’ll find their nails grow faster than yours and they can be extremely sharp. If you prefer not to use scratch mittens, ensure their nails are trimmed and filed regularly.
- Hat: (2 pieces) When outside always cover your baby’s head. They’ve just left the warmest place (your womb) and the open air may be too dry and chilly for them. Once they’re indoors, they won’t need to wear a hat all the time, unless they seem comfortable then its up to you to leave the hat on or not. If they seem fussy or irritable, try taking the hat off as they may be too hot. Tip: Baby’s first trip outside will be leaving the hospital, so be sure to pack one into baby’s hospital bag.
- Moses basket & Stand vs Cot: Im suggesting both as this is a personal choice for parents. You will need to decide for yourself how you’d like your baby to sleep. A moses basket is a smaller space and your baby will only use it for up to 3 months before needing to start sleeping in a cot. Some parents found that their baby would settle easier in a moses basket as there is less empty space around them and it felt more cosy for them. Other parents might say that their baby got too warm in a moses basket and didn’t settle as well as sleeping in a cot where air was flowing easier. For us, E slept in a moses basket for the first 3 months which was easily transferred from room to room. During the day we were mainly in the living room and her moses basket stood neatly next to the sofa. At night, it was easily transported to our room to the side of our bed (where we co-slept). There are other alternatives to a moses basket if you plan to co-sleep that in my opinion, are a waste of money. They, like a moses basket, can only be used up until baby is 3 months old and a moses basket is 1/2 the price. You can buy quite reasonably priced moses baskets if you don’t mind looking at cheaper brands as they’re only using them for 3 months. Tip: Never carry the moses basket with your baby inside. Move the basket first then place your baby inside. Cheaper alternative: Just don’t use one and hope that baby is comfortable in a cot.
- Cots can become extremely expensive, but in the long term, your baby will be sleeping in there for a longer time, so it is a good investment to get one that is of a good quality. The quality is also in the mattress you choose. Cheaper alternative: If you, like me, would like to save some money, why not try to ask any family/friends who have older children if they have a cot they could give/sell to you for a cheaper price. I wouldn’t recommend to buy a used cot off the internet as you can’t be sure how they’ve looked after it. With family/friends, they will be more honest with what care they’ve taken with their cot. We were quite lucky and saved ourselves the price of the cot as we reused my nephews one. He barely slept in it and it had been packed away neatly, with all the original nuts and bolts. All we needed to buy was the mattress and bedding. We saved even more by buying those items when they were on 50% sale!!! Tip: Have enough bedding for laundry day.
- Baby Monitor: Nowadays you can get really high tech baby monitors that have a camera so not only can you hear your baby, you can see them too. We opted for a reasonably priced monitor that didn’t have a camera which cost us roughly £30. Cheaper alternative: The times we stayed away from home and forgot our baby monitor, FaceTime on an iPad and our iPhone became the monitor. We turned the mic off from our end so the noise from our end didn’t wake E up. Make sure you shop around for the right monitor for you.
- Night Light: These are very handy in keeping the light level low in the nursery/where ever baby is sleeping. So instead of the room being pitch black, there is a dim light so you can peak on them from the door without walking in to disturb them. We had a baby shower and one of my friends bought us a night light which was on our gift list. We weren’t being cheeky in having a gift list, but a lot of our friends didn’t want to buy what we already had or what others bought, so they actually requested the gift list. The night light plays lullabies, is a clock and shows the temperature of the room. It’s so handy as it’s multi purpose. We still use it now and E is verging on 18 months old. Cheaper alternative: Instead of having a night light on all night, try using an automatic sensor plug in lamp. We used something similar to this in Thailand. So much easier to travel with and it only turns on when there is movement in the room.
- Changing Table: We didn’t buy one until E was roughly 4 months old. We have a large L shaped sofa which we used the L end of the sofa as her changing area. We bought a changing mat before she was born and used that on top of the sofa to keep things clean. At the time she was small and still quite light so it was quite easy and manageable changing her on the sofa. As she got bigger and heavier, we needed a changing table to help ease our backs picking her up and down every time we changed her. Tip: The cheaper changing tables may not be as sturdy as a more expensive table. As your baby becomes a toddler, they will move around loads when changing them, so you want one that is sturdy so you can use it for a longer time. Don’t forget your changing mat. Don’t bother with an expensive nappy bin either. You can buy rolls of nappy bags from any supermarket or even £land on the cheap. Use a regular small bin that has a lid and empty it regularly to avoid having a stinky bin. Does the trick and costs next to nothing to use for the next 2-3 years. Cheaper alternative: If you don’t have space for a full sized changing table you can buy a cot topper which is a real space saver. If you don’t mind to, look around on the internet for a good condition/new changing table. We got ours from eBay for £4. The previous owner had two as a family member bought them one as a gift, but they kept it in the box and never used it, so ours was brand new (worth £150). Winning!
- Baby bath tub: It takes some time getting used to a slippery baby at bath time and having a smaller space for them to bathe in definitely helps. We used a basic bath tub (which was given to us from a family member) with a soft sponge support to help keep E from dipping too far under water and also helped that I could have both hands free for most of the time. We didn’t use the sponge support until E was roughly 3 months old as we hadn’t discovered it until then LOL. There are so many options out there to help make bath time more convenient so just pick one that is reasonable in price as you can start using the big adult tub when baby can sit up unaided. Tip: Your newborn won’t need to have a full bath for roughly 10-14 days (or whenever their umbilical cord falls off), so don’t worry too much about them needing to wash as soon as they get home. Just have your bath flannels ready to give them a thorough wipe down everyday until it’s time for a full bath. When they are ready for a full bath, just water is fine to use on their sensitive skin. We didn’t use any bathing products on E for the first 2 months.
- Wash cloths & towels: Newborns have sensitive skin so sometimes a sponge can be too hard on their skin so a softer alternative is a soft flannel/wash cloth. The best towels to use are ones that have hoods at the top as they keep baby nice and warm when leaving the bath tub. There are towel options that you can wear around your neck so its easier to just lift baby onto your chest without fiddling with wrapping the towel around them. Tip: These can start to get quite expensive and are not necessary, but do make things more convenient.
For this checklist, it really depends on what you have planned on how to feed your baby. Baring in mind, sometimes what you expect/planned may not always be the case when you’re physically in the moment and it’s absolutely ok to change the method in how you feed your baby. The hubby and I never really discussed which method we wanted to go with before E was born. (Bottle, breast or both?) Because I didn’t want to stress about anything while pregnant, I always had in my mind that I would try breastfeeding and if it didn’t work out for us, we’d do what was necessary to ensure she was fed, so in the end we didn’t really prepare much in terms of feeding essentials. Breastfeeding turned out to work for us and here are some items I think were essential once we got into the swing of it all.
- Nipple Cream: OMG did I need this badly the first couple of weeks. There is a large range out there to choose from so it can be quite daunting in which one to pick. The main things you might want to consider are that it is safe to breastfeed without wiping it off your nipple. Go as natural as you possibly can for the sake of your sensitive newborn and delicate nipples.
- Breast Pads: I tried so many different brands, (disposable and reusable) but I found that Boots’ own brand was the most cost effective and of good quality. They’re individually wrapped with a leak proof back so are convenient to pop some spares into your nappy bag incase you ever need to change them while you’re out. They’re always on a 3 for 2 offer so considering how many I went through and being able to mix and match the purchase with maternity pads, this was a great saving every time I needed to top up my stock. Tip: At night I used reusable breast pads to cut down on spending more on disposable breast pads.
- Nursing Pillow: I had a U shaped pillow that I used from when I was pregnant that I carried on using when I was nursing. We didn’t opt for a nursing chair as we were limited with space and the sofa and nursing pillow worked out great for us so we saved a few hundred on not purchasing the nursing chair.
- Breast pump: We didn’t purchase one until a week after E was born. The reason for that was that they can be quite expensive and we didn’t know how breastfeeding would go for us. The first few days was horrendous and it took a week before I gave in and bought a manual pump to help ease the pain on my nipples. Which might I add, didn’t actually help. When E was around 9 months old, I decided to buy an electric breast pump as I’d be returning to work the following month and the manual pump was just hard work. I probably used the manual pump a handful of times to help with some engorgement and we didn’t use a bottle with E. I had no reason to use a bottle as I was with her 24/7. I didn’t know which electric one to buy and after doing some research, I went for the Madela Swing 2-Phase Electric Breast Pump rrp £135.00.
By the time I needed to express some milk for E, she was already drinking from a sippy cup and established with solid food, so we were lucky in having skipped her using a bottle at all. She would have expressed milk at night from her sippy cup when I went back to work. Tip: If you’re planning to express milk and feeding it to your baby within 5 days of pumping, use breast milk storage bottles to store the milk and save on using disposable bags. If you don’t think you’ll be using the expressed milk within 5 days, make sure you have some breast milk storage bags at the ready. Read more here about safely storing breast milk.
We didn’t bother with an electronic bottle steriliser either as E didn’t feed from any bottles. I could easily clean her milk storage bottles using hot soapy water and sterilise them by pouring boiling water on/in them. Let them air dry and stored them in a clean closed box. If you decide to use the boiling method to sterilise your bottles, ensure the bottles are bpa free and you have a separate bottle cleaning sponge specifically only for cleaning bottles. We didn’t buy any bottles until we tried to feed her using it, which she never took to and there wasn’t a time I wasn’t with her to try harder to have her feed from a bottle. Cheaper alternative: Search the internet for a good condition/new breast pump. With all breast pumps, you can buy brand new spare parts directly from the manufacturer. With Electric pumps, do not get confused with the tube thinking milk flows through it, it is just for suction (using air) which is also replaceable with a brand new spare part. The expense of a brand new electric breast pump is that it comes with all new parts. Buying a used pump, you are purchasing the motor and replacing ALL other parts with brand new spares, so hygienically, everything that is touching your breast and milk is brand new. Work out the price of all spare parts you need and the cost of a used breast pump motor to ensure you’re actually saving money before you purchase it.
- Muslin squares & bibs: These are a must for both methods of feeding baby. Babies don’t know how to control their gas, so helping them burp after a feed can sometimes bring on a slight throw up. Bibs also help soak up any dribble they let slip through the sides of their mouth when they’re sucking. Tip: They’re also a great “to hand” dribble wiper which isn’t as rough as tissue. They can also be used as a light weight blanket/cover, or even over your buggy/car seat to shade baby they’re sleeping
- Car seat: If you’re planning on leaving the hospital in a car, you’ll need to have a car seat to transport your little one home safely. We opted for a 6 piece bundle from Mamas & Papas which included; a car seat, isofix base, pushchair, carry cot, adaptors and bottle holder. Tip: Buying these pieces together saved us money. We used all pieces and still use the pushchair and car seat with E. The car seat will also be handed down to bubba2 when they’re born. The quality is excellent and the car seat is still in excellent condition. E has a new car seat which gives her more room, but occasionally she still uses her first car seat. (Suitable from birth to max weight of 13kg which is approximately 18 months old.)
- Pushchair: The amount of pushchairs there are out there, it can be extremely over whelming to pick which one is best for you and your baby. How we decided to go with Mamas & Papas was that they had a store and you can go in to see the pushchairs, have a store assistant show you how to use them and really feel or see the quality of them first hand before you buy one. We found that if we had a problem or question about our product, their customer service team was extremely helpful and sorted out our issue immediately. We had a choice of visiting the store to sort our query or they offered to have a replacement part delivered free of charge to our chosen address. Tip: As a parent you want the best for your child so imagine yourself in that pushchair for the next few years, would you be comfortable? When folding the pushchair away, can you do it on your own or do you need help? Our pushchair can be folded into one without having to take anything apart. E has been using it from birth and she still has room to grow. Don’t forget the extras on top of the actual pushchair; rain guard, buggy liner and foot muff.
- Baby sling: Sometimes all you want to do is cuddle your baby. So much so that if you don’t put them down, they will eventually want to be held all the time and you’ll find it starting to get difficult when needing to get on with other things around the house. Having a baby sling wrap keeps baby close to you and keeps your hands free. Because it’s a wrap, it moulds to your body as well as babies body for a snug and warm fit. Tip: You can even breast feed wearing your baby in the sling wrap. But do try to keep use of the sling wrap at home to a minimum as you do want baby to have some independence eventually.
I haven’t given a cheaper alternative to the travel essentials as I think buying cheaply or pre-used products on baby travel pieces can be too much of a gamble with your baby’s safety. You don’t know if there are any faults with any buckles, straps or belts. Unless someone who you can trust is offering you a baby travel product for a discounted price (or free), I would be very cautious about buying it pre-used from the internet. The only travel product we used for E that was pre-used was her lightweight travel buggy (in alms new condition), which was given to us from my sister-in-law.
So there you have it. My essential newborn shopping list based on my experience. I hope this makes things a little less stressful for all the new mamas out there not having a clue of where to start buying. I was once in your position and I can only advise you on what worked for me. Let me know how you get on or if you have any questions about other items I may not have listed.
Good luck mamas x