During your pregnancy you’ve no doubt spent several hours browsing the internet or waddling around warehouse-sized baby stores, looking at the mind-boggling array of products available – from the irresistibly cute to those that scream ‘Buy me, you need me, you’ll never cope without me!’ (although you’re not 100% sure what they actually do). Sadly, retailers do prey on your hormonal vulnerability, selling ‘must-haves’ and ‘can’t-do-withouts’ along with ‘but-wouldn’t-your-baby-just-look-adorables’.
It’s a minefield, and it can be a very expensive one at that. So, how do you decide which of the products you really need prior to baby’s arrival?
There are actually only a few things that are absolutely necessary to have ready before baby makes their entrance into the world:
- A Travel System
You’ll need to get baby home safely from hospital for a start and then, daunting as the prospect may seem initially, you will want to go out at some point…honestly. There are many, many options out there so make a list of the features that are important to you, try some out, read reviews, ask friends for recommendations, and of course check that they’re safe and made by a reputable manufacturer. It’s an investment so it’s important to get this one right first time!
- Moses basket or crib
It’s recommended that baby sleeps in your room when it’s newborn, so a Moses basket or crib that will fit in there is all you need at this point. You may want to buy a cot and get baby’s nursery ready, but if you don’t have the time or money to do that at this point then don’t worry – they’re not going to be using it for a few months anyway. You’ll also need appropriate sized blankets and sheets. Make sure you get a few as you’ll soon discover that bedding changes are a regular occurrence owing to leaky nappies and sickness after night feeds.
- Changing mat and bag
Again, although you may choose to have a changing table in baby’s nursery, it’s not a necessity. You’ll find that you end up changing him or her on the floor, on the sofa, on the bed – pretty much everywhere – as it happens so often! You will need a comfortable, wipe-clean mat though. When you’re out and about you will also want a changing bag. Bearing in mind that this will most-likely become your handbag too for the foreseeable future, you may want to invest in a design you like. And perhaps one that dad doesn’t mind being seen with either…
Don’t go too mad with baby clothes before your little one arrives, especially if you don’t know the sex yet. Of course you’re going to enjoy picking out one or two special outfits, especially the memorable ‘going home from hospital’ one, but as you don’t yet know how big they are it’s not worth buying too many. You’ll also find that you’ll be inundated with clothing as gifts after baby arrives so it’s worth waiting and then deciding what garments and sizes you really need. What you will definitely need is lots of vests and sleepsuits – stock up with a few plain ones. You’ll be amazed how many babies can get through; you’ll even need quite a few during your short time in hospital!
If you’re planning on breastfeeding then you’ve already got the equipment you need! You’ll want a comfortable nursing bra, and a few muslin cloths will also be useful for mopping up spillages and sickness, or to protect your modesty if you feel a little self-conscious. If your baby will be bottle-fed then you’ll need some bottles, teats and a steriliser, along with some formula of course.
Whether you decide to use disposable nappies or reusable ones, you will need to be prepared with plenty!
Your shopping list is, unfortunately, less exciting – but essential nonetheless.
- Maternity pads
You will need these in your hospital bag, along with some disposable knickers (or cheap ones that you don’t mind throwing away). Yes, it’s not pleasant but it’s reality, and it’s best that you’re prepared.
- Breast pads
Another not particularly desirable item, granted, but still important. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, a few days after giving birth your milk will ‘come in’ and you will find that leakage occurs. Breast pads help to soak this up so that it doesn’t cause embarrassing wet patches on your clothing (if you’ve ever put a top over a wet bikini or swimsuit on holiday you’ll have experienced something similar…)
- Comfortable clothing
Your bump has taken nine months to grow and it won’t disappear overnight so treat yourself to a couple of garments that you can feel comfortable and good in, without immediately having the pressure of getting back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
- A comfortable chair
This isn’t essential, but if you can invest in a nursing chair or similar (this IKEA POANG chair is perfect: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/S89125681/) it will make night feeds a much more comfortable and relaxing experience for both you and baby.
Of course, you don’t have to stop there. You’ll no doubt enjoy treating your new little bundle to a few gifts, but don’t feel under pressure to invest in loads of ‘essential equipment’ to have ready for the moment baby arrives. Anything else that you want or need will soon become apparent as the weeks progress. Also, remember that people will want to buy you gifts so, if they ask you for guidance, point them in the direction of things you really want to avoid a houseful of duplicates or unnecessary items.
Remember to also check out local baby sales for pre-loved equipment and clothing – the NCT runs nearly new sales all over the country (www.nct.org.uk/branches/events/nearly-new-sales) and you can often pick up quality items that have barely been used, for a fraction of their usual retail cost – and you’ll be supporting the work of the NCT too.