When the time comes to prepare for your newborn can often be both stressful and exciting. There are some things you should consider for after the birth and when you get back home. To make it easier, we have listed all the common things we needed so you can prepare before your bundle of joy arrives.
Apart from a very rare super-organised parents, most people end up having a last minute panic and are not 100% ready when the baby arrives. That is OK and you will survive, we promise! If you run out of time, focus initially on more important things like milk, nappies, clothes and a place to sleep. Some of the other things can be sorted out after the baby has arrived.
So let’s look at our list!
Breast milk is free (and best for your baby). If you are breastfeeding, you will need nursing bras, breast pads and cream to protect your skin. For bottlefeeding you’ll need bottles, teats, formula, a bottle brush and a sterilising system. It’s a good idea to buy four to six bottles, both larger ones (250ml or 8fl oz) and smaller ones (125ml or 4fl oz). As we got to know our babies more, some of us had to change the type of teat and/or formula, so it's probably best not to buy too many before the birth. A sterilising system can by either an electric or microwave steriliser, or you can use sterilising tablets.
Newborn babies need to have their nappies changed 10-12 times a day so you will need a lot of nappies in the first months. You’ll need to decide between disposables, reusables, or a combination of the two. So how should you think about which ones to use?
Disposable nappies are slim fitting, super absorbent, and will keep your baby dry, even overnight. However, they cost more (by cost estimates, up to £1,000 per child by the time you start potty training) and there’s the landfill factor to consider. Eco-friendly nappies, however, are now available – they use non-polluting bleaching agents and fewer chemicals are used to produce them.
Reusables cost less – although the initial investment is greater. They also provide a softer landing for toddlers who topple over. However, all that soaking, washing, and drying could get you down (plus there is an environmental impact). You may opt to use a nappy-laundering service each week (at a cost). Reusables need changing more often than disposables (about 15 times a day). They are slightly more difficult to put on and take off, but modern reusables are fastened with Velcro, not pins. If you use reusable nappies, you also need to buy a bucket, nappy liners and nappy steriliser.
Using a combination of reusable nappies and disposable nappies can work well. Buy the occasional pack of disposables for when you’re out and about or if you leave your baby with a babysitter, but opt for reusables the rest of the time. You can buy disposables especially for the first weeks as a back-up plan in case you don’t find time to wash the nappies.
In all cases, you need something sensitive to clean your baby with, like cotton balls with lukewarm water and, later on, you can switch to nappy wipes.
3. Somewhere to sleep
A very important thing to prepare for your newborn. The NHS recommends that your baby sleeps in a cot in your room for the first six months. However, there are a lot of personal and cultural preferences about where babies sleep. She can sleep in a cot from birth or you can buy a crib or a Moses basket. They are all good options. If you buy a second-hand cot, always buy a new mattress. If your baby sleeps in a Moses basket or carry cot, buy sheets designed specifically for these. If you are using a sleeping bag, ensure it’s lightweight, the correct size and doesn’t have a hood. Ideally you should get at least three sheets and some extra blankets in case you need to change them quicker than you can wash them (it will happen!).
Their clothes should be easy to put on and take off and, of course, machine washable. Many parents get outfits as presents, so just buy the basics. You are likely to need at least: six vests, six babygros (the all-in-one suits), one to two jackets or all-in-one suits, one to two cardigans, one or two hats (winter and summer), several muslin cloths and bibs. Don’t buy too many newborn size as babies soon outgrow them, so you could end up getting only a little wear out of them. You can also cut the feet off the babygrows if they’re too tight. Vests come in short and long-sleeved versions which can be used in different weather conditions. Socks can be very fiddly so it might be easier to use babygrows that cover your baby’s feet. In any case, prepare to have your washing machine on all the time. There will be a lot of laundry and it’s best to use non-bio detergents (they don’t have the biological enzymes that can cause allergic reactions).
5. Baby monitor
Many parents end up buying a baby monitor to help keep an eye on the baby while they sleep. Most common baby monitors are audio or video monitors which will allow you to listen or see how your baby is doing. There are also smart baby monitors like Bluebell, which can be easier to use as you can keep your hands free and don’t have to worry about missing an alarm. It is also more reliable as it monitors breathing, temperature and movement and therefore knows more about how your baby is doing.
This can be a buggy (with a lie-option until your baby can sit up), or a sling or backpack in which to carry your baby. The choice between pram, travel system and a buggy depends on you and your circumstances. If you are mainly a car driver, you may want to consider a car seat that attaches to a pram, or a car seat and a separate travel cot. If you intend to walk a lot, you may find a lightweight pushchair or buggy more suitable than a pram. Keep in mind how long your baby will be in the buggy;it must be comfortable, have a lie-flat option for the first six months, and adjustable seat options as your baby grows. The buggies must also be weatherproof. If you do a lot of around “town travel”, you might consider a lightweight option in addition to you main system. It’s worth having a look around in shops and online to compare different models and get the best price as the prices vary a lot.
7. Car seat
This is legal requirement for car travel and there are plenty of options to choose from. Don’t buy it second hand; the reason for this is that you have to be absolutely certain of its history as it may have been in an accident or damaged. Car safety experts suggest that if you must use a second-hand car seat, only accept one from a family member or friend when you are absolutely sure of its history, and that the original instructions for the seat are still available. They strongly discourage purchasing a car seat for your baby through a second-hand shop or classified advertisements, or on the internet. It’s a good idea to have a few trials of how to fix the car seat in the car, which way the seat belt goes etc. as it can be tricky and you want to make sure it is attached correctly. Remember to also check the airbag settings in your car and the child safety lock of the car door.
8. Somewhere to wash
Some parents consider a baby bath as an optional extra, while some find it really useful. A big advantage is that you can use it in any room (though if the room doesn’t have a water supply, you’ll need to transport the water). It can be a bit scary to initially bathe the baby and even experienced parents say that they find it tricky to hold a wriggling baby safely in a bath of water. Using a smaller baby bath is less daunting and helps you to develop confidence. However, a baby outgrows a baby bath by around six months and, once not in use, the bath can take up a lot of storage space (unless you can recycle it to a pregnant friend). Many parents choose a bath seat designed for newborns to use in the family bath. Alternatively, you can enjoy a bath together, although you must keep the water tepid for the baby and you may find this too cold for you. In addition to a baby bath or bath seat, you can buy a baby towel, a non-slip bath mat and a bath thermometer.
9. Changing bag
It is essential to keep all the stuff in one place whenever you leave the house. Choose a bag with enough space for all the other little bits you'll need to prepare for your newborn (changing mat, wipes, nappies and bottle).
10. Something to play with
For a little while, all your baby needs is you. With all the funny faces and the squeaky noises you make, you will be their greatest entertainer for a few months. You can also use everyday items (rustling paper can be hours of fun) or some actual toys as they grow. Typical toys for babies under 6 months old are play mats, bouncing cradles, baby swings, lightweight rattles, teething toys, baby books with textures and mirrors and light-up or musical toys. If you want to make the sleep routine easier, you can encourage the baby to have a favourite toy – a cuddly animal or a soft blanket – with which the baby will go to sleep. We have also noticed that some babies get bored of toys pretty soon, so it is a good idea to take toys out of sight for a few days and bring them back again.
11. Safe environment
You don’t really have to think about this until your baby becomes mobile, but it's good to be prepared. You can baby-proof your house in many different ways, depending on your individual circumstances. Typical things to buy include stair gates, play pens, cupboard/window catches, furniture corner protectors and fireguards. You can also buy a thermometer to measure your baby’s temperature (or alternatively use a smart baby monitor like Bluebell that does it for you).
Optional things that you can do without:
There are some other bits you can prepare for your newborn, but they're not as urgent as the above:
Changing station: You can get one, but a changing mat or towel on the floor can be cheaper and safer.
Bottle warmer: it is completely possible to heat the milk in a jug instead.
Travel cot: you can normally borrow one, if necessary, unless you are travelling frequently.
Additional car equipment: a car child-view mirror and sunblinds can make driving easier.
There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind to save money: shop online, scour second-hand shops and car-boot sales, swap clothes and toys with friends, family members, and other parents. Think about your specific situation, priorities and environment and make it work for you.
So that is a lot to think about. But, as we said in the beginning, you will be OK even if you haven’t had time to consider everything. Start with the basics and build it up from there.