Before our baby arrived, I had no idea what I’d need for her. Almost six months later, these have been my ten most useful purchases …
The first time I walked into a baby shop, my head span. There was row upon row of plastic or soft, squishable-looking items. I had no idea what most of them did, or if I was meant to buy them all. I think in the end I walked out empty-handed, in a state of blind panic.
Everyone has their opinion about the most essential baby items. In our house, over the last six months, these have been our most valuable items.
1. The Pram: Bugaboo Chameleon
A pram is an absolute essential if you do any volume of walking. It’s almost certainly the most expensive thing you’ll buy too. But, given a good one should last at least two years, it’s a worthwhile investment. We use our pram every single day – but then, we’ve also got a dog to walk, so we’re outside a lot. Our little one is still in the bassinet attachment (i.e. flat on her back) but we’ll progress her to sitting up in the coming weeks.
The Bugaboo Chameleon is great because it’s extremely easy to manoeuvre (the #1 most important pram factor for me), not particularly wide, and fairly easy to fold away. DamBaby also sleeps like a princess in it. It has its downsides too – the under-pram storage is annoying to get to and the frame / wheels dominate a car boot. But overall it’s been a great buy.
Bugaboo website –> here
2. The Hands-Free Carrier: ERGOBaby Carrier
We didn’t buy a baby carrier until after our baby was born – we’d been advised to wait and try them out using our actual baby. This is sound advice – it wasn’t something we needed in the first few weeks.
It might seem excessive to have a pram and a baby carrier. It’s definitely not. They have different, equally essential, functions. The baby carrier is there for the moments when a pram isn’t convenient. For example: walks along the beach; when you’re in an airport; anywhere with awkward walking spaces or steps. It’s also a blessing around the house when they’re very young and have those days where they just want to be held. I’ve been known to wear our baby around the house, sleeping in her carrier, leaving me free to, say, make a coffee.
There are masses of different baby carriers out there. I like the ERGOBaby because it’s comfortable, plus the design is good for the baby’s hips.
ERGOBaby website –> here
3. The Activity Mat: Skip-Hop Alphabet Mat
We were lucky enough to be given an activity mat as a gift shortly after DamBaby was born. We chose the Skip Hop one from a shortlist because it looked like the least epileptic fit inducing (do babies really like their toys so neon garish? Really??).
I’ll be honest, the first few times we put DamBaby on it was a sorry disappointment. Within 30 seconds she was in floods of tears. Naturally, I concluded she was the sort of baby that hated activity mats (ah the brilliance of a first-time Mum). A few weeks later, though, and things changed. By six weeks, hatred turn to mild dislike, which in turn became absolute love. Now, at nearly six months, she will happily play on it for 30+ minutes, just reaching out and grabbing the toys (and of course, putting them straight her in mouth). It’s our most valuable toy / piece of entertainment by a mile and has helped her achieve several developmental milestones.
Skip Hop website –> here
4. The Muslins: Aden+Anais Swaddles
Before DamBaby was born, everyone said to us “get muslins! get as many as you can lay your hands on!” Now I know why. Babies are messy little things. We get through a sizeable arsenal of muslins every single day.
It might seem stupid to spend a lot of money on muslins. But, the giant Aden+Anais swaddle size ones we bought are absolutely fantastic. Not only for the volume of mess they can absorb, but for the hundreds of other uses we keep finding for them – impromptu picnic rug; sunshade; wind shade; peek-a-boo blanket; duvet. And, the material actually seems to improve with each wash.
Aden + Anais website –> here
5. Clothing Essentials: GAP Long and short sleeved bodysuits
If you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll barely need to buy an item of clothing for your baby’s first months. Clothes are a favourite gift, along with soft teddies.
I didn’t really know what babies wore before DamBaby came along. Sometimes I’m still not sure I get it right. She often spends the day in what some people may class as pyjamas. It also varies dramatically by season. Born in August, DamBaby could spent her first weeks in little more than a short-sleeved bodysuit. Now the evils of winter are here she’s in long-sleeved bodysuit + trousers + long-sleeved t-shirt + socks + coat and hat when we go out. For a baby that hates putting clothes on, this is a daily battleground. For me to win this fight without hysterics, her clothes need to be easy to put on and comfortable to wear. That means bodysuits made of soft, stretchy fabric that I can get over her head and her arms into easily. My favourite shop for basic bodysuits is GAP. They last too: I’ve literally just packed away her 0-3 month ones at 5+ months.
GAP website –> here
6. The Sleep Saviour: GroBag Baby Sleeping Bag
Fact: any product that actually makes your baby sleep better is indispensable.
When DamBaby was first born, because she swung her arms like a helicopter in her sleep, we swaddled her tightly then tucked blankets over the top in bed. I started reading about sleeping bags when she was 6-ish weeks. She was prone to wriggling out of her swaddle and kicking all her blankets off – the idea that something could avoid this sounded promising. We trialled her in her GroBag sleeping bag and have never looked back. I know she’s always the right temperature; she can kick her legs up all she likes while still staying inside; when we travel it’s easy to take it with us; being zipped into her sleeping bag is now part of her recognised bedtime routine and I don’t need to get her out of it for night-time feeds. I would never go back to blankets again. Sleeping bags are the way forward.
I’m sure there are lots of brands out there, but GroBag sleeping bags are available in different ‘tog’ weights, they provide great advice about what your baby should wear to be the right temperature and they come in a variety of fun designs.
Gro Company website –> here
7. The Feeding Aid: Rigid neck feeding apron
The first few weeks of DamBaby’s life were a blur of endless feeding, nappy changes and not much else. Luckily, being a greedy gannet, she was quite quick to stretch the time out between feeds to three hours. This opened up the possibility of life outside the house. Initially, however, I’d limit this life to any activity I could start and finish before the next feed. I didn’t have my public feeding confidence in place. I’d recommend all new mums conquer this as soon as possible (if you’re breastfeeding). The sooner you get over it the better – the world becomes so much larger.
One very cheap way to feel confident and comfortable feeding your baby anywhere is a feeding apron. No-one – not even Claridges – could complain about that. Get one with a rigid neck – that way it will hang in a way that leaves space for your baby instead of draping over them, plus you can take a sneaky peek at what they’re up to. I am proud to say I’ve fed DamBaby in parks, restaurants – including on a barstool in a chic New York restaurant – and in airports (and on aeroplanes). The world is our oyster.
Amazon UK website / feeding aprons –> here
8. The Nappy Bin: Diaper Champ
It goes without saying that nappies are a newborn essential. I’m not going to put them in my top ten list. What I would recommend is a nappy bin. We bought one before DamBaby was born thinking it was probably a ’nice-to-have’. And, yes, you can do without one. But they are fantastically convenient. Being able to store a couple of days worth of nappies mess and smell free? That puts it in my top ten.
And I haven’t suddenly come over all US-British – the Dutch call nappies ‘diapers’ too, hence the brand name.
Diaper Champ website –> here
9. The Medical Essential: Braun In-Ear Thermometer
As much as I try to be completely-chilled-out-first-time-Mum (I’m pretty sure that having to try means I’ve failed), I do find myself jabbing a thermometer at DamBaby every time she’s grumpy, just to make sure she doesn’t have some off-the-chart fever. The Dutch approach would have me doing this via a bottom thermometer. Yeesh. The faster, more humane approach is an in-ear thermometer. It literally takes one second to get an accurate reading. That makes it an absolutely essential piece of kit.
Braun Thermometers website –> here
10. World in a Bag: StorkSak Baby Bag
Hanging off the back of our pram is a bag containing my entire world. The Mary Poppins depths of its content knows no bounds: changes of clothes, nappies, wipes, muslins, a bottle, my feeding apron, toys, pacifiers, the kitchen sink.
It’s so essential I almost forgot to put it on this list – I take its necessity for granted. A StorkSak specifically isn’t necessary. There are plenty of options for every budget. But, it looks good, isn’t so girly that my husband won’t go near it, has plenty of separate compartments inside and outside the bag, and includes a changing mat (absolutely essential) and insulated bottle holder (somewhat useful).
StorkSak website –> here
What are your top newborn essentials? Did they make my top ten?