Preparing for a new baby: what do you need?

Having a baby is one of the most exciting times of your life for one thing: shopping! A whole new world of stuff has opened up to you that you may never have given a thought to before. Cute baby clothes! Beautiful nursery décor! Adorable soft toys! Baby shoes!!! It’s easy to spend a huge amount of time on Instagram or Pinterest planning how beautiful life is going to be with your gorgeous new baby, and how colour coordinated and glamourous everything is going to look.

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I don’t think the baby will appreciate the chandelier… (And DON’T use cot bumpers, they are dangerous.)

On the other hand, you’re not made of money, and there’s a bewildering amount of choice of every little thing your baby might possibly need. How do you know you have bought enough? Will you ever be “ready”?

In many ways pregnancy is like planning a wedding. You put hours of thought and attention into how it’s all going to look – what’s your theme?? – and all the anxiety you feel about whether the table decorations are going to be right, and who is going to sit next to whom, is not really about that. The anxiety is about this huge event that’s going to happen in your life.  At least with a wedding you know the exact date you are working towards!

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I love how you have to tick off “get excited” – you won’t be by the time you’ve done all that lot!

We say that if you spent as much time preparing for birth as people do for a wedding, then this will stand you in good stead. But I’m talking about preparing for birth, not preparing a nursery. So that means going to classes, practising your breathing techniques and movement, getting yourself in the right physical and mental shape to be ready for the intense physical event you are going to experience. Jo always likens it to running a marathon. You wouldn’t want to be standing at the start line of the London Marathon if your only preparation was one afternoon of sitting in a chair listening to a workshop. You need to put in the practice. More on that in another blog post. My point is that you’ve got enough to do in preparing for birth, without getting bogged down with buying stuff that you may or may not need.

I put out a post on Facebook this week asking for people’s tips on what they used for their new baby and what was a waste of money. Predictably there was a range of opinions, and you can read the thread here.

The main thing to take away from everyone’s advice, is to not feel you have to buy everything in advance. It’s sad that we no longer have the baby shops like Mothercare and Mamas and Papas locally where we can go and browse and pick something off the shelf, but we do now have the ability to order something at 2 in the morning and have it arrive within a couple of days. If you find you haven’t got something you need, you’re not going to have to wait long for it to arrive.

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Here they come with all your deliveries!

It’s also highly recommended to buy things second hand. New babies don’t create a lot of wear and tear on anything, and lots of people will be selling things that they have only used for a few weeks. Of course, it’s much better for the planet to reuse things, and your baby certainly won’t care whether their changing table is brand new or has been in someone else’s house first. On the subject of the planet, lots of people recommend buying reusable wipes. There were also recommendations for slings and cloth nappies, both of which you can try before you buy (or not buy) from the sling library and the cloth nappy library. A stretchy wrap sling was certainly a vital bit of kit for me personally. They are like magic for settling most babies and much more comfortable for you than always holding your baby in your arms (because you’ll be holding them A LOT.)

A big thing that is often overlooked in lists of what you need for a new baby, is what you will need for yourself. If you’re breastfeeding you’ll really benefit from comfy tops you can feed in easily, and there were several recommendations for Lansinoh. Don’t forget to batch cook and freeze meals if you can, and make sure you are well set up for books, podcasts, TV subscriptions, whatever your preferences are for entertaining yourself during the newborn period and beyond.

The biggest “don’t buy” was baby toiletries. They really don’t need them. They will smell lovely as they are, they don’t need perfuming, and their skin doesn’t like it. No doubt someone will buy you some anyway, which you can save until they are a bit older. I ended up using the massive bottle of baby lotion on myself in the end!

Suffolk Babies’ alternative list of what you need for a new baby

The basics

  • Somewhere for them to sleep and a couple of sheets for the cot/moses basket if that’s where you think they are going to sleep.
  • A few things for them to wear – go for vests and babygrows suitable for the time of year
  • Some nappies (washable/disposable)
  • Plenty of muslin cloths
  • Car seat
  • Stretchy wrap sling – get in touch with the sling library and you can hire one from them for a few quid.
  • Somewhere to change nappies
  • Storage!

The essentials

  • Big, massive comfy bras. Even if you don’t breastfeed, your boobs will probably feel enormous when your milk comes in. If it’s your first baby you really don’t know how your breasts are going to react – mine went bonkers and grew to the size and firmness of a couple of actual melons, so for me bras are quite a priority, but I know it’s not like that for everyone! For breastfeeding invest in tops that give you easy boob access – you will be getting them out a lot and you want to minimise the faffing around. Get some breastpads too (you can get washable ones) in case you are leaky. Also don’t forget maternity pads. It’s not glamourous but you’re going to need a few weeks’ worth.
  • Food. Lots of food. In the easiest possible form. Freezing healthy meals is the ideal, but even just having a massive stash of biscuits and fruit will be better than nothing. You will probably be eating quite a few meals while holding a baby, so things you can eat one-handed are good!
  • Set up a station next to your bed and the sofa where you can place: your phone, TV remote, water bottle and snacks. Have spare muslins and breastpads easily to hand too. A big triangle pillow is fantastic for getting comfortable.

New babies need surprisingly little at first. It’s good to aim to stay at home for at least the first week or so, and that should give you more than enough time to get anything it turns out you’ve forgotten. The list above is definitely not exhaustive, but the really important thing is to remember your own needs and not simply focus on stuff for the baby.

Another “essential” is the ability to ask for help. Work on that one if it doesn’t come naturally to you. You won’t have everything you need, and you won’t be able to do everything you want to. Babies are demanding and time consuming little creatures and you need to be able to ask your partner or visitors to do their bit in keeping the household running so that you can focus on the important job of looking after yourself and your new baby.

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