Essential Items For Bringing Baby Home: What Exactly Will I Need?
As soon as you announce that you're pregnant, well-meaning folk start giving you advice, advice and more advice about all sorts of things.
From what to eat in pregnancy to how you should decide on a name for your future offspring. Another common area of advice is what to buy in preparation for your baby's arrival.
This shopping list could be potentially endless. However, in my experience you really don't need very much. In the olden days, especially in large families, baby would just sleep in a padded drawer; - not that I'm recommending this; but for thousands of years women managed to look after their babies without the likes of aerodynamic designer buggies and swinging chairs that vibrate and play thirty different lullabies. So what do you need?
Well, the main things that newborns do are eat, excrete and sleep, so your essential items need to provide for these activities at least!
The main equipment you'll need here is obviously breasts!
If you decide to breastfeed then you're not going to need so much 'stuff', but there are some things that are still very useful to have. Breast pads stop milk leaking through your clothes, and can be a godsend. You can either get disposable ones or the washable kind.
You may also choose to feed your baby breast milk from a bottle, so a breast pump will be useful, although this isn't essential from the moment your baby gets home. You could always see how you go and purchase this later on.
Some people like to buy some back-up bottles in case breastfeeding doesn't go as planned or if they want to pump. Please see the bottlefeeding paragraph below for information on bottle-feeding equipment.
If you do have problems with breastfeeding then it's always useful to have numbers at hand for the many free breastfeeding helplines, such as those run by La Leche League or the NCT. They can help you with any problems, day or night.
Feeding bras are useful, although not essential. They make it easier to feed your baby without too much fumbling around, especially for a first-time mum. Once you've been measured and know what size you are it's best to buy a few.
Bottle feeding equipment
For a newborn you need at least six feeds per day, so you can either choose to buy many bottles, or wash, sterilise and reuse a couple in rotation. Some people buy special newborn bottles, but as your baby will soon be moving onto the larger, regular-sized ones, it's more cost-effective to just go for the larger ones from the start. But be sure to use a small teat for a newborn.
In addition to bottles, you'll need newborn formula, a bottle brush for cleaning right inside the bottles and possibly a steriliser. I say 'possibly', because it's just as effective to soak your bottles and teats in a large pan full of boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes.
Some people also buy a bottle warmer, but a jug or bowl of hot water is just as good!
These were our most essential items when we brought our daughter home. A simple product, they are exactly what they say they are; squares of muslin fabric, which can be used to clean up spilt or possetted milk when feeding or burping your baby, (or at any other time)! They can potentially save your clothes and your furniture! And they can also be used as nappy liners for reusable nappies.
Nappies and changing equipment
It's important to have enough nappies, whether you choose reusable or disposable ones. Newborn babies need around twelve nappy changes per day, so be prepared!
Rather than buying wipes, you can use cotton wool balls and cooled boiled water to clean your newborn's bottom after a nappy change. This is better for their delicate skin.
A changing mat is an essential item. They are inexpensive and wipeable. They are safest to use on the floor as babies tend to wriggle around a lot. However, if you have back problems (or to prevent them occurring), it may be wise to invest in a changing table which allows you to change nappies without having to bend down.
You can buy a variety of baby baths, baby chairs and supports to make it easier to bath your newborn. For first-time parents these things can be useful, as it can be quite nerve-wracking handling a slippery and wriggly, yet fragile baby. But they are by no means essential; it's fine to bathe baby in the sink or even in your bath; but baby bathing equipment can be good for giving you confidence.
There are lots of baby toiletries around, but it's not necessary to use any chemicals on a newborn baby whose skin is very thin and delicate. Newborns don't get very dirty so water baths are fine, and cleaning them with a sponge or with cotton wool balls is all that is really needed, although some parents prefer to use a mild cleanser.
It is not essential to equip your baby's nursery from birth! It's recommended that your baby sleeps in your room for the first six months of his or her life (as it's thought that this might help to prevent cot death, and it's also a lot more convenient for night feeding). So all you really need to provide is somewhere for your baby to sleep and bedding.
A popular option for baby's first sleeping place is a moses basket. These are inexpensive and are portable, so can also be used for daytime naps anywhere in the house.
As moses baskets only last until your baby's around six months, you may want to put your baby straight into a cot or cot bed, which can also be placed in your room for the first six months (if there is room).
Personally I found that the best option was for my daughter to sleep in our bed with us. This was the ideal solution for me when I was breastfeeding at all hours of the night. I didn't discover co-sleeping until she was a few months old, and it was such a relief after having to get out of my nice warm bed several times a night and freeze in my uncomfortable chair! (If you do decide to co-sleep then be sure to read the guidelines).
You baby bedding requirements will depend on where your baby will be sleeping. If you're co-sleeping then you won't need any additional bedding. With a moses basket you'll need a sheet and some light, cotton cellular blankets, and with a cot you'll need the same, but the sheets need to be cot or cot bed size.
There are lots of very expensive prams and buggies around at the moment in all sorts of trendy colours and designs, and if you feel the need for one of these then by all means go for it!
However, when your baby's tiny all you really need is a baby sling. Babies love the secure feeling of being held close and feeling your heartbeat, it's less cumbersome than a buggy or pram and it leaves your hands free. You'll probably need to buy some sort of buggy or pram later on, but I don't consider this to be an essential item to rush out and buy before your baby's born.
Baby needs clothes
Lastly, your newborn will need something to wear!
Stock up on cotton baby vests (the all-in-one type are warmest) and babygros (onesies). Beware of buying expensive outfits at this stage, as baby will grow out of them so quickly that you'll probably regret it!
Your baby will also need jumpers, jackets or snowsuits, depending on the weather. Oh, and a hat. Babies lose lots of heat through their heads.