My baby essentials guide – what to buy for a newborn
I’ve written about the baby-shopping minefield, which was also featured in the Huffington Post (that was SOME rant). So having taken a deep breath, gotten a tonne of recommendations and spoken to some great brands, I *think I have got most of my baby essentials.
If you’re shopping for a little one, and finding the whole experience a little overwhelming, this article is for you. I’ve not detailed everything I’ve got (this article is long enough as it is), but I’ve listed the key baby essentials to help me navigate this new adventure.
It’s a big beast of an article, so I have grouped the essential items. If you’re short on time, just scroll to the areas that are relevant to you.
But before you dive in, there are some key things I want to point out. Being pregnant and planning life with a newborn is overwhelming. Your hormones are raging. You’re getting endless unsolicited advice. Your confidence dips. Then there’s the added pressure that you have to plan for the Armageddon in terms of shopping for baby. It’s almost a fear that every single shop will close down once baby is born, so you have to get EVERYTHING NOW.
And with a tonne of guides out there, you may feel like you’ll never have your stuff sorted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed and unpacked my hospital bag after coming across a different list. So I don’t want my baby essentials guide to add to the load. Use it for what it is. Take the info and recommendations that work for you. Ignore the rest.
One thing I can say is that I literally own everything featured. So while I haven’t road-tested (you can’t really walk around town with an empty pram) all the items, I can vouch for their quality, touch, texture, functionality and cuteness. There’s no wish list. So with that in mind some reading tips:
Get what’s right for you, your budget and your needs
What is priority for me, might be different for you. This is just a guide to hopefully help you along the way.
Don’t feel like you have to keep up with the Jones’
It’s so easy to get swayed by what your friends, colleagues, or ‘her next door’ has bought. But it’s not a competition for who has the fanciest pram or changing bag. Baby shopping is expensive enough as it is, without having to factor in unhealthy competition.
Mix it up
A key thing with this guide is that I’m all for mixing luxury with budget, nice treats with value items. So don’t feel guilty about getting that expensive blanket if it makes you feel better. But do grab some affordable items to balance out the escalating cost.
Have fun with it
When I was getting all in a tizz, I stopped enjoying the shopping experience. However, as I ticked off a few big purchases, I began to relax and enjoy the process. After all, you’re buying extra tiny clothes for your new bff, what’s not to enjoy about that?
So with that out of the way, here is my baby essentials guide…
So one of the biggest and priciest purchases for a new baby is the nursery furniture. This is often something parents agonise over. Luckily for us, our nursery was a quick impulse buy.
After a mooch around Mamas and Papas, we found a cotbed, drawer with changing top and cupboard which fits our needs. Admittedly we initially thought we’d only need a cot. But once we’d realised that our wardrobes are full to bursting, we concluded that it would only be fair for baby to have its own storage for those itsy-bitsy clothes.
The actual furniture is from the Altas range and came as a set. What swung it for us was the fact that the cot could convert to a single bed, so could be used up until the age of three. We also liked the neutral wood colour, as the pearly white ranges looked a bit too baby-ish. The cupboard can be used as a regular wardrobe for years to come. It’s the same with the drawer, as the changing top is removable. Plus the solid nature of range indicates it’ll be robust enough to last.
As an added bonus, as I’d inadvertently joined the Mamas and Papas mother and baby club, I was entitled to £60 off as the purchase was more than £500.
It was great to have made such a quick decision on one of the bigger purchases early on. Though inevitably, it gave us more time to agonise over everything else.
Now I’ve been told that the mattress is a more important purchase than the cot itself. So it’s worthy of an investment.
We opted for the Mamas and Papas pocket sprung anti-allergy and temperature control cotbed mattress. Thought it was on the slightly more expensive end at £200, it was an added reassurance to get the temperature regulation. Overheating is one of my main worries with a summer baby.
Sleepyhead Deluxe sleeping pod
So with the furniture purchase made, it was onto my next dilemma. What should a newborn sleep in?
The cotbed is said to be safe for a baby to use from day one. However, my midwife and family cautioned that while it is safe, baby may look and feel a little lost in such a big cot.
However, living in a small central London flat, I wasn’t sold on the idea of a moses basket. While all my nephews and nieces had moses baskets as their first bed, I was informed that they quickly grew out of them (I’m talking weeks rather than months).
Also, a moses basket makes sense if you live in a house, constantly transporting baby up and down stairs. But in a flat, it just seemed like something that would take up unnecessary space.
So I’d been looking into other safe sleeping options that could create a sense of snugness for baby. And this is when Sleepyhead entered my life. The team behind the product got in touch, so I was keen to find out more.
Sleepyhead – recreating the womb
Sleepyhead, the original sleep-pod, is used at Whittington Hospital in London. It’s a snug, well-fitted pod, which aims to recreate the womb environment. This offers babies a sense of security.
Another great appeal of the Sleepyhead is the portability of it. It can be transported from room to room. It can fit into a moses basket (not that I need it to), and it can be used for overnight stays away from home.
Similar to my temperature control mattress, the fact that Sleepyhead also provides an ideal microclimate for babies helps reassure my worry-wart mind.
Unusually, everyone I’ve spoken to that uses Sleepyhead raves about it. I say unusually because it is the one item I have come across that doesn’t generate mixed reviews. It’s unanimously positive, so Sleepyhead seems like a good essential to have.
Now, while Sleepyhead Deluxe isn’t the cheapest sleep pod out there, what appeals to me is its reusability. A mattress can only ever be used by one child, as it cannot be washed. Sleepyhead, however, comes completely apart and all sections can be put in the washing machine. This makes it more of an investment piece. Plus, if it provides a good night’s sleep, it’s an investment worth making.
You can get the Sleepyhead Deluxe from Amazon.
So it turns out that small people need lots of small blankets. If it’s not for the cotbed, it’s for the pram, car seat, or just a casual wrap. Aren’t babies just adorable mini-divas?
Anyway the other thing I’ve learnt is to stock up on multiples, as unplanned late-night sheet changes are a likely occurrence.
Luckily, most blanket makers know this. So I bought some Clare De Lune blankets which came in sets of two. I also bought some cellular blankets (I.e. breathable blankets with little holes), to allow for all weathers and eventualities.
My blankets fuse affordable (Claire De Lune and Mothercare) with mid range (Mamas & Papas) and some nice treats. I picked up two lovely blankets from Liberty, which I feel are investment pieces that would make great hand-me downs.
Plus blankets have a much longer shelf life than baby gros, which don’t get much more than a couple of wears before baby, well… grows. I guess the clues in the name.
This is perhaps every marketers dream – the clothes. We all know babies grow like grass. Every aunt tells us not to go crazy when clothes shopping. But all the little outfits are soooo cute.
So anyway, I hatched a rather cunning plan – mixing basics with super cute.
Now I have to say I thought of this after being enlightened by my midwife. She informed me that all baby clothes have to meet a European quality standard. So for all those worried expectant mums (I’m one of them) spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting better.
Apparently even Primark’s baby grows are 100% cotton. Though I can’t vouch for these myself as I haven’t bought from there. However I have picked up some plain white baby grows from Tesco’s F&F which reviews have said are better quality than more expensive brands.
I have mixed basic white grows with some super cute buys to satisfy my playing dress-up needs.
I’ve discovered two adorable Scandinavian brands called Absorba and Polarn O. Pyret. They have lovely, good quality gender-neutral outfits. After a trip to House of Fraser, hubby became obsessed with them, and we came away with the most adorable teeny baby grows, socks and hats.
Add to this some buys from John Lewis, Gap and Mamas & Papas and we have ourselves a truly eclectic wardrobe. The only common theme – we’ve got lots of baby grows. This is because I feel that nothing is cuter on a baby than a grow. They only get to wear them for such a short time. Plus I always think it’s a shame to have such small babies dressed like grown ups (i.e. tops and trousers). After all, they have their whole life to do that. So let babies be babies.
So this isn’t quite a baby essential. But then it sort of is. The vitamins I’ve been taking throughout my pregnancy have helped me and the bubba.
While I started off with Pregnacare, I then transferred onto essential multivitamins which were recommended by my midwife. These supplements contained vitamins C, D and folic acid.
I also topped this up with Bump and Glory vitamins. I’d been looking for some Omega 3 supplements, but most were to be avoided during pregnancy due to the metal content. However, Bump and Glory is specifically for pregnant women, and each tablet is the equivalent to a to tin of sardines.
Now supplements are really difficult to critique, as there are so many other variable factors to wellbeing. All I can say is, whether it’s the addition of supplements or just luck/health/whatever else, I’ve felt great throughout this pregnancy.
One thing I would stress is that I didn’t take ANTHING without consulting my midwife. When it comes to supplements, it’s a personal choice and different things work for different people. So it’s really important to find what works, and is suitable and safe for you.
Panasonic Smart Home Baby Monitor Kit
Another item that was up for debate was the baby monitor. As we live in a flat, I wasn’t sure whether we’d really need a monitor as little one would never be that far away.
However, upon recommendations from friends, I decided that it might be worth getting, particularly a video baby monitor so I knew whether to enter the room or not before checking in and disturbing baby.
Anyway, I was introduced to the Panasonic Smart Home Baby Monitor Kit, which has a huge bonus – remote monitoring. The camera and hub is connected to my phone, which means I can check in on baby when out of the house up to 300 metres away. This gives an added reassurance when using babysitters later on. Heck, it will even help when emptying the rubbish out on the same floor.
One of the struggles that all mums have is being away from baby and leaving them with somebody else. I think this is magnified when you don’t have lots of family nearby, so child-minders and babysitters may form part of your village. So the idea that you can be away from baby, even to go to the nearby shop, and still check in on them, is a great idea.
Other bonuses of the Panasonic Smart Baby Monitor Kit include temperature display, two-way communication (no shouting from another room), and night vision.
You can get the Panasonic Smart Baby Monitor Kit from Amazon.
Now I’m hoping that I don’t have to look at this for the first few months. However sterilisers and bottles are an essential for every mum at some point.
When that time comes, I’ll be using Dr Brown’s deluxe electric steriliser. I didn’t fancy a microwaved one. The Dr Brown’s version steam sterilises, and can take up to 6 bottles at once. The large compartment also includes an accessories tray for small items such as dummies, soothers, teethers and teats.
And yes, I know that you can sterilise with boiling water, but I’ve only ever seen my siblings use steriliser kits, so I feel it’s a worthy investment for reassurance and peace of mind.
You can find out more about Dr Brown’s steriliser and get from Amazon.
Swaddles and sleeping bags
So one of my biggest fears, which I believe is the same for every new mum is safe sleeping. After all, I can keep watch during the day, but it’s at night-time that I want to feel confident that baby is ok.
One of my biggest dilemmas was around the bedding. This wasn’t just for the safety aspect, but also because I’ve been told that wriggly babies often kick off blankets in the night, causing them to wake up from being cold.
So enter sleeping bags and swaddles, which may just be the answer.
So I’ve been told that going from a warm and cosy environment to the big wide world can be scary for new babies. So recreating that warm and cosy space helps settle them, especially at night. I’d heard about swaddling before, and how it can help babies sleep better. However, despite looking at YouTube video demos, I was a bit scared to actually swaddle with a blanket.
So the ErgoPouch Ergo Cocoon, which takes the origami out of swaddling, seems a brilliant idea. Suitable for safe overnight sleeping, ErgoPouch’s Ergo Cocoon comes with its own tog rating. It’s ready stitched so there’s no danger of too tightly or too loosely swaddling (one of my irrational fears).
Being 95% cotton with some elastene, it’s got a good amount of stretch movement, without room for escape.
I also like the fact that ErgoPouch has poppers for arms, so you can start with bang fully cocooned, and then have their arms loose once they’re more mobile.
Also as a bonus, there’s a zipper for easy nappy changing access. The ErgoPouch I have is one tog, so ideal for autumn.
You can get the ErgoPouch Ergo Cocoon from Amazon.
Another swaddle I’ll be using is Mum2Mum, which also takes the tricky work out of swaddling. Mum2Mum is double wrapped for extra snugness. It also has a full zip for easy nappy changing, and is 100% cotton.
While Mum2Mum doesn’t have a tog rating, it feels slightly thicker than the ErgoPouch, so will probably use this as the weather gets a little cooler.
So as cute as they look all wrapped up, we can’t swaddle babies forever. In fact, babies need freedom to move, wriggle and work their limbs after as they grow. And that’s where sleeping bags come in.
Recommended by my sister, sleeping bags really help solve the kicking blankets/wriggling under conundrum. They’re looser than a swaddle, but still ensure that baby can’t do an escape act. This adorable sleeping bag from JoJo Maman Bebe opens out completely flat, so no manoeuvring baby into it, has a side zip and shoulder fastening.
I also love the fact that with it’s light blue Noah’s Ark design, it’s slightly gender neutral.
With sleeping bags, you have the added bonus of cuddling baby to sleep, without disturbing them when you put them down as you don’t have to add blankets.
One thing to note is that a sleeping bag should be used once a baby weighs over 10lbs, or 4.5kg. You shouldn’t use one if little one’s head can pass easily through the neck opening once it’s fastened. And it shouldn’t be used with other blankets. I’ve got a slightly bigger size ready to use when baby outgrows the swaddle.
So to add to all the things a new mum has to think about, head deformities is apparently one of them. Now I come to think of it, small babies do often have pointy or flat heads, but I truth, I’d never really looked into why.
Hubby had mentioned he recalls seeing mums use towels to help shape the babies head in it’s early stages. However, with my already irrational mind worrying about safe sleeping, I didn’t want to add extra layers into the cot.
Of course, you can’t let a newborn sleep on a regular pillow, so when Theraline got in touch about it’s baby pillow, I was intrigued. The Theraline Baby Pillow is a very flat pillow which helps preserve the natural shape of the baby’s head. It is also said to help keep baby in an ideal sleeping position, supporting them to lay flat whilst allowing them to turn their head. Crucially, it’s light breathable material has a free circulation of air, even when weighed down by baby’s head.
As the Theraline Baby Pillow is the recipient of several parenting awards, it has earned its place in this baby essential’s guide. It may be something to consider if you’re worried about flat head syndrome, but equally don’t want to get creative with towels.
While this might not seem like an essential, anything that helps baby sleep is a bonus in my mind. When I was little, one of the first toys I remember is a glow-worm. It had a green face that lit up and provided some light at bedtime.
I guess the modern day version is the Cloud B Tranquil Turtle. As well as looking cute (like my glow-worm), Tranquil Turtle projects an underwater light effect onto ceilings at night. It also plays a soothing melody as well as an ocean wave.
When the team behind Tranquil Turtle got in touch, I assumed the toy might be for bigger babies, but it’s suitable from birth. And as it’s a sleep aid as well as a toy, it has earned its place on this baby essentials guide.
You can get the Cloud B turtle from their website here.
Room and bath thermometer
Another functional but totally necessary baby essential. The room thermometer was high on my list of things to pacify my worried self. I looked at a few options, including the most famous on the market, Gro Egg. However I was put off by the fact that this needed to be plugged in at the mains to work.
So I ended up getting the Phillips Avent thermometer which could be used in the bath and room. I loved the dual functionality and the fact it’s so small and portable. It has a light up function for temperature reading and night and is waterproof so can can be dropped into the baby’s bath water for a quick temperature gauge. The fact that it has a secondary use as a baby bath toy is just a bonus. Winning.
You can get the Phillips Avent room and bath thermometer from Amazon.
So the car seat is another baby essential that got hubby and I in a pickle. It was totally a case of too many options spoiling the broth. In fact, it was the car seat and pram which prompted me to write my impassioned rant in the Huffington Post.
Every time we shopped for one, we came home more confused. There’s the isofix base, the lie-flat function for newborns. Oh, and did I mention the fact that an infant can go through about 3 different car seats in their childhood?
Along with the pram, the car seat research clocked up the biggest number of Internet hours.
So when Britax reached out about their BABY SAFE i-SIZE infant carrier, I was relieved to see that their car seat ticked pretty much all of the boxes.
Conforming to the new car seat regulation ECE R129 (i-Size), the BABY SAFE i-SIZE is suitable for newborns up to the age of about 15 months. The car seat itself is incredibly sturdy and solid looking. The fact that it’s pretty helps too. It also comes with plush inserts to give a newborn an extra cosy feel. As baby gets bigger, these can be removed to accommodate their growing shape.
The Britax BABY SAFE i-SIZE also comes as lie-flat with the option to adjust to a more upright position. This is important for us, as living in London, we don’t use the car day to day. However, we do make long trips up north, so for a journey which can reach 4-5 hours, the lie flat is a reassuring feature.
The Britax BABY SAFE-i-SIZE can be bought from www.britax.co.uk.
Pram and pushchair
Ok, so initially, this was one of mine and hubby’s favourite pastimes – looking at other people’s prams. A trip to the park would turn into pram-porn. We’d admire the navy bassinets, leather trims, silver handles…
But the novelty wore off once we started to look for our own.
I really got sick of the sight of prams by the time we made our purchase. Why? Because each time we went to look at options, we got more confused. I wrote about this in my last post (the baby shopping minefield). You can get suspension wheels, travel systems, one-handed fold prams… I really felt that too many options spoilt the broth.
I looked at the Silver Cross 3D travel system, but was put off when even the shop assistant couldn’t open and close it with ease.
Pushchair vs. carrycot
Then I procrastinated over whether I needed a pushchair with a separate carrycot. This decision perhaps gave me the greatest headache. Browsing mumsnet for advice provided little clarity. It seemed that for everyone who was pro-carrycot, just as many found them pointless. Even in store, the shop assistants said that prams were fine from birth. I chopped and changed my mind on this dozens of times.
Then there was the size issue. Anything of substance seemed too heavy for me to carry. I was advised by family to opt for chunky wheels. It made perfect sense for negotiating cobbles. Not so much for getting in and out of my front door.
I quickly realised that every pram, no matter what the budget, has its drawbacks. Plus I wouldn’t even know the pros and cons until I actually use the damn thing. After all, pushing back and forth on the spot in Mothercare or John Lewis does not constitute a road test.
So with a finger in the air, we opted for a Mamas & Papas Zoom pushchair with carrycot. It has good reviews, robust wheels and is easy to open and close. So we figure it will do. And I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that if I do find fault, I probably would have with any pram.
So congratulations if you’ve got to the bottom of this article. I hope you found my baby essentials guide useful. What are your top essentials? If I’ve missed anything out, do let me know in a comment below.
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About the Author
I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.