Preparing for Amelia’s arrival was pretty daunting. Not least because we needed to make sure we were ready with all the right equipment we might need to look after a newborn. It was around this time last year that we were in the process of amassing all the ‘essentials’. A number of my friends are currently in the same position. I thought I would share with you what we found to be the most useful purchases in the run up to her birth. The best way to look at what is essential is that you need to be able to keep baby warm and clean, provide them with somewhere to sleep and move them from A to B!
By far the most important piece of equipment! You are expected to take baby home in a car seat, and be able to strap them in with no assistance. We didn’t do a great deal of research on car seats, instead choosing to go with recommendations from friends. Most friends had gone with a Maxi-Cosi. Research that we did do showed that there was a lot of support for the Kiddicare Shuffle. However, we preferred to have a car seat that fitted in with isofix. We selected the family fix base to go with our Maxi-Cosi Pebble so that when she moves to the next size up we would not need a new base. The most reassuring part of the car seat is that the base lights up and beeps when it is correctly fixed into the car, and the seat is correctly attached to the base. In addition, the car seat fixes to our pram base with the correct adaptors. It is sensible to make sure the base is fixed into the car a couple of weeks before the due date, or that you’ve practiced fixing the car seat into the car. Being ahead of schedule the husband had to get the car seat fixed in whilst I was getting ready to leave for the hospital! We hadn’t tried fitting a teddy or doll into the seat and tightening the straps so we had to get a little advice ‘off the record’ from our midwife who discharged us. It can be a little fiddly to get out of the car, and one day I couldn’t get the seat back into the car because one of the fixings had not reset itself when I had last removed the seat from the base. Cue a lot of panic until my rational side took over and retraced all the steps!
Sanitary towels and breast pads
It’s easy to make sure you have everything ready for the baby but forget about yourself and what you might need. Trust me – these two things are crucial. Get plenty. Get the biggest maternity towels you can. They don’t need to be fancy – I had Tesco’s own brand maternity towels and found Asda’s breast pads to be perfectly comfy and functional. A tip – if you think your waters might have broken, but are not sure, then use a maternity towel. I used a standard sanitary towel and they’re actually very good at being absorbent. So much so that the midwife could not tell whether my waters had gone or not. Some other useful pointers related to these two items – I bought a couple of cheap packs of big pants from the supermarket, and used these after the birth. Some people suggest disposable pants but I found a pack of simple pants worked just as well, and are reusable. Get some good maternity bras. I really liked the M+S ones (http://www.marksandspencer.com/2-pack-maternity-non-wired-santoni-full-cup-bras/p/p22278630?prevPage=plp). They’re perhaps not the cheapest but they have stood the test of time (lots of wear, use and washing). I found I needed to wear bras at night, with the breast pads, for quite a long time and these were really comfortable. Plus they accommodate the wide changes in size that your breasts go through whilst breastfeeding. If breastfeeding I cannot recommend nipple cream enough. I used Lansinoh HPA lanolin cream. Numerous people recommended it, and one friend explained that though she had tried plenty of cheaper alternatives this was by far the best. You don’t need to remove it before feeding either. I found that it was most required in the early weeks as feeding was established. You don’t need much each time, and as such I only used one tube so it was pretty good value. A word of warning – it’s greasy. Make sure you put a breast pad on after using it as it stained my pyjama top to the extent that I couldn’t get rid of the grease marks and had to throw the top away.
We bought a moses basket following reading what we should buy in preparation for baby’s arrival. It lasted about three months before we decided to get a crib as she was outgrowing the basket but we weren’t ready to move her into a separate room, and therefore into her big cot. The moses basket was useful since it was portable around the house. However, our pram top was also suitable for moving around the house, and was designed so it could be used as a travel cot. In fact during the first couple of weeks she preferred to sleep in this compared to the basket. Though perhaps this was due to us not getting a better mattress than the one that came with the basket. On reflection I am note sure whether we would buy the moses basket again if we did it over again. I think we would go straight for the crib. Quite a few people I know bought the cribs that fit alongside the bed and have found these really useful. What I do wish I had bought earlier was the Sleepyhead. I wonder if she would have settled in the crib more easily from a younger age had we had this from birth.
Nappies and wipes
Stock up on these in the run up to the birth. I took advantage of baby events at the supermarket to buy the biggest sized pack of both. My initial supply of wipes lasted me about six months! Plus we had stocked up on enough of the first size nappies to last until she was ready for the next size up. It was great to not have to worry about last minute supermarket dashes or online orders. We bought one changing mat but some friends gave us a couple more. At the time we tried to resist being given them, thinking that we already had one. However, it was useful to have them as it meant we could keep them in different locations and not have to either a) change nappies in the same place each time or b) carry changing mats around the house.
We probably spent the most time researching this. We took advice from friends, looked at awards for baby products, the Which website and product reviews on websites. We settled for an Uppababy Vista. The reasons for this being it’s multifunctional use and longevity of use. It has a great pram top that doubles up as a travel cot when required. I really love how much space the basket has – I can go around the supermarket with the shopping bags in the bottom and do the scan as you go. The car seat fixes to the pushchair base with an adaptor. I would say this is a little fiddly to remove. I don’t have anything else to compare this too so I don’t know if this would be the case with other car seats or buggy systems. This buggy is also great for future proofing. Using adaptors it can be doubled up to become a double buggy. I have used it for this purpose to transport Amelia and one of her little buddies, using the car seat and the pushchair seat. It worked very well and was easy to set up. The buggy is also really easy to manoeuvre and has a great turning circle for tight spaces! It is perhaps a bit bulky when collapsed down, compared to some others. However the wheels are easily removed which does make it more compact. I also like the height of the seat. I have noticed that some other systems are very low in height compared to the Uppababy. The handle bar is also adjustable which is fantastic for parents who are a foot apart in height difference!
Muslins, vests and babygros
A reasonable collection of these is very useful. It is likely you will be gifted with many babygros but it is useful to have a few of each to start with. Some inexpensive ones are all that’s required. Muslins are extremely useful for wiping any milk or vomit up. Or averting a spray of wee when incidents occur! Larger ones can be helpful for swaddling baby too. We had numerous poop escapes from nappies. Baby poop in the early days is amazingly good at dyeing clothes a nice yellowy colour. Therefore inexpensive vests are all that is required. I spent a lot of time soaking vests in vanish and washing powder.
Ewan the Dreamsheep
He may be seen as a luxury item to some but in our household he has become a necessity! We have used him from day one and found him to be of great help in settling Amelia. See the recommendations page for more details on him. The only piece of advice I will give on him is make sure you have a stock of AAA batteries to hand. Though we look back on it fondly, I am not sure my husband found searching the house high and low, at 3am, for batteries to bring Ewan alive, the highlight of paternity leave!
There were many items along the way that we couldn’t understand why you would ever need them, such as a mirror for the car seat, or a nappy disposal unit. However, we now have a mirror for the car seat, and we completely understand why you would want a nappy disposal unit. We bought the mirror soon after her birth and find it really useful to keep a check on what she’s doing whilst we are out and about driving. The nappies are pretty innocuous in the early days, but as soon as we started weaning her they changed! We haven’t given in to the nappy disposal unit so far but I think that time might come soon.
There are also things that are useful but just not straight away. Examples include monitors. We didn’t use a monitor until a few weeks after the birth. We started using it once we started putting her to bed upstairs. Even then we only used it until we went to bed and then she was in the same room as us. As I said at the start – the essential all relate to sleeping, travel and keeping baby clean and warm. I should add that it might be useful to have some basics for bottle-feeding, even if you are hoping to breastfeed. I meant to get around to this but with her arriving two weeks ahead of schedule I didn’t. Some friends had they baby over Easter weekend and needed some formula due to breastfeeding difficulties. It was not as easy as you’d think when the shops are closed for Easter. Think ahead if your EDD is close to a bank holiday!
If there are any items you found ‘essential’ or wished you hadn’t bothered with then please share!