Life has been moving super-fast the last couple of months. So much so that when I started planning this blog post I HAD a new born – said new born is now 6 and a half months old… So I assume it is safe to say that I can really speak from experience. After having 2 new borns in the past 2 and a half years, I have learned a thing or two. Hopefully I can impart some of that “wisdom” to you so that you also don’t have to sit with things still in their boxes. Some emphasis here: this is only my own opinion. I am not a doctor or expert, and have no formal training other than being a mom. So take everything with a pinch of salt.
So here it is: My personal bare-bones, practical, absolute essentials, nothing-but-the-basics guide to what you really need for baby.
Keep in mind babies grow very quickly, so rather not spend lots on expensive clothing. Our favourite brand is Ackermans Baby, with Pep a close second. For Baby 1 we have started buying more expensive clothes (from Woolworths and Edgars) since she wears it a bit longer now. But, she is a toddler and thus hard on clothes. Again, impractical so spend loads of money!
- 7 onesies (long sleeves, with feet) with snaps down the middle. No zips, they are cold in winter and present a hazard if you quickly need to pull them up. Also make sure the onesies can unbutton at the bottom, otherwise you have to take the whole thing off every time you need to change a nappy (about every 20min some days!). Buy them in nice colours, with patterns or pictures, since baby will most probably be wearing them in every photo for the first 3 months. Bonus: if you buy onesies with a hoody – no need for a hat!
- 7 short sleeved body suit vests. I never buy long sleeved vests. The short sleeves are easy to get other onesies over, so you can really layer if it is very cold, plus if it is warm they still have the much needed protection on their chest, with arms a bit cooler to ensure they don’t overhead. I like vests since they cannot pull up and expose naked tummies.
- 2 space suits – those thick puffy onesies that are usually brushed on the inside. Extra warm, extra comfy. Not so nice when baby wants to start moving – looks like Michelin man trying to tie his shoe.
- 2 pairs tights in plain colours. To be worn under vest and onesie when very cold.
- 2 cute outfits for when you want to brag with baby. Pants and shirt/jacket works nicely, since you don’t have to continuously pull down a skirt or dress or pull up tights, etc.
- Sleeping bag for winter baby – eliminates need for loose blankets which provide strangling and choking risks.
- 2 jackets for when the weather turns cold. Preferably with a zipper in the front and a hood.
- Dedicated pajamas: first few weeks baby only sleeps. If you want to dress baby in cute outfits, that is up to you. I am practical – if baby is comfortable and warm, she sleeps in whatever she was wearing. Both my kids slept in a short sleeved vest under a long sleeved onesie. When it was really cold, I put a space suit over the onesie (so 3 layers in total)
- Outfits for every day. As already explained, onesies are da bomb, and if you buy nice ones you won’t want to change baby into anything else.
- Scratch mittens. Most hospitals give them as part of their baby bag in any case, so why spend money? Also, if you cut baby’s nails (or bite them off if you are scared of bringing clippers so close to baby at this young age) scratching won’t be a problem.
- Buy onesies with hoodies. Sun is good for baby, but not a lot of it and not for long periods of time. No hat will make a day in the sun better for baby.
- Tiny socks. Baby is wearing a onesie 90% of the time right. So no socks needed.
- Up to your own discretion. We didn’t get one since both our kids were winter babies. And we cloth diapered, so a cover with no inserts doubled as a swimsuit J
Baby room: Colourful, with lots of interesting elements. Don’t need to cost you a fortune, we used origami and chinese lanterns, and love how colourful it is!
- Something for baby to sleep in, with a firm flat mattress. In some countries that will be a box. In others, a bassinet, or crib, or cradle. We have a moses basket which works beautifully – it fits in next to our bed, we can rock baby in it, and it is big enough to sleep in for first 6 to 8 months, depending on how long baby is.
- For us, a definite need was a rocking chair. Perfect to feed in, it also works a charm for any child struggling with any of the autism spectrum disorders, proprioception issues, or regulating issues. Oh and it also enables mom or dad to sleep while rocking baby. Get a cheap but sturdy one.
- Dresser, or something to put baby’s clothes in. And a big box or container to put all the clothes in that baby has outgrown.
- Get one. Up to 6months, baby cannot have any meds that actually help. A blocked nose makes everybody unhappy, and can lead to all sorts of other baddies like infections and coughing. Clear that up by ensuring the air is moist. You can even add a few drops of essential oil like eucalyptus or peppermint to help open those sinuses.
- Not recommended for babies, high incidence of SIDS associated with pillows.
- Baby monitor. This you also need to decide based on your own situation and context. With us, baby was always either on me, next to me or very close to me. So had no need for this. Also, listening to them breath was a bit strange for my liking.
- Both my kids are being raised in the dark, so they are not afraid of the dark. Yes I do agree having a nightlight makes it easier to change baby’s nappy at night without waking them up completely. My way around it? Don’t change baby’s nappy unless soaking wet or she had a poop. Bad parenting? I think everybody will agree worst parenting not sleeping, ever.
- Changing table. If you have one, can afford one, and have space for one by all means get one. If not, change baby on the bed. They cannot roll off, it is soft and warm, and a lot safer!
- Room thermometer. Surely you can feel if the room is cold or hot? Sometimes we have to rely on common sense…
- Firm crib mattress. Spare one if you can.
- Fitted crib sheets. 2 is good, 3 is great. Make sure they fit snuggly around the mattress.
- 1 or 2 fluffy receiving blankets. Not for sleeping in the crib with. For snuggly wrapping baby when you go out.
- 4 to 6 light receiving blankets, muslin or cotton. Perfect for swaddling (if baby likes it), cleaning up messes (babies love spitting up or throwing up), and if you cloth diaper, for flats and inserts. Buy them cheap, and use them until they unravel.
- As already discussed, SIDS risk. So don’t risk it
- Sleep wedges and other positioners. Again, SIDS people.
- Extra mattress padding. SIDS.
- Bumpers, quilts, decorative teddies, etc. Getting a bit repetitive I know, but SIDS!
- Diaper pail, or nappy bucket, or anything to throw in nappies and close a lid on the smell.
- Diaper bag. Or any bag that you can use to carry in spare clothes, extra nappies, etc. Doesn’t have to be humongous and definitely doesn’t have to be designer.
- Baby wipes. Make your own using soft cloth and water. Or buy whichever brand is cheapest.
- Washcloth that is soft.
- Changing table. See above.
- Diaper cream. The fancy kind. With cloth you can only use a few brands, but it is mostly not necessary. With disposables, coconut oil works a charm.
- All-in-one soap/shampoo. 1 product for all your baby hygiene needs.
- Baby oil. Feed their soft skin. We use olive oil mixed with sweet almond and jojoba. Keeps baby’s skin as soft as, well, a baby’s bottom!
- Baby towels. Something soft and fluffy. If your own towels fall into that category then use them. If not, buy new soft and fluffy towels to use for the kids for a few years.
- Non-slip bath mat. Very nice for when baby starts to shakily sit on her own. But never leave baby in the bath by herself!
- Fancy soap, shampoo, oil.
- Fancy bathtub. Small babies can be bathed in the hand basin for the first few months. Then held in a normal bath. Of course if you can get hold of a baby bath great, but if not work with what you have.
- Baby specific laundry soap/detergent. Unless baby has a definite problem, why spend more on a product? We wash baby’s clothes together with ours, same soap.
- Bath thermometer. Read comment about common sense.
- Enough bottles with teats to suit your needs. If you breastfeed exclusively, no pumping, you most probably won’t need bottles before baby starts drinking water/tea, and that can be done from a sippy cup.
- Good pump, if you are planning on breastfeeding
- Nursing pads if you are breastfeeding. You get very nice re-usable ones, which works out a lot cheaper than buying the disposable ones. Especially since you can go through a box in less than a week if you leak a lot!
- Nipple ointment to help with tenderness.
- 4 – 7 Bibs. Big ones that she can wear up to a year. Plastic ones are nice since you can merely wipe them.
- Burp cloths. Or receiving blankets if you want to double up. I bought big towels in bold colours that I cut up into squares. They later doubled as hand towels in the girl’s bathroom.
- Pacifiers, if baby allows! Get a good one, you don’t want to mess with teething and teeth spacing etc.
- Baby spoons. A lot. No need for expensive ones. I bought a packet of 20 plastic spoons from Dischem, and they worked stunningly. Our other favourite baby feeding spoon actually came from KFC… those red plastic spoons with the deep bowl that comes with their cream (spelling?) balls. Cheap, plastic so won’t hurt tender gums, and you can have enough of them to leave all over for emergencies. In any case, babies end up eating with their hands so rather invest in a few extra large plastic bibs!
- Sippy cups. 2 – one in use and one in the wash. For when baby transitions to water and tea. Baby 1 loved her bottle, only giving it up when we potty trained at 2years. Baby 2 hates the bottle. At 5 months she got her first sippy cup and know that is the only way that she will have any liquid that does not come from a breast.
- Fancy storage bags for milk. Buy a few ice cube trays and freeze the milk in there. Soon you will be able to work out how many milk cubes makes a feed, and then only defrost the number of cubes needed. Or you can try my way – pump into a bottle and freeze the bottle. Take out the night before and voila! Defrosted milk in the bottle that you will use for feeding.
- Feeding pillow. A regular pillow can also do the trick.
- Bottle warmer. Bowl of hot water does the trick. Should you want to buy something, have a look at the Click-it range. They have a bottle wrap that can double as a warming pad for colicky tummies or mommy’s back ache.
- Bottle sterilizer. Let me tell you a secret. I have not sterilized a bottle a day in my life. Both kids were fed from bottles out of the cupboard, washed by hand. BUT I would not recommend being like me. So – sterilise using the kettle, or submerged in a bowl of water in the microwave.
- Nursing bras. Although super convenient and nice to have, not make or break if you cannot afford. Normal bras can also do the trick, or read up on how to DIY a normal bra into a nursing bra.
Health and grooming:
- Baby thermometer. Get a good one. Preferable the kind you take the reading in baby’s ear. You will most probably use it often.
- Nail clippers (teeth works up until about 3 months)
- English salt for umbilical care (dilute in luke warm water, use gauze or cotton wool for cleaning)
- Age specific medicine (something for fever, pain, congestion and allergies, and of course saline spray)
- Teething ointment. We use an organic brand, but whatever works for you go for it! Both our kids teethed REALY easy, so I feel for all of you who have little monsters every time a sparkler must come out. So use the whisky… for yourself, and the teething ointment on baby.
- Bulb syringe. Use with saline spray to clear your baby’s stuffy nose.
Anything scheduled! Or not prescribed by a doctor. But for prescriptions, be weary of antibiotics.
- Car seat. Yes yes yes! No way around this one. And buy the best one you can afford. Not second hand, brand new. This is your baby’s safety that we are talking about.
- Pram or stroller. Buy one that you can fold up and put in the car using only one hand. You will have only one hand when you need to do it. Oh and it must be able to actually fit in your car. Great if baby will be able to use it until at least 3 years of age, so check the load bearing weight!
- High chair, or some sort of chair that baby can sit in to eat. Even after baby has learned to sit on her own, still nice to have because you can contain her. We have an Ingenuity seat (don’t like the Bumbo’s at all.) and the Snappi’s are also great.
- Baby carrier. Not a definite need, but VERY nice to have. No need to get anything fancy, a wrap or towel or blanket can also do. I have a baby wrap, which is basically 2m of tshirt fabric that I fold around my body and then place baby inside, on my chest. Read up before you decide to commit.
- Swing or bouncy chair. Nice to have, but you can survive without it.
- Banned in some countries, we have been slow to follow. Not only can babies hurt themselves badly by falling off stairs or toppling over, they can also harm your baby’s natural development and dissuade baby from actually learning how to walk.
- Baby jumpers. Same as above, not good for baby’s development, especially with the way their hips develop.
- Teething toys. Soft and chewy, with texture, to sooth irritated and sore gums. You can also freeze a wet face cloth for baby to chew on.
- Baby books with various textures, colours, mirrors, maybe even sounds. Great for a curious and learning baby!
- Rattles for baby to shake. Awesome for baby to learn cause and effect.
- Heaps and piles of toys. Kids must learn how to use their imagination, and how will they do that if they always have a toy to play with? Allow them to go outside, to play with whatever they can get their hands on. To get dirty and wet and full of mud. Kids must be kids!
As I’ve said, merely my opinion. I have 2 beautiful, strong, creative, and independent children, and thus far they are not costing us an arm and a leg!