Ten things you really need for your new baby (and ten you don’t – necessarily)

10 Jul

7. Nappies

Baby in a cloth nappy

A pocket nappy: pretty; practical.

What goes in must come out. New babies average ten nappies a day (maybe more) although they use fewer as they get older. I’d recommend cloth ones, because apart from the environmental impact, it’s cheaper. I got all mine as hand-me-downs, but if you do buy new there’s no need to go for the pricey ones – ‘pocket nappies’ have seen us right.

Cost: Look out on Freegle, and on Facebook groups. Otherwise, pocket nappies go for about £2.70 each – the top hit shows 24 (a good number if you don’t want to be doing laundry every couple of hours) for £65. Google reckons it costs about £1,600 over 2.5 years for disposables.

Additional: Swim nappies, if you want to go swimming. Also available in cloth. You could avoid nappies completely by using elimination communication, but you’ll go through a lot of dirty sheets and towels, so I’m guessing it amounts to the same.

8. A Netflix subscription

Or some great box sets. You’ll spend a lot of time lying under a baby. Watch some good telly.

Cost: £5.99/month. Or free if you just get a loan of boxsets (make sure your remote works).

9.     A freezerful of food

A freezerful of food

Just add microwave.

This takes me to my big tip: Looking after a baby isn’t hard. Doing anything else at the same time is. Eliminating having to cook for a little while will help a *lot*.

Cost: No more than you would have spent anyway.

Additional: Money/vouchers for your local takeaway (this is what I’ve started buying new parents as gifts).

I couldn’t make it to ten on the essentials list, so if you do have extra budget (or want to buy a useful gift for someone), try:

10.     A cleaner

As mentioned above, doing stuff other than looking after the baby is tough. Eliminate cooking and cleaning as much as you can afford.

Cost: About £10 an hour

Additional: A big washing machine and tumble dryer helps a lot with housework, if you do have cash to splash.


Total cost: From £3, for a bottle of Calpol and stuff sourced for free, to less than a grand including clothes, a car seat, a decent sling, a year’s disposable nappies, waged LLL membership, 20 hours of a cleaner, and a year’s subscription to Netflix.


Things you don’t (necessarily) need

Again, I’m not saying you’ll definitely never need this stuff, but you can certainly do without these items, commonly found on baby must-have lists:

1. A buggy

Slings are way easier, and cosier for you both. They’re normally cheaper, too – and hold their value. Make sure you stay within the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing.

2. A cot

I’m not going to go into all the benefits of bedsharing, but they are many. We did get a cot from Freegle, and our baby slept in it for half an hour of the first year.

3. A Moses basket

As above. Just chill out cuddling your baby when they’re that wee – or stick him or her in a sling if you need to get stuff done.

4. A change bag

It’s just a bag, people. You probably have one. The only difference is that they have well-sized compartments, and many come with a cooler section and/or a mini change mat. If you want all these in one, by all means get one – can be handy for picnics, but don’t feel like you’re not a proper parent without one.

5. A baby bath

We washed our baby in a sink for the first week, and now we just get in the big bath with her. It’s great for bonding, especially for non-breastfeeding parents.

6. A top and tail bowl

Don’t wipe your baby’s face with a cloth with poo on it. Done.

7. Fancy sterilising equipment

If you just breastfeed you may never need to do any sterilising at all. Boil stuff up in a pan. If you have a dishwasher, that doubles as a steriliser, too.

8. Anything marked as being ‘for babies’.

Obviously things like clothes have to be the right size. But toothpaste ‘for babies’? Just make sure it’s got at least 1000ppm of fluoride. Laundry powder ‘for babies’? Just make sure it’s OK on sensitive skin. Food ‘for babies’? Once you reach weaning stage, as long as you’re eating healthily, your baby can eat what you eat. It’s like they’re little tiny humans.

9. Fancy toys

Avoid matches and knives. Most other things can double as toys; just use your common sense. You will be given toys, and inherit toys, then those toys still somehow breed under the sofa until you have 75 and a half frog puppets.

10. Anything brand new

Secondhand stuff can take longer to source. If only you had a good seven months to prepare. (If you are caring for a baby unexpectedly for some reason, post requests on Freegle and Facebook groups outlining your situation and I’d bet pound to a penny you’ll be indundated.)

Most mothers I know have been given bundles of things when they announce they’re pregnant – we can now clothe our child for free until she starts school from hand-me-downs, some from folk we hardly know. It’s good stuff too – some with the original labels on.

Other than that, look out on Freegle, and then charity shops, eBay (go for bundles; they’re cheaper) and Jack and Jill markets, in Scotland – or a local equivalent. (Tip for really stretched budgets: go towards the end of the day. Things will start being marked down.)

What money can’t buy

The most useful things for when you have a new baby aren’t things at all.

1. Becoming part of the community

You are not alone. From Facebook groups to live meet-ups and making pals with other parents, parent-to-parent support is abundant and invaluable; you just need to ask. The great thing about the internet is you can find others who share your values and /or circumstances, too.

2. A proper parenting partner (or two)

Don’t get me wrong; I have so much respect for single parents (by choice or circumstance). I do wonder sometimes how the hell I’d do it and the answer is still the same: help. Even if you don’t have another legal parent, make sure you have support – your Dad, your sister, your best pal… whoever. Someone who gets it. Someone who is willing to drive over at 3am to hold the baby for ten minutes while you experience the bliss of having a wee by yourself, who is willing to come over with a lasagne or mop the floor for you, who is willing to hold you and your baby’s hands while you comfort them through the pain of teething, or not liking the rain, who will go and buy groceries, or lie under a sleeping baby while you experience the outside world for yourself, who will be a comforting known presence to your child if you have to suddenly go away.

If you are feeling isolated, remember the joy of the internet too – reach out for help, it’s there. Comment right here and I will personally help you get help.

If you’re bringing up children with someone (whether through a formal arrangement or falling pregnant accidentally) and they ever, ever leave you to take care of those children (be it to change a nappy, read a story, fill out stupid hospital forms, wash their clothes or prepare their meals) while they sit on the sofa watching telly, without offering you the same privilege, you need to beat them around the head with heavy things.

(I’m constantly amazed by how many straight men still seem to think that childrearing is ‘women’s work’. Especially when they’re the same men who think they’re being good feminists because they tell their daughters they’re not allowed to wear pink. Get a grip… OK I may be diverging into a separate blog now, and don’t mean to imply that being a shitty parent is the exclusive remit of any gender.)

3. A lullaby

There are cot mobiles and music apps and the radio, but the only thing guaranteed to make my daughter calm is her two parents singing together in harmony. (Ok, singing together. She’s the only person in the world who finds anything harmonious about my singing.)

4. Oxytocin

Sleepy cuddle love hormone oxytocin; you and your baby will be chock full of it. Ignore the to-do lists supplied by people who want to sell you stuff, and relax.


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