Regardless of how seasoned you are at having and caring for babies, it’s easy to succumb to shrewd marketing of ‘hot’ new baby products that promise much (yet inevitably, rarely yield anything other than frustration and emptier pockets).
I for one will readily admit that, largely thanks to forgetting a lot of what mothering an infant entails – perhaps the reason I’m having another? – I’ve been drawn back into those pesky brand emails bleating about what must-haves; you know, the ones you generally don’t have. Cue much fretful Amazon panic browsing. For starters, what is a bath support seat? And would a (very spendy) nest-like mattress really mean that our new born would magically get the gist of sleep before we had the chance to develop a good case of sleep apnoea? Or would the halo of swaddle sausages we formed around Tennessee as a tiny baby in his moses basket suffice?
But a glance around at what has bypassed cliché to become genuinely essential kit we still rely upon, and an attic purge later, I’ve rustled up this simple list of do-withoutables and product preferences for parenthood round II…
Change table Simply put, don’t bother. Consoles designed specifically for changing your little one’s bum quickly become that awkward piece of furniture you don’t quite know what to do with once they’re big enough to roll off the top of them (!). A better investment is a lovely looking chest of drawers – preferably waist-height – that can grow with them as part of their bedroom furnishing.
Clothes An endless supply of vests and sleep suits are all you really need for the first couple of months. Be kind to yourself and have a stash of at least 10 of each; laundry will be the last thing on your mind beyond feeling like you’re on some existential repeat spin-cycle. Opting to dress your baby in little outfits circa three months up and changing them into sleep suits at bedtime can be helpful to signify the beginnings of a day/night routine, however.
Sleeping Swaddling goes in and out of vogue, but personally I love it. Research suggests it helps soothe newborns by emulating the snugness of the womb, and helps soften the Moro or ‘startle’ reflex. I really like the cute cotton jersey and muslin designs you can get, but in honesty the SwaddleMe range is best for faff-free swaddling post feeding/changing/dealing with sick explosions – especially in the small hours. A night-light is also handy to see what you’re doing and dodge obstacles on the floor once baby’s sleeping in their nursery, but opt for a soft-glow one so as not to disturb your (hopefully sleeping) bedfellow if you’re sharing your room with baby. This one is fun.
Almost every baby will sleep a little better with a sleeping bag versus traditional sheets and blankets. They can’t fling them off or sneak down beneath them and inadvertently cover their airways. Babasac’s come with a handy zip-able liner so you can easily alter the tog to suit the temperature.
Monitors Okay, so I’m a worrier. It’s just the way I’m wired – but the Angelcare Simplicity movement monitor is still going strong in our house. We’ll probably get another for the new baby so we can use the fantastically reassuring SIDS sensor mat that sounds an alarm if baby’s breathing changes, but enable us to keep an ear open for Tennessee’s occasional night-time antics.
Nappy Business We caved and bought a Tommy Tippee Sangenic nappy bin recently when we couldn’t cope with the funk of toddler nappy any longer (as our house is accesses directly onto the road down steps, there’s no outside wheelie-bin salvation for our noses). But you could simply opt for a tight-sealing pedal bin and some biodegradable fragranced nappy sacks for a smidgeon of the price, as each replacement bag canister costs around £5 for the Sangenic version.
Carriers Whether you’re into whole baby-wearing thing or not, a carrier is a highly practical way to lug baby around, especially if you have an older child like us who’s not able to walk far on little legs so commandeers the buggy. We have a Baby Bjorn Active that we like for its lumbar support, but there are many styles that suit different situations (the Ergo 360 is also excellent and very comfortable when carrying for longer periods) – I’m thinking of trying something less bulky to wear around the house, like a Solly Baby wrap (something of a go-to American make, they luckily offer shipping here).
Wheels When it comes to prams, to debunk the myth of needing an all-transforming hulk of a travel-system, think about where and how you will actually be using yours before splurging. We didn’t use the car seat and chassis option once (our son always woke up the minute the engine stopped, plus we discovered it’s not good for their spines to be scrunched up in a car seat for too long). I adore our Bugaboo Bee, which collapses and pops-up easily, doesn’t need any complicated adaptions to turn it from a flat-lying pram for a new born to an up to 17kg toddler-buggy seat, and to pinch a phrase from Pretty Woman, it “corners like it’s on rails”.
Toys Forget tasteful wooden playthings reminiscent of your own childhood toys. Babies are simple creatures who like nothing more than you madly shaking those foil blankets you get handed at the end of 10k runs at them, or empty plastic bottles filled with rice and glitter. A good rule of thumb if you do decide to buy or request toys as gifts is the gaudier, the better – Lamaze are just the right side of tacky. And look to Ebay for more ostentatious, larger items such as Jumperoos – every parent wants these space-gobblers out of their homes as soon as they’re outgrown and will sell them for a snip.
Feeding If/when you bottle feed, you’ll need some of these – trust me. Yes, they’re a fuss to clean but they really do help with wind-issues such as colic and reflux. You will also need a steriliser – either an electric or microwave version is good for chemical-free hygiene.
Nursing Having a comfortable breast-feeding support cushion is a lifesaver for your back and helping position baby correctly. Same goes for a decent nursing bra (I’m no fan of the bulky ones I had last time, so am road-testing a few others), breast pads, Lansinoh ointment and both a manual and Medela electric pump – see if you can borrow the latter as they tend to be expensive and you might find, as I did, that a manual suits you better anyway.
High society Something I’m embracing this time around is the high chair from the get-go. Firstly, as I like the philosophy of including baby in family mealtimes as often all they get if in a bouncer on the floor is the occasional smile. Secondly because, as a self-employed work-from-home mummy, it will enable me to have baby by my side at my desk so I can interact with him and still nurture our bond. Stokke make the two nicest versions with newborn seats, and the Steps high chair has a snuggly-looking bouncer attachment.
The nice-to-haves Our Ewan Dream Sheep may only have one sound working, but he’s still a critical part of the bedtime ritual here as he’s been a constant sleep ‘cue’ since our son was six weeks old. A Sophie la Girafe teether is always a wise buy; her long limbs are perfect for nibbling. John Lewis make the best baby sponges, and invest in a bath-toy tidy for a shower or bath for you without boats where one should never get boats. I’d also recommend This Works Baby Sleep range of aromatherapy pillow sprays and lotions.