Many a first time mum will spend hours agonising over what they need to acquire for their new babies. There is such a vast amount of ‘stuff’ available for babies, all promising to make life that little bit easier.
This isn’t going to be a mile-long list of pointless items like a lot of these types of lists are, because to be perfectly honest with you, most of that stuff is unnecessary. You will need very few things to help you care for your baby. And despite what everybody says, it needn’t cost you the earth if you use your head.
Essential #1 – A Sleeping Place
Co-sleeping is best for your baby. More than that, it is what your baby expects when they join us earthside – why else would little babies sleep so much better when sleeping on or next to their mothers? There are numerous studies that prove the physical and emotional benefits for both parties. Sleeping close by to your baby is also considered to be a factor in preventing SIDS. So, if you’re going to bedshare, what do you need (apart from a bed, of course)?
Some parents choose to purchase specialist co-sleeper cots or cribs – these are designed to extend the bed giving the baby it’s own sleeping space whilst still staying close to mama (and making night time nursing as easy as scooching over). These are expensive, and the smaller co-sleeper cribs won’t last for more than a few months, but many parents still opt for them because of their convenience. The Arms Reach Co-Sleeper will even convert to a playpen when your baby has outgrown it. It’s worth bearing in mind that most mamas who take this route will admit that their co-sleeper is more often filled with laundry than it is full of baby – babies are like heat-seeking missiles in the beds of their parents. However, it is a much cheaper option if, like us, you share a modest double bed and can’t afford to upgrade to a queen or king.
Another option to ensure safety for your baby whilst bedsharing is using some kind of bed guard. There are many different kinds available, from the standard metal bed rail to inflatable tubes. These are ideal if pushing the bed flush against the wall is impossible. As always, ensure that there is no gap between the guard and the bed in which your baby could get trapped.
By far the cheapest option is to simply do away with your bed frame altogether and sleep on a mattress on the floor. A friend of mine has a single mattress pushed up against her double to make extra space for her, her husband and their 9-month-old baby.
If bedsharing really isn’t for you, fair enough. Just having your baby in your bedroom will still have many benefits for your little one. Cots are expensive new, but can be picked up very cheaply second hand. You may even be able to borrow one from a friend. Don’t bother with an expensive moses basket or bassinette; many a baby has slept happily in a drawer or a laundry basket – however you should always consider safe sleep recommendations and ensure that you put your baby on a firm surface to sleep with no loose sheets or blankets nearby.
Essential #2 – A Good Sling
I think all babies should have the opportunity to be carried in a good sling by a loving caregiver. Tiny babies especially. After 9 months on the inside, it’s only natural for them to want to be close to you. Carried babies cry less, and having your baby close to you will instil in them a sense of trust and security.
Unfortunately, the majority of carriers available in mainstream shops are very bad for the physical development of the baby, and are very uncomfortable for the wearer. A great way of carrying a small baby is in a wrap. You can get stretchy ones that are perfect for the newborn stage, or go straight in with a woven wrap, which will take you through to toddlerhood.
A sling is absolutely invaluable and will make your life a hundred times easier, especially if you have older children to care for. Little babies will be as happy as larry tucked away in a sling close to mummy, and you will be hands-free to chase the toddler around/do the dishes/etc. Not only this, but by babywearing you will avoid having to lug a heavy pushchair around narrow aisles in shops. Sometimes a pushchair comes in handy; we have a parent-facing pushchair that gets used maybe once or twice a fortnight but I far prefer using our woven wrap day-to-day. I don’t have to worry about trying to steer the pushchair with one hand whilst keeping hold of my preschooler with the other, all while listening to Squish scream his head off because he wants to be close to me. With a sling, everybody wins.
Essential #3 – Nappies
I know that committed EC’ers will argue with me, but the third item you will definitely need is something to cover your baby’s bottom.
Cloth nappies are wonderful. They come in SO many different varieties ranging from the traditional terry squares to all-in-one varieties that are just as easy to use as a disposable. You will save money at the same time as helping save the planet.
Don’t rush out and buy a big birth-to-potty set; I know so many people who did that, ended up with a type or brand of nappy that didn’t suit their babies, had to sell them all and ended up totally turned-off from cloth in the process. The best thing you can do is buy a few different types and try them with your baby to see what works for you. Squish has an array of different types of nappy; he has prefolds and nappy wraps, pocket nappies and AIO’s (all-in-one’s), and they are all used as much as each other.
(He is still in disposables at night, though. Don’t tell anyone!)
Essential #4 – Clothes
I’m sure I don’t have to explain all of the reasons why it’s pointless to kit your baby out in a brand-new wardrobe. Those newborn clothes will be worn for just a few short weeks, depending on how big your baby is at birth.
Ask around; I’m sure you’ll know somebody who’ll have some hand-me-downs to pass along to you. And they won’t necessarily be tatty, either! Squish is a rather well-dressed baby, kitted out entirely in clothes given to me by friends and family who’s babies had outgrown them. Because baby clothes are worn for such a short time, hand-me-downs are usually in great condition.
If you are the first of your friends or family to have a baby, get yourself onto eBay and scour for bundles of clothes. There is plenty available. If you’re feeling creative you could even sew, knit or crochet your own baby clothes!
…is by far the most important thing out of any of these must-haves – your love.
Your baby doesn’t care if he’s dressed in designer clothes. He doesn’t mind where he sleeps, as long as it’s somewhere close to you. He doesn’t mind what’s covering his bottom, as long as you keep him clean and dry. Your baby will be equally as hungry for your love as he will be for your milk, so give both to him without restraint. Listen to him. Trust him. Adore him.
Hold him in your arms, and in your heart. You’ll have never known love like this before.