Now the Guardian has obliged again by featuring this piece on useful vs useless new baby buys. Pretty interesting, as are the comments. Below is my own list of the really essential baby-essentials, based on what we’ve actually used over the last 15 months. (Note: I’ve put a little (S) next to all the things that we got second-hand.)
a toddler bed (S)
maybe a basic baby monitor (S)
We also bought a small cot (S) because we thought a newborn would feel lost in a bed. Turns out our newborn felt lost in the cot too! By the time he’d stopped sleeping cradled in our arms all night, every night, we could have just put him straight in the big bed with bumpers on.
The big bed has been great and will last a long time, because one of the sides can come down once M is ready for a little more autonomy.
We bought sleeping bags too, but they have been an epic failure because the Bean hates them. This makes me very sad - they’re so pretty... But he’s not having any of it, so now I just put him in really thick PJs (S).
As for the baby monitor... I grew to hate it and felt so relieved when we stopped using it. M has a serious pair of lungs on him, and we're always less than 10m away in our tiddly flat anyway. So if and when there's a next time, I'll only use a monitor if the baby is too far away for me to hear.
a set of cloth nappies
a changing mat
Cloth nappies and washable wipes are fantastic buys and, as regular readers know, something we feel passionately about (read this post and this one). In a nutshell though, cloth nappies and wipes mean less waste, less money spent overall, and healthier skin. And cute patterns. Very important, that.
The changing mat we whacked on a chest of drawers we already had.
Our nappy balm is a wonderous thing: it's completely natural and can be used to soothe all sorts of skin irritations, not just baby's bottom.
a set of washable breast pads
a nursing bra
(five baby bottles)
(an electric breast pump (S))
a gigantic stash of muslins
Washable breast pads = great purchase. I used some disposables once and I ended up with huge milk patches on my shirt. Oooh classy.
Bottles/breast pump = a necessary evil for us because of all the feeding issues we had. If you can avoid pumping, do!!! But if you can’t, a mama’s gotta do what she’s gotta do and this pump worked very well. We sterilised our bottles by boiling them in a pan, by the way, which worked fine.
The muslins were absolutely, undeniably, life-savingly useful for us. Relflux baby. You get my drift, right?
Hungry baby (solids)
1 set of stainless steel kid’s cutlery (S)
a wooden, non-reclining high chair
a stack of bibs (S)
cheap cloths for wiping
We had some plastic baby spoons and fancy slanted Tommy Tippee plates, but they were useless. I lost the spoons on a plane somewhere and the plates are just weird. From about 10 months onward the Bean has wanted what we have, so the stainless steel cutlery has worked out much better. I serve him his food in bowls we already had.
We also inherited a Chicco hook-on chair which is great in theory as it is meant to save space, but a nightmare in practice. It’s made of fabric. It’s supposed to be hand-wash only. What?!
The high chair has been one of our best buys. It looks a bit like a Stokke Tripp Trapp but costs a fraction of the price. Takes up about as much space as an adult chair, doesn’t force baby to lean back (important for avoiding choking), looks good, is a doddle to clean and will last for years. Hurrah!
a foldable baby bath
newborn bath support
all-family, additive-free soap for sensitive skin
The bath is of our favourite purchases as it stows away and lasted 12 months. He’s too big for it now so we just stick him under the shower, but I still use it as a laundry basket!
We got about 4 months’ use out of the support, which isn’t a huge amount. However, if anyone can tell me how you bathe a slippery, wriggly worm of a newborn without it, I would love to know.
a Mei Tai carrier
a car seat to last until M is 18 kg (S)
any large-ish handbag or rucksack for baby bits (S)
a 0-3 year old lightweight buggy (S). No detachable travel systems or space crafts.
We have tried loads of outdoorsy things, but only a few are actually useful.
Pram/pushchair travel system (S): unmitigated disaster. The Bean prefered to be carried so pram = screaming. Pushchair = screaming on a bad day and sulking on a good one. The car seat was met with less contempt, but he’d grown out of it by 9 months. And it feels like you're driving a tank.
Proper change bag (S): have only used it a handful of times. The rest of the time I prefer to use a normal handbag or a rucksack. These babies don’t have to monopolise everything, do they?!
Baby Bjorn Miracle Carrier (S): adored by the Bean, but once he hit 8 kilos it became excruciating for me. I just couldn’t get it to fit me properly.
Mei Tai carrier: Yes, yes and YES! Although I’m planning to write a more detailed review of this carrier, let me tell you know that it is the bizznazz. Adjusts to fit pretty much everyone. Front carry, back carry, hip carry, newborn, 3-year-old. Sorted.
Car seat: Great quality and very comfy, though so pleased we didn’t fork out for a new one. The second-hand one we have is in fantastic condition.
Lightweight buggy: We snaffled this one on ebay at a 50% discount, and I love it despite the hideously irritating trendy-speak on the website. And the Bean just about tolerates it.
Anything 2nd, 3rd or even 10th-hand that will keep baby warm in winter and cool in summer! (S)
Grippy, flexible shoes once baby starts walking
Grandparents’ generosity and penchant for cuteness
Babies don’t care what they look like. New, expensive clothes will get weed/pood/sicked/muddied on. Hence, we take whatever we get and only buy new things if we have a gap to fill in what we got as hand-me-downs and gifts (and I realise we’ve been very lucky to have received a fair amount!). Dark, good quality cotton is best (white clothes = stain central).
New shoes are non-negotiable, to ensure the correct development of baby’s feet.
Erm, pass. Whatever you are willing to spend your money on/listen to again and again/fall over?!
I know there are babies out therfe who love their bouncer/baby gym/walker/whatever other contraptions are available. Mine wasn’t one of those. As a newborn he was happiest being carried around or goofing at himself in a mirror. Then all he ever wanted to do was move and destroy.
Now he does have toys, most of which were gifts, some of which I bought, and some of which I made. And many of which are not toys at all. My pots and pans. Keys. The washing machine.
One thing is clear to me though: if it breaks easily or is only going to provide entertainment value for a couple of months, it’s not worth it.