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Having your first baby – what you really need

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Now that Eleanor is two, the question that seems to be on everyone’s lips is when we’re going to “try” for number two. (Between the lines – are you shagging enough? ;))

The simple answer to that is that we’re skint until I find a new job, plus Jules isn’t mad keen. It’ll probably take a superhuman effort at persuasion, and even with that we realistically couldn’t start until I’ve been working for a few months. Bearing in mind our combined age is over 80, and how much harder it gets to conceive as time goes by, on balance it’s not looking very likely.

Many of my friends are having/ have had number two and as a result plenty of conversations have been had recently (often when contemplating the mass of baby stuff brought down from the loft) about what you really need for a newborn (clue: a lot less than you think).

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need:

Nappies – lots (tiny babies often need changing every couple of hours)

Note on re-usables: I love the thought, and have a couple of friends who swear by them, but I found dealing with a newborn hard enough without adding in even one extra step to the process of nappy changing. If you are going to try them, buy them from eBay and/or ask around your friends for trial packs that were bought but unused before you spend large amounts of money on them. As seems very common, I dutifully bought a trial set that never got opened, and this was passed to another far more worthy parent than me 🙂

Car seat – rear facing at first. This is mandatory, and also think about getting one that has a base that you leave permanently in the car. This is a godsend when you can just clip baby in and go, rather than faffing with seatbelts and waking them up unnecessarily.
Ditto pushchair wheels that you can put the car seat on- I’ve spent a productive two hours at the shops or visiting people with a baby Eleanor sleeping the entire time due to her not being disturbed by getting in and out of the car. Otherwise this would have been spent sitting at home waiting for her to finish sleeping before I could get out and about, which is a sure fire recipe for stir craziness.

Muslins – I used loads – what with spit up and reflux and how handy they are for all sorts of everyday issues, you can’t really have too many. Usually they’re around 30cm square, but if you find the larger ones around 50cm square then buy plenty, as these are great for using for a portable sunshade/sleep shade over the pushchair/car seat when out and about, and also help to cover the odd accidental boob appearance when breastfeeding in public.

Sling – I bought one of the classic
Baby Bjorn front carriers second hand on eBay at first, but didn’t get on with it as my boobs got in the way. In the end I found a material wrap style sling much more comfy, and there were times when it was a whole pile easier than getting the pushchair out of the car. If you’ll be walking up & down stairs, on an uneven pavement or going in & out of a few shops with slim aisles; the benefits of a sling are really appreciated.

Monitor – we found this crucial from the minute we put Eleanor in her own room. Of course you can hear crying from next door, but babies are actually quite noisy sleepers, and there are plenty of times that they’ll make what seems like a lot of noise but actually still be asleep. A monitor means you can hear the detail so you know if they’re distressed or not, but don’t get out of bed and disturb that essential sleep if it’s not strictly necessary.

Change mat – it will get messy. Small baby poos are very liquid and you’ll need all the help you can get to stop it getting on the furniture/carpet.

Babygros/all-in-one sleepsuits & bodysuits – lovely though the little designer baby outfits are in the shops, they’re a faff to get in & off, and if you can resist the temptation to spend £30 on an outfit that will get worn twice before they grow out of it, do. They can more or less live in babygros and bodysuits for the first 6 months, with the posh outfit being worn just for when you’re seeing the person who bought it.

A baby bath isn’t essential, as you can just sponge them down easily enough when they’re little. Once they’re more mobile it’s nice to have one of those sit-up bath supports so you can wash them without having to hold them with one arm at the same time, but it’s not essential at all.

If you’re bottle feeding, you’ll need bottles, teats, bottle brushes and some way of sterilising – although a hot dishwasher cycle also does the trick if you forget to take the paraphernalia with you once in a while. A quick hint – once we moved onto bottles I was worrying about how to get the boiling water cool quickly enough while she was busy crying and hungry; until a friend told me that the easiest way too have a bottle on hand at a moments notice was to prepare a few in advance – boil the water & measure enough into 3 or 4 bottles. Pre-measure the formula powder into a dispenser (they have compartments for each feed) and then you can keep the water at room temperature next to your bed as long as it remains sealed for 12 hours. Just tip in the powder and mix when the baby wakes up – a quick shake and the milk is ready. What a relief compared to waiting for it to cool each time.

Baby sleeping bags are brilliant – all you then need is a bottom sheet for your bed, and they’re snug all night without kicking off their covers.

Pushchair – this is the largest purchase you’ll make so think about what you’ll need it for – will you need it to be easily foldable for the car, lightweight for public transport etc. Many people end up buying a big travel system then also buying an umbrella fold pushchair a few months later as it’s such a faff to take anywhere – ask friends/other parents and don’t be afraid to go to a big Mothercare and try them all out – putting them up & down, etc before you decide.

Carrycot/moses basket/cot etc – we had a carrycot for the travel system, a moses basket and a cotbed, and we could have easily managed with just the latter two, or just the cotbed if necessary. People differ on how long you want the baby in your room, but in each case, you often find they sleep in/on practically anything when tiny, and they can’t usually roll over so you don’t need to spend £100s on a new sleeping facility for each stage of their development.

Most parents have varying views about what’s necessary and what’s not, but the thing I would guess most of us will agree on is that there is no shame in using hand-me-d0wns. Babies grow out of most things before they wear out, so always check with friends, Freecycle, on eBay and jumble sales before you lay out too much on something brand new. Lovely as it is to put your brand new baby into brand new stuff, a lot of it is totally superfluous and some of it I promise you will never even open, and end up passing on to other people within the next year.