Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Yes, there is a whole baby products industry out there, but before we decide on what to get (or get overwhelmed by the myriad of things on offer!) let me share a little secret: Babies don't need much stuff at the beginning.
My suggestion is to focus on three areas:
Where is baby going to sleep?
What is baby going to wear / where is baby going to be changed?
How is baby going to be fed?
Thinking about your needs and preferences, by discussing them with your partner (if that is your situation), by asking your friends with kids, by doing some reading... you will gain clarity and your answers - about the things you ‘need’ - will become obvious. For example:
Sleeping: If you are thinking of co-sleeping then you don’t need a cot. If you don’t want to co-sleep but not sure as to what exactly you’ll need/want till you have tried a few things, or see how you feel about it all, you might want to borrow a bassinet or bedside sleeper till you decide on your next step.
Changing baby: The simplest of changing mats will suffice. You don’t need a whole changing table. And any surface will do, from your bed to a bench - as long as a carer is always with baby so baby doesn’t roll! - to the floor. It's important to know though, that there will be lots of nappy/diaper changes so, looking after your back (as well as your budget) is also crucial!
A note on furniture: Some people recommend to always ‘buy new furniture’ for babies to make sure you have the safest-product. While I agree that anything to do with babies needs to comply with the highest and legal safety standards, having to 'buy new' isn't the rule in my book. You just need to do your research and dig a little deeper when someone offers something for your baby so you can tick the '100% safe' box.
Clothes: Babies do grow very fast. I am a fan of a sustainable living which means, I have no problem, in fact, I really love pre-loved/ second hand clothes. But having a special item for your baby that you may want to keep as a memento (hat, blanket, their first onesie...) will be precious in the future, for you and for them - my kids love opening their 'baby box' and finding their first shoes.
As you have probably already noticed though, there are plenty of baby clothing brands. If you decide to buy new (and/or friends and family want to gift them) please choose fair-trade items (and ideally, organic). If it's good quality you'll be able to offer them to new parents down the track. Oh and ideally, clothing will be practical! Very important during those few first months (if you've never changed a newborn before, let me tell you, it takes a bit of getting used to). Does that adorable t-shirt got a tricky button at the back? or is it easy to access from the front?
The season your baby will be born into, also key. (6 'envelope-onesies' and 2 full outfits, one hat, one blanket - for outings - and a jumper/sweater are a good starting point).
Toys: In case you were wondering, babies don’t need any! For the first few months they'll have you and your voice and a few months later they’ll discover their hands. Their hands are their first toy! Later on, you seriously can give them anything ‘safe’ you already have. My second baby loved ‘lids’ and my wooden bangles. There is a big push for 'educational' toys and items for kids. Do your research but investing the time in letting your baby explore and harness their curiosity during their first few years, will pay off 100-fold (more on that later). If anything, I would say get books! (can be pre-loved too!) Reading from day 1 is a sweet and important ritual.
Feeding: I am pro-breastfeeding. There is overwhelming research on the short and long term advantages for both mum and baby when we breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a ‘miracle investment’ that offers many health benefits for babies and mothers including nutritionally balanced 'meals', protection against common childhood infections and it is a universally available, low-tech, high impact, cost-effective solution.
But while I am pro-breastfeeding, I understand that it might not work for every
mother to breastfeed and it might not be an option for some families. Also, our needs are important too and our bodies are different. What I am saying is, weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision based on your circumstances. If you decide to go with bottles, make sure they are from a non-toxic material. And remember, even the ones that say BPA-free could still contain other toxic materials.
For the ones who decide to breastfeed, just a friendly reminder that it
might take up to a month, give or take, to ‘get it’ but once you do, in my experience it is the best of the best! but I also know of some mothers who tried and tried and it just didn't happen.
Make the most of the resources that are available in your area. Breastfeeding
Associations and lactation consultants rock! Leila, the amazing lactation
consultant who supported me with both my babies has a very special place in my heart.
Getting all these logistics organised, of course, is very important but it is crucial we also prepare for building a healthy long-term relationship with our baby from day one. And to have the tools for supporting our baby not only physically but mentally and emotionally. All the ins and outs of how to start on the 'right' foot are laid out in my book 'Welcome to Parenthood: How to design a fabulous family life'.
Here's to fabulous, happy families!