My Newborn 'Must-Haves'
If you’re a first-time mum, the number of products out there for babies is overwhelming. You’ll hear plenty of veteran mums tell you that you don’t need half the things that you think you do, but there are many products that I bought and used with both my babies that I really think were useful.
It’s important to note that some of these products extend into toddlerhood and beyond but can be handy to have from the first few weeks. I’ve also excluded feeding products for now, but will probably do another blog on specific bottle and breastfeeding essentials.
In the Home
This one is a staple and there are so many different designs and things to consider before buying one. Namely, space and longevity. You can buy a ‘cot-bed’ which is a cot that can be changed into a toddler bed when your baby outgrows its cot. This is a great option in terms of cost as it will last you years.
Another popular cot is the Chicco ‘Next to Me’ (other brands have similar designs) as it is a cot that actually straps securely to your bed and acts as an extension of your own sleep space. This is a great option for night feeds and ensures baby is close to you but safely in their own space. It can also be set up to stand alone and has a mesh side which helps to transition them into a traditional cot as they can only sleep in a ‘Next to Me’ until approximately 6 months old (or 9kg).
Some people like to have a ‘Moses’ basket which can be a place for baby to nap during the day. They don’t last baby very long and I didn’t feel the need to buy one as I felt they were a bit old-fashioned. Plus, in the early stages my babies mainly napped in my arms anyway!
Babies are notorious for poo explosions and are typically sick more than you may realise (even the most settled of babies tend to have a bit of spit up) so a mattress protector is a must. You don’t need to go for a horrible plastic one either, there are fab ones that are designed for babies and ensure they won’t cause a rise in temperature or make a crinkly noise when baby moves around. I loved the ‘Organic Mattress Protectors’ from The Little Green Sheep. They are made from organic cotton, breathable and 100% waterproof. They come in a variety of sizes to fit different cots.
Black Out Blinds
Sleep environment is key to establishing a good sleep routine for babies, even from very early on to help you teach baby the difference between day and night so black out blinds are a must for me. Lots of people get them installed in the nursery but forget that baby will likely be in their parents' room for the first 6 months so really it would be best to invest in some for your bedroom if you don’t have any. They don’t need to be fancy; you can get really decent blackout blinds cheaply but just ensure that you’ve measured correctly. It’s pointless going to the trouble of blackout blinds when there’s cracks of light all around them!
An alternative to permanent blackout blinds is the ‘Gro Anywhere Blind’ by the Gro Company. They are large blackout blinds that have suction cups on them so you can literally suction them to your windows. They are a good investment if you plan to take baby on holiday, or to visit family as they provide a portable blackout blind, so no stressing if you turn up to a hotel with the flimsiest of see-through curtains!
Baby Sleeping Bags
These were amazing. My two year old is still in them at night and I only switch them to a duvet set when they are in a toddler bed so if baby is used to sleeping bags from a young age they should be happy with them well into toddlerhood.
The main reason I love them is because they prevent babies from kicking off blankets which can become dangerous if they become tangled in them or wake up feeling cold. They also help you to easily regulate the temperature for baby as they come in different tog levels (most commonly 0.5 tog, 1 tog and 2.5 tog) and if you buy Gro Bags they come with a handy chart to show you what your baby should be sleeping in and the tog they need depending on the temperature of their bedroom. I like the Gro Bag sets that come with multiple bags, they even have sets with one ‘warm’ night and one ‘cool’ day bag which is handy.
Any baby sleep bag will show you the size and weight range appropriate for that bag and as they get older the bags can have some extra length at the bottom for growing limbs. The Gro Company do have specific sleeping bags for newborns called Gro Snugs which are a lot tighter at the top, to mimic swaddling, and you can even have their arms inside the bag so there’s no need to learn how to swaddle them using blankets and they ensure safe hip range of motion. They are so easy to use as you just zip them up! They are machine washable and I suggest buying a few so you can alternate them as you wash the baby sick out of them!
Baby Room Thermometer
It’s really handy to have a room thermometer and to set it up before baby is born so you can already get an idea of whether your house is cold/warm in the night. If baby is going to be in your bedroom for the first 6 months then set it up in there, not the nursery.
Any room thermometer will do but the Gro Egg is very user friendly and doubles up as a nightlight. The benefit of the Gro Egg is that it shows the temperature display is colour coded in line with baby safe sleeping temperatures to make it easy to see if the room is cold (blue), ideal (yellow), warm (orange) and too hot (red). You can then use the colours on your Gro Egg that correlate to the safe sleep chart of the Gro Bags and dress your baby accordingly.
If you have the space then buying a feeding/rocking chair is a great investment for those night time or daytime feeds. While feeding in bed can be more convenient, the support of a decent chair can help your back and helps to keep you awake during the early hour feeds. I had one with two large pockets which were handy to keep things to hand while stuck feeding. As your child grows, the rocking chair can become a handy piece of bedroom furniture for story reading and cuddles. I would suggest getting a rocking chair that has a straight back and doesn’t force you to strain too much to get up from as post birth you may feel a bit tender.
Another product to make night feeds a bit easier is the ‘Gro Light’. It’s a handy device that fits onto your lamp/bedroom lightbulb and adjusts the light to shine much softer and can be dimmed or brightened to suit your needs. The harsh light from a standard bulb may disturb baby while you’re feeding at night and can confuse them into thinking the sun has come up! The soft light from the Gro Light provides enough soft lighting for you to easily feed and change baby but is dim enough to maintain the feeling of night-time.
Baby Bouncers and Swings
Some babies are happy to sit in their own baby seats and there are a few options when looking purchase one. You can get baby bouncers fairly inexpensively and most have a bar over them with hanging toys that your baby can learn to grab as they develop. You can purchase baby swings that are battery or mains operated that swing and move your baby. These can range in price to very pricy and are often a hit or miss with babies so looking into preowned rockers could be a good way to save some money here.
I did like our baby swing as it meant I could bring the swing into the bathroom with me and put my baby in it facing me while I showered. Our one folded up when out of use which is good if space is an issue. It can also be good to have somewhere that baby can safely ‘sit’ in a more upright position after feeds to help their milk digest! Just make sure you purchase a baby bouncer/swing that is suitable from birth, so it provides developmentally appropriate support for your baby's neck.
Play Mat/Baby Gym
These are a flat and comfy mat with hanging toys that baby can comfortably lie on. They are great for ‘tummy time’ too and usually a place where baby will eventually learn to roll over. You can get play mats with lights, sounds and sensory toys. Some are designed with a sloped section and mirrors specifically to encourage ‘tummy time’.
This could fall into the category of not ‘needed’ but I do like giving small babies a bath in their own smaller bath before introducing them to the big bath. I really like the ‘Shnuggle bath’ as you can buy the bath stand
that folds to save space and saves you the back pain of bending down that comes if you buy a regular baby bath.
The Shnuggle also has a great design which ‘hugs’ baby and a sloped back to keep baby in a more upright position and prevents sliding. It’s suitable from birth to 12 months and comes in a range of colours.
You may not need this piece of equipment straight away but if you do purchase a monitor, I would always suggest going for a video monitor over just a sound one. There are a wide range online from basic monitors to ones that hook up to a movement sensor pad. You can get ones that work on WIFI and connect to your phone or ones that have a parent ‘unit’ that you can charge and carry around the house when they are older and napping in their room. Consider the monitor’s range because if you have an old home with thick walls this can significantly reduce the signal strength.
This may seem an obvious one, but I can’t underestimate how useful these pieces of fabric are in the early months.
I used to have a few in most rooms in the house, in the nappy bag and in the car. They are fab for feeding, protecting your clothes when burping, comforter for baby and for using over public changing tables (just remember to wash them as soon as you get home!)
I prefer the large ones and the deigns from ‘Aden & Anais’ are lovely. I know they seem expensive for muslins, but you can spot them in TK Maxx for much lower prices in the baby section.
I didn't have a dedicated 'changing table' but instead had one of these caddies upstairs and one downstairs in the rooms that I was in the most. I filled them with nappies, wipes, muslins, nappy cream, tissues etc and it meant that I didn't have to keep taking baby upstairs to a changing table every time they needed a clean nappy...which is multiple times a day! I found it much more convenient to have everything that I needed in reach and I refilled the caddies as needed. I also had two portable padded changing mats near the caddies to change baby on.
On the Move
There are so many on the market and legislation for car seats has changed in recent years so it’s a good plan to familiarise yourself with the regulations for safe car seat use. https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules explains the requirements but essentially, you’ll be looking for an ‘infant’ car seat that is rear-facing for your new born. Rear-facing is far safer for babies and children.
I would argue that car seats that use and Isofix are by far the most convenient and arguably safer option (seat belted ones are safe when fitted correctly but the use of an Isofix means it is fitted safely every time it’s used). An Isofix base securely fixes to the frame inside your car’s seat and most use a light/beep system to alert you that it’s safely fitted once you clip the car seat onto it. Most new cars have Isofix slots in the rear seats, but you can check online whether they are Isofix compatible. If you can, I would suggest getting a car seat professionally installed if it’s your first child.
I love these. I like to be able to see my baby when I’m driving so getting a decent car mirror really helped.
I like the ones that have a strap to wrap around the headrest to secure them in place. A tip is to fit it with someone else who can adjust it for you as you sit in your regular driving position so you can ensure that the mirror is angled correctly so you can see baby. Just try not to knock it out of place as you get baby in and out!
Car Window Shades
You can buy car window shades easily in a variety of designs. You can get ones with suction cups or ones that stick straight onto the window with a film. Just make sure you measure them to ensure they fit well onto your windows and provide enough shade to be worthwhile!
Morrck Car Seat Blanket
This is one of the things you don’t know you need until you find it. I am so glad I found the Morrck as it really makes ‘dressing’ baby for the car so much simpler. On cold days you want to bundle baby up in the car, but you shouldn’t have any layers on them as bulky jackets/snowsuits make car seats unsafe for babies. Ideally, they should have just their clothes on, then their car seat straps to safely position them. You can place blankets on top of them, but babies can kick them off as you’re driving or pull them over their face.
The Morrck is essentially an ‘in-built’ car seat blanket as you fit it into the seat threading the car seat straps through it. This means you can leave the Morrck in the seat and cover baby with it whenever you need to, and it won’t come loose or add any additional unsafe layers. It also gives you one less thing to grab as you’re going out of the door!
They come in a variety of colours/designs and are easily machine washable. Made in the UK, safety tested and a small family business. Also, I think that they make for a fab baby shower gift.
Doona Car Seat/Buggy
On the topic of car seats, I am gutted I only discovered the Doona for my second baby as it is a fantastic piece of kit. I would say this is more of a luxury purchase as I would argue it is in addition to your regular travel system.
The Doona is a car seat with wheels that extend out with the push of a button. It makes nipping to the shops, on public transport or the nursery pick up with your older child so much easier. It’s light, compact and clicks into your car using an Isofix. They aren’t hardy enough to try to use them for a woodland walk, but for the city and travel they really do make your life so much easier. They are popular so tend to sell well second-hand too.
Selecting a travel system (pram) is very personal and there are so many designs on the market. It is best if you can go into a shop and try out a few different ones. Things to consider are weight, how much boot space they take up, if you’re very active so might need a more hard-wearing all-terrain/running buggy, how easily it folds down and whether you can connect your car seat to the frame. I had the ICandy Peach and it’s still going strong two babies and five years later. It’s important to note that your baby will typically be in the carrycot for the first six months, or until they can sit upright, and then will change into the actual seat.
I really rate the ‘Snooze Shade’ for on-the-go naps in the buggy. Instead of faffing with those clip-on pram umbrellas (been there, they are rubbish) you attach the Snooze Shade which helps to protect baby from the sunshine and blocks out the light to help them have a more restful sleep.
I like that the ‘Snooze Shade’ is breathable and has a zip that you can open to check on baby and keep the airflow circulating.
This is a MUCH safer alternative to throwing a blanket/muslin over the pram on hot days, doing this is very dangerous and can risk baby overheating and being hotter than they would without the blanket/muslin!
I had an Ergo Baby carrier and the fabric wrap sling that came free in the Scottish Government’s “Baby Box”. I preferred the sling as I felt it was more comfortable and I wore my daughter in it around the house a lot. The more structured carrier was easier to get on quickly when I was out and about, but I didn’t find it as comfy as the sling. Either way, I think having a baby carrier is a great way to keep baby close to you but means you have your hands free to potter about or take care of other children.
There are sling ‘libraries’ that may be available to you locally that allow you to go and try out different slings with your baby to get a feel for which one suits you best before you commit to buying one. The ladies that work at the sling ‘libraries’ are a fountain of knowledge and can help you to learn how to adjust and fit your carrier safely.
Don’t underestimate how much your baby will want to be close to you in the first few months. Being trapped under newborn cuddles is bliss but sometimes you’ll crave being able to use your hands while your baby sleeps!
Essential for carrying nappies, wipes, muslins, change of clothes…the list really does go on so I would advice doing some research into a changing bag that is big enough to store what you need, but not too big that it’s impractical to carry around.
I like the Skip Hop backpack one we got with our second baby as it clips onto any buggy and is handy to wear as a backpack when a buggy isn’t needed. You can get changing bags with compartments to help to organise your items which can be handy. I like to pack things in separate zip lock bags so keep everything organised and more protected from any water bottle leaks!
Water Wipes (made from 99% water, so gentle on new born skin)
Calpol (you’ll need this for baby’s vaccinations)
Ibuprofen (always check the label and follow a medical professional’s guidance)
Scratch Mitts (babies love to attack their faces!)
Non-Biological detergent to wash baby clothes in as they have very sensitive skin
Nappy rash cream (the yellow Metanium one is very good but only use if baby actually has nappy rash or redness as there’s no need to use it if their skin is fine)
Nasal aspirator (because babies can’t blow their own noses! Use carefully)