How to Buy the Best Baby Essentials
Knowing how to equip yourself for the arrival of a newborn, particularly when it’s your first, is daunting. Being able to tell the difference between what you actually need versus the superfluous gadgetry when you have little sense of what your new life will be like is tricky, and a task that, in my own experience, was put off until the last possible moment.
A visit to any multi-brand retailer before a little one’s arrival can fill parents-to-be with panic. Many stores offer baby lists to peruse and guides to follow, but be warned, they are often sprawling, lengthy documents with 50+ items. To help make sense of it all, we’ve pulled together our guide on how to source the best essentials, focusing on items that will last multiple newborn journeys.
Our advice is to start small with the essential kit. As you get into the swing of things, you will work out if there are additional things you need to weave into your life and you can gradually build up your list. This will allow you to divide the cost between things that you or your baby need at the right time, rather than splurging all at once and potentially bankrupting yourself.
The following list is based on our research and experience, but it may vary slightly depending on your parenting choices and needs.
There are many options out there to explore, such as Moses baskets, bedside cribs, co-sleeping and more. We’ve opted for a cotbed for our list because they will guarantee the most long-term use and bang for your buck. They can be used from birth until a child is about 9 years old, and can be transformed into daybeds or small sofas. Finding the right one for your needs will mean you’re buying one, long-lasting product instead of three.
Look out for: Sturdy, solid wood frames. Tantruming toddlers will jump and rattle the rails, so you need to be confident the cotbed can handle this. Can you easily assemble and adjust the cotbed as your child grows? Don’t wait until you’re home with the product to read the instructions – always review before you buy.
Finding the right pram can be a minefield. Our advice is to invest in an option that can be used from birth through to toddlerhood. Many brands offer extended warranties that require registration within a timeframe. Make sure that you do this. Even with the highest quality brands, things can go wrong, but the important thing is how they support you should anything happen.
Look out for: The chassis and the wheels of a buggy are the areas put most to the test and should be your first port of call. Do they look solid and secure? What materials are used? Can the buggy fold in one piece? Can you lift it on your own when folded? Is it possible to remove and wash the fabric or replace parts if they wear out?
Using a baby carrier is a great, fuss-free way to transport your little one. You have the added benefit of having your hands free when out and about which can be liberating. In the name of longevity, we advise choosing a baby carrier that can be worn in a variety of positions (front, back and side) so that as your baby grows you can continue to use it.
Look out for: Comfort for you and the baby is the key here. We advise choosing a carrier that supports you properly. Wraps and slings are brilliant and comfortable to wear; however, babies can outgrow them speedily. As they are made from one piece of fabric, they aren’t always as durable as fully constructed baby carriers.
Travel Changing Mat
Changing mats are a relatively modern addition to the nursery and you may prefer to use a blanket or a towel; however, travel changing mats get our vote as you can pack them up and bring them with you and use them repeatedly. They’re also easy to maintain and clean. Because they’re built for travel, they are inherently more durable than standard home changing mats – investing in a good one means you won’t need to buy a separate one for home.
Look out for: Sturdy but light materials like neoprene and reinforced stitching.
People love to give baby clothes and you can guarantee that well-wishing family and friends will be sending delightful, hopefully long-lasting, ideally handed-down pieces your way. So we would advocate a less is more approach here. In the beginning, a small selection of baby grows and vests plus some kind of outerwear (depending on the season) are all baby really needs in their wardrobe.
Look out for: Natural, organic materials, flat seams and sturdy stitching.
In recent years, the widely accepted way to care for babies seems to involve a staggering volume of throwaway items. Disposable nappies, plastic nappy sacks, wipes, single-use this and that. They might seem like less hassle short-term, but if we can adjust our habits even just a touch, our contribution to the global problem of waste would be dramatically reduced. Not to mention we’d save ourselves a ton of cash. Cloth nappies are a brilliant option that challenges our throwaway culture and help the planet.
Look out for: ‘Birth to potty’ systems, which can be used from birth through to potty training. Flat or pre-folded nappies offer the best value; however, you can find fitted options with velcro. Try to opt for natural, organic materials.
Nappy bags – while nappy bags are designed with compartments for storing baby essentials while on the go, it’s our view that any decent backpack that you already own and use for life beyond baby will suit just as well.
Changing tables – these are great and incredibly useful; however, if you’ve invested in a great portable changing mat, you could get away without one.
Nappy bins – these are typically more costly than they are useful. A standard bathroom-style bin does the job more than adequately.
Monitors – depending on your living situation, these might not be essential. We would advise waiting to purchase one for at least the first month as baby will most likely be sleeping very close to you.