If you’re expecting a new baby, and it’s your first, it’s highly likely that you’ve already been inundated with well-meaning advice reminding you of the things you simply must buy before the baby comes.
It can feel overwhelming and seem like you have to buy an awful lot of ‘stuff’ in preparation. It might be hard to even imagine having a tiny human to care for, let alone buying a whole heap of ‘essentials’ for a person you haven’t even met yet, so it helps to have a checklist that you can go over and work through.
When you're pregnant with your first, it's normal to feel totally clueless. Parenting books are great guides and can help you to form opinions and ideas on various parenting styles and practicalities. Choose just one or two to focus on though, as it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the different baby books out there.
As a guide, it’s good to think about specific areas, such a sleeping, feeding, bathing and changing, travel and baby clothes. Try and think about the kind of things that will suit your lifestyle. For example, if you do a lot of walking and spend lots of time outdoors, you may want a buggy with big, textured wheels that can handle uneven terrain, or, alternatively, if you travel a lot, a lightweight buggy will make life easier.
There are a lot of things you won’t need to buy right away, as your ideas and expectations are bound to change along the way.
Baby sleep essentials
Sleep is probably the most talked about topic as a parent ('how can I get my baby to sleep?' and 'will I ever get a lie-in again?' are both common concerns) and there’s all sorts of advice and theories out there on what the best way is to approach it. Do you follow a routine or not? Should I wake a sleeping baby? What’s the difference between a crib, a cot and a cotbed?
The NHS recommends that your baby sleeps in the same room as you, day and night, for the first six months, so if your room is on the small side it’s worth considering something like a Moses basket or crib before you move onto a larger full-blown cot.
A Moses basket or crib are small enough to have your baby right by your bed and because of their size, they’re also fairly portable too, so you can move it around your home as you go from room to room. A bedside crib like the SnuzPod is specifically intended to be used right up against your bed with the side down, so you can keep your baby close and within arm’s reach all night long – really helpful for night feeds.
Babies usually grow out of their Moses basket or crib by about six months, at which point they can be transferred to a cot or cotbed, if they’re not in one already. A cotbed is a cot that can be changed into a toddler bed for when baby gets a bit older, meaning you won’t have to buy a separate bed when they’re ready to be a bit more ‘grown-up’. Your plan may even be to borrow a cot from friends or family, but whatever type of bed you choose, the NHS recommends a new mattress for every new baby, if possible.
When your baby’s born, the midwives will probably show you the technique of swaddling – wrapping baby up so they’re snug and secure. This can help to calm and soothe, and stops them being woken up by their startle reflex. If you want to continue to swaddle at home, you can use a standard blanket or buy a special blanket specifically intended for swaddling. If you do swaddle, you won’t need to use blankets at the same, as your baby will be warm enough.
Alternatively, baby sleeping bags are a great solution for wriggly babies that kick the covers off at night, and you’ll need at least three or four fitted sheets so you can always have a clean one to hand.
Baby sleep checklist
- Moses basket or crib – The NHS recommend that your baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first six months
- Cot or cotbed – Larger than a Moses basket or crib, perfect for when your baby has grown a bit
- New mattress for your Moses basket, crib, cot or cotbed – The NHS recommend a new mattress for every new baby
- 3-4 fitted sheets – You’ll be changing sheets a lot in the early days
- Swaddling blanket or 3-4 blankets – You shouldn’t use both at the same time
- Baby sleeping bag – A great solution if your wriggly baby kicks the covers off
- Room thermometer – The Lullaby Trust recommends a room temperature of 16-20°C with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies
- Digital thermometer – Get a fast and accurate reading of your baby’s temperature
- Night light – A friendly glow during those night feeds and a reassuring light when baby gets a bit older
- Baby monitor – For peace of mind whilst baby’s sleeping
Baby feeding essentials
How you feed your baby is up to you. You may have an idea of what you’re going to do before your baby’s born, or you may prefer to go with the flow and see what happens after the birth.
Muslin squares are top of every parent’s list, and for good reason. These basic large squares of cotton have a multitude of uses, from mopping up milk and accidents, a cover-up for feeding time (it’s fine not to cover-up too) and a sun shade. Some parents have even talked about the time they used a muslin as a make-do nappy when they ran out.
If you’re breastfeeding, nursing bras are a must, as they have handy clips for easy access. We can help you find the right size for you with our free in-store Bra Fitting Service. Come and see us two-three weeks before your baby’s due.
Breast pads will help deal with any leaks when your milk comes in and nipple shields can help with any discomfort when you’re getting breastfeeding established.
If you’re bottle feeding, you’ll need a selection of bottles with slow flow teats, but be prepared to try and test a few to find the one that your baby prefers. You’ll need a steriliser and bottle brush to keep things nice and clean too. A bottle warmer is really helpful when you need to warm your baby’s milk up quickly.
Baby feeding checklist
- Muslin squares – At least six
- Nursing bras – With handy clips to make feeding easier
- Nipple shields and breast pads – washable or disposable
- 6-8 bottles and teats – You may need to try a few different types before you find the perfect match for your baby
- Steriliser – Choose steam, microwave or cold water to keep all your bottles super clean
- Bottle brush
- Bottle warmer
Baby changing and bathing essentials
Changing your baby’s nappy is something you’re going to get very used to doing and you’re likely to have done it multiple times before you’ve even left the hospital. Babies need a lot of nappy changes and sometimes at the most inconvenient times, like when you’re just about to leave the house or when they’re just nodding off to sleep. The key is to set up an organised place to change them so you always have everything to hand, so if you’re in a rush or it’s the middle of the night, you know where everything is.
Their first bath is one of those moments in a baby’s life that’s photographed and shared with families and friends. In reality, you might feel a little unsure about bathing a squirmy wet baby for the first time. Depending on how you feel, you can go for a separate baby bath that means no leaning over the side of the big bath and bath time doesn’t have to restricted to the chilly bathroom, or a bath support that’s designed for use in your main bath and takes up little space.
With a bit of practice, bath time will form a well-loved part of your child’s bedtime routine for years to come.
Baby changing and bathing essentials checklist
- Baby bath or bath support
- Bath thermometer – Make sure the water’s at the right temperature for baby
- Toiletries, cotton wool and flannel – Use gentle products for baby’s delicate skin
- Changing mat and travel changing mat – Have a couple of these in different locations around the house
- Cuddle robe or towels
- Nappies – as many as you can store for several days at a time
- Nappy pail or similar nappy sacks
- Baby wipes
- Baby hair brush and gentle shampoo
- Nail scissors
Baby travel essentials
It can be a little overwhelming to think about what you’ll need when you’re on the move with your baby. What kind of pram shall I get? Do I need a buggy too? And what’s a baby carrier for?
When baby’s born, you won’t need an extensive list, so it’s best to focus on the basics – a infant car seat is essential to take the baby home in from hospital and you’ll need a pram or pushchair for those first outings. A baby carrier or sling is great for parents that like to keep baby close to their body when they’re on the move.
Our Nursery Advisors can take you through the different types of prams and travels systems available so you can decide what’s best for you.
Baby travel essentials checklist
- Infant carrier/car seat – it's not recommended to use a second hand car seat
- Pram/pushchair – that's suitable from birth
- Parasol or sun canopy in summer
- Rain cover for your car seat and pram or pushchair (if not included in package)
- Baby carrier or sling
- Travel cot – or you could use a Moses basket
- Sun blinds for your car windows in summer
- Changing bag
Baby clothng essentials
You’re likely to be given a lot of clothes as gifts in the days leading up to your due date and after the baby’s born, but there are some basics that you’re going to want make sure you have, so you’re fully prepared.