i’ve had a few messages and requests from moms-to-be for me to share the things i really use (and never used) as a first time mom. i think pregnant women easily get suckered into buying many unnecessary things before the baby arrives, even though you are pretty clueless as to what you might actually end up using. my number one best piece of advice would be to buy things AFTER your baby has arrived! besides your boobs (or a bottle), nappies, clothing and a safe place to sleep – they really really don’t need much. it’s more about what YOU need as a parent to COPE with having a new baby.

THAT SAID. i understand how helpful these kind of posts are, because i was also in that clueless position before Axel arrived. i contemplated buying a Moses basket for probably my entire pregnancy. should i? shouldn’t i? what if he only uses it for a few months? what if he hates it? but it’s so pretty! etc etc. side note: i never did end up buying a Moses basket.

by the way i loved this article about what you “really” need before baby arrives, and here’s what i haven’t been able to do without:

Baby Things

1. A place to sleep (obviously)

i bought two things before Axel was born: the Sniglar cot from IKEA and a Nurture One cushion. now, it depends on what your sleeping arrangement for your baby will be – and that is of course totally up to you. i can’t comment on co-sleeping because we didn’t do it. but we did have Axel sleep in our room (and we still do). he sleeps on his Nurture One cushion, which is inside his cot next to our bed. now, let me tell you a little bit about the Nurture One cushion. it’s amaaaaaaaazzzziiiiing. it’s basically just a safe little womb like nest for a baby to sleep in. in the early newborn days we used to put the cushion on the couch between us and Axel would just safely sleep on it while we watched TV. i love that it’s highly portable and we can basically just put it anywhere for him to sleep. we had to do some renovations on our house recently, and all we needed to take while we stayed with our parents was his cushion to sleep on. we might have to retire the cushion once he starts rolling around a lot – but for the first few months (at least 4 months) it’s great. also, it’s a South African product, which i think is amazing!

locally you can buy it at several baby centres, here and here. in the USA you can buy it from here.

2. Some kind of rocker / swing / bouncer chair

this is really an essential piece of equipment, in my humble baby raising opinion. we have the Tiny Love rocker, which is nice and he still uses & loves. i think i might have liked having a swing in the early days – as they also help your baby sleep. but for me it was more about having a safe place for him to chill out while i made myself some tea or had to do a pile of laundry. the Tiny Love is nice because i can also put the Nurture One cushion inside it, which was really great when he was a smaller, fussier baby. i also like that it can be used in the chair position, or lying down (he took naps in it when he was a smaller baby). it vibrates and has a mobile to keep him occupied – even if it’s only for a few minutes!

all of these look good and i have seen first hand how nice the little Babybjorn bouncer is. locally you can buy the Tiny Love here and the BabyBjorn here.

3. Counter height surface + a changing pad

now the reason that i say you need a counter high surface and not a “changing table” is because you don’t NEED a “changing table”. honestly, before i gave birth i must have searched for a changing table for days, weeks, months! i was going back and forth between just a regular old dresser, and a changing table from a baby store. i had this picture in my mind of his beautiful nursery and his perfect little changing table. now, the reason i didn’t dive head first into buying one was because they are twice the price of a regular dresser! in South Africa anyway, attach the word “baby” to anything and watch the price skyrocket.

in the end, i ended up buying a changing table the week before he was born. hahahaaaaa…! and there i sat with both a dresser AND a changing table. honestly, i can laugh at myself now. you really do crazy things when you’re pregnant. but now i know – having changed hundreds of nappies – that you just need a good changing pad, and a counter height surface to change your baby on. counter height because you don’t want to bend down all the time, as your back will hurt. you can, of course, change them on the floor or on the bed or anywhere you damn well please. that’s where the pad comes in. so whether you get a changing table or just use a dresser, it will be fine!

some people insist you need a changing table so that you can have all the nooks and crannies to keep the wipes and the nappies and this and that – you will figure that part out. all i’m saying is, it’s not essential to have a changing table that’s designed specifically for a baby. what i think is more important is that it’s somewhere convenient for middle-of-the-night changes.

4. A night light

something really dim that won’t wake / stimulate your baby when you are feeding him in the middle of the night, but just bright enough that you can actually see what you are doing without having to fumble in the dark. i actually just use the night light attachment on our baby monitor, works like a charm. here are some other cute night lights. also LOVE the Miffy but it is of course insanely expensive for a night light.

5. A flask / thermos

this is perhaps weird, and disregard this advice if you are exclusively breastfeeding, but this is for those who plan on or might end up formula feeding. Axel received formula since day 1 in the hospital (as he was in NICU for a week and i couldn’t pick him up at all, let alone breastfeed him, for the first few days). so we have been complementing nursing with a bit of formula ever since. he gets one or two bottles a day, and in the first 8 weeks – when the sleep deprivation was REAL – my husband would give him a bottle feed at night so i could get a few extra hours of sleep. now, there’s nothing worse than fiddling with warming up a bottle at 2am. so we keep sterile boiled water, at a perfectly warm temperature, in a flask just for this purpose.

that said, if you can get your baby to drink a bottle at room temperature that’s even MORE convenient!

6. A baby monitor

unless you live in a small apartment or have the hearing of a bat. we have this one and it’s perfect. it also tells you the temperature in the room which i found really helpful! we played around with a video monitor (you can get apps on your devices which are pretty handy) but honestly you really just need to be able to hear them.

7. Some kind of carrier

Axel is almost 4 months old, but i still use a wrap carrier almost every single day. i have been using it basically since we brought him home from the hospital – it really is a lifesaver if your young baby is being fussy, needs to sleep or you need to do something while you carry them. it is also OF COURSE lovely for taking walks and getting out of the house. once again, a completely essential item in my humble baby raising opinion.

edit: Axel is now over 5 months old and i have switched from the wrap to the Ergobaby 360 carrier which is AMAZING because he can face outwards which he just loves. i tried a Baby Bjorn carrier for a while, but it hurt my shoulders too much. The Ergobaby is super comfortable for me, and Axel is a heavy boy!

if you live in the US get a Sollybaby wrap. for the locals you can buy either of these wraps.

8. White noise

another thing we have been using since the day we got home from the hospital. you do not need to buy a white noise machine. just download this app, and connect your iPhone or iPod to a portable speaker and there you go. we use the white noise + ocean track, and not only does it help him sleep, it helps US sleep. tip: they like it loud and it’s also great for soothing them if they’re crying or if you’re trying to get them to sleep!

we also use and LOVE Ewan the Dream Sheep. highly recommended!

9. Digital forehead thermometer

when you’re first time parents and you have a tiny baby and you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING the last thing you want to do is try to take your baby’s temperature under his armpit or some other weird inconvenient place. with a forehead thermometer it’s just one click and you know he’s fine, shew!

10. Cloth towelling nappies (flat cloth diapers)

no, i don’t use cloth diapers as actual cloth diapers. these old-school flat cloth diapers (the kind you used to hold in place with safety pins) are just the handiest to have around to wipe up spills, to put down on the changing mat in case of any accidents, to use as a burp cloth etc. you name it, it does it. locally you can get them at Woolworths and internationally i think these are the same.

11. A baby bathtub / floating bath cushion (not pictured)

i know plenty of people say you can bath your baby in the kitchen sink, and that’s cool and all – but our sink is kind of old and crap and i didn’t want to bath any baby in it. so, a baby bath is necessary – only because you don’t want to go filling up your regular sized bath every time the little thing needs a wash. also this floating bath cushion is AMAZING. i’m not sure if you can get it in the US, but this one seems to be similar.


THINGS I NEVER USED

A swaddle blanket / any kind of swaddling thing

i’m probably going to get so much flack for this, but Axel HATED being swaddled. no matter what we used to swaddle with him, or how tight, he would always protest and manage to wriggle out. in the end we were like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and just gave up on that idea. if you DO want to swaddle, just use a large muslin cloth and give it a few tries before buying any kind of fancy swaddling blanket.

A nursing chair

i actually asked people on Twitter whether i needed a rocking chair or “glider” and the general consensus was NO. and i will add to that that you don’t need any kind of special chair at all. in the heady newborn days i pretty much nursed 24/7 on the couch and in bed. i ended up inheriting a nursing chair from my sister-in-law (before Axel was born) because i didn’t want to make the mistake of NOT having a nursing chair if i really needed one, and i used it maybe once??? if your baby sleeps in his nursery from day one and you spend a lot of time in there (or do night feeds in there) then obviously ignore this advice.

Any kind of special nursing pillow

seriously, just use a normal pillow. or take a big soft blanket and just scrunch it up under your baby!

Breathing / movement monitors

we were as paranoid as the next couple, but in the end we didn’t even end up using the movement monitor attachment which came with our baby monitor. i even bought one of these i didn’t use it ONCE.


let me know if you have any questions or things to add in the comments! if i have forgotten anything then i will keep adding to this post.

23 Comments

  1. So true and thermos – it helped so much. But with a nursing pillow, I got it as a present after some time and it is one comfortable thing. It’s much easier to combine breastfeeding with other actions like eating or writing on a computer (however strange it may sound).

  2. Grateful for this.

    We are currently in glider/ recliner/ chair purgatory. We need a new armchair *anyway* so we were thinking maybe we should get a glider (a nice one, like from West Elm. That will look okay in the living room. Baby doesn’t get a nursery in our one-bed apartment), because hey, if we’re buying a new chair anyway, might as well. Then my mother in law was all ‘glider-schmider. What you need, you really, really need, is a recliner.’ And now we have no idea what to do.

    Hopefully this is the one single purchase choice I obsess over for the next six months, and the rest comes pretty easily. Ha.

  3. Teething rings! Life factory makes the best ones. Also teething guards for the cot. Our cot is painted white and both our children gnawed the hell out of it. I personally like the clear rigid plastic ones but the fabric ones are easier to find and cheaper.

    I also had a really fine knit merino swaddle blanket that was so good; it was stretchy enough to wrap the Bub tightly and keep him from busting out of it. Our younger son is 11 months now and we still wrap him in it under his arms to keep him warm during his naps.

    • oh yes, we haven’t entered the big bad world of teething yet! but he does love to suck and chew on things. a Sophie the Giraffe is in his future.

  4. I’m interested to know why you didn’t use the breathing monitor? I’d be a wreck without mine (we use the AngelCare mat with our monitor).

    I spent a small fortune on a rocking feeding chair, and like you never used it… until my son got older (he’s now 16 months old) and now we use it every day! I thought it was a white elephant at first, but am so happy to have it now. Perfect for story time and a bottle before bed.

    • i think the main reason was because up till now he hasn’t slept directly on the mattress in his crib – he sleeps on top of the Nurture One pillow, which moves around a lot (sometimes its in the crib, sometimes it’s in a carrycot in a different room). so we just never bothered using it. then i speak to someone like my sister-in-law who didn’t even have a simple baby monitor for all 3 of her kids!

      that totally makes sense about the rocker! i will probably end up using our chair for storytime when he’s older too :)

  5. Nina Leung Reply

    I would add a lovey or special blanket. We gave each of our children a couple blankets and two or three stuffed animals and they would end up choosing one of those as their lovey that they kept forever. My 4 year old still needs his special blanket every night.
    Breastfeeding pillows are essential for mom’s with large breasts. I went without one for my first baby, but got one as a hand me down for the next and it was SO much more comfortable. It makes a big difference, particularly with back and shoulder pain prevention.

    • oh i didn’t think about that (large breasts) – that makes sense! and why it’s important for people to comment on the post, because what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

      i have yet to introduce a special toy / blanket. sometimes i give him this cute stuffed monkey that i really like, but who knows what he will end up loving!

  6. I too initially thought I wouldn’t need a breastfeeding pillow, but after receiving one as a gift, I found it works better for me (and my back!) than regular pillows.

    What I found/am finding most helpful: Nested Bean Zen Swaddle, Baby in a Bag, NoseFrida (crucial for the first cold), Ubbi diaper pail, Baby K’tan (for me), Ergo Baby (for dad), Sophie, snap-front clothing (easier than overhead), Como Tomo teether, and an easy, small, foldable stroller with snap-in carseat option (like Chicco Liteway Plus)

    Nonessential (so far, at 7 months) for us: loveys, travel wipes dispenser (ours dried out wipes), any type of bottle warmer–when our babe isn’t breastfeeding, she’ll go for a bottle at any temp, which is great if you’re on the go!

    • Oh, also, no official diaper bag needed. We love using a backpack with several pockets, as well as Baggu nylon bags tucked here and there for smaller items.

  7. Loved seeing that thermos in your line-up. I know most people use throwaway baby wipes these days, but when my boys were babies I had the same thermos with perfectly warmed water on the changing table every morning. I used it all day long to wet the baby washcloths for diaper changes.

  8. It’s funny to see that we all share the same concerns and worries.
    I am struggling with finding a way to heat the water for my 8 month baby in the airport. I’m flying alone next week (a long flight with a stop) lol. and he only drinks his milk a bit warm.
    I tried to give him at room temperature but he refuses. It made me think how convenient it must be if he drinks it at room temperature. : )
    Thank you for the post!

    • i reckon go sit at a cafe / restaurant in the airport at feeding time and just ask them for some hot water!

  9. i have used a moses basket with both my kids. Georgie, my oldest, slept in it for the first six months before we made the transition to his big cot. And now we’re using it with James, who is 2 and a half months. The cot we have is quite big and heavy as it can eventually be turned into a bigger bed for when kids are older. So the moses basket gets a thumbs up from me. A swing or rocker is definitely a must too. As for a changing table, with Georgie, we just bought a soft changing mat and put it on a table and used that during the first year. This time around I purchased the Ikea changing table for my bedroom upstairs while downstairs we just use the couch.

  10. hi, thank you for this post! it is true that it is so easy to buy tons and tons of stuff when expecting!
    i did use my nursing pillow a lot, but not so much for nursing: before birth, as a giant pillow for my giant bump, after birth, as a cosy napping place for my son, which i carried around the flat and arranged for him to slip in (mine came with a closing system for it not to open when i’d put down the baby on it). but agreed, for breastfeeding i actually found a normal pillow more manageable
    i used giant swaddles, also not for swaddling, but for everything else: milk spit ups (from the baby and from my boobs !), makeshift changing blanket, light coverup (he was born in august so didn’t need an actual blanket for a few months), sun shield…
    and one thing i found absolutely genius was the philips avent bottle warmer on the go: it includes a thermos, as well as a sort of container that fits bottles perfectly, so that you just have to add boiling water to heat up your bottle. I ended up using the container more than the thermos itself, because it is easy to get boiling water pretty much everywhere (cafés, bar cars in trains…)

  11. It’s really interesting to see how some things are different from one country to another. Here in France, swaddling is frowned upon for example! Some of course find it is the best solution for their baby, but most doctors don’t even tell you about it (it is considered kind of archaic).
    I wondered what the flask was for and then realized that here we use mineral water or even tap water! It must seem really weird for someone who is not used to it. We also don’t sterilize bottles anymore.
    Love the idea of the white noise app, I think it will serve my husband as well since he’s the worst at going back to sleep! I did use my nursing pillow a lot… before actually giving birth! It’s my savior, especially now with a second baby coming in a few days. Loved your article!

    • that’s all so interesting re: the swaddling and the water / sterilising. it sounds like things are pretty CHILL in France!

  12. Yes!!! Especially for a newborn you don’t need a lot of stuff but there is so much cultural expectation to get all the things. I too did not need any special nursing thing (pillow, chair, etc). I just used a regular chair and a pillow! But what’s interesting to me is that how each baby is different so it’s hard to have 1 list of what is needed. For example for my first (now 3.5 years old) she loved being swaddled and used a pacifier, loved her bottle and had formula, never spit up (I was so lucky), etc. My second (now 1 year old) hated being swaddled, didn’t want to take a pacifier, spit up all the time, refused a bottle, etc. She had different needs. Even the carriers they liked were different. I feel like I’ve therefore accumulated more stuff this second time around. But that’s the way it goes I guess!

  13. This was a fun one to read, and the comments are super interesting too. My babe is now 7 months old and there are a few things that were totally essential for the first few months:
    The Baby Bjorn bouncer rules – it used to come to the toilet and the shower when we were home alone and he would happily fling himself up and down in it whilst I did my business!
    We loved having the newborn set for the Tripp Trapp so he could sit at the table with us during dinner and poop while we were eating.
    And before he transitioned to his cot at 4 months, he slept in a box on the floor next to our bed: http://www.babyboxco.com/ Now the box is used to store all those precious newborn clothes he’s outgrown and is tucked under his cot.

    Here in the Netherlands you have a maternity nurse (kraamzorg) come to your home after you give birth to help you out for the first 8 days. That’s your own personal fairy godmother for 8 hours a day!!! They’re not matronly nurses though, more like rad ladies who love tiny babies and taking care of new mamas. Mine taught me all her tricks, helped with breastfeeding, made me meals, did the laundry, told my husband what to go out and buy, cleaned my house, did all the health checks for me and baby, and even watched over him so I could shower and nap. AND THIS IS FOR FREE! I love her.

    The birthing system over here is not for the faint-hearted though, you either have your baby in the comfort of your own home with your midwife or you and your midwife head to the hospital and use their bed for a few hours. Once you’ve had your first pee in the toilet you are sent home with your newborn and the kraamzorg will appear at your door to do the rest.

  14. Hi, first of all your son looks very cute and the photo made me smile because my son has the same pullover and tights :)

  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Di and thank you to all the mom’s that commented. Something I’ve realised over the past couple of months of being pregnant is that you don’t need to setup a nursery just yet. Rather focus on a few key items and get your home ready as much as you can.

  16. Hi! We’ve been gifted a Nurture Nest and I’m sooo scared to use it because it seems like a SIDS risk. Did you manage to find any information about why it’s okay to use when normally the recommendation is no pillows or soft items near sleeping babies. It was not a cheap gift so I don’t want to just poopoo it but am struggling to find any information that can explain to me why it’s safe and was hoping maybe you could help me.

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