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:
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!
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!
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!
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.