All mums-to-be want to equip themselves and their baby with the must have items to make life with a new baby as smooth as possible, as well as making their mini-me’s just too cute to resist. And with the clever marketing from big department stores and baby warehouse catalogs programming you to ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’, many people end up practically mortgaging their house to pay for it all. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Many items which you think are essential, you can actually get by easily without, saving you money, while making your baby happier. Below is a list of my essentials, from someone who did all this themselves!
1: Second hand clothes
If you are on a budget, don’t bother buying any new clothes for newborns! Because babies grow so quickly, baby clothes do end up either being passed along to friends or donated to second hand shops faster than they wear out. So if you have any friends who have had a baby in the last year, hit them up for hand-me-downs (just make sure they are the right season for when your baby will be born), or frequent Vinnies, Salvos or other charity shops for clothes which sell for as little as 50c but still look brand new! And don’t forget to factor in that almost every friend will gift you something new for your baby to wear so you will have more than enough of a nice assortment of new clothes anyway.
Oh you can also add baby blankets, towels and wash cloths to the list which you can buy second hand too!
Cost: From 50c
2. A good wrap and/or carrier
When my kids were babies I loved wearing them for closeness and to make my day much easier. In fact I barely used a pram in the first year of their lives, and I remember my 2ndbaby’s first pram ride wasn’t until 11 months old when his grandmother came to stay for the first time and wanted to take him for a walk. (His innocent response at that age was one of delight like he was going on a rollercoaster ride, which is a big contrast to new babies who may get fussy without being super close to their primary caregiver!). I used stretchy wraps, ring slings, woven wraps and soft structured carriers so I know from experience which are the most cost effective for the time your baby is a newborn to a pre-schooler.
There is plenty of research espousing the benefits of carrying your baby which includes enhancing bonding, increasing baby’s neck strength and posture, lengthening their sleep time, reducing colic and flat head syndrome, and making life a hell of a lot easier by having a happy baby who is enjoying the closeness of being skin-to-skin with Mum for longer periods. Plus it surely must increase your fitness with carrying a few extra kgs – many women pay lots of money for a personal trainer to put them through that kind of weight training!
When your baby develops strong enough neck muscles to keep their head upright by themselves, you can wear them on your back and continue to go about your day as normal. It really helps when you are doing things like hanging out washing, preparing dinner or even going to the toilet (yes, really!), when they can’t be put down without crying.
On the other hand, relying on a pram to transport your baby everywhere can make life difficult with the extra space needed to store it at home and in the car, getting it out of the car and unfolding it, having to listen to bubba cry more and stop what you’re doing to pick them up to re-settle them, and refolding it to pack away again.
So forego spending thousands on a Bugaboo or Phil & Ted’s and just go with a woven wrap or soft structured carrier. Both of these items can be used to carry your baby from newborn to toddler size.
There are so many woven wraps available which are suitable for different climates, and with the thousands of colours and patterns, they will satisfy any fashionista.
It can be a bit tricky to get the hang of negotiating all that length of material so I highly recommend attending a babywearing meet in your area. Check out local Babywearing Facebook groups for monthly meet ups (eg. Sydney Babywearers). It’s a great place to meet like-minded mamas too. Or if there’s none available in your area, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to wrap like a pro! Just be aware that for some women, it can turn into a bit of an obsession with some women spending thousands on their “wrap stash”. My advice is to buy one that you’re super happy with which have multiple colours that will go with any outfit!
Mine (pictured) was the Girasol Northern Lights rainbow wrap (which has since been turned into a beautiful ‘rebozo’ which I use as a doula for helping babies get in the right position for birth, so it was worth every cent for the use I got out of it!). Oh, and if you buy it second hand and “worn in”, it will be heaps softer! If you’re on Facebook, look on the Babywearing Buy/Sell/Swap Groups for heaps of second hand choices.
If wrapping looks a bit daunting then try a soft structured carrier which is far quicker to put on when you just want to duck into the shops quickly, as well as being comfy to wear for longer periods of time. My favourite is the Boba 4G which has gorgeous designs and colours, is easy to put on and is comfortable to wear for long periods without straining the back; it fits baby snugly and puts their hips and legs in the right ‘froggy-legged’ position (unlike “crotch danglers” like the Baby Bjorn which can be uncomfortable for baby’s crotch and hips!). It also includes the option to wear a tiny newborn by folding up the waistband without having to fork out for an extra bulky insert; it has a snap on hood to use when bubba is sleeping, has a long back and stirrups for bigger toddler wearing, and the best part (that no other carrier has!) is that it has a shoulder clip so you can wear your handbag on your shoulder without it slipping off!
3. Co-sleeper cot
Just as baby likes to sleep on you during the day, babies much prefer sleeping close to you at night too. It helps them feel secure, helps regulate their breathing which reduces the risk of SIDS, makes for a much easier breastfeeding relationship, and teaches them that sleep is not something to be feared due to loneliness, isolation and distance from Mum.
If baby is right next to you, on a separate sleeping surface, they will wake up when hungry or need a cuddle, you will be acutely attuned to them and wake up before they even get upset enough to cry out, you can bring them close for a breastfeed or reach over and pat them back to sleep, and then you can both fall back to sleep without much fuss. (And there is no need to fork out for a baby monitor!) Contrast that to a baby in a separate room who has to fully wake up, cry enough to rouse Mum who then has to fully wake up, get out of bed, stay awake till the feed is over and re-settle bubba in his own (now cold) bed. Then Mum has to then go back to bed herself and try and get a decent amount of sleep until the next time bubba wakes!
So do yourself and your baby a favour and either buy or hire a purposed co-sleeper bassinet, like the ‘Bednest’ from Birth Partner (< pictured).
Or if budget is an issue and you want it to last into the toddler years, buy a second hand cot which has adjustable levels for newborn and larger baby – the higher newborn level is usually around the height of a normal adult bed (just make sure you buy a brand NEW mattress to reduce the risk of SIDS!), remove one side of it (keep the side that goes up and down), and push the cot with the open side next to your own bed. Push the baby mattress up next to your mattress so there is no gap and fill in the gap on the outside with some foam cut to size. This is called “side-car-ing” your cot. More info on how to do that here!
> This is a pic of how we had our family bed, with side car cot on one side for baby, which cost us $130 second hand), and single bed on the other side for our toddler. When they were 3 and 5, we transitioned out of the family bedroom and into our own room, and ever since going to sleep time is a total breeze for the kids – no fighting going to bed, and no constantly having to resettle them!
4. Tummy Tub
Ok I admit that these look like just a big expensive, clear bucket, but I’m telling you, these baby baths are the bomb! They mimic the womb in that they are a snug ‘foetal position’ fit which baby has been used to for the last months of pregnancy. They are space saving, use much less water to fill, and you can keep baby secure with one hand while using your other hand to wash him or her.
With my first baby, we lived in a tiny 2 bedroom unit with only a shower and no bath, and there was not enough room to store one of those big baby baths with a stand. But the Tummy Tub took up hardly any room, and best of all, my son instantly calmed down as soon as he was lowered into it! My next baby also used it and loved it until about 8 months old. By the time they grow out of it they can sit on their own which is then easier to use a standard household bath.
Now let me warn you that babies’ bath relaxation includes relaxing their bowel muscles too so it’s not uncommon (OK let’s just say it IS common!) for them to poo in the water. No problem! With the convenient shape and less water than your standard baby bath, it is easy to tip it all into the toilet and refill with fresh water.
The Tummy Tub comes with an optional stand which ups the price, but it really isn’t needed if you sit on a low stool with the tub on the floor, or put it on a benchtop for you to stand next to it). And an added bonus is that when you take a photo of your baby in it, it totally looks like they’re shrunken inside a cup of water! Epic cute FTW!
5. Modern Cloth Nappies (MCNs)
Don’t skip to the end and be put off by the price. Cloth nappies are a bit of an expensive outlay! But let me assure you, they are worth every single cent and they pay for themselves in at least ¼ of the time that your child is in nappies compared to disposables. Plus they are far, far better for the environment! (And you don’t want to leave your child with more of a destroyed environment after you’re gone do you?!). Oh and don’t let the washing put you off either. It’s far less dramatic than you anticipate!
I asked my Mum to gift us our MCNs before our first baby was born, and at my request she bought us 24 Bum Genius one size pocket nappies (pictured) which lasted well into my second baby’s nappy wearing life. Best. Gift. Ever! Back then they were only available in a single block colour but since then they’ve come out with some really funky fabrics. There are plenty of lovely brands and gorgeous designs these days and you will no doubt find something you will fall in love with. And your baby’s bottom will look so much cuter in these chunky, colourful baby-undies!
(Tip 1: Get snaps not Velcro for longer lasting wear!
Tip 2: Also consider investing in a ‘Little Squirt’ to help with cleaning solids into the toilet!)
As I mentioned before, washing MCNs is pretty simple. My method was use the Little Squirt gun to wash poo into the loo, remove the insert, rinse into the sink and wring excess water out, chuck it into the nappy bucket with lid, and machine wash every 2 or 3 days (I used to chuck them in with my whites!), then hang out in the sun to dry!
Cost: From $640+ for 24
So there you have it. Spend less and have a happier baby with my must have 5!
Did you find this list helpful? Is there anything that you would add?
Stay tuned for more blogs! Let me know if there’s anything you would love to hear about.