It’s been a long, long time since I last had a baby in the house so this post may seem out of left field, but I have so many friends who are currently expecting (or who have just given birth), that the topic of baby essentials has been top of mind in recent months.
After hitting ‘send’ on a particularly lengthy email detailing all my personal baby essentials just last week, I thought it might be handy to publish the list in its entirety so that others can reap the benefits too. When compared to other lists you’ll find on the internet, this one is bound to be a whole lot shorter, though. In my experience, babies truly don’t need much as long as they have a place to sleep, a full tummy, and a way to be as close as possible to their mama. If I could do this whole having a baby thang all over again, you can bet that I’d do it as minimally as possible, sticking to only the essentials – with a nice-to-have thrown in here and there for good measure (because, let’s face it: baby things are cute!)
Whether you decide to co-sleep or prefer to have your baby sleeping in a crib, the single most important thing you’ll need for your new baby is a safe and comfortable spot for them to sleep. When I was pregnant with Bean, we went balls to the wall: we bought a cot, took over ownership of my family’s Moses basket, and we bought a camp cot. Where did Beanie end up sleeping? In our bed, right next to me. If we ever have another baby, I think I’ll forego the big, bulky cot and opt for a co-sleeping crib instead.
My advice for expecting parents? Don’t spend too much on big ticket items, like a cot, until you know that you’ll be using it. I know how tempting it is to put together a beautiful baby room with all the trimmings in the beginning, but you can save yourself a whole lot of money by opting for a Moses basket and going from there.
You may find that – like us – you’re a co-sleeping family, so there’s no real need for a cot. We had a beautiful cot that Beanie hardly ever slept in; he went straight from our bed to a toddler bed at two years old. On the other hand, you may find that you’re the complete opposite and that your baby sleeps better on his or her own – or that you simply prefer your own space – so end up buying a cot three months later. At least you know that you’ll get plenty of use out of this expensive item, so you’ll be happy to spend more money on it.
I didn’t buy any swaddle blankets when I was pregnant because I thought they were a fad, so the swaddle I received as gift at my baby shower was the only one I had on hand when Bean was born. Fast forward to three days after we brought Beanie home, and I promptly sent S out to buy a couple more. These little swaddle blankets proved to be an absolute life saver during the early days. I’ve heard that not all babies are fans of being wrapped up tightly, but the majority of babies – Bean included – felt instantly calmer and more secure once swaddled.
One of my best friends bought Beanie an adorable little bunny when he was about two months old, and he is obsessed with Lucian Bunny to this day. Lucian Bunny goes everywhere with him and, although he’s amassed a ridiculous amount of soft toys since, Lucian Bunny is still the only one he takes to bed with him and the only one he asks for when he’s feeling sickly. Some babies prefer a little taglet, while others use a dummy to self-soothe. Whatever your baby ends up using, a soother of some sort is an essential.
Baby sleeping bags
If your baby tends to kick off his or her blanket at night, then you’ll want to get your hands on a baby sleeping bag. Again, this is one of those items that I overlooked while I was pregnant because I thought that it would be an unnecessary buy, but as it turns out, baby sleeping bags ended up saving my sanity! Beanie was a terrible sleeper when he was younger (in fact, he didn’t sleep through the night until the ripe old age of three years old), so when a friend passed on her baby sleeping bags and suggested that I give them a go, I was game. I would’ve done anything for an hour of extra sleep at that point! Lo and behold, the baby sleeping bag actually worked. Beanie obviously woke up frequently as a result of getting cold when he kicked his blanket off during the night, and a zip up sleeping bag seemed to do the trick. You can also get weighted baby sleeping bags that place gentle pressure on your baby (much like they’d experience in the womb), which also helps them to stay asleep for longer.
Teeny-tiny socks are the cutest little things you’ll lay your eyes on (apart from your baby), but in my experience, they rarely stay on. After a couple of months, I gave up and bought a whole bunch of baby booties instead – these keep their little feet warm, they stay put, and they’re super-cute to boot… or bootie – ha! (Ok, that was terrible… sorry!)
These are hands-down one of my top five baby essentials – especially during the first few weeks of your baby’s life, when you’re too terrified to trim their paper-thin nails. You won’t believe just how sharp their little talons are, so these are ideal for preventing scratches on their little faces.
OUT AND ABOUT
I only bought my wrap carrier when Beanie was about three months old, but it quickly became my most-used baby item. It’s also my go-to gift for baby showers, and it’s the first thing I tell my pregnant friends to put on their list of things to buy. It’s particularly handy during the first three months of your baby’s life (also known as the ‘fourth trimester’), and during growth spurts when all your baby wants is you.
This one goes without saying. Things to look out for: is it lightweight, and can you fold (and unfold) it quickly and easily – and preferably with just one hand? (I’m not even joking). And don’t forget to check that it fits into your boot!
These are great for wrapping around your baby on unexpectedly chilly summer evenings, tossing over the pram or carseat when sunny, or mopping up spills while on the go. When Beanie was younger, I didn’t leave the house without three or four on me – and I still keep one in my cubbyhole, just in case.
This is a non-negotiable. When we left the hospital after Beanie was born, the nurses came down to the car with us to check that we had a safe and secure carseat for Beanie, and rightly so – if there’s just one thing that you buy for your baby, this is it.
It’s safest for your baby to be buckled up in a rear-facing carseat in the back of your car, but if your baby is anything like Beanie was, not seeing mom or dad for the duration of the drive can prove to be a tad traumatic, leading to endless screaming (and a few tears from a frazzled mom as well!) We bought a baby car mirror that can be attached to your baby’s carseat so that you’re in full view at all times – and you can see what they’re up to at the same time. This proved to be such an unexpected essential, and one that I highly recommend for all new parents.
Travel Changing Mat
The biggest waste of money in my opinion? A compactum. Apart from the fact that it’s a great storage solution, we didn’t get much use out of ours. I was always too weary of Beanie rolling off of the edge, and often simply too lazy to carry him to his bedroom for every nappy change, so we resorted to a travel changing mat and a portable nappy caddy that held a supply of essentials, like nappies, bum balm, and wet wipes. The travel changing mat also came in handy when we went out, as I always had a clean surface to lie Beanie down on for nappy changes.
A nice, big breastfeeding cover with an adjustable tie is a must for every breastfeeding mama. Not only does it help to cover you up while feeding in public, it’s also great if you have a baby that’s easily distracted. I remember that Beanie would constantly pop off the boob to have a look at what was going on around him during feeds, so I’d often use my breastfeeding cover (even at home) to help create a less-stimulating environment for him.
I always tell friends who are expecting to wait until they’ve give birth before buying a breast pump, because it can be quite expensive and you never really know how long you’ll end up breastfeeding for – if at all. If, like me, you’d like to continue breastfeeding but plan on heading back to work soon, then a breast pump is a must-have. It can be quite tricky to pick the right breast pump, especially since you can’t exactly try them on for size before you buy. I found that Medela’s Electric Pump and Avent’s Manual Breast Pump worked best for me (The Avent Manual Pump is my first choice, but the electric pump came in handy while trying to pump at work – I could check emails while expressing), while Tommee Tippee’s manual breast pump didn’t work at all. Most of the milk ended up on my shirt, and I felt that the suction was quite weak.
These are great for storing and freezing breastmilk – they take up a lot less space that breastfeeding cups or tubs, and you can even get ones that are reusable.
Sterilisers come in all shapes and sizes these days, but I found that a simple microwave steamer worked best. It made sterilising Beanie’s bottles and my breast pump quick and easy, and it was also easy to travel with. (I also always had Milton Sterlising Tablets on hand – these are so handy, and can even be used to clean your toddler or preschoolers toothbrush between washes).
BATH TIME & GROOMING
Baby Bath Tub
A small baby bath tub that can be moved from room to room makes baby’s bath time so much easier. Look out for something that’s relatively small and lightweight – something that you can carry around easily, even when full. Something I hadn’t considered when purchasing ours was that fact that I’d have a caesarian scar that would make emptying the bath pretty impossible at the best of times, so I had to rely on the husband to help me during the first couple of months. A smaller, lighter bath tub would’ve been a much better option for us!
The only toiletries you really need during the first few weeks are a good bum balm or barrier cream, a moisturising lotion of some sort (I prefer using a natural aqueous cream, like the one from Oh-Lief – no mineral oils or other nasties in sight), and a gentle shampoo & baby wash.
Refer to ‘baby mittens’ above – babies have very sharp little claws, which will require that you suck it up, be brave, and get trimming at some point!
This is particularly handy if you live in a dry climate, or if you experience dry winters (like in JHB). It helps to put moisture back into the air, and some humidifiers also detoxify the air while they’re at it.
Baby Panado and Neurofen
These two are great to help soothe pain and fever when your baby is teething.
Yep, believe it or no, you need a snot sucker – and you bet you’re going to use it! (I didn’t buy one while I was pregnant, because I couldn’t imagine ever using it or even needing it… turns out, it’s a pretty handy little tool!)
Great for taking your baby’s temperature quickly and accurately. You can even get dummy thermometers that make the whole process even easier.
I’d never even heard of Baba Suur – a baby antacid – before Beanie was about four months old and we were desperately trying to find something to help treat his reflux. Our paediatrician has prescribed a course of Nexium, but we didn’t want to keep Beanie on Nexium for too long as it kills all the bacteria in their little tummies – both good and bad. A friend told us about Baba Suur, and it worked like a charm. We’d give Beanie a dose after every feed, and it really seemed to help soothe the burn. Poor thing! (We checked with our paediatrician to make sure that it was safe to use, but I’d recommend that you double-check the use of any and all meds with your paediatrician. You can buy Baba Suur at Clicks).
As for the things I definitely wouldn’t repurchase the second time round? A compactum (as mentioned above – a chest of drawers and travel-friendly mat are perfect alternatives), a Bumbo seat (Beanie’s little thighs could never quite fit), a fancy nappy bin (seriously – any old bin will do), and possible a cot… at least until I was very sure that my baby would actually sleep in it!
If you’re currently expecting (or have a teeny baby), you’re going to love this next bit! I’ve partnered with Prima Baby SA to give one lucky mama (or mom-to-be) the chance to win the sweetest little hamper of gender-neutral goodies from Nattou’s Max, Noa & Tom Collection worth over R1000.
The highlight of the hamper (for me, at least) is super-soft and snuggly Max the Dog – the perfect first companion for your little one, whether they want to play or are in need of some comfort. If you’re looking for a soother in particular, you’ll love the Tom the Bear mini doudou, which is a small, soft little soother that also has a (cloth) attachment for your baby’s dummy. The Noa the Horse Pacifinder makes sure that your baby’s dummy is always within reach – the clip allows for easy clipping onto your baby’s clothes or blanket. Last but not least, these adorable Max the Dog slippers will keep your baby’s feet warm and toasty – and passersby cooing, because they’re just so damn cute!
Want to win? I’ve kept the entry requirements quick and easy:
- Simply head on over to Prima Baby SA’s Facebook page (here), then leave a comment down below telling me which of their products is your favourite.
- For an additional entry, head on over to Prima Baby SA’s Instagram account (here), and leave a comment on one of their posts (any post will do), making sure to tag me in your comment (My username is @forthebeautyofit). A simple ‘@forthebeautyofit sent me’ will do).