Things you will need for a newborn

Each day I learn about another friend of mine expecting a baby this year. Congratulations! It is exciting and overwhelming. I remember myself this time last year starting to think what I will need and wondering what is the difference between a sleepsuit and a vest and whether I would need a breastpump or a feeding chair.

Typically for a London working couple, we live in a small place which got smaller with the baby’s arrival. I like space and I don’t like to acquire a lot of things. I moved to London seven years ago with just two bags. In this spirit I tried to get as little as possible. Still, for the first three months after our son’s birth our flat was a mess. Baby clothes, baby bottles, baby toys, baby mats, baby nappies… Every single surface was consumed by some baby thing. Some were great (like a mobile) some were a waste of space (like a Bumbo seat). So I thought, I would write a guide to help the first-time mums save time, money and space.

A necessary disclaimer: all babies are different and parents are different too. So things that worked for me may not work for you. But here is a list to get you started.

 

Baby Clothes

First, say “yes” to all the secondhand clothes from friends. Newborns grow so quickly that they don’t get a lot of wear out of nice pieces. It is a good way to recycle and save some money.

If you are buying go to Gap, John Lewis and Mothercare – good quality essentials and fair value.

Must haves

  • Cotton sleepsuits with legs like this one. This is a staple item of every baby wardrobe in a cold climate, so get 8-10 of them (Mothercare will have 5 white ones in a pack for about £15). I recommend the ones with buttons all the way from neck to legs, so that you don’t have to pull anything over baby’s head. Front buttons are better (small babies are lying on their back most of the time). Zipped sleepsuits are also OK, especially if you don’t like doing and undoing buttons. It is great to have sleeves with folded cuffs – they fold over the fingers to prevent babies from scratching themselves.
  • Cotton sleepsuit without legs with long or short sleeves. In hot weather the baby can wear just the vest (in lieu of sleepsuits with legs), in cold weather they can go under a sleepsuit as an extra layer.
  • Two warm overalls to take the baby out in. Two because one will be in the wash from time to time.
  • A couple of cotton hats if it is cool inside or outside. In autumn/winter you will need a warmer hat too (fleece or wool).
  • A cotton blanket
  • 2-3 swaddling blankets. I have tried many and the best one was the Miracle blanket.
  • 10 muslin cloths
  • 2 soft baby towels

Nice to have

  • A couple of cute outfits to take pictures in
  • A couple of pairs of hoodie + leggings + socks
  • Lambskin liner for the pram and for the crib (if you’re getting a crib)

Waste of money

  • Anything that goes over newborn head. The head is so wobbly that you will rarely ever put it on in the first two months – realistically until the baby can sit unsupported while you’re dressing them (around 6-7 months)
  • Sleepsuits that button at the back. If you are within the majority of parents that put their babies on the back, then whenever your newborn cries you will think “Are they uncomfortable because of the buttons?” Why does anyone create sleepsuits with buttons on the back? Well, there are babies who hate lying on their back, so if you get one of those you will appreciate non-conventional sleepsuits.
  • Anti-scratch gloves. Trim baby’s fingernails and get the sleepsuits with folded cuffs. Gloves fall off and get lost in the wash
  • Something that is not 100% cotton. Again, every time the baby cry you will think “Is it because they are uncomfortable in this polyester suit?”

Baby furniture

Donations and lendings from friends are great. Also, if you’re considering buying something expensive (like a Stokke cot) check out gumtree and ebay – you may save some considerable amount of money (£200+) getting a second-hand one.

Must have

  • Something for the baby to sleep in. I wish I could say “a cot”, but I have to warn prospective parents that cots don’t often work for newborns. Why? I guess they have too much space for a little person who just came out of the womb. My friends’ newborn babies usually end up sleeping in parents bed, or pram (Bugaboo Donkey type), or small crib. We got a hammock that worked very well for the first four months. We also tried the Moses basket, but our son was waking up in it. Co-sleepers can be a good option. They seem expensive before you have a baby: “Really? £200 and I can only use it for 6 months?” But once you have a crying baby, an extra hour of sleep is gold, and £200 seems like a bargain. Check out ebay and gumtree if you considering getting one.
  • Changing table. Some people will argue that this is a nice to have rather than a must, but if you care about your back, get one. You will be changing 8 nappies a day and you want a comfortable plhace to do this with nappy, wipes and cream supplies all handy.
  • Swing. Get a battery operated one that swings back to front and side to side like this one. If you cannot find the versatile one, get one that swings back to front. Yes, they take up quite a bit of space, but it is a perfect device to put a newborn to sleep. Almost all second-time mums have one.
  • Baby bath (if you only have a shower in the house like we do) or bath support for an adult bath (like this one).

Nice to have

  • Glider chair with a footstool. If you are breastfeeding, the first few weeks you will spend more time sitting and feeding than doing anything else. Hence it is very important to have a super comfortable seat for this. They are about £200 new or half for a second-hand one.
  • Nappy disposal system like this one.

Waste of money

  • Various sleeping cocoons. They don’t work for most babies.

Baby devices

Must have

  • Pram. People value different things in prams and they tend to be a heated topic of discussion in any antenatal class. We went for the light practical option of Bugaboo bee. They are expensive, so we got a second hand one for a third of the price of new. Having used it for the last 7 months I must say that even the full price is a good value for money.
  • Sling or baby carrier. In early days a great device for putting baby to sleep or doing something when you need to carry your baby around and you want to use your hands. There are some babies that don’t like slings so don’t buy too many of them beforehand. To my surprise the one we use most is the Baby Bjorn carrier. I thought that it will be an option for dad only and I will use a sling. However, Baby Bjorn is so quick to put on (massive plus when the baby is crying) and our boy didn’t like any other sling in the first three months. The other one a lot of people use here are stretchy Moby wraps. And then there are Ergo for older babies – that allows you to carry the baby on your back. I also have a Didymos sling. I was planning to use it mostly because it is better for the baby and for my back that Baby Bjorn. However, it is too fiddly to put on, so Bjorn wins on most days.
  • Breastpump (if planning to breastfeed – read my post on breastfeeding preparation). All lactation consultants I spoke to recommended Medela, so I got a double Medela pump. I used it a lot in the first two weeks (before the baby figured out how to suck on the breast) and now I use it occasionally when I want to go out and need to have some milk supply in the fridge. I will use it a bit more when I go back to work.
  • Bottles for milk. For compatibility get the same brand as your breastpump.
  • Steriliser. We have a microwave one.
  • Baby scissors for nails. Some may argue that you can just bite babies nails off, but I prefer cutting.
  • Dummy. If you are super against dummies, don’t get it. If you are on the fence, just buy one or two and see if it helps. Our baby doesn’t want to take the dummy, he chews it and spits it out. You can always read up on it and “lose” it later.
  • Chair for newborn. A friend of mine had one and I wish we bought one too. It is a high chair where the baby can lie flat and you can roll it around the house with you (to the shower, to the dinner table, to the kitchen, etc). Something like this. We had a Moses basket that we carried around, but it was less convenient.

Nice to have

  • Car seat. Great if it attaches to your pram base (for example, Bugaboo bee goes well with Maxi Cosi). We don’t have a car but we used ours a number of times in rental cars, friends cars, taxis, etc.
  • Scales. In the first couple of months you will weigh your baby a lot (more out of worry “are they eating enough?” than real necessity). It means going to some baby clinic somewhere. Having baby scales at home saves the hassle.
  • Baby bag for the pram. If you plan to be out and about then this bag is a must. You think through all the things you need (change mat, nappies, bottles, snack for yourself, change of baby clothes), and you pack it the night before so that when you want to go out it is all ready.

Waste of money

  • Bumbo seat. They seem really uncomfortable, babies don’t last long in them, you can only put it on the floor anyway so the baby cannot see what you’re doing.
  • Breastfeeding pillow. I found regular pillows much more useful when learning how to breastfeed. And in most cases you don’t have enough hands to stick a pillow where you want it anyway, so you have to learn to breastfeed without it.
  • Travel bag to cover the pram. We bought a bag that we can pack our pram into when you’re flying somewhere. However, our pram is small so they allow us to take it to the gate and we don’t carry the bag for it with us. You only need one if you are checking the pram in together with the bags, but most people have a small light pram for travel to use in the airports.

Toys

I suspect you will get a lot of presents in this category. But babies don’t need that much in the first three months.

Must have

  • A mobile. Get a battery operated one with a remote control. A mobile can buy you a 15 minutes of no-cry time in the early days (and that’s a lot).
  • A rattle. All babies love something noisy and when they learn to hold things in their hands and shake them, a good rattle will entertain them for a while.
  • An activity mat that works both for lying on the back and lying on the tummy.

Misc

Must have

  • Nappies. I like Pampers newborn ones because they have a wee indicator on them – it goes green when the baby wees (the main question of the first day is “Has he weed and pood?” and then “How many wet nappies a day does he have?”)
  • Nipple cream like Lansinoh
  • Zinc cream for baby bum like sudocrem
  • E45 or Epiderm ointment to massage them after a bath. Everyone recommends oil, but apparently it is very drying for the skin, so a lots of babies start having eczema after a couple of months because of it.
  • Wipes for the bottom. Dry cotton wipes to start with and then regular wet wipes.
  • Maternity pads. It doesn’t matter what delivery you had, you are going to bleed a lot in the first few days, so you need some good absorbent pads designed for this situation – and then you can switch to regular ones.
  • Breast pads for milk leaks
  • Breastfeeding bras (at least 2). I went to John Lewis and used their free bra fitting service to get a couple of pairs. And then I bought the same brand on Amazon.
  • A couple of good quality pijamas with easy feeding access (this is going to be your main clothes for the next 3 months)
  • Baby thermometer. We use in the ear one, it also works for adults.

Nice to have

  • Shampoo for the cradle cap. Get it once your baby has it.
  • Warming pads for the breasts like this one they help to extract more milk.

Waste of money

  • Baby shower gel or shampoo. Newborns don’t need them, they just dry the skin. Just water is absolutely fine for them.

And I would say this is it. You can get away with less. In fact, the only thing your baby really needs is you. The rest is designed to make your life easier.

You will need more things as the baby grows (bibs to catch the dribble when they start teething, weaning equipment, toys, books, etc), but you can get it all afterwards.

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NCT course – do or don’t?

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When we were preparing to become parents, my husband and I were thinking whether we should do a NCT parent education course or not (NCT is National Childbirth Trust in the UK).  We didn’t really need the course because we had read a few books and planned to go to parent education course that was offered by St. Mary’s hospital for free. And NCT course would take longer (two weekends instead of one day) and would cost £287 – definitely something to stop and think about!
I asked a few friends who did it whether it was worth doing, but their reasons didn’t convince me. Some did it because it was the timing of their hospital course didn’t work for them, some did it because they preferred to get the extra knowledge by talking to people rather than reading books. Everyone said that the reason you do it is to meet other new parents in your area and become lifetime friends with them (no pressure). However, London is such a transient place that it is hard to form lifetime friendships. Most people will have their first child and then move. In fact, this is what happened to most of my friends.
In the end, we cracked Mr Piggy and did the course.
Was it worth it? For me, definitely yes.
The best thing was meeting the people who lived in the same area with a due date within a month of our own. Same area is important because after birth 40 minutes on the tube will be an insurmountable obstacle. And due dates are important because even if your kids are two months apart the mums’ relationship becomes quite one-sided (one mum already solved all the problems and is teaching the other one) which soon becomes awkward for both parties.
We are still in touch with our NCT group and meet regularly. Mothers email each other frequently, asking for advice and sharing tips and frustrations. It was not unusual to type an email at 1am in the early days – and get a response straight back (yes, the “1am feed”). You have someone else in the same boat. This support network is really valuable. I only realised it once I had the baby.
The second best thing is that we got on NCT mailing lists and Facebook groups. So now I get invitations to a lot of local baby-related events, like coffees and courses. And there I make connections and meet more people from the same area with babies of the same age.
Finally, I got the list of lactation consultants from our NCT instructor and later found out about breastfeeding drop-in clinic. This turned out to be extremely valuable (and saved us money on expensive lactation consultants).
Can you get all this without doing the course? Yes, you can. You may already have support network in your area (your mum and sisters or friends). You can join NCT lists without attending the course. If you meet local mums at one event (say, yoga class or local library) your connections will start growing like a rolling snowball. It is simply easier if you do the course because this kind of happens for you (and in the early days if there is anything that is easier, I will vote for it).
What about the knowledge? I think it really depends on the instructor you get. Our instructor at St. Mary’s was brilliant (and a mum of four). Our NCT instructor was super helpful and gave us lots of resources to explore in addition to the course (which I only finished recently, six months after the course). Though the ultimate thing with the baby is learning by doing.

Secret to stress-free travelling with a two month old baby

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I like travelling. I don’t want to give up travelling just because we have a child.

I was quite curious to see how hard it will be to go around the world with a two month old baby. Having travelled twenty thousand miles with a two-month old (London -> Kuala Lumpur -> Adelaide -> Melbourne -> Adelaide -> Kuala Lumpur -> London), I found it much easier than I first imagined.

The secret to stress-free travelling with a baby is to maintain your own sanity and energy. Create recharge points for yourself and try to relax whenever you can. Here are the four things we did:

  1. I made a list of baby things to pack ahead of time. My husband and I already have lists of things to pack for ourselves. We both travelled quite a bit and these lists are super helpful. I did some online research on baby travel and bought the things that were missing (like a sun umbrella or “just in case” calpol). This saved us time going to the shops on the day of packing. See the bottom of this post for the list of things I packed for the baby.
  2. We tried to pack as light as we could. My rule when travelling: take the minimum of things and the maximum of money, so you can buy whatever you need. However, travelling with the baby for the first time we overpacked a bit (e.g. I took 4 sleepsuits while we could have got away with 3, one was never used). In the end we (husband, baby and myself) had 2 suitcases (one large, one cabin-size), 2 backpacks, a baby changing bag and a stroller. In theory we could have gotten away with 1 large suitcase on the way there, but the second one was handy to carry back all the presents we’ve got from the family. Of course, amount of packing would have been different if we were going on a two week vacation without an access to a washing machine. I never understood before why porters in airports exist – and now I do.
  3. We made a 24-hour stopover to break 24-hour flight. After one 13-hour flight with a baby las thing you want is to get back on the plane again. During the first stopover, I spent all day in the hotel room: feeding, sleeping, eating and relaxing. The next flight was a breeze. Again, it is not for the baby to adjust to the timezone, but for mum and dad to relax and regain their energy.
  4. We had grandparents on the other side ready to take care of the baby and let us sleep. We didn’t need that because we got good rest during the stopover. What we did need is someone to look after the baby in the mornings while he was adjusting to the new timezone (waking up at 5am for a few days, bright-eyed and eager to play). Luckily, granddad was ready to oblige.

On the subject of jetlag, when we travelled from London to Adelaide it took the baby 4 days to adjust to the new timezone. He also regressed to a maximum of 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep instead of 5 hours he was doing at home. I don’t know why this was, perhaps because the air was more drier and he needed more “drinking”, perhaps because he was sleeping in a crib instead of a hammock, but still be prepared for a baby that can be waking up every 40 minutes to 2 hours at night. I solved this problem by co-sleeping and feeding him whenever he woke up at night. On the way back from Adelaide to London, it took the baby 2 nights to adjust. I didn’t establish any kind of routine before we travelled, we were following the baby cues.

Baby on board

We got seats with a crib on all long-haul journeys. We called the airline and specifically reserved them (free of charge – Malaysia Airlines). Surprisingly a lot of airlines don’t allocate cribs to infants by default, so don’t assume that you will get one. I had friends travelling without a crib on Air Canada and British Airways.

A baby of this age doesn’t need much entertainment. We took one toy and a dummy and this was enough. Bring a toy that can occupy your baby for 5-10 minutes at a time – usually something with black-and-white patterns or bright colors, like a rag book or whoozit, or something that they can suck or rattle, like this zebra rattle or a keyring from your pocket. The baby will sleep in a crib (or in your hands) most of the way and when he doesn’t you will need enough activities to switch between (rocking, singing, looking at the screen or phone, playing with their toy, sucking, walking and looking around). Learn enough nursery rhymes in advance!

I was stressing about my son screaming during takeoff and landing, but my fears were worse than the reality. It is tricky to time the feeding for the exact time of ascend/descend. Turns out this was not necessary for us. A few times our baby was screaming for food while we were standing on the tarmac, so I had to feed him then. Once after that he fell asleep and slept through the takeoff soundlessly. Another time, we kept playing with him during landing as he wasn’t hungry and then offered the boob at the first sight of discontent (and he happily sucked it until the gate even though he just ate).

For me the best thing about travelling with the baby is that now I don’t worry about malfunctions in plane equipment or pilot’s error. All I worry about is whether the baby is going to scream and whether I will be able to pacify him. And it looks like I can.

Good luck in your travels!

Baby packing list

What

Hand luggage

Comment

Clothes

take enough to last you until you get to the washing machine + one extra

outerwear

sleepsuits

yes

vests

swaddling blanket

muslins

yes

blanket

yes

socks

hat

nice outfits

swimsuit

Bum and skin care

nappies

yes

our baby goes through 5 in 24 hours, so I took 10 for 48 hours of travel + 5 extra in case of delays

wipes

yes

Sudocream

yes

Bepanthen

yes

sun protection cream

changing mat

yes

cotton buds

cotton wipes

Milk stuff

pump

not necessary, but in case you want to go out on your own and leave baby with your partner or babysitter

bottles with all the trimmings

see above

small steriliser

see above

breastfeeding cover

yes

Carriers

pram

Depending on the airport and pram size, most airlines will allow you to take pram to the gate or you may be able to borrow the airport pram

pram bag

We ended up not using ours

rain cover and sun umbrella for the pram

baby carrier

yes

car seat

Misc

dummy

yes

toys

yes

chocolate to give out on the plane

yes

we brought some chocolate to introduce ourselves to the neighbours and apologize in advance for the baby screaming. This went down well 🙂

Mummy

change of clothes for the plane for adults

yes

in case the baby vomits or poos on you

nipple cream

yes

breast pads

yes

vitamins

yes

Documents

passport

yes

birth certificate

yes

noone asked for it, but you may need it if you’re travelling without your partner or if you have different surnames

Medicines

thermometer

nail clipper

Calpol

saline drops for nose

mucus extractor

Three things that made my life with a newborn much easier

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I am not going to write about obvious things that most new mums know they need, such as loving family, breastfeeding consultant and nappies. I am going to write about three things that I have discovered after my baby was born – and I’m very glad I did! This was a baby events tracking mobile app, next day delivery and baby hammock.

1. Baby events tracking – Baby Connect

Baby Connect is an app where you can record feeds, sleeps and nappy changes your baby has. It has many more functions, but these are the ones I ended up using most. It exists both on Android and iPhone and allows to sync between multiple caregivers. My husband can check during the day how we are both doing, he knows whether our son is due for a nappy change or whether his cry is a hungry one because he ate 3 hours ago. I also like to analyse the data and find some patterns. For instance, I discovered that my baby often goes 2 hour and 15 minutes between naps and the easiest time to put him to sleep is around this magic point. I can see that he is going through the growth spurt as the time of feeding increases. I can notice that I’m not feeding him enough from the right breast and rectify this.

2. Next day delivery – Amazon Prime

Full disclosure: I work for Amazon.

Amazon Prime is a service that for £49 a year offers the next day delivery all over UK on thousands of products listed on Amazon.co.uk. When you sign up for Amazon Family program you get three months trial of Prime for free.

I never thought that next day delivery was of value to me… until I got a screaming bundle that needs constant feeding and soothing. Breastpump? Yes – got it the next day. Running out of nappies? No problem, the delivery man knocks on my door the morning after. Forgot about a Christmas present? No need to rush to the shop. Incredibly convenient.

Watch out, it gets addictive!

3. Baby hammock – Poco baby

We got a Moses basket from our landlord and I wasn’t planning on getting anything else. I am an advocate of “less is more” and our London flat is small. But when you suddenly come home from the hospital and your newborn starts waking up every hour at night in his Moses basket… I was ready to do anything to get some extra sleep.

I know that retailers love new mums – and now I know why: your decision-making becomes incredibly quick. I searched for NHS cribs we had in St Mary’s hospital – the ones that rock when the baby moves and automatically soothe them. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I then looked for cribs that would swing back to front – and didn’t find any in the UK. There are plenty of them in Russia (where I am originally from), but surprisingly none here. And then I came across baby hammocks. There are a few brands I found in the UK, namely: Amby baby, Poco baby and Amazonas Kangoo. They all rocked from back to front and side to side.

I did quite a bit of reading on mumsnet (e.g. here and here) and other resources to see if the hammocks are safe and whether they actually work. There were a couple of SIDS reported in the US for Amby Baby hammock, but upon further investigation, the reason was that the hammocks hadn’t been used properly. Also, babies die of SIDS in their cribs too.

I asked an osteopath and an orthopedic surgeon whether it’s OK for babies to sleep in a hammock. They shrugged. They haven’t had patients with back problems due to sleeping in a hammock (too small a sample?). Though the orthopedic surgeon – my brother in law – have seen a lot of babies with hip dysplasia from incorrect swaddling – never swaddle your baby legs straight!

In some countries of South America and South East Asia generations of babies slept in hammocks. And the reviews from parents who bought hammocks were all very positive. Having weighed all pros and cons, I decided it will be OK.

I wanted to get an Amby baby hammock (out of three brands they have the best marketing), but unfortunately their only UK distributor was out of stock and was awaiting a shipment in a month’s time. So I ended up with a Poco baby hammock. I bought it from Kiddicare because they had the next day (free) delivery – yes, I know, next day delivery again!

Three months in, I am very happy with the hammock. The rocking added an hour to our son’s sleep straight away (we swaddle him as well). It fits nicely next to our bed. It is easy to store when we stop using it and it is easy take with us on a weekend break.