When you're working out what to buy for baby, there’s no end of advice available. In fact, it seems like everyone wants to tell you what you do or don’t need for baby!
However, when it really comes down to it, newborn babies don’t need a lot. There are some basic essentials, but most new baby gear comes under the heading of ‘nice to have’.
Here at Hello Charlie, we’ve got 6 children between us, so we sat down and had a discussion about what you really need, and what you really don’t. So here’s Hello Charlie’s take on what’s essential for a newborn baby, and we’ve even thrown in a few suggestions on what’s nice to have, but not strictly necessary.
First of all, babies have to eat. Breastfeeding obviously requires nothing but breasts. If you’re the owner of those breasts, however, there are a couple of things you’ll need to help out.
Take it from a breastfeeding mother, you will leak milk. And it’s nice not to have to change your shirt every couple of hours. Go with breastpads made from natural fibres like organic cotton or bamboo (which we know is bamboo rayon, but it’s super soft and very absorbent). Washable ones are best, and you’ll want at least three pairs. One to wear, one in the wash, one being dried. For the first few weeks you may find that it’s easier to use disposables just until your breasts settle down and you get into a routine.
Here’s the deal: Your nipples will hurt. They will be sore and tender and they will get cracked and dry. You will definitely need a good, organic nipple cream that is safe for baby, so that you don’t need to take it off before you breastfeed. Here’s the other thing: it does get easier! Your breasts will settle down, and you’ll barely even notice when your baby is on the boob.
Go and get your maternity bras properly fitted, and make sure that you get at least two or three. You will leak milk, and it's good to have a couple on the go.
If you’re bottle feeding, or expressing breast milk, you’ll need more gear.
- Bottle brush
- Formula, if you're not breastfeeding
- Breast milk storage
Nice to have
I found that I needed a pillow under my babies when I was breastfeeding, otherwise it did my back in. I bought one of those boomerang shaped things and it was fantastic.
It's also good to have some muslins or some kind of cloth to place under baby while you're feeding. I always put one on the pillow I was using for breastfeeding, so I didn't have to change the cover as often. I also used to breastfeed in bed, and having something under the baby's head means that you don't have to change the sheet when they dribble milk.
Babies need to sleep. And they sleep a lot in the first few months (although it won’t feel like it!). So you’ll need somewhere for baby to sleep, and something for baby to sleep in.
Choose natural, and if possible, organic fibres where possible. Babies spend so much of their time in bed, this is really one place where you should choose organic wherever you can afford it. If you can’t go with organic, choose 100% cotton and wash it a few times in an eco friendly laundry powder before baby is born.
The same goes with the mattress. If you can’t afford an organic mattress, get an organic mattress topper, or at least a mattress protector made from something like organic cotton or wool.
Cot, bassinette, or a co-sleeper
There’s plenty of options on somewhere for baby to sleep. Both of mine started off in a moses basket next our bed, and graduated to a cot once they were big enough.
I wanted mine in the bedroom next to me, as for me it was easier to breastfeed when I didn’t have far to go to fetch them, but you can start them off in a cot from day one if that’s what you prefer.
If you go with the bassinette option, you’ll need bassinette sized sheets to start with, and cot sheets later on. (A normal pillow case fits perfectly on a bassinette, and you can use a pillow case protector, too).
We didn’t swaddle, but there are plenty of parents who swear by it, in which case you’ll want either muslin swaddle wraps, or something along the lines of the Cocooi swaddle. My babies both used a sleeping bag, which I swore by as they couldn’t kick blankets off and get cold in the night.
If you go with sheets, or a light swaddle, you’ll need a blanket that tucks in over baby, and is nice and small and light so that they can’t get tangled up in it and risk suffocation (another reason why I loved the sleeping bags – they can’t ride up over baby’s face).
And finally, you’ll need a mattress protector. Babies spit up milk and it’s a lot easier to change a sheet and mattress protector than it is to dry out a mattress in the middle of the night.
Babies need to be dressed. They need to be warm, as newborns have to learn how to regulate their body temperatures. They also spend much of their first few months doing nothing much but sleeping or lying down. Ditch the cutsie mummy and me looks, fashion shouldn’t be what decides baby’s outfits at this age. Baby’s comfort and natural fibres are what’s important here.
Again, if you can’t afford organic cotton, go with 100% cotton, or a bamboo cotton mix. Wash all baby’s clothes a couple of times in an eco laundry powder before baby wears them.
Onesies: 10-12. Go with the ones with poppers all around the legs, as it's so much easier to lay a wriggly baby into the clothing, rather than trying to pull them over his head and legs.
Vests: 6. Or you could go with those little bodysuits that have short arms and legs if you're trying to avoid the belly gap. These are definitely better in winter.
Socks: 6 pairs. Unless you've got onesies with built in feet, in which case you won't need them. Babies can't regulate their temperatures very well when they're newborn, so little socks will keep feet toasty.
Hat: a sunhat with a nice wide brim and a tie under the chin (trust me - baby will learn to pull off the hat in no time if you don't have one of these) or a beanie or woolly hat for cooler weather.
Cardigans, jumpers or a jacket: depending on your weather. Cardigans are much easier as you just need to get arms in then button up the front. You'll need 3 or 4 cardigans, and if it's really cold, a little jacket to go over the top.
Newborns do seem to spend a lot of their time pooing and weeing. In fact, you’ll be changing nappies around ten to twelve times a day with a newborn baby.
Nappies are worn right next to baby’s skin, so it makes sense that you need to think about exactly what’s in those nappies and choose carefully. Eco disposables don’t have perfumes, lotions or toxic chemicals, so they’re a better choice for baby. You may decide to use cloth, even if it’s just part time.
If you do decide to use cloth nappies, at Hello Charlie we always recommend eco disposables for the first month while you get your head around your new routine and washing piles of nappies. Cloth nappies are also often too large for those tiny newborn bodies, too.
When you’re changing nappies, you need to use something to clean baby’s bottom. Baby wipes are an essential, and for newborn skin we always recommend using as few chemicals as possible. Organic cotton wool and warm water is ideal for the first few months, as are soft homemade baby wipes. You may decide to use disposable wipes as baby gets older, in which case we suggest, as always, using the most natural wipes possible.
I think I used about one jar of nappy cream for each of my boys, but then we hardly ever had a nappy rash breakout. Around the office, though, we all agreed that it's really useful to have a natural balm handy. It doesn't just have to be used for nappy rash, either. Try something like the Badger Balm, Dr Bronner Balm or the Nature's Child balm.
If you have a car, you’ll need a carseat, and you'll need it fitted before your baby is born. Don't buy a second hand one, unless you're sure it hasn't been involved in an accident, and make sure to get the carseat professionally fitted.
I was adamant that you need a baby carrier. I couldn't have done without mine, for bonding and comforting baby, and for getting out and about hands free. It's so much easier to walk the dog, do the grocery shopping, peg out the washing, etc, when you've got a baby carrier.
However, this was subject to some debate around the Hello Charlie office. While everyone agreed that a baby carrier was useful, there was some discussion about waiting for your baby to be born so that you can test out the right one for your baby. I used the same carrier with both of my children, but not everyone found the same carrier suitable for different children.
Another item that was the subject of great debate. You can certainly get away without one if you have a baby carrier. However, if you have a big baby, you might want a pram sooner rather than later. Our advice is to test as many as you can before you buy, and make sure to pop it up and down and put it in the back of the car before you commit!
Everyone around the office at Hello Charlie agreed that you need a baby thermometer for peace of mind. You will definitely be wondering about baby's temperature and a good digital thermometer takes the guesswork out.
Safe baby nail clippers was an item that caused a bit of debate. After I took skin off my first baby’s tiny fingers with a pair of baby safe nail clippers, I couldn’t do it again for years (and I mean years!). I just bit their finger nails when they got too long. Gross, I know! However, that wasn't the general consensus around the office. Babies' fingernails get long, and then they scratch themselves, so this is one that's on our lst.
Nice to Haves
Now that we've discussed all the essentials, we also came up with a few items that are nice to have and will make life easier, but are not necessarily essential.
Baby bath: babies are so slippery and wriggly, and it can be really tricky trying to bath them in the big bath. You could try the laundry tub, but I hated that, and I found that leaning over the big bath did my back in. I couldn't have done without the baby bath. I have to put in a bit of a plug here for the Boon Naked Bathtub - it's got a brilliant feature that pops one end up to raise a newborn baby up. Fantastic!
Soft towel: you don't need a special towel for baby, but it is nice to have a big, soft towel to wrap them up in. I bought a couple of the softest towels I could find, and my children are still using them. My eldest is 11, so that's pretty good usage!
Burp cloths: if you have a baby who brings up a bit of milk after a feed, you'll find that burp cloths, or muslins are so handy. You can also use them on the bed or the pillow where you are breastfeeding. Muslins can also be used as a light blanket, an emergency shade cloth, a swaddle ... so many purposes, they're really handy to have.
Dummies: if you're going to use a dummy, it's a good idea to get a couple of different types before baby is born. Once you've worked out which dummy your baby likes, buy multiples!
Nappy Bag: or something to carry all the baby gear out and about with.
Somewhere to change baby: it doesn't have to be a change table, and indeed the consensus around the office was that none of us would bother with a change table if we had another baby. In fact, I bought a chest freezer and had a thick blanket doubled up on it. Much more useful than a change table!
Organisation: It's great to have some kind of storage for baby's stuff. Keeping all the change gear together makes it easy to change baby wherever you are around the house, for example.
Comforter: a soft organic cotton comforter can really settle a newborn baby. I had a Keptin Jr one that my husband and I wore next to our skin then popped in with our babies so that they had a familiar smell when they went to sleep. Later on they used it as a chew toy, and both of my boys absolutely loved them. A little tip, though - buy two!
So what do you think of Hello Charlie's newborn essentials list? Have we missed anything? Or have we included stuff that you think isn't necessary at all?Get the latest posts straight to your inbox every week!