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I'll start by saying these are just my opinions, based on my experiences in preparing for the birth of three babies so far. I remember trawling the internet for hours, searching for every little thing to make sure I was prepared. Here is a list I wish I had seen.
1. Maternity Clothes
Admittedly, this isn't something I indulged in until my third child (fifth pregnancy)! I'm not talking about a whole wardrobe here. I am talking about literally having two pairs of maternity trousers that you can wear in rotation. Long line t-shirts stretch comfily over a bump just fine, and leggings work even when you have a fairly sizeable bump, but there comes a point in pregnancy where it becomes so much more comfortable to put on some trousers that are actually designed for your shape. Also, if you plan to breastfeed, getting some maternity tops that double as easy access feeding tops might just make your life a little easier. Alternatively, there's also the option to put a tank top underneath so you can do the whole t-shirt up, tank top down routine.
1. Expensive Furniture
If you have lots of money and want to splurge, fair enough, do you, but I can confidently say there is zero need to splash out big bucks on nursery furniture. We have a cot and a mini cot that will both have seen three kids through and still have a lot more to give, that were bought for a very reasonable price online. The kids have plastic tiers of drawers for their clothes (previously using canvas box storage) and their clothes are just fine! You can spend hundreds or even thousands on a set of beautiful wooden furniture, straight from the "nursery" catalogue, but really, the chances of it getting poo smeared on it or crayon drawn across it are just the same and frankly it just isn't worth it. As long as furniture is safe and you like it, the price tag really doesn't matter.
You can never have too many blankets! One thing I have stocked up on with no regret is blankets. They have been used countless times and weren't even an expensive investment. Breathable, cellular blankets for newborns and fleecy blankets for older children—there is nothing nicer than snuggling with your child, cosy and warm. The fleecy ones are also super easy to wash and quick to dry, which is a bonus!
2. Cot Bumpers and Extras
There is something exciting about decorating your child's room. It's lovely to have a theme and you may have found a super sweet, comfy looking bumper set to go around the cot. The truth of the matter, though, is that they simply aren't safe. Cot bumpers pose a risk of suffocation from falling on a baby that can't yet wriggle out and even a risk of them tangling themselves in the strings once they can pull on them. If you are worried about your babies feet getting stuck through the bars (it does happen) then you can buy breathable, mesh ones that are much safer. Loading the pram with a canopy, plush bumpers, and toys, though, whilst it might look cute, is just a really bad idea. Stick to one blankie or safe toy, but avoid fluffing things for the sake of it.
It's tempting to buy a bunch of cute matching outfits and it's certainly nice to have a few on hand. Take it from one who knows, though, wrangling tiny, fragile limbs into the third outfit of the day is no small task. For the first three months at least, consider having mainly onesies in your babies wardrobe. There are tonnes of cute designs to be had and peeling them off, or simply placing baby on them and buttoning them up, is a lot easier than some of the alternatives! There are plenty of opportunities for your baby to wear cute ensembles at a slightly later date so save yourself the hassle and buy onesies galore!
3. White Stuff
I don't know whose idea it was to make white the official colour of babies but I would like to meet them and strangle them. Babies poo and not just in their nappy, sometimes up their legs and back. Babies vomit on a regular basis. Older babies drool and then they start to crawl through dirty places. Save yourself and wherever possible buy things with patterns, bright colours, or darker clothes. You can have the cutest little white outfits, but that weird yellow stain in the corner that just won't come off is not pretty!
The holy grail of parenting. I stocked up to the eyeballs on muslins before my first was born and have not once regretted it. Have a couple in the changing bag at all times, have one over your shoulder, tuck one in your bra! It doesn't matter, you'll always be glad you did. I'm not talking about expensive, cute ones either. I'm talking about a multipack that you can put through the wars. Our muslins have cleaned up countless spit up, been dunked in soapy water and used to scrub the carpets after the kids have been sick, and been used to mop up after our car sick child. Sick happens a lot when you have children and muslins are the saviour!
4. Fancy Shoes
Yes, tiny pairs of Nike trainers and Converse and Doc Martens are adorable. They are also very expensive and worn for a very short period of time. Save yourself the pain of seeing something you spent so much money and hope on being worn twice then outgrown, for off brand deals. My son sports a bright yellow pair of Doc Marten style boots that match mine and gets complimented all the time. They are non branded and I got them from Amazon!
5. Black and White Stuff
Babies can't see in full colour to begin with, but stick something black and white in front of them and watch them become transfixed! It's natural for us to grab bright, colourful things for little kids, but try out a black and white mobile, some black and white baby books, and even search for black and white sensory videos on Youtube. When both of my sons wouldn't settle as very young babies, we'd put on some moving black and white images and they'd immediately calm down.
5. Sit Up Accessories
Babies develop certain skills in their own time. It may seem like you are being helpful by buying them all sorts of cushions and prop that sit them upright or prop them up on their tummy, but in reality you might be doing more harm than good. Babies need to practice the muscle control to push themselves into and hold certain positions. Artificially sitting them in that position can actually have a detrimental effect on that development. Let them sit in their own time and if you want them to sit up for a photo, prop them on your knee and smile! You won't regret having a keepsake with you in it, even if you don't feel like being photographed at the time.
6. Mattress Protector
Something I wish I had known about sooner! Our sons had a particularly nasty bout of Rota Virus, which landed one of them in hospital. There are only so many times you can flip and dry a vomit covered mattress before it needs to go to heaven. Since then, we've purchased mattress protectors for our sons and they have withstood pee accidents and the occasional vomit no problem. It is so much easier peeling a protector off and washing it than trying to clean the whole mattress! Also worth noting, if you want to splurge out on one part of their bedding, the mattress is the way to go. Most cot frames are pretty similar in design and safety, but a good mattress might be the difference between a cranky baby and a comfortably sleeping one.
6. Branded Baby Food
Nowadays, most supermarkets have cottoned on to the health baby food movement. It's no longer necessary to buy the expensive brands of baby food when you can get own brand version that are exactly the same. They are still organic and when you look at the back of the pouches, you are hard pressed to find anything different at all! Don't be a sucker for marketing. It's all going down the same way!
7. Fail Safe Toys
There are many, many gimmicky toys out there that have all the bells and whistles, cost you a fortune, and are quickly forgotten about. I have found that certain toys are consistent favourites among my kids and their friends, boys and girls of slightly different ages. If you want to kit yourself out with basic toys (once you are past the newborn stage obviously), get yourself some bubbles, a doll and pram, a wooden bead maze and some building blocks. These toys are sturdy, can be played with by more than one child, and they work. Every. Single. Time.
7. Too Many Toys
There is a fine art to streamlining your toy collection. In the beginning, I got everything I thought was cute or would be played with. The truth of the matter is, though, that lots of toys look like something we THINK kids will like, but that's really all it is. Something that looks right in a toy box but holds little interest. Pick toys that have multi functional uses, things that kids can use to figure things out for themselves. Things that light up or make music. Problem solving toys and messy play are always popular. Character toys, toys with lots of different pieces (aside from building blocks and Lego), and toys that tell you they do a hundred different "educational" functions are generally not worth the money.
8. Decent Car Seat
If you drive or have a loved one who will be driving your child, investing in a good car seat is one of the best things you can spend your money on. Shopping around, reading reviews, and going somewhere where they will advise you or help you fit it is a good idea. There are many gimmicks that are sold to parents but this isn't one. Peace of mind and safety are worth every penny.
8. Fancy Prams
It might have a nice colour scheme, a matching changing bag, or matte chrome bars, but that doesn't mean it'll serve you well! Our first pram was a supermarket travel system and worked like a dream, our second was a tandem and we got it second hand and it served us well, our third was the most expensive one we've bought and we both hated it and our fourth, a side by side, is a dream to work with and cost much less than most singles we've seen! I've seen so many people with a swanky pram who tell me it doesn't push well, the wheels can't even handle the slightest uneven surface, and their bag falls out the basket all the time. Choose a pram that has a decent sized basket, that has sturdy wheels that can go over different terrain, and one that grows with your child. With prams and buggies, you are usually paying for style over substance.
9. Ear Thermometer
One of the first things you will do or be advised to do whenever your child is sick and you are worried is take their temperature. After wrangling with an under arm thermometer with our first child, we switched to the more expensive option of an ear thermometer. What a difference! Being able to take their temperature quickly and accurately in times where you are anxious and they aren't well is an absolute godsend and worth the small difference in price.
9. Bath Thermometer
Most people come with a built in bath thermometer—your skin! Dip your elbow in the water when they are a newborn and if it feels nice and warm but not hot, you're good to go. When they are a little older and more robust, simply use your hand to judge the temperature. It doesn't need to be to an exact degree!
10. Weather Protection
Baby sun cream, sun shades for car windows, sun umbrellas for prams and buggies, and rain covers and snuggly clothing are all life savers. Come wind, rain, or shine, it is better to be prepared. The moment you realise you are out and it is starting to rain sideways, windy pellets of cold rain are pelting your child and you have no rain cover, your heart falls down through your body and lands in a puddle on the floor. The time you try to go out for the day and no matter which way you angle the pram, you just can't seem to get them out of direct sunlight is the day you sigh and turn back home. Proper weather protection is all you need to ensure that you can go out anytime you need to and your child is properly protected and comfortable.
10. Too Many Gadgets
So much of parenting can be boiled down to natural instinct and simple nurturing. Nowadays, you can buy a gadget to help you with everything and whilst some of them are useful, you can have too much of a good thing. Nothing will substitute you holding your baby, cuddling and rocking them, singing to them, and playing peekaboo. It helps to have a bouncer you can put them in so you can get something done. It helps to have a rocker for babies who won't settle, but don't underestimate the power of your loving touch and soothing words. As dog tired as you may be, the time will pass and those will be the moments you look back on tenderly.
11. Nose Sucker
Best invention ever! We have one of the nose pumps that works like a baster—you squeeze the air out of the bulb, put it up to their nostril and let go and marvel, and it sucks the snot from their nose—truly a sight to behold. It sounds gross, mainly because it is, but it is infinitely better than watching your young baby struggle to breathe when they have a cold and feeling helpless. A booger sucker is one of the best parenting inventions and we firmly champion it in this house!
11. Expensive Bottles
If you decide to bottle feed your child, you will be faced with a dizzying array of choices for bottles, with drastically different price points. When you read the fine print, you will find that they differ very little in function. Sure, there are some specific designs which say they reduce air flow and help prevent colic, but when you read the fine print on the cheap bottles, you will see that the flow speed and design are actually much the same. Too many times I have seen parents splurge out on a set of the brand name bottles, only to struggle with them having consistent issues and not working. We've only ever used cheap, own brand bottles and never had an issue. If you must buy expensive ones, try them out with one or two first and avoid splurging on something you will end up hating.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong when it comes to getting kitted out in preparation for your baby. There are certain things that you should always look for though.
- Is it safe?
- Does it serve a need?
- Can I adapt it over time?
- Can I clean it?
- Will I get sick of it very quickly?
- Can I actually imagine myself using it regularly?
- Is there a better, cheaper alternative?
With those questions in mind, you can't go wrong.