What do you really need to buy for your newborn baby?
When it comes to kitting yourself out for a new arrival, there seems to be no limit to the list of ‘must-haves’ according to magazines, online forums and social media. With so many recommendations and reviews, it can be difficult to work out what you really need - especially for a baby that you haven’t met yet! What works for one newborn won’t necessarily work for another, but we’re here to help you decipher what you and your baby really need, what’s nice to have, and what might be a waste of money.
What do newborns actually need?
Despite the seemingly endless list of things marketed to new parents as ‘essential’, your newborn actually needs surprisingly little in order to thrive. When they are very first born, they will need nappies, clothes and somewhere safe to sleep, whether that’s a cot, bedside crib or moses basket. A sleeping bag, rather than blankets, is a popular choice for many new parents - just make sure you use the correct tog rating for the season and temperature, and check whether the one you buy can be used from birth. (Some brands can only be used once your baby reaches a certain weight.) If you are driving your baby home from the hospital, they will also need a suitable car seat, while other modes of transport for your baby as they grow might include a baby carrier and/or a pushchair or pram.
Baby clothing can be kept super simple for the first few weeks and months - depending on the season, just plain cotton or bamboo vests, rompers and sleepsuits will be most comfortable and easiest for quick changes. Choose wrap styles or things with envelope shoulders to make it easier to be gentle with your baby’s head, and don’t worry too much about cute ‘outfits’ just yet.
In terms of caring for your baby, you may need bottles and a breast pump, as well as a steriliser and bottle brush to keep everything clean. A baby bath or bath seat and baby thermometer might also come in handy, and once they’re more than 4 weeks old you can choose gentle baby wash and lotions for keeping your baby clean, or simply use water. If your newborn has a stuffy nose, a nasal aspirator can come in handy, and baby nail scissors or a file will help to stop them from scratching themselves.
Must-have, nice to have or buy later?
Wanting to have everything completely prepared from the arrival of your new little one is totally understandable, especially as so much else about the birth and subsequent weeks feels alien and out of your control. Having the right equipment can feel very important as you prepare for life as a new parent, but sometimes it’s worth pacing yourself and getting to know your baby before jumping into big purchases.
Beyond the newborn essentials listed above, there’s a whole world of items claiming to make your life easier, or make your baby more content - but different babies respond well to different things. If your baby is difficult to settle, a white noise machine, pacifier or other gadget might be worth a try, but you may find that your little one is quite calm. For babies who are happy to be put down, an ergonomic baby bouncer can be a great investment as somewhere for them to sit or nap during the day, but they might prefer to be held - in which case, a baby carrier or wrap might work better to keep your hands free.
Some equipment will become indispensable later on, when your baby is older, but doesn’t necessarily need to be bought right away. A safe and practical highchair is a good investment, but likely won’t be needed until your baby starts eating family foods at around six months, while a baby monitor is very helpful, but perhaps not essential for the very early days, when your little one remains with you all the time, anyway. Delaying non-urgent purchases not only saves you money in the run up to your baby being born, but will allow you to donate or sell anything that your baby grows out of in their first stage of life, freeing up space and maybe even giving you some money towards those new bits of kit. It also gives you time to hunt down a bargain or find things second-hand, saving you even more money.
How to save money on the essentials
Even if you’re sticking to the bare essentials, the costs can add up, but there are plenty of ways to save money by shopping around and being clever with your cash.
When buying items new, always check to see if you can get cashback using an app like QuidCo or TopCashback. These are free apps where you can search for a retailer and shop via a special link to earn money back, which you can save up and withdraw at a later date, perhaps to help with stocking up on clothes in the next size up, or to pay for a baby class that you’d like to go to. You could also check to see if you could earn loyalty points at shops where you make frequent purchases - some even have special parenting or family clubs that allow you to collect more points per pound.
One of the biggest ways to save money as a new parent is by embracing the preloved economy, which is booming when it comes to items for babies and children. Everything from clothing bundles and (new) nappies to high chairs and toys can be found on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Vinted and independent selling sites like The Octopus Club, often for a fraction of the cost to buy new. If well cared for, these items often retain their value, so you might even be able to sell them on at a later date for a similar amount of money.
For equipment that you’ll use for a short period of time, or that you’d like to try out before committing to a purchase, renting might be more economical than buying. You might be able to find a local service, or use websites like Baboodle to try out all kinds of kit. You can even rent baby clothes by the month from services like Bundlee*, and your local sling library will enable you to try out wraps, slings and baby carriers in order to find the right fit for you and your baby before you commit.
* You can access a 60% off of your first month's Bundlee subscription when you sign-up to HiPP's BabyClub!
Is it safe to buy second hand items for a new baby?
One of the biggest drivers for parents wanting to buy everything new is safety, and it’s true that experts recommend that certain things should not be bought second hand - but they are very few, and still leave plenty of scope for embracing preloved items!
It’s recommended that car seats and car seat bases are bought new, because second-hand items may have been in an accident that you don’t know about and have structural damage that’s not visible at first glance. Second hand mattresses for cots, cribs and moses baskets should also be treated with caution - depending how they have been stored, invisible mould spores or bacteria could make them unsafe for your baby to sleep on.
For most other things, a preloved purchase can be brilliant. Anything machine washable, such as clothes, sheets and baby bouncer or seat covers, can be washed to your satisfaction, while hard plastic kit like toys and bath supports can be disinfected easily. With anything that supports or holds your baby, like a carrier, it’s a good idea to check the instructions and ensure that everything is present and correct before you buy, if possible.
Shopping for your newborn doesn’t have to be overwhelming - or even as expensive as you might think. Concentrate on the essentials, try before you buy and embrace the circular economy, and you’ll be fine.