Before Noah’s birth (my first born), as most mamas do, I made 'nesting' my job. We had just finished building our home in Cape Town and I wanted his nursery and everything alongside it to be absolutely perfect. I researched and I bought. I designed and I built. I loved it all so much. The joy, anticipation, and excitement that one feels is something so precious, and I’m sure any expectant Mama can relate. The buying can also be overwhelming for a first time Mama though, especially with the vast amount of products available these days.
Whether you choose to stick to the bare essentials or whether you are wanting to get it all so that you can feel prepared, I thought it would be useful for me (a 4-time Mama) to share the products that I deem as the most necessary in those early months.
Breastpump - Essential like nothing else. Even if you plan to breastfeed exclusively (which I did for all of my four children), a breast pump is an absolute must. Especially once you feel ready to exercise again, or want to head out for an evening sans bebe. I own the Medela Swing Breastpump and love it.
I do want to mention the Haakaa silicon breast pump as well. I only discovered it with my 4th child (!) but would recommend it to any nursing mama as an absolute musthave. Definitely look it up, if you haven’t already.
Pacifiers (or Dummies) – I had bought a couple for when my first child was born but only intended to use them if I felt the need (I was given the advice to not use them at first because of potential nipple confusion – in hindsight, I do not agree with this advice but that’s all good). I ended up trying the dummy on him for the first time when he was 6 weeks old and he took to it without a problem. I haven’t looked back and believe that they are amazing and certainly so helpful when it comes to traveling or sleep training, if that is something you want to consider down the track. My first born, Noah, always loved the MAM brand. With all of my three subsequent babes, I introduced the dummy straight away. Kaia and Finn used the Natursutten Original for the first 6 months and then switched to BIBS Colour dummies. Louie started using MAM and the BIBS Couture dummies from the beginning.
Stroller – We first owned the Bugaboo Cameleon (which I think is a fantastic stroller!) with a Maxicosi infant car seat (just note that you’ll have to buy Bugaboo adapters for whichever car seat you end up buying – Maxi Cosi, Britax, etc.). It was perfect for the first baby. We’ve since ‘upgraded’ to the Bugaboo Donkey and I am so happy with it as well. I believe a double stroller to be a must if you have two babies under 3 and I’ve always loved the quality of the Bugaboo brand. Either of those two more than suffice and anything else is not essential, but I will mention the other strollers we have purchased over the years as well…
We now also own the Baby Jogger City Mini GT2 Double, which we bought for our many travels with multiple children and it is a fantastic stroller. Not your typical travel stroller, since it is heavier than your average travel stroller, but I love that it allows a babe to properly sleep (folds down nearly flat) and it comes in one part, not multiples like Bugaboo. And finally, we also own the Babyzen Yoyo stroller for little day trips here and there, or when I’m not running around with both of the young kids and do not want to take the larger double stroller along.
Running stroller – I do not consider a running stroller to be an essential item at all but wanted to share this with you as an FYI. I did struggle at the beginning in my choice because I also wanted a stroller that I could run with. Since I wasn’t ready to compromise on the Bugaboo Cameleon (for a Bob Revolution for example), I simply waited until Bugaboo came out with its Running Chassis, which they now sell separately and it works fantastic. You simply take the seat from your Bugaboo Cameleon, Donkey or Buffalo and clip it into the running base and you’re good to go. Turns out that I don’t really enjoy running with a stroller so I think the Bugaboo Running Chassis gets more use from Papa than it does from me, when it is not collecting dust (yes, that is the truth), but other mamas may love running with their babes so it’s a complete personal choice.
Car seat – We LOVE the new MAXI-COSI Coral i-size infant car seat. It has an outer shell and an inner (lighter) insert, which can be removed (with baby) and allows you to carry your carseat (and baby) much easier. Such a fantastic design and I could not recommend it more highly. With it we own the car seat base which stays clipped in the car, as well.
Cot – This is certainly an essential piece to buy, especially if you want your little one getting into the habit of taking naps in his/her cot during the day, if you aren’t already letting them sleep in their cot at night (we choose to use a co-sleeper with our babies for the first 7-8 months). We own the Since Stokke Sleepi crib, as well as the IKEA wooden crib. Over the years we’ve needed two cots, because our children are always two years apart and when a new baby comes along, the two year old is still in his/her cot.
Co-sleeper – This item is a definite essential for us and we chose the Baby Bay because its functional, well-built and looks good. Our babes have always had a cot in their nursery (for daytime naps), but the co-sleeper is needed for the nights for the first 7-8 months. After which point, we do sleep training and our babes switch to their cots for night time sleeps as well.
Moses basket – They are cheap, look so good and are an essential in my world. A teeny tiny baby sleeps all the time at the beginning and you don’t want to be far away from them ever. A Moses Basket is something you can pick up and carry around the house so it comes in super handy for when they are taking a nap and you want them with you in the living room for example.
The Dock-a-TOT – I only discovered this product with my third child and if you have your baby sleeping on his her back or side, this product is absolutely amazing. Noah was a tummy sleeper after 6 or 8 weeks, and so the Dock-a-TOT wouldn’t have been helpful. But for all my other children, this product is golden! Like a moses basket, it can be carried around the house (with a baby in it) or it can be placed in your moses basket for example. What I love about it is that it allows the baby to feel comforted and cocooned all around.
Sleeping bags/Swaddling suits - Sleep training with our first child, Noah, when he was 10 months old taught me to start with certain habits early. One of these habits is placing a baby in their sleeping bag (or swaddling) for every sleep (unless you are out and about or on the move of course). Noah never enjoyed being properly swaddled but he did enjoy this fantastic swaddle zip up suit from Love to Dream, which I refer to as his little wing suit. They are fantastic.
Sling – Such an essential item. I am a big believer in wearing your baby a lot, especially at the beginning. For the early weeks, I prefer having a soft wrap, rather than a structured carrier. There are so many wraps out there these days – goodness me! We used to have the Baby K’Tan, which works great and we also own the Noonoopie, which I’ve loved. I tried out a few ring slings (like the Wildbird) but unfortunately they never really worked for me (they never felt comfortable).
Carrier – We own the Ergo Baby 360, and the Ergo Baby 360 Omni now, and I don’t go anywhere without it. It’s a definite essential but if you are ok to have your baby in a sling/wrap for the first few months, instead of a carrier, they essentially serve the same purpose, so you wouldn’t need one of each at the start – and can wait until baby is 3 months before getting the Ergo Baby. Or just get the Ergo Baby 360 Omni straight from the beginning. I think it is one of the best baby products out there and an essential product for traveling.
Baby Bouncer – Such a key product for when you are hanging at home and you want your adorable, awake baby to hang out with you, but not on you. We own the Baby Bjorn Bouncer and it rates as one of my top three baby products of all time – FOR SURE.
Baby Monitor – For a lot of parents this may be number 1 on the list of things to buy for baby’s arrival. We didn’t even own one with Noah for the first 4 months because he slept in our room at night and during the day when he napped, I was able to always hear him if he woke up. Once we bought one, it was super useful for when we traveled, or simply when we attended dinner parties or loud events where we’d have Noah sleeping in another room. Also, if you use a babysitter/nanny earlier on, you’ll certainly want one. So although we didn’t own one for the first few months, I would definitely add it to the essentials list. A baby monitor is a great product to own and you don’t even need to go super fancy if you don’t want to. Ours doesn’t have a camera and we don’t mind it one bit. I’ve always liked the Philips Avent brand.
Changing table –You change so many nappies at the start, that you’ll want a proper set up where your posture is upright and healthy. Any changing mat will do, just get yourself a few cute changing mat covers and you’re set. We’ve always had the Ikea Hemnes chest of 8 drawers, which works as our changing table and looks lovely.
The creams of this world – Nowadays there are so many baby cream brands out there, but I’ve stuck with the Weleda baby range from the beginning. I love their all natural Calendula bum cream, moisturizer and baby wash/shampoo. I’ve tried many different brands around the world due to our traveling with the kids and nothing beats Weleda in my books. Except, in South Africa a brand I adore is Pure Beginnings. They are as good as Weleda. If its your first baby, or the first time you are breastfeeding for a long time, get yourself some Lansinoh nipple cream. An absolute must.
Breast pads – You’ll need a lot of these if you plan to breastfeed so make sure you stock up.
Baby towels, Muslins and Bibs – I always have a couple of soft baby towels, bibs and a few large, pretty muslins (I love the oversized muslins, which are so multipurposeful and there are amazing prints nowadays!). I also always get a few simple smaller muslins for everyday use such as placing an extra layer on the changing mat (so that you don’t have to wash the cover every time poop and pee misses the diaper), or as burp cloths, or cloths to have by your feeding chair in case milk spills (which it does all the time). You’ll soon find a hundred more reasons to use these smaller muslins so stock up. I love the brand Konges Slojd for most things, but especially their lovely little muslin packs.
Clothes – I will limit on newborn clothes (size 50 and under) and rather get size 56 (000 in Australia), since these little beings grow so much in the first weeks. In the beginning you want to dress them in comfortable/soft play suits (or anything that doesn’t have to go over their head), so do not stress too much about buying adorable outfits – the dressing up comes more with time (for me at least). Playsuits that have sleeves that flip over the hands are gold. I am a big fan of Bonds Zip Wondersuits.
Nappy Bin – For me, this item has been so useful. The amount of nappies you change…its just so easy to have a little non-smell bin right next to the changing table, which only needs to get emptied every few days. I really like the Tommee Tippee Twist & Click nappy bins.
Feeding chair – You will use it so much, day and night. Make sure you find a comfortable one with padded arm rests.
Feeding pillow – I use mine every day until my babes are about 4 months old. They are affordable and when breastfeeding can be quite tricky at the start, they will feel like they are making your life a lot easier. I have the Boppy and have always loved it (especially at the start when baby is still so small).
And voila, that's it! I was hoping that I could write that my list of essentials aren’t so overwhelming but now that I’m looking at the list, it does feel like quite a lot. Perhaps the list itself isn’t that big but what can certainly be overwhelming is deciding which brand to get when there is just so much choice out there. I always go for quality, design (the practicality but also how it looks - it's gotta look good!), and obviously what's recommended by the tried and tested. Mostly that leaves me buying the expensive products but when you buy less of them, it's do-able! And remember that you can always source these products second hand. In fact, that’s exactly what you should do, if you can.
But really, if you were to ask me what I’d get if I could only choose THREE items, it would be a breast pump, a carrier and a car seat. All other items make your life easier but those are the most important essentials for a newborn if you ask me.
Before ending this blog entry, here are a few items which I thought were essential when I had my first baby but I wouldn’t buy a second, or third, or fourth time around:
Breastfeeding/Nursing cover – For some people this is an essential item since you’ll most likely be breastfeeding when you are out and about with your little one. Feeding in public was never an issue for me but that’s a choice every mama has to make on her own. If you do get a nursing cover, get one that has a wire built into the top so that you can see your baby without having to use your hands…if that makes sense.
Baby bath – If you have a bath tub at home, don’t worry about buying a baby bath. We bought the Stokke Flexibath for out first born and used it maybe once or max twice. We then got a very cheap baby seat which Noah was able to lie on in our large bathtub and it worked perfect.
Pilates Ball – There is no need to go out of your way to purchase a bouncy large pilates ball, because you don’t know whether your baby will have reflux of colic or be niggly or an absolute dream. But I would suggest that you do have this product on speed dial, in case that day hits where all else fails.