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What do you actually need to buy for a baby?

BABY CARE

If you are expecting a baby there a number of things you need to have ready before your little one arrives.

Essentials you need to buy for a baby
Table of contents

Do you know what things you actually need to buy for your baby before the birth?

There are literally so many baby products on the market you may be a little overwhelmed and confused when you start looking at them all.

The things you choose to buy for your baby ultimately depend on your lifestyle, budget and personal preference.

The following list is not exhaustive, and nor do you have to buy everything on it, but it will give you a clear idea of what your baby is going to need when it's born.

Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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Where should your baby sleep?

There are no hard and fast rules about where your baby should sleep, and in the early days they will probably nod off in your arms, in their car seat or wherever they happen to be.

As long as he or she is put down to sleep safely, it's really up to you. You have several choices for both day time naps and night time sleeping, including a cot or cot bed, Moses basket, carrycot, crib, co-sleeper or travel cot.

Cot or cot bed

You can put your baby straight into a cot from day one for both day and night time sleeps. There are many different styles and features of cots to choose from, such as variable mattress heights, drop sides, teething rails and underneath storage drawers.

A cot bed (cot that converts to a bed when your baby is older) is larger than a cot. It will therefore last a few more years than a standard sized cot as it grows with your child.

To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), your baby should sleep in the same room as you at night and for day time naps. Therefore a cot may not be practical if space is limited in your bedroom, and you can't move it from room to room.

There are other options to choose from until the baby can move to his own room.

Moses basket

Usually made from palm, maize or wicker, Moses baskets are small, lightweight baskets that provide a cosy place for newborns to sleep. They are a popular choice as they can easily be carried from room to room, so your baby is always right next to you at night time and during the day.

You can get a stand for your Moses basket so it can be at a convenient height next to your bed, and a rocking stand will allow you to rock your baby to sleep.

The downside is some infants feel restricted in Moses baskets because they can't stretch their arms out fully. Also a Moses basket will only last you for about three months before your baby grows out of it and needs to move to a bigger cot.

Carrycot

Instead of a Moses basket, a carrycot that comes with your pushchair is fine to use as a first bed, (providing you have a suitable mattress).

Similarly sized, a carrycot is easily carried between rooms. An additional advantage is you can slot it straight on to the pushchair base if your baby is asleep and you need to go out, or if you want your baby to go to sleep and you want to go out!

Crib

Usually made of wood, a crib is a smaller version of a standard sized cot and has a swinging motion to send your baby to sleep. You will get a couple more months use out of a crib than a Moses basket, but it is a more expensive option.

As with a standard sized cot, a crib is not portable so cannot be moved from room to room.

Co-sleeper

A co-sleeper is a cot with one side removed that attaches to the side of your bed. So if you are keen to bed share with your baby, a co-sleeper is a safe option. Although your baby is sleeping separately on a separate surface, he is still at arm's reach.

Being larger than a Moses basket, a co-sleeper will last until your baby is around six months old, at which point he can be moved to a standard sized cot or cot bed in his own room.

Of course you will pay more money for this convenient sleeping arrangement, but to get the most out of a co-sleeper, you should look for one that converts to a free-standing cot, travel cot or play pen.

Travel cot

A travel cot comes in handy for holidays, nights away and sleepovers at grandparents, and even doubles up as a playpen. Practical and lightweight, a travel cot folds up into its own bag for storage and transport.

Travel cots come with their own foldable base mattress, but can often be thin and hard for babies to sleep on. You may want to consider buying an additional suitable mattress.

Depending on the size of the travel cot, it could last your child for around three years.

Cot bedding

You will need to have a firm flat mattress with a waterproof cover that fits the cot properly. The mattress should ideally be new, as it is thought there may be a link between second hand mattresses and an increased risk of SIDS.

If you do use a second hand mattress, make sure it is in excellent condition with no rips or tears, and that it was always used with a waterproof mattress protector in its previous life.

Bedding is available to buy in all sizes for cots and cot beds, Moses baskets, cribs and travel cots. Note that duvets and pillows, cot bumpers and soft toys are not suitable.

As a rough guide it is handy to have at least three of each of the following, so that you can have one in use, one in the wash and one in the cupboard.

Feeding your baby

You can breastfeed or bottle feed your baby, or combine the two in a way that suits you both.

Breastfeeding equipment

Breastfeeding is generally considered to be the best choice for you and your baby, and you don't need a lot of 'equipment' to do it. There are however, some accessories that make life easier.

Bottle feeding equipment

If you are formula feeding or bottle feeding expressed breast milk you will need the following bottle feeding equipment.

Baby clothes

While it is hard to resist buying cute little outfits, your baby will sleep a lot and you will have to do several outfit changes each day due to milk vomit and leaky nappies. Therefore it is more practical and far easier to dress your baby in simple vests and sleepsuits.

When dressing your baby, remember several light layers of clothing are better than one heavy layer. As a general rule, your baby needs one more layer of clothing than you do.

Baby clothes are popular gifts. You may find you receive lots of lovely day outfits, perhaps even enough to see you through the first year. So if you don't have money to waste, stick to buying the basics.

Here is a list of essential clothing items and numbers needed.

Which size baby clothes to buy?

Newborn clothes generally fall into different categories: premature, tiny baby, newborn/first size or 0-3 months. You will not know the exact size that is right for your baby until the birth.

Clothes size 0-3 months will swamp a baby born around the 6 lb mark. Tiny baby clothes will be too small for an 8 lb baby and will never get worn.

Buying clothes in newborn size or in the 0-3 months age range is a safe bet. If you have a tiny baby you may have to get some smaller clothes at the last minute, but at least the larger clothes will fit in a few weeks.

Nappy changing

You are going to be doing A LOT of nappy changes! Here are the things to gather so you are ready to do your very first one at home.

Travel essentials

There is an overwhelming range of travel-related baby products on the market. As these will be among your most expensive initial baby purchases it is worth doing your research before you buy.

Pushchair

You will need a pushchair until your child is around three years old. Pushchairs come in a range of styles with different features and accessories.

Keep in mind that whatever pushchair you go for, it must recline fully so your baby can lie flat for the first three months (this is important for infant spinal development).

You can opt for a pushchair that converts to a lie-flat pram, or a pushchair that detaches from the frame and is interchangeable with a carrycot. When your baby outgrows the carrycot, they can move into the pushchair. Whatever style of pushchair you choose, make sure it is sturdy and comfortable for a young baby.

Here are some important pushchair features to look for.

Coach built pram

Coach built prams are beautiful and stylish, so if you can get one, consider it a luxury item that you won't use for long!

They are also bulk and heavy, not very practical and they don't fold up to fit in the car. They are difficult to take on public transport, fit through shop doorways and lift up and down stairs.

A coach built pram is an expensive alternative to a pushchair and will only last for about six months.

Car seat

Your baby must travel in a secure car seat for car journeys, including when travelling home from the hospital. Make sure you have the car seat ready before the birth, and practice fitting it in the car.

Do not buy a second hand car seat, because you can't be certain it hasn't suffered damage in a road accident. It is OK to accept a second hand car seat from a family member or friend, providing you know it's history, it has all its parts and you fully understand how to fit it.

A newborn should travel in a rear-facing infant carrier on the back seat. Infant carriers are also called Group 0, Group 0+, stage 1 or first stage car seats. Group 0 car seats are used from birth to 10kg, and Group 0+ are suitable from birth to 13kg.

You can buy an infant carrier separately, or one that clips onto a pushchair frame as part of a travel system.

Additional baby items

In addition to the items covered above, here are some other things you may wish to buy before the birth.

When to start buying baby stuff

You can obviously start buying baby stuff as soon as you find out you are pregnant, and indeed it may be hard to resist doing so and there's nothing wrong with that! Some women feel superstitious and think it's bad luck to buy things too early (of course these feelings won't actually affect the outcome of your pregnancy).

You may wish to wait until around twelve weeks when you have your first scan and you are safely through the first trimester. Then you can start researching cots, pushchairs and other big purchases, especially if you need to order them in advance, and you still have plenty of time.

Baby clothes are probably one of the most tempting things to start buying. But if you want to buy clothes specific to your baby's gender, you will need to wait for the anomaly scan at twenty weeks. You can of course start buying neutrally coloured bedding, vests and sleepsuits etc before this time.

Bear in mind that when you start stocking up on all your baby essentials you will need somewhere to store all this stuff, so if you don't have much space maybe go easy on that nappy stockpile at first!

On another note make sure sure you have all your essential baby things ready and your hospital bag packed six weeks before your due date, just in case you are blessed with an early arrival!

Where to buy baby stuff

There are many online and offline major retailers where you can buy baby products, such as Argos, Boots, Smyths Toys, Amazon, Mamas & Papas and John Lewis to name a few. It is definitely worth doing your research for big priced items such as the cot, pushchair and car seat, read lots of customer reviews, and view and test out the product in person if you can.

For baby clothes, supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys sell good quality, cheap packs of sleepsuits and bodysuits (you will get through plenty of these), but the list of retailers that sell baby clothes is really far too many to mention here.

Look out for baby clothes in seasonal sales. Even if they are too big at the time, keep them in storage instead of buying full price items later on and you could save a fortune.

Remember you don't have to buy new. You can often find excellent quality secondhand baby clothes and other items for a fraction of the original price. Places to look for these include local baby markets, charity shops, Facebook MarketPlace, eBay, Gumtree and even local car boot sales.

(As previously mentioned, car seats and cot mattresses should preferably be bought new for health and safety reasons, so be very wary of buying these products second hand from someone you don't know.)

In fact you may not even have to buy much at all! Family and friends will want to buy you things (especially clothes) and Granny may really be hoping to buy that pushchair. If you are lucky enough to be concerned about being overrun with duplicate gifts, why not set up a baby registry list, such as an Amazon Baby Wishlist?

Also don't be too proud to accept second hand items from friends and family if they are offered to you. You too one day will look for new homes for your own baby items that have loads of life left and are far too good to throw away.

So now you know all about cots and cot beds, Moses baskets, co-sleepers and other sleeping options, pushchairs and car seats, breast and bottle feeding accessories, baby clothes and things you need for nappy changing and baby care.

You know what you need to buy before your baby is born, and where and when to buy it. But did you know you can also get some FREE STUFF that won't hurt your wallet? Check out this bumper list of mum-to-be-freebies.

All you need to do now is check off your list of baby essentials so your newborn has everything ready for their arrival.

A big part of having a baby is planning for it, so good luck and enjoy this very special journey!

You may also be interested in: What to pack in your hospital bag for labour, a checklist for mum and baby.

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Things you actually need to buy for a baby

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