"all that babies really need is some clothes, a place to sleep, and love"
I was given a great book when we were expecting our first baby, and reading this on the first page was a huge relief! It is so easy to get completely overwhelmed by all the lists online of what a baby needs and there are so many items out there designed to make parents' lives easier, but most are wants and not needs and, if you're a minimalist, on a budget, or trying to be more sustainable by buying less stuff, it's totally ok to stick to the basics!
I've scoured the internet and compiled all of the lists into one, sorting out the essentials from the nice-to-have items you might like to consider or buy further down the line, and finally the items that we never had or needed. So here it is...
A pretty obvious one! But it's important to remember that babies do grow very quickly, so the general advice is not to buy too much, especially in the early days. The NHS recommends buying:
at least 6 all-in-one sleepsuits or babygrows.
4 to 6 vests or bodysuits with poppers that close under the nappy.
2 cardigans - choose wool or cotton, rather than nylon.
a snowsuit if the weather is cold.
scratch mittens, socks or booties.
a sun hat for summer, or a wool or cotton hat for the colder months
You could of course rent your baby's clothes from B&B, and we will send you most of the clothes you will need, replaced as your baby grows.
2. Somewhere to sleep
You can opt for either a crib (cot), a carrycot or a moses basket. We had a moses basket for our first baby and he slept terribly, so for our second we bought a second-hand Chicco Next2Me crib which is particularly good for breastfeeding at night; she slept much better than our first but we will never know if her bed was the reason or not!
To go with this, you'll need:
a mattress and a waterproof cover.
sheets - the NHS recommends at least 4.
2 sleeping bags, or sheets and a cellular blanket.
Two extra items that I'd highly recommend are Love to Dream™ Swaddle Up™ sleeping bags - these hold your baby snugly with their arms in an upright position and we found that our daughter definitely slept better in one of these than just a normal sleeping bag.
And some kind of white noise machine (although there are apps available too - great for testing out whether your baby is soothed by white noise) - we had Ollie the Owl and it was amazing for settling our daughter - she would be screaming one minute and then out like a light the second the white noise turned on!
3. Something for getting out and about
There are a few options here and it can be confusing! You can get either a pushchair or pram, or a carrycot, and if you have a car you'll need a car seat.
Many people go for a 3-in-1 travel system which consists of a carrycot, pushchair and a car seat, but you'll need plenty of storage space as carrycots don't fold down, and they can be very expensive; although there are now some very reasonably priced ones (you can even rent these too!).
We only had a tiny house when ours were little so we had a Babystyle Oyster Zero pushchair which I loved - it lies flat so is suitable from newborn, and you can buy adaptors so that you can connect a car seat.
An extra item that I'd recommend here is some kind of sling or baby carrier. We used these a lot when both babies were little, even going into the toddler years. They are a lifesaver when your baby is overtired, and we had to put our daughter in a sling to get to her sleep every night for at least the first 3 months of her life!! I have heard of babies who can't stand being in a sling, but we couldn't have lived without one, so it may be something that you wait to see if you need, and some places have sling libraries so that you can try them out before committing to buying one.
4. Nappies etc
Another obvious one, but this is what you'll need:
a few packs of newborn disposable or reusable cloth nappies - even though we opted for reusable nappies we started out with eco disposables to make life easier for the first couple of weeks.
cotton wool or baby wipes.
changing mat or towel.
barrier cream to protect your baby's skin and prevent nappy rash.
a baby bath or you can use a washing up bowl (I love this tip from the NHS!)
towels - just remember you don't need to buy new ones if you have some that are soft.
You don’t need to use soap, body wash or shampoo to bathe newborn babies, unless your health visitor advises you too. Plain water is safer for your baby’s skin during the first month.
nursing bras – I actually found clip-down nursing bras to be a complete pain and opted for bralettes or soft non-wired bras that I could pull up easily - you will probably need to find what works best for you.
breast pads - unfortunately just be aware that in the early days while your supply is getting established, you will probably leak a lot and reusable pads may not cut it - they are great for further down the line but you may need some disposable pads for the start.
nipple cream - a must!!
muslins for burping – you can never have enough. I will say this again: YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH!!
Several sites recommend buying a breast pump, but actually you probably won't need one immediately, and sometimes you can borrow/loan them from your hospital or just pick one up from Facebook marketplace if you decide you want to start pumping.
If you do plan to express for bottle feeding, something I would really recommend is a manual breast pump (this Haakaa one used to be very popular but there are loads out there now) - not so much for pumping, but amazing to use whilst you're feeding - just attach it to the side you're not using and it will collect the leakage which was about 2oz each time for me - saving lots of wasted milk!
7. Formula feeding
bottles with teats and caps.
sterilising equipment, such as a cold-water steriliser, microwave or steam steriliser.
brushes to clean the bottles and teats.
formula milk powder or ready-to-feed liquid formula.
muslins for burping.
Extras that you might want to consider
There were a lot of items on the lists which you really don't need to buy straight away, or may not need at all, but if you've already got all the essentials above or you want to have everything you might need in advance, here are some things that will be useful for the first few months and beyond.
Baby monitor - a basic sound one is fine.
Night light – really handy for night feeds!
Black out blind – also very useful for travelling.
Baby nest - we got one of these when our first baby was 5 months old and it transformed his sleep! I'm not sure if they are used as much these days and some aren't safe to sleep in unattended, so it might be worth seeing how your baby sleeps before buying one.
Rocking chair, armchair or recliner - we didn't have space for one but I would have loved a rocking chair!
Toy box or basket - they won't be playing with toys until they are a few months old so this really isn't an essential.
Baby swing - some people swear by these, so we got one for our daughter thinking it would be a gamechanger, but she still refused to let us put her down so it was a complete waste of money!
Nappy changing bag.
Baby nail scissors.
Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine - even if you're breastfeeding and only plan on doing a few formula feeds, this can be very helpful, and is particularly good for night feeds, but totally not essential.
Things we never had
There are a few things on these lists that you can definitely manage without, but it's all down to personal preference. I just want to tell you what we didn't buy, so that you don't feel pressured to buy everything on these lists.
Humidifier - maybe this is for drier countries than the UK?!
Breastfeeding cover - again down to personal preference but I think this would more likely just get in the way and you can always use muslins.
Feeding cushion - I just used normal cushions throughout my 3 years + of breastfeeding.
Nappy bin - maybe more desirable for disposables.
Baby lotion - I think the fewer the products on your baby's skin, the better.
Bottle warmer - apparently sitting the bottles in warm water is just as effective.
Bottle steriliser - if you are formula feeding this is probably a time-saving essential, but for the small amount of bottle feeding that we did, we just boiled the bottles in hot water on the stove.
I really hope this list has been helpful, please comment below if you disagree or if I've missed something essential that you would recommend!
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Belles and Babes is a UK-based rental business specialising in sustainable maternity, baby, and nursing clothes. Founded by Emma Gillespie in 2017, the company is driven by her corporate sustainability background and has a mission to provide a more sustainable alternative for parents seeking to move away from fast fashion and reduce clothing waste.
B&B offers maternity and nursing clothes to rent as part of its capsule wardrobe service for £5 per item each month, with the option to swap items and add on extras such as a maternity coat, and also has styles available to buy new or pre-loved. Baby capsule wardrobes start from £25 a month for a personalised bundle of 18 items of sustainable organic clothing which are replaced as your baby grows.
If you are a parent seeking a sustainable alternative to fast fashion, you can find out more about our rental options by clicking the links in the menu above.