Back in December 2011 I wrote a post about the baby products I couldn’t live without. When my pregnant friend asked me recently what I would recommend it made me think about how many of those things I loved were actually important, and how much money I wasted just because I wanted to buy Ted everything. I think it’s something most first-time Mums are probably guilty of, but as BabyDaddy and I have been talking about the right time to give Ted a brother or sister (not right now, in case you’re wondering) it’s also made me think about how our budget has changed so much and how our priorities are different.
When I was pregnant with Ted it seemed as though I needed everything but now I know that’s not the case. He’s got so much stuff but how much has he actually needed? He has some lovely lovely toys, but he loves water bottles and spoons and being tickled. That stuff doesn’t cost anything. His brother or sister won’t get the quantity of things that Ted got, but hopefully the experience we’ve gained over the past year and a half means the quality will improve.
That and we’ll just give them Ted’s cast-offs, of course. Hey, that’s what happens to the younger siblings!
But there are, of course, some things you do need (or, even if you don’t need them they can make life a lot easier). While I stand by most of what I wrote in my previous post (and the things I’ve just thought “would I still say that?” are probably things I’ve forgotten about as I no longer have a crazy frustrating screaming newborn to contend with) I don’t think my list would be so long next time around.
So what would I do differently? Here’s my guide to shopping for a baby you haven’t met yet.
The pram I bought was expensive and fancy and I loved it. For a while. Unfortunately I didn’t do enough research and went with my heart instead of my head, and that didn’t pay off. I bought the Toro by Micralite and had problems with it from a few weeks after I started using it, but like most people I bought it when I was still pregnant and found that it wasn’t covered by the shop’s guarantee. I contacted Micralite direct and, while the problems were slight, they were good at responding and thanked me for my feedback. When the handlebar fell off completely while I was trying to get Ted up a kerb on a busy road, leaving us both desperately close to being hit by a car, they asked for photos of the handles and then, once I’d provided photos, a description and even a video, they just stopped replying to me. I continued to email them, I sent letters to head office, and I never heard anything back from them. Unfortunately for them I now write a blog, so to those of you looking to buy a pram – PLEASE make sure it’s not the Micralite Toro. If you have a problem with one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make you need to know there will be someone there to help you.
Having said that, what do you need to look for in a pram? There are certain things you need to consider. Do you want it to be able to carry your car seat? Do you want a carry cot? Should it transition from pram to buggy? Do you want four wheels or three? Do you want big front wheels (yes) or back wheels (probably not)? How much basket space do you need? Can you fold it down one handed? Does it fit in your car boot? If you don’t drive will it take the strain of being used every day? Do you need it to go cross country?
These are exactly the questions I didn’t ask. The questions I asked were “is it pretty? Does it look comfortable? Does it feel smooth?” I had a little push around in the shop and then decided it was the one for me. I barely looked at others. What was it about the Toro I liked? Stupidly, it was the handles. The handles that I had to pay extra for and that stopped working within weeks and then fell off completely. Don’t let the little things blind you to the big things.
When you’ve looked at LOTS of prams and think you’ve found the one you like just go home. Look it up online, read reviews (and don’t just look at the good reviews because the bad ones are “probably just flukes”), and look at other people’s recommendations. Then go back to the shop a week later and try a load more again before you go back to yours. Still love it? Maybe it’s the right one. You’ve got time. Take plenty of it. It’s one of the biggest purchases you’ll make.
My top tip: go to Kiddicare. The staff are knowledgeable but don’t pressure you, and you can try any of the models out to have a walk around the shop. While you’re there why not ask other Mums for advice? We’re a caring sharing kind of breed. We picked up the pram we use now (which I love) at an absolute bargain price.
Most of you are probably hoping to breast-feed. As a result you will need Lansinoh. Don’t let the price put you off; that stuff is liquid gold. You’ll love it more than any cute teddies you might want to line the baby’s crib with. I guarantee. You’ll also need breast pads. If you want, or later need, a breast pump make sure you think about whether you want manual or electric. I used a manual pump because the thought of hooking myself up to a milking machine scared me (to be quite honest, the manual one scared me too), but one of my friends used an electric one and said she didn’t have to think about it at all.
On the other hand, some of you might not want to breast feed at all and some of you might find that you can’t. This isn’t time for a debate about how hard we should try (and remember, some of us don’t get a choice) so if you’re not interested just skip ahead to the next section. But I do recommend you at least have a glance at this. When I was pregnant a woman told me that when she came home with her daughter she spent one night crying while her husband drove around trying to find somewhere that was open so he could buy formula. She recommended that I had at least one bottle and one carton of ready-made formula just in case. When we spent our first night at home wondering how the hell we were going to cope with this screaming, hungry, terrifying little bundle I was so grateful for that advice. When, at six in the morning, I gave in and fed him a bottle only for him to fall into a deep sleep for the next four hours I felt as though my life had been saved. Cheers, Cow & Gate. I owe you.
My top tip: You might be lucky enough to be able to breastfeed for the whole time you need to, and if that’s the case all you’ve wasted is the price of a bottle and a carton of milk – maybe £5? Believe me, that won’t feel like a waste if you end up needing it.
You’ll have a newborn and you know you’re going to have sleepless nights. You hope for a miracle baby who will sleep through from the first week, and anyway babies sleep for about eighteen hours a day, right? As someone who had a really good baby I can tell you it is still exhausting. But the good news is that there are things you can do to make it easier. The Infantino baby swaddle is one of the best things I ever bought and I would recommend it to everyone. Yes, you can swaddle in the old fashioned way, but in the middle of the night it’s so much easier to just tie a little knot. No more startle reflex. Phew!
You also have to think about where the baby is going to sleep. In bed with you? (I’d co-sleep if I had it to do again). In a Moses basket? A crib? Straight into a cot? These things are all expensive too so, like with the pram, give it a lot of thought. I really wanted a crib but I got a Moses basket because it was cheaper and it seemed as though that was the thing to do, but after I was in hospital with the little glass crib I could swing from my bed (why don’t they sell those? Being able to see them while they sleep is lovely) I really wished I had gone for one. What I would really have liked if I’d been able to afford it, and which I wish I could afford before next time, is one of those cribs that allows you to co-sleep while they’re still in their own bed. One thing I would say: don’t buy the prettiest Moses basket at the highest price. The one my husband chose wasn’t to my taste but it was a lot less than the one I liked and I’m glad I let him buy it. It really didn’t matter. He was only in it for twelve weeks before he was too big for it. At that point he went into a big cotbed and slept through.
My top tip: Go with your heart. Co-sleeping, sleeping in the same room, or sleeping in a nursery. It’s up to you.
Bath time can be quite nerve-wracking and a lot of companies take advantage of this by offering you all sorts of solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had. I wouldn’t recommend buying anything for bath time for a newborn. Use bubble bath if you have nasty water, but other than that don’t bother. We had a baby bath and that meant we could bathe him in the living room where we could keep him warm, but if you’re comfortable using your bath then do it. This is one area where you really don’t need to waste money.
Until later. Then comes the absolute joy of bath toys!
It may seem that you don’t need to buy teething supplies until much later, but – you’ve heard the horror stories – some babies are born with teeth and some start teething really early. Ted started showing signs of teething from only a few weeks and although he didn’t get any teeth through for a long time after that I wish I’d been prepared. You can’t give them Calpol or Calgel until they’re 2-3 months old, but there are things you can do. We bought Ted the Gum-eez soothers and these were really effective. When he was older we bought him the Bugaloop (I may have mentioned it once or twice before…) and it remains one of my most-recommended baby products of all time, but for the new baby the Gum-eez are well worth a try.
Top tip: a clean finger can massage gums really well. But only until the teeth are there. Ouch!
But this isn’t exhaustive. This is probably the tip of the iceberg.
Get involved: Here’s your chance to make this post more useful for women looking for the best places to spend their money.
Existing Mums, what would you recommend for pregnant women and new Mums? What do you think is an absolute waste of money? Any luxuries you know aren’t essential but that you think are worth buying just for the pure pleasure of them?
Pregnant ladies, what have you bought that you can’t wait to use? What are you contemplating buying? Anything that’s been recommended by someone and you’re not sure why?
Next post: what to pack in your hospital bag.