When you’re expecting, you can’t look in a book, catalogue or magazine without coming face-to-face with a list of “baby essentials” that, apparently, you couldn’t possibly manage without.
The important thing to remember is that these lists are written with companies in mind, not mothers and fathers. The vast majority of things on these lists are a waste of money, depending on how minimalist a parent you want to be.
So what do you actually need for your baby? The answer is not a lot, actually. All babies need is somewhere to sleep, somewhere to obtain milk from, some clothes and some diapers. Everything else is designed to make our lives easier (sometimes) but aren’t actually essential for our babies.
In this post I am going to briefly outline a few things that first-time parents often splash out on and regret later.
A Changing Table
These come with lots of handy drawers and pockets. Some of them even have a baby bath tucked away under the changing section! It’s no doubt that on paper they look great, but they are very expensive and the chances are you won’t use it for longer than a month or two at most. Once babies start threatening to roll over, most of us don’t feel comfortable using something off-the-ground to change them on. Plus, a changing table can only really stay in one room of the house, which makes changing times awkward — lots of running up and down the stairs! Chances are, you would hardly use it. What a lot of parents do is just change the baby on a mat on the bed. If you perhaps have issues with back pain and need your baby to be raised up for changes, you could use a desk or some other kind of furniture you already own. We used a computer desk and it did the trick just fine.
For some reason (probably the amount they cost!), these are touted as “essential items” even for mums that are planning to breastfeed! The fact is, unless you are going to be expressing milk regularly (like if you have to return to work after a few weeks) or if you are bottle feeding, it is pointless buying one. Dummies/pacifiers, if you end up using them, can be sterilised by boiling them in a pan of water for 5 minutes. In fact, you can sterilise pretty much anything this way — spoons, syringes etc (check manufacturer’s instructions first). Pretty much anything that can go in a steam steriliser can be boiled instead.
A Top & Tail Bowl
Seeing one of these in a baby catalogue when I was expecting my son actually made me laugh out loud. The very idea that I would be convinced spend £5 on a bowl with two compartments with which to put water in to wash my baby was ridiculous to me. I just used two bowls from our kitchen cupboards and it was no bother whatsoever.
Shampoo, soap and bubble bath are full of chemicals that are harmful and irritating to newborn skin (yes, even the ones designed for and marketed for babies). Little babies don’t get dirty really, so just stick to water for as long as you can. We used shampoo once a week from when my son was about 6 weeks old.
A Breast Pump
Again, unless you plan to exclusively express for your baby, this is not an essential buy. A lot of companies will do their best to convince you that a breast pump is necessary to ensure a good milk supply, but in the vast majority of cases this simply isn’t the case. Your baby will make sure your supply is up to scratch. It is not recommended to introduce any kind of artificial teat (be it a pacifier or a bottle) until at least 6 weeks of age anyway, in order to let breastfeeding establish properly first.
What baby items did you buy that you didn’t need? I’d love to hear your responses!