There’s no avoiding the big shop before the birth of your first baby. Some people love stocking up for the stork, diligently researching electrical ear thermometers and lovingly folding tiny scratch mitts. I put it off and did a supermarket sweep of John Lewis the day before my baby was born. It didn’t matter – I had a brilliant shopping list, compiled after consolidating the hard-researched lists of many trusted friends and experts.
Now it’s yours…
Hospital Essentials – Mother
Maternity pads – Seriously, there will be blood. Normal pads will not do. Get at least two packs to start with. Boots or Superdrug own brand ones are fine.
Breast pads – There will also be milk. Until your body works out how much your baby needs, you’ll be changing breast pads often. Brand does matter at first – Lansinoh is best. Treat yourself until your nipples are less tender, then downgrade if you need to.
Baggy t-shirts and sloppy trousers – Forget any ideas you might have about a cute post-baby outfit to totter home in. You need something soft and roomy – harem style trousers are perfect, or loose joggers. When your milk comes in you’ll go through lots of T-shirts, so pack a few spares. Hospitals are boiling, so you won’t need much more.
Several pairs of roomy knickers – Many lists suggest stocking up on disposable pants. No. You’ve just given birth – why should you wear a shower cap on your undercarriage? Take a few pairs of gigantic black cotton pants, you’ve earned them.
Your snack of choice – You might not be able to nibble on a muesli bar while you’re in labour – not because you’re too busy, but because you’re normally nil-by-mouth just in case you have to have a caesarean. But you’ll be glad of a stash afterwards.
Water – Obviously your visitors can bring you this, but when your milk comes in you might find you’re desperate for water. Get a delivery of big two litre bottles if you have to stay in a couple nights.
Soft, clip-open feeding bras – If you plan to breast feed, you’ll need basic bras that clip open and shut. If you feel like a treat, the Heidi Klum ones are easy on the eye and the chest.
Nipple cream – Everyone seems to use Lansinoh. A lifesaver.
A swimming costume – If you plan to use a birthing pool.
Some slippers/sandals – For loo trips.
Lip salve – Self explanatory.
A hair elastic – See lip salve.
Not Essential (but nice to have)
Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel – The hospital shower will just have liquid soap.
Your own pillow – The hospital ones are like wafers.
A tens machine – Some women find these helpful, others find it’s like being slapped in the face while you’re kicked in the shins.
An eye mask – The lights are never really off in the hospital.
Hospital Essentials – Baby
A pack of size one nappies – Pampers are nearly everyone’s favourite, but word is Aldi’s Mamia range is a close second and much cheaper. Don’t buy five packs though – your baby may well hit size 2 in a few days.
Cotton wool – You won’t use wet wipes for the first few days, just cotton and water.
Baby vests – Buy a bumper pack from Sainsburys or Next – these do not need to be expensive. But wash them (midwives recommend Fairy detergent) before use.
Two sleepsuits – Try to have at least one with short sleeves in case your baby has to have a cannula. If your sleepsuits have feet, you won’t need socks, which even teeny babies manage to wriggle out of.
A baby blanket – Cellular blankets (the ones with little holes) are said to be safest.
Something warm to leave the hospital in.
A couple of muslin cloths.
A cotton hat.
Not Essential (but nice to have)
A small feeding bottle and a bottle of pre-made up formula like Aptimil – Even if they’re set on breastfeeding, many mums end up doing a bit of formula feeding at the hospital – while the baby is tiny you are still producing colostrum (which is a bastard to feed!). The hospital will lend you disposable bottles and milk, but they prefer you to bring your own.
Your pram or car seat to take your new child home – Pram shopping is a whole other list. But almost everyone uses a Maxi Cosi car seat. Try and find a compatible pram to go with it.
No more than five sleepsuits in size one – You tend to wear the same five things over and over and the rest stays in the drawer. Wait until you’ve had your visitors before you do a big clothes shop as people will give you lots of 0-3 month stuff and your baby may quickly outgrow it.
A bouncy chair – This Fisher Price one is ugly but great, with a vibrate option that is good at soothing screamers. But any bouncy chair will do – if you don’t get one, the only safe place to put your baby down is likely to be their cot. They come up often on Gumtree.
A nail kit – Clippers are easiest
Muslin squares – At least five, probably ten.
Socks – Gap ones are the best at staying on.
A changing mat – It must be wipe clean.
A portable changing mat – One that folds with a pocket for wipes and nappies. It will save you from having to buy an ugly nappy bag.
Will you use a Moses basket or a baby bay that clips onto the side of your bed? If so you’ll need a mattress and mattress sheets (x3).
An ear thermometer – This will help allay fears that the crying might be serious…
Wet wipes – You can’t really use them on your baby at first, but they’re handy to have for your hands and surfaces. Jackson Reece are one of the few biodegradable brands, which minimises your whopping environmental impact if you’re throwing nappies out.
Some bottles and formula – If you plan to use them. Make life easy on yourself and buy a couple of ready made up bottles to kick you off.
Not Essential (at first)
A baby bath – For the first few washes the sink is fine!
A sleeping bag – These are the safest type of baby blanket as they won’t ride up during the night. But they’re not for newborns.
Infacol – Friends with colicky babies have sworn by this stuff.
Dummies – Whether you plan to avoid them in general or not, the first few days can be helped along with a dummy, when your baby has a fervent and constant need to suck. These ones by Mam seem to be the most well-designed for newborns. And the least ugly.
A proper nappy bin – Definitely a luxury but this bin by Tommee Tippee has a clever twisting mechanism that locks away each nappy individually and minimises stench. The bin liner cartridges are expensive though.
A steriliser – If you end up using bottles and don’t have a microwave or dishwasher, it can be handy to have a steamer like this one that sterilises bottles for you after you wash them.
A pump – This one by Medela seems to be everyone’s favourite- it’s super fast and easy to use.
Milk bags – If you do plan to pump milk and freeze it. The special ones by Lansinoh, Medela etc are expensive, and any press close, re-sealable bags will do if you don’t need to measure the units drunk. Just remember to write the date of each batch on the bag. (As a rough guide, expressed milk lasts for three hours out of the fridge, three days in it, and three weeks in the freezer).
A sponge – A gentle way to wash your baby.
A sling/carrier – It’s sometimes easier to wear your baby than push a pram. The Baby Bjorn is stylish and neat for a small baby, but the Ergobaby is better for your back and lasts longer. You’ll need the newborn insert for the first few weeks.
A baby monitor app – If you’re lucky enough to have a house so big you can’t hear the crying from your baby’s room. This one is good, and will save you the cost of a proper baby monitor. It works with two phones or a phone and iPad. But keep an eye on your phone battery.
A hooded towel – These are a bit of a con – normal towels are fine. But at first they are nice to bundle your baby up in. Look out for the welcome pack you get at the hospital – they often include a little hooded towel sponsored by a detergent brand.
Nappy cream – A big jar of coconut oil is a nice natural skin barrier cream, while Metanium is a very effective (and totally unnatural) rash cream.
A rattle – Sometimes the old tricks work the best.
Don’t stock up on masses of anything – you might find that your plans to breastfeed don’t work out and you’re stuck with a mountain of feeding paraphernalia. Or that with the best will in the world, washable nappies aren’t going to work for you. Buy the basics (as listed above) and then add in the extras when you need them – remembering that there will always be a mother near you selling exactly what you’re looking for on eBay or Gumtree. Or a friend very happy to offload.