Bianca N V is a freelance writer, PR guru, lover of shoes and all things girly, Mum of four and life-long explorer of Melbourne's south east and more. 'Like' and subscribe for updates to keep you and your kids entertained for a little or even less.
Published May 21st 2015
What you really need and where to get it
It can be both an exciting and overwhelming time preparing to welcome a new baby, especially for first time parents. If you pay a visit to any baby store you're sure to get a wealth of advice and information about everything you'll need for when you bring that bundle home. But what do you really need and how much should it cost? Here's your true blue guide to preparing for a new baby, without breaking the bank. After all, there will be plenty of other things to spend your money on after baby comes home.
The car seat The baby car seat is a non-negotiable and not the place to look for savings. This is one item that is really worth looking into and spending money on to get the safest and best fitting seat for your most precious cargo that you possibly can. It is also definitely worthwhile paying the $25 to $30 that most major baby superstores charge to have the seat professionally fitted in your car. There's quite an art to it.
Now the bassinet is a bit of an optional extra. While it is very handy to have one for the early days, the bassinet is only useful for as long as baby is not rolling, and certainly not after they begin sitting up. This means most babies will have outgrown their bassinet by six months of age. Don't spend big bucks on a bassinet. Try to borrow one from a friend or relative, or look on Ebay or Gumtree for a low cost second-hand bassinet in good condition. Launder any fabric attachments and bedding that may come with your bassinet, whether new or used. Or opt out of the bassinet and put baby straight into a cot.
If you use a bassinet or even choose to co-sleep, at some point it will come time to transition baby into a cot. Many parents take this opportunity to move baby into the nursery and out of their room. The cot is another essential item worth spending some time and money on. If you choose wisely, it will take baby through to around three years of age or even longer, with many cots now designed to adapt into toddler beds. It's still great if you can borrow a cot that's in good condition, but make sure that it meets Australian safety standards. If you need to buy a cot, go to one of the baby superstores where you'll get expert advice, the option to layby and you can usually negotiate a better price for bundling a few bits and pieces together. You'll also need a cot mattress, made specifically for the cot you choose. In the case of hand-me-downs, experts say that each baby to use a cot should get their own brand new cot mattress.
When it comes to safe sleeping, SIDS and Kids is your essential information source. Baby sleeping bags are a great option, as you can choose different warmth ratings for different weather and rest assured baby is covered all night and can't easily become tangled. You'll still need fitted cot sheets and baby blankets (aka bunny rugs) for tucking into the pram and having on hand when not in their cot. These can be bought inexpensively from stores like Target, Kmart and Big W. Depending on your baby's daily capacity to spew and, ahem, poo, you may need a few of each to keep you covered between wash cycles.
The change table
Although very practical for storing nappies and the like and a certain back saver, a change table is actually not a necessity. You can quite easily change baby on a towel spread out on the floor, ottoman or bed. No matter where you change bub though, never take your eyes off them, and if above ground height, keep a hand on them at all times to ensure they can't roll or fall down.
The pram can be one of your most expensive items when bought new. There are hundreds of prams on the market these days, and the lighter and more compact, generally the better. It's important to measure the boot space you have available in your car and consider attachments you can get down the track to modify the pram for carrying more than one child, if you have or think there may be others. Here's another thing to consider; you can barely give away a second-hand pram. It's best to decide what make and model suits your needs now as well as a little longer term, and choose the right pram that will last you for as many as seven to ten years. Don't be afraid to look online for pre-loved prams in good knick, where you can save an absolute fortune. Just keep in mind the life a second-hand pram has already had and check for reasonable wear and tear. Prams also need to meet Australian safety standards and it's important to check on any potential recalls before you buy.
The baby carrier Although it's a bit of an optional extra, the baby carrier, wrap or sling is a fantastic invention. Keeping baby close to your heart, they can't help but fall asleep while you do the supermarket shop or other running around; they're right under your nose, literally, so you can keep a close eye on bub and they allow you two free hands – a blessing you will come to recognise all too soon! Each type and brand has its own weight limit and there are some important safety warnings that you need to be aware of.
Whoever invented the baby bouncer should be awarded a Nobel Prize. Particularly in the first few months, these little beauties are a safe place baby can relax within eyeshot, take in their surrounds and most likely, drift off to sleep peacefully. Like everything in life, a little is just fine, but a lot can be a problem. You'll quickly learn all about 'tummy time' and not laying bub down too much of the day between sleeps. Likewise, bub shouldn't be in a bouncer for too much of the day. Try to borrow from a friend or relo. Bouncers range in price new from about $50 upwards.
A highchair isn't something you'll need until bub is sitting up well independently and on solids; so not before they're about six months old. Put this one off for later, unless you're able to borrow and store it somewhere handy in the meantime.
Baby bath While only used for a short time, the baby bath is a serious back saver. You can place it on your bench or a solid, stable table top, fill it with water at that level and bath baby without having to lean over a bathtub, which can strain your neck, back and shoulders. You can also pick one of these up for around $20 to $30 from stores like Kmart, Target and Big W. For me, it's a no brainer. Remember to always carefully check the bathwater temperature.
Baby bath seat
The baby bath seat has been a product of some contention. Having one basically eliminates the need for a baby bath, as it addresses the strain and pain problems of leaning over a bathtub. For me though, personally, it's a no no. Why? It's too easy to look away or even dash out of the bathroom to quickly do something and return when you're not needed to physically hold your baby up during bathtime. There have been some horror stories, and for me, I'd rather just remove that risk altogether. Check out these important bath time safety tips from the BabyCenter Australia Medical Advisory Board.
Lotions and bath products, bottles and sterilisers What products you choose to use for your baby is a very personal thing. Seek recommendations from friends and family, but these purchases can wait until bub comes home and you have a better idea about their individual skin care and feeding needs. Likewise with sterilisers, which you technically only need for formula fed babies. In any case, you can pick up a basic microwaveable steriliser from stores like Target, Kmart and Big W for as little as about $20. Prices range wildly for bottles and sterilising equipment, so have a good look around before deciding what to buy.
Ah, the gorgeous little baby clothes that call out to us from the shelves and shop windows, tempting us to overbuy with their cuteness! It's fair enough to want to buy adorable clothes for your new baby, but to help keep you on track, here's a list of the basic essentials you'll need to get through the early days.
6 singlets 6 jumpsuits with press studs or zip fronts for easy nappy access and dressing
2 nighties or jumpsuits for sleeping in 3 tops; ones with a button up crotch are a good option 3 or 4 bunny rugs (for winter) or muslin wraps (for summer)
2 cotton hats and a light-weight sun hat
3 pairs of cotton socks and/or some booties
A few cardigans
A handful of bibs, which can help save a whole outfit change
A pair of soft cotton mittens, which are useful for both winter and summer newbies as they help prevent bub scratching themselves with those sharp new nails.
Accept hand-me-downs in good condition and remember, baby isn't a newborn 000, or any 0 size for that matter, for very long. And don't forget to grab a couple of boxes of newborn nappies if using disposables, or 20 to 24 cloth nappies, as you'll be changing around 10 to 12 a day!
Like those teeny weeny lovely little baby clothes, baby shoes can be another buying temptation that's hard for parents to resist! Experts say a toddler learning to walk needs to go barefoot regularly to develop balance, coordination and correct posture. Shoes are for protection and only needed when regularly getting about on foot. Booties and warm socks are all you will really need to begin with, so perhaps save the shoe shopping for when toddler can accompany you, get their feet properly measured and shoes fitted by an expert.
Baby bags, trolley seat covers, playmats, playpens, stair gates, monitors, toys and other accessories
The short answer with most accessories is, you don't really need them! A bag that can fit a few nappies, a small packet of wipes and a change of clothes is more than adequate for your daily needs. When bub is big enough to sit in a trolley, you can easily drape a spare blanket or towel over the seat first.
Likewise, in place of a playmat you can simply use a blanket, and you'll only need to consider a playpen when bub is mobile and either getting into every drawer they shouldn't be, or needing some space of their own from older siblings and their small toys. Playpens can be ridiculously expensive, so try to borrow or buy second-hand.
Similarly, you may need to erect stair gates down the track, but this is something for down the track when bub starts showing signs of being on the move. Most parents choose to sleep baby in their room for at least the first 12 weeks, which means monitors are only really useful for home daytime naps. Don't spend big here, go for something simple that allows you to hear what's going on without looking in and gives you peace of mind. And as for toys, before you know it you'll have a mountain of soft teddies and other play things from family and friends. You really don't need to buy any toys for your newborn.
Knowing that you have everything you need to welcome baby into your home, you can relax, rest up and take some time for yourself before the big day. Enjoy new beginnings with your newborn, it's such a special time that goes by all too quickly. Happy bonding!