Welcoming a new baby into the world is a wonderful and exciting time. However, the challenges of impending parenthood can turn the lives couples lead upside down, especially first-time parents who don’t really know what to expect. The good news is that you have nine months to read, research, make decisions, prepare and stock up your house so that you are ready when the little one arrives. Having a baby comes with a lot of expense, so planning ahead and buying the necessities over a period of time can help ease the financial burden.
Your baby’s impending arrival also heralds a host of decisions you might not have given thought to before, like making out a will, choosing life insurance and starting a college fund. But for now let’s concentrate on the immediate essentials:
Stock up on newborn nappies, cotton wool balls (dipped in warm water they are easier on sensitive newborn skin than wipes), nappy bags, anti-bacterial gel bottles and a changing mat. Disposable nappies are convenient, especially when you’re out and about, but they are expensive and not very good for the environment. Washable nappies are cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but obviously they are less convenient, especially when you’re out and more time-consuming for laundry.
The safest place to change your baby’s nappy is on a mat on the floor. But to save you backache, the next best thing is a changing table at waist height. If you use a table, have everything you need within reach and never leave your baby unattended.
If you choose to breastfeed, which is recommended, buy some cotton nursing bras which have detachable cups. Get fitted by a specialist around weeks 36 to 38 of your pregnancy as they should be the right size.
Nursing tops are also good, as they are very discreet, and H&M stock them at a reasonable price. Otherwise you can just wear layers (i.e. a vest under a t-shirt), which means you are fully covered while feeding. Nipple cream containing lanolin is very soothing for those initial days when you are getting the hang of breastfeeding and breast pads cover up any leakage.
If you’re going to bottle-feed, you need to stock up on bottles, a steriliser and a bottle brush with a long neck. The bottles need to be washed in warm water and sterilised after each use. Don’t buy infant formula milk too far in advance and remember to check the use-by-date.
In the first few weeks you can wash your baby in a large plastic bowl or baby bath with warm water and cotton balls. (For dry skin or cradle cap you can dissolve Silcocks Base cream in the water). Always make sure you have everything to hand and buy a couple of soft towels with hoods to keep the baby’s head warm when you take them out of the bath.
Whether you choose a crib, cot or Moses basket, it’s essential you buy a brand new, firm mattress that fits properly with no spaces at the edges. You’ll also need four sheets and several light cellular blankets (so baby can breathe if the blanket goes over the face).
Never use pillows or duvets in their first year, as they can cause overheating and suffocation. Don’t leave any toys in your baby’s bed as they can get caught around your baby’s neck.
The baby should always be put down in the bed ‘feet to foot’, which means their feet are at the end of the bed and cannot wriggle down under the covers. Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Out and about
Just a baby sling is enough for short walks, but if you’re going out for a couple of hours you’ll need nappies, wipes, milk, cloths, so a pram or pushchair is essential. There is no need to buy an expensive nappy bag, a large handbag will do.
It’s a good idea to get a baby car seat well before your due date, so you’ll be familiar with fitting it by the time your baby arrives. It should be rear facing and brand new (you cannot guarantee a second-hand car seat is undamaged and they are considered expired after six years). Shop staff should demonstrate fitting them or the Road Safety Authority offers a ‘Check it Fits’ service nationwide (www.rsa.ie).
Your baby will be growing pretty fast, so in the first few weeks all you need are about seven bodysuits (vests) and seven sleepsuits (babygros). Natural fabrics like cotton and wool are best to let your baby’s delicate skin breathe. It is advised to wash anything new before dressing your baby in it and always use non-biological detergent.
Muslin cloths are always handy to have to mop up spills and spit ups.
The big day
Even if you’re normally a last-minute packer, from about 30 weeks into your pregnancy you should be starting to gather essential items to bring with you to the hospital for the delivery, with the aim of having your hospital bag ready to go by 36 weeks. If you are expecting twins or triplets, this should be done by 30 weeks.
You’ll need two hospital bags – a small one for the labour ward and a larger one for the post-delivery ward. There is often not a lot of storage space in hospitals and big cases can easily become a safety hazard so only bring the minimum. Anything you forget can always be brought in later. The small bag should have new night wear for you and toiletry essentials, along with an outfit for baby, nappy changing essentials, and if you’re bottle feeding, bottles and formula.
You may want to include a birth plan in your labour ward bag to give to the mid-wife. This is a document that lets your medical team know your preferences from simple things like how you prefer to be addressed to how you would like them to manage labour pain. Keep in mind that you can’t control every aspect of labour and delivery, and you’ll need to stay flexible in case something comes up that requires your mid-wife to depart from your plan.
Language like, “If possible…,” “unless medically necessary…,” “I prefer…,” tells the staff that you know that a change in plans is sometimes needed. At the same time, make sure your partner is familiar with your preferences so that they can speak up on your behalf if you are not in a position to.
If it feels like you are packing too much in your hospital bags, maybe leave some items at home – such as your going home outfit - and you can have your partner or a family member bring them to you as you need them. This way, you won’t feel like you are bringing a case suitable for a two-week holiday.
Make sure your partner knows where the hospital bags are kept in the house. As labour can be a slow process, your partner might want to pack a bag too. Things they should consider packing are their toothbrush and toothpaste, a change of clothes, deodorant, some snacks to keep them going, a camera, a book or magazine and a mobile phone and charger.
The final weeks of pregnancy can feel like an eternity, but packing your hospital bag is actually a nice experience, because it means you are that little bit closer to the big day.
Hospital bag checklist
- 3 light cotton pyjamas or nighties (front-opening for breastfeeding)
- Old/cheap comfortable underwear
- 2 maternity/nursing bras
- Socks, slippers and flip flops
- Going home outfit
- Nipple cream and breast pads
- Maternity pads
- Towel & toiletries
- Mobile phone and charger
- Money for snacks
- A pillow from home can be comforting.
- 4 vests
- 4 babygros
- 1-2 cardigans
- Scratch mitts
- Nappies & nappy bags
- Cotton wool balls
- Soft hooded towel
- Cellular blanket
- Car seat (only to be brought in when you’re leaving).