The REAL Essentials for New Parents

In a spare five minutes this morning, I was reading the current issue of Gurgle magazine.  As we all know, first-time parenthood is all about the stuff, or at least that's what the manufacturers and media would have us believe!

The article I read featured parents recommending the things you really need for your baby, beyond the obvious (cot, car seat).  They mention things like a bath seat, dummy, baby swing, cot mobile, nappy bin and a bath thermometer.  I agree with only the last one!

As I found myself disagreeing with all the other suggestions, I began thinking about what alternatives I might have come up with, from a natural/attachment parenting perspective.

So this is my list of everything a new parent needs, beyond the clothes, nappies, car seat etc:

  • Your boobs - breastfeeding your baby, for as long as you possibly can, provides all the food and comfort they could possibly need.  See all our breastfeeding articles for help, advice and support sources.

  • Your arms - that's where your baby should be, I'm afraid, not in a baby swing/rocking chair/Moses basket/cot/whatever else, at least not for the first few weeks and months.  Yes, I know you need to go to the loo/take the laundry out/make a cup of tea, but it's amazing what you can learn to do one-handed, or stick baby in a sling.  Result: you're hands free & can 'get on'; baby is cuddled up close to you & happy.

  • Your lap - ditto.  If you're sat down (if not, why not?!) and baby's asleep, have them lying in your lap, or if they're awake have them sitting or lying in your lap so you can interact with them.  Remember, your baby is learning all the time, from your facial expressions, how you move your mouth to speak, eat or drink, etc.

  • Your voice - that's how your newborn knows you.  Their vision is very limited for quite some time so your smell and your voice are the most familiar things to them.  Your voice is also the best source of comfort, alongside your milk and your touch.

  • Your smell - see above.

Sophia holding Nanny's hand, 5 weeks old

  • Your hands - your newborn is reassured when you hold them confidently and firmly, but gently.  Your hand stroking their brow or head will send them to sleep quicker than any man-made device.  And what could be nicer than drifting off at your mother's breast with her face just in sight, her touch on your brow, and her voice singing you a lullaby?

  • Your partner who, in most cases, will have all of the above except the boobs!  Yes, your newborn knows you best, but they will recognise your partner's voice from being in the womb, and if given skin to skin contact with your partner a short time after birth will be familiar with their smell, hold and touch too.

Well look at that, you already have all of those things, without spending a single penny!  Seriously, all your baby really needs is YOU.  No, you won't be making a rod for your own back by soothing them to sleep; yes, you will be able to breastfeed*; and no, your baby won't be missing out by not being surrounded by lots of expensive kit.

Me with Lara a few hours after birth

You will, of course, need some stuff for baby, but the beyond-the-essentials list is fairly short.  I'd suggest:

  • Muslins - a large stock of.  They're something you never understand parents raving on about before you have children, but they are handy for everything, so buy loads!

  • Sling, baby carrier, or several.  Take a doll shopping with you (seriously!) and try them out.  Find what type works for you, then buy new if you can/want to, or scour e-Bay and nearly new sales for a secondhand one (or two).  If you get into babywearing, you may even end up with a whole library of slings...

  • A feeding pillow is useful, but a couple of normal pillows from the spare bed work fine too.

  • Cotton wool/top'n'tail squares.  Ideally you shouldn't use anything on your newborn's skin other than cotton wool and tepid boiled water for the first six weeks,so no harsh wipes.  After that you can buy fab little muslin top and tail squares, which are perfect for cleaning faces and bottoms, and just get slung in with your cloth nappy wash.

  • No toiletries is also the ideal up till six months, but if you desperately need to use something, make it organic. But remember that babies don't actually get dirty, cotton wool and water cleans most things, and nappy rash can largely be avoided by giving baby lots of nappy-free time.

  • From about three months on you will need some toys and books to entertain baby.  Sophia is just starting to look at and play with Lara's old Lamaze toys, and the Manhattan Toys Whoozit toy is always a favourite!  I've put a few ideas at the bottom of this post.

And that's it!  If you'd like some more suggestions on how having a baby needn't cost you the alleged thousands bandied about in the press, take a look at our feature on how to save money when having a baby.

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  1. Really great post! I am currently in the process of deciding what I really need and what I don't before baby arrives and this is so useful! I plan on breastfeeding and baby-wearing for the most part so it's comforting to know that I probably have most things I need already :) I'm looking forward to your breastfeeding and weaning posts.

    1. Glad to be of help. Will post more soon, let me know if there's anything specific I can help with. I don't claim to be an expert but have learnt a lot in the past 2+ years (often the hard way), and am still learning every day.

  2. I reaaly enjoyed reading what you had to say and I wish I had had someone when I was 18 I could have asked my many zillions of questions I had and didnt ask because people judged me cos of my age and being a newly wed. I look back now and realize how many of those people have come back to me many years later and said what a wonderfull job I had done raising my lovely sons and a grand daughter.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. It is hard work to find your way sometimes, isn't it? Sounds like you've done a fantastic job with yours though, how lovely to receive such compliments.

  3. I agree with nearly everything. This is all a new mom and a new baby needs. And a lot of confidence to follow her instincts! Such a refreshing article, thank you! One exception for me would be the BabyBjorn - you should avoid baby carriers that keep baby's legs a'dangling from the crotch. Babies' legs should be supported from knee-to-knee when carried in any type of sling, in an anatomically correct position that won't put pressure on the hip joints (sorry I don't know the exact English word for it). Also, newborns are best carried in either a woven or a stretchy wrap with legs shaping an "M" (middle "spike" of the M being the little butt) or like a frog's legs, until they learn to sit up without help. After that, you can bring on the buckles! This is my opinion and the best (though not the most detailed) of my knowledge in this matter of slings. :) For starters look up JePorteMonBebe (stretchy), Boba 4g (buckles), Girasol, Oscha, Hoppediz, Yaro, etc. (woven wraps). Videos galore on youtube, too, about how to carry right. Keep on, ladies&mamas!

    1. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for pointing out that we still had a BabyBjorn highlighted in there! Like many, that was our first taste of babywearing and we quickly learnt the error of our ways and moved on to wraps, Boba etc. Thanks Livia x


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