Having your first baby is a bit like getting married. The minute its obvious that you’re pregnant, sales clerks see pound signs in neon lights on your forehead. There are so many things to buy. All of them designed to make your baby smarter, better, faster, happier, cuter…and with a rounder head. And very little of it do you actually need. But when you tell the sales clerk you’re looking to buy organic, environmentally responsible products…well, weirdo. Sadly, I suspect that those of us looking to buy natural products for their babies are in the minority, because even the big ‘healthy living’ stores like Planet Organic and Wholefoods have very little to offer aside from nappies and baby skincare.
As I’ve recently had a baby, and have gone through all the trouble of tracking down these products for my own use, I thought it might be helpful to share my list of essential items to have prepared at home for when your baby arrives. You can get most of these things from Amazon or John Lewis. However, if there are local eco stores in your town, I would encourage you to shop there…or better yet, see if you have friends and family who could lend you or give you hand-me-downs of the following items. So many of these items are used for such a short time, and not all can be found in environmentally friendly versions or at least in effective environmentally friendly versions.
As a blanket statement, when buying new cotton items, I prefer to buy organic, but if you’re getting non-organic hand me downs or gifts, don’t sweat it and just use those. Why buy organic? Because cotton production is responsible for 25% of the world’s insecticide use and 10% of its pesticide use, with those pesticides being amongst the most hazardous and carcinogenic. Not only do you not want any of that residue against baby’s skin, its just more environmentally responsible.
1. Your hospital bag and your baby’s hospital bag
I will be doing a separate post on this, but make sure that you have two bags ready to pack. Its much easier to keep your things separate from baby’s things. This is so your things can be easily accessed during labour and you’ll only need access to baby’s things once he or she is born. Your bag should be a small suitcase or duffle bag and baby’s bag can be your nappy/diaper changing bag. My husband bought me this Skip Hop changing bag for Christmas before the baby was born and it was perfect to have in hospital, and continues to be useful to this day for its original purpose as a changing bag.
2. Something to Sleep In
I know plenty of people who used an empty drawer as baby’s bed for the first few months of their lives. And others who chose to co-sleep. But…I wasn’t about to put my baby in an empty drawer. And despite being a natural mama, I just wasn’t comfortable with the risks associated with co-sleeping (even with safe co-sleeping guidance). We were given a Moses basket and I found it useful having her in the basket right beside my bed to pick her up for comforting and late night feedings. I liked that it was made from renewable resources and would easily biodegrade once it had reached the end of its lifespan. I found the Moses basket to be convenient, safe, easy to move around the house and inexpensive. Only you will know how long your baby needs to be sleeping in your bedroom with you, but the Moses basket will contain them for roughly 3-6 months before they outgrow it and need to go into a cot (unless you are a long-term co-sleeper). To go with the Moses basket, you will need a mattress, fitted sheets and ideally a stand or rocker base.
I’ve included links below to a plain, undressed palm basket (the same one we had), a natural mattress to fit it and the same rocker base we had.
You may be able to live without the rocker base or stand…but your lumbar region may not, so give it some consideration.
Two fitted sheets should be enough. I recommend organic cotton jersey sheets. The jersey is soft and doesn’t need to be ironed. There are organic waterproof mattress protectors for Moses baskets, but unless your mattress isn’t already waterproof, as most are, you won’t need one of these.
3. Cellular Blanket
You will be given many, many blankets as presents. Some for the cot, some for the pram. But just in case these don’t appear until after baby is born, its best to ensure you have one in the house ready to cover your baby in their Moses basket and/or pram. Cellular blankets are made with a loose weave so if the blanket goes over baby’s face, they should still be able to get air and will be less likely to overheat which is associated with cot death. The cellular blanket in the link below is made from organic and unbleached cotton.
4. Muslin Squares
Prepare to spend the next six months of your life mopping up poo, wee, vomit and drool. You will get used to it. These muslin squares were recommended to me by every parent I know. And they were right. They serve as burp cloths, drool catchers, towels, napkins, baby wipes…you name it. Its best to buy around 20-24 of these. Cotton is good, but bamboo is far more absorbent and the ones below are made from organic bamboo.
5. A Tippitoes Bath & Sponge
I am recommending this product specifically by brand as it has a raised section in the base and anti-slip back rest that helps babies feel supported and safe. Everyone told me to not bother getting a baby bath as you can wash them in a sink or the dish pan. This was bad advice! I did this for the first few weeks and consequently my little one hated bath time and screamed her way through – first in the dishpan (which was awkward) and then in the sink (which was uncomfortable for both of us)…until my friend lent me her son’s Tippitoes bath that he’d outgrown. Bath time instantly became fun, for both baby and me. She felt supported and safe and I was able to have more fun with her as she splashed around and giggled. More practically, I could finally wash her more easily with the sea sponge now that I wasn’t having to hold her in place. This product is not natural. It is plastic and it is expensive-ish for what it is at around £13.99. However, they can be found second hand on eBay and if you choose to buy one new, the resale value on eBay is very good, so you can pass it on to the next person. Don’t bother buying any baby toiletries as they are too harsh for baby’s newborn skin and you won’t need them until later down the road. Even now at 4 months, I still only use coconut oil with a single drop of lavender or chamomile essential oil to wash my baby.
6. Baby Towels
Your baby will need a couple of hooded towels for after bath time. Lots of shops recommend Cuddledry apron towels which do look really cozy and they are organic. If you can afford them at £29.99 each, great. However we just bought very simple, hooded baby towels which we use for bath time and now that our baby is older, we can take them to the pool too.
7. Water Wipes
There are some wonderful ways to make your own reusable baby wipes at home and someday I’ll provide links to the YouTube videos I’ve found useful. Even if you already plan on using reusable wipes, you will want to make your life easier when baby comes – just for the first couple of weeks – by using Water Wipes. The olive oil and cotton wool combo recommended by the hospital is just really messy and you cannot use conventional baby wipes on a newborn – nor would I want to do so at any stage (have you seen the ingredients in those things???) – but Water Wipes are 99.9% water and .1% fruit extract, so they’re very gentle on baby’s skin and they do an excellent job of cleaning even sticky meconium. I order them by the case at home and keep them at the baby’s changing station and in my changing bag.
You’ll need to have some disposables packed away in your baby’s hospital bag anyway, so just go ahead and buy a pack of eco-friendly disposables. We are a cloth nappy household and I would encourage anybody else to do the same. Modern cloth nappies are effective and just as easy to use and maintain as disposables. But for the same reasons as recommending the Water Wipes, you’ll want to make life with a newborn as easy as possible for those first couple of weeks. Out of the natural brands of nappies, we found the Swedish brand Naty worked the best for us and our friends. They are made from GMO-free corn, are biodegradable and don’t contain the chemicals found in conventional brands such as Huggies and Pampers. We also tried Beaming Baby Biodegradable Nappies but found them to be consistently very leaky. I’ve heard good things about Bambo Nature Nappies, but I’ve not tried them yet. We still buy the eco-friendly disposables for longer outings away from home so I recommend finding one that works for you. That being said, I would discourage anyone from buying conventional disposable nappies. The average baby will create around 2 tons of nappy waste in their lifetime and this will take a minimum of 500 years to degrade away in landfills, so please do give cloth nappies or at least eco-friendly disposables a try.
When and if you are ready to try cloth nappies, remember that every baby is a different shape so different cuts or brands may fit them best. I learned the hard way that you also get what you pay for with cloth nappies. Also, if you buy ‘one size fits all’ nappies or nappies that are too big for your newborn, you will get lots of leaks and you’ll be put off the whole idea of using cloth. For us, AppleCheeks and FuzziBunz® brands were, and continue to be, the best.
If you want to cloth diaper from birth then I would recommend Fuzzibunz because they offer an x-small nappy (4-12 lbs) whereas AppleCheeks size 1 only starts at 7 lbs. That was fine for our big baby but if you know that yours might be a bit more on the tiny size, then Fuzzibunz may be the way to go. You can also buy your cloth nappies second hand. eBay has now banned this practice on their site, but there are lots of Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand cloth nappies. Its not as gross as it sounds and its a cheap way of trying out different brands.
9. Footed Sleepsuits/Onesies
You know that cute little Ralph Lauren mini version of Daddy’s sweater vest and khakis ensemble or the adorable Bonpoint dress with cashmere cardigan you’ve already bought your bump? Yeah, they won’t wear it. I mean you might get it on them for a photograph and for meeting the grandparents or something, but your newborn will be much happier in sleepsuits. And you’ll be happier having them in sleepsuits because they’re so freakin’ easy to get on and off. No ironing of tiny miniature pleats or ruffles. Again, I recommend organic and buy a few newborn sized ones, if you can find them. They won’t be wearing them for long but even if you have a big baby, you’ll still get a couple of months’ use out of them. You can then either save them for the next baby, donate them to a charity shop, eBay them or sell them on one of the plethora of specialist organic baby clothes buy & sell groups on Facebook.
I say ‘footed’ sleepsuits so you don’t have to use those horrible little newborn socks that don’t stay on and will just clog up the filters on your washing machine. Its the same for scratch mitts. If you can find a sleepsuit with built in scratch mitts, you’ll appreciate it so their little talons aren’t ripping apart both you and them. (Tip: If you insist on using newborn socks and scratch mitts, wash them in a lingerie bag so they can’t get into the nooks and crannies…and filters and mechanisms…of your machine.)
Unfortunately when my baby was born, I couldn’t find any organic sleepsuits in newborn size, so we used a combination of second hand normal cotton sleepsuits in newborn size and some 0-3 month organic Toby Tiger sleepsuits. I have now found that L’ovedBaby make newborn sized sleepsuits and sleepgowns.
Have around 3 to 5 or so of these on hand before baby arrives in newborn size. If your baby is born during the colder part of the year, they are handy to layer underneath their sleep suit as an extra layer of warmth. In the summer it may be their main wardrobe staple. What we found worked best for us were these little kimono style bodysuits by L’ovedBaby which wrap around your baby rather than being pulled over their heads…something which is incredibly enraging to a newborn for some reason. Down the road they will also be awfully helpful at containing poo blow outs. The L’ovedBaby 100% Organic Cotton Kimono Short Sleeve Bodysuits come in loads of lovely colours and are available in newborn size which will fit preemies – something normally quite tricky to find in an organic brand.
11. A Newborn Hat
Just buy one of these little Newborn Baby Hats. These Lilano brand ones look like the one which Princess Charlotte wore when she came out of hospital and they are made from 70% Organic Merino Wool and 30% Silk and they even come in a Preemie size (2-5 lbs). Little babies only need a hat on indoors during their time in hospital, as they’ve just popped out of a very warm, cozy environment into a cold one. Once they’ve acclimatised however, don’t keep the hat on all the time while indoors like your mother and grandmother will tell you to do. Overheating your baby is linked to cot death and unless your house is very cold, keep the hat off until you go outside. Cotton ones are more common, but wool ones are designed to help regulate baby’s temperature and avoid overheating. If you do prefer cotton (or if you’re vegan and eschew wool and silk) these colourful Toby Tiger jersey hats are so incredibly soft and are in such fun colours…though we only discovered them once our baby was a couple of weeks old.
12. A Swaddle & This Book!
Buy something to swaddle with and a copy of this book: The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, MD. It does what it says on the tin. Key to the whole process is swaddling your baby. So get a swaddle. Even if you think your baby doesn’t like swaddling. Get a swaddle. You can buy a fancy swaddle like the Gro Swaddle which is idiot proof (I say from experience) and comes in a non-organic cute version with little woodland animals or in a plain organic version (which for some reason is a few pounds cheaper). You can also just use a big square of fabric like a blanket in winter or a big muslin square in summer.
13. A Car Seat
If you have a car, you will need a car seat. If you don’t have a car but ever travel in other people’s cars, you will need a car seat. What you don’t need is a car seat base. While they are incredibly handy for easily clicking the car seat in and out of the car, they are expensive (considerably more than the seat itself) and are unnecessary. It takes about 10 seconds to buckle baby into their car seat with the seatbelt.
Do try to get a car seat which is compatible with your model of pram/stroller.
For instance, we have a Bugaboo Cameleon3 pram/stroller system and we bought the BeSafe iZi Go carseat with five point locking system which clips on to the Bugaboo base with adapters. You can use the same adapters with Maxi-Cosi carseats, although they only have a three point locking system.
Do try to get a car seat with a five point locking system, if possible, for added safety, or buy a five point locking systems adapter to fit onto your existing car seat. Its available from places like Halfords (here in the UK).
14. A Pram/Stroller System
Pram and stroller shopping is like buying a new car. You cannot do it online. You have to go to the actual store – perhaps several times – and try each stroller out, weighing up the pros and cons of each. It is a major investment. It is also the only baby-related thing your husband will enjoy buying.
Do not let him take over. He is not the one who will be spending the next two and a half to three years pushing the child in it all day, everyday. Unless he is going to be a stay at home dad…in which case, ignore the previous sentence, and let him take over.
You will very likely wish to buy something which converts from pram to stroller so you can use it from newborn to toddler stage.
If you live in a city, make sure you buy something lightweight, with a sharp turning radius and something which is not too wide so you can get onto trains and buses easily. If you live in the country, make sure you get something with heavy duty enough wheels to manage gravel, mud and grass which little wheels can get stuck in. We went for the Bugaboo Cameleon3 because it managed all of the above criteria really well, but there are other good systems available at a lower cost. You can get second hand Bugaboo strollers on eBay, and all the parts are available to buy separately, so it means if one piece breaks or is damaged, you don’t need to scrap the whole stroller. My friend bought the base chassis second hand for £80 and then bought all the other bits, such as the pram and stroller fabrics, new, which saved her a bundle and got her a very nice pram/stroller system for her little boy.
15. Newborn Healthcare Kit
At some point within a day of two of getting home with your baby, you will be convinced that your little one has a fever and you will need to obsessively take their temperature, or you will need to suck out the little baby boogers from their sniffly noses, or to trim their tiny talon-like nails that grow incredibly fast and are oh-so-sharp. Or if your baby isn’t bald (mine was) then you might even just want to brush their lovely soft hair. This is when you will need a Healthcare Kit. Its not quite as serious as a first aid kit, but is more than just grooming tools.
However you end up feeding your baby, its helpful to have a couple of bottles on hand. You don’t need to buy a steriliser or a breast pump in advance. Unless you’re full time formula feeding, a steriliser is just another big piece of equipment on your kitchen counter and its quick to sterilise using boiling water by immersing everything in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. The bottles will stay sterile in a covered saucepan for about three hours afterwards. While you may end up buying your own breast pump down the road, don’t bother doing it now. You can rent the really good hospital grade breast pumps from the NCT, your hospital, a variety of commercial companies or your local children’s centre which often rents them for free, with a deposit which is refunded when the machine is returned. We bought these Nuk glass baby bottles which don’t leach any chemicals into our baby’s milk (there are more chemicals in plastics than the now banned BPA, I’m afraid). There are a number of glass baby bottles on the market but we found these Nuk ones were the least expensive, were sturdy (not a single breakage yet) and they have the benefit of the Nuk anti-colic teats. Edit: Also over time we have found them to be useful as snack pots for older baby/toddlers because they come with little screw on lids.