Becoming a parent for the first time can be a daunting prospect and there are so many things you need to buy before the little one’s arrival… Or are there? In the interest of avoiding waste, myTOT’s Head of Content Clodagh asks experienced parents about their most used items and the ones you should avoid altogether.
Bill, are you there?’ I shout, as I hold my arms out in front of me like an overtired mummy zombie. We’re in the kitchen and the whole room is filling up with steam. I shuffle about a bit, blinded by the warm condensation, and hit my knee on the corner of the bin. ‘I told you we didn’t need a steriliser!’ he said. ‘But, but… That magazine said we’d need one!’
Ok, so I exaggerate. The room wasn’t totally filled with steam. It wasn’t a Chandler/Jack Gellar/sauna/lap situation. I’ve used artistic licence to set the scene, but it was blooming steamy once the bottle steriliser got turned on. So steamy in fact, Bill was worried the wallpaper would peel off and took it outside to turn it on. After about four days of plein air sterilising I’d had enough. It was bad enough that I was still going through the early days of figuring out breastfeeding on zero sleep but now I had to contend with a facial every time I wanted to feed my baby top-up formula? This was not going to work, no siree. ‘How else can we clean bottles?’ I asked him, sensing a hungry baby meltdown at any second. ‘Mum said we can just boil them in a pan. That’s what she did.’ And, it turns out, that’s what we did. For a whole year. All we had to do was rinse the bottles, place them in a pan filled with some water, pop on a lid and wait for it to boil. No bells, no whistles, no hefty price tag. And no clunky machine taking up loads of space.
Now, we didn’t buy this item because we either try borrowing things or buying them second hand for much cheaper. But I know most parents have regretted certain purchases they were told they couldn’t live without. We’ve parted with cash and stepped over piles of stupid, useless things left unused for months because the marketing guys sniffed out our naïve anxiety like the Highway Rat in a cakeshop. There are also brilliantly useful things out there that make everything better and to them we say THANK YOU FOR EXISTING, YOU EXCELLENT INVENTIONS YOU. Here are mine and other parents’ best and worst baby purchases – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
The Ergobaby Aura Wrap was a game-changer. Our daughter felt snug wrapped up on my chest, always slept and instantly stopped crying in our second hand wrap. It’s lightweight and super comfy, albeit a bit lengthy, so careful of puddles when putting it on.
Our sleep pod really helped her sleep because she felt enclosed. After she grew out of it at three months we co slept, but I was grateful to have my own space in the bed to rest and recover in those early days.
Dr Brown’s Anti-Colic Bottles saved us. Our daughter was particularly refluxy and had suspected colic but after we switched to these bottles for her top-up formula, it all went away (along with long and extensive burping – a serious must). The 100% vacuum-free vent system meant she didn’t take in extra air, so avoided painful trapped wind.
Anything marketed for ‘tummy time’ is best avoided. We were told it’s some big milestone and bought colourful playmats and all sorts of other stuff to try get our daughter to lift her head up while lying on her tummy. She barely lifted her head for months, not because she was behind but because she couldn’t be bothered. Just relax and save your cash.
I pimped out our Ikea Antilop highchair. Why I felt the need to make a plastic chair designed to be covered in banana mush and pasta sauce cute is beyond me. I spent £25 on a second hand Liberty print high chair cushion that I was scared would stain, so took it off at every meal anyway.
Mamas and Papas swaddle wrap blanket. This was just… An epic fail. No matter what way we tried it, the blasted thing wouldn’t work. I ended up preferring swaddling our daughter in large muslins and thin blankets.
Annabelle Lee, Hastings
The best. Our son absolutely loved his Jumparoo, which we got second hand. For four months he jumped and jumped. It tired him out and I could get stuff done. Not all babies like them, so things like that are always worth getting second hand.
Babygrows with zips are so much easier. I got a bundle of 10 for £20 second hand, all lovely quality and great condition. They’re absolutely brilliant for night feeds.
The worst. Baby towels and those cute dressing gowns look adorable, but you really don’t need to put them on babies! Any newborn ‘outfits’ are a waste of time – they just wear babygrows for months.
Don’t buy breast pads before you have a baby – wait and see if you need them. A fancy breast pump was also a waste of money for me. I found the £10 Hakka pumps are so effective. You put them on a boob, while you’re feeding on the other one, and it collects milk, without you having to do anything. If you’re just wanting to express the odd bottle a Hakka pump is great.
Helen Wright, London
The best. A clip-on highchair was the best thing for us. It’s ideal for Airbnb and travel in general. Not to mention friends and family who don’t have baby stuff at their house. We used the Phil and Ted Lobster and couldn’t do without it.
Kendall Bauer, Liverpool
The best. I loved the Ollie swaddle. I tried so many swaddles and the Ollie was by far my favourite.
The worst. Our most unused item was the stupid bottle warmer! Why did I even waste my time when all I had to do was run it under warm water or just let my kid drink it cold?
Etta Watkins, London
The best… so far! In my ten days of experience with my newborn, the best thing I’ve purchased has been a breast feeding pillow and anything that vibrates like the Rockit.
Kirstin Fitzgerald-Pull, Surrey
The best. The Baby Bjorn Balance bouncer is amazing. Our daughter used it from eight weeks old and is still using it now at almost two. It folds flat and can be hidden under the sofa. Babies moving makes it rock itself and toddlers get their own chair to relax in.
Our MAM baby bottle was brilliant. They literally sterilise themselves and come completely apart, so no chance of crud build-up in the corners. We’re still using the ones we got when I was pregnant.
The worst. Muslins. I’m not saying they’re totally useless. Wiping little bits of spit up, a handy cover when pumping in public and ideal for using as baby strait jackets to swaddle but why everyone says you need so many I will never know! When I was pregnant every mum told me I needed as many as I could get my hands on. I ended up with around 15 and only needed two to three, really.
Socks don’t stay on, or the washing machine eats them. When it’s cold I just went for tights under trousers as an added layer, or footie onesies.
A wipe warmer. Why!? They don’t need to be a thing and you won’t have it on you in public, anyway.
A monitor for a newborn is not always needed. You never leave them because for the first three months they’re attached to you. We ended up giving the one we borrowed back and never replaced it because we all shared a bedroom for the first 18 months.
Playmats and baby gyms are lovely in theory but take up so much space for the time baby uses it, so we ended up putting ours away. Lay a blanket down and use things like egg boxes, books or rice in empty bottles to entertain your baby.
Laura Marie, London
The best. We love the Yoyo pram. I wouldn’t have been able to travel with my travel system pram, as it’s too big for the plane. The Yoyo is a must if you tend to travel a lot and use public transport.
The worst. A waste of money was buying dummies and bottles “just in case” breastfeeding didn’t work. I bought quite a few bottles and she always refused to take them.
So there you have it…
Parenting is a learning curve and making mistakes is all part of the, erm, fun? But hopefully we’ve helped you avoid some frustrating purchasing mistakes and sent you in the right direction towards some great items that will make things easier for you. Ultimately, whatever you decided to buy or do for your little one is what is right for them (but seriously, a wipe warmer? That is bonkers.) so you do you mamas and papas!