Must-have products for your newest family member
Review by Emily Hirschmann
It’s often been said, but for something so small, a baby needs a LOT of stuff. You start out thinking that you’ll be fine with a cot, but then someone mentions a bassinet, and you realise that the cot doesn’t come with a mattress. Then there’s the change table, the bath, the pushchair (with carrycot attachment), the monitor, the soothers, the breast pump, and suddenly you have a list 40 items long, a potential bill of thousands, and a worry that you’ve missed something out! Of course, we don’t begrudge the expense for our little ones – after all, we’re the reason that they’re here! – but finding the right products can be stressful in itself, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favourites, from the pocket-money purchases to the big ticket items.
Britax Dualfix Car Seat
(RRP £375.00) –
There are many big, expensive purchases to face when you’re having a baby, but one of the most urgent and important has to be the car seat. While cots and change tables can be improvised, unless you’re having a homebirth or live within walking distance of your birthing centre, there’s no getting away from the need for a car seat – even if you don’t drive, you’ll need one for the taxi home. The choice of car seats can seem overwhelming; there are so many options and things to consider, but for me, the most important issue is a brand’s safety record, and on that score you can’t do better than Britax.
Created for use from birth to four years (or 18kg, whichever comes first!) the Britax Dualfix car seat has been designed for ultimate flexibility. It can be used front or rearwards facing, has a 90 degree rotation pivot (possibly my favourite feature!) which allows you to comfortably and carefully place baby in the seat from the side without removing the seat, straining your back or risking the awkward placement of your precious bundle, and has outstanding side-impact protection. The initial installation is a little tricky, despite the brilliance of Isofix – and if you’re at all worried I’d recommend a trip to Halfords or similar for peace of mind – but once the base has been installed you don’t really need to think about it; the seat pretty much just clicks into place; really, nothing could be easier. And as for day-to-day practicalities, the cover can be fully removed for cleaning without the need to remove the five-point harness, the headrest is adjustable for when baby gets bigger, and the seat can be simply reclined into different positions, making long journeys much more comfortable for your little traveller. Clever, versatile, and most importantly, safe, the Britax Dualfix car seat is my number one choice for your little bundle of joy.
YogaBellies Baby Wrap
– Baby harnesses are useful for all sorts of reasons, but the two most common are simple transportation when a pushchair or pram is impractical, and hands-free comforting, both of which are important for me. However, I have a third reason for using slings; I have mobility issues. A long-term back problem means that my right leg often gives way, so climbing up and down the stairs requires both hands for stability, which means that carrying a baby puts us both at risk. Unfortunately, when you live in a house with upstairs bedrooms, there is no avoiding the issue, so I use a baby sling… Which brings its own problems! Uncomfortable, awkward, and often heavy, many harnesses make heavy work of baby-wearing; not so the YogBellies Baby Wrap.
Made from super-soft and stretchy organic cotton, the YogaBellies wrap is UK-made and fits like a piece of clothing, whilst still providing the support that baby needs. The first time of use it takes a little working out, but if you follow the instructions in the handy user guide, then you can’t go far wrong, and soon slipping it on and off will become second nature – at least, it will if you use it as often as I do! Because it’s made from cotton, the wrap is easily cleaned and because it’s so stretchy it’s really handy for covert feeding when on the go – while breastfeeding in public should be absolutely fine, I know very few women who wouldn’t prefer to protect their modesty and this sling makes that super-easy. Lightweight, suitable for new borns and up to 35lb (just under 16kg), and surprisingly hardwearing, this is one piece of babywear I’d be loath to part with.
The Fine Bedding Company Junior Protector Pad
– If there’s one thing that you can be absolutely certain about when you have a new baby, it’s that no matter how careful you are, or how securely you think that you’ve placed those nappies, there will be times when you find both wee and poo in surprising places! Babies have quite explosive bottoms, when it comes down to it, and boys are particularly tricky when it comes to the mid-nappy-change water pistol fight – the range is remarkably impressive! – so some precautions need to be taken, especially if you use an over-cot change table. The Fine Bedding Company’s cot protector moves away from those awful, crinkly plastic sheets that you and I remember from childhood, and instead delivers a wonderfully soft pad with a clever waterproof lining. The finish is so fine and soft – with not a crispy crackle within hearing distance – that it’s difficult to believe that it could do anything to prevent errant fluids seeping through to the mattress below, but surprisingly it does. We tested ours out on my friend’s 20 month old, who is usually dry through the night these days, but does have the occasional accident. The protector pad left the mattress perfectly clean and dry, and after a 60°C machine wash it was both stain and odour-free, and ready to be used again. I don’t know about you, but that seems a whole lot easier than having to scrub, dry and air a mattress, and for less than £30, the quality is impressive.
Dr Brown's New Born Gift Set
(RRP £45.95) –
Whether or not you’re intending to breast feed, it’s important to have a back-up plan and bottles available to use so that you’re covered for all eventualities – illness, bleeding nipples, or latching problems, or to give dad a chance to get involved with feeding from time to time, which is always nice. Dr Brown's New Born Gift Set provides everything you need, other than a breast pump, for the first year of feeding baby. Cleverly compact – everything fits within the microwave steriliser (so much quicker and easier than traditional sterilising) – the set comprises five bottles of different sizes, teats suitable for new born, 3+ months and 6+ months, bottle brush, sterilising tongs and bottle travel caps. The bottles have been designed with an ingenious vent system, which helps babies to drink without gulping too much air, which in turn helps to reduce wind and colic (they can be removed if you’d prefer to use without), making everyone’s life that little bit happier. That alone, makes this set a must-have in my eyes, but when you add in the comfort and convenience, Dr Brown's New Born Gift Set becomes incredibly good value for money.
Easy Mom & Baby Soft 'n' Snuggly Bamboo Swaddle
(RRP £12.49) –
Swaddle cloths are one of the most useful tools in the new parent’s arsenal. Of course they can be used for swaddling – as everyone now knows, babies are at their happiest when snuggled up tight – but they’re also great for keeping the sun off a sleeping baby in a pushchair/pram, draping over the shoulder to catch those sneaky winding deposits, using as in impromptu bib, and doubling up as an improvised changing mat when out and about, so you really can’t have too many swaddle cloths. Rather than traditional muslin, this swaddle from Easy Mom & Baby has been crafted from bamboo, so it’s super, super soft, long-lasting, easy to clean and nicely environmentally friendly – bamboo being one of the most sustainable and versatile resources on the planet right now. As an added extra, bamboo is known for its anti-bacterial properties, and as it’s very breathable it is perfect for use against sensitive skin. The extra-large size (120 x 120 cm) of the Easy Mom & Baby swaddle adds to its versatility, making this one of my new baby must-haves.
Snufflebabe Nasal Aspirator
(RRP £7.49) –
Nobody likes having a cold, but when a new born baby gets the snuffles it can be particularly frightening. Watching your little one struggle to breathe is a terrible experience and a nasal aspirator is a quick, simple and effective way to ease the problem. If the mucus is very wet you can use the device as is, placing it very gently at the opening of the nostril – not inside – and sucking through the mouthpiece, although do make sure that the aspirator is properly assembled with the filter in place, to avoid any unpleasant surprises! If the mucus has dried out, apply a small amount of Snufflebabe Nasal Drops (RRP £2.99) – a sterile saline solution – to the nostrils to loosen the blockage, then continue with the process as before. After each use, make sure that you thoroughly wash the aspirator, then it’s ready and waiting for when you next need it. Admittedly, it’s not the nicest of tasks you’ll ever perform, but when your baby is settled and breathing more easily and you can relax – OK, relax a little bit! – then you’ll find the Snufflebabe nasal aspirator worth every single penny.
TEN Baby Protective Diaper Cream
(RRP £6.99/75ml) and TEN Baby Soothing & Nourishing Lotion
(RRP £11.00/75ml) –
Baby skin is so delicate that you have to take care over the products you use on it. Personally, I favour a natural approach, which is why I’m such a big fan of the TEN range. Free from parabens, phtalates, SLES, formaldehyde and mineral oils, the products have been created to deliver the very best care to your baby’s skin. While the Diaper Cream is created upon a base of zinc oxide, which is known for its natural healing and anti-inflammatory properties, it also employs soothing almond oil and hydrating shea butter, creating a barrier between baby’s skin and the content of its nappy; it works wonderfully and smooths on beautifully. However, for me, the real star product of the range is the Soothing & Nourishing Lotion. Massaging your baby is a fabulous way to bond; baby enjoys your touch, while their skin benefits from the hydration and stimulation. The TEN cream has a simple base of sweet almond and sunflower oils, but liquorice and oats have been added to the blend to help calm any irritation, including itching and conditions such as eczema, and the consistency is just perfect for gently rubbing in to the skin and quick absorption. The scent is light and delicate, and overall, it’s simply a pleasure to use.
Dreamgenii Pregnancy Support and Feeding Pillow
(RRP £47.99) –
If you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, you don’t need me to tell you just how difficult sleeping can be. Not only are you hot and bothered, but finding a comfy position that doesn’t drag the bump or leave you flat on your back and cutting off the blood flow to the vena cava (the main vein between your heart and your lower body, which takes in the placenta) can be nigh on impossible, even without a little person playing football with your bladder. For that alone, Dreamgenii’s support pillow is worth the investment; the clever design providing back, bump and knee support, and keeping you lying safely on your left side throughout the night. However, add in its nursing support function and it becomes almost invaluable. Whether you favour the breast or the bottle, when you have a new born you spend a LOT of time feeding – one of my unluckier friends had a snacker who she couldn’t persuade away from the little and often routine, consequently she spent most of the day and the night propped up in her feeding chair – so finding a means to get comfortable is essential. The Dreamgenii pillow slots into the small of your back before folding around to support your arm and cradle baby. It’s comfortable and cosy, yet breathable so it doesn’t get too toasty, and with a choice of different covers available (RRP from £12.99) you can keep it clean without worrying about any little winding accidents. Perfect.
Dotty Fish Tag Blanket
(RRP £7.25) –
While, technically, you can’t really consider this to be an ‘essential’ in the same way that a car seat might be, babies do need sensory stimulation, and sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most effective. This beautiful tag blanket from Dotty Fish (which is available in a whole host of designs) appeals to baby’s senses and helps to promote development. The bright colours attract the eye, the varying textures – plain cotton on one side, super-soft snuggly fabric on the other, and various qualities on the pretty ‘tags’ – promote investigation, while the tagged edging provides lots of things for little hands to grasp, pull and put in the mouth. Beautifully handmade, each little square is of the highest quality and will double up as a comforter as well as a plaything – just the job for newly enquiring minds.
Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash
(RRP £7.50/200ml) –
I’ve been using natural beauty and body care products on myself for years, not really liking the idea of what synthetic chemicals can do to both my skin and the environment, so it’s hardly surprising that I also favour the natural option when it comes to most baby care. Weleda’s Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash is certified natural and free from the common chemical nasties that so proliferate in the skincare industry. Made from calendula – one of nature’s finest anti-inflammatory moisturisers – the shampoo and body wash carefully cleanses baby’s skin and hair while soothing, smoothing and hydrating any sore patches. It’s also been carefully formulated to ensure that the lather doesn’t sting if you accidentally splash some around baby’s eyes, so although they may not enjoy the experience, it certainly won’t hurt them. Naturally and delicately scented, Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash is an absolute pleasure to use, calming both you and baby, and making bath time one of the highlights of the day. While it is a little more expensive than many of its competitors, in my view you get what you pay for – a little goes a long way and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this again.
FunToSee The Very Hungry Caterpillar Room Decor Kit
(RRP £27.99) –
Again, this could in no way be viewed as an essential, but nursery décor is a fairly big concern to most new parents; you want the room to look lovely and provide some visual stimulation for your new little one. However, there’s also the realisation that what will work in your baby’s room now, won’t work for the long-term – babies grow into independently minded children scarily quickly. So what’s the solution? My favourite option at the moment is wall stickers. Easy to mount, wall stickers can quickly and efficiently turn plain walls into a work of art, and I’ve seen very few more appealing than this wonderful Eric Carle set from FunToSee. With 49 stickers, it’s possible to tell the complete story of one of our best-loved children’s books, or simply take your pick and use your favourite stickers to create an eye-catching display. Then, when the time comes for a nursery revamp, the stickers simply peel away, leaving clean walls ready for your next decorating scheme. Perfect.
Huggies Pure Baby Wipes
(RRP £1.00/56 wipes) –
One thing you can never have enough of when you have a baby is wet wipes. Whether it’s nappy changing or hand and face cleaning when on the go, you get through a vast amount, so it’s important to find a brand that doesn’t irritate baby’s skin, or have an overwhelming odour. Huggies Pure Baby Wipes are made with soft, natural fibres and water, so they gently lift dirt away without the use of nasties or perfumes; they’re just as effective as traditional wipes, in fact possibly more so, yet being free from alcohol, parabens and phenoxyethanol, they come with added peace of mind. Good stuff.
Available from all good pharmacies and supermarkets
Sudocrem Care & Protect
(RRP £4.29/30g) –
While we’re on the subject of bottoms, let’s talk nappy rash! Nappy rash is a horrible condition caused by delicate baby skin being exposed to poo and wee and rubbed by nappies, it makes baby very sore and grizzly and can lead to many more disturbed nights for both of you. Prevention is better than cure and Sudocrem Care & Protect does both. Working as a barrier between the skin and the contents of a nappy, the hypoallergenic cream helps to stop nappy rash before it starts, while added vitamins E and Pro B5 work to repair any damage as it’s being done. We used Sudocrem to help prevent nappy rash on the babies we fostered when I was a little girl. I think that the fact that I’m still using now, probably speaks for itself.
Squidge & Pip Sensory Teething Toys
(RRP £20) –
Moving away from the very new borns and on to babies of 3-6 months, teething can be a real trial for all concerned, causing pain and sleepless nights. Designed and made in the UK, the Squidge & Pip Sensory Teething toy has been crafted from medical grade silicone, making it super chewy for new little gnashers and yet super-safe to reassure worried parents. It’s cleverly tactile, with various different textures around the ring, easy to grip, easy to attach to a pram or pushchair so it doesn’t go AWOL when you’re out and about, and – as my little one-toothed niece assures me – extremely pleasurable to bite! Available in bright yellow and a softer shade of green, these teethers are also interesting to the eye, providing visual stimulus and play appeal as well as helping those sore gums. When taken altogether, it will come as little surprise that they were designed by a British mum, Mary Lord – who better to understand what babies need?
Judge Mini Chopper
(RRP £66.00 – currently on offer for £29.95) –
While this is another one that you don’t really need for a very new born, I do find that it’s best to be prepared, and a food processor is an essential piece of kit if you like to make your own baby food when they start on solids at around four to five months. While many of us will own a food processor already, a full-sized machine can be a bit of an overkill. Generally speaking, while you might be cooking in bulk, baby-sized portions don’t require THAT much bulk, so a miniature version, like the Judge Mini Chopper makes for a perfect alternative. With a powerful 200W motor, it can work through pretty much anything that you could throw at a full-sized machine, it’s incredibly easy to use – one button does the lot – and yet it takes up hardly any cupboard space. With a glass bowl, it’s also long-lasting – no easily cracked plastic here – and it allows you to keep a clear eye on what you’re doing, so whether you want the absolute pulp required for little baby food, or you want to blitz a quick batch of chunky guacamole, you can always see what’s happening within. I don’t use a food processor very often, but it is an incredibly handy device to have, especially when you have a little mouth to feed, so the Judge Mini-Chopper is really the only food processor I need. Compact + effective + affordable = perfect.