Top 20 Newborn Essentials- Things to Buy Before the Little One Arrives

29 October 2019

Babies are tiny little creatures but gosh! they are a mindfuck. Little things, so much maintenance. So much of unknown. Especially for first-time parents. While pregnant, I was so clueless about baby needs. I had never been around babies. I never took care of any of my nieces and nephews. I've been in NZ for more than a decade now, sans family. I missed out on many births and birthdays. I did not have any parent around when my baby girl was born (intentional, more about it here in her 'Birth Story' post). So you see, life after delivery was a mystery. I had no one to guide me, no reference points. I turned to my workmates. They gave me lists of must-haves. They gave me a hospital bag check-list. I picked and chose stuff that I 'THOUGHT' we might need. I did some things right, I could have done some things right. However, I have no regrets. You can't ace something you don't even know about. I don't live on a deserted island. My husband can fetch me something I need urgently. In fact, he did. He made frequent trips to the Baby Factory store nearby, armed with screenshots of the exact product I wanted. You can't mess with men. The instructions need to clear cut.

If you are pregnant or have a newborn, please know that it'll all be fine. YOU GOT THIS! You don't need as much as the world makes you believe. The baby needs mum, milk, sleep and diapers. That is all. Everything else is just nice-to-have.

Here's my list of stuff that I believe is must-have if you are taking care of a newborn or expecting one soon.

1. A Safe Place to Sleep- Your Bed (if co-sleeping), Crib, Bassinet or Pepi-pod

Babies need a safe sleeping space. This could be your bed, a crib, cot, a basket, an attached pod to your bed or a Pepi pod. Lose bedding around the baby is a suffocation risk, especially when they are that little.

We got given a Pepi pod by our midwife. It’s essentially a plastic container with bedding, that can be put on the bed beside the mother. It creates a safe barrier. We tried our best to get Aiza into it but she just wouldn’t sleep without touch. Hence, we also never used the Mocka cot we bought. We sold the unopened cot as is. Aiza still sleeps on our bed between us, one hand touching me and another her papa.

Every baby is different and every family has different circumstances. Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone so whatever it is that you plan, know that baby will take the lead.

2. Nappies - of corse!
First and foremost, the nappies. Opt for the newborn size and learn how to change a nappy from the hospital nurse/midwife like we did. Seriously it's a life skill.

Our favourite nappy brand is Treasures Care. The only nappy brand made right here in NZ. We've recently discovered them and have been loving the soft 100% plant-based nappy cover. These premium nappies are made with sustainably sourced pulp. It stacks up on functionality too. Ultra-absorbent and lasts up to 12 hours.
I'm giving away a jumbo pack of it on my Instagram page here. Tag a pregnant friend or new mum/dad and enter your preferred size and you'll be in to win. NZ residents only.

3. 3 sets of clothes

3 onesies, 3 bodysuits, 2 caps, 2 pair of socks, 2 hooded towels, mittens if the onesies don't have fold-over cuff option.

We still have 3-4 pairs of clothes of Aiza that are worn on rotation. No more.

It's wise to choose natural fabrics for babies so consider pure wool, merino wool and 100% cotton. Avoid polyester and other synthetic fabrics.

4. Merino Blanket/ Wrap Cloth/ Receiving Blanket

Newborns get cold easily. They are just out and hence their body doesn’t know how to thermo-regulate. Hence, a good quality receiving blanket that you can use even years down the line is a worthy investment. We got one made by a kind granny on the TradeMe website. It’s a 100% Merino square blanket. We used it to swaddle in newborn days. Now it’s a blanket, a coverall, stroller cover and all that. As it’s 100% Merino, it doesn’t overheat her and can also be used in all weathers.

5. Swaddle

Your baby is used to being compact inside the womb so naturally, they prefer being snug when they sleep.
Did you know for the first few months, they don’t even know that the hands and feet are theirs? So they scratch and even wake themselves up with their arms.
Swaddling is a technique whereby you wrap the baby snug. There are many videos of it online if you want to learn how to swaddle.
Aiza had all her naps while swaddled till she was 8 months old. She dropped the habit after we went for our Europe trip this year (Remember I mentioned it here).

There are many brands available, however, I have to caution you to check measurements. The cheap Kmart ones are too small to swaddle a baby comfortably. The brand Aden+Anais make one of the best swaddles. However, they are very expensive. Hence, I asked mom to buy a 120 x 120 cm pure cotton muslin cloth for me (from a Turban store in Punjab, India). That was essentially our swaddle. Cheap, best and functional.

6. Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag isn't an immediate must-have. For the first 3 months (it's called 4th trimester), your baby is likely to sleep on you. Yes! literally on you. Baby needs warmth, sense of safety, security and coziness. All that's in a mother's (or father's) embrace. So please don't fret if people tell you you are spoiling your baby. You can't spoil these little wee things who depend on you for everything. They've just come into this unknown world and all they know is you. Just keep them close.

When they start transitioning on to bed and cot (if that's your arrangement), you will find that they move around a lot and don't like having loose sheets or blankets over them. In fact, it's a suffocation risk to have lose bedding around newborns. A sleeping bag is your answer. We invested in one from SnugBags. It's a light-weight merino wool sleeping bag with 100% cotton exterior. We still use it to this day. The 0-2 years one is still serving us well. It's withstood countless washes. Aiza sleeps snug in it. She is warm. Merino wool and cotton are both natural fibres hence I'm at peace that she's not over-heated. SungBags NZ makes many types of sleeping bags, based on weather type and wool weight. You can choose how warm you want your sleeping bag. Ours is their standard merino sleeping bag which is suitable for temperatures ranging from 18 to 27 degrees, which is similar to using a sheet and one blanket. It's super lightweight too. Linked here. 

There are many other brands that make good quality sleeping bags. I urge you to consider the ones with natural materials. No polyester for the baby, please.

7. Feeding Pillow

As a new mother, my biggest struggle was establishing Breastfeeding. If it wasn't for my very supportive lactation consultant, I'm not sure how I'd have coped with the emotional and physical toll that comes from breastfeeding. It was the hardest thing in the first few weeks after birth. I'm glad I persisted through the soreness, engorgement and pain. We've come a long way since then. It feels natural now but I can't forget the painful beginnings.

I didn't buy a feeding pillow initially. I fed her with a normal pillow under her. Sometimes a pillow/cushion under my knees too. Add another pillow behind my back. Breastfeeding was a physical nightmare, all until I bought a feeding pillow from Farmers NZ. It was a gamechanger. It helped my posture. It gave my body parts some relief. It supported Aiza and overall made for a better feeding experience for both of us. I highly recommend investing in a good one.

It later supported Aiza as she began to sit up. I only used the pillow until about 6-7 months. We started with feeding while laying on the side and never went back to the pillow. I'd still consider it a must-have for the first few months while you are getting used to the ropes of breastfeeding.

8. Breast Pump

I use Haaka manual silicone pump.

As I mentioned before, I had no clue how to do the whole motherhood thing and from all the chaos of the first few weeks, breastfeeding was by far the hardest. I wasn’t prepared for the milk to come. I kept hearing from the midwife, you’ll know when it comes. Usually Day 3. I said I had some. She said you’ll know when the milk actually comes. Well come day 3, I woke up with humungous engorged boobs. So full, so painful. I tried some tricks off the internet. Fed some to Aiza (ouch!), drained some, took a warm shower, drained some there, bought soothing gel pads. Nothing worked long-term. Then my kind midwife lent me her Haaka silicone pump. She said buy yours if you like it. Too kind! I ended up using it for 2 weeks and then I bought my own.
This manual silicone pump attaches on breast effortlessly and drains one breast as baby feeds on the other. Basically all the letdown milk. It comes in 2 sizes, I have the bigger 150 ml one. I still use mine frequently. Especially now when I’m preparing to go to work and building up a milk stash for Aiza in the freezer.
I have not used an electronic pump so I can’t how they work. I love Haaka as it’s so lightweight and effortless. Though I’m not sure how effective it will be once I join back work and have to pump some milk during lunch break. Aiza wouldn’t be on the other breast to stimulate letdown milk. The worst-case scenario is that I’ll either pump when I’m back home or I’ll have to buy an electronic pump or Aiza starts drinking cow milk during the day. I don’t plan on stopping breastfeeding just yet, so we will still do morning and night feeds.
As I was home with Aiza this past year, this manual pump has served me well. Definitely my money’s worth.
You can do your own research and pick a pump based on your needs and circumstances.

9. Baby Balm

A good baby balm is essential from Day 1. It has very many uses and can be your answer to every newborn skin problem. I was recommended NZ made 100% natural Tui Baby Balm by my midwife. I bought one and then another one. It’s good for everything really. It saved Aiza’s bum, her skin, her lips, my lips, my nipples, etc. You get the drift! An everything balm really. I highly recommend this brand.
In this past year, I’ve tried many other baby balms and other lotions & potions. My favourites are Savar Baby balm (as an everything balm again), Sudocream (a zinc-based cream especially handy for nappy rash), Weleda Nappy change cream and other Weleda products.
I did not use soap on Aiza for the first month. We gave her plain water or milk baths. I used 100% cold-pressed almond or coconut oil as an after-bath moisturiser in newborn days.
We later switched to Savar baby products, Mustela cleansing gel and Weleda Calendula range for babies.

For a newborn, a good 100% natural baby balm and a good cold-pressed oil should do.

10. WaterWipes

Your newborn needs the most gentle baby wipes there is and I truly believe it's WaterWipes. I've written in detail about them here. 13 months on we are still using them; albeit on and off now as they are a bit expensive. However, they were the only wipes we used for the first year of her life. 99.9% water and a touch of fruit extract as a preservative. It's the next best thing to water. Of course, when you can, nothing replaces water. Water is still the most eco-friendly and sustainable option.

11. Bath Tub

This is definitely one of the top newborn essential. The little ones are so tiny and fragile. I was paranoid about dropping Aiza (still am), especially when she is slippery with soap on her skin. A good supportive bathtub is needed from the very first bath. We had the one with back support. It served us well for 8-9 months. We now use our laundry tub for her baths as she can sit up without support. When we lack the time (which is too often these days), we take her to shower with us. Two people shower at the same time. Win-win! We still have fun in there.

12. Block-out Curtains

We installed block-out curtains many months late. Our room had a lot of light leaking through blinds and I was having a hard time putting Aiza to sleep. I struggled to extend her day naps. If and when she did sleep, they were bang on 25-minute naps. Our naps are a little better now because she's older. Also, I’ve given up and accepted that Aiza needs touch when she sleeps. She digs for that warmth. However, installing block out curtains still made a massive difference. Our room is now super dark even on a sunny day. No light penetrates. It makes it quicker to put her to sleep. It has somewhat extended her naps too. It has helped minimise distractions. Darkness is also needed for the growth hormone to kick in so it's good for baby's health and well-being too.
I researched many block-out curtain brands online. There are actually many brands available. Some are travel-friendly even. The portable ones have the suction feature or can be installed with command hooks. We wanted a sturdy quick solution so we DIY’ed curtains over our regular blinds. We bought a simple curtain wire, hooks and curtains from Spotlight NZ store and put them up ourselves. It was a few hours job but we cherish them every day.
If you are struggling to put your baby to sleep, getting the room darker is the solution. They are especially more useful during long summer evenings.

13. White Noise Machine 

This has to be one of my top essential. We did not buy a white noise machine for a couple of months. I used my phone instead. My phone played womb sounds all night on YouTube. You know YouTube though! If you open another app, there goes your music.

Why white noise? As a foetus, your baby is used to a lot of sounds inside you. The whish-whoosh of uterine fluid, your heartbeat and all the commotion inside & outside adds to the noise. When just born, they come into complete silence, complete utter silence of a hospital room. Imagine that! It must be scary and uncomfortable. Womb sounds and white noise (music, hairdryer, rain sound, vacuum running) are comforting for the baby. They feel less scared.

I still use our Vtech Portable Monkey Soother to this day. My girl is 13 months old now. In fact, it's playing on the baby monitor as I type this. I still use it because my girl is a light sleeper (like me! I can't even blame her). The music/white noise drowns all our noises. We are able to tip-toe around her and do our own thing. It makes our life easier. We even take it with us during travels.

14. Baby Monitor

We bought a baby monitor at Christmas so we certainly did without it for almost 3 months. It was a gift from in-laws and the best gift there is. I asked for it as I really needed one. We invested in the Philips Avent scd 60 model. It's a video model. There are a lot of options available in the market so do your own research. We love ours so much. It was rather expensive but has paid for its value in more ways than I can count.
Why baby monitor? So you aren’t a constant guard for your baby. So you can step out of the room when they sleep. So you can have some me-time and still keep a watchful eye over them.
Since the day we got it, we use it every day. While Aiza naps, I do my things. It has infrared night vision feature so I can see the baby even when our room is pitch dark, thanks to the block-out curtains. I am writing this blog post now, as Aiza is sleeping soundly. I can see her on the baby monitor camera. We carry ours while travelling as well.
As your baby grows, you’ll use it even more. They start moving around the bed so it's a blessing that you can go to them as soon as they stir, preventing any nasty falls and accidents.

15. Car Capsule/ Car Seat

This should have been my point no. 1. In a developed country, you will not be able to bring baby home without a car seat/ Infant Capsule. In NZ, your midwife or hospital nurse drop you off to the car and check your baby seat arrangement. This is one thing you must sort before baby arrives. Everything else is non-essential and dispensable.
We had an Edinburgh Infant capsule kindly passed on to me by a workmate who had no use for it anymore. He also handed me a car seat for free, which we started using a couple of months later.
Word of caution: when buying car seats or infant capsule online/second-hand, do check their expiry date.

16. Buggy with a bassinet feature or attachment

Not an immediate newborn essential but definitely an item you’ll need after first few weeks locked inside the home. Newborns sleep a lot, hence, a bassinet attachment in your stroller or a capsule that can attach to your buggy is much needed if you want to go out with the baby. Thankfully, my Phil & Teds Mod buggy (reviewed here) came with this feature. We didn’t need to buy any fancy bassinet, carrycot or attachment system. We still use and love this stroller.
We also zeroed on Mountain Buggy Swift as our stroller of choice. However, Mod won us over in the end, because it could be used right from the newborn days.

17. Baby Wrap, Sling or Carrier

Newborns love to be snug and they love sleeping on you so if you’d like to go out and about, a baby carrier is your best friend. Not all of them are suitable for newborns. Some have newborn inserts to support their fragile neck and back. For the first 3-4 months, we used Elki Baby Wrap. Wraps are quite trendy these days and definitely very supportive for the baby. I never got used to mine and found tying the knots a bit cumbersome when I had no one else around to help me. We then moved to Manduca Baby Carrier, which had a newborn insert. It’s one of the top models and we enjoyed it for our hikes and walks.
We then moved on to LilleBaby All Seasons Carrier before we went travelling to Europe for 5 weeks. We are obsessed with it and still use it every day for her evening nap. Highly recommend it!
18. Baby nail clippers or nail scissors

Your baby is growing nails inside you as we speak and gosh! they grow fast. It is truly the scariest job in the world cutting a newborn’s nails but someone’s gotta do it. That someone is you. If you don’t, the baby will scratch their own face (and your boobs!) so keep a baby nail clipper handy.

19. Waterproof Changing Mat

This is a must-have in your nappy bag/box. There are disposable ones available in the baby stores but honestly, they are not environment-friendly. I do have a pair of those in our travel nappy bag but for home, we use a waterproof sheet cut into a quarter as our nappy changing mat. We did not purchase a changing table and have not missed it one bit. We changed her nappy on the bed with a waterproof sheet under her when Aiza was a newborn. We change her on the floor now as she can wriggle away from the bed.

A waterproof sheet under your bedsheet is also a good idea to save your mattress from human materials.

20. Food in your fridge and freezer for new mum and dad

You will forget yourself and your basic needs once the baby arrives. Their naps, feed and cleaning will take priority from the minute they arrive. One can do without shower and sleep, but food is a basic human need. Make sure you have some food prepared and stashed in fridge and freezer before your due date. Do some food prep so your husband can whip up a meal quick. Maybe teach him how to fix himself an avocado on toast. I did and Sunny does it better than me now.
I prepared a lot of food before my due date and it lasted us good 2 weeks. After those 2 weeks, we were a wreck. So consider preparing some food and storing it appropriately.

And that’s is all. I hope this post is helpful for to-be parents and any new mom & dads.
Good luck and best wishes for the changes coming your way. You will be scared, clueless, anxious, happy and at peace at the same time. The first few weeks are full-on but trust me they will pass by quick and you will miss them. It seems hard, but it will be over before you know it. Babies really grow by the minute.
Enjoy motherhood & Congratulations :)

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