At some point, every new mom-to-be will find herself in front of a huge shelf stocked with baby products to last a lifetime. Catalogues, online shopping, newborn services and what friends suggest, add to the questions every parent asks when preparing for a baby: what are the necessities, really? What are nice-to-haves and what are need-to-haves?

Shopping for a newborn is exciting, but can be overwhelming, so this guide may help you to make your personal checklist.

Baby clothes

Clothing for the first six months should be comfortable, with wide head openings, loose legs, or snap fasteners at the neck, at the legs, or front opening. You’ll need:

  • 4-8 vests/onesies, both short and long sleeved.
  • 4-8 one-piece pyjamas, both short and long sleeved, fleece for a winter baby.
  • 4-8 pairs of socks. Until baby walks, shoes are unnecessary.

In South Africa’s hot summers, babies are often dressed in a vest only, or even just a nappy. If you are expecting a summer baby, you can rely on vests, onesies and rompers.

If you are expecting a winter baby, look for a soft cap that covers baby’s ears.Skin-to-skin eliminates the need for dressing baby with a cap after birth, as baby’s temperature is regulated naturally. No-scratch mittens are also not recommended, as baby relies on accessing her hands, which were free in the womb.

Nursery/bedroom

Each family has to determine their own needs according to preference and available living space. Prepare for your unique needs and be prepared to adapt after birth. High energy babies and low energy babies have different needs. Some babies will require more touch than others, and co-sleeping may become a possibility.

Arrange the space you have available to include:

  • Nappy changing area: either on a bed, or using a compactum, or a changing table.
  • Crib/bassinet/cradle/co-sleeper and firm, flat mattress.
  • Bedding, including a waterproof sheet. Keep in mind that some babies may need a weighted blanket, while others prefer no blankets. Blankets and receivers can also be rolled and placed around baby’s head, feet and sides to create a snug environment, mimicking the womb, for a calming effect.

Bath time and nappy changing

Either buy a purpose-made baby bath or bath with your baby. Bathing with your baby keeps her comforted by your presence, your touch and your smell, and it’s a great timesaver too!

Bath products should be free from harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates and sulfates. Many fragranced baby products and petroleum-based products may cause skin irritation and could contain hidden preservatives and colourants.

Organic skincare products are widely available and last long enough to pay the extra penny. Coconut oil, an all-natural product, has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can be used as cleanser, moisturiser and massage oil as it absorbs well into the skin. Natural products are both effective and cost-effective.

Talcum powder can help to prevent chafing, but it can also irritate sensitive little airways if it is inhaled, so use sparingly if you decide to use it.

Bum cream is advisable if you’re using washable nappies, but today’s higly absorbent disposable nappies mean you can largely dispense with bum cream except if your baby does get a nappy rash.

When deciding whether to use disposable nappies or washable  cloth nappies, you can work on seven disposable nappies per day as a good average.

Washable nappies are available as flat towelling nappies and fitted cloth nappies made from either cotton or bamboo. They’ve proven to be more gentle on the environment and are cost-effective over the long term, despite the high initial investment  Cloth nappies are adjustable with snap fasteners and 16 should be sufficient to start out with.

Wipes make cleaning bottoms fuss-free, but can contribute to skin irritations if overused. If cost is a factor, you’re looking at 22-50c per wipe: many parents prefer using a washcloth and lukewarm water to clean baby’s bottom. Four soft washcloths and two towels will last long enough, if they are durable and well made. Use different colours or patterns to distinguish between washcloths for nappy changing and bathing.

A grooming kit should include a soft brush, comb and baby nail scissors and/or small clippers.

Safety and medical equipment

A good quality digital thermometer is essential. In-ear thermometers give accurate readings, especially in the first three months, and after three months, a forehead thermometer is as effective. Combined in-ear and forehead thermometers are available, and make taking an uneasy baby’s temperature simple.

Another item that needs to be of good quality is a baby monitor. There are many monitors to choose from, and many can be linked to an app on your mobile phone. Wearable monitors are very easy to use, clipping onto a nappy, which means that the baby monitor is actively used during the day and night.

A medicine kit prepares you to treat ailments at home. Ask your primary healthcare provider for advice on what you need to stock at home and be sure to seek medical attention when you feel the need.

A great addition to the medicine kit, is a rice-filled sock, that can be heated for one minute in the microwave to relieve baby’s stomach cramps.

Travelling

A safety-approved car seat is an absolute essential. Car seats are age- specific and it is very important to stick to the given guidelines.

Outside of the car, if you’re walking, a great way of travelling with your baby, whether you’re visiting the clinic or out and about on a trip, is baby wearing, which comforts baby through the movement, touch and smell of the wearer. Choose between a baby wrap, carrier or sling .

A diaper bag or backpack should make all trips easier. You’ll need nappy and feeding supplies, and don’t forget a change of clean clothes for any accidents.

Equipment and containers

There’s actually very little you need apart from keeping your baby clean, fed and clothed. Equipment like walkers, jumpers and seats can hinder muscular, skeletal and neurological development. Keep things simple: allow a lot of rug time and rather invest in a good quality play mat, where baby can safely explore her body and close environment.

In the first six months, you will find baby’s curiosity leading to age appropriate movement, which in turn leads to developing strong muscles and mind-body connections.

Healthcare services

It is of utmost importance to adhere to standard post-birth check-ups. Beyond these check-ups, be sure to have money available to pay for clinic visits and immunisations.

When you need breastfeeding advice, get it from a registered lactation consultant rather than a friend. Lactation consultants can determine whether you are possibly experiencing anatomical problems like breast or nipple abnormalities, or if baby possibly has a tongue and/or lip tie. Your midwife, clinic sister and lactation consultant will advise you and may refer you to treatment as needed.

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