Baby essentials you'll want to spend money on
There’s a lot of pressure to spend up large in anticipation of your impending arrival. nursery specialist Grace Nixon separates the essentials from the luxuries.
In my experience there are three important items new parents need to purchase: somewhere for baby to sleep, a child restraint for the car, and a buggy or pram to get out and about easily.
Here we’ll explore the approximate costs of these essentials, as well as the benefits of some luxury items you may still have room in the budget for.
A safe place for your baby to sleep should be at the top of your shopping list. Bassinets and Moses baskets are popular choices but can actually be considered luxury items, as you can easily and safely sleep your baby in a cot from newborn right up until they’re ready to move into a bed, at around two or three years old.
Cots cost anywhere between $200 to $2000. If your budget is tight, I suggest buying a cheaper cot and investing in a good quality mattress that’s made of natural fibres. Mattress materials can release gases that your baby breathes while they sleep, so the more natural the materials, the better. If you’re buying or borrowing a secondhand cot, do make sure you buy a new mattress, as you never know if it has been wet from spills and leaks from the previous baby, and it could have mould on the inside. It would be very unhealthy for your baby to be breathing mould for up to 18 hours a day while sleeping! You can get a good quality mattress for around $150-$200, depending on your brand of cot. Make sure the mattress fits your cot correctly.
The benefit of having a bassinet ($250–$350) or Moses basket ($150–$200) is that they’re much smaller than a cot so you can easily sleep baby in your room. A Moses basket, in particular, is very easy to pick up by its handles and move around the house, which is handy if you want baby to sleep in the lounge during the day so she stays close to you. Another benefit is that baby often feels a bit more secure in a Moses basket or bassinet due to the smaller size, as baby is used to being in a cosy space inside of you.
Portacots cost anywhere between $60 and $500, so if you’re only going to use one for a couple of nights a year, you might not need to buy the best on the market. I recommend waiting to purchase one until you actually need to use it. Look at how much use it will get and then base your investment on that.
Realistically, baby monitors are a luxury item unless you live in a large house where you can’t hear your baby cry. However, I am a big fan of them and believe that, if you’re going to have one, you should get one with a camera. This allows you to see the reason your baby is crying (she may just be finding her sleep) and assess the situation before you go in to her room. Baby monitors will set you back anywhere from $65 for a basic model to $400 for a fancy one with full colour screen and sensor pads.
You cannot leave the hospital without your baby being in a car restraint, so some sort of carseat or capsule is definitely an essential. You can buy carseats that ‘grow’ with your baby from newborn to five or six years old, or you can use a capsule that carries a baby from newborn up to around one year old. If you’re debating whether to purchase a newborn carseat or a newborn capsule, definitely go for the capsule. You can pop the capsule in a supermarket trolley, on your buggy frame, on the floor at a café or your friend’s house etc, and basically do what you need to do without waking your baby.
If you decide that a capsule is the way to go, the next question is do you buy one or do you hire one? This depends on your budget, and for the sake of this article, buying one is a luxury. You can hire a capsule and base from retailers for as low as $50 for six months, whereas purchasing a capsule and base costs around $400. The benefits of buying a capsule and base are that you know for sure that they’re new and clean, and haven’t been dropped or in a car accident. As your baby will only be in the capsule for up to one year, many families purchase the one capsule and base and share it around, so one capsule can be used by all the new babies in the extended family. This way they can be sure it has been kept in top condition.
Buying a pram or buggy is third on the list of the top three essential items you need for your baby. Which buggy to purchase is a whole other article in itself, but it’s the myriad of accessories available to purchase on top of your buggy that can also be overwhelming. Firstly, be assured that a buggy on its own is the essential item here, and all the accessories are luxuries. If you do choose to invest, I’ve listed a few of the more common accessories below, in order of priority.
Purchasing the rain and sun covers for your main pram is well worth the investment, as it’s important to keep your baby protected from our harsh New Zealand sun and frequent showers. Rain covers are also great to protect baby from a cold wind. They usually cost around $50 each but vary depending on your brand of pram.
The capsule attachment, where you purchase adaptors that clip onto the frame of your buggy (so your capsule can be attached to your wheels) is the next most worthwhile investment. This enables you to easily transfer baby from the car to the buggy without disturbing them. Plus it saves your back from carrying around the capsule. Capsule attachment adaptors cost around $80. Just make sure you don’t exceed the recommended time limit for how long your baby can travel in their capsule.
Another useful pram accessory is the carrycot attachment. This is a luxury item but is very handy while you’re out for a long walk, at the mall, or over at friends’ houses, as baby can sleep soundly and safely flat on her back for hours. If you don’t have a Moses basket, you can use the carrycot attachment at home so baby can nap near you (in the lounge or kitchen, for example) during the day. Some carrycots can even replace the Moses basket altogether as they’ve been tested to be used safely as your baby’s first bed. Not all brands have been tested though, so do your research if you’re looking into this. Carrycots cost around $250 to $300.
Last, but definitely not least – the coffee cup holder accessory. A luxury item, perhaps, although some would argue this is, in fact, an essential! You decide. These cost around $10 to $40.
You will need somewhere to change your baby’s nappy but you certainly don’t need to invest in a specific change table to do this. You could purchase a change mat and pop it on the floor (although that’s not great for your back) or secure the mat to the top of a set of drawers. You can buy a change mat for as little as $30, and spend up to $1200 on a change table.
In terms of nappies, the long-term cost- effectiveness of cloth nappies outweighs disposable nappies two to one, with cloth nappies costing around $1500 to $2000 and disposable nappies costing over $4000, based on your baby being in nappies for approximately two and a half years. Personally I don’t see either option as an essential or a luxury, what you choose should be based on your personal preferences, lifestyle and budget.
The kitchen sink and your bath/shower are all perfectly acceptable places to bathe your baby. Purchasing a specific baby bath is great size-wise – you use less water than filling up your large bath, and you can have the bath on a bench or table so you don’t have to bend over too far. They are, however, often bulky and babies grow out of them by six months old – so you then have to find somewhere to store it until your next baby! They are a cheaper item though, costing around $30 to $80.
If you’re wondering what products to use in the bath, invest in good quality natural or organic skincare products as baby’s skin is thin and sensitive. Otherwise just use water. You don’t need to invest in a range of shampoos and body washes, they all do the same job so just pick one!
Although your baby will be easily stimulated in those early weeks by simply looking around, they will enjoy being entertained at some point by books and toys.
It is great to pop baby on a mat or under a play gym for some play time while you make a cup of tea, but you don’t need to purchase a lot of expensive toys or invest heavily in an expensive bouncer. Your baby will be more than entertained lying on a soft blanket with colourful clothes pegs hanging above her or playing with a pot and wooden spoon when she’s a bit older. However, if you’re shopping for items to entertain your baby, colourful toys that make a rattling noise, black and white books, and mirrors are a good place to start.
There are so many more items that could be debated as to whether they’re essential or a luxury. Ask your friends and family what products they think are essential, and why. Then look at your budget and prioritise the items that are important to your lifestyle, and go from there. Shop around, there are some great bargains to be had!
Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based midwife and nursery specialist. Go to practicalparentingantenatal.com to learn about her antenatal classes, where half the time is spent discussing what happens after baby arrives!
Photography: Jaimee Clapham
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 43 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW