Baby must-haves: 13 essential newborn baby must-haves
13 Jun 2021
Sorting your baby must-haves can be a daunting task. I mean, where do you start? I have to admit I felt pretty overwhelmed when trying to pre-empt what I might need when Rex was born. I had no idea what might come in handy, or what even existed to help me navigate my way through motherhood. And it doesn't help that there is a seemingly neverending list of baby things you can buy.
The truth is, a baby doesn't actually need that much. You've got the essential newborn baby must-haves, of course, nappies, clothes, car seat to get home from hospital, obviously. But most of what you can buy for a newborn is all about making life easier for parents, which, I'm all for. However, you need to be clever about your purchases.
The two main things to consider are budget and space. Trust me when I say items such as play mats, rocking chairs, toys etc, not only quickly add up, but will also soon take over your living room if you're not careful. With all of the above in mind, I've put together this list of baby must-haves, all of which have been recommended by real mums using them every day, me included.
I've added links to where you can buy a lot of the stuff below, but I would say always have a look to see if you can get any of this stuff second hand. A lot of baby stuff has a short shelf life, as in, it's only used for a few months/years tops, and so most things have plenty of wear left in them once finished with. And you can save a lot of money by getting these things pre-owned.
Need somewhere to store all your baby items? Don't miss my round up of the best changing bags available now. Plus this ultimate hospital bag checklist will make sure you have everything you need for your new arrival.
13 baby must-haves: MB's top picks
Ok, so it's far from a glamorous purchase, but a thermometer is an absolute newborn baby must-have, in my opinion. Having an accurate way to read your baby's temperature is going to help keep your mind at ease when it's within normal range but also alert you to any fevers or issues that might need medical attention.
Hollie is nine-weeks-old at the time of writing this and the in-ear thermometer I have for Rex (who is almost four) is too big to go in her tiny ears, so I've just bought this Braun Age Precision under arm thermometer for her. With this particular model you can set the age of your child on it (0-3 months, 3-36 months, 36+ months) and then just pop it under their arm for 8 seconds to get their temperature. Highly recommended.
02. Sensory muslins
I say sensory muslins, in fact, muslins in general are a newborn baby must-have. I'm talking a whole stack of actually, you can honestly never have too many muslins. But I found recently that sensory muslins are a 'thing'. Actually, they've probably always been a thing and I'm just very late to the party, but anyway, I can highly recommend them. Not only do they job a muslin does, i.e. catch puke and basically any other bodily fluid being hurled in your direction, but sensory muslin can be used to entertain them too.
I have a load from Etta Loves and they are honestly the best muslins ever. I drape them over things while I change or bath Hollie, and they pretty much mesmerise her every time. So she's super still as she just stares at them. It doesn't always last that long, but it's always ample time to get her bum changed with waving her arms or kicking her legs into the pile of poo she's just curled out. There are loads of brands that do these now but I can highly recommend Etta Loves. The quality is really great, plus they send a brilliant little muslin hacks card with any purchase with ideas on how to use their muslins (aside from just wiping up baby vomit, I mean).
03. Tommee Tippee prep machine
Every mum I know who has bottle fed swears by the Tommee Tippee Prep machine, me included. This nifty little gadget makes a bottle that is ready to go in lightning fast time (I haven't actually timed it but it's got to be no more than a minute). So when your baby wakes and goes from lovely sleepy baby to hangry ball of tiny human in 0.6 seconds, you have a bottle to go almost immediately.
We purchased one of these when I switched to bottles with Rex and it was like a revelation. His middle of the night feeds went from being this hugely stressful 'PLEASE COOL DOWN QUICKER BOILING WATER MY BABY IS SCREAMING' experience, to a very relaxed couple of minutes to sort his bottle before he was happily chugging away.
It's not cheap, about £100-£110 depending on where you buy it, but if bottle feeding is how your baby will be fed, the amount you'll use it will make it more than worth the price tag. It does require some maintenance, you have to change the filter every so often, the timing of which the machine will let you know via an indicator light. Filters are about £11 and they last quite a while (I've been using mine for the past six weeks and the light is yet to come on).
It's a bold statement, but if you're planning on bottle feeding your baby, the Tommee Tippee prep machine takes the top spot, along with the Braun thermometer, for me.
Note: The model pictured above is an older version than the one currently on sale. I bought ours nearly four years ago when Rex was a baby, and the machine looks to have had a slightly nicer looking, more compact upgrade since then. See my Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep review for a closer look.
I would also like to add to this, on my shopping travels today I came across the Nuby Rapid Cool, which looks quite new. But also super impressive. For anyone who bottle feeds, this looks to be a bit of a gamechanger when you're out and about. Trying to time when your baby might want a bottle and having to sort it with boiling water can be a nightmare, however this looks to solve that problem so I'm thinking of giving it a whirl...
04. Baby carrier (of some sort)
When it comes to newborn must-haves, ask any mum and a baby carrier or sling will almost certainly be in their top five. When these tiny humans come out into the big wide world, many of them, quite understandably, don't like to be too far away from mum or dad, which is lush because there's nothing quite like newborn cuddles. But it does make every day life quite restricting. Having a baby carrier or sling is a great way to get all those cuddles in but also free up your hands so you can eat without having to shove your face in a plate of food, amongst other things.
I have a Caboo sling and a Baby Bjorn carrier (pictured on Eamo above), both of which I would recommend. However, I must note here that the Caboo sling has taken me a long time to figure out how to use. I gave up trying with Rex as I just didn't feel confident enough that I'd strapped him in properly. Thankfully there are very easy-to-follow YouTube videos on how to put them on, and I've now finally mastered it with Hollie. I'd like to think I'm not the only one who has struggled with these things, they are honestly a bit of a brain teaser, especially if you're not the most confident when handling/holding a newborn. But if you master it, they are brilliant for carrying the tiny humans about.
That said, I use the Caboo for indoors and the Baby Bjorn for when we go out on walks. The Baby Bjorn for me just feels safer, I have no idea if that's the case, but Hollie feels much more secure and protected from the elements in the Bjorn. I'm not saying go out and buy loads of carriers, I got both of ours second hand for a really great price. If you're thinking of investing in a carrier but aren't sure what will suit you best, there are lots of baby carrier/sling hire services available for you to try some out, which I would highly recommend.
05. Baby chair
Much like a sling, a baby bouncer chair is great for giving you some freedom, and many mums I know swear by them. There are so many options on the market, which range from budget products that you can simply sit baby in, to more expensive products that include things like music, lights and programmable movements.
I recently bought this BabaBing Float chair for Hollie, which is super basic and cost £26. I'll be honest, she's not the biggest fan right now, and gets the hump if she's in it for more than about 5-10 minutes, depending on her mood. But I'm hoping this is more of an age thing and that as she gets bigger, and gets more used to not being held, she'll take to it more. The reason for this is it's really light and so super easy to move around the house if you want to be in a different room.
We also have a 4 moms rockaRoo that sends Hollie off to sleep in minutes. Now before you go thinking we are made of money, I promise you, we're not. I bought it second hand when Rex was a baby and turned out to be worth every penny so held on to it incase we had anymore kids. I put Hollie in it now as, as much as I love swaying her to sleep, I don't love spending all day doing it, so it's great for saving my arms and that impossible task of putting her down without her waking up. I highly recommend the 4moms rockaRoo, however I wouldn't have bought this brand new. It's a lot of money off the shelf, and while it's definitely earnt it's price tag in my house, there are cheaper alternatives that I'm sure would do a similar job.
06. Baby bath
Seems pretty obvious to say a bath is a newborn baby must-have, but, like every baby product, there's a load of them to choose from. We have this Skip Hop Moby tub, which comes with a newborn insert that can be removed as the baby gets bigger. This is another item I got second hand, and I can't recommend it enough. The newborn insert means I can sit Hollie in it without holding her (but still watching her like a hawk) and she can just kick about in the water while I wash her. It has a little hook at the top so you can hang it up after to properly dry out, and a small plug at the bottom to let the water out.
The only downside to this is it is quite big and bulky, and therefore takes up quite a bit of space. It's also one that sits on the floor, which means you have to aswell, which isn't the best for anyone suffering with back problems. I do know quite a few people who have and highly recommend Shnuggle baths, which you can buy stands for so you don't have to be sat on the floor with baby.
07. Feeding pillow
One of my lovely friends gave me this feeding pillow for when Hollie was born, and I have used it pretty much every day since she arrived. They are called feeding pillows but I use it more for sitting Hollie in. It's super portable, not to mention comfy and she loves just sitting in it and watching the world around her.
In the first few weeks that I was breastfeeding, this pillow was a life saver. You can put it in pretty much any position to support either baby or your arms while feeding, which was a lifesaver when we were trying to establish feeding and she could be on me for up to an hour. Bottle or breastfeeding, this is a definite newborn baby must-have.
Amazon currently has a very similar Mamas & Papas feeding pillow for a pretty reasonable price.
08. Bottle steriliser
I remember being so confused by sterilising when Rex was a baby. I was told so many times everything has to be sterile for a newborn baby, that I became mildly obsessed with it. And then confused, because once you open the steriliser, surely everything inside was no longer sterile? Annnnnyway, I've stopped overthinking the simple task of sterilising now, but the long and short of it is, everthing that a baby uses has to be sterile. And with Hollie being bottle fed, that means a lot of sterilising throughout the day.
With Rex I used this Philips Avent electric steriliser, which worked well and can fit a lot of bottles/products inside. But it was quite large so took up quite a bit of space, plus it seems to get clogged up with limescale quite quickly, but that may just be because we have very hard water where we live.
Anyway, I clearly wasn't overly impressed with it as this time around I opted for the Mam microwave steriliser (pictured), which I can easily get lots of bottle/accessories in and are sterilised in just six minutes. Plus it's super easy to clean. There's a divider so you can organise bottles and accessories, the lid doubles as a drainer and there's a set of tongs included for hygenic use. The set I bought also came complete with two newborn Mam bottles too, so worked out at excellent value.
The only slight issue is that it's quite bulky, so might not fit inside some smaller microwaves. Checking the dimensions of a steriliser and that it will fit inside your microwave is a must do before you buy. It takes up quite a bit of space, however when it's not in use, I just leave it in the microwave out of the way. A definite newborn baby must-have, at an excellent price.
09. Dummy steriliser
Carrying on the subject of sterilising, I'd never heard of the Milton Mini Portable Dummy steriliser until a few days ago when a lovely mum on Instagram shared details with me (thank you Shoina) . And I ordered one immediately. I have genuinely lost count of the amount of times I've put Hollie's dummy in when we've been out and about, only for her to spit it out seconds later, it fall on the floor and I then can't use it.
Well, my friends, THIS little gadget solves that problem. I haven't actually used it yet (as it hasn't arrived) but my understanding is you fill it with cold water and a mini sterilising tablet before you leave the house. Then the dummy can go in and after 15 minutes it's ready to use again. And the same solution can be used throughout the day so baby can drop it as much as they like and you still have a way to sterilise it. Ok so you've got to wait 15 minutes before it's ready, but that's a damn sign better than a whole day trip without a dummy, right? It also comes complete with an adjustable strap so you can attach it to a pushchair or changing bag for easy use. Genius.
10. Bottle warmer
I don't own one of these as we are currently using the Tommee Tippee prep machine, however a few of my friends absolutely swear by a bottle warmer, this Philips Avent one in particular. I can totally see how this would be a game changer for night feeds, with no more sticking refridgerated bottles of milk in a tub of boiling water and constantly checking to see if it's the right temperature.
The details say the bottle warmer warms milk evenly in just three minutes, and it can also be used to warm baby food when they get to that stage. The only slight caveat here is compatibility. The product description says it is fully compatible with all Philips Avent bottles and containers, however doesn't mention anything about other bottle brands.
That said, Philips isn't the only brand that does bottle warmers so if you're after one, definitely have a shop around for one that fits the brands of bottle you've chosen.
11. Breast pump
If you decide to breastfeed, then a breast pump is a sound investment for a number of reasons. Firstly, establishing breastfeeding can take a while, and pumping can really help stimulate your milk supply. Secondly, if you can get your baby to take a bottle, pumping breastmilk means other people can feed, freeing you up to rest, go out or enjoy a glass of wine without the worry it will affect your breastmilk.
When I had Rex I hired a Medela breast pump and it was great, so much so I bought a single Medela breast pump and used it almost every day for the first six weeks of his life. The only thing about the Medela pump is the noise, it's loud (compared to other pumps) so there's no hiding what you're doing. From anyone. It also has a horn shaped attachment that fits on to your boobs, so you need to have the puppies out to pump.
There are plenty of other breast pumps on the market these days, many of which are silent and can just fit snuggly inside your bra so people are none the wiser. However they are pricey, so you probably want to make sure you're committed to breastfeeding before you shell out any cash. That said, even the noisy ones don't come cheap (unless you can get one second hand, which I highly recommend), so try to be as close to 100% sure you'll use it before you invest.
12. Breastfeeding apron
Speaking of breastfeeding, if that's how you choose to feed your baby, a feeding apron can come in handy when you're out and about. When I breastfeeding Rex I wasn't comfortable doing it in public, and so a feeding apron really eased my anxiety about heading out when I knew he would need a feed.
I want to stress right now that I bought a feeding apron to allay my own anxieties around breastfeeding, no-one elses. Rex and I really struggled with feeding and it could sometimes take me ages to get him to latch on. Having an apron meant I could deal with this situation if it arose with some privacy, which made me feel much more comfortable.
They don't cost much, I grabbed one of these from Amazon, but there are loads of styles and designs to choose from online. A definite newborn baby must-have if you're feeling a little anxious about breastfeeding out and about. Looking for nursing tops? Don't miss our round-up of the retailers with the best maternity clothes and nursing gear available now.
13. Buggy organiser
This might seem like a weird one to be on a list of newborn baby must-haves, but trust me when I say these little organisers are a game changer. Your baby changing bag will be full to the brim, and no doubt hanging from your pram or attached to you so easily accessible. However, with a buggy organiser you can take out and have the essentials you need to hand immediately.
I have this Skip Hop pram organiser (pictured), which I purchased when I was pregnant with Rex. It's a universal one (like most designs), which just velcros on to the chassis of the pushchair. I use it for anything and everything, depending on the weather etc – water bottle, a couple of muslins, sun cream, keys, phone (I always bury it under the muslins so it can be easily seen or taken). One of the best buys for when your just popping out for a stroll or going on a long walk. Highly recommend.
Not a fan of this design? Check out my round up of the best buggy organisers to keep all your essentials handy.