What should parents really buy for a new baby?

For most people, having a baby is one of the most exciting times of their life. It can also be an expensive time, with all the latest extras people may choose to purchase for their little one. However, the majority of these are not essential and the cost can be reduced significantly if people talk to family and friends and find out what they will really need.

An overview of what parents might find useful:


The majority of people use disposable nappies. They are convenient, easy to use, absorbent and what most people are used to. However, they can be expensive, costing on average £438 per year in the UK, and babies are normally in nappies for at least two years. That is almost £1000 per child for nappies. Additionally, there is the environmental impact of using disposable nappies, which could take up to 200 years to fully decompose. There are also concerns about the chemical components of disposable nappies, and how they can affect babies, both in the short term, through nappy rash, and in the long term.

There are two cheaper alternatives to using disposable nappies. The first is to use washable nappies, also known as reusable nappies, real nappies or cloth nappies. Parents are sometimes reluctant to use these as they are not used to them, they are not taught in antenatal classes, and, if baby is born in a hospital, there is no provision for parents to store or wash dirty nappies. Whilst the initial cost of cloth nappies may seem expensive, they are cheaper in the long run than disposables. They can start at a set up cost of £80, and cost as little as £1 a week to wash. However, they can be used for the next child, too, and the market in second hand nappies is good. Whilst some nappies need replacing as the child grows, others will go through from new-born to potty training. Shaped nappies are an all in one system, and effectively are the same to put on as disposable nappies. They are the most expensive type. Some councils offer assistance with the purchasing of cloth nappies. Reusable wipes are also available.

Parents will likely want to purchase a cheap changing mat. In the home, this can protect carpets, whilst out and about, it is something clean to put baby on when using public changing tables.

The second alternative is something called elimination communication. Elimination communication is reported to be a natural way of dealing with a babies toileting needs, yet the practise has been forgotten in the west. Parents look for cues when their baby needs to pass urine or have their bowels open and then take them to an appropriate place to do so. They may also use a trigger phrase to encourage the baby to go. Some parents use this method full time, others part time. If used full time, it may eliminate the need for nappies entirely, if parents feel confident with it.


If using a car, a car seat is a legal requirement. This is one area parents are unlikely to want to save money. Which independently review car seats, and test them to more rigorous standards than are legally required. Whilst it costs £1 to see the results, parents may wish to register to see how the car seats have held up in the tests.

Parents also need an appropriate method to move babies around when they take them outside. Whilst carrying them would be the cheapest option, it would not be the most practical and babies, carries in one’s arms for a long period of time are surprisingly heavy. The usual method is to buy a pram. The prices of these vary significantly, with prices ranging from about £150 to over £1000. There are also a number of styles, such as tandem, prams, travel systems and carriage (traditional) prams. Remember, babies need to be able to lie flat for the first six months. It is vital that parents choose a pram which suits their needs. For example, a parent who spends a lot of time in shops and confined spaces may find a carriage pram too big and bulky, whereas a parent who spends a lot of time just walking may enjoy this type of pram. It is important to view these in a shop, if possible, rather than just order off the internet, even if they are viewed in store and then ordered on-line. It is essential the parent is able to test prams to ensure they are the appropriate height for the parent and that the parent is happy putting the pram up and down, if necessary.

An alternative to using a pram is a baby sling. Also known as baby wearing, this method of transporting baby may be the cheapest option. Baby wearing allows parents to be hands free, but to remain in constant contact with their baby, which improves bonding and decreases the child’s crying. There are a number of different ways to carry the baby. Prices vary, depending on style, and range from about £40 upwards. Some women choose to make their own.


The cheapest way to feed a baby is to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, which is what the World Health Organisation recommends. Mothers may wish to purchase a nursing bra, some breast pads (either reusable or disposable are available) and some nipple cream for if the nipples become sore or cracked. Otherwise, breastfeeding is virtually free. There is no need to purchase bottles, sterilisers or a breast pump.

Alternatively, some parents choose to use formula. If having the baby in hospital, it is important to check whether the hospital supplies formula or not, as it is becoming decreasingly common that this is the case. Hospitals may prefer parents to take in bottles which are sold ready made. Parents should purchase a number of bottles and teats, which are easy to clean and sterilise. No evidence has shown one bottle or teat to be the best. Bottles and teats should be sterilised as per the guidelines on the packet of the sterilising solution. Formula should be made up as per the manufacturer’s instructions. It is important to make the formula up in this way, and not to add extra water or powder to the bottle.


Babies are messy, and clothes will need to be changed frequently. They may have been sick, dribbled milk or had a leaky nappy. Babies don’t need fancy clothes. New parents will be tired and will want something easy to change or open for nappy changes. With this in mind, baby grows which open up the entire length of the front of baby’s trunk are the easiest to use. Other designs, such as over the head styles and those which do up at the back, are more difficult to use. Babies will also need a vest, a cardigan and a hat for after they are born. Depending on the weather, parents may also choose to purchase a snow suit.

Before having the baby, parents should purchase baby the basics in different sizes. Whilst a small baby will grow in to standard new-born clothing and as such, a small baby will not be such an issue, a large baby will require bigger clothing. Even is parents purchase larger clothing, it will not be a waste of money as baby will grow in to it.


Baby will need somewhere to sleep. Bed-sharing, or co-sleeping, is not recommended. For the first six months, it is recommended that baby sleeps in the same room as the parent or parents, including at nap times. Therefore, the use of a crib may be more practical. Baby will need one in the parents bedroom. Downstairs, parents may choose to have another crib or may choose to use the pram for naps, if it is suitable. A new mattress will be needed for each baby. Parents will also require a couple of sets of sheets for baby and a few blankets. Pillows and duvets are not recommended for babies under one year of age. There is no benefit to using cot bumpers, and so these are not necessary.

Toys and Entertainment

Babies do not require any specific toys or entertainment. Instead, spending time with their parent or parents, being held, talked to, cooed over, sung to, and seeing different facial expressions is all that a baby needs in its early days.


Babies do not need bathing on a frequent basis, as it can make their skin dry. They also do not need to use bath products. If parents wish to use bath products, a sensitive baby wash is all that is needed. Babies can be washed with cotton wool, rather than a flannel which may be somewhat scratchy. A baby bath is not essential; baby can be washed in the sink or in a washing up bowl. Special baby towels are not necessary. Nail clippers are also not necessary, ad baby nails are soft, and rubbing the top of the finger nails after a bath will help keep them short.

There are also a few essentials mums will need after the birth. Maternity pads are essential, as mum will bleed fairly heavily for the first few days, and this will gradually trail off. However, it can last, lightly, for a number of weeks. Breast pads may also be helpful, in addition to nipple cream if planning on breastfeeding.