As a first time mum 3 years ago, I was completely overwhelmed with shopping for baby #1. I sourced for checklists online and bought “almost” everything I could find. And I was so worried about missing out anything. But now, with #2, I have become more chilled and relaxed about shopping, especially when my first trimester was rather complicated. I started looking around the baby stuff only in the second trimester, around 24 weeks, when I was more certain that things would be looking brighter. This time round, I am also more cautious about the “over-buying” phenomenon and strategise on my shopping budget.
I want to consolidate my lessons learnt into a list and share it with the first-time mothers out there. Sensible planning goes a long way, and here are some of my personal opinions and ideas;
Lesson 1: Consider big ticket items carefully
Spend some time to do research and read the reviews on big ticket items such as the baby cot, playard, milk bottle steriliser, breastmilk pump, baby carseat and stroller etc. The pricing for such items can range quite a far bit to cater to different consumer markets. The caveat? Not every item with the most expensive price tag is the best out there. One of the first big-ticket item I bought is a baby stroller called Bugaboo Bee – that costs us nearly a thousand dollars after including the accessories and removable seat cushion. When baby came long, we regretted our purchase because it just didn’t suit our needs. It is quite heavy to lift in and out of the car, took up much of the boot space and difficult to open/close. Some folks swear by the Bugaboo brand, but not us. Husband agreed it was a waste of money, when we could have gotten a much lower priced stroller which was smaller and lighter for travel use. In the end, we sold our almost new Bugaboo Bee on carousell for 50-60% of the price.
Lesson 2: Does the price justify your intended usage?
We know the existence of most baby items are transient in our homes – our children outgrow these things very quickly. An expensive breastmilk pump couldn’t justify its high cost when your only intention is to express milk for the first 6 months. I personally feel that the Medela range of electric breastmilk pumps is over-rated and over-priced. I got the Medela Freestyle, went on to buy a Spectra S1 and then a Spectra 9+ (for its portability to work). I sold the Medela set very early and carried on to use the latter two for another 18 months. With the price of Medela, you could have gotten both the Spectra S1 and 9+ (one for home, and one for your workplace). If you couldn’t decide which one to get, the best is to rent the unit and try it out. Don’t rush to a purchase, like what I did.
Lesson 3: Your baby may not want to sleep in the cot
It’s quite common to find your baby sleeping on your bed instead of the baby cot after some time. My boy slept in his baby cot for the first one year. Once he becomes older, he starts to climb out of the baby cot, using his toes as an anchor to hoist himself up. Nothing we did could make him stop doing that. So we gave up the baby cot after one year to let him co-sleep with us. Some parents started co-sleeping with the baby much earlier so that it would be easier to breastfeed at night. So if you are keen on buying a baby cot, try not to invest too heavily in one – and once your baby is old enough, supervise him/her if they have a tendency to climb out. If you intend to co-sleep with baby, get bed guards to prevent falls; especially when they start to roll-over. You may also want to lay thick cushions on the floor to prevent them from sustaining any injury should they fall off the bed.
Lesson 4: Baby grows very quickly
Most first time parents buy a lot of newborn clothes which are too tiny. Babies grow very quickly in the first 3 months. I find that I can get more wear out of the 3-6 months and 6-9 months rather than the 0-3 months sizing. This is partly due to the growth spurt in the initial months. They will slim down as they learn to sit up, crawl and walk – which explains why my 2 year old is still wearing some of his smaller outfits. I also find that tops such as T shirts and mesh singlets are more versatile and lasts longer than 1 piece rompers, because as a baby grow taller he/she would still be able to wear the top, but can no longer fit a romper. The newborn outfits get chucked off more quickly as well – a newborn has a higher tendency to regurgitate and reflux milk and all these left yucky black mold stains on the clothes if you don’t launder them fast enough. And don’t be tempted to buy shoes for babies – they don’t walk so soon. Save that money for better things.
Lesson 5: Washability should be considered for every baby item
That brings me to one important point – washability. Newborns have immature gastric sphincter which results in a higher likelihood of regurgitating or vomiting after a milk feed. Hence, they need to be burped properly. I would suggest you change the diaper before you feed a newborn (some parents prefer it the other way). My reasoning is this: nobody likes to be put in a lying down position after having a full meal – likewise a newborn. If you do need to change a soiled diaper, it is best to do it at least 30-45 min after a feed. Or change it while you support or hold the baby upright. An experienced mum will attest to the fact that even with the best precautions, she would still need to change the newborn clothes at least 2-3 times a day – either because of vomit, urine or baby poo. So it is best to consider washability for every single item that you buy. Once, I bought a baby rocker without much thought – the fabric cover cannot be removed without dismantling the metal parts. So I would need to wash the whole rocker and put it under the sun whenever it gets soiled. And it takes a few days for it to dry completely. Over time, the fabric developed black mold stains which wasn’t too pleasant to look at.
Lesson 6: Carousell is your best friend
Reselling platforms are great places to off-load your preloved items and get second hand items on the cheap. The good news about selling baby items is that they tend to sell rather quickly because there is a demand for it. However, you need to be realistic about your pricing as most buyers would expect their item to be at least 80% new and priced at 50% or below. So, if you have an item which your baby has already outgrown and is still relatively new, it is better to sell it off quickly than wait for its value to depreciate over time. Some trends come and go as well. In my time, the Tula baby carrier is a very popular choice and mothers flock online to make their purchases even though it is a whopping $350-500 a piece (for the woven ones). The same mothers will then resell these highly coveted pieces at $700-$1000. Now that the trend has been on the decline, it has become increasingly difficult to sell a Tula at a good price.
Lesson 7: Wait and see if you really need it
Don’t commit to buying baby items which you have no immediate use for – and these include baby walker, highchair, training potty and safety gate. A newborn often does not need these items yet – so there is no hurry. Most paediatricians advise against the use of baby walkers and pacifiers; so you should do adequate research before considering getting these. I was pressurised by my mother-in-law to get a baby walker at 6-9 months because she has this ancient belief that it would help the baby “walk faster”. But she started having second thoughts after I showed her online reports that it could cause abnormal development in gait and pose a fall hazard to the baby. Likewise, the use of a pacifier for a baby is quite controversial.
Likewise, some mothers find breastfeeding pillows and nursing bras useful. Others never found any use for it. The baby changing table is also optional to most. Different people have different needs. If you are unsure, wait and see if you really need it.
Lesson 8: Compare prices
The brick and mortar shops often carry a higher price tag for a similar item because of higher overhead costs. If you walk into Mothercare to buy a playpen, don’t expect it to be cheap. Look out for deals during baby fairs or shop online to get better discounts. You will be surprised at the cost savings you will be able to get. Some savvy mothers will go to retail outlets to have a look and try out the actual product before purchasing online at a much lower price. Or some will form a group purchase to negotiate for a lower price tag from the same seller.
Lesson 9: Beware of clutter
I know many mothers are over-zealous about buying bulky baby items or toys. Many have lamented that their previous nicely-renovated homes is now transformed into a huge children’s playground with no space to walk. I must admit that it is every parent’s wish to spoil and indulge their child once in a while. But try not to buy too much to clutter your home. It is best to allocate a children’s play-room and keep all the toys in a single place – organized in trays and boxes. If you already have a similar toy, don’t be tempted to buy another one. Keep clutter in check.
Lesson 10: Get it free
Yes, you read me right. There are freebies waiting for you to claim it. If you are not fussy about design, you can get free milk bottles, baby rompers, nursing covers, diapers and even diaper bags from goodie bags at baby fairs and hospital sign-ups. Recently, I signed up with a cord blood banking facility and received a free Haenim UV milk bottle steriliser. When your baby is more than 6 months old, you can also register and request for free milk samples from many leading formula-milk brands. For those who are unaware, marketing of formula milk is prohibited for babies younger than 6 months as breast-feeding is preferred during this period. Try out various formula milk before deciding which brand to purchase, as some babies may fuss over and not accept certain types of milk.
Finally, it is important to budget. Shopping for baby is a never-ending mission for most mothers. So try not to spend all your money at one ago. There will be different things to buy for your child as he/she approaches different stages in their lives. It is wise to keep track of your purchases and not fall into the trap of over-spending. One of the considerations of having a second or even a third child with a smaller age gap is so that you can reuse or recycle most of the baby items. But if you are on a tight budget, you can also ask for hand-me-downs from your friends and relatives.
For your convenience, I have consolidated the following checklists and you can download the PDF files below:
Checklist – Shopping for newborn (First time mothers)
Checklist – What to bring for your hospital delivery
I hope you have found the above information useful. Happy shopping!