Out and about with your baby
Babies grow very quickly. All you need for the first few weeks are enough clothes to make sure that your baby will be warm and clean.
You’ll probably need:
- six stretch suits (all-in-ones) for both day and night, or four stretch suits and two nightdresses (nighties) for the night – use socks or bootees with the nightie if it’s cold
- two cardigans, wool or cotton rather than nylon, and light rather than heavy – several light layers of clothing are best for keeping your baby warm
- four vests
- a shawl or blanket to wrap your baby in
- a wool or cotton hat, mittens, and socks or bootees for going out if the weather is cold – it’s better to choose close-knitted patterns rather than those with a loose knit, so that your baby's fingers and toes won't get caught
- a sun hat for going out if it's hot or the sun is bright
Washing your baby's clothes
If you use a washing machine, don't use washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioner, as they may irritate your baby's skin. Always rinse baby clothes thoroughly.
For the first few months, you'll need a crib, a carry cot or a Moses basket (a light, portable bassinet). Your baby needs to sleep somewhere that's safe, warm and not too far from you.
If you are borrowing a crib or a cot, or using one that has been used by another of your children, you should ideally buy a new mattress. If you can't do this, use the cot mattress you have, as long as it is firm (not soft), flat, fits the cot with no gaps, is clean, and waterproof.
You will need:
- a firm mattress that fits the cot snugly without leaving spaces round the edges, so that your baby cannot trap their head and suffocate
- sheets to cover the mattress – you need at least four because they need to be changed often (fitted sheets make life easier but they are quite expensive, so you could use pieces of old sheet)
- light blankets for warmth
Pillows and duvets
Don't use pillows and duvets – they are not safe for babies who are less than a year old due to the risk of suffocation. Duvets can also make the baby too hot. Quilted sleeping bags and baby nests are not suitable for your baby to sleep in when you're not there because of the danger of suffocation.
Your baby will spend many hours in a cot, so make sure it is safe. If you're buying a new cot, look for the British Standard mark BS EN716-1.
- The mattress must fit snugly, with no space for the baby’s head to get stuck.
- The bars must be smooth, securely fixed, and the distance between each bar should be not less than 25mm (1 inch) and not more than 60mm (2.5 inches), so that your baby’s head can’t get trapped.
- The cot should be sturdy.
- The moving parts should work smoothly and not allow fingers or clothing to get trapped.
- Cot bumpers are not recommended because babies can overheat or get tangled in the fastenings.
- Never leave anything with ties, such as bibs or clothes, in the cot because they might get caught around your baby’s neck.
- The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in the same room as you for the first six months.
For more information on safe sleeping, see getting your baby to sleep. You can also visit the website of the FSID (Foundation for the Study of Infant Death), which has lots of information on safe sleeping and answers some common questions.
Out and about with your baby
Spend some time looking at what's available for getting around with your baby. Think about what will suit you best before you make a choice, and ask other mums what they've found useful. Before buying a pushchair or a pram, check that:
- The brakes are in good working order.
- The handles are at the right height for pushing.
- The frame is strong enough.
Baby carriers (also called slings) are attached with straps and your baby is carried in front of you. Most babies like being carried like this because they’re close to you and warm. The back part of the carrier must be high enough to support your baby’s head. Check that buckles and straps are secure. Older babies who can hold up their heads and whose backs are stronger (at about four months) can be carried in carriers that go on your back.
See the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website for more advice on using baby carriers and slings safely.
Pushchairs are only suitable for young babies if they have fully reclining seats so the baby can lie flat. Wait until your baby can sit up before using another type of pushchair. Consider the pushchair's weight if you use public transport, as you might have to lift it onto trains or buses.
Prams give your baby a lot of space to sit and lie comfortably, but they take up a lot of space and are hard to use on public transport. If you have a car, look for a pram that can be dismantled easily. Buy a pram harness at the same time, as you may need it to strap your baby securely into the pram.
Carrycot on wheels
A carrycot is a light, portable cot with handles, similar to but smaller than the body of a pram and often attachable to a wheeled frame. Your baby can sleep in the carrycot for the first few months, and the cot can be attached to the frame to go out. Most modern carrycots can also be taken in a car with appropriate restraints, but check that yours can.
This is a carrycot and transporter (set of wheels) that can be converted into a pushchair when your baby outgrows the carrycot. Shopping trays that fit under the pushchair or pram can also be very useful when you’re out.
Car seats for babies
If you’ve got a car, you must have a car seat, also called a safety restraint. Your baby must always go in their seat, including when you bring them home from the hospital. It’s illegal and very dangerous to carry your baby in your arms in a vehicle.
The best way for your baby to travel is in a rear-facing infant car seat either on the front or back seat. This is held in place by the adult safety belt. The following advice should ensure your baby’s car seat is as safe as possible:
- Make sure the car seat is fitted correctly.
- Do not place a rear-facing infant care seat in the front passenger seat if your car is fitted with an air bag.
- Ideally buy a new car seat. If you do plan to get a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend so you can be sure it hasn't been involved in an accident. Don't buy one from a second-hand shop or through the classified ads.
Look for the United Nations ECE Regulation number R44.03, or a later version of this standard, when you buy a car seat. This is the standard for new seats. However, if you have car seats that conform to a British Standard or an earlier version of R44, you can continue to use them.