Babies grow very quickly. All you need for the first few weeks are enough clothes to make sure your baby will be warm and clean.
You'll probably need:
- 6 stretch suits (all-in-ones) for both day and night, or 4 stretch suits and 2 nightdresses (nighties) for the night – use socks or bootees with the nightie if it's cold
- 2 cardigans, wool or cotton rather than nylon, and light rather than heavy – several light layers of clothing are best for keeping your baby warm
- 4 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 your baby's fingers and toes will not get caught
- a sun hat for going out if it's hot or the sun is bright
Washing your baby's clothes
There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.
For the first few months, you'll need a crib, carrycot or Moses basket (a light, portable bassinet). Your baby needs to sleep somewhere that's safe, warm and not too far from you.
Baby nests are not suitable for your baby to sleep in when you're not there because of the danger of suffocation.
If you're borrowing a crib or a cot, or using one that's been used by another of your children, you should ideally buy a new mattress.
If you cannot do this, use the cot mattress you have, as long as it's firm (not soft), flat, fits the cot with no gaps, is clean, dry, waterproof and not ripped or torn.
The mattress should be protected by a waterproof cover.
- a firm mattress that fits the cot snugly without leaving spaces round the edges so your baby cannot trap their head and suffocate
- sheets to cover the mattress – you need at least 4 because they need to be changed often; fitted sheets make life easier but can be quite expensive, so you could use pieces of old sheet
- light blankets for warmth
Pillows and duvets
Do not use pillows and duvets – they're not safe for babies less than a year old because of the risk of suffocation. Duvets can also make your baby too hot.
Sheets and layers of blankets tucked in firmly below your baby's shoulder level or a baby sleeping bag are safe for your baby to sleep in.
Your baby will spend many hours in a cot, so make sure it's safe. If you're buying a new cot, look for one that meets British safety standard BS EN 716. The BS number should be in the instructions or marked on the cot itself.
- 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 not be more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches), so your baby's head cannot 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 as babies can overheat or get tangled in the fastenings.
- Never leave anything with ties, such as bibs or clothes, in the cot as 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 6 months.
For more information on safe sleeping, see Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
You can also visit the Lullaby Trust website, which has lots of information on safe sleeping.
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 have 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 4 months old – can be carried in carriers that go on your back.
When using a sling or carrier do not let the material cover your baby’s head.
See the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website for more advice on using baby carriers and slings safely.
There is also information on the Lullaby Trust website about baby sling safety.
The UK Sling Consortium recommends what is known as the ‘T.I.C.K.S. rules for safe babywearing’:
- T – Tight – Slings and carriers should be kept tight enough to hug your baby close to your body
- I – In view – you should be able to see your baby’s face at all times
- C – Close - the sling should keep your baby close enough to kiss their head
- K – Keep – keep your baby’s chin off their chest
- S- Support – support your baby’s back so it is comfortably upright
Pushchairs, also known as strollers and buggies, are only suitable for young babies if they have fully reclining seats so your baby can lie flat.
Wait until your baby can sit by themselves before using another type of pushchair. Choose a light pushchair if you'll be lifting it on to 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. Consider buying 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.
3-in-1 travel system
This is a carrycot and transporter (a 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 have a car, you must have a baby car seat. Your baby must always go in their seat, including when you bring them home from the hospital.
It's illegal and also 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 on the back seat, or the front passenger seat as long as it's not fitted with an airbag. The car seat is held in place by the adult safety belt.
The following advice should help make sure your baby's car seat is as safe as possible:
- Make sure the car seat is fitted correctly.
- It's illegal and extremely dangerous to put a rear-facing infant car seat in the front passenger seat if your car is fitted with an airbag.
- Ideally, buy a new car seat. If you're planning to get a secondhand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend so you can be sure it has not been involved in an accident. Do not buy one from a secondhand shop or through the classified ads.
Look for the United Nations ECE Regulation number R44.03 or R44.04, or the new i-size regulation R129, when you buy a car seat. Look for the E mark label on the car seat.
For more advice on choosing and fitting baby car seats safely, go to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website on child car seats.