I hope this baby essentials checklist can help all the mums-to-be reading, feel a little less overwhelmed. I remember when I was preparing for baby – or rather, when I felt I should be preparing. I’d spend so much time on so many different sites, reading tons of reviews, making lists after lists and taking little action. I was dealing with choice paralysis and plain old procrastination, as well a desire to be discriminating so as to not end up with too much stuff and not spend too much money.
Everybody is different and every baby is different so, keep that in mind when going through my (or anyone else’s) list. I’m simply sharing what worked well for us in Laoleko’s first 6 months, and why, and a little bit of what didn’t too!
I’ve broken products down into the following categories:
- Moving around
- Baby essentials checklist
Baby essentials checklist
I’ve been exclusively formula feeding Laoleko. There are so many reasons why women may choose to do so and I’m a big advocate for giving women a break about this. Personally, I really wish I could have breastfed my baby but, I could not. What matters most is that he is healthy and happy and that he sure is.
I have a special small basin in the kitchen which I daily fill with fresh water and a squirt or two of dishwashing liquid. I then use this to wash his bottles before running the steriliser. Once sterilised, the bottles are put to dry on the “grass” until we’re making up a bottle.
We keep hot water in a thermos and pre-measured formula in a dispenser. We then mix up feeds on demand.
At night, we pre-make a few bottles and keep them in the fridge. When we anticipate baby needs a feed, we boil the kettle, remove a bottle from the fridge and warm it in a small jug of the boiling water.
When on the go, I put cooled premade bottles in our mini “fridge”. Because the fridge only holds 2 bottles, if we’re gone for a very long time, I’ll also carry the thermos and filled formula dispensers and mix on demand.
Formula – if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I try to follow a paleo diet myself. The quality of the produce I eat is very important to me and so how to feed my baby was one of the biggest things I stressed about, while preparing for him to arrive. I read about homemade formula being ideal if breastfeeding wasn’t an option and, I believe it still. However, after much research, deliberation and being real with myself, I realised that making my own formula was not going to be a sustainable solution for me. Partly because I planned to spend most of my time in Nairobi where, the ingredients for the formula would not be so readily available or economical. So the next best thing in my view was Holle Organic Infant Formula 1, which is made with biodynamic milk. We’ve been using it almost exclusively since Leko was born and he is one healthy, chunky monkey!
Bottles – When I saw these Lifefactory bottles at my friend Isa’s house, I knew they were what I wanted for us. Glass – which is better than plastic for these reasons – but with rubber covers for durability.
Basin – Something simple which you can find in any supermarket, pound shop or on Amazon (for example).
Tongs – For handing teats. Cleanliness is so crucial when these guys are that young. I have the tongs in this bottle cleansing set (which would substitute the following item).
Bottle cleansing brush – You want a bottle brush as well as a tiny brush that will go inside your teats. This set from NUK does the trick.
Bottle cleanser – I’m already a big Ecover fan because there’s nothing I can’t stand more than conventional cleaning products with all their unnecessary and often harmful chemicals and overbearing fragrances. I prefer the Zero dishwashing liquid as it has no scent. I have also used and like NUK’s baby bottle cleanser.
Steriliser – I stressed myself so much deciding on a steriliser because, I couldn’t find clear information on what my Lifefactory bottles would fit in. This Philips AVENT 2-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser works perfectly and fits up to 6 of the large 9 oz bottles.
Thermos – Again, to minimise tantrum time, have hot water at the ready. I happened to have a thermos which I’d bought to carry during Unscrambling Africa and it soon became Leko’s thermos.
Fridge-to-go – As much as I had plans to stay at home for 40 days (except of course for medical appointments), I was in London during a pretty good summer (these are like gold!). So for adventures out of the house, this one from Koo-di has been perfect.
Small muslin squares – Good for wiping milky mouths and cleaning up the inevitable bits of throw-up. We like the ones from Marks & Spencer that were gifted to us by Aunty Viv.
Gripe water – Leko was apparently a little colicky. I say “apparently” because I’m still not sure I’ve really grasped what the meaning of colic is! Part of me feels like people expect it to happen and so label any fussiness as that. I was somewhat happy giving him this stuff by Mommy’s Bliss because it has no gluten, starch, dairy, wheat, yeast, alcohol, parabens, artificial colours, artificial flavours, binders, sucrose, filler or petroleum-based by-products (that they list all this stuff demonstrates all the unwanted ingredients other gripe waters DO have). Did it help? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was the amazing osteopathy with Aude at Putney Clinic. Or perhaps it was just something he was going to get through eventually.
Our precious was so tiny when born (which is so hard to believe because now he could pass for 3 months older than he is!). He wore newborn size clothes for more than a month!
Often people will gift you a ton of clothes and you’ll probably see some cute little things you can’t resist. The following is a list of what I consider essentials. Keep in mind my baby was born during relatively warm weather.
A hat – For coming home and those early days when baby is super sensitive to cool temperatures and a bucket hat for protection against the sun.
Vests – Sleeveless, short-sleeved or long-sleeved, depending on the weather where you are. For the first month of his life, Laoleko lived in his sleepsuits, with a vest underneath (except for a few heatwave days where he wore a vest alone). The John Lewis GOTS organic range are my favourite.
Sleepsuits – Again, the John Lewis GOTS organic range are my favourite and they have so many cute colours and prints to choose from. We had a couple of sleepsuits with a diagonal zip and found that they were very cumbersome to put on so, I do recommend the good old snap buttons down the middle.
When it comes to nappies/diapers, I knew that I was not going to happily use things that will take 400 years to break down. I mean, consider how many children are born around the world every day, and imagine how many diapers babies go through – it’s a HUGE impact. It already hurts me see landfills and worse, huge amounts of garbage accumulating in non-landfill sites. I love nature – and the joy and respite it gives us – too much and, I know I have a choice.
One of my BFFs not only recommended but gifted me with all the cloth-diapering arsenal I would need.
Laoleko has never ever had nappy rash and, according to some reading I’ve done, this may be thanks to our nappy and diaper choices.
Nappy liners – I learned about these late in the game! Great for minimising the muckiness of poopy nappies. I use these from Bambino Mio.
Wipes – a friend recommended Cheeky Wipes and this all-in-one kit is great! Not only for changing but also now, for wiping my baby’s hands and face after a meal (the very messy joys of weaning!). I can see myself using these for months and even years to come. Although Cheeky Wipes have great pouches for you to use on the go, in this instance I’ve favoured the convenience of something disposable. I choose Water Wipes because they have only 2 ingredients: purified water (99.9%) and fruit extract (0.1%).
Disposable nappies – Similarly, it soon became apparent that cloth diapering on the go was going to be too messy and cumbersome. I tried a few biodegradable brands and my favourite are Moltex and Beaming Baby.
Nappy sacks – These from Beaming Baby are biodegradable. I buy them in rolls. At home, I use them only for number-two-soiled nappies.
A cloth diaper bag – a washable reusable bag for carrying around all your changing essentials.
Changing mat – this Mamas & Papas changing mattress is quite large and of really good quality, compared to others I’ve seen so, I can see us not ever needing another.
Portable Changing Mat – This fold-up Polar Gear Hand Bag Size mat has simply done the job.
Baby diaper bag – I think I had meant to get one but, indecision probably got the best of me and I ended up using one of the Metrine bags from my collaboration with Sandstorm Kenya. It’s been great! No fit-for-purpose compartments of course but, I have all my bits organised in smaller bags anyway (such as the drawstring cloth bags I discontinued but now will create more of :).
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all when it comes to newborns – at least for me and many mums I talk to. My little one still fights sleep like a ninja – the FOMO seems to be just too much.
In the beginning, we hadn’t quite grasped that, ultimately, we parents are defenceless. We are going to have to go with baby’s flow, a lot of the time. That’s my overall conclusion.
I’ve read books and blogs and been recommended baby whisperers. I haven’t yet contacted these so-called miracle-workers but, what I have learned is the value of a consistent bedtime (and nap time) routine. And to also relax when it doesn’t work because, there are often times it just won’t!
Swaddles – Swaddling Leko really helped because it prevented him from waking himself up with his startle reflex. The SwaddleMe was sooooo much more convenient than fiddling with muslins and struggling with getting them wrapped properly. This takes a minute! When Leko was a little bit older (around 3 months), he needed something bigger and stronger and the Halo fit the bill. A huge thanks to my mum friend who recommended these to me and changed those early nights for the better!
Sleeping bags – Soon Leko would find his way out of any swaddle and I realised, there was little need for continued swaddling. This ErgoPouch Cocoon sleep bag is great and it has the option of keeping his arms in or out. Our current favourite sleeping bag is the Babasac multi tog. It has removable liners for when the weather is warmer. It’s very roomy which is great for this fast-growing kid – I’m confident he’ll use it until he’s 18 months, at least.
Sleep pod – In the beginning, when Leko would sleep for most of the day, we’d put him in a pod which, we’d have with us in the living room. We had the Sleepyhead which was great. My one disappointment though is that he stopped agreeing to stay in it, at around 3 months. I was hoping to use it until 8 months, especially given it’s price tag! If I’d known this, I may have shopped around for a cheaper alternative. However, I’ve heard of some babies enjoying it until they outgrow it.
Baby swing – The moment I read about baby swings as a sleep aid, I jumped to get one. After some review-reading, I opted for the Ingenuity Convert Me 2 Seat Candler Swing. Leko didn’t like it swinging! But, for a time, it served as a chair that would distract him for long enough for us to take a shower, clean some bottles etc. Also, and the grown up Laoleko will hate me for this: a few minutes in it and his bowels would move. Like clockwork, every morning! Would I buy it again? Probably not. I’d investigate a 4moms Mamaroo instead.
Side-sleeper crib – For bedtime, we had a SnuzPod Beside Crib. He refused to sleep in it for most of his first 3 months but, after that, it’s been super. I’ve only just now commissioned a carpenter to make him a crib because he’s outgrown the SnuzPod (as I write this, Leko is 7 and a half months old). If I’d been wiser, I may have forgone the side-sleeper and just gotten this Mokee Mini Cot from the get-go.
Comforter – Do not underestimate the value of a comforter! I used to look at them and think they were just marketing hype. A wiser BFF bought us one, for my baby shower, and let’s just say that, all hell would break loose if Leko had a night without Meh. (Ok short story – I consider myself a very imaginative person but, when it came to naming this soother, I was at a loss and, it’s a sheep so … )
Pacifier – This was useful for helping Leko go to sleep but, also for comforting him (e.g. while preparing the milk). I was really thrilled about these Natursutten ones because they are 100% natural rubber, with no BPA, phthalate or PVC. However, they were way to big for Leko when he was a newborn so we ended up getting these Philips Avent ones too. By around 4 months, he was not having any of this pacifier stuff!
For the first 3 months of Laoleko’s life, he got baths only 2 or 3 times a week.
Bathtub – We initially used this Shnuggle tub which, is nice and compact and provides pretty good support (although, in the first few weeks, it would still take 2 of us to bathe him – one to hold him, one to scrub). He did grow out of it around 4/5 months and he now uses a Kenpoly tub we bought at Tusky’s (a Kenyan supermarket chain).
Toiletries – We use Shea Moisture Baby Head-To-Toe Wash & Shampoo which, lasts very long (we’re only about halfway through our first bottle). Occasionally we’ve used Dr Bronners Organic Baby-Mild Castile Liquid Soap (usually when travelling as, the whole family can use the one product. I’ve tried several oils for moisturising but, ultimately, I’ve opted to make my own body butter – a whipped mix of shea butter and coconut oil. We’ve used Weleda’s Calendula cream for redness which, has been very rare. For sun protection, I use Green People’s Organic Children Sun Lotion. A nail clipper is the other essential. I didn’t know how fast baby nails grow – we cut Leko’s at least twice a week!
Linens – a hooded towel is nice, but not essential. A friend gifted us one from GAP which, is the nicest of the ones we have. A few washcloths are a good idea too.
Bouncer – This BabyBjorn bouncer came highly recommended by many sources (and friends). It’s greatest use is as somewhere to put baby in when you can’t hold them, e.g. showering, cooking etc. I got this toy for Laoleko’s pleasure. In the past, he would even fall asleep in the bouncer (it has a few different angles you can set, including one that’s ideal for napping). The bouncer can hold babies up until 2 years old but unfortunately my little one will now only tolerate it for a few minutes at a time. Still, a few minutes is all I need nowadays to bathe!
Mat – I love my Gathre – it’s so versatile! In the house, out in the garden, on the beach – it goes everywhere with us and simply wipes clean. I really would like another, just because of the beautiful colours they come in!
Activity gym/play mat – I resisted this for a while because, I wasn’t sure it was absolutely necessary. We finally got this Bright Starts 5-in-1 when Leko was about 4 months old and it’s been super! Each time we put him down on the mat, he’s as excited as he was the first one. The musical elephant still mesmerises him and the gym generally keeps him busy enough to let you have some time to get stuff done. He hasn’t even began to get involved with the 35 balls yet!
Jumper – Another thing that continues to bring baby joy and us, time to get stuff done. I cannot emphasise the value of independent play! We got this Fisher-Price Roaring Rainforest Jumperoo.
Toys – I don’t have super strong feelings about these yet because, in the first 6 months at least, these little ones are fascinated by anything and everything. Leko is often more interested in tearing paper than fiddling with a conventional toy! I will give a shoutout to my friend Linda Hsiao though, whose elegant rattle Leko does love.
Swim nappy – I LOVE the water and I’m so happy that my baby does too. Swimming was always going to be on the cards for my little one (we are taking some great classes with Lisa, in Nairobi). I got Leko’s Konfidence swim nappy from John Lewis.
Having a baby in London, where I don’t drive, made me quite averse to the idea of having a stroller. I’d seen women struggle on public transport, often dependent on the kindness of strangers to help them up and down stairs. I was not about that life!
Stroller/pram/buggy/“travel system” – I did succumb in the end but, I knew I wouldn’t use it that often so, I wasn’t about to drop £2,000+ on one. I took to Gumtree to find one secondhand. I’m pretty happy with the Bugaboo Cameleon that I found for less than a twentieth the price of a new one!
Carrier – this was our go-to mode of transporting Leko for the first 6 months of his life. He was too tiny for the beautiful WildBird sling my mum bought him (baby needs to be at least 3.5kg for this and many slings and carriers), so we got a BabyBjorn Original Baby Carrier. It’s so easy to put on and take off. I think this may have been one of the best purchases I made. The downside is that it’s recommended only until 11kg. I perhaps should’ve invested a little more and gone for the next style up which, works until 15kg I believe. For colder climes, I highly recommend investing in the cover for the carrier – very handy!
My friend Bibi gave me an Ergobaby carrier she had used with her daughter and that’s what we’ve been using for the past month. It has a waist band so is such a relief from the BabyBjorn model we have, now that Leko is much heavier. Ergobaby may have worked from the get-go, with the newborn insert (but Leko was 2.8kg and this is recommended for minimum 3.2kg). For minimalism, you only do need one carrier!
Car seat – Overwhelmed and exhausted, I delegated a bunch of my product searching and review reading to my boyfriend. Thanks to him we settled on the Joie Every Stage. The appeal was the fact that we’d only ever need the one car seat, from birth to age 12! (I didn’t even know that 12 year olds needed car seats). The Joie Every Stage can be adjusted into different configurations, as your child grows. One thing you can’t do is easily remove the seat from the car, to transport a sleeping baby indoors.
Ok, this one is for you. I’ve hardly had (made?) time to read, since baby came but, I’ve managed these 2 and highly recommend them.
The Wonder Weeks – has helped me to retain my sanity. It explains the developmental leaps your baby will go through, and when, so that you know it’s not just you when, despite everything you do, they won’t stop fussing! Also check out the Wonder Weeks app
The Danish Way of Parenting – I’m actually still in the middle of reading this but, I’m already sold sold sold. Being Laoleko’s mum is the most important job and greatest responsibility I’ve ever had and, I don’t want to f*ck it up!
Phew! These guys are so little yet they require so much!
I’d love to hear what was on your baby essentials checklist. What would you recommend again and again? Let me know in the comments below.
And stay tuned for the next edition, in a few months time!