When you’ve got a baby trooper on the way, the amount of kit that people tell you that you simply can’t live without is overwhelming. You’re bombarded from all sides, advertising, magazines, friends, family, all telling you that you need everything from certain brands of baby wipes to travel systems. People ask you if you have everything you need, if you are ‘prepared’ (believe me, nothing can prepare you for fatherhood) and if the nursery is ready (the one that the trooper won’t be in for months).
When I was about to become a new dad for the first time, I took all this on board. I didn’t want to scrimp on my own offspring after all, I wanted to give them the best start possible, and of course I was pretty excited to make it all seem ‘real’ by buying ‘essential’ baby kit…
And as a result I ended up buying a whole load of stuff that just never got used. A total waste of money. So, if you’re happy to get out there and spend, spend, spend, then don’t let me stop you (it’s good for the economy). But, if like me, you didn’t really know what you need to buy but feel compelled to buy anyway….
In the first few weeks the baby trooper needs very little kit. They need to be fed, kept comfortable and clean, and loved. In the weeks before you have a baby trooper at base camp, you don’t need to go on a buying frenzy. You need to plan and prepare. You need to clean and make room for them. One thing that is going to be in really short supply in the next few months is time.
So what are the basics that you need to buy?
· Nappies and nappy changing kit. Buy the smallest bag of newborn nappies as possible, as baby troopers grow fast. If using non-disposable (washable) nappies, again, don’t buy in bulk. You have to see what is the best fit and type for your baby trooper.
· Clothing. Baby troopers need to be two things: to be comfortable and accessible (for many nappy changing sorties). So do not buy fussy clothes with fiddly buttons – unless your trooper is going straight from the maternity ward to a wedding or their own graduation, they don’t need an ‘outfit’. They need stretchy, soft, warm clothes that can withstand the rigours of repeated washing. I’ve listed my all-time favourite baby trooper outfit below. Buy enough of it to ensure you always have a few outfits clean (around 6) but not too many as they will grow out of them fast.
o a cotton babygrow and a sleepsuit with poppers
o a cotton hat (a lot of heat is lost through the head). If the weather is cold, a warm hat for outdoor use
o scratch mits (baby troopers have sharp fingernails that aren’t easy to trim)
o socks (extremities need to be kept warm)
o a thin cotton cardigan or jacket
· Feeding. Some parents chose to bottle feed straight away, but even if your partner is going to breastfeed, you can step up and bottle feed your baby trooper in the evening. When bottle feeding full time, 8 bottles is the optimum number to ensure you always have a clean, sterilised bottle to hand, but don’t go and buy 8. Your baby trooper may not take to them them. You’ll need cleaning and sterilising kit too.
· Sleeping. Moses basket or cot with a new, snug-fitting mattress. Cotton sheets and thin blankets as it’s easier to regulate temperature with thin layers.
· Bathing. Somewhere safe to bath the baby. Soft flannels and soft towels, baby shampoo and baby bath.
· Transport. Car seat that meets safety standards and fits safely and securely in your car. I used a baby carrier in the first few months as it kept my baby trooper safe and close, but both my hands free for other tasks. I bought a second hand pushchair when my baby trooper was a few months older. Those things are built to survive all manner of knocks and there’s some great second hand bargains to be had.
· First Aid Kit that must include a digital ear thermometer.
And that’s about it – for now. Luckily the baby trooper comes supplied with fully functioning adults who are able to assess their on-going needs and respond accordingly. And believe me, you’ll be up to speed on the real essentials they need before you know it.
Neil Sinclair is an ex-Commando and stay-at-home dad to three troopers Samuel, 10, Jude, 9, and Liberty,5. He has written a no-nonsense parenting book for new recruits to fatherhood – Commando Dad - due for publication on May 8 2012. www.commandodad.com.