This post is dedicated to the new (and newish, and soon-to-be) mamas I know out there. There is evidently something about May (or nine months beforehand) – it is a month for good baby-related news. Welcome to family life.
When I was pregnant, and certainly when C was a newborn, I was a sitting target for baby-related retail opportunities, but, when it comes down it, what I really needed was very little. Herein lies my tried-and-tested list – the things I would recommend and use again and again.
For the first six months…
Aden & Anais muslins. I know Alex has spoken of these before, but they really are the business. Super soft and very pretty, they are brilliant for swaddling, preserving your modesty during breastfeeding, bedding when it gets hot (or on holiday), impromptu picnics, wiping dirty faces, throwing over the pram if, like mine, your baby suffers from EPS (Elusive Party Syndrome. “But mama, if I sleep, I might miss something”). Everything. The below are £44.95 for four; a single (super soft) organic muslin is £24.95. They make terrific presents, too. One of those things a new parent will receive and think, “Hmm. A giant printed square. Thanks” but later thank you for in a profuse manner.
Dr Brown bottles. These made a world of difference in the battle against colic. I cannot recommend them highly enough. A starter set from Kiddicare (terrible name; terrific service; one hour (changeable) delivery slots; beat-this prices) costs £19.95. Another totally non-aesthetically pleasing but utterly indispensable item should your child have coughs/colds/croup etc (which s/he will at some juncture) is a humidifier. This Bionnaire number is small, compact and reasonably priced at £34.95.
Jojo Maman Bebe changing mat. Pop this in your bag and you really have no need for a ‘proper’ changing bag (unless you really want one. I just used this and an Oliver Bonas Alphabet tote). Unfold it and there’s a mat for the babe, a pocket for nappies, and one for wipes. AND it’s navy. Ingenious. Possibly the best £9 you’ll spend.
Burt’s Bees Baby Bee shampoo and body wash. In the beginning, it was all about water and cotton wool, but as soon as we popped C into a bath and washed her fluffy head, she loved it. And there’s no way I was using anything but organic products on her skin. I am having a brief flirtation with Earth Friendly’s Lavender shampoo (hey, it might just send your little darling to sleep – anything’s worth a try) but my heart belongs to Burt’s: the smell is heavenly, you only need the tiniest bit of the products and they really do work. This Baby Bee Getting Started Kit’ is £12.99.
The buys which just keep on giving…
Gro-anywhere blackout blind – If we are staying somewhere overnight – or even over naptime – this comes with us. Prevents early waking and the dawn chorus. Enough said. If the onset of British summer time (the clocks, not the weather) sends you into a decline, you will shell out your £24. 99, then write to us, weeping your thanks.
A veritable cornucopia of holidays where babies and little people are not just welcomed, but embraced. It tells you all the things you REALLY want to know: what’s provided, what’s not, can you book a babysitter, what’s the food like, what are the facilities – everything.
We found our first ever with-baby weekend away here – a cottage so chic and well-equipped we hardly had to pack anything, not even a buggy. Having just clicked on it now, I am already lusting after a trip to the Ammos Hotel in Crete.
So much of the children’s tableware out there is either a. lovely but china and thus hopelessly impractical (C went through a stage of announcing, “Fin-ished!” with a merry trill – and pushing her plate or bowl off the table. That was fun.) Or b. a garish/twee/cartoon-y taste-free zone. Keep your eye on Zara Kids, who have a great range, updated seasonally, or head to Cath Kidston for melamine wear which won’t disgrace your table. And doesn’t cost – plates and beakers are £3; a fork and spoon set, £2. You might also wish to consider a handheld mini vacuum – mine is quite possibly the best purchase I have ever made. A quick whizz around the high chair after each meal and you’re done; it even sucks up wet spillages. (Black & Decker Wet and Dry Dustbuster, £44.99, Curries.) Never let it be said we eschew the practicalities here at W&W.
Pretty much anything which allows toddlers to pretend they are just like you
We have an adorable little oven – custom made for C by her wonderful Grandpa – and every child who visits our house makes a beeline for it. (Before you tut about gendered toys, please note that most of C’s friends are boys (there seemed to be a boy-boom in West London two years ago) and they are all kitchen aficionados. Lucy’s little boy Logie makes a mean cup of tea – you know if he favours you if there’s a fish head floating inside.) If you don’t have a handy DIY genius in the family, Great Little Trading does a splendid selection of mini kitchens (from relatively simple (I love this one) to Ramsay-esque), as does Ikea.
We stocked it with ‘food’ and utensils from Ikea – the latter are so realistic, they could do service in your kitchen (to stir a very small stew, perhaps)? I now have my eye on this toaster set – we are very partial to jam on toast in my house…
Wooden toy toaster, £23, Great Little Trading Co.
Membership to something child-friendly
Whether that’s a local petting farm, soft play area, leisure centre, Peppa Pig World (yep, you can buy annual memberships – whatever you do, do not tell my daughter this), a local museum with children’s facilities or one of the fab RHS gardens such as Wisley in Surrey, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire or Rosemoor in Devon where membership pays for itself after two visits and you can find incredible outdoor playgrounds and indoor cafes.
Or – if you’re lucky enough to live near one and have the money to invest – a children’s club. (I also recommend seeking out somewhere you can hang out when it rains.) Look away now if it makes you roll your eyes and think, ‘she’s going to come over all London’, but – having not really been a great joiner of clubs (seriously, the last club I joined was after-school drama club when I was 15) and certainly not gyms (*shudders*) – the advent of parenthood forced me to reassess. And so we joined Maggie & Rose, where I now spend what feels like nearly half my life. It’s a wonderful family club, with classes (cooking and art) for children; an outdoor play area and an “amazing” (C’s words, not mine) café/brasserie with a wonderful play area (‘tool and tractor shed’, kitchen, ball pit, train set, baby area…you name it) so you can have a civilised coffee whilst small people play. Plus, your children are the members and anyone (visiting grandparent, babysitter, aunt and uncle) can take them in at no extra cost (having said that, it’s not the cheapest, but we have, thus far, really got our money’s worth).
Images of the Kennedys via Tumblr from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Other images, as credited; Maggie & Rose