For my first post, I thought I should go back and start at the beginning...
Before Baby J was born, I felt I should get organised and buy everything I would need well in advance. I panicked that after he was born, I wouldn't have time or the inclination to do any shopping! Afterwards I realised that this was wrong - you don't actually need that much stuff in advance and the shops will still be there when you have the time and energy to venture out with your new baby. Online shopping has been invaluable for me as I can shop from the comfort of my sofa and compare prices to make sure my money is going as far as possible. Here are my useful items that helped me in the first few weeks/months as a mum:
Baby sleeping bags - once Baby J reached the required weight for these, they were really helpful in keeping him cosy and providing peace of mind for me. When I was using blankets/sheets, he would kick them off and I would worry about him getting cold, the blankets going over his face etc! I found the Gro Bag branded sleeping bags good, and you can often find these for half price in TK Maxx. You can also buy cheaper versions in the supermarkets, they usually start from as little as £10.
Gro Egg Room Thermometer - this looks good in any nursery, and at a glance you know if the temperature of the room is ok for your baby. It changes colour to let you know whether the room is too hot/too cold/just right so you can dress your baby accordingly and add or remove layers when putting them to bed. You can now buy Gro Egg shells for a few pounds so your Gro Egg has an identity such as a penguin, owl or monkey. My husband did think I was slightly crazy when I bought the monkey shell a few weeks ago but I have to say it does look cute!
Playgym - these are perfect for keeping your baby entertained from a very young age. I bought the Baby Einstein play gym for Baby J and he still loves it now at nearly 8 months old. It has lights and classical music which keeps him entertained. It costs around £50 new, but I
picked mine up on ebay for around a third of the price. Obviously there are lots of other options available - a few friends have the Fisher Price Rainforest play gym (again around £50) which I also hear good things about.
Cot mobile - this became part of baby J's bedtime routine, as it would be switched on every night when we took him into his nursery to put him in his cot. We chose the Fisher Price Rainforest Mobile (around £45), as it had classical tunes and soothing rainforest sounds. This has been great as the rainforest sounds settle him, and he associates these with sleep time. There are lots of different mobiles to choose from to co-ordinate with your nursery - I have also read good reviews of the Tiny Love Classic Mobile which costs around £30.
Baby Monitor - for a lot of parents this is one of the most important purchases as it provides peace of mind. There are a multitude of options to choose from, starting from a basic model up to an all
singing, all dancing movement and video monitor. We went for one of the Which best buys, an Avent Eco Dect model and this has been perfect for our needs. The sound quality is excellent, it has an intercom so you can talk to your baby (or tell your partner to get the dinner ready for when you finish the last feed!) and has a nightlight and lullabies. We were also lent an Angelcare movement monitor but I could never get it to work! However I know a lot of friends highly rate the movement and video monitors which obviously tend to be at the top of the price range for baby monitors.
Baby bath - I found it much easier to use one of these rather than putting Baby J in the big bath. In fact we like it so much that he is still in it, although we need to make the move to the big bath so he has more space to kick! The Tippitoes Mini Bath (around £14) was comfortable and supportive, so It was easy to bath Baby J even if I was on my own.
Muslin cloths - boring but essential! These are a staple for most mums, as they can be used for wiping up milk dribbles/baby sick, can be used as a cover up when breastfeeding, or as a comforter for your baby. Baby J loves to have his with him whenever he has a nap which has proved to be a cheap and easy way of settling him, with the bonus that I never have to worry about losing one as it can be quickly replaced! I bought packs from Asda and John Lewis for a few pounds and I think this is one item where quality does not matter so much.
None of these things are essential, but they were great for me in the first few weeks and months. Would love to hear what anyone else would recommend to help other mums!