Newspaper articles telling you it costs thousands to raise a child from birth to the age of three are not helpful either. I mean, what's the point of knowing that?
I'll admit having a baby is a wonderful shopping opportunity. Recently I was lucky enough to buy something for a friend's newborn and it was a really pleasurable half an hour oohing and ahhhing at all the lovely clothes, toys, teeny socks and cosy blankets.
But I'm here to tell you having a baby can cost as much or as little as you want. Yes, really. Save your money for really important stuff like having family adventures (big and small), a camcorder and a decent camera.
Here's my must-haves for your new baby.
A cot: Obviously the baby will need somewhere to sleep but at first ours just went into a cosy moses basket. We also did some co-sleeping and if that's how you parent, you won't even need a basket. I'd hold off buying a cot. There's bound to be a friend, or a friend of your parents, who has one going spare. Ikea do some simple, cheap ones too. Always buy a brand new mattress though for every baby you have.
A sling: There are some wonderful slings, wraps, pouches to be found on the internet so there's bound to be one to suit you. For baby number four I bought a Kangeroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch and it was the best thing ever. This means you can hold off getting a pram until they are bigger or shop around for a secondhand one. Get a groovy trolley for your shopping and you're away. One very cool mama. There's great babywearing advice here and Sling Meet hold get -ogethers where you can talk to other babywearing parents.
Car seat: This is obviously essential and should be bought new. I know lots of people swear by those seats that clip onto a frame and away you go. I avoided those as they were expensive and I didn't want the temptation of leaving my sleeping baby in one for too long.
Baby gym: You can get some really lovely wooden ones now. We had a plastic one and bought some rings that clip together and hung up other things (crinckly paper, favourite toy, bells). My babies loved kicking and bashing the hanging toys.
Something to lie on: Friends had a lovely, shorn sheepskin rug for their baby that was easily transferred to pram, moses basket and strange floors meaning the baby had something familiar and warm to lie on. We never seemed to get round to that but did have a special play mat. Tummy time is apparently important to avoid flat head syndrome.
Bums and tums equipment: If you're breastfeeding all you will need is a v-shaped cushion, nursing bras and some washable breast pads. Avoid the disposable ones, they just scrunch up into a mess. Wash and wear is the way to go. If you're bottle feeding you'll obviously need more things that I don't feel qualified to comment on. Muslins are a must but top and tail bowls and even baby baths aren't. Now I would bath baby in the kitchen sink. It's the perfect height with a handy draining board for towels, nappy and sundries. I used re-usable nappies and wipes for some of mine and they were perfect for a newborn. So soft and wonderful.
Books and toys: It's never too early to start sharing a book with your child. It is a magical, special time. You can get board books with black and white pictures that babies are supposed to prefer. A big hit with mine was one with babies pulling lots of different faces. When they were a bit bigger the "That's Not My...." series of books were very popular as was Poppy Cat and Baby's Catalogue. There are so many to choose from you'll have a great time researching! They don't need many toys, something that's squeaks or rattles is ideal.
Clothes: You will no doubt be inundated with beautiful clothes but, I've said it before and I'll say it again, all a baby needs is a plentiful supply of babygros and vests with a wonderful selection of hand knitted cardigans. Learning to knit while you're pregnant gives you the chance to slow down and create something that will wrap your baby in love. The book I adore is Simple Knits for Cherished Babies. Hats are important too and a snowsuit. I didn't bother with proper outfits for the first few months. I wanted my babies to look like babies, especially as I realised from number two onwards how quickly they grow up.
Books and DVDs: Not strictly for baby but stock up on your favourites or ones you've been meaning to watch or read, particularly if you're breastfeeding. You're going to be spending a lot of time on the sofa, sometimes in the middle of the night, so you might as well snuggle down and enjoy this fleeting time.
A side table for your drink (you'll get very thirsty if you're nursing), remote and phone will also help. Some people may be looking askance at this scenario. I look on in envy. There's plenty of time to build up a rollicking social life for you both but I think it's important to slow down, at least a bit. Of course there will be walks, meeting new mummy friends at coffee shops and in each other's houses but there's also the opportunity to really immerse yourself in this never-to-be-repeated time.
This is my list and as such is personal to me. If I were having my first baby now this is what I'd buy. Obviously as your baby grows you'll have to spend more but there's no need to rush into what can sometimes be quite expensive purchases. Friends who have older children can sometimes pass on stuff and NCT nearly-new sales are brilliant for picking up second hand bargains.
What essentials would be on your list?