Once you've got over the shock and sheer wonder that you're having a baby, your head quite quickly turns to the practicalities of looking after a new little life and, with that, the shock and sheer wonder of the frankly ridiculous number of products and gadgets available out there. Although, of course, each and every item is labelled as 'essential' for new parents, most of the things you're told you need, you don't need at all. This should help you pick out those items that will actually ease your transition into parenthood from those that may be cleverly marketed, but that you can live without.
The ultimate dream versus reality product. The dream is your vision of a beautiful, pastel-hued nursery, straight out of the pages of Laura Ashley, complete with a hand-carved wooden bassinet overflowing with broderie anglaise. The reality? Newborns want to be as near as possible to their parents, so a Moses basket by the side of your bed will suffice - a few months down the line and you'll likely be transferring baby to a cot anyway, so if you really must have a bassinet, my advice would be to borrow one.
While I'm not suggesting your little bundle of joy be propped up on a dining chair with pillows, freestanding highchairs are bulky, expensive, and, get pretty unhygienic quite quickly what with all the food being flung at them. Save yourself hours of scrubbing at random bits of food lodged into impossible-to-reach corners and invest in a clip-on highchair that simply attaches to the edge of a table or chair - they're portable too, so handy for venturing out.
Similar to the dreams that bassinets are made of, changing tables look nice with all their handy pockets and drawers, but they also take up a lot of room and can cost hundreds. Babies need changing - a lot - and the novelty of sweeping up your precious offspring and heading upstairs to change them soon wears off when you're tired. Get a wipe-clean changing mat and go for convenience instead.
Nappy disposal unit
Bins are bins no matter which way you dress them up, and nothing - not even a beautiful bouncing baby - can disguise the fact that nappies smell. Of poo, mainly. So, why on earth you'd want to have nappies linger in their own odorous chamber for any longer than you need to is beyond me. And linger they will - the first few months of new parenthood are a whirlwind of sleep deprivation and cold cups of tea, so you will inevitably forget to empty your nappy bin leading to even more work. Put the nappy in a nappy bag then throw it into your usual bin, which you'll remember to empty...sometimes.
Baby shoes & socks
Baby footwear: cute? Without doubt. Practical? Nope. In fact, baby shoes are laughably impractical - babies barely have feet big enough to measure let alone walk on, so to put shoes on them will neither be a good fit nor comfortable for them. Plus, they fall off within seconds, so you'll just end up with a heap of odd shoes. Same goes for baby socks, which slide off their little soft feet even quicker than shoes. Buy babygrows with feet instead.
Baby towels & bath robes
Another high scorer on the cute-ometer, but utterly unnecessary are baby towels and bath robes, which are no softer, safer, or more useful than normal towels, they're just smaller, so they make us go all gooey and want to buy them. Don't buy them. Use a regular towel and your baby will still get all dry and snuggly, perhaps even drier quicker because baby towels are often very thin and less absorbent.
Baby hairbrush and grooming kit
Have you ever tried to cut a toddler's teeny tiny nails? It's a tough enough task when your baby gets bigger, so for the first six months of their life at least, we'd recommend skipping past the 'baby grooming' aisle and opting to gently file their bendy new nails down with a soft emery board. Nail clippers, scissors and a toothbrush...really? And as for the 'obligatory' hairbrush and comb...most babies have little or no hair and very delicate scalps, which doesn't exactly scream coiffuring.
What do you need?
In a nutshell? Nappies, swaddlers, wipes, gentle washing powder (you'll be putting endless washes on), a Moses basket or cot, babygrows, a car seat (if you drive), a sling (if you actually want to get anything done), a pram, a fully charged phone battery (for the gazillion pictures you'll take), your boobs or a bottle (absolutely your choice), and a thick skin (to bounce off other people's advice on your choices).