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The Mum Diary:

9. The Pre-Baby Shopping Challenge

By Rosalind Sack

As baby nears, Rosalind is stocking up on all her essentials. The only trouble is - where does she start? And how do you figure out what you need when the person who gets the most use out of it, isn't even here yet?

There’s nothing more effective at making mums-to-be feel utterly clueless than standing in the baby section of a shop, staring blindly at shelf upon shelf of feeding equipment.

Small bottles, large bottles, bottle sets, bottle bags, bottle brushes, bottle warmers, fast flow teats, medium flow teats, advanced comfort teats, latex teats, sterilisers, pumps... you get the drift.

Throw in a healthy dose of haywire pregnancy hormones and within 30 seconds, the majority of first-timers will be racing full pelt towards emotional meltdown.

When faced with a similar scene recently, I made a hasty retreat to the cafe to hide from the other, far more emotionally stable, shoppers. Then, after gathering myself with a decaf latte and an iced bun I left the store empty-handed, convinced I was a complete parenting failure.

This happened twice before I learnt an important lesson. Never go shopping for baby equipment when pregnant and tired, hungry, or feeling a little tearful. It won't end well.

Why are baby clothes so easy to buy and equipment not?

When it comes to adorable pieces for the nursery or baby clothes though, there’s been no stopping me. I go all gooey-eyed at tiny vests and knitted socks. But equipment – the stuff that comes with a safety warning and a three-figure price tag – is an entirely different ballgame. 

This may be because I've been bombarded with suggestions of what kit I need to buy from well-meaning friends, family, parenting websites and books. And all of it has slowly become a mass of noise and contradictions.

While one person swears by their self-sealing, odour-controlling nappy bin, another laments that they’ve wasted money on precisely the same item. 'Everyone's different, just buy what's right for you and your baby,' I keep being told. But I don't have the first idea what’s right for me and my baby – I've never done it before and how on earth am I supposed to second guess the shopping habits of my unborn child?

In the earlier stages of pregnancy I'd desperately wanted to be one of those cool, laid-back parents who say they're not going to buy loads of baby kit... and mean it. But now, with just a few weeks left until my due date, I’ve been anything but cool and laid back about the impending arrival. I want to be organised and prepared for every eventuality, yet I don't want to be sold a load of unnecessary extras.

"When you're struggling to see beyond the incredible, colossal, life-changing moment of meeting your baby for the first time, it's easy to forget that life outside your little bubble still ticks by as normal"

Making a list of essentials

So Ed and I have decided to write a list of all the things we think are necessary to keep the baby alive – and us sane – in the first week and focus on buying those things first. Anything else is a bonus.

When you're struggling to see beyond the incredible, colossal, life-changing moment of meeting your baby for the first time, it's easy to forget that life outside your little bubble still ticks by as normal. The shops will still open and next-day delivery will still be there to rescue us should we overlook something essential.

What I hadn't banked on though, has been the kindness of friends and family when it comes to hand-me-downs. In recent weeks the house has started to feel more like a charity shop... in a good way.

We've had friends and neighbours dropping round all sorts of kit and caboodle that their children have outgrown, to the extent that there isn't a room in the house that hasn't now got some piece of baby equipment stuffed into a corner. Although I must admit I have no idea what most of it is actually for, my tactic has been to say yes to everything now, then work out what will be useful once the baby has arrived.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it turns out that what's right for me and my baby is to be over-prepared (I won't even get started on the rigmarole of packing my hospital bag – or giant hospital holdall, as the case may be). While I would love to be more spontaneous and casual, that's just not my personality, and that's OK.

There's no point pretending to be someone different – someone cooler – when you have enough on your plate trying to get your head around the idea of becoming a parent. Just time your shopping trips wisely... and pack tissues.

Things are moving fast for Rosalind. Did you read her account of her 20 week scan: The Mum Diary: The 20-Week Scan. She'll be back with the next instalment in a couple of weeks...

Rosalind Sack

Rosalind Sack is a freelance writer and Ambassador Liaison Officer for the Children’s Air Ambulance.

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