Our budget was fairly limited and we will be forever grateful to the family and friends who were incredibly generous at our baby shower and how have continued to turn up with gifts since Annabelle arrived.
Before starting the list the main bit advice we would give is to focus on stocking up essentials - all babies will need nappies, wipes, clothing in various sizes and muslins. All of these items can be purchased for fairly low costs and are well worth getting in advance.
Our top 10 are in no particular order:
1) A body wrap. You may have heard the term 'baby wearing' and however you do it we recommend it. For a start it is super convenient and once you figure out how to do it it's quicker than setting up a buggy. It's also easier to get around compared to using a buggy.
We have an Amawrap that we have been able to use with Annabelle since birth and she seems content to put in it, even in the heat of summer. What's even better is she falls straight to sleep so I don't have to worry about her wriggling in it. I have also been able to breast feed on a walk without it being obvious.
2) Muslins. We have two types, small, easy to use to mop up milk and purchased cheaply from supermarkets and then the larger type. These are useful for public breastfeeding, swaddling Annabelle and (in summer) used to cover the car window.
3) Talking of swaddling. One of the really useful gifts we received was a newborn swaddle. We use it every night and it means that Annabelle sleeps up to 12 hours with Sarah waking her up to feed.
4) Also helping with sleep is the Cosydream. A body support that can be used in any cot/crib. The memory foam mattress adapts to the baby's shape and the head support keeps the baby's head round and stops them rolling around. The other benefit is the adjustable leg support that raises Annabelle's legs to give back support and the sensation of being in the womb (or so it's said). We move the Cosydream to wherever Annabelle is sleeping.
5) The final recommendation (for sleep) is the beside you cot/crib. We didn't realise that babies have to sleep in your room until 6 months (call us naive) but since finding that out we looked into cots that had a roll down side so we could have Annabelle right next to Sarah making it easy to feed Annabelle and put her back without waking her up. We got one on deal from GroupOn that is working well. It has the added benefit that you can rock it so if Annabelle does wake up there is a way to soothe her.
6) Breast pads. At first Sarah was like 'do I really need them?' The answer for the first few days was 'not really' but in the days to follow that changed very quickly to 'definitely'. It is amazing when milk comes in it really comes in and it's almost impossible to stop. And unless you want to ruin bras or soak tops then they are essential.
A part B to this is also Lanolin, it was a life (or boob) saver. I have used it from the start and thankfully we have only had a few days where it has been painful (see breastfeeding post here)
7) On the note of milk, the bottles and bottle kits available are amazing. All the ones we have come across come with everything you need to sterilize the bottles, by adding a small bit of water before popping in the microwave. It makes them easy to travel with.
Tommee Tippee are the range we have come across with the best selection. We have been lent a bottle warmer that is small enough to travel with but does require a plug. The other items we have include a sterilizer tray that works for a number of bottles at the same time. The best is a the breast pump though, which comes in a box that can also be used to sterilize all parts at the same time.
The pump is lightweight and easy to use but it does require a slight forwards tilt to maximise the amount of milk collected. It's also not the quickest process, it takes about 40 minutes to get about 3 oz. It is meaning we can give Annabelle a bottle a day though to get her used to it.
8) When feeding Annabelle, or she's napping our other essential is a baby pillow. It is SO useful and allows Annabelle to nap anywhere, including by the window to get exposure to the sun (as she had a small bit of jaundice). It also takes the pressure of your back when feeding.
9) Fold away changing mat. We purchased this mat when it was advertised online and it has been worth every penny. We have it to hand downstairs at home and it is so easy to pack away making changing anywhere possible. We have used it in the buggy, on the couch and on the mats at our baby class.
10) With everything Annabelle needs we knew we would need a lightweight bag and we both prefer backpacks. We found one similar to this and highly recommend it. It is large enough to carry a pack of nappies, wipes, two changes of clothes, a muslin (or two) and bottles in an insulated front pocket, that can keep bottles warm.