Free pregnancy and baby stuff Free pregnancy stuff
Pregnancy and parenthood can be an expensive business, so Which? has rounded up the freebies, entitlements and grants available to you if you're pregnant or a new parent.
Pass our tips on to other parents and parents-to-be using the sharing bookmarks at the bottom of this page, and check our free advice guides for buying the best pushchairs, child car seats, high chairs and baby monitors.
See our guide to buying baby equipment second-hand for advice on safety issues and the best places to buy.
Free samples, coupons and vouchers
Several manufacturers offer free samples, coupons, advice and forums if you sign up online. You'll need to register your details, such as your email and postal address, to join, so always check the small print to see how they'll be used. Here are some pregnancy and baby clubs we've found (freebies correct as of July 2012):
- Mothercare Baby & Me Club - you get over £100-worth of money-off vouchers along with details of offers and advice.
- Sainsbury's Little Ones Baby and Toddler club – when you join you can get a coupon for a free 'Huggies mum and baby bundle' worth £9.99 when you buy Huggies newborn nappies, or 500 Nectar card points, as well as a free magazine promising money-off coupons.
- Tesco Baby & Toddler club – offers free magazines, Tesco Clubcard coupons for baby products and a parents' parking permit for priority parking in Tesco car parks.
- Boots Parenting Club – joining this club gets you double Boots Advantage card points when you buy certain baby products, regular Advantage card points offers and a 'free' changing bag when you join and buy Pampers nappies.
- Heinz Baby Club - you'll get five packs when you sign up, each containing samples, money-off vouchers and feeding guides.
- Cow & Gate Mum and Baby Club – offers a free pregnancy diary, cuddly cow and money-off vouchers.
- Aptamil Baby Club – offers free ABC guides to pregnancy nutrition and a free huggable polar bear.
- Hipp Baby Club – offers a free first year record book, samples, money-off coupons and a personalised baby calendar.
- Toys R Us Mother and Baby club – promises money-off coupons, points and free mailings.
- Beaming Baby- register for free nappies, a £5 Beaming Baby voucher, advice on baby health and other bonuses.
- Emma's Diary - sign up for £100 of Argos money-off vouchers, deals with companies such as Lovefilm and O2, and weekly offers and competitions.
In addition, following manufacturers on Twitter and liking them on Facebook will keep you in the loop on the latest competitions and limited-time offers. Also, look out for free samples at your local supermarket as brands often run promotional offers.
Bounty packs: free samples and advice
Bounty packs are free bundles containing information, advice, money-off coupons, baby product samples and try-before-you-buy freebies of household products – as well as lots of adverts. There are various packs for different stages.
- Pregnancy information pack - you'll usually get your first Bounty pack from your midwife early on in your pregnancy. It'll typically contain a week-by-week pregnancy guide, a protective card for your scan pictures, and samples.
- Mum-to-be pack - after your first scan you can get your second pack from your nearest Superdrug or Boots using the voucher contained in the pregnancy guide from your first pack. This pack typically contains coupons and product samples of nappies, which includes free skin care wipes, nursing pads and washing tablets.
- Newborn pack - this pack, which will be given to you in the maternity ward after you've had your baby, includes more free samples of baby products, a newborn baby guide and advice pamphlets.
- Family pack - your last Bounty pack is available by redeeming the voucher found in your newborn baby guide at Superdrug or Boots when your baby born. It'll contain free baby food, laundry tablet samples and more baby advice.
Free prescriptions and dental care
If you're pregnant, or have had a baby in the past 12 months, you're exempt from paying for prescriptions and NHS dental treatment.
You'll need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate by asking your doctor or midwife for application form FW8 – they'll need to sign it, too. The certificate will cover you up to 12 months after your due date – if you baby is born late, you can apply for an extension to cover your baby's full first 12 months.
Healthy Start vouchers
The Healthy Start scheme provides free weekly vouchers to spend on milk and formula (this must be based on cow's milk and suitable for use from birth), fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables (which mustn't come with any added salt, fat or sugars), as well as free vitamins, in a government bid to helps mums-to-be and under-fours eat healthily.
Low-income families earning below £16,190 a year, including families receiving income support or income-related Jobseeker's Allowance, and young mums under the age of 18 are eligible to apply via the Healthy Start NHS website, or by getting a form from your midwife or health visitor.
You'll get £3.10 a week if you're pregnant (more than 10 weeks), £6.20 a week for a baby under one year old and £3.10 a week for each child aged over one and under four.
Free antenatal classes
Free classes are held across the country to help parents prepare for labour and caring for a newborn baby. Most classes start around 8-10 weeks before your baby is due, and run once a week for around seven sessions. Some classes are for expectant mothers only, and others allow your birth partner or friends to attend.
Classes can cover a range of topics, so it's good to think about what you want most from the sessions to help you decide which ones to attend. Classes can book up early, so speak to your midwife or GP early on in your pregnancy to see what is available in your area. NHS classes are usually held in a children's centre, hospital or a health centre, and private classes at community centres or the teacher's home.
Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance
If you've worked for an employer continuously for at least 26 weeks before the 23rd week of your pregnancy, you're entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. If you qualify, you will be paid 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for six weeks, then £135.45 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less, for the following 33 weeks.
To claim you will need to tell your employer at least 28 weeks before you want the Statutory Maternity Pay to start, and provide a medical evidence of when the baby is due. Some companies may offer enhanced maternity pay - this will usually be detailed in your contract or company handbook.
If you aren't eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, you may be able to claim for Maternity Allowance, which is a weekly payment equal to that of Statutory Maternity Pay. This applies to people who have been self-employed or employed for at least 26 weeks during the 66 weeks before they're due to give birth, are registered self-employed and pay National Insurance contributions, or have earned at least £30 a week on average over a 13-week period in the 66 weeks before their baby is due.
To apply, you will need to contact Jobcentre Plus (0800 055 6688) and fill in an MA1 form.
Sure Start maternity grant
This government grant is available to help low-income families towards the cost of a new baby. A one-off payment of £500 is available – but you can only claim from 11 weeks before your due date and until your baby is three months old.
The Sure Start maternity grant is available if you or your partner are claiming income support, income-related Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits with disability benefits included or pension credits. The grant is now only applicable for the first child in your family.
The grant also applies to those who have used a surrogate, or have adopted or taken guardianship of a child that is no older than one year. Also, if you have a dependant child under the age of 20 that you receive benefits for, you can claim if they have a baby.
You can get a claim form from your local job centre, or download one via the Department for Work and Pensions website.
Health in Pregnancy grant: no longer available
The Health in Pregnancy grant was a one-off payment of £190, available to all mothers-to-be – regardless of income – who were at least 25 weeks pregnant. The grant was abolished in April 2011.
See the next section of this guide on free baby stuff for after your baby is born.