How to get the best deals on baby products Free and cheap baby stuff
Preparing for your new arrival can be expensive, but help is at hand if you know where to look. Here, we round up the best places to find free and cheap products and services for you and your baby.
Before making any big purchases, we’d recommend that you check out our reviews of baby and child car seats, pushchairs, baby monitors and more. There’s a significant difference between Best Buy products and low-scorers (particularly Don’t Buys), and the most expensive products are not always the best. By checking our reviews before you buy, you'll know that you’re investing in the best possible products for you and your baby.
If you’re not a member, you can try Which? for £1 to unlock all of our reviews and gain access to our advice helplines.
Free and cheap baby equipment
Freecycle and Freegle are both free-to-use websites comprising networks of local groups, through which people give things away rather than chucking them out. The amount of baby stuff on offer varies between groups, but it’s possible to find some absolute gems – you can also put out a ‘wanted’ request if you’re looking for something in particular.
It may not be free, but you could also consider renting baby equipment. Parents’ charity the NCT, for example, hires out pushchairs and other items – just remember to check our pushchair reviews before choosing which model to borrow, and always do some basic safety checks before using. You might also find our useful – you could always check out the buggy in a shop and then hire it from elsewhere.
Alternatively, you could save money by buying used baby equipment. Check out our guide to second-hand baby products to find out all you need to know.
IMPORTANT: we would never recommend using a second-hand or hired child car seat as it may have been in a crash in the past and, if so, could be less safe than a new car seat.
Free antenatal classes
Antenatal classes help you to prepare for your baby's birth and learn to look after and feed your baby. The NHS holds free antenatal classes. You'll have to pay for most other classes you attend.
Most NHS classes start around 8-10 weeks before your baby is due (but sooner if you’re having twins as they’re more likely to be born prematurely), and run once a week for around two hours. The number of sessions on offer will vary, depending on where you live. Some classes are for expectant mothers only, while others allow your birth partner or friends to attend. Be warned that NHS classes are very limited though, so you might need to budget to pay for classes.
Antenatal 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 quickly, 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 paid-for private classes at community centres or the teacher's home.
The most well-known paid for antenatal classes are run by the NCT. Prices of NCT courses vary. But to give you a ballpark figure, the cost of an NCT Essentials antenatal course for one person is between £75 and £120. That gives you 12 hours of classes.
Online, you'll be able to find forums that call themselves 'antenatal classes' where you'll be able to talk to other mums, learn from other mums and ask questions that are worrying you. There are number of antenatal class videos available on You Tube. But critics argue that these online courses are no substitute for being able to talk face-to-face with an expert. And beware of following advice from someone whose credentials you aren't able to check.
Find out what's on offer in terms of facilities and antenatal care at your local labour ward or birth centre at Which? Birth Choice.
Free prescriptions and dental care for mums
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, which they need to sign. The certificate will cover you for up to 12 months after your due date. If your baby is born late, you can apply for an extension to cover your baby's full first 12 months.
Free fruit, veg and baby formula
The Healthy Start scheme provides some families with 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 sugar), and vitamins.
Families earning below £16,190 a year, including those receiving income support, income-related Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Child Tax Credit, plus young mums under the age of 18, are eligible to apply via the Healthy Start NHS website or by getting a form from their midwife or health visitor.
You'll get £3.10 a week if you're more than 10 weeks pregnant, £6.20 a week if your baby is under one year old, and £3.10 a week for each child aged over one and under four.
Free baby product samples, coupons and vouchers
Lots of brands have baby clubs you can sign up to and receive free products as well as tips and advice. We've collated a list of some of the most popular baby clubs with a summary of what you get in each:
- Aptaclub: 24/7 expert advice nutritional advice, personalised emails tailored to your stage of pregnancy, offers, how to guides and checklists
- Babies R Us Mother and Baby Club: money-off vouchers, personal shopping service, special offers from partners, exclusive offers at Babies R Us all tailored to your baby's stage of development
- Beaming Baby: free eco nappies, advice on washable v disposable nappies, free organic baby wipes and baby bath sachets
- Bebevita: free weaning spoon, money-off vouchers
- Boots Parenting Club: 10 Advantage Card points for every £1 spent on baby products (compared to four points per £1 for regular Advantage Card holders), free magazines, gifts, special offers
- Bounty packs: money-off coupons, free baby product samples, information, advice - and lots of adverts - at various stages*
- Cow & Gate Baby Club: free cuddly cow, pregnancy diary, mailings with tips and offers, weekly emails with advice for each stage of pregnancy, access to the C&G Careline and Friend Finder tool
- Emma’s Diary: £200 of Argos money-off vouchers, Bonusprint photobook voucher worth £15, free Newborn Essentials Pack from Johnson’s Baby and Pampers, money-off vouchers, and offers from other big baby brands, access to online forums
- Heinz Baby Club: money-off coupons, exclusive trials of new products, nutritional guides and recipes
- HiPP Baby Club: personalised baby calendar, free HiPP Organic samples and money-off coupons, free photo prints from Snapfish, an A-Z of pregnancy and baby health, regular baby development emails, exclusive offers and competitions
- Johnson's baby club: sign up and collect points from Johnson's products to redeem rewards
- My Mothercare: more than £100 in money-off vouchers including 20% off maternity clothing, £10 off when you spend £100 or more, £5 off when you spend £50 or more on clothing, footwear or toys, 20% off toys on your child's next birthday, personalised emails for each week of your pregnancy, sneak previews of Mothercare sales, invitations to be product testers
- SMA baby club: free welcome pack, development emails for every stage, support from the Careline, treats to celebrate your baby's milestones
- Tesco Baby & Toddler Club: free life insurance with Tesco Bank Enhances Free Parent Life Cover, regular emails with tailored offers, competitions, expert baby advice
Following brands on social media can also help you stay in the know about special offers and competitions.
*The Bounty Pregnancy Information Pack will usually be given to you by your midwife early on in your pregnancy, then after your first scan you can pick up your Mum-To-Be Pack from Asda, Boots or Superdrug by showing the voucher you’ll have been given in your first pack. Next is the Newborn Pack, which you’ll be given on the maternity ward, and finally the Family Pack can be collected from Asda, Boots or Superdrug using the voucher from your Newborn Pack.
All children aged three and four are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education a week for 38 weeks of the year. Some two-year-olds are eligible too - for full information, check out our guide to free child care.
You could also save up to £900 a year per parent on nursery costs if you’re employed – our guide on childcare vouchers has more details.
Free books for children
The Bookstart scheme aims to provide a free pack of books to all children. If you live in England or Scotland, a Bookstart babies pack is available through your health visitor. Separate Bookstart packs are available to parents in Wales and Northern Ireland, and you can get special packs for blind, partially sighted and deaf children. Visit the Bookstart website for more information, as well as events in your area.
You can also download a wide range of free children's e-books if you look online, and borrow books free of charge from your local library.
Free cash for parents
Cashback websites allow you to collect free cash as you're shopping for your baby essentials. There is also an organisation called Kidstart which is essentially a cashback website, but the cash you get back is paid directly into a savings account for your child. You can also get grandparents and other relatives to shop and save via your account to build up a little nest egg for your baby.
Some first-time parents on certain benefits are entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the Sure Start Maternity Grant. The grant must be claimed within 11 weeks of your baby's due date, or three months after giving birth.