New parents spend an average of £340.32 on a pushchair and £144 on a baby car seat – and that’s before you’ve even factored in clothes, nursery furniture and heaps of nappies.
To help you plan your budget, our Which? baby product experts have sorted what baby essentials you need to buy, and when.
1. Baby sling or carrier
When to buy: Before 24 weeks pregnant
A baby sling or carrier can be a godsend, especially if you need free hands for an older child in a buggy or on a scooter, or have a colicky or difficult-to-soothe baby.
You won’t know in advance if your baby is going to be this way so you may be tempted to avoid spending money on a sling this early.
However, buying one before week 24 will enable you to try it on to see it works for you before your bump gets too big to grapple with.
Which? baby sling expert Hannah Fox says: ‘There is the possibility that your newborn won’t take to it so, if you’re worried about shelling out needlessly, get in touch with a ‘sling library’ so you can try one on or even hire one for a couple of hours to see how you get along.’
When you’re looking to buy, beware of fake baby carriers and slings. There’s a counterfeit market for certain brands so shop smart by purchasing from authorised retailers.
When to buy: From 24 weeks pregnant
Week 24 is when your growing baby is considered viable so this is a real physical and psychological milestone.
Your anomaly scan at around 20 weeks means you’ll also know more about your impending arrival, including how many babies you’re expecting and what sex they are, and this may influence your purchase – a double buggy or a specific colour, for example.
Which? pushchair expert Alison Potter says before you make the leap, think carefully about whether your pushchair will fit your needs. She says: ‘Nearly three out in five parents told us they suffered buyer’s remorse because their choice was too heavy or too big and bulky, and some didn’t realise the pushchair they bought wasn’t suitable from birth.’
3. Car seat
When to buy: From 24 weeks pregnant
Although the average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, babies don’t always abide by rules! Around 1 in every 13 arrives before 37 weeks – some as early as 24 weeks – so it pays to be prepared when it comes to buying a car seat.
Which? car seat expert Hannah Fox says: ‘Getting your car seat from 24 weeks gives you the chance to get used to fitting it in your car so you’re well versed in it by the time you take your baby home. Of course, if you see a bargain before this, there’s no reason not to bag it.’
A 2019 Which? survey found that nearly a third of parents are putting their child’s safety at risk by not being shown how to fit their car seat correctly, possibly because more than a quarter are buying their car seat online where they’re not shown how to install it.
Our expert also recommends that rather than going for the cheapest seat that’s suitable for your baby, or one that comes as part of a pushchair travel system package, you should buy the best you can afford that has done well in our crash tests.
4. Cot mattress and crib
When to buy: From 28 weeks pregnant
Newborn babies sleep between 8 and 16 hours a day and for the first six months they should be spending their slumber time with you but on their own sleep surface, according to the Lullaby Trust, which provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies.
As a result, it’s vital that they’re able to sleep both comfortably and safely from the outset on a mattress that meets the relevant British Safety Standards. A cot mattress should be firm and flat, protected by a waterproof cover and brand new for each newborn, where possible.
Read more essential cot mattress safety advice
Rather than a crib or a cot, which tends to be a heavier piece of furniture, you may prefer to start off with a Moses basket as it’s an easy, lightweight option that will enable you to move it from room to room before they progress to something more permanent.
Getting this ready from 28 weeks makes sure you’re prepared in the event that they arrive earlier than 40 weeks, as is the case for 60,000 UK babies born each year.
Which? cot mattress expert Alison Potter says: ‘Think about getting the cot or crib assembled before you run out of energy in the later stages of pregnancy. Getting a nursery ready can be hard work so don’t leave it all to the last minute.’
When to buy: When your baby arrives
Your baby will use around 375 nappies a month for the first few months after birth, totalling around 5,300 by the time they’re two – and costing you around £860 in the process.
It’s understandable you may be tempted to economise by stockpiling disposable nappies before your baby arrives, especially if you spot a cracking deal somewhere, but it may end up being a false economy.
You might have been given an estimate of how much your baby will weigh when it’s born but no-one will know for sure until its actually born. If you’ve squirreled nappies, you may discover you’ve bought loads in a size they’re already too big to use.
Instead, buy them once your baby arrives so you know exactly what you need. Don’t worry about nabbing bargains – there are deals on nappies all the time.
Something you can do in advance is check whether your local council runs a reusable nappy scheme, if this is something you’re considering using. Which? nappy expert Rebecca Marcus says: ‘These schemes offer benefits from a free starter pack to vouchers that you can put towards the cost of reusable nappies.’
6. Baby monitor
When to buy: Two weeks after the birth
Your newborn is likely to be with you pretty much all the time, whether they’re asleep or awake, so you might be wondering if you even need a baby monitor.
There are several reasons why you may want to purchase one. Perhaps you’re supervising older children elsewhere in your home and don’t want to miss your baby’s cry, or you have family members living far away or a partner who’s back at work after the birth, wanting to check in on how baby is doing by way of a smart monitor that uses wi-fi.
Rather than go to the expense of buying something you discover you don’t really need, wait a couple of weeks after taking your baby home to see if a monitor is likely to benefit your set-up – then check to see which one best suits your needs. For example, do you need an audio or a video variety or even one with a motion sensor mat?
Which? baby monitor expert Rebecca Marcus says: ‘Think about the features you’ll need before deciding which one to buy as these will greatly affect the price. You can get hold of a basic, cheap audio monitor for around £20, but a top-of-the-range feature-packed monitor could cost you more than £200.’