There are some universal tips that I would offer like always have a tea towel or cloth in your buggy as you never know when you have something to mop up at a cafe or in the playground (think swings or slides) and buy a hand bag insert (the type being marketed at at non-Mums who may have more than one handbag) this can really help keep the snacks, wipes, crayons and kiddie paraphernalia separate, handy if you are going back to work and want to appear professional.
So much depends on what type of parent you are. The most expensive item you will probably buy is the push chair. I know so many Mums, including myself, who have ended up by buying a second when they realise what a duff choice they made first time around. A pushchair is not just a pushchair to some but a status symbol that can put your car to shame, I discovered this listening to the appropriately named iCandy Mums at the school gate. There are websites dedicated to bringing you the latest on which celebrity has been spotted with which buggy. Likewise Bugaboo have the most loyal of all owners, and they certainly do offer flexibility and functionality and the choice of endless optional accessories (summer and winter linings anyone?). Why did some of us get it so wrong first time around, well for one friend needed an off road stroller as she became an ardent walker when she became a Mum, others have baby number two so quickly that they need a double buggy almost immediately. Me? As a Mum I wanted something that was light and highly collapsible and reasonably ethical as out favourite outings were into London to see the latest exhibition so I needed something that I could pick up in one one had while I popped the Pickle into sling adjacent to my bag and get onto trains, buses and tubes. To augment the pushchair I found a decent sling is really important and to my surprise a baby carrying backpack. I would never have bought a backpack, but we were given one and it was fabulous for family days out; it had the space for all manner of random 'stuff' and snacks in the capacious pockets.
Sleep? What is your attitude to sleep? Some parenting books advocate black out blinds - if so rush out and buy - I lined the Pickle's curtains with black out material but in reality we were never rigid about adhering to darkness and silence. Now Pickle is the perfect party girl, comes anywhere with us and when she is tired she drops off regardless of light and noise.
Bathing? The Hubster asked me if we even had a baby bath - and the answer was no. This highlights how personal decisions are; when pregnant I had been to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Copenhagen and seen a display about how the design group Normann came up with the final design for their silicon washing up bowl and so guess what I bought for a baby bath? Yup, a designer washing up bowl that worked perfectly and has not gone to waste when she grew too big and shared a bath with me.
Not only are buying decisions personal, but they are subject to irrational prejudice. Dummies are recommended by FSID and other highly credible sources, but somehow I could never bring myself to buy one. I know some Mums who find the idea of second hand or hand me downs as just not right where some Mums swear by eBay and Freecycle. We were lucky that we have an excellent toy library nearby - so I could test before I bought; I discovered that the Pickle never got on with Activity Centres (and it was not a very stylish coffee table) and as Bumbos seem to be indispensable for a whole six weeks of development time it was great to borrow one for just that period (any other uses you can think of for a piece of molded plastic? a primary coloured plant pot?).
Few Mums know ahead of the birth if they will be able to breast feed. Fortunately the Pickle was a natural feeder and so I am really glad that I did not invest in bottles - in the same way that buying an expressing machine in advance would be a waste if your babe will not latch on. It also effects what baby bag you buy. Often change bags vary from other bags just by having a removable changing mat and have insulated pockets for bottles. I had a funky little changing mat that included pockets for nappies, wipes etc that could transfer from bag to bag and I just had to go out and buy myself a capacious leather bag that is still serving me well with the Pickle aged almost five.
I economised on not buying much that was disposable and used my initiative to avoid buying many gadgets. Did I ultimately save? No way, when I bought I tended to buy organic and I enjoyed serious retail therapy when it came to dressing my little