How to buy everything you need for mum and bub online - and stay on budget: Our guide for first time mums

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images 

The latest COVID-19 outbreak and resulting restrictions have thrown out the plans for many expectant parents.

Rather than spending weekends testing out prams or shopping for the perfect items to complete your nursery, we're told to stay home. 

So how do you find the right products for bub when you have to shop online, as first time parents? Luckily we've put in the hard work for you, to help you find the right essential items - for the right price. 

From big ticket items like car seats, to the smaller - but indispensable items, we've narrowed down what you'll need straight up, what can wait and where you can save some money. 

Car seat

Picture: Online resources are available showing the safest options. Credit: Getty ImagesOnline resources show the safest options. Photo: Getty Images

It may seem like this one shouldn't be purchased online, without having first viewed the seats in person. But the safety ratings, testing and buying guides of these by both Choice and Canstar, among others, helps to narrow down the fundamentals of what you may be looking for.

It's also easier to compare seat dimensions to your car space online and avoids being overwhelmed by rows of identical looking seats and capsules in store.

This is one area where it does pay to do your research, however. Check the ratings and compare the different safety features between seats and brands, but also check which stores sell what, and who price matches.

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If time is on your side, sign up to a few baby store websites and watch out for any upcoming sales.

Also check your local council to see if they offer free car seat fittings. Many do, allowing you to book a time for it to be fitted and saving you around $50 to have it professionally installed privately.

Bassinet

Picture: Check safety ratings and reviews before buying a bassinet. Credit: Getty ImagesCheck safety ratings and reviews before buying a bassinet. Photo: Getty Images

As it's arguably the most important purchase you'll make, this is one area where you may choose to invest more money - and research time. As there is currently no Australian safety standard for bassinets, you'll want to ensure your choices are well vetted. Though parents can also check if products adhere to either the European or US safety standards. 

Choose which style you'd prefer - think wheels or no wheels (to move between rooms during day sleeps), or fixed bassinets or ones you can rock, to narrow your search and check out Choice's bassinet reviews for an overview of safety and ease of use. As well as Red Nose Australia's handy guide

As with the car seats, compare the prices at different retailers and look for any that beat any price (such as Baby Bunting who have a 'Price Promise' to beat competitors by 5 per cent) to get the best deal.

Keep in mind many babies outgrow their bassinet within the first few months, so it may not be worth opting for one at the top of the range. For this reason, some parents also choose to skip the bassinet and use a cot from the outset, however Red Nose Australia safe sleep guidelines recommend babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six-12 months, so this option may be space dependent. 

Baby clothes

Picture: Buy clothes on a needs basis as babies often quickly outgrow them. Credit: Getty ImagesBuy clothes on a needs basis as babies often quickly outgrow them. Photo: Getty Images

Want a quick way to tell if it's a first or second baby? Check the clothes. The first is likely in something adorable and expensive, the second is in hand-me-downs. Veteran mums know that the cuter the outfit, the more likely it is to be stained with spew or a nappy explosion. So opt for practicality here. 

Don't overbuy - babies grow quickly, and nothing is worse than having to store drawers full of unused clothes, only to then have to buy the same in the next size up. As a rough guide for the newborn stage aim for six each of singlets and jumpsuits, three tops, two cardigans/jackets if it's a winter baby and a few pairs of socks. 

Make sure to also add around three muslin wraps (and to YouTube 'how to swaddle a baby' to learn how to use them), as well as three bunny rugs to have on hand.

Look for stretchy fabrics and those that either zip up or fasten at the front to make nappy changes easier, while cotton is a good option for summer babies, as synthetic fabrics may make them sweat. 

This is one area you can scrimp a bit - department stores - often have practical options in contemporary designs and should cover the range you'll need - which could qualify you for free shipping or avoid having to pay multiple fees.

However like adult clothes, sizes can vary between manufacturers, so read online reviews to find whether certain brands run big or small. In theory, 0000 should fit most smaller sized newborns, while some may fit straight into 000, which are sized from birth to three months. Most parents should be able to get away with leaving any 00 clothes for three months plus, so these can be purchased later. 

Also check the clothing has a low fire hazard rating. 

Playmat

Picture: Playmats can often be picked up cheaply, if you're not fussed on style. Credit: Getty ImagesPlaymats can often be picked up cheaply, if you're not fussed on style. Photo: Getty Images

Another item you can often save cash on. Brands regularly release new designs and if you're willing to go for last year's pattern, you can often find one on clearance, or at least on sale. 

The challenge online for this is finding one that's well padded (for bub's soft head), so read product reviews to find the right fit. Other things to consider are whether any included toys can be detached for bub to play with and the size. 

Baby carrier

Picture: Baby carriers keep bub close - and away from strangers' germs. Credit: Getty Images
Baby carriers keep bub close - and away from strangers' germs. Photo: Getty Images

Another sanity saver, carriers not only help keep bub close, they'll help shield them from germs when you have to venture outdoors. This is one area many first time parents find overwhelming, but there are guides to help you find what fits your needs. 

Websites such as the Australian Babywearing Association are a great resource for explaining the different options: think stretchy wraps, ring slings, and structured carriers, to help you decide. 

Make sure to check the weight guidelines for different products - some stretchy wraps aren't suitable past a certain weight, while some structured carriers aren't suitable for newborns. 

Often a catalogue item, if you can hold off until the next baby retailer sale you can usually pick these up at a discounted price. They're also readily available second hand, if you're comfortable with that option and can ensure it's from a smoke free home. 

Nappies

Picture: Don't overbuy nappies until you know what size/brand suits your bub. Credit: Getty ImagesDon't overbuy nappies until you know what size/brand suits your bub. Photo: Getty Images

A common mistake for new parents is to buy these in bulk - enough to see out the newborn phase. Nappies, however, are often a case of trial and error and different brands will fit better, depending on bub's size. Fast growers will also leave you with an excess of too-small nappies. 

As they're readily available at supermarkets, it's unlikely you'll be left short, so buy as you need. Adding these to your weekly shop in the lead up will also stretch out the cost, saving you a bit outlay. These don't need to be the big brand names, either. Last year Finder rated ALDI's Mamia nappies as their pick of the market. 

Maternity bras

Picture: Maternity bras will make breastfeeding easier. Credit: Getty Images
Maternity bras will make breastfeeding easier. Photo: Getty Images  

If you're planning to breastfeed, you'll want a maternity bra. Trust us on this, when you're stuck cluster feeding, easy access - to your breasts is crucial. Plus the comfort factor will be a godsend when your milk is coming in. It will be tricker to find the right fit online, but there are online sizing guides - such as this one from Myer - available to help guide you. 

Many of the big retailers also sell affordable options. Check the returns policy on these before you buy, however, to ensure you can exchange or return items if it's not quite right. 

Other tips:

  • Write a list of essentials and stick to it – this will keep you focussed, on budget, and save you hours of scrolling through products you may want, but could do without
  • Check the shipping times and costs – many of the big chains offer reasonable prices, but it's always best to check
  • Read online reviews – the best product feedback often comes from those who've already trialled the product
  • Keep an eye out for sales
  • Check returns policies – seek out easy, pain free policies.
  • Look up the same item on multiple sites – not just for price comparison, but as different stores may use different photos
  • Try to bundle buy off your list to save on shipping, but prioritise the important items first. It's no good having a change table but no car seat to bring bub home in
  • Don't buy everything upfront if you won't need it immediately (think items like high-chair/cot) to spread your spending out