The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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In praise of second hand clothes, eBay, and knitting grannies

So. Mr Schmoo is only 6 months old and I already have 2 giant storage bags filled with clothes that are too big for him.* And that’s not including clothes I’ve borrowed or am lending to friends. While he looks adorable in cute new outfits, I just don’t see the point spending money on new clothes, given everything gets covered in poo, dribble and pureed carrot, and then suddenly doesn’t fit anymore.

My solution? eBay**.

I buy these baby bundles where you get a whole heap of clothes of a particular age range – normally for about £5 – so you get a brand new wardrobe, all nicely washed, mostly great condition and nearly new, for a tiny price; and at the same time you are probably helping out some poor mum to clear some space in her house. Yes, a few things are tatty but if you pick ones with good brands and you haven’t paid much, then having a few dud items in the bundle doesn’t hurt too much. I’ve also got some AMAZING stuff which I’d have spent loads on brand new. Some examples of the bundles I’ve bought recently are:

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Lovely jacket, pram suit and dungarees set = 99p. Plus £4.50 packaging…

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Set of 6 vests = £3.30. Plus £3 packaging…

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1 t-shirt, 3 vests, 2 sleepsuits, 1 pair of socks = 50p!!!!! Plus £5 packaging…

I don’t know why more of the mums I know don’t do this as it seems like a no-brainer to me. Some of Schmoo’s nicest clothes have cost me about 20p!

My new thing, inspired by (ahem, don’t judge me ladies) Peaches Geldof on Instagram, is hand-knitted clothes on eBay. Gorgeous soft wool, really warm and old school and cosy, and I feel like I’m helping some very talented women out there. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve bought:

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GORGEOUS Arran cardigan = £4.50. Plus £3 packaging…

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Cute little beanie hat = 99p. Plus £1 packaging… (I actually got several of these in different colours, some for 50p)

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Lovely knitted mitten, hat and cardigan set = £3.99. Plus £3 packaging…

The best thing about the last set is that when Mr S first wore them, he lost one of the mittens (of course!). So I wrote to the ebay Seller – the wonderfully named alexgrannyknitting – to ask whether I could buy a new mitten from her, and she sent me 2 brand new matching mittens in the same wool free of charge!

In this age of recession and austerity, and tiny itty bitty London houses, I’m all for sharing our clothes and saving my money for what really counts***.

* I recommend any mum buying a ton of these (£5 each – from Amazon or Jojo Maman Bebe) to store old clothes and toys dust-free, and also to cart baby stuff around for holiday etc.

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** Nope they didn’t pay me for this. I’m sure other auction or second hand websites would do the trick too. Obvs.  

*** Including, but not limited to, wine and shoes.


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The Material Mum – the stuff I ACTUALLY needed for my newborn (0-2 months)

I wrote about what I had bought for my baby when I was pregnant, but then I didn’t really know what he’d use. So this post is for the pregnant mummies who might be tempted to clear the aisles at Mothercare before baby is born, or drag poor partner round John Lewis on a weekly basis, buying each and every product they’ve read or heard about. Here’s the list of what I’ve actually used, and what was a waste of time. Remember he’s only 9 weeks so other things may be useful in due course, but this will keep you going in the first few weeks:

Clothes

I am amazed at how quickly he’s grown out of his clothes, some of which he’s only worn once before they were resigned to an ever-growing “too small” bag (for which, these oversize storage bags are really useful – also good for storing your preggie clothes when you want to start using your old wardrobe again).

To put this in context – by 3 weeks, he had grown out of all newborn and 1 month clothes and was wearing 0-3 month clothes. Now, at 9 weeks, he’s wearing 3-6 month clothes and almost growing out of those already.

Sooo I would say spend as little as you can on baby clothes for the first few months. Friends and family will buy you lots and apart from a few new essentials, I found the eBay baby bundles brilliant – you can buy a batch of clothes for under a tenner, containing tons of trousers, sleepsuits, bibs, vests, socks etc which have hardly been worn. Just look for good quality brands and check the photos that they are in good condition. For example, I got 6 Next sleepsuits for around £2.50.

What you need is:

  1. 1 or 2 cute little outfits to get them home from hospital & to show them off to visitors (any more is a waste of money as unlikely to be worn much)
  2. From September – April you’ll need 1 pramsuit when they are outside
  3. 1 or 2 pure cotton clothes sets containing matching hat, socks, vest, sleepsuit, bib, cardigan etc – try going for the “up to 1 month” range to fit them from newborn onwards as newborn clothes lasted about a week for us! – I found M&S starter sets great for this
  4. 1 or 2 cardigans – remember they get really cold to begin with and also great to shove on when you take them out in the pram
  5. 1 or 2 hats and mittens for going out
  6. 5 pairs socks
  7. 5-10 plain vests & sleepsuits to live in for the first few weeks (to be added to by pressies of clothes – honestly you will get loads)
  8. Some Vanish spray to tackle those lovely mustard yellow poo stains that inevitably end up on your brand new sleepsuit (and vest, and socks…)
  9. Tons of muslins – at least 10

Sleeping

We found blankets are actually great pressies to receive as you use them all the time – to wrap up shivery newborns, to transport in prams and car seats, and to wrap up tight in the moses basket. Our baby boy loved being swaddled, and I found the Swaddle Me bags the easiest way to do this as the Velcro means you can tie them up tight. We then put a blanket on top – I love the rainbow blanket from Jojo Maman bebe or try Kath Kidson, or get some cellular blankets as they let the air out and don’t let baby overheat (I think Mothercare does better ones than John Lewis).

Otherwise, I bought a few sleeping bags for when he grows out of the swaddle – Grobags are obviously great (again I managed to find a nearly new one on eBay for around £3!), and M&S and Jojo Maman bebe do some nice ones from birth.

So, once you have a swaddle bag & sleeping bag, you don’t need much else. Our baby boy managed to sleep well in his moses basket (although some mums swear by the NCT-rented bed nests) – which we put in the cot, so you just need a couple of fitted sheets and that’s it, and maybe a flat sheet in case it’s too warm for a blanket.

Bathing

Most mums said they didn’t think they were worth it, but I like our top & tail bowl as its easy to carry water to the nursery, and to hold cotton wool and body lotion, to top and tail him every morning. Otherwise, all you need is a baby bath and bath thermometers are helpful to check quickly the water is the right temperature, and we put in some Johnsons bedtime baby bath for bubbles and to wash him.

For towels, I find the Cuddle dry apron towels the best as you don’t get soaked when carrying squirmy wet baby out the bath for a cuddle.

I know newborn skin is delicate so you don’t need to use products, but I do love the Waitrose baby body lotion for him, and the baby bottom butter has been amazing for my post-baby skin. Yes, really.

Feeding

It was actually quite useful to have some formula / express feed stuff in place as poor baby boy got dehydrated in the second week and we had to express and formula feed to top him up from breastfeeding. We had all this stuff in the house (mostly borrowed) so it didn’t mean a late night pharmacy trips like some mums have to do.

A little note on breastfeed “covers”. I personally didn’t find them helpful. I bought the Mamascarf but it didn’t work that well and I ended up selling it on eBay. I also realized whenever I see someone wearing an apron / cover for breastfeeding it actually makes me look more as I reckon they stand out. So, I think all you need is a bit of confidence and a nice pashmina to cover up your boob. What  I used is:

  1. A box of Aptamil in case you can’t feed or need to do top ups.
  2. A steriliser (we have the Tommee Tippee one but many have better reviews)
  3. Some bottles (again we have Tommee Tippee ones but lots out there – and Dr Brown is good for colic apparently)
  4. A padded bottle bag so you can take formula or expressed milk out with you if you aren’t quite ready to breastfeed in public
  5. A pump – hand pumps are great for quietly expressing while watching telly at night (I got a Mam one free when I subscribed to Mother & Baby magazine), but I love the Medela mini-electric pump which works in about 10 minutes
  6. A bottle brush & small washing bowl for washing bottles and pumps (I’m not precious about hygiene, far from it, but nicer to keep them separate from last night’s curry pan)
  7. Breastmilk freezer storage bags for when you have rock hard boobs and want to save that milk for a night oot

Medical / pharmacy stuff

  1. Obviously nappies, lots of (we used Pampers newborn)
  2. We used wet wipes from the start as cotton wool & water was a faff – the H20 water wipes are really sensitive and baby boy only had nappy rash once in 9 weeks
  3. Johnsons bedtime baby bath & Waitrose baby body lotion
  4. Nasal aspirator to suck bogeys out his nose when he gets a bit snuffly (amazingly satisfying)
  5. Baby nail clippers (amazing how much his nails grow)
  6. Dummies (great for when they just want to suck, better than on you…)
  7. Infacol for wind / colic and sudacrem for nappy rash and mummy’s dry skin

Travel

My pram (second hand Bugaboo Bee) is now adorned with a million accessories, but some are really useful. The cup holder is great for always having bottled water as I’m continually thirsty. I use the rain cover in bad weather and the parasol to keep him out of the sun and as a shade when we’re in the park. The Snooze Shade is good for keeping him asleep although he doesn’t need it too much if we’re moving.

I also bought a lock for the pram as you often have to leave it in health / GP clinics and I’ve heard they can get nicked. The bag hooks I bought are also great for carrying shopping when I’m out.

Slings are great for strapping them to you when they won’t stop crying and just need some cuddles, but you’re also starving and need to make some lunch. Try before you buy is my advice as I didn’t like the Babasling and Close slings I bought as they were too complicated and he didn’t sit right in them. The Babybjorn is excellent (buy second hand if you can) but it isn’t great for my back and I’d like to find a sling where I can carry him on my back when he’s older so I’m going to shop around for another one once he’s bigger.

Toys and entertainment

Don’t bother buying much as even at 9 weeks, he is more interested in ceilings than toys. Plus you’ll get loads as pressies which I can’t wait for him to play with.

We are finding now that mobiles and anything dangly are coming into their own, and play matts are perfect for them having a kick around and for dropping NCT babies on when they come round for tea. When he was really little, the Mamas & Papas playmat and gym with raised sides (try to borrow one as its so expensive) was perfect from birth as it was nice and enclosed and non-scary (the baby gym we have was too open when he was newborn but he loves it now). Now, a play gym is great for letting him have a kick around while mummy can get breakfast, daddy can watch the cricket and he tires himself out. I also bought this By Carla changing matt with activity arc (£12.95 with Bounty offers) which he is obsessed with and can keep him occupied for hours.

Summer hols / swimming

We’re going on holiday in a month or so – hurrah – and I’d actually love some advice from mums on what I need. I’ve already bought some swim nappies on advice from a friend who put hers in normal nappies and watched them fill up with water and sink like a stone! I wouldn’t have remembered otherwise. We got gorgeous swimming trunks as pressies and I bought a wetsuit and hat to protect him from UV rays. I’ve also bought him a second hand Zoggs swim seat which looks very cute and I love the look of the Jojo Maman Bebe towelling ponchos.

I’m also thinking of getting him a sun tent as mummy & daddy plan to spend a lot of time reading books on the beach – are they worth it? And also a sun shade for the car window as we’ll be driving through France during the day.


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38 weeks and the due date approaches…

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38 weeks today and I’m feeling…well..uppy, then downy, then uppy again. Poor Chef.

Good news is maternity leave is wonderful, giving me time to put my feet up, do some “grooming”, see friends, and sort out the house in wierd and wonderful ways that only an expectant mother could come up with (we must plant herbs! we must fill the freezer with ready meals! we must buy drawer storage boxes!)

Also good is the fact that my liver function seems to be settling down and out of the last 3 blood tests (am human pin cushion), 2 had gone down to almost normal, and only the last annoying one had crept back up a little. But hopefully I’ll be left in peace until baby decides to make an entrance.

Bad news is the hormones, the tick-tocking of  time to d-day, are making me rather irrational and emotional.

I have previously spoken about people discussing your first child’s arrival as a sort of armageddon. Having recently finished NCT and gone to a Bumps & Babies class, I am filled with the impression that in the weeks following the birth I will be a shell of a woman, unable to do much more than make a sandwich and brush my hair, on a good day. I’ve been advised to avoid visitors for the first 2 weeks to allow us time to settle into things. Food shopping, cooking and basic personal hygiene appear to be impossible tasks. Certainly, having read Look Mummy No Hands description of breasfteeding round the clock, it would make sense to prepare for the worst.

Will it really be that bad? The Chef doesn’t seem to think so, and having suffered from insomnia for much of my life (see this post I wrote for The Happiness Project London on being a “troubled sleeper“), sometimes I think I will cope pretty well. But I can imagine that after the highs and excitment of the first few days, the hormones and tiredness will kick in, as will any problems with breastfeeding, and we’ll just have to take every moment as it comes.

The other thing I’m finding, is that I keep getting told all the things I should be doing now BECAUSE WE WON’T GET TO DO IT AGAIN FOR AT LEAST 18 YEARS! (That was a direct quote from my NCT teacher). Way to put on the pressure. I’ve been told to:

  • Go to the cinema lots
  • Have date nights
  • Eat out
  • See friends
  • Sort out all the things wrong with the house as you’ll never have time later
  • And…somehow find time between all the above to nap, have baths, and read.

And being someone who is probably more suggestive to other people’s opinions than most, I’ve been running round like a headless chicken trying to do all the above at once. Phew. So a couple more weeks before baby decides to show up would be nice.

Which brings me to my final worry. The Birth. It is becoming more tangible every day, with my belly swelling and the bump moving lower, and the little stabby pains in my pelvis I didn’t have before, and the shock of every twinge making me think IS THIS IT?!

And it’s scary at times, really overwhelmingly emotionally scary. And it could utterly overwhelm me if I didn’t try to stop it. Because although I’m calm and controlled and an active-birth-yoga-hypno-birth follower, there is a little part of me that wonders whether when the time comes, maybe I will just not be able to handle it, will thrown my fricking frankincense out the window while screaming for an epidural NOW. And I know that won’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s the fear of the unknown that gets me.

I want to be able to let go completely, to give my body over to this baby to make its way out as it knows how to do (a girl in yoga class described the birth of her first child as being like when you vomit – an abandonment of your body to instinctive urges), to accept the feelings of my body splitting open, with a certain calmness and power. But how do I know if I’m strong enough or powerful enough? How will I be able to follow my primal instinctive side when my brain is telling me that MY BODY IS ABOUT TO RIP OPEN?!

I don’t. I’ve done my best to prepare and the rest will be up to me, The Chef, our midwife, and my body. And perhaps a large glass of red wine.


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New Baby Shopping List

Here are the things I’ve bought for me and baby in the last few months. I’m not saying these are all necessary, nor that they are the best things to buy, but they are all things I’ve seen recommended by friends or that I’ve found from trawling magazines and the internet. Seeing it all written down makes me do a little bit of sick in my mouth at how much I’ve spent (and The Chef is yet to understand the extent of it all) but I told you the nesting instinct was strong. Here goes:

Nursery basics

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Sleeping

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Travelling

  • Bugaboo Bee pram (bought second hand with rain cover, sunshade and footmuff for around £240. Borrowed Maxi Cosi car seat adaptors and bought coffee cup holder – apparently an essential!)
  • We borrowed a sheepskin rug for the pram from a friend and got John Lewis cellular pram blankets
  • Baby Bjorn baby carrier (bought for a fiver at the NCT nearly new sale post)
  • A babasling (more recommended in comments below – I bought off ebay for around £15)

Changing and feeding

  • Luckily, some lovely friends have given me a steriliser, Mendela mini-electric breast pump, bottles (Dr Brown and Tommee Tippee), and breast milk storage bags. All I need to do was to buy was a bottle and teat brush from Boots, and to bribe them with wine to come round and show me what on earth I need to do with it all
  • Skip Hop changing bag
  • John Lewis wedge changing matt
  • John Lewis birdy breastfeeding pillow
  • John Lewis muslin squares
  • M&S assorted muslins
  • I may buy a mamascarf
  • I got a second hand bumbo from the NCT nearly new sale

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Medical, bathtime and grooming

  • I didn’t buy it in the end as I bought separate items, but I like the look of the Tommee Tipee healthcare kit which has brush, comb, thermometer, nasal mucus sucker-up thing, nail clippers and file
  • I also did a big shop at Boots for: Arnica pills, paracetamol, baby flannel and sponge, baby nailfile scissors and clippers, Pampers newborn nappies, cotton wool, baby wipes, nasal aspirator thingie, dummies, antibac hand wash, Sudocream, Infacol, breast pads and nipple shields, nipple cream
  • John Lewis baby step (I thought I could sit on it while baby is in the bath)
  • John Lewis baby bath box to hold all the many baby bits and bobs in the bathroom
  • ELC bathtime baby ducks
  • A Cuddlemoo cowprint towel apron from Cuddledry
  • John Lewis baby hairbrush
  • John Lewis dino cuddle robe
  • I borrowed a baby bath from a friend and bought a baby support from the NCT nearly new sale for £1
  • Philips Advent Digital Thermometer Set
  • Advent bath thermometer

Clothes

Toys and playtime

  • Sophie the giraffe teething toy
  • Freddie the Firefly
  • Stripey horse soft toy
  • I bought a baby gym from the NCT nearly new sale for £10 and am borrowing another from a friend
  • I have borrowed 2 baby bouncers from friends, and am borrowing a door bouncer
  • I bought various rattles, toys and books from the NCT nearly new sale and have inherited lots from friends, as well as getting some lovely toys as pressies

Hospital Bag

  • Mine currently has: lavender oil & hanky, nipple cream, arnica pills & paracetamol, throw away pants, maternity pads, slippers, camera, iPhone speakers, snacks, nappies, wipes, cotton wool, newborn outfits x 3. I’m still to get some lipsalve, eye masks and ear plugs, a towel, and cheapie nighties, pants, vests and trackie bums from Primark
  • I also love the Hospital Bag checklist from Mums Make Lists and am waiting for the Hospital bag list from The Pregnant Beauty Guide


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On Nesting

11 weeks to go before baby no 1 makes an appearance and I’m feeling pretty good. My skin is still dreadful but I’ve shaken off the vanity that has pervaded me for much of my 20s and 30s and accepted that I am likely to look a little rough until several months after the birth. The huge bump intrigues me and makes me happy. I’m excited and energetic.

But, let’s face it, I’m MANIC.

I realise all-knowing mothers will be shaking their heads thinking don’t sweat the small stuff, or wait til you get to number 2 and you’ll be dressing them in a second –hand bin bag, but this nesting instinct is pretty powerful.

Since New Year, I’ve felt I’m on the home stretch, and The Nesting is all-consuming. It’s a sickness that invades my sleep and manifests itself in lengthy to-do-lists, stressed out moans to the other ‘arf who is trying desperately to understand Mental Wife, and all sorts of phone and diary reminders. I feel like I still need so much Stuff, have so many books to read to work out what to do with all the Stuff, and there’s so little time left!

Since New Year:

  1. A new package from frantic online shopping has arrived almost every day, much to the bemusement of The Chef.
  2. I have bought eclectic objects for the house that seemed Very Important at the time. Like a tie rack and a spice rack. The Chef has since pointed out he never wears a tie and we never use spices. And it continues. I want new cushion covers! I want to move furniture around! I need new house plants!
  3. I keep booking up time to meet up with friends, as if post-March I am disappearing off the face of the planet.
  4. I am obsessed with doing all the odd jobs in the house that need doing before baby arrives. Damp-proofing, carpet-mending, dusting, gardening. Sitting down and relaxing (which I am advised to do more of) is a becoming a rare event.
  5. I am training myself to become a domestic maternal goddess. I bought cake tins! I cooked my first pie! And sticky toffee pudding!
  6. I am noting down every mummy recommendation and acting on it. My baby will be swaddled, carried in 2 types of baby sling, with white noise and coloured lights. At this rate, I will be fanning the little tyke with peacock feathers while recreating the birthing noises of a giant whale.
  7. I am finishing off the dream nursery that I have decided we must have. We have cot and chest of drawers and shelf, and now I want a glider chair and some stickers and the moon on a stick. For a baby who will be unable to focus on much for the first few weeks. But STILL.
  8. To add to our growing nursery, I am buying “essential” baby gear. Like a sheep that plays wave music, toy boxes for an unborn child who will be unable to pick up toys for several weeks, and a cow-patterned baby towel.
  9. I have a spreadsheet, a SPREADSHEET, of all the baby stuff we still need and booking up every remaining weekend from now until D Day with shopping trips for me and The Poor Chef.
  10. I am obsessively budgeting, saving, then spending my savings on Stuff. Then crying over lack of savings. Then buying more Stuff.

HELP!


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21 weeks and the truth about that “glow”

21 weeks and I’m beginning to walk with that arched back – hand on lower back – sideways waddle. Sitting can be uncomfortable depending on the chair (Skyfall was a lesson in comfort and patience). Lower back issues remain, brought on by the simple fact that while my core used to be equally pulled between back and belly, the belly is now winning hands down. A bit of physio is sorting that out and I’m planning to start preggie yoga again next week which will help massively.

Theoretically speaking, I have the famous “glow” what preggie people are supposed to have. But in actual fact it could be, in practical terms, described as “over production of grease from your sebaceous glands” and has resulted in a lovely double whammy of greasy hair and spotty chin, the like I haven’t seen since the age of 16 when I was in Doc Martens and lumberjack shirts.

Good news is maternity wardobe has improved immeasurably thanks to 2 boxes of Seraphine clothes donated to me by a fabulously stylish friend. Add to this my new Asos breton stripe dress (as seen in Pregnancy & Baby magazine, my new guilty pleasure), Isabella Oliver ruched tops and JoJo Maman Bebe essential maternity dress (LOTS of compliments – first time ever for maternity clothes), I’m beginning to feel a lot better in my skin.

However, following the surprise post by The Chef, I’ve realised I have some work to do in the romance department. So I’m trying to be less critical, not let my hormones rule our relationship, share thoughts and worries, and I even cooked last night. Yes, me. More than that, is the realisation that this actually could be a lot of fun. It’s our greatest thing in common, and there’s lots to talk and laugh about (names, nurseries, how we’ll bring baby up, ideas about travels and adventures). For now, its all about getting in that positive mindset, thinking like a team, realising how lucky we are and getting excited about a happy baby-filled future…


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My first NCT nearly new sale

So, my mummy friend invited me to my first NCT nearly new sale last Sunday. Yes, its mega early (I’m only 18 weeks this Saturday) but I thought as I didn’t have to buy anything it might be a good way to leisurely sniff out some bargains.

Well, leisurely it was not. We got there 20 minutes before it opened (NCT members get in 15 minutes before everyone else) and there was already a queue. There then proceeded to be a lot of pushing and shoving and annoyance and general angst before we all flooded in. And from then on it really was handbags (and prams, and bumps) at dawn. My friend was brilliant, shouting “there’s a baby bjorn in the corner – grab it!” and “get that bumbo under the desk!” while I stumbled round confused, wondering what on earth is a bumbo?! When I found said bumbo, another be-bumped lady told me she’d got it first and I was unceremoniously pushed to another stand.

Anyway, thanks to my friend who I shouted to across the stands “what should I buy next?!” every 2 minutes, I managed to buy some very cute stuff at bargain prices so I’d definitely recommend you check out your local sale if you want to pick up some bargains. My tips for surviving another one (and it really is survival of the fittest) is:

  • get there early
  • ditch the jacket / pram as its boiling and rammed
  • carry a large bag for your purchases (I had to make two trips to the car)
  • bring a friend / partner to recce the whole place and tell you what is good and what to go for
  • look under the tables and in baskets to find hidden treasures
  • don’t buy the first thing you see – there might be more of the same brand in better condition in other stalls
  • work out what you really need / want in advance otherwise it’s overwhelming
  • make sure you take a break after about 15 minutes of manic haggling – you’ll need it

So, to my surprise as a complete novice at these sorts of things, and parenting generally, I reckon I got some good stuff. Here’s what I bought:

A bumbo for £15 (RRP approx £40) – without tray which needs to be bought separately. Wish I’d shopped around as there were actually loads for around £13, many with trays

A travel cot for £20 (RRP approx £60-80)

Baby bath seat £1

A very cute rocking horse, (looooove!), £12

Baby bjorn (a little dirty) £5 (RRP approx £70)

Cute play matt thing £10

Tommee Tippee baby monitor (£8 – new) (RRP approx £35)

Assorted toys & books, £1 and £2 each