Well, in amongst the less lovely aspects of pregnancy (nausea, tiredness, stretch marks and ALWAYS FEELING TOO DAMN HOT) are a couple of positives. One being the amazing shopportunities that a new addition to the family will bring! (Oh yeah, and the actual baby, obvs).
As baby two will be born in Hong Kong rather than Shanghai, I’ve had far fewer “OMG where can I buy organic bamboo swaddles in a cloud grey star and bunny print right now yes I know it’s 3am but this is URGENT” moments. But I thought it might be useful to put together a post on what I found to be MY baby essentials second time around, including the stuff that I kept from first time, the stuff I’ve picked up second hand or had donated from friends and the stuff I’d recommend splurging on.
All of these items are regularly to be found on the various Hong Kong swap and sell forums — The HK Hub published a pretty comprehensive list of these here. If hand-me-downs aren’t your cup of chai latte, I’ve also given options for where to find all of these items new, right here in Hong Kong.
I refuse to be drawn into the Hong Kong pram wars. This hot-button topic seems more controversial than vaccinations, helpers and organic food combined.
What I will say is that we were very lucky to be bought a Bugaboo Bee by the grandparents the first time around and I personally think it’s a great bit of kit. It’s suitable from birth, has parent and forward-facing options, is extremely manoeuvrable, isn’t too heavy for Hong Kong and is as sturdy as a tank. Ours has suffered a lot of abuse on its many journeys around the world, surviving intact — albeit in possession of a few character-enhancing scrapes.
Granted, the Bee is more expensive than some competitor brands, but we’ve only ever needed this one pushchair until my son took to walking everywhere, as opposed to switching from a lie-flat pram system to an umbrella stroller as he grew. They are regularly advertised on classified forums, often along with adaptor clips and Maxi-Cosi carseat, effectively turning this into a lightweight travel system.
The Bee Plus model we have (2010-2014) has now been superseded by the Bee 3, although most accessories are backwards-compatible, unlike the original 2007-2010 model.
Buy second hand: double-check which model you’re buying as older Bee spares are harder to come by. (If you’re unsure, a quick way to tell is that the original Bee has solid wheels, whereas the newer models have open wheels).
Buy new: try to do this in the UK or Europe if at all possible as you’ll save a small fortune.
Buy new in Hong Kong: Bumps to Babes, Mothercare and Eugene Club stock the the Bee and the various (overpriced) accessories. Bring your chequebook and a brave face.
Stop. Put down that other carrier you were just about to try on, especially if it’s the one that sounds like a Swedish junior tennis champion. That one will RUIN YOUR LIFE and ensure that all the time and money you’d earmarked for cute cashmere baby socks and kindermusic classes will go straight to a chiropractor instead.
As with the Bee, this is a “buy once and never buy again” product that I’d only wish I’d discovered sooner. I dallied with ring and wrap slings, bought and immediately regretted the aforementioned Swedish torture device and at one point had a staggering FIVE baby carriers on the go at once. If only I’d known.
Suitable from birth with an infant insert (although a stretchy wrap like the Moby or Boba is actually fine with a tiny bub), the Ergo is ergonomically designed (Aha! You see what they did there?!) for both you and your baby, meaning they are in a safe position and you won’t snap in two from carrying them around all day. This was a lifesaver for me as I have ongoing back issues and the front, side and back-wearing positions meant that we were able to use it comfortably all the way to toddler-hood.
Ours is now a little bobbly and worn looking from being chucked in the wash so often, and I’m sorely tempted to splash out on a prettier pattern this time around, but the plain black and camel is a good unisex option that Mr T-T was more than happy to sport. Besides, it’s only going to get puked on sooner or later.
Buy new: Annerley and Tiny Footprints both stock a few varieties of Ergobaby, including organic, performance mesh and standard cotton, plus the new Ergo 360 model that claims to be front-facing AND as comfortable as the standard model. Hmm, I wonder.
“How many layers? Is he too hot? Argh! His hands look blue with cold! Oh, maybe that’s just the nightlight casting a shadow. Oh bugger, I’ve woken him up tucking him back under the covers. WHY WON’T HE GO BACK TO SLEEP? DOOOOMM.”
The intense worry that comes with trying to adhere to the safe sleeping temperature guidelines in a climate that’s either super-steamy or air-con frigid can be swerved by using sleeping bags from the off. We’ve tried a few brands and have come back to the Grobag each time, which handily come with a free temperature chart in the box if you’re buying new.
Grobags are available in togs from 0.5 to 3.5, wash really well, have sturdy zips that don’t jam shut in the middle of the night, necessitating an emergency extraction with a pair of kitchen scissors (I’m looking at you, Ikea), and have styles that fit a five-point harness — see this review by Nicola of Jetlag and Mayhem for more on the travel version. Oh, and they’re very cute.
We have at least 2 of each thickness (again with the inevitable nighttime puke emergencies) in the various sizes from newborn-3 years old, and big boy was in his until he moved into his grown up bed. All bar one or two were picked up second hand from friends or classified ads. We found them especially handy when travelling as it meant that bedtime felt that bit more familiar, wherever we were.
They still don’t guarantee the little blighters will sleep, mind you, so don’t get your hopes up too much.
Another item frequently up for grabs second hand and benefitting enormously from repeat washing and using until super-soft are muslins. These are useful for everything and anything: burp cloths, swaddles, blankets, sunshades, emergency nappies, and even whole outfits (in case of traumatic nappy situations. It will happen). Basically, they couldn’t be more useful, and I’d recommend getting the largest possible size available, then learning origami.
Buy new: Aden & Anais muslin or bamboo wraps are on pretty much every baby essentials list for good reason, and are available from BaoBae (and I defy you not to keep on clicking once you’re there); Cotton On Kids have cute, budget-friendly designs, and Hip Little Bubba stock a great range of fun prints.
How much you spend on a baby monitor depends on the features you want from it. You’ve got everything from basic sound-only analogue versions to video, two-way conversation options (“this is Mummy calling. Come in, baby. Stop crying. Do you read me? Over.”) and movement sensor pads. Our Tommee Tippee sound and movement monitor was stashed away safely in a cupboard for three years, only for me to smash it to pieces while unpacking the damn thing. Sigh.
We’ve replaced with another almost exactly the same, but it’s also worth looking at mobile apps and phone accessories (like this iBaby monitor) that promise to beam sound and video direct to your phone or computer.
DISCLAIMER. Everyone’s baby list is different. My “essentials” certainly won’t be the same as yours. But, as with breast vs. bottle, co-sleeping vs. cot, or natural delivery vs. drugged up to the eyeballs on anything they’ll give you, plus a hipflask of gin, we all make different choices, so it’s always advisable to try and keep things in perspective.
I remember getting into a heated debate with a friend in Shanghai about the PURE EVIL of nappy-wrapping bins back in the early, exhaustion-fugged days of mumdom. She felt differently, to the point where we nearly came to blows over our lattes. Three years on, we are still friends. Hormones can be a funny old thing.
Good luck, and happy shopping!