The essential baby kit list

A friend of mine who is expecting her first baby in April recently suggested that I could write a blog post about what I think you really need (as opposed to what the shops and media tell you that you need) when you have a baby. I agree that this sounds like a great idea for a post, and I’m happy to help her and others out in their quest to sift through the vast array of possibilities, which is quite honestly a mind boggling task as I recall.

So here is my take on which bits of kit really are essential, and whether I think each one is best bought new or whether secondhand is fine. I should stress though that this is my personal take on things, based on my own experience of having 2 babies. The suggestion for this post came after I commented on Facebook about an article in a newspaper (one I like to disagree with!) which talked about the top 10 most unused or useless pieces of baby equipment according to a recent survey of new parents. I disagreed with almost all 10, and actually would find life a lot harder without half of them; but some of my mummy friends agreed with most of the list, so it goes to show that not everyone has the same experience – we have different locations, lifestyles, personalities and, most importantly, babies! It depends to some extent on when your baby is born in the year – I’ve had two winter babies, so I’ve not had experience of clothing a newborn when it’s a heatwave (well, a heatwave for this country at least!) Also, as part of my Editor role for my local NCT branch magazine, I recently edited a baby kit list article by another mum of two children, and although I agreed with most of it, there were some things that weren’t the same in my experience.

Clothing

  • Totally fine to get secondhand, and you’ll probably be given lots when baby is born.
  • A note on sizing: There are three ‘newborn’ sizes – tiny baby, newborn and 0-3 months. Both my boys were pretty much the national average for birth weight and were long and thin. We only had one actual ‘newborn’ size babygro that was given to Andrew as a present, and both of them grew out of it within a month (we made sure they wore it lots in that time!) So if you have an average-large baby, there’s no need to get the newborn size, just go straight to 0-3m. If you have a smaller than average baby, then the newborn size would be handy so they’re not swamped, and if you have a very small, maybe premature baby, then you may even need the tiny baby size. But too big is better than too small – they can always grow into it.
  • Babygros (also known as sleep-suits and, from across the pond, onesies) – about 12. We bought a pack of 3 in size 0-3 months, but were then given many more. If you have a very sicky baby you’ll get through more than you think! They sleep in these, and wear them in the day too until you can be bothered to dress them in anything more fiddly to get on.
  • Vests – about 12. These can be sleeveless or with short sleeves (like t-shirts), but useful if they have poppers at the bottom to secure under the bum so that it doesn’t ride up baby’s tummy, which is particularly important in winter, and for a summer baby you might find they live in vests rather than babygros.
  • Outfits e.g. dungarees for a boy or dresses for a girl: These are not essential, as most of the time you’ll probably prefer the ease of babygros in the early days, but it’s the kind of thing you’ll be given and can look very cute 🙂
  • Wooly cardigans – about 5-6. We were very kindly knitted a lot of these. Cardigans are so much more practical than jumpers. Obviously if it’s the height of summer you’ll need fewer, but even in spring and autumn you’ll need them, and definitely in winter.

    A selection of our hand-knitted cardigans - in loving memory of the member of Tom's family who knitted most of them.
  • Hat: It’s the kind of thing you’ll be given probably. We have quite a few, but they are easily lost. Both cotton jersey ones and wooly knitted ones are handy.
  • Coat: Unless it’s really warm (July or August), I’d get a snow-suit style all-in-one coat, either in a ‘puffa’ style or a fleecy one. Look for a good hood and one with feet (and gloves if in winter).
  • Socks/bootees: These are not so important if you use mainly babygros that have feet, but necessary for outfits without built-in feet. I find socks stay on better than bootees, which aren’t really much use until they’re a bit older. We’ve not had too many problems with socks coming off, but I’ve heard other mums who have – you can buy things called ‘sock-ons’ which help keep them on, apparently.

Changing

  • Changing mat: We bought (with vouchers we were given) one that sits across the top of the cot, but soon found it easier to do nappy changes on the floor when Andrew started to roll, and it’s stayed on the floor ever since! The same thing would have happened with one of those changing stations where baby lies on top. You could buy secondhand if you gave it a thorough anti-bacterial clean, but they’re pretty cheap new for just the plastic mat, and you don’t need anything fancy.

    Cot-top changing mat now on the living room floor
  • Changing bag: I’ve recently blogged a bit about this here. There are some quite cheap, and even free (if you join Boots parenting club and buy some nappies) bags out there, but I think it’s a case of you get what you pay for, and if you want something that’s going to last, you’ll inevitably pay more for it. Think about whether you’d prefer a satchel style or a rucksack, something plain or something fancy? I can recommend one with lots of pockets to keep stuff organised so things are easily accessible when you desperately need them! I guess there are secondhand ones out there, but I haven’t looked into it, as I knew we’d use it loads and so I wanted one with lots of life left in it.
  • Nappies: Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while will know that I’m a big cloth nappy fan. I blogged about it here and here, and I must do an update on how we’re doing with two bums to cover at the moment. I’d definitely recommend thinking about it, even if you decide it’s not for you – the main attraction for us was the money we’re saving. Recently I’ve heard of cloth nappy libraries that allow you to try before you commit to buying – why not Google for one near you? (I wish there was on in Cambridge; I’m very tempted to look at setting one up – anyone interested?!) Whether you decide on cloth or disposables, I’d get stocked up on a few weeks worth (reckon on about 7 a day) of newborn disposable nappies – size 1 should be fine unless you have a teeny baby or a very chunky one. We didn’t use cloth with Andrew until he was about 6 weeks old because it took us a while to get used to the big shock that having a new baby brings to your previous lifestyle!

    Some of my favourite cloth nappies - they look so gorgeous 🙂
  • Nappy sacks: The value ones are OK, or you can get eco-friendly biodegradable ones. We don’t use many as we mainly use cloth, but they are handy for getting rid of disposables.
  • Wipes: At home I mainly use cotton wool and water in a little plastic bowl, especially for big poo explosions! Wipes for sensitive skin (suitable from birth) are essential when we go out. I’ve heard quite a lot recently about reusable wipes, or even making your own from face cloths, but I’ve not gone down that route yet as we stocked up on enough wipes to last us months when I had a voucher that gave us a cheap deal on bulk buying.
  • Muslins – lots, maybe 12 for one child (I don’t think you can really have too many).They can be used for pretty much any mess wiping from babyhood to toddlerhood and beyond! Ours have seen sick, wee, poo, snot, dribble, drinks, food, paint etc. (not all at the same time obviously!!), and they wash easily to be used again and again. I think there’s not much difference between the different brands that we have (Boots, Asda and Mothercare) in terms of their performance – wash them first as they aren’t very absorbent before you do, like new towels. The price can vary quite a bit though – recently I bought some more and Mothercare were almost twice the price of Boots and Asda.

Sleeping

  • Moses basket: This is a good idea for the early weeks, but they only last for around 3 months (probably a bit longer if your baby is shorter than my long boys), so definitely borrow one or buy a secondhand one. We were kindly given one to borrow from a friend of my parents. Neither of the boys have slept in it for a long time each night – Joel seems to settle off there at the start of the night but then we co-sleeep (baby next to me in our bed, and Tom on sofa bed) after the first waking for feeding, and Andrew did the same.

    Moses basket next to my bed, plus sleeping bag for when he decides to sleep in there rather than in my bed!
  • Cot or cot-bed: We got a bargain secondhand cot and cot-bed, both from eBay, thanks to my mum’s bargain hunter’s eye! It’s fine to get the frame secondhand, but you need a new mattress for each child that sleeps on it. A cot lasts up to about age 2, and a cot-bed until about age 5 as it’s bigger and you take the sides off to turn it into a toddler bed. We got a cot-bed for Andrew and have just taken the sides off, which went very well – he’s low to the ground so no damage done if he falls out, and we think it’s helped that he’s familiar with the mattress and sheets, so the transition to a big boy’s bed has been quite uneventful for him. Joel is still in with me, but when he’s ready to go in the bedroom with Andrew, we have a cot, because there isn’t room for two cot-beds. The plan is that by the time he’s ready for a bed, Andrew will be old enough to go in an adult-sized single bed and Joel can have the toddler bed (and we’ll have moved to a bigger house!)

    Cot-bed with sides taken off - fitted sheet and sleeping bag the same as he had before sides came off (plus red pyjamas, teddy and green slippers!)
  • Mattress: There are so many choices to make on this! I must admit that my mum did most of the research on this, as she bought the cot/cot-bed frames for us so bought us the mattresses too. I’d say that a sprung one will last longer than foam, which soon gets indented to your baby’s shape. If you’re concerned about allergies then some are made of more natural materials than others.
  • Baby sleeping bags – 2-3. These are absolutely amazing, I don’t know what we’d do without them. Andrew was and still is such a wriggly sleeper, so if he’d had the traditional blankets, he’d have kicked them off and got cold, or worse still there’s a suffocation risk if they come up over his head. Sleeping bags allow him to move around as he likes and he stays covered in the right places! Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs – I saw loads of bargain ones at a nearly new sale in the autumn.
  • Fitted sheets – 2-3 for each type of bed (Moses basket, cot etc.). These are easier to put on, and stay in place better in, a cot/moses basket than flat sheets do. Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs.
  • Swaddling sheets: You can buy cotton sheets that are shaped specifically for swaddling your baby for the first few months, instead of using a sleeping bag or blankets. We bought a couple, but I haven’t been too impressed by them, as both my boys seem to kick them loose or almost off over the night, and when in with me (though not under the duvet of course) I find it’s warm enough for them just being next to me.
  • Blankets: If you prefer these to sleeping bags, make sure you get the ones designed for sleeping in, which will be obvious where they are sold (e.g. John Lewis, Mothercare)We were kindly knitted quite a few by various family members. We’ve not used them for sleeping, but I find them useful for around the house when we’re doing skin-to-skin feeding during the day (which involves taking most of his clothes off), and other places like the car (as bulky snow suits are hard to fit in a car seat) and in the pram (at least for Andrew we had a pram – Joel just goes in the sling). Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs.
  • NO other bedding needed! Especially no pillows or cot bumpers – not recommended these days for babies, and even at nearly age 2, Andrew has only ever had a sheet and sleeping bag.
  • Night light: We didn’t have one of these for a while, but there was a light on the mobile which Andrew had in his cot for a while until he was old enough to pull up and therefore potentially pull it down on himself (see next bullet point). But then Tom’s mum gave us the night light that Tom had had as a child, and recently this has been essential – if Andrew rolls out of bed, which only happens occasionally, he can get back in on his own and he’s happy to do that, rather than when there was no light and he got very disorientated in the room and cried for help.
  • Mobile: Not exactly essential, but we found that it helped at one stage when Andrew was going through a phase when nothing seemed to settle him to sleep, not even feeding. The mobile didn’t solve it, but it did help at least keep him calm and give him something to focus on other than me or Tom. I wouldn’t buy one new myself, but it’s a nice present idea.
  • Monitor: As we live in a small flat, we don’t need a monitor – we can hear everything from everywhere and our room is right next to the boys’ room. But my parents bought one for their house and we found it very handy when we stayed. They got a secondhand bargain, though it is a simple one, and I’ve seen others that have fancy functions like talk back or video. I imagine these would be handy in some situations.

Travelling

  • Pram/buggy/travel system: Well, where do I start?! I’ve already blogged about our experience with our old iCandy Cherry travel system here. It was an awful product and I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to walk anywhere further than 5 minutes away. But in general we liked the idea of a travel system – a chassis onto which you can fit a carrycot (in other words it makes a pram), a seat unit (to make a parent-facing and outwards-facing buggy) and a car seat (handy if baby falls asleep when you’re in the car and you want to transfer to something you can push without waking). Our secondhand Bugaboo Cameleon does all of the above, and we’re very pleased with its performance, although we haven’t used the pram with Joel as I’m carrying him in the sling all the time and pushing Andrew in the Bugaboo with seat unit attached. The things you need to think about when deciding on a pram/buggy are: How far and how often will I walk with it? Will it be mainly on pavements or across grass/mud too? Do I need it to fit in the car boot? Do I need to lift it often into the car, so does it need to be lightweight? Do I like four wheels or three? Do I want a pram as well as buggy option? Where will I store it in the house, so does it need to be compact or easily foldable? You need to look out for whether they are suitable from birth, or from 6 months, as a newborn needs to lie completely flat. Also a note on double buggies – I know some people who bought a buggy with their first  child which could convert to a double when their second would come along later (the Phil and Teds is a popular choice for this). We decided against this when buying for Andrew, because I didn’t like the style of either an inline double where one child is close to the ground or a side-by-side double which is so wide and wouldn’t fit in our flat. Instead we have gone for keeping our single travel system and I carry Joel in a sling. Which leads nicely onto….
  • Sling/wrap: There are several different styles of sling or ‘wrap’ (the ones which you wrap around you and tie in place instead of one with buckles). But if you just look on the high street, you’ll probably only come across one or two brands, like the Baby Bjorn. We didn’t get on very well with the two we were given when Andrew was a baby, but since then I’ve  come across much more info on ‘babywearing’, and learned that babies and parents are much more comfortable in slings and wraps that are designed more ergonomically than the most popular brands – you have to look online to find them though. I could write loads about babywearing, so I should probably write a whole post on it some time. But for now I can say that a comfortable sling/wrap is making my life much easier with Joel, because I can do quite a few things with him attached to me like that, and he loves being walked in it and falls asleep almost instantly most of the time. I’d definitely recommend one, even for your first baby, and if you have any more, it’ll come in even more handy! I currently have a Moby stretchy wrap, and hope to move onto a structured sling like the Ergo when he’s too heavy for the stretchy wrap. Some slings are fine to buy secondhand, though it is often advised not to buy a stretchy one secondhand as it could well have lost some of its stretchiness depending on how much use it has already had.

    Our lace-patterned Moby stretchy wrap
  • Car seat: Only buy this new or from people who you know and trust, because it could be dangerous if it has been in an accident before. Even if you don’t have a car, I’ve heard from friends who don’t (plenty in Cambridge and London) that it’s still worth getting a car seat, so you can accept lifts from people or get a taxi if you need to. If you go for a travel system, you’ll need to get the car seat that attaches to the chassis that you choose. We found it handy to put the car seat on the chassis quite a bit with Andrew if he fell asleep in car and we wanted to get out and walk without waking him up, but so far we’ve not needed to do that with Joel, probably because we’ve hardly done any car journeys with him yet.

Playing

  • It’s fine to get most of this secondhand, though always check that things are safe and in good working order before giving them to your child, especially anything electrical or mechanical.
  • Toys: You’ll probably be given loads so I wouldn’t buy any to begin with, especially as baby won’t play with them properly for a while. Rattles and soft toys suitable from birth are good to start with. For older babies and toddlers, you can even have a go at making your own! Some of Andrew’s favourite toys have been things made from household items, like a shaker made from a plastic drinks bottle with dried lentils in.
  • Books: It’s never too early to start reading with a baby – they love it, listening to your voice and looking at pictures. Simple books with black and white designs are good to start with, and any ‘board books’ that baby can start to turn the pages of when they’re a bit older – chunky pages for little hands.
  • Play gym, mat: We’ve found this to be very useful, even though it takes up quite a lot of floor space in our small flat. Although I use the sling a lot, it’s also good that I can lie Joel down on the mat for 10 minutes and he can gaze at and kick the pretty things hanging above him – there are some things it’s not easy to do with a baby strapped to you. It’s also useful for doing ‘tummy time’ with him, though any soft mat or towel would be fine for this too.
  • Play pen: This is useful when baby starts to become mobile, so you can put them in there for a short period and know they can’t escape, for example if you need to nip to another room to fetch something. Our flat is very open plan, so the other option of using a stair gate to block a door to a child-proofed playroom wasn’t an option for us. With Andrew, it also became the place where we would scoop up all the toys into at the end of the day when he went to bed. With a second child, it’s very handy to be able to pop Joel in there under his play gym arches and know that he is safe from Andrew getting to him whilst I nip to another room – not that Andrew has shown signs of intentional harm, but his well-meant affectionate ‘hugs’ are rather crushing for a little baby!

    Play gym in play pen, which keeps toddler and baby separate - essential for a second baby.
  • Bouncy chair: Generally useful, again if you want to put baby down for a short while, and many babies love a bouncy chair, so I’ve heard, but Andrew didn’t – the concept of sitting still has never really appealed to him! We haven’t felt the need to use it for Joel yet, so we gave ours to my niece who loves it. Lots of them come with a bar of toys hanging over where baby sits, to keep them fascinated.
  • Door bouncer: When baby is strong enough to stand up supported, this is a great way to keep them entertained if you need to get on with a few jobs in the same room. We don’t have room for one of the free-standing baby walker style bouncers that go on the floor, so the doorway one was a better option and Andrew loved it, especially when he was at the cruising around furniture stage and basically wanted to be upright all the time. I wouldn’t get his secondhand unless from someone I knew and trusted, because you never know what condition it’s in and there’s a potentially serious accident in it being faulty.

Bathing

  • Baby bath: This is a good way to save water rather than filling the normal bath with the same depth of water. You can get different styles, for example some with inserts to help you hold a young baby more confidently, some that even fold up for easy storage (though we just stood ours at the end of the bath). Ours is just a plain tub, nothing fancy, which Andrew was still in until Joel was born, when he outgrew it, and now we put them both in the big bath, obviously with one of us holding Joel whilst Andrew splashes around him! This is totally fine to get secondhand – we got ours off Freecycle and just gave it a good scrub down before we first used it.

    Baby bath in the big bath
  • Top and tail bowl: I wouldn’t pay money for one of these as we haven’t used it much and tupperware bowls that you already have in your kitchen would be fine. We got ours off Freecycle with the bath.
  • Towels –2-3 just for baby. We like the little ones with a hooded corner so you can wrap them up nice and warm from head to toe when drying them after a bath. Secondhand is fine, as long as they’re still nice and soft, and give them a hot wash to kill any bugs.
  • Nail clippers: We’ve found these much easier than nail scissors for cutting little nails on wriggly hands. With a small baby I just peel the nail tips off as they are still so soft.
  • Toiletries: To start with you really don’t need much at all. We just use water to bath Joel in, and haven’t needed baby oil or lotion or anything like that – his skin is still silky smooth. We used to massage Andrew’s tummy quite a bit when he was a baby as he was prone to constipation now and then, so baby oil was good for that. As he got older and his hair was already a mop very early on, we used baby shampoo and still do. We’ve only used nappy rash cream a handful of times, usually when teething as he’s had a sore bottom then too, but you might find you need it more. I would wait until baby is born before you get any of this, and just see what you need as you go along – it’s not like you can’t pick it up easily from the supermarket with your groceries.
  • Hairbrush:  It depends how much hair your baby has and what its texture is as to which type, if any, you’ll need. Andrew had so much thick hair that we hardly needed to use the soft bristled brush that we were given and went straight to a small adult brush when it started to get long enough to be messy if not brushed. Some babies hardly have any hair for ages, so you may not need to brush it at all for a while.
  • Thermometer: You can get thermometers for the bath, but we’ve never felt the need and just trusted our judgement on how hot the water should be – neither boy has complained so far! If you’re not confident at doing this, a thermometer may help, but I think it’s the kind of thing you soon learn once baby is here and you do it all the time. The other type of thermometer worth getting is one for taking baby’s temperature if they are ill. We haven’t had many temperatures between them yet, but it’s always better to be cautious and take it just in case if they feel warm and are grumpy. We have an accurate digital one that goes in the armpit – this is easy to do on a baby, but I have to admit it gets harder as they get older and want to move away whilst you wait for it to take the final reading, which can be up to a few minutes. A quicker one would be the type you put in the ear and it takes a pretty much instant temperature – these look good for mobile babies but I’ve always been put off  by the much more expensive price and the fact that we’ve hardly needed one. You can also get the strip across the forehead thermometers – these are cheap but not that accurate, I guess good if you just want a rough measurement.

And finally…… Feeding

  • I’ve decided to write a separate post on this at some point. In theory there is no special kit that you need to start breastfeeding, though there are some things that you might want to get as time goes on depending on your experience of how it goes. Of course there is the option to bottle feed formula right from the start, and although personally it never crossed my mind to not even try breastfeeding, every mum has the right to make her own decision on this, hopefully based on the correct information, in which case you’d need to get the kit for that.

Phew, that took longer than I thought! And I still get the impression there’s more I could go on about if I was asked specific questions. Two areas I haven’t covered are baby-proofing devices for when they get mobile, and eating equipment for when they’re on solid food; of course these things aren’t essential straight after birth.

I think my take home message from all of this is that of course it’s good to be prepared and get the basics sorted before baby arrives, but there are several things that are pretty easy to pick up once you’re actually doing the parenting and figuring out what your baby needs and what you think are useful things to help you with this. We were amazed at how generous family and friends were, so we’ve still hardly needed to buy much ourselves at all, and what we have bought has often been secondhand or something I know we can sell secondhand later (like nappies). It was worth waiting until after the births before buying some things, because it allowed us to spend vouchers and not have multiple items!

I hope this has been useful to any pregnant mums and their partners out there! Let me know if there’s anything else I haven’t covered and I’ll share my experience with you 🙂

These wheels weren’t made for rolling: iCandy Cherry travel system

Imagine Tom and I back in summer 2010: I was just into the 2nd trimester of my first pregnancy; we were looking forward to being first-time parents, making sure we were sorting out all the things we were told we needed for a new baby. One of the things on our to-do list was, of course, to research prams/buggies and decide on one to buy. Very generously, Tom’s parents offered to give us the money to buy one once we had decided on the one we wanted.

As we researched, we learned a lot that we didn’t know before, for example what a ‘travel system’ is. After much googling and several trips around John Lewis, Mothercare and Babies R Us, we came to some conclusions: we wanted a travel system that had a carrycot for the newborn (i.e. it would be a pram), a seat unit which could be parent-facing (for the older baby) or outward-facing (for the toddler), and a car seat that would fit on the chassis of the system as well as in the car; we also wanted something as lightweight as possible, because I was imagining myself trying to lift it up into the car or other places, and something as small as possible, so it would fit in our car boot (we have a Corsa, so pretty small).

The product that seemed to fit the bill was the iCandy Cherry. It was lighter than other travel systems, and smaller when folded, plus it had all the options for pram, buggy and car seat that we wanted. It also seemed averagely priced – not the cheapest but not the most expensive on the market. There were a couple of downsides, like it didn’t have an extendable handle for Tom, but we decided that I would push it most, and he said he could cope for the times he would use it. However, overall we knew that we couldn’t ‘have it all’ – if you gain one thing (extendable handle), you lose another (very lightweight), so it was all about compromise.

The Cherry in 'pram-mode'

We did some googling of reviews, and they were very positive. It’s only since we’ve had problems with the Cherry that we’ve learned that you have to dig deeper and trawl through many more websites before you find negative reviews. I think a major factor in this is that people who write reviews on retailer websites like Amazon, Mothercare and Kiddicare are writing before they’ve used the product for any length of time. When we were buying, it didn’t occur to us that we should try and find out what people who’d used the buggy for more than a few weeks thought. All we saw were comments like ‘I bought this buggy a few weeks ago and it’s fantastic’, or even ‘my baby isn’t born yet but it’s great pushing it around my house, it’s a lovely buggy’. In hindsight, I should have seen through these kind of product reviews. But I didn’t, and that’s life.

So, to try and help anyone who’s thinking of buying this buggy, or any buggy, I’d like to write an honest post, which comes from someone who has used the buggy pretty much every day for 18 months.

Things started off well. We used the carrycot and chassis as a pram when Andrew was first born. It was a cold winter (he was born in January) and he always seemed snuggly in there. By the time he went into the parent-facing seat (i.e. buggy design), we started to notice that the back wheels looked odd. If you walked behind the person pushing the buggy, you could see that the wheels were slanting inwards on their axle as they went around, and when we lifted the buggy up at the back (without its passenger) to look at them, they were very wobbly and felt insecure. This got worse and worse, so we took it back in to John Lewis where we bought it from, because we feared that one day they might fall off. This was about 5 months after we started using it, 8 months after we bought it.

John Lewis said that they had seen this problem before on the iCandy Cherry. Ah, alarm bells started ringing! However, as a retailer they were very helpful, sent it back to iCandy, and gave us a courtesy buggy in the meantime – this was one reason why we decided to buy it from them rather than other retailers, and at that point we were very glad that we’d done this. iCandy agreed to fix the problem under warrantee (2 years), and sent us a brand new chassis. We were happy again…..but not for long.

Over time we saw exactly the same problem repeating itself with the back wheels. After about another 10 months, we talked about when we’d have time to take it back to John Lewis (I was then back at work and my time was more limited than when I was on maternity leave). Before we’d got around to it though, Tom had a rather stressful journey back from town one day. When he was about a third of the way home, one of the back wheels spontaneously dropped off as he was pushing Andrew along! Andrew was alright, despite the sudden drop to one side near a main road, and Tom even managed to grab the wheel which had rolled into the road; it was completely sheared off, and wouldn’t clip back on. But Tom did manage to push the buggy most of the way home very slowly and with a lot of patience and effort. He didn’t feel particularly safe, but what else was he supposed to do? Of course it had to be the one day of the year that I was away in London on my own, otherwise he could have rung me to come and pick them up.

Parent-facing seat

Again, we took the buggy back to John Lewis. Again, they were very helpful, and sent it back to iCandy. This time we were far less impressed with iCandy’s response. They tried to claim that the wheels only have a 6-month warrantee, so if we wanted them fixed, we’d have to pay some ridiculous fee for new wheels. Not in our paperwork! The only periods of time it mentions are: ’24 months for the chassis’, and ‘6 months for the carrycot and rain covers’. If they’re not specifying wheels separately, then they must come under the general chassis – after all, they had given us a brand new chassis 8 months after we bought it (though only 5 months after we started using it), why had there been no mention of a 6-month warrantee then? It seemed like their rules were changing, and their approach to customer service was not impressing us. John Lewis replied to iCandy after we showed them our paperwork, and (we presume) argued our case.

I then found iCandy on twitter and tried to raise awareness of our case by tweeting to all my followers about their awful customer service and not at all durable product. I don’t know if that helped directly, but eventually iCandy gave in and gave us a new axle and wheels unit free of charge. That was at the end of June this year. We were hoping to get another 6-9 months out of that new set of wheels, thinking that the next time we had the inevitable issue, our 2-year warrantee period from when we bought it would probably be over (in November 2012). But oh no, there was another surprise in store!

Less than 2 months after our new wheels were fitted, I noticed one morning that one of the back wheels was so wobbly that it was making the whole buggy wobble when I pushed it. So I stopped using it (by this point we’d acquired a second-hand stroller which I used instead) and, you guessed it, took it back to (poor) John Lewis, who now know us. I think the girl’s heart must have sunk when she saw us walking in again. When we spoke to her, it sounded like she was fed up in general with having to deal with complaints from iCandy customers, and constantly be the piggy in the middle between the customers and iCandy. She said that she would ring iCandy, explain the problem, and see what their response was to this, our third issue, before sending it back this time. We were prepared to fight our case, whatever iCandy’s response, as this was clearly poor design – there was no reason why the wheel should suddenly do this, we’d had no accident and hadn’t been off-roading or anything like that.

Again, I got on to twitter, and raised our case amongst my followers, tagging iCandy in my tweets. I also found another blog which had posted about problems with another iCandy model, and with the post were a massive list of commenters who have had problems with various iCandy models, including persistent wheel problems with the Cherry. If you’re interested, you can read it here. iCandy tried to defend their case in my tweet which linked this blog, by saying that it was an ‘old’ post and that the Cherry wheel design has changed since then. It was written about 19 months ago, but the comments have continued right up to last month, so the issues are obviously not resolved. iCandy also tried to claim the 6-month wheel warrantee thing again, but as we pointed out to John Lewis, who were negotiating on our behalf, even if our paperwork did say this (which it doesn’t), these wheels were less than 2 months old! And anyway, even if it was a 6-month warrantee (which it isn’t), 6 months is a ludicrously short warrantee period on buggy wheels!!

Again, I don’t know if the tweeting helped, but iCandy eventually agreed to send out a replacement wheel for free. Of course it couldn’t be that straightforward though, and after a week without hearing anything, Tom called into John Lewis, who then chased iCandy, and it turned out that mysteriously our order paperwork for a new wheel was nowhere to be found at their office! So they re-did the order, and told us it would take up to about 6 weeks from then because the wheels were now out of stock.

At this point I’d just had enough, I’d completely lost the will to live with this rubbish buggy and poor excuse for a buggy manufacturer. Another tweet with words to that effect was tweeted, and, unsurprisingly, no response was received from iCandy who were tagged in it. In the end the wheel turned up sooner than 6 weeks, which was a nice surprise, and that very day we started preparing to sell the travel system that wasn’t made to travel far.

Outward-facing seat

We’ve come to the conclusion that the iCandy Cherry wheels are just not designed to be used as much as we believe a buggy should be designed to be used. We do use it a lot – we live in Cambridge and walk everywhere, so it can be used for as much as 2 hours of walking every day. But in our opinion, buggies should be made for walking with, and unless the company are going to state a ‘mileage’ limit for the product, then it should live up to being used constantly. What is the point of a buggy whose wheels weren’t made for rolling? That’s the question I keep coming back to with the Cherry.

Would I recommend this buggy? Well, if you only need to use it occasionally or for very short distances, especially if you want a travel system that’s relatively compact and lightweight, then maybe this is for you. But I would be put off just by the lack of decent customer service from the manufacturer – whatever happened to the customer is always right?! Also, trying to argue your way out of poor design by changing the rules as it suits you is incredibly annoying from the customer’s point of view.

So where do we stand now? We’ve decided to cut our losses and sell the Cherry. In some ways I feel like throwing it away, but it did cost our family money, and we’d like to have something to put towards the new buggy that we’ve bought. (Incidentally we went for a Bugaboo Cameleon, which was our second choice when we bought the Cherry, but it was much more expensive – I can see why though, because our new (to us) Bugaboo is the same age as our iCandy and in perfect working order still.) I do think that the Cherry might suit some families – basically if they don’t walk very far with it, but would like the flexibility of a travel system rather than a simple stroller.

I hope this post has been useful and provides constructive feedback and an honest opinion on a popular baby product currently available on the market. I’m sure iCandy are not the only manufacturers who have designs and service that customers feel could do with improvement. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had similar experience, with iCandy or any buggies, or anyone who’s found this post particularly helpful when deciding on which buggy/pram/travel system that they’d like to buy. Please leave me a comment below 🙂

iCandy had no involvement in this post.

On 8th October 2012, I wrote to iCandy using the email address on the contact page of their website (there is no postal address, otherwise I would have sent a letter as well). I recounted our experience of the Cherry, and asked them to respond to this feedback. At the very least I said that we would like an acknowledgement that they had read it and taken it on board; even better would be some sort of refund, even if not the whole amount that we paid, to make up for the inconvenience of what we’ve been through and the fact that the Cherry did not last as long as we expected so we have had to buy another buggy. I also said that we hoped our frustration and dissatisfaction at their product and customer service would be taken seriously, and that they would consider an appropriate compensation.

I wrote this post a while ago, but I’m publishing it on 24th October 2012. I still have heard nothing from iCandy (over 2 weeks after writing to them).

Pregnancy diary: week 30 – buggy and blood issues

Before I go any further, I should say that this post isn’t as horrific as it sounds! There’s no gore involved. Just a couple of things that happened at the end of last week that have been on my mind this week, as I think about what I can (or rather can’t) do about them.

First, I discovered last Friday that one of the back wheels on our buggy was dodgy. As I tried to push it to the supermarket, I saw that the wheel was wobbly and making the whole buggy wobble slightly as I pushed it. So I used our ‘spare’ buggy instead – a cheap secondhand stroller that we have for taking on car journeys because it folds up smaller than our usual buggy. There was no obvious reason why it should suddenly have a wobbly wheel, other than the fact that this is the third time in 18 months of use that we’ve had a problem with the back wheels. When we’ve heard back from the manufacturer about getting it fixed, I’m going to write a whole post on this, an honest review post from someone who’s used the buggy for more than a few weeks (that’s the trouble with most buggy reviews online – they are by people who’ve recently bought the product, so not much use for long-term durability experiences). So I won’t name (and shame) here.

When it’s working, I love our main buggy – it’s lightweight, easy to fold, easy to push, parent-facing or outward-facing, and fits in our small car boot (with not much room for much else). The secondhand stroller is pretty good too, but it has no parent-facing option and isn’t as easy to push as the other. But with the warrantee nearly up at 2 years after we bought the main buggy in October 2010, we’ve decided to sell it once the wheels are fixed, and get another buggy, one with more durable wheels, as the current one clearly wasn’t made to be used as often and for as long distances as we use it. I don’t see the point of a buggy that you can’t use as often as we do, but there you go; maybe living in Cambridge has warped my sense of how long is a normal distance to walk each day!

Throughout this pregnancy, our plan has been to continue using the (now read ‘a’) single buggy once the new baby is born, by carrying baby in a sling and Andrew in the buggy. I didn’t get on very well with the couple of different slings we were given when Andrew was little, for various reasons, so I didn’t use them much more than just around the house now and then, especially once he was quite heavy. But since then I’ve learned a lot more about babywearing, and I now know that there are many more slings available than the types we had, which are more comfortable to use. They’re not available in the chain high street shops selling baby products, so I’ve had to do quite a bit of internet research to come to the conclusion on what type of sling I’d like. Finally, about a month ago, I ordered the sling! However, it’s currently not available in the UK, so I have to wait until September for it to be shipped and arrive. That’s why I haven’t mentioned it on here yet – I was waiting until it arrived and could show me wearing it (potentially tricky with bump, but you’d get the idea). But as the topic has come up with the buggy issue, I’ll mention it here anyway. I’ve gone for a Moby wrap. It’s a long piece of stretchy fabric that you tie around you in a specific way that holds baby safely next to your chest. A stretchy wrap is great for newborns up to older babies, and is supposed to be a good starter wrap if you’ve never used a sling that you tie up yourself (rather than a structured one with clips) before. Below is a picture of someone else wearing it! When I saw this lace print design, I thought how pretty it looks, and so went for this design because it’s a bit more unusual than the plain colour ones and as I’m going to be wearing it a lot, I’m thinking of it like a piece of clothing.

Moby Lace wrap - worn by someone who looks like she doesn't have a baby the age of the one she's wearing! She looks far too awake and with it 😉

So the wrap for baby is sorted, but now I feel like we’re back to square one with the buggy for Andrew. By this time in pregnancy with him, we’d sorted the buggy, so I (usually so organised) feel a little uneasy about being 30 weeks pregnant and not knowing what our long-term plan about buggy is. For now I’m happy(-ish) to use the stroller with Andrew, but there will come a point at which we need to decide whether we’d like a double, or another single. I’m currently imagining two options: 1. I’m happy to carry baby in the wrap and push Andrew in the stroller until baby is big enough (about 10-12 months) to go in the stroller and Andrew is a good enough walker to use a buggy-board and walk some of the way (he’d be 2 1/2 years old by the time baby is that age, and is already a keen walker for his age); 2. I find that I’d prefer to push rather than wear baby once he/she gets to a certain weight, and by that time Andrew is not a good enough walker to reliably use a buggy-board and walk some of the way. There’s also the potential situation that I get fed up with the stroller and miss my easier to push single buggy, particularly when wearing baby in the wrap whilst pushing.

Option 1 means we wouldn’t need to get a new buggy, though possibly another single buggy (rather than stroller) if I miss the easier pushing action. Option 2 means we’d need to get a double buggy. As neither option is clear at the moment during pregnancy – because we need to wait until I actually have 2 children to walk around with to see how they develop – I can’t really do anything about this issue right now. As I said, this makes me feel a little uneasy, but we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better in the long run to wait. Of course I can do research into single and double buggies, and believe me I already have done lots, but we can’t make the final decision until later in the year or next year. My reasons for not just going for a double straight away are that I’d like to wear baby in the early months because this will be good for my milk supply (with which I had big issues with Andrew) and good for baby (with Andrew I missed out on knowing about the benefits of holding baby so close all the time), plus we don’t have loads of room in or around our flat and, as far as my research so far tells me, double buggies are pretty big contraptions, either wide or long, and heavy, which I’m happy to avoid if we don’t have to have one.

Bump looking bigger all the time. Not sure I'd say that I feel like I'm blooming, but certainly growing!

I think that’s enough on buggies for now! The second issue I’ve been dealing with this week has been my blood. More specifically – the platelets and cholesterol in my blood. The results of my glucose tolerance test last week came back fine in that I don’t have diabetes (yay!), but it was spotted that my platelets are ‘a little lower than normal’, to quote my GP, who has asked me to return for another blood test in 2 weeks to monitor them, in case they drop any further. After some googling, I’ve discovered that this is in fact pretty common in pregnancy, although I’d never heard of it before, and didn’t have this when pregnant with Andrew. Platelets are cells in the blood which help it to clot when necessary, like, for example, if you cut yourself and bleed, the platelets help clot the blood so it stops flowing and the wound starts to heal. As far as I can see from googling, it’s quite common for pregnant mums to have a slight drop in their platelet count during pregnancy, usually the 3rd trimester. Although it’s not certain exactly why this drop happens, there are a couple of factors that may be involved: the body naturally destroys platelets and replaces them with new ones, but in pregnancy this process is sped up, so you have fewer but younger platelets in the blood; the body produces more plasma (the liquid bit of blood) when pregnant, which means there are fewer platelets per millilitre of blood, though they can still perform just as well. As far as I can tell, if they drop a lot more, I’d probably have to have a hospital birth, as I would need treatment if I lost a lot of blood if the birth was complicated or I needed a c-section. So let’s hope it’s just a slight, normal drop, and that they won’t drop any more.

Completely unrelated to pregnancy, I also had a blood test a couple of days before my glucose test, because we’ve applied for life assurance for me. The reason is that I used to have a policy through work which would pay out a large sum based on my salary if I were to die (a policy which Tom also has), but of course with leaving work soon I’ll no longer have this. It’s not exactly a nice thing to think about, but now that we have children, our concern is for them if something were to happen to us. The insurance company wanted me to have a lipid test, although when the nurse came to do it, she wondered why they had asked for this, because it’s not routine for people as young as me. Anyway, it turns out from that my cholesterol is slightly higher than normal, according to the very undetailed letter that the insurance company sent me. So of course I googled again, and lo and behold, it’s pretty common in pregnancy to have slightly raised cholesterol, because my body is producing more of the various types of fat it needs to produce for baby, to build him/her up! Annoyingly though, the insurance company said in their letter that they can’t give me life assurance based on my cholesterol as it stands, so they need to reassess in 3 months – note that they don’t refer to pregnancy anywhere, but 3 months time is when I’ll no longer be pregnant. I’m pretty suspicious now as to why they wanted me to have the test in the first place, as they knew I was pregnant from the application form. So I tried to ring the company to say that this was unfair, because it’s normal to have slightly higher cholesterol in pregnancy and that I have no history of raised cholesterol. However, the call centre agents were unable to help, and said that I should speak to my GP, who would receive the results too (they were posted on the same day as my letter), and ask them whether in their opinion this higher than normal result was purely pregnancy-related, because that would hold more weight in an appeal to the insurance underwriters than my own googling.

So…… I made a GP appointment for three days after my letter had arrived, thinking that this would be enough time to ensure that the results had arrived at the surgery. The letter from the surgery about platelets was also pretty vague, with no info about what platelets are and why a slightly low count is a potential problem, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss both blood issues with a knowledgable health professional, and check that the info I was finding on websites was accurate and applicable to my personal situation. I managed to get an appointment for 11.50 – I thought I would be away from work for about half an hour or so, as the surgery is not far from my office. How wrong I was. When I turned up, the receptionist  warned me that the doctor was running ‘a little late’. It turns out she was running 45 minutes late! So I eventually went in at 12.35. I realised that she was a locum as she introduced herself. I explained about the blood tests, and asked whether it was normal to have slightly low platelets and slightly high cholesterol in pregnancy, and what the implications were in both cases.

First she tried to find the results on my profile on the system. It was clear that she had no idea how to use the system, and faffed around for a while before she decided to ring reception as she couldn’t see the ones from my insurance company. Reception talked her through where they should be on the system, but there was no trace of them there or in the post from that day. So that’s the fault of the insurance company, or Royal Mail. Sigh. Still I thought it was worth pursuing the questions of what low platelets and high cholesterol could mean for my pregnancy, because even without the exact numbers in front of her, she could still talk to me about these things, and offer me some reassurance for why I would be monitored. It was at that point that she brought up a web browser window on her computer, and typed the platelets question into Google! I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes!! I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or say anything. In the end I just kept quiet, and luckily the phone rang again – it was reception confirming that there were no results in the post that day. The GP then said it was probably best if I came back another day to see another doctor once the results were there, and she thought baby would be hungry, so I should go and have some lunch. By this point I was totally in agreement with her – I didn’t want to waste another minute of my day in her room!! I’d already been away from my office much longer than I intended, and ended up being away for nearly 1.5 hours. No lunch break for me then – sandwiches at the desk whilst doing stats instead. I could have just stayed there all morning and googled in my lunch break instead of waiting for the GP to google for me! Incidentally, I’ve written an email with ‘feedback’ to the practice manager about my experience.

As you can see, this week has been quite eventful in one way or another, and none of the issues are particularly enjoyable, though they could be worse – just frustrating more than anything else, not knowing what will happen about the buggy, my blood clotting ability or the life assurance. On top of (or maybe because of?) all this, I’ve been feeling quite tired this week, which I know is normal for later pregnancy, as I felt similar with Andrew and it does mention it in various books/websites that I’ve read. I’m hoping that a nice 3-day weekend with my boys will take my mind off these things and give me some rest. I’ll be back again next week with another instalment of pregnancy news, one week further on the countdown to 40!