Newborn baby essentials for first time parents

 

NewbornSo you’re having a baby. You’ve read all the books, your due date is looming and you’ve bought everything you’ll need for yourself postpartum but what does your newborn baby need? Before you give into that excited urge to buy all the things (yes, those baby shoes are gorgeous, and no they aren’t really necessary) remember newborn babies don’t really need much beyond a boob or bottle, something to wear and most importantly a pair of arms to hold them. However, there are some essential products out there that can make your life as a new parent a thousand times easier. As an *ahem* experienced parent of a four-month old, here are the newborn baby essentials I could not do without during those early days.

Water wipes

Have you tried to wipe meconium aka tar off a baby’s bottom using nothing but a bit of cotton wool and water, after 48 hours of no sleep while your baby screams like you’re cutting off an appendage? Learn from my mistake – get water wipes. A mix of water and fruit extracts they are safe to be used on newborn bottoms and they won’t leave you picking off bits of cotton wool off a tiny behind. Pro-tip: liberal applications of coconut oil after every nappy change makes meconium wipeable.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

I read so many pregnancy and baby books covering theories from as attachment parenting to sleep training. The one book I want to buy and give to all my pregnant friends is The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp. If you have a baby that is colicky, cries uncontrollably or turns from an angel into screaming bat-baby come 5pm (raises hand sheepishly), this book is for you. You can read more about the theory in this blog post but to summarise here. Pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp argues that unlike other animals babies are born before they are developmentally ready because of the size of their heads in relation to the pelvis. This means that the first three months are a fourth trimester outside of the womb as babies need to rapidly develop to function in the outside world. All babies had an evolved calming reflex to keep them from damaging themselves or mum in the womb, and if we can recreate these outside of the womb we can calm babies in minutes. These are called the five s’s: swaddle, side or stomach, shush, swing, suck. I was sceptical at first but the five s’s helped calm our fractious newborn in minutes. You can watch Karp in action here. The next five essentials are all ones that use the five s’s.

Co sleeper

My lovely friend Claudia lent me her co-sleeper which is a crib that attaches to the side of the bed. It was godsend for three very important reasons:

  1. Newborns have really odd breathing patterns and frequently take very looooong pauses in between breaths. A co sleeper allows you to check on your baby without leaving your bed. This saves you from diving across the room twenty times in one night in a move I like to call the ‘Why isn’t my baby breathing dive? Oh no, he’s fine.’
  2. Breastfeeding is made so much easier once you can do it lying down. No more getting out of your warm bed, arranging pillows behind you or even sitting up to grab your baby. Instead release boob, roll baby onto boob, doze while baby sucks then roll baby back into the co-sleeper. Or yaknow…
  3. Don’t. My sure fire way of waking Nibs up whether I wanted to or not was to put him down after breastfeeding. The way he reacted was as if I had lowered him into the pits of hell not an expensive, lovingly crafted crib. I had a choice hold him for twenty minutes until he’d fell into a deeper sleep or lie him next then very gradually inch him back into his crib. Having the crib as his back meant I didn’t have to worry that he would roll out of bed when feeding and he felt close to me. Which brings us nicely onto the…

Sling

I bought a Moby fabric sling initially. It may have been the sleep deprivation or the fact that I have worse block designs skills than my son. Who is four months old. But I could not put it together without putting my baby down, which defeated the point, as he’d then wake up. I needed a sling that I could strap my sleeping baby into using only one hand.

Enter the Beco Gemini which even this mama could put together in her sleep. What I should have done before buying this was: go to a sling library and try on a couple before buying. What I did: ask my friend Jo sling obsessive which one she recommended for a novice like me. Both He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN) and I love it because the crossing straps distribute the babies weight and Nibs can be worn in a number of different positions as he gets older. The sling is brilliant for getting housework done while his Nibs naps. It allows me to get out and about without worrying if the buggy will fit through doors or on buses. And at grizzle o’clock it calms him down and will, if the stars are aligned, even send him to sleep if we walk around swiftly with him in the sling.

Ewan the dream sheep

White noise is a parent’s best friend. Whether it’s the dishwasher, car or even the sea, white noise mimics the sound of the wound and sends our baby Nibs into a deeper sleep. My little sister bought us Ewan the Dream Sheep which emits a soothing red pulse and has a number of different white noise tracks to choose from. Our favourite is a track we’ve nicknamed the haunted womb.

Gro swaddle

I was decidedly anti swaddle before having a baby. They seemed so restrictive and Victorian. Until I witnessed how my sons flailing limbs would wake him up multiple times a night and read about the Moro instinct. As soon as he was swaddled, he calmed down his little face relaxing and the swaddle seemed less like a medieval torture device and more like a full body hug. I credit the swaddle with helping our son sleep like less like an actual baby and more like a metaphorical baby from early on. We loved the Gro Ladybird Spot Swaddle for being so simple even this mama could use.

Love to Dream Swaddle

Now Nibs is a little bigger we’ve graduated to this Love to Dream Swaddle which is like a swaddle just for his arms. This helps restrain his natural impulse to violently batter himself in the face with his arms as sleeps. Plus when he’s wearing it he looks like he has wings providing many a hilarious photo opportunity.

Swing

Here’s the thing. As a new parent you get many a piece of useless advice of which the mos useless is sleep when your baby sleeps. The problem was like many newborns Nibs would only sleep when in motion as he was used to being lulled to sleep by the constant motion in the womb. In utero his most active time was 2am when all was still and I was trying to sleep and he commenced his kick mummy in the ribs done. So unless I mastered sleepwalking/sleep driving that advice was pretty useless. Until we bought the Joie Serina 2 in 1 Baby Swing second hand on ebay, aka the best money I ever spent. Save the money you could spend on a bouncer and get this electric swing. Like magic the swing on its most vigorous setting would send him to sleep in minutes allowing me to nap too. It also comes with white noise, vibrates, the swing works in two directions, and the seat can be taken off and used as a bouncer too. Seriously buy this, you won’t regret it.

Products for your first aid cabinet like:

A thermometer – ideally the no touch scan thermometer so you don’t have to keep your wriggling baby still while you check for a fever.

Nosefrida – this ridiculously gross invention the Nosefrida Nasal Aspirator allows you to alleviate a congested nose in seconds with the aid of saline drops and a suction tube. Its disgusting but essential especially if you have a baby in the season of the snot aka winter like we did.

Metanium – the yellow Metanium is like kryptonite for nappy rash. Most of the time we use a thin layer of sudocreme on our babies bum. But when he had a nasty nappy rash due to thrush a thin layer of this cream cleared up the rash in days.

Isofix base

Three door car + sleep deprivation= going anywhere is a hurry is a hassle. When you add in a screaming baby its amazing how a simple procedure of threading a car belt through a car seat becomes mensa level difficult. Get a Isofix Base for your car seat and you simply clip and unclip the car seat from your car. I held off buying one for three months until I finally gave in on the advice of my very wise friend Katy and I wish I’d done it a lot sooner. 

1,000 muslins

Nibs is a silent posseter. You’ll be holding him and suddenly your lap will be suspiciously warm. Before giving birth, my mother in law asked me how many muslins we had and I naively replied ten and she gave me the look. The look that meant haha, you’ll learn.

Within days of the birth we were on ebay ordering more and now I think we have close to 50 at least. Muslins are great as well as clearing up posset and protecting your shoulder when burping, they can be used to swaddle your baby, to tuck under your boob for hands free feeding and as nursing cover. Ours where just cheapo ones but if I had the money I’d get these gorgeous Faye and Lou Rainbow Muslins. 

Trial amazon family membership  

No matter how well you prepare by reading helpful new parent lists like this and faithfully buying everything on them (right? Right.), once the baby arrives you’ll realise, always at 3am, that you’ve missed some essential item. Amazon family have a free month trial with next day delivery, £20 off when you spend over £60 and deals on nappies and other products. It was ideal for those middle of the night ‘I need new bits for my breastpump’ purchases.

A village  

*Mounts soap box* Postnatal depression is at a record high in this country. And I strongly believe its because we aren’t meant to raise babies alone. It takes a village. At first I tried so hard to show that I could do it all. Hadn’t I longed for this? Then why was I finding it so hard. Things became easier when I started asking for help from my loving partner and co-parent HWSNBN, from my parents and his, from my sister and new mum friends. Workout what you need whether it’s food or a spare pair of arms so you can shower – and ask for help prior to giving birth.

Fellow survivors of the newborn stage, what would you add to the list? Mummas and dad’s to be, you got this!

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The agony and the ecstasy of the first trimester – pregnancy after infertility

The agony and the ecstasy of the first trimester – pregnancy after infertility

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(Editors note: I wrote bits of this between weeks 8-10. I’m now at week 25. By my reckoning this means I’ll publish a post about the second trimester just before I’m due to give birth. Let’s just say pregnancy hasn’t made me any more together…)

I didn’t allow myself to dream about what would happen after I finally became pregnant. It seemed needlessly cruel. Like dreaming about completing a marathon when I was hobbling around on a broken leg.

If you’d pressed me back then I would have been certain of one thing if I was able to become pregnant I’d be happy. Can anybody say destination fallacy?

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It’s hard to put into words what I felt when I saw those much longed for two lines back in May. Utter disbelief that maybe this was finally happening. A surge of excitement bubbling beneath my skin as I visualised my baby as tiny as sesame seed. And a fear so sharp I could taste it in my mouth that this baby would be taken away from me.

But happy? No, I didn’t feel even a little bit happy, not at all. That would come later. In those early stages I would swing between these feelings in an emotionally exhausting rollercoaster that I confided in very few people about because it seemed like spitting in the face of my good fortune. There were brief intervals in between where I felt with a weird certainty that everything would be OK. And even moments when I would forget I was pregnant altogether.

(Don’t get me wrong – getting pregnant has been and remains one of the best moments of my life to date. It’s just that like so many big moments such as getting married it wasn’t anything like I had expected it to be.)

I read a lot beforehand about the hellish physical symptoms of the first trimester but *whisper it* I loved my physical symptoms. I loved that feeling of exhaustion so deep that I needed a nap from just getting up and putting on my clothes. I loved the waves of nausea and over sensitivity to smells. I loved how excruciatingly sore my boobs were that wind could make me wince. Because each symptom was like a message from my body signifying it was doing something, that it was busily working to sustain the life growing within me.

Me trying not to vom/fall asleep on things. This is my happy face. Promise
Me trying not to vom/fall asleep on things. This is my happy face. Promise

But for a lifelong control freak this was terrifying too. My body was doing all of this without any conscious effort from me, so it could just as easily stop without any conscious effort from me.

I was very aware of the statistics and that my fear was rooted in facts. In the first trimester, the average woman has 20-30% chance of miscarrying and those statistics are higher for women with PCOS. Every time I went to the toilet I was on knicker watch for signs of blood. I took a pregnancy test every week and that three minute wait to see the results crawled by agonising slow. One dreadful evening midway through working with clients I started cramping so badly I was convinced the pain would show on my face. Later in bed the pain was so bad my breath felt halted and contained. I turned to HWSNBN and told him that this was it. The worst thing was the sense of relief I felt, I’d been waiting for something awful to happen and here it was. Now it was over I could deal. (It wasn’t. Thank god, it wasn’t)

The only thing that helped during those early weeks was to try and not look ahead and just focus one day at a time. Each day that passed with my symptoms intact felt like a victory. And although the spectre of the missed miscarriage hung over me, I tried as much as I could to not think about worse case scenarios.

I thought, naively, that getting pregnant would heal the wounds of those years of trying fruitlessly to have a baby. But it seemed like I carried a parcel of that old anxiety with me. I’d forgotten that it was the hope (that two week wait) that hurt the most. And the first trimester is that two week wait on steroids.

Compared to so many other couples struggling to conceive we had it easy. Our journey was not particularly long or medically invasive or full of loss like some of my friends. But when you’re in the midst of infertility you don’t know if you will conceive next month or never. Living in limbo never gets easier and it had left it’s mark.

I don’t know if women whose journey to conceive was easier felt like this – the barely controlled panic. Knowing myself as I do I expect even if my journey to conceive had been less rocky I still would have felt a certain measure of anxiety. It’s always been in my nature to distrust good fortune and look to the sky not for rainbows but approaching comets. But I felt so jealous of the women who on getting that first positive pregnancy test were able to skip out and buy babies shoes, who shared the news widely, who said with confidence that their baby was due in January. I realised midway through the first trimester with a kind of mourning that my experience of pregnancy will never have that optimistic certainty that everything will be OK. Until I hold my healthy baby in my arms I will always be waiting with baited breath to pass the next milestone, to have the next scan, to feel the baby move – to exhale just a teeny bit.

For me it felt like pregnancy was a skittish woodland animal that I would scare away if I make any sudden movements at it. The only thing I wanted to do in these early weeks is curl up under the bed in a pile of blankets and not move or do anything. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately for my reclusive instincts I was juggling three jobs at the time so I had no choice but to keep going. Although everything else stopped as I realising that powering through my exhaustion was no longer an option.

Post dating scan faces
Post dating scan faces

I felt in limbo – I didn’t belong in the world of the happy pregnant women but neither was I a member of the infertile club anymore.

The worst thing was not the physical symptoms or anxiety but the guilt. Complaining about pregnancy after infertility feels like a person who was dying of dehydration bitching that there is a fly in their champagne. I felt extraordinarily guilty that I wasn’t enjoyed this privileged experience I had longed for and fought for. I had so many friends who would long to be in this position and instead of enjoying it I was worrying.

The guilt was insidious. I was very aware of how hard it can be to hear pregnancy announcements especially if you are struggling with infertility. And that my joy might inadvertently hurt somebody because they so desperately want to be in my shoes and they aren’t. One of the reasons I wanted to be open and honest about the fear (as well as the excitement) of getting pregnant is because to help other future woman going through this feel less isolated. Just as reading how other women felt and realising I wasn’t alone helped me immeasurably.

The guilt is still there but it was lessened when around week 11 I realised I as much as any other women have the right to feel whatever I feel around this pregnancy. And that’s it’s OK to feel afraid, as well as blessed, to flip between the certainty that everything will go wrong, and the wish that everything goes right. Sometimes it’s OK to focus on surviving a new experience rather than thriving. And day by day, hour by hour somehow I made it to that first scan. When the sonographer said ‘There’s your baby. And that’s it’s heart beating’ and I saw strong but clear the rhythmic thud of Nib’s heart – there was the happiness I’d been seeking like the sun coming out after a storm.

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The first trimester – the statistics

How far along: 13 weeks

Baby is the size of: A peach

Names: Just a nickname: Nibs.

Bump: A teeny one. But I’m sure it’s pregnancy bloat rather than pregnancy belly. 

Week 8
Week 8 – bloated
PicMonkey Collage 11
Week 11 – so, so tired

Symptoms: I realised early on that I have been so focused on getting pregnant, that I have almost no knowledge of what happens when you are pregnant. This means I have spent most of the first trimester consulting Dr Google with questions like:

What is going on with my boobs and why do I want to cut a bitch when she brushes past me? What is leukomania and why is it so gross? Why do I feel like I have two corks stuffed up my nose – permanently?

The biggest surprise has been the exhaustion. I expected to feel sick, I didn’t expect to feel like I had glandular fever. But every pregnancy symptom feels like a gift at this point. Bring it on body.

Boy or girl: Team unicorn all the way! That’s an option right? I have managed to horrify a good number of well-meaning people who have asked what I’m hoping for, by responding without thinking ‘a live one.’

Cravings: Milk. Milkshakes. Milk on cereal. Milk by the galloon. I’m guessing the baby needs calcium

Lemons in any form – squeezed on salad, or vegetables and fresh lemonade. But and this is important not at the same time as the milk. That would be gross.

Anything making you feel queasy: Sweet things. Quorn. Anything complicated. Pregnancy has reduced me to toddler tastes

Maternity clothes: One of the benefits of losing a shit-ton of weight before getting pregnant means that my larger clothes will last me a while before I have to buy maternity clothes. Even so waistbands are not my friend and I cannot bear anything tight so all my jeans have been packed away. My lovely SIL has gifted me with some of her maternity clothes and my favourite pick is sleep bras. AMAZEBALLS.

Sleep: All the time, at every moment of every day.

Best moment this week: having the scan and realising that little Nibs is a) in there and not a deluded figment of my imagination b) that his/her heart is beating c) and that they are measuring perfectly on schedule.

Miss anything: No, I am so beyond grateful to be pregnant even the extreme tiredness is welcome. Check back in the third trimester and we’ll see if I’m still singing from the same hymn sheet

33 years today

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I’m 33 years old today.

Birthdays have changed over the years. As a kid it was all about big parties, jelly and ice cream, and suspiciously always winning pass the parcel. In my teens it was sleepovers, sweets and sharing secrets. In my twenties it was booze, bar hopping and besties. Now I’m in my thirties it’s about museums, family and cake. Lots of cake.

No matter what decade one thing has remained constant – my birthday is the one day of the year where it’s all about me!

But I get the feeling that will be changing soon.

It’s been no secret I’ve dreaded the last couple of birthdays. And I find that hard. I never wanted to be the kind of person who dreaded getting older. Getting older is a privilege many would give anything for. But losing Lianne has meant it’s hard not to look back and be conscious of the void opening between us as I get older and she stays forever frozen at 30.

This year it’s different.  For the first time in three years I’m filled with excitement that it’s my birthday and hope for the future. You see, all being well, 33 is the age I will become a mother.

I feel like I’m standing at the edge of a precipice. I know what before looks like: the lazy afternoons on the sofa, the freedom to go wherever and whenever I choose, the days rare but real when it’s all about me.

I have no idea what after looks like. All I know is that next year there will be other birthdays and other little people who come first always. I can’t wait. Bring it on 33!