You’ve just found out your best friend is pregnant for the first time! YAY! After the excitement of the news has settled and she starts to prepare her home and life, if she comes to you for help, what are the top 5 essential things would you suggest she needs for newborn life?
What did you find invaluable in your journey into parenthood?
Here’s my top 5 (not including the big things like cot and pram etc!):
1) Breastfeeding pillow. Without a doubt one of if not the most important part of my day when Charlie was new. I didn’t really have a plan about breastfeeding or bottle feeding (see my blog here), so I hadn’t got ready for either scenario! (Typical me, no decision made so in a state of total unpreparedness!) I had bought a tin of formula my midwife had recommended and one bottle (one!) and no sterilising equipment.
I had some nursing bras and tops but no breastfeeding pillow. If you’ve read my blog on breastfeeding, you will know that Charlie and I were really lucky and managed to click when it came to feeding. I know this is not typically the norm, but Charlie turned out to be a star when it comes to getting nutrients in, so looking back I am not surprised we found it easy to breastfeed! But, I was never comfortable! I would try and arrange myself on the sofa with as many cushions as I could but even after a day everything was aching. I sent my husband out to get a pillow and it was absolute bliss when he got back! I would then really look forward to feeding sessions, with my snacks, drinks and a good programme on the TV!
2) Swaddle/white noise app. I have put these 2 together because for us they used to serve the same purpose. From about 6 weeks old, Charlie suffered with Colic (I am going to write a whole other post about this topic!), and these 2 things together really helped him. During the day he was most happy being pressed against me in the carrier we had. So he was upright, he could hear my heart (just like when he was in the womb), he could smell me and also enjoy the movement of me going about my day. He would fall asleep there and I would be able to transfer him to his bassinet at that point so I could have some free time! But at about 6pm every day even this didn’t work. The crying would kick in and nothing we did could soothe him. By about 9.30/10pm it would ease and we could put him to bed! We would swaddle him which really helped. He had an extremely strong Moro reflex (the startle reflex) so if he was asleep this reflex would always startle him awake and the swaddle helped that. The white noise (charlie’s favourite was listening to the rain at first and then when he was a but older he preferred the constant sound of a human saying “shh shh shh”!) just seemed to add to the soothing effect and help send him off to sleep and just as importantly, keep him asleep. It would help drown out the sudden noises of everyday life (neighbours door banging, a dog barking etc etc).
3) Dimmable light. I cannot believe how necessary this item was. And it’s still in constant use in our house now Charlie’s over one and a half years old! The bedrooms in our spanish home are pitch black (thank you persiana blinds!!) it’s a luxury I wasn’t used to, having moved from the UK, but in my early 30s, after a night out dancing and drinking till the early hours and having a hangover at 11am on a bright June morning I was so so grateful!
But in my later 30s, with a hungry newborn baby at 3am followed by a fraught nappy and full onesie change following a newborn blowout I was desperate for some streetlamp light to help me see. When we got this light, nights changed dramatically. Feeding became more relaxed in the low-light, Charlie wouldn’t think it was daytime and happily take his milk sleepily. Then I was able to sort his nappy change out because I could simply bring the little lamp with me to his changing table and aim the light at what I needed to see. Keeping the atmosphere chilled and the light low, whilst being able to see what I was doing.
I was lucky enough to exclusively breastfeed him for the first 4 months, and then combination feed thereafter. But I was also determined not to feel that this restricted me to the house (after the first couple of weeks where I just wanted to be in pyjamas and move from the bed to the sofa and back again!). After a few weeks I wanted to enjoy the autumn weather and have some lunches out as a family before my husband went back to work. I feel very fortunate that Spain, in general, is very family orientated and supportive of breastfeeding mothers. I never met with any criticism or offended looks when I fed Charlie in public and for this reason I didn’t always feel the need to use my nursing cover.
But on occasions, in a very crowded restaurant or terrace (this was before Covid times!) I would use my nursing cover knowing I could still maintain eye contact with Charlie and because of the lightweight cotton he wouldn't overheat. Later, I would often use it to keep his mind on what he was doing and not get distracted by the world around him as he became more curious and interested in people and things! So I used it all the way until we weaned completely off daytime breastfeeding at about 9 months.
5) Waterproof portable changing mat. A delicate subject, but one that cannot be avoided when talking about newborn babies. They poo, a lot!! And it's another thing to think about when you want to leave the house with them. Charlie would always always have a bowel movement whilst feeding. So, if we were planning to be out for more than a few hours, and I knew I would be feeding him, I knew I would be changing him!
We liked to take long walks through Casa de Campo (for those in Madrid!) with no public restrooms etc, and no convenient changing spots. And even if we were in a situation I could take him to a place with a changing table, I knew it must have been used hundreds of times before.
Tell me, what are you planning on buying if you are currently pregnant? If you're already a mum, what did you find invaluable? Is there anything in my list that resonates with you? Let me know!