As every new parent knows, during the latter stages of pregnancy, we are all bombarded with countless lists of essential baby items that we simply ‘must buy’ before our little one’s arrival.
For the first timers among us, at around the 36 week mark, beset by a dangerous combination of confusion and fear, we dutifully set about buying anything and everything we can to ensure we are as prepared as possible for life with a new baby.
Unfortunately this often results in over-buying; wasting money on things that we don’t actually want or need, that ultimately end up being shoved in the loft for ‘next time’ or reluctantly sold on eBay at a heavily discounted price.
So to try and help other first time parents to avoid this same unappetising fate (and noting the irony of this statement given my comments above), I’ve pulled together my definitive (and hopefully, concise) list of new baby kit that we couldn’t have lived without during our labour and first month of parenthood.
What sets this list apart from others you might find online, is that each item has either been a lifesaver during a particularly challenging time or has been lovingly used every day since we became parents. Every penny spent on these items has been worth its weight in gold and I would recommend them to anyone.
Essential items from our hospital bag
Without doubt, we overpacked our overnight bag for the hospital. Not a problem, of course, particularly given you never know how long they’ll keep you in (we were there for five nights).
But apart from the classic hospital bag items for mum and baby that everyone’s told about, there were three unexpected items that proved especially invaluable for us during the birth and the days that followed:
From the very first contraction to the moment when push (quite literally) turned to shove, I spent every surge of our labour massaging Rosie’s back with this sumptuous Mother’s massage oil from Neal’s Yard.
Not only is it made of 100% pure organic skin-nourishing oil, it is also infused with soothing orange flower, mandarin and sweet almond essential oils, (as well as vitamin E-rich wheatgerm) giving it an amazing aromatic scent that helped us escape (for a moment at least) the realities (and unique smells) of the labour ward.
Plus, after the birth, this oil come into its own yet again for regular* back and foot rubs for the new mum, to help recharge her batteries during the early weeks of parenthood.
*not as regular as she would have liked!
In preparation for a marathon labour, we packed enough sweet treats and snacks in our hospital bag to make Augustus Gloop blush. Everything from boiled sweets and high protein energy bars to jelly babies and flap jacks, we excitedly packed it all.
What we didn’t realise was that, in the midst of squeezing a baby out of her hoo-ha, Rosie didn’t really fancy chewing on a tiny, green, jelly version of our impending new arrival. Plus, while constantly sucking on the gas and air, it didn’t exactly leave much time for a picnic.
Aside from water (in our rush I annoyingly managed to leave our isotonic energy drinks in the kitchen fridge), virtually the only thing I could get Rosie to eat during the birth were these SIS GO Isotonic Gel sachets, which proved invaluable in our time of need.
These amazing little sachets deliver a mooing mum with an easily digestible and instant supply of carbohydrates to boost her aching muscles, while providing a dose of much needed energy at the pivotal moments of the birth. A total lifesaver…
While loading the car in the midst of advanced labour, I was initially peeved when Rosie sent me back into the flat to pick up her Theraline maternity pillow. But by God it was worth the trip!
You see, what nobody tells you is that the pillows on the maternity ward are beyond crap. Both as flat as a pancake and in very short supply; an unwelcome combination for any new mum craving home comforts after birth.
Having our Theraline pillow with us made all the difference, helping Rosie have a more comfortable night’s sleep while also doubling up as a baby feeding pillow, providing amazing back support and reducing unnecessary strains on her neck and shoulders while breastfeeding in hospital.
Essential items from our first month of parenthood
A newborn baby cannot yet regulate its own body temperature, so if a baby’s room is too hot or cold, their body temperature can alter quickly and to dangerous levels.
Even with this knowledge, I was still sceptical (at first) about getting a room or a bath thermometer, thinking that my own natural paternal instinct would be more than enough. But being a warm bodied bloke, married to an ‘always cold’ wife, it turns out that temperature is quite a sticking point in our house.
Luckily, a friend gave us the Philips AVENT Digital Bath and Bedroom thermometer and, I’ve got to say, it has been eminently useful and comes everywhere with us. It’s dual function has proved a real winner, quickly adapting between nap time and bath time, with ease and accuracy. Perfect for first time parents like us, for peace of mind more than anything.
Without doubt, Teddy is a wriggler. When we got home from hospital we assumed swaddling wasn’t for him, as he always ended up wrestling his arms and legs free anyway. But according to famous Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg, newborns aren’t actually aware that their limbs are part of their body. As such, flailing arms are nothing more than a distraction to them, preventing your baby from sleeping, as a result of the infamous ‘Startle Reflex’.
Given this information, we listened to the experts and stuck with swaddling. And we’re really pleased that we did, as Teddy now loves being swaddled and is a great sleeper as a result!
At first, we used the basic Gro-swaddle, a clever shaped wrap that quickly swaddles your baby without the need for poppers, Velcro or ties. This worked well for a couple of weeks, but Teddy soon outgrew them unfortunately.
As a result, we moved onto the Cocooi Swaddle from Merino Kids, which has been incredible, in so many ways. This is the world’s first swaddle wrap made from 100% superfine Merino wool, a magical natural fabric that prevents overheating by helping a baby to naturally regulate its body temperature. What’s more, this swaddle wrap includes an innovative pouch for your baby’s legs to rest in (in a hip-healthy position), ensuring that they don’t wriggle free during the night. This feature has been absolutely brilliant and we’ve used the Cocooi Swaddle every day and night since (see below)…our absolute favourite product!
As a new parent, there’s nothing more precious in the world (apart from your baby, and maybe gin) than sleep. So anything that helps your baby to settle, is worth its weight in gold. We bought the new grey Ewan the Dream Sheep from John Lewis shortly before Teddy was born, and he has been a consistent contributor to our bedtime routine ever since.
You see, Ewan the Dream Sheep emits soothing sounds at a low base frequency and can even act as a night light if you want him to, thus helping your baby settle into a peaceful sleep. These calming sounds include actual recordings of the inside of a womb, a vacuum cleaner, rain (my favourite) and a sweet harp lullaby, each overlaid with the sound of a real human heartbeat, thus providing your baby with extra reassurance by reminding them of their nine months inside. Such a great product and highly recommended!
Now, I must admit, I haven’t tried this product myself. But Rosie is a big fan of this Mama Mio Keep Calm Nipple Balm and used it consistently during our first few weeks of parenthood to prevent cracked and sore nipples (which she managed to avoid, partly thanks to this wonder cream). Rosie’s top pick!!
We always planned to get a breast pump eventually, to give us the freedom of not having to exclusively breastfeed. But as readers of the blog will know, fate intervened and we were forced to start using a pump much earlier than planned on account of Teddy’s weight loss and a very strict feeding schedule that ensued.
During this seriously stressful time, we couldn’t have been happier with our Medela Swing Maxi double pump, which allowed us to express twice the volume of milk, in half the time compared to your average single pump. Plus, through regular pumping, Rosie’s milk supply quickly increased, allowing us to pump more than was needed after every feed. A massive time saver at a time when every second counted. Well worth investing in, I say.
While we were pregnant, I convinced myself that we wouldn’t need to use bottles or a steriliser until our baby was at least a month old. But in reality, on account of our unexpectedly strict feeding schedule, our Dr Brown’s Microwave Steam Steriliser and anti-collic bottles have been in constant use pretty much every day since we returned from hospital.
And this Dr Brown’s sterilising system has been an absolute godsend, as it is just so simple and quick to use! The unit itself is small enough that it fits in most microwave appliances, but still big enough to sterilise at least four bottles and teats at a time, using steam heat to kill all common household bacteria. Six minutes, and you’re all set!
We were told not to use any special creams on a newborn’s bottom. “Just water and cotton wool”, they said. But we were also acutely aware from numerous new parent friends, that nappy rash is a total nightmare, which can be difficult to shift once it takes hold.
So we used Sudocrem Care & Protect ointment on Teddy right from the start, as it is designed specifically for babies, offering triple protection against nappy rash at every change. It really is magic stuff, creating a protective barrier that seals in the skin’s natural moisture and protects even the most delicate skin against external irritants.
I’m pleased to report, that as a direct result of using this cream, Teddy’s bottom and little chubby folds have been rash free since day one. As the saying goes, it does exactly what it says on the tin! TOP BUY!!
So, what were your most essential items for the first month of parenthood? As always, we’d love to hear from you, so if you have any suggestions, please do share your top recommendations with the group via the comments section below.