One of my closest friends had a baby a couple of days ago, and another is ready to drop any day now, and I’m feeling pretty emotional about it. For both of them it’s their first child and it’s bringing back all the memories of the heady, exciting (scary, despairing) first days I had with Millie.
In fact when I was putting Millie to bed last night she drifted off as we had a little cuddle and I got a bit weepy thinking about her as a newborn, and the many hours I spent with her on my chest, just feeling the warmth of her and watching her sleep.
It’s unbelievable to think that was 15 months ago already, and how our daily routines have changed so much – what I need to prepare for each day now is very different!
I’ve been trying to decide what I might want to get as a little ‘welcome to the world’ gift for my friend, and I’d like it to be something useful. In trying to remember what we found vital with a tiny baby to care for, I’ve made a list of my newborn essentials:
- All-in-one baby grows – Millie lived in these for months. We had bought or were given some other clothes but I found it so much more practical to have her in a baby grow, especially when you have to undress them so often. They’re warm, comfy and somehow babies just look extra cute in a onesie.
- Bottle warmer – it was a couple of months before we got one of these. I breastfed initially but used to express too, and quite soon had to move to combination feeding because I couldn’t produce enough, so warming a bottle while out was a daily requirement. In M&S cafe one day they provided a Tommy Tippee one for us and it was brilliant so we bought one right away and used it constantly, it was so easy!
- Dummy – this is a contentious one and I know not every one supports use of a dummy, but for us it was a game changer. When Millie wouldn’t sleep for longer than an hour at a time we began to go mad, and a midwife suggested using a dummy. I was always against them (I don’t know why!) but advice from a healthcare professional was like a green light, and Millie loved it. It’s helped with sleeping, teething, and is her all round comforter really. She still has it now and removing it is something we need to think about, but maybe not today…
- Jelly babies – or any sugary sweets really. Millie spent her first 17 hours (or so) of life in the neonatal unit, and though I was hand expressing colostrum for her it wasn’t much, so she was fed with formula. She then struggled with a nipple and used to fall asleep immediately on the breast. I ended up using nipple shields to get her to latch on, but the process of figuring it out was over a good week or so and in hospital we developed a routine where I would try and feed, then get her down, express, clean everything and sleep myself, and it was about 30 minutes before it all started again. I’d bought jelly babies for the labour but used them for the night of breastfeeding to keep myself awake, and I recommend them to everyone now, fab for while you’re trying to adjust to waking up so often!
- Electric breast pump – I expressed from fairly early on to allow my husband to get in on the feeding action (and give me some extra sleep!), and we bought a hand pump that proved itself redundant almost immediately – I needed hand muscles of steel and a good hour or so to get any decent amount out, and we needed an alternative. During my stay in hospital we’d been lucky to have use of an electric pump that sounded awful but expressed a full bottle in minutes, so we invested in one at home and never regretted it!
- Friends! – I know some people spend days on end at home with their babies, but I am not one of them. I needed to get out and do something pretty much every day because a) having a goal of getting out of the house gave me something to work towards and b) it kept me sane! I had six weeks without driving after my c-section and the restriction I felt was enormous.What’s app chats, Facebook groups and seeing friends or going to baby groups made such a difference for me. I needed the interaction, reassurance and change of scenery, and can’t stress the importance of getting out and about enough to new parents.
And here’s the most useful bit of advice that you eventually learn, but no one tells you: sometimes babies just want to cry. We seem to be programmed to want to stop the crying and take away whatever’s bothering them, but sometimes they just need to get it all out, and that’s ok. If they’re fed, watered, burped, clean and warm then there’s little else you can practically do but be there. Hold them, talk to them, and be there. If you’re knackered and it’s a long crying session it can be so wearing, but the world is so overwhelming for babies, and crying is the only outlet they have! We all have shit days, and babies are no exception. Sounds pretty obvious reading it back now but it wasn’t at the time!
All this thinking of what we did or used in the early days has led me on to a list of what wasn’t essential at all, but that’s for another day!