Wonderprods For New Parents

I’ve been promising a pregnant friend of mine I would write this post for quite some time now! There is so much baby stuff out there now. Some of it’s good, some bad, and a lot is overpriced. I’ll happily share what’s worked for us in the first (nearly) five months, but it’s worth bearing in mind that babies are all different! Little so-and-sos. Some of these products are cheap and some expensive, but I’ll tell you if I think you could save your money and not bother. I’m not sponsored by any of these people. Chance would be a fine thing.

Before I start, the best thing you can possibly do as a new mum is to get on Mumsnet and find the baby group for your month. More often than not someone sets up a Facebook group. Mine is my lifeline. These women are my friends, confidantes and more than made up for not being able to do NCT as we meet up monthly, sometimes more. There are women on there from all over the world and it is BRILLIANT. I’m sure there’s something similar for Dads, but I haven’t investigated.

These are in no particular order!

  1. Sleepyhead https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleepyhead-Deluxe-Months-Pristine-White/dp/B00ACK676E/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469023&sr=1-1&keywords=sleepyhead

This was a Godsend in the first three months. It’s pretty spendy for what it is, and I think there are cheaper things out there that do the same job, but just so you know about it. Arthur, like all babies, was teeny tiny when he was born. Even the small side sleeper cot we had at the time seemed huge to him. He didn’t really take to swaddling as he’s always loved being able to wave his arms around, so this was the expensive solution to the problem. It made him feel nice and cosy and cocooned, and improved his sleep almost immediately.

2. Ewan https://www.amazon.co.uk/ewan-the-dream-sheep%C2%AE-grey/dp/B011CCMOTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469196&sr=1-1&keywords=ewan

If anyone asks you what you’d like as a present, say this. In the first few weeks of a baby’s life they are pretty confused about where they are and what the hell is going on. This little sheep is a bit of a hero as he emits a glow similar to that baby would have seen in the womb, and he makes comforting noises. However…

3. FREE THING ALERT: White noise app

We have the app ‘Baby Sleep Sounds’ on our phones, and an old phone for when we need ours. Basically white noise works way better than lullabies and helps baby stay sound asleep when you’re still crashing around. Use liberally for naps and bedtime. The great thing about this is it’s completely free as long as you have a smart phone, and when Ewan no longer works (around month 3 for us) you can use this to great effect as you can get it much LOUDER, which is what baby needs at this point. Don’t ask me why, it just seems to work.

4. Side Sleeper Cot

My son is enormous and grew out of his by the start of his fourth month, but this was amazing in the beginning. There are a few versions out there, but it means baby feels the security of being next to you, and you’ll feel good about not having to get out of bed eleventy million times in the night. Be careful of your back when twisting and lifting though.

5. Red Kite Travel Cot

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Kite-Sleeptight-Travel-Black/dp/B001CMB2KC/ref=sr_1_3?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469564&sr=1-3&keywords=travel+cot

So this is what we’re using now so that Arthur can stay in our room until six months. This is brilliant, lightweight and approved by Mumsnet Grandmas. I first used one when staying at my parents and realised how much Arthur loved it, preferred it, in fact, to the side sleeper by this time. I figured for £35 plus a decent mattress it was worth it since we’d use it for travel all the time. Arthur LOVES it and starfishes out like a good’un. He also loves lying in it to play as it doubles as a play pen, and he rolls around cooing and playing with his feet. Also good for putting him in for nudey time before his bath. Babies LOVE being naked when they get a bit bigger.

6. The Haakaa (for breastfeeders)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Haakaa-Silicon-Breast-Pump/dp/B01KMSQC8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469806&sr=1-1&keywords=haakaa

WARNING: Do NOT waste your money on bottles and breast pumps before baby arrives if you’re planning to breastfeed. If you’re feeling anxious, get a self-sterilising MAM bottle (only one please, you won’t need any more at first). Take it from me; if you manage to successfully breastfeed it’ll be a massive waste of money, and if you don’t you can always get stuff when baby arrives. Important to know that NOT ALL BABIES WILL TAKE ALL TEATS. Seriously. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I’d know this. And if anyone wants some unused Tommee Tippees, give me a shout.

The Haakaa is pure witchcraft. As a breastfeeder, I wanted Arthur to be able to take a bottle if I needed to, you know, leave the house without him. We had an electric pump and a manual, but neither of them yielded much. The Haakaa is so easy. You just pop it on to one breast whilst you feed on the other and you get LOADS. And it’s really cheap. I love it and the £50 pump languishes in a drawer.

7. Massive Muslins

There are a few companies that make good ones, but my Mum picked mine up from TK Maxx. They’re made by an Australian company called Little Green. You can, however, find them on Amazon if you look for ‘mega’ or ‘giant’ muslins. Honestly, I hate using smaller ones. These double up as a bib and a nursing cover at the same time, and as a blanket in the summer. Arthur also loves to play with them and use them as a teething toy or snuggle blanket. In terms of feeding, I’m no longer bothered about getting a boob out in public, but I have a tendency to spray (ahem) if a distracted baby lets go. This stops my milk from hitting my dining companion in the eye. Top tip: Never get muslins that are completely white in colour. Trust me. They have a shelf life of five minutes.

8. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuddles-Collection-Twinkle-Nursing-Pillow/dp/B0173WU0PM/ref=sr_1_4?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491470600&sr=1-4&keywords=nursing+pillow

These are just great, and so cheap. They’re fab for something to prop everyone up when feeding, and great for sticking the baby on to keep them safe for a minute or two whilst you leave the room (you will be able to eventually, I promise). When baby is first starting to sit up these are great for support too. Arthur’s in his next to me on the sofa right now, kicking me in the ribs.

9. EXPENSIVE THING ALERT

http://www.pramworld.co.uk/brand/uppababy/uppababy-baby-prams-from-birth

Prams/buggies/travel solutions are very personal, and you really must go to a retailer and try them all out. Promise me you will. We had a very good piece of advice and went to Winstanley’s Pramworld in Orrell, Lancs and we landed on this one. The Cruz is light enough for city living, more manoeuvrable than any of the others we tried, and works for me (5’2) and husband (6’4). It’s amazing, and I can even get it up the ridiculous steps at the front of our house with no issues. The basket at the bottom is massive, too. Whatever you go for, I completely recommend Pramworld as they deliver nationwide and have a great website, and do bulk deals including car seats and carry cots. Be careful with second hand prams, and all advice is not to get a second hand car seat.

10. GAME CHANGER

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Baby-Products/Ergobaby-baby-carrier-collection-bundle/B01JG0FF18/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1491471170&sr=8-2&keywords=ergo+360

I had very few expectations of birth and motherhood. I’m an older mum (36) and have watched friends and relatives go through the stress of making a ‘birth plan’ and wanting to breastfeed and ending up with emergency c-sections and formula feeding. Babies do not work to your plan. Ever. YOU have to be flexible, and be prepared that all of your dearest hopes might come crashing down around your ears.

Although my birth plan was ‘get the kid out’ and thus my EMCS didn’t really bother me the way I know it does some people, I was really committed to the idea of baby wearing. I wanted to be the mum who could throw her baby effortlessly into a sling, grab a light backpack and off we’d go to explore the city.

Yeah. When someone has cut open your core muscles with a scalpel, and you weren’t able to do any exercise for nine months because of HG, lugging a baby around in a sling is almost impossible. But oh, how I tried! I have been given no less than three different slings as well as being bought one, but nothing has actually worked until I stumbled upon a bag of jumble outside someone’s house with the Ergobaby 360 sitting on top. I know, right?

It’s BRILLIANT. The Ergo style carrier is best for babies as it supports their hips properly rather than leaving them to dangle, and it supports you properly too. I have an ergo original with a newborn insert which my best friend gave me and I loved this too, but the great thing about the 360 is that you can turn baby around to face outwards which they LOVE when they’re old enough. I carry Arthur happily now, making sure I take rest days when I need to. He’s a heavy lump.

 

Whew. That is one LONG post. Sorry everyone. Hope it was useful! Next time; gifts for new babies and their parents.

 

 

 

 

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Resolution Revolution

January. The most miserable, grey, cold month of the year, and yet somehow also the month we’re supposed to use for strict physical self-improvement. Diets, exercise, cleanses, detox, running with a personal trainer at 5am before work…

It’s never really done it for me. I’ve always been a September goals kind of gal. As a teacher I adore September, with its gorgeous warm light, morning mists, new stationery (oh, how I love the new stationery. More on that another time), and the sense of a new beginning, the mental challenge of a new academic year. I’m a geek, you see, and I’ll always be much more into mental challenges than physical ones. 

This year, though. This year is different. I spent most of last year in and out of hospital with a very difficult pregnancy, suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the whole nine months. I couldn’t work, so when my colleagues and students were celebrating the start of a new year, I was starting my maternity leave two and a half months early. Not for me the lovely squeak of a new board pen on the whiteboard, new uniforms and fresh smiles. I was staying in Lancashire with my kind, generous parents, which nevertheless was all a good 200 miles from my own husband and home. 

So this year, I’m embracing the New Year. I’m even embracing the resolutions, which I normally shy away from and just pick a word of the year instead. (Last year’s word was ‘adventure’. That was an understatement).

There is no way, though, I’ll keep something going for an entire year. No way. I’ve tried it before and just failed on a hideous level, beating myself up with it from February to December. I can’t imagine that being much better with a little baby in tow, either. It’s a waste of my time. So I’m doing things a little differently. I had a good idea. 

I’ve seen people use old jars for things like this before. ‘Happiness’ jars, where you write down one nice thing that happened in a day and place it in. That kind of thing. So I decided to wash out an old coffee jar (I don’t have lovely Kilners hanging around, and any I do have are put to use), write down twelve different monthly challenges and pick one out on the last day of each month. Some of them are health-related, but many of them are just nice things I’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to. Like reading a poem every day. I adore poetry, and every now and then my husband and I spend a pleasant hour just reading our faves to each other. I’m aware this makes us sound like over-educated douches, and I must stress that we never plan it, but still, this is what we do sometimes. Or practising the piano every day for ten minutes, which is what I beg my students to do; ‘Just ten minutes a day and I swear you’ll notice a big difference!’

So… here’s what I came up with. 

Some of these are the more traditional health and fitness goals, but you’ll notice I’ve made them achievable. ‘Lose four stone’ is something I’d really like to do by December, but let’s face it, even breastfeeding like a demon I’m very unlikely to manage something that huge, and it’ll just haunt me and make me miserable. So I’ve made them tiny, bite-sized goals. I love the brain resolutions the best. I love listening to the ‘Coffee Break French’ podcast anyway, so doing that once a day will be a joy. Doing an online course? Ooh! Fun! In what? No idea, but I’ve got time to think about it. I’ve tried to do those pesky Morning Pages (from the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, every frustrated creative has a copy) so many times, but failed because I was expecting to do them EVERY MORNING FOREVER. Clearly unlikely. 

I’ve given myself permission to put a resolution back if it doesn’t seem like the right time for it. If I have loads of events then five fruit and veg per day might be a stretch, whereas reading the books might still be achievable. You get the idea. 

If you’d like to try it for yourself then please, go ahead! 

*Disclaimer: I still picked the most boring one for January. No sugary treats. Because, well, it’s January. 

Let me know what you’re doing this year!

Hindsight. 

Looking across the aisle of the train carriage, I realise that I’m looking at the old me.

 

She looks like a student on her way back to university after the holidays, with a backpack and battered suitcase. Her hair is scraped back, she wears no make-up (she doesn’t need any), she’s in a comfortable hoody and trainers, looking sweet and wholesome and on the cusp of life’s adventure with her problem skin and three day hair. I wonder if she had a big last night at home with her friends, perhaps a boyfriend at some other uni across the country who she’ll break up with when she realises what love really is. I wonder if she has siblings, a warm, loving family with a joker of a Dad and a fierce, house-proud career Mum. 

I wonder if she’s looking at me, the mother with the pram, and wondering about me, my baby and our life. Except I know she’s not. I never did. But nevertheless, in my heart I wish her the joy I have known since my own student days. Of falling in love, of wild nights and adventures spend with friends, of travel and joyful, meaningful work. Of the sweetness of returning home to her family. Of the magic of building a new one, with mortgage and car and marriage and baby. Of looking at pictures of herself as a younger woman, shaking her head as she realises how pretty she really was in her youth. I wish her all of it, and more. 

It’s a beautiful life, little student girl. Enjoy. 

A New Chapter

It’s 7.03am on 31st December 2016. Though really it’s so dark it could be the middle of the night. I’ve just spend an hour cuddling my seven-week-old son, as he’s been restless since his last feed at 5. I check his breathing religiously, every time I wake, which is often, even when he slumbers peacefully. I’m overwhelmed by responsibility to this tiny, beautiful person who relies on me for everything, rewarding me with the occasional wonky, drunken, joyful smile. For 35 years I have been responsible for no-one but myself, unless you count pets and my husband. I had a freedom I never knew or acknowledged; the freedom of walking through life able to go wherever I wanted, do whatever I liked, spend money like water and drink cocktails at 5pm, or even 5am. It was a beautiful life, a glorious life, with adventures and family and friendship. It was never “less than” just because I didn’t have a child. Still, the thought that I nearly missed out on this part, on the milk, the stories, the night feeds, the magic of Christmas with my own child, makes me catch my breath. I nearly didn’t have it, so nearly.

At seven weeks after his birth, life is beginning to get something of a rhythm for us. The early days of feeding constantly, of a newborn with no concept of night and day, of constant visits from relatives and friends are coming to a close. The three of us have developed our own world where the tiniest things are important and hold the universe together. We enjoy our days, with trips to see friends, walks in the cold when we’re all wrapped up, endless box sets on Netflix and Amazon with warm cuddles and eating one-handed.

When I was a kid, my Dad would get home around six, just before tea was ready. I’d be in the kitchen with Mum, chatting to her about the day and whatever drama had befallen me and my friends at school. I can still smell the cooking and see the steam on the kitchen windows, feel the warm hug of it. When my Dad’s key turned in the lock our heads would turn to him, and he’d come in bringing the cold, the smell of chewing gum and some treasure or other he’d picked up. He’d tell us a tale from his day whilst rummaging in the bread bin and thickly buttering a crust, talking between bites and handing the bread to me to share while Mum got cross we were spoiling our tea, shouting for my brothers to come down to eat. It was a feeling of complete wholeness, of family, of being surrounded by love. It’s security, belonging. It’s the feeling I get now when I hear my husband’s key in the lock and know we’re giving that to someone else. It’s a feeling we pass on to our children, if we’re lucky enough to have them.