STEP SIX in Preparing Mentally for Having Your First Baby: Beware of the Industry – My Top Books & List of Essentials.

My mantra, which those of you who have been following my blogs will know, is, ‘Listen’ (to yourself, your partner and your baby) and ‘Let baby Lead’.  The ‘Baby Industry’ has grown into a monster worth billions of pounds, selling you everything from technique to toiletries.

BOOKS

You may already have been overwhelmed with the amount of books out there, telling you how to do everything under the sun, which is fine until they start contradicting each other!  No knowledge is wasted, however, as long as you assess and then make judgement calls, because you can’t follow it all.

In my previous blog (Step Five), I talked about getting to know yourself, so that you can work out what will suit you the best.  An author might suggest a way of doing things that is highly recommended by twenty mothers and half a dozen celebrities, but unless it suits you as a person.  If it means rearranging the way you do everything in your life, I think that’s just too hard!  There are amazing books out there with invaluable information, wisdom and experience, it just a matter of finding the ones that suit you.  These are the top few from my library:

– ‘What to Expect when You’re Expecting’[1] and ‘What to Expect the 1st Year’[2].  I found them very helpful encyclopaedic, factual guides with no fuss or frills.

– ‘The Continuum Concept’[3].  This book gave me a fascinating insight into how they raise children in the Amazon and converted me to carrying my babies rather than putting them in a pram.

– ‘What Every Parent Should Know’[4].  Invaluable knowledge about the physical and psychological development of the human brain.  It helps you understand what your baby is capable of, when and the importance of intimate interaction early on.  It also informs you about the dangers of controlled crying.

– ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’ and ‘The Happiest Toddler on the Block’[5].  These books helped me understand the importance of replicating the environment of the womb, while giving information about behavioural development and how to deal with it.

These are a good start for anyone, but everyone has their own taste and you must find yours.  It’s important to always bring your own opinions, likes and dislikes to whatever you read.  Don’t believe everything and trust your own instincts.  Try to look within yourself for the answers.  It is always reassuring to have an experienced voice nearby, but when if comes to the big decisions about sleeping and feeding routines, for example, these should be made by you.

Be confident in your preparation and you’ll be confident when baby arrives.  Know yourself, listen to your baby and the rest will fall into place.

The industry, however, only starts with the books.  Then you’ve got all the ‘things’ you can buy.  Cots, clothes and lots and lots of clutter!

MY ESSENTIALS

When you move into a new house, you rarely buy all the new furniture until you move in.  How are you going to know what fits otherwise?  It’s the same with babies.  Until baby arrives it’s hard to know what you’ll be really want.  Everything changes from the moment he’s born, so try to keep your purchases to a minimum before he arrives.

With my second child I got rid of anything that I didn’t need and took up loads of space (mainly because we live in a flat in London and don’t have much space!).

This is my list of what I used and needed, from birth all the way through, with tips and comments:

Hospital Bag:

–       A couple of newborn baby grows

–       Baby blanket or warm outside baby garment

–       New born nappies

–       Cotton pads for cleaning baby’s bottom

–       Baby’s towel (if you are giving birth on a hospital ward)

–       Sanitary pads

–       A few pairs of big, comfy (granny) pants for after you have given birth (you won’t be very comfortable down there, remember, so make sure they are big and lose)

–       Change of clothing for you, including very comfy trousers (I wore leggings or tracksuit bottoms)

–       PJs for you

–       Dressing Gown or towel (if you are giving birth on a hospital ward)

–       Your music or creature comforts to make you more comfortable

–       Your wash bag with lovely soap or shower gel and shampoo

Baby’s Sleeping:

–       BABY BLANKET.  Make sure it has holes in the material so if it goes over baby’s head he can still breath.  When baby is a bit bigger, usually once he starts moving and rolling over, you may want to use a baby SLEEPING BAG.  They are particularly useful when it’s cold, because blankets come off them, baby gets cold and then wakes up.  Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t like having any blankets on him.  If the bedroom is warm and he’s wearing a full baby grow, that may be enough.  Think about how warm you are.  If you’re warm, he probably will be as well and remember nappies are really good insulators!  Neither of mine like covers on them.  In fact they are naked and uncovered whenever it’s warm enough!

–       If baby is in bed with you:

  • A BED GUARD, to stop them rolling out of bed.  Both of mine slept in bed with me for months, in between me and the bed guard (as Dad may not be as sensitive to baby’s position in the bed and could roll on baby).
  • CO-SLEEPER.  A really good way to start to move baby out of your bed.  They are the same height as your mattress, so it’s like a little bed, right next to your bed.  Baby can still smell you and hear you, so they are comforted, but you have you both have your own space in bed.  As they get bigger, even if they might want to be right next to you, your movement does disturb them and vica versa.

–       If baby is out of bed:

  • MOSES BASKETS.  Moses baskets are very expensive and only last a few weeks, because baby grows so fast.  If you think a cot is a bit big and not very cosy for baby, but you want to avoid the cost of a Moses basket, you can put something like a Snuggle Nest[6] in your cot.  They are particularly useful if your baby doesn’t like swaddling.  Snuggle Nests are very light-weight, and have little raised cushions either side of baby which you can remove as he gets bigger.  As it’s so light, you can easily carry it around with you, for baby to sleep in for a few hours during the day or if you go out for dinner.  I still use the mattress of mine as a changing mat.
  • COTS.  As far cots are concerned, where do you start?  Or do you?  My second son has never had one.  He was in my bed, he’s now in the co-sleeper, and from there he will go into a big bed.  My first son had a massive cot (over a metre long), which was his bed (when he wasn’t in my bed!) until he went into a normal single bed.  If you get a cot, budget and aesthetics will dictate your choice.
  • NIGHT LIGHT.  When baby is first born they like the dark (they have just come from your womb).  However, they learn to be afraid of the dark and as they get older often ask for a light.  I bought a night light which you plug straight into the socket.  It has a light sensor, so it automatically comes on when it is dark and turns itself off when it is light.  It means my son can see his room and orientate himself if he wakes in the night or needs the loo.

–       Changing Baby’s Nappy.

  • CHANGING MAT.  For baby number two, I used a waterproof changing mat, a towel or my Snuggle Nest instead of a changing table.  If you have lots of room, it’s quite nice to have an easily accessible table at the right height with everything on it.  However, they take up so much room and many of them do not work as a piece of furniture afterwards.  However, you can get beautiful ones in all materials, textures and colours.  Personally, I would rather have nappies etc. on a shelf and a mat I can whip out and use any time I need it.  I also don’t want to have to go to the bedroom to change his nappy.  I have one mat downstairs and one mat upstairs.  When you are first home, it is very important that you have access to a changing mat or table in the same room, or at least on the same floor, as where you are spending most of your time.  The more you walk (especially up and down stairs) when you have first given birth, the longer it will take you to heal.
  • NAPPIES.  I have always used organic, gel-free nappies.  They are more expensive than Pampers and Huggies, but the skin is the largest organ in the body, and I do not want a large portion of that being exposed to chemicals for the first two years (or more) of my babies’ lives.  I used organic cotton washable nappies from Green Baby, for my first baby for a year.  They were brilliant and saved me loads of money.  They are a bit more bulky and you do have to carry around soiled nappies, which loses its novelty, but I only stopped using them when he was 1 year old and the poo was proper adult poo.  If that got past the nappy liner onto the nappy, I didn’t want to be carrying it around all day!  Since then I have used many chemical free brands.  My favourite at the moment is Moltex, which are also biodegradable.  The most affordable and easily accessible are Nature Babycare which you can buy from supermarkets and which are eco disposable, breathable nappies.  The only time I use Huggies is at night once baby is about 8 months old.  As there is no gel in the natural nappies, they do not last 12 hours if your baby is drinking during the night; and you do not want to be changing nappies which might wake baby.
  • COTTON PADS or WIPES.  I don’t like wipes because they are full of chemicals.  There are now Water Wipes which are chemical free, but I rather resent spending a lot of money on that, when I can just as easily have a bowl of water next to my cotton pads!  I admit that wipes are great for travelling and when you’re out and about.  I use Sainsbury’s Little Ones ‘eco’ wipes which are paraben free.  At home, however, my cotton pads, water bowl and nappies are on the radiator cover downstairs and in his room upstairs.  They take up no space and are not expensive.
  • NAPPY BAGS. I don’t buy nappy bags.  I use old Sainsbury’s bags, and wrap up the nappy a few times.  If a nappy is full of poo, it stinks whichever way you look at it, and the perfume on the nappy bag doesn’t hide the smell for long!  Nappy bags fit neatly into your changing bag so people like them.  It’s a personal preference and one extra thing to spend money on.
  • OIL & NAPPY RASH CREAM.  I use olive oil (the same that I put on my salads – don’t use vegetable oil) on baby’s bottom, every time I change his nappy.  I bought a little pot (an inch in diameter) and dispensed some oil into it.  You can get little squirty bottles from Sainsbury’s and other shops, which you might find easier.  For nappy rash I use Weleda baby ‘Calendula Nappy Change Cream’, which I really like as a natural choice, although I also have a little pot of Sudocrem in my bag, in case he has really bad nappy rash.  If it’s just a bit spotty or blotchy, I just use oil, if it’s red I used the Weleda cream, but if it isn’t shifting, and it’s raw, looks uncomfortable and isn’t shifting, I use the Sudocrem cream.  As with all things that are painful with babies, (as I mentioned when discussing breastfeeding) if you let nappy rash go untreated it just gets worse.
  • CHANGING BAGS.  People have massive changing bags, with every pocket and zip for every requirement, and they range in price from about £20 (some changing bags are hundreds of pounds!).  I have a sturdy cotton bag which I got at a book launch, in which I have a bottle of water, nappies, cotton pads, oil and nappy rash cream, a small towel and change of clothes.  It fits inside my day bag when we go out, instead of being an additional bag, which I have to carry.

–       Feeding:

  • If you are breastfeeding, initially, you don’t need anything!  (Apart from plenty of water and munchies for you!)
  • BOTTLES.  Once you start expressing, introduce formula or drinking water, you’ll need bottles.  I used Aveda for my first baby, and Tommee Tippee for my second.  I did try a glass one with an organic rubber teet, which I used and liked until it smashed on the floor!  The other problem with them, is the way the teet is made.  All teets have holes in to allow the circulation of air.  The organic ones, however, don’t seem to have any kind of valve, so if you have a baby who likes to squeeze the teet while drinking (like mine!), the milk goes everywhere.  People like them because of the concern with the plastic in the normal bottles slightly dissolving into hot drinks.  You will have to make your own judgement here.  In the end, the glass bottle didn’t work for me because at 5 months baby was holding his own bottle and therefore dropping it, and once it had smashed I wasn’t going to replace it.
  • SIPPY CUPS as early as you can.  I think mine started on them at about 6 months old.  By 8 months he was drinking out of a cup or glass at every opportunity.  I encourage this, although it is messy so it depends what he is wearing and if I have a bib or change of top to hand!
  • BIBS.  I encourage my second child to feed himself which is very messy.  So if he’s eating squashy food I put him in what looks more like something he’d wear for art, called ‘In The Pocket Baby’.  It’s brilliant because he can squash banana all over himself and his clothes are not trashed!  Otherwise any bib will do, although I do recommend the ones with a pocket, so food falls into it, rather than onto their lap or on the floor.
  • NON-BREAKABLE CROCKERY.  Non-breakable bowl and cup and eventually kiddie cutlery once they are bigger, to get them used to using cutlery.
  • Feeding CHAIR or high chair.  I bought a Stokke chair called a Tripp Trapp for my first, which is fantastic and you adapt it as they grow, by taking away bits.  When they grows out of it as a high chair, you can lower the seat so it is a normal adult chair.  They do not have a tray, so baby gets used to eating at the table from day one, and it is a lovely wooden piece of furniture in your kitchen.  My second baby is used a portable canvas seat from Phil&Teds, to begin with.  It screws onto the kitchen table and takes up no room.  It is easy to store, and light enough to put in your suitcase.  Now that he is one year old, and was climbing out of the Phil&Teds one, he is in my first’s Tripp Trapp.  For very young babies who can not sit up properly on their own, the fabric bouncy chairs are great.  Try to always feed them from the floor.  If you put him in his chair on a table, so you can sit in front of him, be very careful.  Babies can bounce a lot and before you know it, he’ll be bouncing himself off the kitchen table!

–       Transportation:

  • CARRYING DEVICES.  When it comes to carrying your baby, there are slings, wraps and other contraptions, like Baby Bjorns.  I love slings.  See my  previous blogs (‘Step Two’ & ‘Me Wearing Slings…’).
  • PRAMS.  I would highly recommend not buying your pram until you have your baby, and if possible, borrow a pram initially until you know exactly what you want.  I didn’t use a pram for either of my babies until they were about 6 months old, instead I carried them everywhere.  By the time we bought one I knew exactly what I wanted: a Maclaren.  It’s one of the lightest, while also being sturdy, and it folds up small.  If you travel a lot or have limited space in your car or at home, they are amazing.  My only complaint is that they are hard to push one handed.  However, the fact that it has two separate handles rather than a bar, means you can attach many more things to it, which is useful.  There was some controversy about it being unsafe in 2009, when children in America put their finger in between moving parts which resulted in severe injury[7].  I have only had a good relationship with mine, but have always kept my fingers and my children’s fingers away from any moving parts!  Even if you want to carry your baby for the first year, I would recommend introducing a pram by six months.  Just like feeding with a bottle, if you don’t introduce the pram at all until they are much older, they might not go in it when you want them to, which is a nightmare.  Prams are incredibly useful as a portable place for your baby to sleep, and when you are out shopping to carry all your bags!  They definitely have their place, but I know that I would have bought something different from what we ended up with if we had bought one before baby arrived.
  • PRAM COVERS.  If you use your pram a lot when it is freezing cold, you will need a cover for your pram to keep baby warm.  I used a sheepskin seat cover, which he sat on and then covered him with a sheepskin rug.  You can get brilliant all in one seat covers which attach to your pram and they slip in to.  If I were to do it again, I would buy one of those.
  • CAR SEAT.  There are a million for sale out there.  I would recommend signing onto ‘Which?’ when you are ready to buy and see what is the best at the time.  Safety standards are always changing, designs are improving (especially with regard to fixing them in the car and removing their covers when you need to wash them).  Remember, the hospital won’t (or shouldn’t) let you leave unless you have a baby-seat fitted in the car you are taking baby home in.  I would recommend fitting the seat in the car before you go into labour, otherwise you’ll be standing in the street, holding your newborn baby, while your partner is f-ing and blinding trying to work out how it works!  It’s worth knowing that most car seats are not fitted properly because people do not read the instructions correctly.  It’s so important you do, because they can be very infective if they are fitted incorrectly.

–       Medicine Cabinet:

  • PRO-BIOTICS.  I swear by them, especially if you do not breastfeed your baby for the first year, it gives them a real boost to their immunity, until their own immune system is formed.  I am using Udo’s Choice Infant Blend, at the moment but there are several very good ones.  Ask your local Health Shop which one would be best for your baby, considering his age etc.  I also take them daily.
  • MEDICINE.  I never leave home without Calpol (Paracetmol for kids).  If your baby has high temperature, it works miracles.  You shouldn’t give any medication to a baby younger than 3 months old and never give more than the recommended dose.  Many people don’t believe in painkillers.  I weigh up the pros and cons: is one dose of paracetamol better than hours of discomfort for your child?  I think so, but you must decide what is best for your little one.  There is also Nurophen for kids, which is great a painkiller.  You shouldn’t give it on an empty stomach and you can give it together with Calpol if your baby is in pain and has a fever.  Always seek professional medical advice if you are unsure about anything.
  • VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS.  It is not advised to give your baby supplements on an on-going basis, but just when they need a boost.  So as soon as mine have a runny nose, I give them a dose morning and night.  Most have quite a lot of added sugar, which is best to keep away from if possible.  The best sugar-free one I have found is Nature’s Plus’ ‘Baby Plex’.  It is a bright yellow liquid that really stains, so beware when giving it, as it’s rare not to get it on something!
  • KARVOL.  When they get a cold, put some on their chest and on the pillow and it really helps them to breath.
  • SALINE NASAL SPRAY.  If your baby is really bunged up, they get so frustrated when they can’t sleep because they can’t breathe.  The saline nasal spray really works, if you can get them to hold still long enough to use it.
  • HUMIDIFIER.  If you have a young baby when it’s winter, you might be plagued with one cold after another, which is often accompanied by a cough.  The result: a lot of sleepless nights.  A humidifier can prevent that.  They are amazing.  I have the Vicks Humidifier and if my babies ever have a cough I put it on next to their bed and usually they don’t cough at all.
  • COUGH MIXTURE.  There are no medicated cough mixtures for children.  You can buy Nelsons’ ‘Children’s Cough Syrup’, but it doesn’t really do anything.  The most effective one I’ve found is Korres’ ‘Honey Base Syrup’.  It has a strong aniseed taste, however, so some children don’t like it.
  • TEETHING POWDERS.  TEETHA by Nelsons and INFANTS’ POWDERS by Ashton & Parsons are natural teething powders.  If you use them alternately they are more affective.  People use Bonjela Infant, I never have, but I think it’s very soothing for the gums.
  • ARNICA.  I always have Nelsons’ Arnica cream for the inevitable bruise when someone knocks their head, it works a treat.
  • THERMOMETRE.  I have a Geratherm which has always been very good, there are lots of different brands on the market.
  • HOMEOPATHY.  I have the basic 18 Remedies box, although I have to admit I rarely use it.  I find homeopathy often doesn’t work very quickly and can be quite hit and miss.  It is one of those things that you need to invest the time into if you want to be affect with your analysis and remedies.
  • TOOTHPASTE.  Once baby starts eating sugar, even if he only has one tooth, it’s good to try and introduce brushing their teeth.  To begin with, until they are 18 months or so, that means giving them their baby toothbrush with a tiny amount of toothpaste on it (if you put too much it’ll end up all over your bathroom!).  The Health Visitor gave me Sanderson 0PH1000 as my second baby’s first toothpaste.  For my first son, I have always used Aquafresh milk teeth, because he seems to like the taste better than the others.

–       Bathing.

  • BATHS & MATS.  Hopefully you already have one of these in your house.  If you only have a shower, you’ll need a baby bath.  Many people choose to use baby baths anyway, so they don’t use so much water.  For my first son, I used large bathing sponges: I filled the bath an inch or so, so that the sponges were soaked with water and then lay baby on top.  I then moved onto a baby bath and once he was sitting up I put a non-slip mat on the bottom of the bath.  Once I discovered how wonderful it was having a bath with him, however, I just bathed him with me.  So lovely, I really recommend it, especially when you’re still breastfeeding.  A feed in the bath, lying there peacefully together is a magical moment.  My second son always bathed with me, until he could sit up, then he started to have a bath with his brother sitting on the non-slip mat.
  • SOAP.  Don’t use any soap on your baby for as long as you can.  No matter how good it is, it dries out their skin and when they are tiny they don’t need it.  I only ever use natural soap without chemicals.  You can buy it at most Health Food shops.  One brand of liquid soap which I adore is Apivita[8], made in Greece.  They have a chamomile and honey shampoo which is particularly good for scabby scalp or dry skin.

I’m bound to have missed out something, but hopefully this will be a useful check-list for you, with some helpful hints.  If anyone has any comments or anything they would like to add, please do let us know.


[1] By Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazeland – Workman Publishing.

[2] By Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway – Workman Publishing.

[3] By Jean Liedloff – Da Capo Publishing.

[4] By Margot Sunderland – Dorling Kindersley Publishing.

[5] By Dr. Harvey Karp – Bantam Dell, Random House Publishing.

[6] Made by a company called ‘Summer’.

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