I’m not going to lie, the first few months after having a baby are hard work. Alongside the utter joy and unconditional love that you experience when you return from the hospital with your newborn, is the daunting realisation that your baby needs you around the clock and you can say goodbye to life as you knew it before – at least for the time being.
Being a person who likes routine and structure in my life, I found it quite difficult at first to accept that on some days the breakfast dishes would go unwashed, or I would go for days without cooking a decent meal. I am also a person who likes my sleep, so when sleep suddenly turned from a necessity into a privilege, I did find it hard to adjust. Obviously Mr M was a huge help, but on his return to work I did feel rather overwhelmed at times.
Rest assured though that this period doesn’t last forever. I now have a happy, contented six month-old who will happily sit and inspect her finger food (whilst I wash the dishes) or play with her toys whilst I prepare a (decent) dinner. I even get to sleep through the night most of the time! I now look back on those frenzied few months with a smile and think about what a would do differently if there was to be a second baby.
The baby market is so saturated with gadgets and gizmos that it’s really difficult for a first-time mum to know where to start. Which products do you really need and which do you just think you need? I had some brilliant advice from family and friends and really came to appreciate some of the products we invested in. Other products I decided to go without and regretted, or I’ve discovered them since and wish I’d known about them before.
So here’s my list of the products that made my life easier with my first baby, and those that I will most definitely be buying if there’s a second.
There’s a reason why these are so common place these days. If you’re thinking that you don’t need one and can just secure your car seat using the seat belts, I would strongly recommend thinking again. We use our car seat every single day, continually hauling it in and out of the car – the ISOFIX makes this so easy and saves valuable time. Most are on sale for less than £100. You need one in your life.
2. Tommy Tippee Perfect prep machine (if bottle feeding)
There’s nothing quite so frustrating as waiting for a bottle of milk to cool down in the middle of the night (for the fifth time) as you pace up and down your kitchen trying to sooth your screaming newborn. Every minute you spend waiting for the ice to kick in, is another minute of sleep that you won’t have. This is an investment I never made as i thought it was a bit on the pricey side at £79.99. In hindsight, I think it would’ve been worth every penny.
From the moment we brought her home from the hospital Taylor refused to be put to sleep. She would happily doze off in her bouncer, or car seat, but when it came to bedtime she would scream the house down and thrash around in her crib for hours until she would finally drop off from sheer exhaustion. She also suffered from reflux, so feeding didn’t offer much respite and no amount of cuddling or cooing would settle her. I’m assured that not every baby is like this, but for those who are, a swaddle can really help to provide the comfort they’re craving. I’m not saying it worked for us every night, but we were truly grateful on those nights when it did. Definitely worth keeping one to hand.
4. Baby bath
Your midwife and health visitors will show you how to correctly bathe your baby using a basin of water and it’s true that a sink or washing up bowl double up as perfectly adequate bath tubs. But we found having a baby bath just made bath time so much easier. Make sure that you buy one that has a seat support within it so that you don’t have to prop up your baby and have your hands free to grab the bodywash, cotton pads, rubber ducks, nappies etc. Depending on the growth rate of your baby you will probably be able to use the baby bath for the first six months.
5. Chicco Next2Me Crib
It wasn’t unusual for me to pass the best part of an hour lying at the foot of my bed with my hand in Taylor’s crib trying to sooth her to sleep – either by resting my hand on her, or putting her dummy back in after she’d spat it out for the 100th time that night (to her own dismay). Aside from that, I felt as though I was constantly picking her up and putting her back down again throughout the night for feeds. Had I of known what I do now, I would’ve definitely bought one of these. I imagine these are even more practical for breastfeeding mums who won’t even need to leave their bed.
6. Bouncer Chair
You quickly realise that your little newborn has two states: Asleep and awake. And when she’s awake, she’s either ‘quiet awake’ (contemplating the crazy world she’s born into, thinking about dozing off) or ‘active awake’ (I want to move these limbs, I’ve been squashed up for a whole nine months goddammit!). And if, like me, you don’t have the ten arms or the indefinite amount of time that’s required for interacting with your baby 24/7, you will need to put her down somewhere where she’s content (at least for a few minutes). The bouncer chair is perfect for those ‘quiet awake’ stages when she will quite happily watch you get ready in the morning or spend five minutes at a time inspecting her hands. If you’re lucky, she may even fall asleep in it and you can quickly go wash those breakfast pots.
7. Play Mat
See point 6 – ‘active awake’. These are also ideal for that all-important tummy time and for later on when baby is learning to roll. It’s definitely worth investing in a decent one that will last as the dangly toys tend to get a lot of abuse later on when baby decides they’re great for teething and using as a balancing aid when trying to sit up.
8. Bugaboo Bee
I wasn’t going to include this one, as which pushchair to choose is quite a personal decision and very much depends on your individual lifestyle. But this pushchair has been so good to me that it felt a little unfair not to give it a mention! My personal requirement for our pushchair was something light and easy to dissemble/assemble as I knew that it would be mainly me who would be carting it in and out of my car boot (which by the way is a Nissan Juke, so is TINY). We have a dog, so I knew that I would be taking it on a lot of walks, yet I knew for the most part I would be in parks and town centres, so didn’t need something super heavy-duty.
The Bee was sold to us by a sales assistant in John Lewis who was extremely passionate about it. And it has so far lived up to her sales pitch in every single way. The chassis folds up with one single push, and the seat lies flat enough from newborn so there’s no need for an extra carry cot (although this is available if you prefer). The seat can be facing you or facing away and it is extendable so can be used up until baby becomes toddler. It’s super light, but at the same time feels very sturdy and has enough suspension to cope with more rugged terrains. Another big plus is the attachments it comes with so that you can pop your car seat straight onto the chassis – without even having to remove the Bugaboo seat. It’s 100% smart and I would 100% recommend it.
8. Video monitor
Okay, so perhaps you don’t need to see your baby, only hear her, but I’m sure our mums would tell us that they “never used monitors at all.” Spying on our babies as they sleep is one of the many luxuries of living in the technological revolution and I suggest we take full advantage of it. Many a night have we heard a little whimper only to look on the monitor and realise that Taylor’s still sleeping. Creeping around in her room to see if she’s okay has two disadvantages – 1. It may wake her up 2. It distracts me from the Netflix series I’m currently catching up on. And you can play tricks on them when they get older and they won’t think you’re watching. What’s not to love?
10. Dylon Colour Catchers
A strange one to include in a newborn essentials list, I know, but hear me out. These were given to me by a friend as part of a baby shower hamper of all the useful stuff I would need (she had given birth six months before so knew a thing or two about it). Your washing loads will increase significantly with the addition of a little one – you will be amazed at the amount of baby grows and vests you get through initially and this will be swiftly followed by miniature jeans, jumpers, dresses and dungarees – all of varying colours. You don’t have to wash baby’s stuff separately (I just swapped to non-bio washing powder) and the Colour Catchers proved invaluable for reducing the loads, enabling me to wash everything together without having to worry about colours running into the whites. I know it’s making you feel nervous just reading that, but trust me (or my friend) they really do work.