What we loved, what we could have lived without and what we missed!
We are first time parents, everything is new and exciting. We have so many ideas on what parenthood will be like! We have read all the magazines, blog posts and baby websites to get an idea of what to expect for our first year, and what we will need to get through. But nothing says it like your own experience, and now that we have it, I thought I would share what we have learnt. I hope our experience will be helpful for other parents-to-be in their planning and preparation!
The first month is a blurry, sleep deprived, total shock to the system! But it can be magical. We found that week to be all about PJ's, breast feeding, cuddling and changing nappies!
What we loved:
Babygrows/onesies/sleepsuits and as it was winter, vests!
We had a bit of a spit-uppy baby which meant a lot of outfit changes, for all of us! There was also a lot of sleepy snuggles, feeding snuggles and soothing snuggles so we found that babygrows were definitely best. They are so easy to get on and off and they are comfy for you and baby. the only babygrows we didn't really like were the ones that only unbuttoned at the bottom! This may make it easy for a quick nappy change, but a whole outfit change was not an easy one. Baby Duck was born in winter so we also went for vests underneath the babygrow to keep her nice and cosy.
Bibs & Muslins
Speaking of spit up...we got really tired of changing her clothes, so we invested in some bibs to catch the spit up that the muslins missed! We also went through so many muslins. We used them for burping, over our shoulder. We used them under her head in the crib to catch any spit up in there (and save the sheets!) We pretty much ALWAYS had one under her head wherever she was lying. I also used them when breastfeeding as she was a bit messy (one was placed on her shoulder to keep her dry and a whole other one was placed under my boob/over my clothes so save my outfit! (Okay, my PJ's)) She soon learnt what she was doing in that area so this wasn't a permanent situation for us, but it was easier to go through muslins rather than clothes. We also had separate bum muslins...those newborn poops are explosive, unexpected and like to seep into everything! So, have a muslin to hand to catch and smother before it spreads...
This could be a controversial one, as I know that the NHS will not recommend using dummies, especially with newborn babies as it could cause problems establishing breastfeeding. But on my second night in the hospital with Baby Duck, she cried ALL NIGHT unless she was in my arms, and when we got home it seemed she would keep at it. And I was EXHAUSTED. I couldn't hold her through the night, so off Daddy Duck went to buy a dummy (we didn't have one becuase we thought they were bad and we wouldn't need it!). It helped so much to sooth her and just made our life a lot easier. We didn't have any trouble breastfeeding or with nipple confusion thankfully, but I don't want to say that it can't or won't happen! So this is very much a personal decision. I was made to feel bad by a health visitor for using a dummy, but I knew that for us it was fine. I knew we weren't having trouble feeding and right from the start we limited the use to specific circumstances (to help her sleep, or sooth her during nappy changes) and we would never default to it before checking if she was hungry/had a dirty nappy/all the regular baby stuff.
We have a chest of drawers that has a changing table on top and we absolutely LOVE it! It was so easy to get her changed as we didn't have to bend down on the floor or struggle on the bed/sofa. It was also great to have a dedicated nappy changing station where we knew there would be everything we need without thinking about it.
We also loved having a little baby bath that we could fit on top of the changing table. Again, we didn't have to bend down over the bath and we had everything we needed right there in the dedicated changing station. Baby Duck loved her baths, and was always soothed by the warm water so it was good that we had an easy and comfortable bathing situation.
I tried to get by with cheap supermarket brand breast pads but would leak through them within an hour! The only ones I found big enough and absorbent enough were the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Disposable Breast Pads. They are super absorebant, and still petty discreet.
Have you heard the horror stories that come with breasfeeding?! Thankfully I didn't once suffer with dry, cracked nipples as I was gifted some fantastic nipple cream. I'm not sure that I would've thought to buy this, so I am incredibly grateful for the gift of Lansinoh’s HPA® Lanolin (Gift Idea!!).
Nursing Bras & Camisoles
If you are breastfeeding, you simply cannot live without these! And I would definitely recommend investing in many, as the first month is MESSY and requires several outfit changes a day. They need to be super comfy, as you will probably be sleeping in them (something needs to hold those breast pads in place while you are uncontrollably leaking everywhere) and comfort is such a necessity after you have birthed a child. Cotton is best as it is light and breathable, and if you can go for pretty then go for it! I would've appreciated feeling just a little bit pretty in that first month of hardly getting dressed, not brushing my hair and stuffing all my underwear with some kind of leak proof materials.
We had real problems with nappy rash in the first month, which is just awful to go through with a brand new baby who really doesn't deserve such discomfort! After a visit to the doctor for some medicated cream, ditching the baby wipes for cotton and water, plenty of nappy free time (here's where the muslins come in handy!) we really relied on Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment. We tried many other creams, but nothing came close to this one. Now, as soon as we see even the slightest redness, we cover her bum with this, and by the next day it is like a brand new bum again.
3-in-1 Travel System with ISOFIX Car Seat Base
We invested quite a bit of money into a travel system that meant our pram could carry the infant carseat, a carry cot and an upright chair for when she was older. It was so easy to get about with her on any kind of journey, whether it was a quick trip to the shops, an unexpected stop on our journey or a long stroll through the park. Everything we needed to keep her safe and comfy was there, and we are still using it with her today at 13 months old.
The ISOFIX car seat base was AMAZING as it was so easy to just place the car seat onto the base and be on our way instead of having to strap it in using the seatbelt. This meant the car seat was super portable, we just unclipped it from the base and slipped it onto the pram for a quick trip to the shops. Meaning baby never had to leave her comfy seat, and if she was asleep, she would stay that way! The ISOFIX base is also incredibly safe compared to seatbelts, which is an added bonus.
I would definitely recommend researching what kind of travel system would work for you and your lifestyle so you can easily carry on with a little one tagging along. We found the trained staff at Mothercare incredibly helpful in helping us choose one that was right for us and they even helped up to install the car seat, making sure it fit well and was completely safe.
What we could've lived without:
Although they are SO CUTE, we did not use any of her little baby shoes or dresses, except for the odd outing where we felt we should probably make use of some of her little outfits... If we didn't have them, we would not have missed them at all!
We were gifted a bottle warmer (One that uses hot water to warm babies bottles) but we didn't use it at all in the early days as we exclusively breast fed and when she did have the occasional bottle, she was happy with room temperature boob milk! I think this may have been a different story if she were formula fed? But for us, it wasn't needed.
Fancy Nappy Disposal System
This is great idea..if your baby only uses one or two nappies a day! It really does work to conceal nappy odours, is hygienic and easy to empty, but after a few months we stopped buying the refill cartridges as it just became too expensive and we were going through them so quickly (£11.99 for 3 refills every few weeks). So we ended up using our Sangenic Tec nappy disposal system as a regular boring bin, with a regular bin bags and nappy sacks and ignoring the regular smells.
We were gifted two baby bouncers, and although for some parents they are a lifesaver, Baby Duck wasn't such a fan and much preferred just to stay with mummy or sleep in her Moses basket. In place of a bouncer, I would've preferred a sling to keep her closer! (See 'What We Missed' below.)
Baby Bath Products
Baby oil, baby powder, baby shampoo, soap and all bath related products are completely unnecessary in the first month. As recommended by the NHS (see article here), all you need to clean your baby in the first month is plain water and some cotton. We did however add some Oilatum Bath Formula to the water as Baby Duck loved baths, but as we live in a hard water area we found it dried her skin out.
What we missed:
- Breast Pump
We decided to go for plan A, and Plan A only in regards to feeding, and that was breast feeding. We didn't buy any bottles or formula and didn't really think about a breast pump. I deeply regretted this the first night at home with the baby, as I was so sore from breast feeding and just wanted a little break from the powerful baby sucks! I did some hand expressing and collected little bits in a syringe just for a little relief, but in the end just had to push through with feeding her.
To be honest, this could be the very reason we were so successful with breast feeding. We were forced to push through the pain and tiredness and came out the other side strong and loving breast feeding. Would we have had as much success if I had expressed and bottle fed? Who knows...
A little later on we did invest in a hand pump so Emily could stay with her grandparents for a few hours, but next time, I will definitely be investing in an electric pump so save myself hours of sitting still hand pumping tiny amounts of milk!
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We looked at a bedside crib during my pregnancy as we really liked the idea of having the baby close by and easy to access in the night. The particular crib we were looking at also detached from the bed so you could use it stand alone and was really portable so you could move it room to room really easily. Although we really loved this crib, the price tag was a bit high for us so we opted for a moses basket instead. Although we loved the moses basket and used it all the time, right up until Baby Duck was rolling around, I really did wish we had the crib we looked at and dreamed about before she was born. It would have been especially helpful for me as I ended up having an emergency c-section meaning getting up in the night to feed was particularly difficult. I think next time round, I would be willing to make the investment.
Baby Duck just LOVED to be in my arms all the time, and I really didn't mind until something needed doing and I was unable to (or just didn't want to!) put her down. I knew I wanted to sling from the beginning, but had trouble choosing one that both my husband and I would like to wear and that was affordable. I did end up choosing a sling that I thought fit our needs perfectly, but turned out to be horribly disappointing. I didn't find it to be much comfort at all as it didn't really do much to support baby's head. I think I have a much better idea now looking back at what we would want, and realistically who would be wearing it most (that would be me!). So if we were to do it all again, I would invest in both a wrap for me and baby to hang about the house with and a more structured carrier for dad to go out and about!
The amount of times Baby Duck threw away her dummy was infuriating! We said it so many times (but for some reason didn't do anything about it!) we need to somehow attach the dummy to her so we don't keep loosing them and washing them 500 times a day after she drops it on the floor. A dummy chain or clip that you attach to her clothes would've been such a simple solution, and you get some really pretty ones too!