Our son turned 6 months old at the weekend. 6 months. How did that happen? I would say it was simultaneously the fastest and slowest 6 months of my life. As everyone says with having children; the days are long but the years are fast. As cliché as it sounds, it seems to be true. There were days in the first weeks where I was crying for hours, wishing for sleep at night when my baby had woken up for what felt like the hundredth time that night. I thought it would never end. But it does. Time passes, the baby grows and I grew as a mother.
Looking back on these first 6 months I was thinking about the things that really got me through. My family and friends of course. But, what products and services were useful at the start? Before you have your first baby, you are overwhelmed with baby products. How do you know what will be essential? Besides the obvious things that a baby needs (a cot, clothes, etc), I thought I would make a list of some of the products that have saved me in my first 6 months of parenting. By no means is this a list of things that you must buy. Every baby and family are different. But these are some things that we have found useful, maybe you will too. Maybe I will write another post for things we found useful after the first few months… Brace yourself, this might be a long one.
Silver nipple cups
Yes, you read that right; silver nipple cups. I was dubious when I heard about these a couple of years ago. For the price of around 50 chf, you can cover your nipples in solid silver and feel like a viking warrier princess. What?!
How wrong I was to doubt the power of the silver nipple cups. Someone bought me some when I was about 6 months pregnant and said they are the single best thing they used. Again, I sort of took that advice with a pinch of salt, but I realise now how right she was.
I had always wanted to breastfeed and I had not really considered any other option. I was very lucky, Jack latched on straight away and fed… and fed… and fed… I put the nipple cups on whenever I was not feeding, day and night, and forget lanolin cream, these work like magic. I never once experienced sore or cracked nipples. I wore them all the time for the first 3 months, and I truly believe that my breastfeeding experience was enhanced by these magical cups.
How do they work?
“Designed to be worn under a bra, they are completely hygienic and extremely effective, as silver is a natural and traditional anti-inflammatory remedy; it has a soothing effect and powerful anti-bacterial qualities. The results are often immediate – irritation and cuts are typically cured or improved within 24/48 hours. Essential for anyone who is having problems with painful nipples or as a precautionary measure, we like these nursing cups because they have allowed so many new mothers to continue nursing. It is no wonder that Silverette cups have been such a resounding success with new Moms, doctors and obstetricians.” (Silverette nipple cups)
Oh yeah, did I also mention that they are really eco? They can be reused endlessly. I know for sure that if I am lucky enough to have another baby I will be using these again… and maybe again and again. They may seem slightly expensive, but when you have just given birth and feeling sleep deprived and low on energy, the last thing you need is sore nipples! Think how much people spend on lanolin cream… I am sure that it would add up to much more. These are hygienic and do not alter the taste of the milk at all. Wow, I sound like a sales person for these nipple cups, but I assure you I am not being told to say any of this! I just love them. Koala babycare make some great ones.
I hear you still questioning the need for these. That’s ok. Maybe you wont get sore nipples, but maybe you will and when you are feeding your baby once again at 3am and the pain leads you to trawl the internet looking for solutions – just buy them! You won’t regret it! My best friend messaged me a few days after giving birth telling me that her nipples were sore. I went straight to amazon and ordered her some. Never mind the cute baby outfit gifts, you need in tact nipples!!
Nursing bras and tops
In the last trimester of pregnancy, the last thing I wanted to do was wear an underwired bra. So, I invested in some soft and comfortable nursing bras. I am quite top heavy, so the range was limited in my size (which also seemed to be ever-increasing). I ended up ordering these nursing bras and although they are quite expensive, they have been perfect!
Once you have a young baby and your life revolves around sleep, feed, eat, repeat, you realise that all your clothes need to be ‘accessible’ ie. you need to be able to get a boob out at any opportunity. I have found myself wearing a lot of button up shirts with a nursing vest top underneath. Now that it is getting warmer I wear wrap around dresses with a nursing vest top on underneath. I therefore bought about 10 nursing vest tops from H&M and C&A.
Breast Pump and Bottles
Our son was 3 weeks old and I had hit a brick wall of tiredness. I needed to sleep for more than 1-2 hours in a row. My head was throbbing. The tears were flowing. How can I get more sleep?
Our midwife suggested expressing some milk and letting my husband do a feed. She recommended a philips avent electric breast pump. This turned out to be a life saving purchase. Each evening I would go to bed at 9pm and my husband would stay with our son and give him his next feed, which often allowed me to sleep uninterrupted for 3, 4, maybe even 5 hours! Pure bliss!
Top tip: the first time I expressed was in the evening and it seemed to take ages (maybe 20 minutes or so for 100ml) so after speaking to our midwife, she advised me that the milk flow is much higher in the morning. The next time I pumped in the morning and it took only 4 minutes to produce 100ml, which could then be stored in the fridge for the following evening. Of course you can still pump at any time of the day, but time is precious!
So, you’ve got the milk, but what bottle should you use? There really is only one answer to this in my eyes. Mam bottles. The best feature of these bottles is that they can be sterilized in the microwave in 3 minutes. Amazing. You don’t want to be spending ages sterilizing things when that time could be spent sleeping or eating!
The constant feeding. After feeding for so long and drifting into a sleep induced coma you start to congratulate yourself, only for the baby to then, ten minutes later, wake up and want more food! I spent a lot of time with a nursing pillow around my middle. These are amazing – your arms don’t ache, and you even have free hands to drink your cup of tea or send that message to your baby group asking ‘er, how do you get the baby to sleep at night?’
I actually had three different nursing pillows, but my favourite turned out to be this widgey nursing pillow.
I picked it up from John Lewis in the UK and I was a little dubious about it being inflatable, but I was wrong to be; it was so comfy and my baby loved having a milk induced sleep on it. It is also portable, the cover is easily washed (in case of sick or poop related stains) and you can adjust how inflated you want it to be.
I was also gifted a nursing pillow by doomoo which was super soft and comfy. Even now, our little one likes to chill out sitting on it; it’s like his own baby beanbag!
When I was pregnant, I bought a nursing pillow that I could prop myself up on to support my sore back and I went for the multirelax by candide from Manor. This is also a baby seat, which our new born used to sit in and if we were lucky he would snooze there! I found this one much less comfy for feeding with as it is more solid, but it was good for sitting up in bed and reading a book in the last trimester of pregnancy!
Forget sudocrem. Forget bepanthen. Basically forget all other nappy rash creams. Oxyplastine is the one you need. This thick zinc oxide paste works miracles on sore, red bottoms! It is gentle to skin and works extremely quickly. We still use it all the time!
Who knew that I even had an opinion about dummies? However, when our midwife suggested using one we felt strongly that we didn’t want to. I am not even sure why. Maybe we thought it would become an addiction? Maybe we thought they were unhygienic? Maybe we thought we could soothe our baby ourselves? Whatever we thought, we were wrong.
Now, by no means does our son use a dummy very often, but in melt down moments, this little piece of plastic has come in extremely handy. Sometimes it helps just to calm him down. Sometimes you just don’t know what else to do and you need 2 minutes to have a wee and wash your hands. As we are expats, we travel a lot and we didn’t want to be that person on the plane with a baby (who was only weeks old) crying the whole time. The dummy saved us on flights in the early days! Whatever the reason don’t feel guilty about using one.
Now that Jack is older (and the night feeds *for the moment* have finished), we have come to appreciate the dummy at a whole new level. We leave one in his cot overnight, and if he wakes up, he just pops it into his mouth and soothes himself back to sleep. No more 3am rocking the baby to sleep. No more 4am googling ‘how do you get a baby back to sleep’. He also likes to suck his thumb which sends him off to sleep.
The dummies we use are Philips Avent dummies. The main reason for this is that they have a cap over them to keep them clean. So you can chuck one in your handbag or under the pram and not worry about it being unclean. They also have cute designs.
Pushchairs. Strollers. Pousettes. Prams. Whatever you want to call them, there seem to be an infinite number of designs and types. Where do you even start!?
All I can say is, get whatever suits your needs. Some of my close friends have light pushchairs for living in London, others have all terrain pushchairs for living on a farm. I see a lot of people in Geneva with YoYo pushchairs (which fold down to fit in overhead lockers on planes). Seeing as we live in a village suburb of a city and we travel a lot, we kind of wanted something in between.
The feature that we loved the most though was having a ‘trio’. Ie. An interchangeable car seat, bassinet/carry cot/lie down pram and a sit up pushchair. This is mainly because when we fly somewhere we just take the car seat pushchair, so that we have a pushchair with us and a car seat to use on arrival (most airlines let you have 2 baby items such as pushchairs/car seats/travel cots, in the hold for free). When we are at home we have been switching between the lie down and sit up pushchair, often depending on the weather. We bought the Graco Evo Trio from Manor. It’s not too fancy, but it’s practical and it’s been great for us.
Portable changing bag and mat
As you may have gathered from this blog, we like to travel around on both day trips and further afield. We also like to pack as lightly as possible. (As an aside note, we love Away suitcases and take one medium case for all 3 of us when we got away for weeks at a time.)
A small portable changing mat and bag was therefore essential. We love this Clip&Go Clutch diaper bag. It is a small, practical nappy bag with plenty of room to store nappy-changing utensils. We chuck it under the pushchair or in a backpack at all times!
Once again as a parent you get faced with hundreds of different options. Play mats are no exception to this. This is by no means something you need for your baby, but nevertheless they are a good place to plonk (I mean, gently place) your baby on when you need to make a cup of tea!
We didn’t invest any time or thought into the purchase of one and just added an IKEA baby gym to our online basket when we were purchasing a cot. However, this turned out to be a great choice. (Ikea in general is amazing for practical baby related items!)
The base is so soft and comfy. The colors are not too lurid. It even has parts in black and white which is great for new borns. The toys are interesting but there are not too many for overstimulation. Our little one has spent a lot of time on this mat and one of the best features is that the toy bugs, that dangle down, can be pulled off and played with. This has provided (literally) hours of entertainment and the pulling action is great for a baby’s developing motricity. Our son learnt to roll on this play mat, and now he can sit on it by himself. You can also attach extra toys of your own and mix it up so it doesn’t get boring for your baby!
What is it with baby grows and poppers? There are so many of them! In the middle of the night while you are trying to change a nappy in the semi-dark in a sleep haze, we always seem to get them wrong and the baby gets more frustrated and is probably thinking ‘someone let you be a parent and you can’t even do up my baby grow properly! I want milk!’.
The solution to this has been baby grows or pajamas with zips! Not everywhere has them, but if you see them, get them! We were bought some as gifts and I have no idea where they came from, but luckily I did find some pretty great ones by naturaline in Coop, right here in Switzerland. Unfortunately they do not sell them online, but you can find them in store. If you are in the UK there are more options – zippyup have some great options!
How we mocked when we heard people tracked their baby’s sleep, feeding, changes and weight on an app. Then we became parents.
This app may seem obsessive. But, guess what, you become all consumed and obsessed by your baby; from how many times they poop per day, to how long it has been since they had a nap.
Since we accidentally ordered a baby that didn’t like to sleep at night at the beginning, we were advised to track his sleep and feeds (because you know, we might discover he is sleeping more than we think… we didn’t). But, we have found Babytracker incredibly useful.
Here are some questions we have had that our trusty babytracker app has been able to answer:
1. How long has it been since his last nap?
2. How long has it been since a feed?
3. Which side boob should I feed him on next?
4. When did we last change him?
5. How long has he slept over night?
6. How much has he fed today?
7. Is my baby gaining enough weight?
It is also useful to help you to begin to predict the baby after 3 months. They transition from sleepy new born quickly and knowing when you might expect them to sleep or feed can be seriously helpful. Especially if you want to book an appointment or something and you need to know when that baby will be wanting their milk! You can also have the app on multiple devices, so for example, my husband can see how much the baby has slept while he has been at work and how much of a state his wife might be in!
One final thing about the app; you can see, with pride, how much improvement your baby has made. The app transforms your input into graphs. It shows you which percentile your baby lies in for it’s weight. We are particularly happy to see such a change in sleep patterns with our little one. It went from all over the place to sleeping solidly overnight with predictable naps. Here is week 5 vs week 26:
Whoever invented baby carriers, I salute you. Those little new borns just want to be next to your skin snoozing and cuddling you at all times. When Jack was tiny we went on many walks with him strapped into our carrier. We bought this Ergobaby and it has been excellent!
I always put it under the pushchair wherever we go, even now. When he was upset, we bundled him in there, even around the house. It was a lifesaver. And now that he is bigger, he loves facing outwards in it and looking around the world. They also give you your hands back so you can make that 5th cup of tea you desperately require. Speaking of tea…
Love the stuff. Everything feels better after a good brew!
Again, so many choices. We were lucky that someone gave us their philips avent monitor. It has been great. It has never let us down. We didn’t want a video monitor, we just wanted an audio one. I sort of remembered from my days of babysitting in my teenage years hearing the white noise of a baby monitor in the corner all the time. Being a light sleeper I feared that, but actually it only makes a noise when your baby does. It is silent the rest of the time. Although we haven’t used the feature, you can play music, have a night light on and speak through it. It also measures the temperature of the room.
Wow, well done if you’re still reading. You might have noticed we seem to like philips avent products. I didn’t realize how many of their products we have until I started to write this! One last thing from them that we have found super useful, was their ‘my first baby care set’, containing a baby thermometer, snot, extractor, hair brush/comb, nail scissors, clippers and nail files and a rubber tooth brush to sooth teething gums. Thermometer is an absolute must have and the rest of the things have had their uses!
I love our midwife. She is so kind, helpful and good-humored which is what you need, especially in those first few days. If you can, find a good one, maybe from recommendations. We were assigned an English speaking midwife from the Arcade Sage-Femmes in Geneva and she was perfect. Every little question or worry we had she helped us with and we still text her and see her occasionally even now. She guided us through all of the ups and downs of the first two months and we will be forever grateful. I hope you have a good one; they are worth their weight in gold.
Your own intuition and instinct is the most valuable resource as a mother. No matter how many books you read or youtube videos you watch, nothing will be more accurate than your own intuition. Have faith in yourself, even when you feel like your baby doesn’t have faith in you and is crying again! You know what is best for you and your baby. Try not to have ‘mum guilt’ – an impossible task, but try. Enjoy the small things. Be thankful for your beautiful baby who loves you endlessly.
Lastly, but most importantly, be kind to yourself and be kind to other young mothers. Never judge what they are doing or their ‘parenting skills’. It doesn’t help anyone. Yes, you might have a perfect baby that feeds perfectly and sleeps well, but not everyone does and no matter what type of baby you have there are difficult moments. Small acts of kindness towards other Mums can make the world of difference to their day.
One rainy Monday when my baby was a few weeks old and I had barely slept all night, I put the raincover over the pushchair and headed into town. Determined to get out of the house and cheer myself up. I went in one or two shops and then as I was walking along the high street, I heard two women behind me saying ‘aw what a cute baby’. I turned to look at them and I just burst into tears. They immediately understood, hugged me and took me straight to a bar. They bought me wine and food. They told me stories about their babies. They put a smile back on my face. Thank you!