If I look back on the past 6 weeks or so there are many things that I could say to summarize this time, including, but not limited to:
- Sleep deprivation – but not as bad as I would have thought!
- Pure amazement that someone has not barged through my door thanking me for looking after their baby and this whole time has just been one grand babysitting experiment
- Baby brain (Example: I typed “debrivation” on that first bullet the first go. Also, I accidentally took my dog to the vet in my slippers. True story. This baby brain thing is no joke.)
- Overwhelming joy
- Wondering who it is that approved me becoming a parent because clearly I have no idea what I’m doing
And so on and so forth. Wash, rinse, repeat.
That said, though, there have been a few items that have made my life these past few weeks easier. And when I say “easier” I really mean, “I so heartily recommend all of these products that I don’t know how we would have survived these past 6 weeks without them.”
Now, let me explain something else. I think almost every single one of these items I have had the following phrase/sentiment thrown at me by people either without babies and/or older generations:
“It’s amazing how people had babies before [insert product about which they’re talking] was invented…”
In my opinion this sentiment is not only passive aggressive but slightly insulting, mostly because it’s true of every innovation in the history of mankind. Yes, people used to have babies in the woods, but that doesn’t mean that medicine and trained professionals didn’t make the birthing experience better. Yes, mothers have been nursing their children for years before a breastfeeding pillow was invented, but that doesn’t mean that the breastfeeding pillow doesn’t make it easier. I have not met a mom with a child under the age of 10 who has expressed this sentiment because the fact of the matter is this: if it makes your life easier and more survivable and you like it, then you should stick with it. It doesn’t matter if people didn’t have whatever it is you really like thirty years ago. You have it now, it works for you, so go with it.
And so, without further ado, here are those things that have made taking care of this tiny little person easier.
My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow
I cannot possibly express to anyone how essential this product has been to me for nursing. My mother made fun of me mercilessly for this saying it looks like a tray that the waitresses in bars used to carry around their necks, but it is something that I have not backed down on recommending to every mom-to-be I know. I truly – to my core – believe that this pillow is why Wee Connor caught onto nursing with such ease. There is a reason why every lactation consultant I have heard of uses this product. The Boppy is the old standard, but truly: the My Brest Friend has it beat by a factor of approximately a billion. I use the Boppy for tummy time, so it has been very useful and a great product, but for nursing it does not get better than the My Brest Friend. Here’s why:
- It straps around you and keeps you and the baby in a good position, which means you’re not hunched, the baby is comfortable, and you don’t get horrible cricks in your back/neck/arms
- It’s flat. The Boppy’s curvature can kind of roll the baby so it makes it harder for them to get and stay in a good position
- It has a little head rest built in for the baby, which means that you don’t have to hold the baby’s head the entire time
- You actually get use of your hands while breastfeeding. As I explained in an earlier blog post, this allows you to do a plethora of activities, but it’s still more than using the Boppy or a pillow or nothing at all.
- Again, seriously, use of your hands. Cannot. stress this. enough.
I am hardly so absolutely absolute about recommendations and advice, but the Brest Friend lives up to its name.
More changing pad covers
I have mentioned this before, I know, but seriously: there is no such thing as too many changing pad covers. There have been days where I have gone through 3 in one day, nay, 3 in the span of about 5 hours.
I personally don’t really have a preference on brand. I have some Aiden and Anais ones that have held up really well so far and are soft as well as a few PB kids ones that are heavenly they are so soft, and so far the stains on the PB Kids ones have come out like magic. They are all about the same price, but I guess if I had to give a nod to one over the other it would be the PB Kids ones, because my ring has snagged on the Aiden ones a few times.
The key is really this: buy a bunch. You will not regret having a bunch of changing pad covers.
I would also recommend getting a standard-sized changing pad so that you can supplement as necessary. If you are having trouble finding covers for your changing pad because it’s proprietary to the store where you bought it…that’s probably going to cause you unnecessary headaches in the future. This is the one I bought and it’s been great.
Phone/Tablet app: Baby Connect
There have been a lot of disagreements about tracking or not tracking your baby. For us, the Baby Connect (also available on other platforms) app has been invaluable and has not caused us stress even a little bit. We have liked knowing exactly when Wee Connor last fed because it helps us figure out if he’s actually hungry or not, when he will most likely need to feed again, or if he’s just plain fussy. The app allows sharing with family members, so we have been able to sync on any of our multitude of devices instantly.
We went into parenthood resolute on one item: we are not going to get into the habit of allowing him to snack, meaning feeding very little amounts very very often, because not only would that drive us insane, we also want him to learn to feed fully and stay full for longer periods of time. (This is our mentality and has worked for our family. Other families do things differently. The reasons we have liked it, though, is it has allowed us to eat out at restaurants, go out and do errands, know when he’ll need to eat again, and has given us an immense amount of confidence and happiness in our parenting.)
This app can help you track everything. It has a great built-in timer for nursing/feeding allowing you to time which side you’re on, it can track diapers (which we did stop using after about 2 weeks or so once we got the hang of things), and really anything else you could think of.
In the beginning appointments the doctors might ask you how many diapers your baby has had, or how often they are feeding. This has helped us remember through the lack of sleep and I don’t have to make sure I’m remembering which side I need to go on next, because I can just look at my phone and know.
Eventually I feel that we won’t need the app anymore, of course, but for right now it’s been a true blessing for us.
Diapers with a wetness indicator strip
It sounds silly, and I never would have thought that it was that useful, but the diapers we use are Pampers Swaddlers, and they have a little strip that when wet turns from yellow to blue.
This has let us diagnose a need of changing vs. feeding vs. anything else so much more easily that I can’t imagine not having that quick reference to go to. I love my indicator strips.
Caveat to the diapers with an indicator strip: any diaper that you like and works, you should stick with it
While cloth diapers won’t work for my family, if they work for yours: great! If you don’t need an indicator strip, you’re a genius and I applaud your mental abilities that so far exceed mine I can’t even comprehend your mental fortitude. If the diapers with indicator strips keep getting blown out and another brand doesn’t, then definitely go with what works.
The key is this: stick with what works. We lucked out with Pampers and won’t fix what ain’t broke, but others like other brands. Different strokes for different folks – and when you’re in the land of poop it’s all about what makes your life better.
A good no-spill water bottle that you can use with one hand
The weirdest thing happens when you’re breastfeeding. You can be going along thinking things are just honky dory, then the nanosecond you put that baby up and start nursing you have suddenly been living in the Sahara for three weeks and haven’t had a drop of water the entire time. The thirst is unreal.
My suggestion is this: get a really good – insulated if you can – water bottle you can use with one hand. This way you can keep it next to you on your chair/couch/wherever you’re feeding and won’t have to worry about your glass of water being just out of reach on the table.
I use this Hydro Flask with the straw lid and it hasn’t failed me yet. It keeps cold things cold and hot things hot for an excessively long time. A water bottle you like is a simple item, but it’s one I didn’t realize would be vital.
A book/reference guide/philosophy/someone you trust and like enough to be able to block out all the other garbage thrown at you about parenting
Whether you have a defined/”named” philosophy or not, everyone has their way of parenting and their opinions about it. What works for one family doesn’t work for another. That’s why people are different people and that’s why people are interesting. That said, it will not stop others from spewing their beliefs on you. This can be at its best well-intentioned and at its worst guilt-inducing/harmful. The key is to have your head on straight so you can see them as well-intentioned.
So far what has worked for my husband and I is this: find something (be it a book/philosophy or person) you really like that speaks to you that you both agree upon, and when you evaluate advice thrown at you from every direction, kindly discard the stuff you don’t agree with as well-intentioned, but not for you. If you have someone/something you can turn to as a frame of reference it makes it about a trillion times easier to have perspective on the other opinions thrown at you because you have a lens with which to view these other philosophies and see what works for you and what doesn’t in your own head.
What works for us? I personally really, really, really loved the book Bringing Up Bébé. Her realizations on babies and children as seen through an American living in France spoke to me in such a way that seemed simply common sense to me. These aren’t new-fangled ideas; they can almost be seen as old-fashioned in America that have fallen out of favor, but the practices work for our family perfectly. In Bringing Up Bébé she interviews a pediatrician in Tribeca, NYC, named Michel Cohen who has written a reference guide called The New Basics, which has been our favorite reference book about babies so far. His style is wry but very helpful, and has the same philosophy of “let babies be babies” that we have come to realize we have as well, while also making sure you have your own life as well. If you’d like to see what his opinions are, they can also be found on his website here.
Again: this is what works for our family. There are of course things I don’t agree with in these books, but we are working on what works for us, and that has been what has made parenthood not only survivable but enjoyable.
Do you have any essential items that you love for babies? Let me know in the comments!