The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


3 Comments

The Material Mum – the stuff I ACTUALLY needed for my newborn (0-2 months)

I wrote about what I had bought for my baby when I was pregnant, but then I didn’t really know what he’d use. So this post is for the pregnant mummies who might be tempted to clear the aisles at Mothercare before baby is born, or drag poor partner round John Lewis on a weekly basis, buying each and every product they’ve read or heard about. Here’s the list of what I’ve actually used, and what was a waste of time. Remember he’s only 9 weeks so other things may be useful in due course, but this will keep you going in the first few weeks:

Clothes

I am amazed at how quickly he’s grown out of his clothes, some of which he’s only worn once before they were resigned to an ever-growing “too small” bag (for which, these oversize storage bags are really useful – also good for storing your preggie clothes when you want to start using your old wardrobe again).

To put this in context – by 3 weeks, he had grown out of all newborn and 1 month clothes and was wearing 0-3 month clothes. Now, at 9 weeks, he’s wearing 3-6 month clothes and almost growing out of those already.

Sooo I would say spend as little as you can on baby clothes for the first few months. Friends and family will buy you lots and apart from a few new essentials, I found the eBay baby bundles brilliant – you can buy a batch of clothes for under a tenner, containing tons of trousers, sleepsuits, bibs, vests, socks etc which have hardly been worn. Just look for good quality brands and check the photos that they are in good condition. For example, I got 6 Next sleepsuits for around £2.50.

What you need is:

  1. 1 or 2 cute little outfits to get them home from hospital & to show them off to visitors (any more is a waste of money as unlikely to be worn much)
  2. From September – April you’ll need 1 pramsuit when they are outside
  3. 1 or 2 pure cotton clothes sets containing matching hat, socks, vest, sleepsuit, bib, cardigan etc – try going for the “up to 1 month” range to fit them from newborn onwards as newborn clothes lasted about a week for us! – I found M&S starter sets great for this
  4. 1 or 2 cardigans – remember they get really cold to begin with and also great to shove on when you take them out in the pram
  5. 1 or 2 hats and mittens for going out
  6. 5 pairs socks
  7. 5-10 plain vests & sleepsuits to live in for the first few weeks (to be added to by pressies of clothes – honestly you will get loads)
  8. Some Vanish spray to tackle those lovely mustard yellow poo stains that inevitably end up on your brand new sleepsuit (and vest, and socks…)
  9. Tons of muslins – at least 10

Sleeping

We found blankets are actually great pressies to receive as you use them all the time – to wrap up shivery newborns, to transport in prams and car seats, and to wrap up tight in the moses basket. Our baby boy loved being swaddled, and I found the Swaddle Me bags the easiest way to do this as the Velcro means you can tie them up tight. We then put a blanket on top – I love the rainbow blanket from Jojo Maman bebe or try Kath Kidson, or get some cellular blankets as they let the air out and don’t let baby overheat (I think Mothercare does better ones than John Lewis).

Otherwise, I bought a few sleeping bags for when he grows out of the swaddle – Grobags are obviously great (again I managed to find a nearly new one on eBay for around £3!), and M&S and Jojo Maman bebe do some nice ones from birth.

So, once you have a swaddle bag & sleeping bag, you don’t need much else. Our baby boy managed to sleep well in his moses basket (although some mums swear by the NCT-rented bed nests) – which we put in the cot, so you just need a couple of fitted sheets and that’s it, and maybe a flat sheet in case it’s too warm for a blanket.

Bathing

Most mums said they didn’t think they were worth it, but I like our top & tail bowl as its easy to carry water to the nursery, and to hold cotton wool and body lotion, to top and tail him every morning. Otherwise, all you need is a baby bath and bath thermometers are helpful to check quickly the water is the right temperature, and we put in some Johnsons bedtime baby bath for bubbles and to wash him.

For towels, I find the Cuddle dry apron towels the best as you don’t get soaked when carrying squirmy wet baby out the bath for a cuddle.

I know newborn skin is delicate so you don’t need to use products, but I do love the Waitrose baby body lotion for him, and the baby bottom butter has been amazing for my post-baby skin. Yes, really.

Feeding

It was actually quite useful to have some formula / express feed stuff in place as poor baby boy got dehydrated in the second week and we had to express and formula feed to top him up from breastfeeding. We had all this stuff in the house (mostly borrowed) so it didn’t mean a late night pharmacy trips like some mums have to do.

A little note on breastfeed “covers”. I personally didn’t find them helpful. I bought the Mamascarf but it didn’t work that well and I ended up selling it on eBay. I also realized whenever I see someone wearing an apron / cover for breastfeeding it actually makes me look more as I reckon they stand out. So, I think all you need is a bit of confidence and a nice pashmina to cover up your boob. What  I used is:

  1. A box of Aptamil in case you can’t feed or need to do top ups.
  2. A steriliser (we have the Tommee Tippee one but many have better reviews)
  3. Some bottles (again we have Tommee Tippee ones but lots out there – and Dr Brown is good for colic apparently)
  4. A padded bottle bag so you can take formula or expressed milk out with you if you aren’t quite ready to breastfeed in public
  5. A pump – hand pumps are great for quietly expressing while watching telly at night (I got a Mam one free when I subscribed to Mother & Baby magazine), but I love the Medela mini-electric pump which works in about 10 minutes
  6. A bottle brush & small washing bowl for washing bottles and pumps (I’m not precious about hygiene, far from it, but nicer to keep them separate from last night’s curry pan)
  7. Breastmilk freezer storage bags for when you have rock hard boobs and want to save that milk for a night oot

Medical / pharmacy stuff

  1. Obviously nappies, lots of (we used Pampers newborn)
  2. We used wet wipes from the start as cotton wool & water was a faff – the H20 water wipes are really sensitive and baby boy only had nappy rash once in 9 weeks
  3. Johnsons bedtime baby bath & Waitrose baby body lotion
  4. Nasal aspirator to suck bogeys out his nose when he gets a bit snuffly (amazingly satisfying)
  5. Baby nail clippers (amazing how much his nails grow)
  6. Dummies (great for when they just want to suck, better than on you…)
  7. Infacol for wind / colic and sudacrem for nappy rash and mummy’s dry skin

Travel

My pram (second hand Bugaboo Bee) is now adorned with a million accessories, but some are really useful. The cup holder is great for always having bottled water as I’m continually thirsty. I use the rain cover in bad weather and the parasol to keep him out of the sun and as a shade when we’re in the park. The Snooze Shade is good for keeping him asleep although he doesn’t need it too much if we’re moving.

I also bought a lock for the pram as you often have to leave it in health / GP clinics and I’ve heard they can get nicked. The bag hooks I bought are also great for carrying shopping when I’m out.

Slings are great for strapping them to you when they won’t stop crying and just need some cuddles, but you’re also starving and need to make some lunch. Try before you buy is my advice as I didn’t like the Babasling and Close slings I bought as they were too complicated and he didn’t sit right in them. The Babybjorn is excellent (buy second hand if you can) but it isn’t great for my back and I’d like to find a sling where I can carry him on my back when he’s older so I’m going to shop around for another one once he’s bigger.

Toys and entertainment

Don’t bother buying much as even at 9 weeks, he is more interested in ceilings than toys. Plus you’ll get loads as pressies which I can’t wait for him to play with.

We are finding now that mobiles and anything dangly are coming into their own, and play matts are perfect for them having a kick around and for dropping NCT babies on when they come round for tea. When he was really little, the Mamas & Papas playmat and gym with raised sides (try to borrow one as its so expensive) was perfect from birth as it was nice and enclosed and non-scary (the baby gym we have was too open when he was newborn but he loves it now). Now, a play gym is great for letting him have a kick around while mummy can get breakfast, daddy can watch the cricket and he tires himself out. I also bought this By Carla changing matt with activity arc (£12.95 with Bounty offers) which he is obsessed with and can keep him occupied for hours.

Summer hols / swimming

We’re going on holiday in a month or so – hurrah – and I’d actually love some advice from mums on what I need. I’ve already bought some swim nappies on advice from a friend who put hers in normal nappies and watched them fill up with water and sink like a stone! I wouldn’t have remembered otherwise. We got gorgeous swimming trunks as pressies and I bought a wetsuit and hat to protect him from UV rays. I’ve also bought him a second hand Zoggs swim seat which looks very cute and I love the look of the Jojo Maman Bebe towelling ponchos.

I’m also thinking of getting him a sun tent as mummy & daddy plan to spend a lot of time reading books on the beach – are they worth it? And also a sun shade for the car window as we’ll be driving through France during the day.

Advertisements


4 Comments

On Happiness & Motherhood

Note from Sasha: I wrote about happiness and being a mum on my other blog, The Happiness Project London, and I thought I’d share it here….

___________________________________________________

And then there were three….

You will have to excuse my lack of blogging of late. But on 27 March 2013, I gave birth to my son and my life changed out of all recognition. And recently, 7 weeks on, I’ve realised some things about happiness that make the HPL rules more important than ever to stick to and I wanted to share them here.

It is only now, as my body releases the hormones I’ve had circulating in my system over the last 10 or so months, which kept my baby inside me and allowed him to grow, that I am able to reflect on how I’ve changed.

Firstly, I realise I had a tough pregnancy. I have a new-found affinity for Kim Kardashian in that I too grew to the size of a small bus while carrying my baby boy, to the extent that many people (including medical practitioners) told me I must be having a huge baby. I feel for her because while you can put vanity on the back burner as much as you can, hating photos of yourself, catching yourself sideways in a mirror and gasping at your sheer bulk, isn’t the best thing for your self-confidence or esteem.

And then there’s how the hormones affect you. For me, my body was allergic to the hormones, and while my body gave everything it could to make my son the beautiful and chilled out boy he is, it took something from me – my skin became red and sore and swollen and itchy, I didn’t look like me, I would look in the mirror and cry in pain and in sadness at the loss of something. Only now, when he is 7 weeks, and my skin has begun to look normal again (thanks, in part, to Waitrose Baby Bottom Cream, who knew?), I feel that I have regained “me” again, only a fatter me with droopier boobs.

Then there’s the moods, the loss of confidence at work because of baby brain and guilt about maternity leave and your career path, the overwhelming love and fear for your baby and your family, and the separation from old friends whose lives are now on a different track.

Then there’s the birth. Well mine was pretty bloody awful. It was brutal and traumatic and you can read about it on my baby blog here if you want to. It gave something to me, of course – it gave me a power and a confidence, especially as I did it without an epidural and mostly on gallons of gas and air, but it also made me cynical and angry at mother nature and at life, and its something I realise I need to recover from mentally and emotionally, as does The Chef who saw things I can’t even imagine.

And finally motherhood. The highs, those incredible highs – of picking up a sleepy warm baby in the morning, of the first smile, the picking his clothes and laughing when he does something funny, the watching him asleep, the cuddles and the love – that overwhelming love again – and the worry about anything that might happen to him. I feel such pride in my family, in him, this chilled out wee fella that The Chef and I made, who seems better than us, who seems so perfect, who I can’t wait to watch grow, who develops every single day.

But, at 7 weeks, as the hormones that made him slip away, I feel something new. A sense of change, of wondering who I am now, what I do from here.

I’m not working, my life is my baby and cups of coffee, endless coffees, with other mums. We talk about our babies and about our boobs and our stitches. I am fascinated with recording every feed, every poo, every minute of sleep.

I found myself telling a (male) friend of mine, in great detail, about how my son hadn’t pooed for 2 days and how it was great that he had finally done a poo that morning, explaining in detail how he went red and I felt bad for him but was also happy as he’d been constipated… and halfway through I thought – what on EARTH am I doing! I’m talking about my son’s shits in great detail! To a bloke! I’ve become one of those mothers….And I post photos of him on Facebook all the time. And when The Chef brings up something in the news I feel ashamed – I didn’t watch the news today, in fact my world is here, so small now, between the bedroom and the nursery and the kitchen. And between the coffees, I am here – in the nursery mostly – with him, loving him and cuddling him, but alone, lonely at times. Working us both up to the next coffee, the next GP visit, the walk to the park, that is the day’s activity.

My god I’m not complaining. I love being a mum – I’m good at it I think. I love him and I love our life together and I love my family. But I realise my identity, my happiness, my confidence, has taken a knock with all this, left me moody and on the verge of rage or tears fairly easily, left me not quite knowing who I am now, how I’ve changed, whether I will ever be the old “me” again. And so now, I realise how important it is that I work on my happiness, and in doing so, work out where I go from here.

And so to the rules again:

1. Be Active – important given I can only live in elasticated waistbands for so long. I’m doing a mother & baby yoga class to ease my creaky bones, and I’ve dug out my gym kit with thoughts of swimming and running.

2. Connect – vitally important for me right now. I miss my friends after 7 weeks of wanting to be holed up with my baby boy. I want to organise a girls’ night out and drink wine – wine! – and a night eating good food with The Chef. I want to drink a martini. I want to go to the cinema. I want to see old friends, and friends without kids, and phone people when I feel isolated with a baby stuck to my breast.

3. Give – my current bugbear, after awe-inspiring treatment by NHS midwives at Kingston hospital, is the proposed plans for the NHS – the fact that it is effectively being privatised from under our noses to an American-style insurance-based system with healthcare for the richest, from private companies, while the poorest will suffer. I need to see what I can do to get involved. As a mum I’m also filled with an empathy I don’t think I had before – so I want to make sure I give clothes and toiletries to charities that help women and children.

4. Nurture – easy. I do it every day until around 7pm when I put him down to sleep. But there are other projects too to get excited about – transforming my garden, planting new colourful flowers, transforming the house in which I spend so much time in nowadays. Projects, and economical maternity-leave budgeting ones at that, will keep me busy over the next few months.

5. Learn – I’m going to learn to cook. As The Chef knows, I can barely boil an egg, but I’d love to get better of it, to become a bit more domesticated, to feed my lovely family. I’m starting this week with doing a few simple meals. God help us all.

6. Be Curious – Since the hormonal fug of pregnancy has started to lift, the baby is able to sleep in his pram, and I’m mastering public transport, I want to go exploring London again. So many places I want to go – Eel Pie island (open house 22/23 June), the Polka Theatre, the Electric Cinema, some of the new restaurants whose openings I’ve totally missed.

Happiness, like confidence, is a transient thing, and one you need to keep working at. Getting married, having a baby, can be the happiest time of your life, but the changes they bring and emotions they evoke can be overwhelming at times. I’m glad I have the HPL rules to ground me, and I love a project to work on. I’ll let you know how I get on.


4 Comments

On Time

IMG_2870

My baby boy – five weeks of fun

There is something ironic about writing about time when I am hurriedly typing before the baby wakes up. Yes, to summarise, time – I don’t have very much of it anymore. So, let’s cut to the chase:

Things I don’t have time for anymore:

  1. Taking off chipped nail polish
  2. Reading (all forms – books completely, Sunday papers, full articles in magazines)
  3. Lazy chats with friends (calls and texts are perfunctory – where are we meeting, when, Ok see you there)
  4. Wearing make up
  5. Watching a TV programme of more than 30  minutes
  6. Shopping / trying on clothes
  7. Showers or baths that last more than 7 minutes
  8. Chilling in a beer garden for a pint, maybe two, oh go on three
  9. Drying hair
  10. Putting away things I use often, leading to an increased (but quite homely) state of clutter throughout the house
  11. Shutting the door before using the bathroom
  12. Non-essential DIY and chores
  13. Extended kisses and cuddles with The Chef
  14. Pottering and general farting about
  15. Writing well thought-out blog posts

A typical day

7am – wake up to baby crying, go to nursery, marvel as ever at what a gorgeous little angel he is, marvel at how he can be crying that much already, pick up baby, smell baby’s bottom, panic at level that crying has risen to, stick boob in baby’s mouth. Relax.

7.02am – wish I’d actually had time to pee, get a glass of water and something to eat. Realise am starving.

7.04am – wish I could actually breastfeed hands free and therefore increase entertainment options. Sigh. Lift iPhone with available hand, craning neck painfully, scroll through Facebook and twitter and Mail Online. Pray Kim Kardashian will one day discover maternity leggings. Do online shopping – supermarket food, clothes that will actually fit me (maternity clothes looking ridiculous sans bump, pre-preggie clothes too tight), baby bundles on eBay for ever growing offspring.

7.45am – baby comatose. Chuffed. Have a cuddle and cover him in kisses. Wipe off milk sick from clothes / face. Put him on play matt to kick about.

8am – I’m freeee! I’m freeeeee! Ok I have like 15 minutes before he realizes I’m not there so:

– run to kitchen, make toast, and tea lots of tea, put on tray

– tidy living room from last night’s slump on sofa, wash baby clothes, marvel at how many clothes baby gets through, put on dishwasher, marvel at how many cups of tea and cake have been consumed since last time

– wash and sterilize breast pump and put on tray

– hear baby crying, bollocks, run back to nursery

8.15am – lovely playtime with cute baby boy

8.45am – not so lovely playtime with slightly grissly windy baby boy, trying desperately to wind him down. Give up and stick boob in again.

9am – swaddle baby boy, play sheep wave music, pray he drifts off, tiptoe out…

I’m freeeee! I’m freeee!!! Ok I have like 45 minutes before he realizes I’m not there so…

 

 

This routine repeats itself throughout the day. To be specific, and according to my new friend Gina Ford, it repeats itself 6 times a day at intervals of 3 – 4 hours. Every second, every minute of my day is accounted for. I constantly look at the clock. I am constantly rushing, constantly planning what I need to do, working back from the next feed. I often have to drop everything for a crying baby (and my son is incredibly chilled out, I’m really really lucky). I can’t sit still and relax, until I hit a wall around 8pm and then literally cannot move. My life revolves around feeds – if I’m not breastfeeding, I’m expressing so The Chef can feed him. I am jealous of people who can sit in beer gardens whiling away hours. I forget to have lunch, forget to call friends, forget birthday cards and replying to texts. It gets to 2pm and I’m still unshowered and in PJs. I understand why my mummy friends send such short succinct texts and feel bad for getting annoyed before. I only have 2 pairs of trousers which actually fit me (but that’s a different story).

And I have written this thing in approximately 17 minutes and my baby is waking up so I have to rush off now…

…But as I said, time – I don’t have very bloody much of it…