Useful Stuff for an Awesomely Unprepared Mother.

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I recently went shopping for a friend’s baby shower gift. While I myself am a fairly green mother (four months in – he’s still alive – yay!), I thought back to when the Little Mister was so brand new and I was so bewildered by all that baby stuff everyone (parents/friends/magazines/books) told me I’d need. I thought to myself, what would my friend need to know/have?

I then had to restrain myself (it didn’t get physical but it was quite the warzone in my brain) from buying the poor mother to-be the entire local baby store (and every baby department in the bigger chain stores). Oh, also I haven’t won the lottery quite yet (I buy a ticket maybe twice a year) so I guess my finances might not have liked the gesture anyhow. I settled on some very cute gender neutral bibs (at 10 weeks a new mother suddenly realises why those bibs she received at her baby shower are necessary – baby becomes a drool factory before attempting messy solids later) and an insulated bottle bag that comes with a special instant heating pad – you just click a thing on the side of it and it gets hot right away without needing to be plugged into anything or requiring batteries! I also checked the side of the box and there are no nasty chemicals involved! Something I wish I had back in the old days…8 weeks or so ago!

I used to dread baby showers like crazy. Of course I felt honoured to be a part of the celebration and I was always so excited that one of my close friends was going to pop out a mini-human of their very own that I could love and dote on. I just felt so damn awkward! I had no idea what to buy them and not a clue how I would feel if they already had one! I felt lost when I’d sit there at what is usually a fairly alcohol free event and people around me would be talking at a million miles an hour about swaddling, clothing sizes (so many zeros!!) and the latest brands and gadgets to help make a parent’s life easier!

This has got me thinking. What are those super useful must-haves that have saved my life time and again in the last four months?

The “Boring Stuff”
Somehow my husband and I accumulated a crapload of samples and gifts that had our baby supplies looking quite healthy! It’s the stuff that everyone thinks of as boring every day baby stuff, only when you’re heavily pregnant and a little overwhelmed it’s less stuff to tick off the list. We’re talking nappy rash creams, wipes, newborn nappies, powder, baby oil, baby lotion, cotton wool balls, tissues and even teething gel (not to be used until required of course). It might not seem that thrilling, but if you put that stuff in a hamper for a first time mother-to-be, she will be thanking you later when she has baby brain and needs something in a hurry that she forgot to grab from the supermarket (it’s not so easy to get out in the early days)! These were the things I just never really got around to buying before the baby came. I had all the big stuff, the fun stuff and the read-it-in-a-trendy-magazine stuff, but the “boring stuff” just fell off the radar (and then the Little Mister made a surprise appearance three weeks early)!

Digital thermometer, room temperature thermometer and bath water thermometer – thermometers everywhere!
Besides being a really strange word to type over and over, thermometers have been my best friends since the early days. As new parents, my husband and I weren’t sure if we could trust our instincts just yet when it came to the temperature of the bath water, the temperature of our bedroom (where the Little Mister is STILL sleeping even though all three of us are totally ready for him to move) and his body temperature.

Knowing the bath wasn’t too hot or cold meant there was one less thing to worry about on our long list of brand new parent worries! It gave us a base to start from and let us feel for ourselves what the correct temperature is. It’s actually warmer than I would have thought it should be at 36 degrees celcius. I probably would have spent the early days chilling him too much and wondering why he was always upset! Little babies hate being naked as it is – it’s not as cosy out in the world as it was in the womb!

A few times in the first six weeks or so, our bedroom would be a bit too hot for the Little Mister’s liking. We wouldn’t know and while he wouldn’t always FEEL warm or sweaty to the touch, having the thermometer for the room confirmed our suspicions and more often than not, an adjusting of the air conditioner settings and his amount of bedding/swaddling would fix everything.

I used to freak out about the Little Mister’s body temperature because knowing that babies can’t really regulate their own temperature just seemed to mess with my mind! A couple of times I was able to reassure myself by using his digital thermometer. It might seem like something you can just buy later, but if I hadn’t had it ready and on hand when I was worried, my stress levels would have gone off the charts! Sometimes when you want to check, it can be the middle of the night or a time when you can’t make it to the pharmacy to purchase one. I use it after his vaccinations (a horrible terrible necessary evil) if he’s not himself, so I can see if he’s got a fever (a common side effect). It also helped because they would take his temperature every day in the hospital (I don’t know if this is normal or because he was recovering from the infection that brought on my labour), which probably got it into my head that temperature is something to worry about!

I am not a super parenting nerd (believe it or not, despite the fact that my having a blog might lead you towards this conclusion), but sometimes reading a book that is written with new parents in mind, with up to date information (relevant to your country or culture’s practices) can be incredibly reassuring. Sometimes a lot more reassuring than googling your crazy mind to pieces in the middle of the night because you woke up and you just have to or else).

The three absolute bibles I go by are:

Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall

Kidwrangling by Kaz Cooke
What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

I won’t review each of them for you, because that would bore the pants off you, but I have learnt everything from what’s “normal” for every month of my little man’s life so far, what developmental milestones to expect, how to deal with common worries or problems and (perhaps most importantly) how a baby’s sleep rhythms work. Knowing how the Little Mister’s body works at each stage of his very young life has helped me to deal with everything from his tummy being very immature the first few weeks, to knowing that a good sleep routine can make all the difference to how well he sleeps through the night. I love that these books aren’t promoting extremist parenting in any way, they use plain English that anyone can understand (and sometimes even humour which lightens the mood somewhat – why is parenting so damn serious?) and are organised in a way that makes it easy to figure out what you’re looking for!

People shy away from books because they think they’ll become overwhelmed and worry more. I felt the same at first, but these books are the ones that didn’t give me that freaked out feeling and for that I am grateful!

Muslin Wraps
These light weight cloths are SO useful. I use so many of them on a daily basis and have done so since the moment we got home from hospital. They’re a fantastic vomit/regurgitation shield for your shoulder (and more importantly your clothing) as you burp your little one, they are great to have on hand when the Little Mister has drool coming from seemingly everywhere and sometimes it’s good to wrap him in one when he needs to feel safe and secure while napping (but the weather is warm). I also drape one over the front of the pram if he’s sleeping in it (helps to give him a safe, quiet spot and a way for him to block out all the stimulus the world has to offer). I find that because the wraps are breathable, they’re great in summer.

And look. A confession. On the odd occasion, when all else fails and you don’t have any other options (ie you were caught the f*ck unaware and that sh*t is EVERYWHERE), the wraps can sometimes help to wipe up some crazy spills of the poos and wees variety. Of course you have to make sure the wraps are cleaned thoroughly and sanitary for next use!!

Stuff for the Mum
Year after year I would get a little bemused by all the pampering stuff people would give me for birthdays and Christmases. It seemed like everyone in the whole wide world had the same idea! I don’t think they realised just how low maintenance (read: lazy) I was with that stuff! My skin mostly did what I wanted it to and I wasted most of my time in the shower just thinking or washing my hair obsessively (don’t ask – it’s just this thing I do).

As that stuff stacked up, I wondered how many tubs of body butter one little person could possibly need?! How many body scrubs?! Loofahs? Geez!

Now I know. My skin has not been the same since pregnancy. Hormones, stretch marks and that rash I kept banging on about are now an issue. Not to mention the drool that dries out my upper arms (the baby’s drool – not mine haha). I love nothing more than quickly rubbing body butter on myself or giving my face a quick, gentle scrub in the shower to freshen up. It’s funny because I have less time to pamper myself than I ever did, but I appreciate it even more now. When I buy baby shower gifts, I sometimes make sure that the baby isn’t the only person getting a present. I know the mum-to-be might look at me funny, like “great – more pampery stuff – everyone gives me this stuff”, but afterwards I know it’s appreciated!

It’s nice to know someone’s thinking of you just a little bit, because your world becomes all about the baby very quickly!

Well, I could go on forever (perhaps this could be a regular instalment) but I’ll stop at those five lifesavers, shall I?

What stuff can you not live without?

4 thoughts on “Useful Stuff for an Awesomely Unprepared Mother.”

  1. A great friend of mine is having a little baybeh and I’m psyched to get her something awesome. I think I’ll be the only single, not-excited-to-have-a-baby-myself person at this shindig so I’m thinking maybe a package of zebra print diapers? Do they make those?

    They should.

  2. Oh how I relate to this! I was just at the baby store last weekend picking out a gift for a friend who just announced she’s pregnant and it was difficult to just pick one or two things! It was amazing to walk the aisles with the eyes of a “seasoned” mom – so many things that I wish I had . . . so many things that ended up being completely useless.

    Let’s see, my favorite things for the wee one are still the muslim blankies (I completely agree – the uses are so versitile and they wash up so soft!), the boppy pillow (now that she is sitting up we don’t really use it anymore, but for those first 6 months it was a life line), and breastflow bottles – the ONLY ones that she would drink out of. I swear I spent a small fortune on bottles in those early days!


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