Newborns for Noobs Part I: New Parent Stuff

So I had a baby! Nearly 10 weeks ago now. What a whirlwind. No one can truly prepare you for what it’s like, though many will try, bless their hearts. They’re right though – it’s both the hardest and best time of your life so far.

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Please note: this blog post will be written from the perspective of someone who chose to breastfeed exclusively, because that is what I have chosen to do, that is what suits me and my lifestyle and my baby. I respect any and all choices that others make to feed their babies adequately, I truly believe that fed is best. Breastfeeding is what I chose.

Let me get this out of the way: breastfeeding is not easy. It is kind of a bastard of a thing in the beginning. You’ve just done this intensely difficult thing (whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, the act and the recovery are bloody hard in different measures) and now you and your broken body and tired, hormonally charged brain have to try to learn this intensely difficult skill that is SO, SO important literally to the survival of your baby. Ha! What a monster of a thing to inflict on a suffering mother. As much as childbirth and finally meeting your baby is so magical and wonderful, it’s also so hard.

Eamon had a period of ill health not long after his birth, which was extremely scary, but it also meant we missed some key breastfeeding time. As such, and just because of the inherently difficult nature of breastfeeding, we had a tricky time latching him and getting things working in that way. I’ll never forget when Ray had gone out to get me some lunch on day 3 in hospital (we stayed an extra day because of the health issues and latching issues, he lost a good amount of weight) and one of the wonderful RNs was trying to help me get him to latch in side-lying position so I could get some rest (carefully monitored) and I just lost it. He was crying, I was crying, poor Ray comes back in the room laden with sandwiches to me sobbing “I just need to not hear him crying right now, I can’t take it, he needs to leave for awhile or I do” and the kindly nurse saying “got it”, bundling him up and taking him for a little while to the nursery. I cried in Ray’s arms for quite a long time. It was so bloody hard and I felt like a failure and a monster.

Luckily he was fine and was back at his birth weight not long after we left the hospital. A week or so maybe. But those first few days at home were so hard too. We were trying to get him to sleep in a bassinet and he may as well have been on the moon, according to him. Poor little mite. NONE of us were getting any proper rest. We absolutely DREADED the nights. The sun would go down and our spirits would too, and as soon as we spotted light leaking through the windows in the morning (because of course we were, or at least I was awake for that. Of course.) things would feel a bit less scary and impossible. So we started co-sleeping (safely and with purpose, as a friend recommended, rather than in frustration and desperation which is what leads to SIDS issues) and things improved DRAMATICALLY. Side-lying is now my go-to bedtime position, and I enjoy it immensely, it’s so snuggly and I can read a book or whatever while he nurses and smooshes his little feet into my belly, just like he did when he was inside. It’s great.

Anyway, on to the point of the post. I wanted to write up some info on things that I found incredibly useful in the first few weeks. I’m sure there are tonnes of posts out here on similar things but these are what worked best for me and Eamon.

Breastfeeding Pillow

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL as far as I’m concerned! I got the Boppy from lovely Corinne (you may remember her from such posts as the first preggo roundup!), it was on my registry, and it’s what we used in hospital. I still use it in bed, it is our bedroom pillow, and it’s great for multiple reasons – it’s quite snuggly, it’s the right height, it comes in awesome prints, cover is removable for washing and it can be used for tummy time when baby is a little bigger (not to mention to help them learn to sit up etc as well!). But the one that gets a bit more use when sitting on the couch is this one – the My Brest Friend pillow. I think because it’s flatter, it makes bub easier to position and means he doesn’t sink into the space between the pillow and my tummy (especially when he was really little). It’s nice and firm, and it actually secures around you with a buckle so you don’t have to hold it to you. I’ve even stood up while feeding him on it and gone to the bathroom or got myself a drink.  I do not recommend this. It’s hard. But you do what you gotta do in the moment.

Huge-ass Drink Bottle

It is absolutely unbelievable how thirsty you get while breastfeeding. And I mean “while”, literally. The letdown reflex (ie the time when your milk starts coming out) triggers a feeling of thirst like no other. I bought this awesome adult sized sippy cup with a straw as recommended on another blog. It is the best. I love how the silicone straw is really wide, enabling me to suck down a bunch of water really fast, which is a weirdly essential feature for this to have. The thirst cannot be underestimated. Nowadays, I have this one beside the bed and my daytime water containers are six quart-sized Gatorade bottles (btw, Gatorade is great in the beginning when you’re building milk supply!) because they’re really sturdy. I drink all six in a day. Sometimes more. It’s madness.

Silicone Bulb Pump

I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this weird silicone thing. It’s called the Haakaa (there are many knockoffs also) and what it does is collect the letdown on the other breast than what you’re feeding on. So it’s not a pump as such, it applies some suction just to draw out what is already being released by your natural letdown reflex. Please note – don’t make the mistake that I did and assume this won’t work for you if you don’t leak much if any breast milk. I never really leaked much and I still get around an ounce, sometimes two, each time I use this. So even if you’re not pumping, doing that a couple of times a day will allow you to build a little tiny bit of a stash in your freezer for in case you want to, oh, leave the house or go on a date or if you are on a medication that doesn’t allow for breastfeeding (these are few and far between, mind you, always check with a pediatrician you trust before you take advice to pump and dump from anyone else including pharmacists and other doctors. Sometimes they say that just to cover their butts. Same with drinking. If you can safely pick up bub to nurse, if you can drive, you’re probably fine to nurse. Not much booze gets in breast milk). Anyway, you just squeeze the bulb, suction it to your boob and you’re golden. You can’t dance a jig or go for a run with it on, but it has enough suction to stay on if you’re still. It’s an NZ product so Aussies might have an easier time getting it from a local source rather than Amazon.

Grass Draining Rack

If you are pumping or bottle feeding, you’re going to have a million tiny parts and drying them is a bastard. You need this product. Trust me. We had this on our registry because it was a recommended registry item and I totally get why. There are a few other interesting little pumping things like microwave steam sterilizing bags that I find handy but I don’t want this post to just be about pumping because I know not everyone does that. Plus, things like milk storage bags, bottles etc are really personal choice (your baby’s choice, tbh) so giving my opinion is kinda moot anyway.

Disposable Changing Pad Covers

We bought some of these based on a recommendation from my friend Leah. They have really come in handy. We use them when we go out, but their handiest use so far has been for when Eamon pees or poops on the existing changing pad cover which then has to be removed from the changing pad lest he roll around in it, but I don’t have enough hands to hold a baby AND put a new cover on it. I just grab one of these from the convenient packet, toss it over the pad and I’m good to go.

Diaper Disposal Unit

This is a bloody godsend, you guys. It not only keeps the odor (not that there is much odor at the moment, breastfeeding newborn poop doesn’t really smell IMO) enclosed, it gives you a way to secure dirty diaps from enterprising dogs for whom the smell might be just way too tempting. Gross I know but hey. Plus when you change the bag, you get this awesome diaper log that’s very satisfying to tie off and toss in the garbage. We are weird people, I realise this. We went with the Diaper Genie and we could not be happier. The refills are easy to install and it’s easy to set up and use.

Nursing Tanks

I love these! So handy for a bottom layer, especially the ones with a decent shelf like these from H&M. H&M nursing gear is honestly great and so is their babywear. They’re also great for wearing to bed if you (like me) find that most sleeping bras are not quite enough to contain The Ladies, especially when they’re full of milk. Which is pretty often. The Old Navy ones I bought are rubbish – the straps are too long (who the fuck has shoulders that tall!). These ones are great. Lots of people also swear by the “two shirt method” for going out and about and nursing without showing too much skin (and I’m not talking about “OOOH I WOULDNT WANT ANYONE TO SEE AN INCH OF MY BREAST” fuck that shit, I mean having to basically remove all your clothes to get to the boob). The two shirt method is pretty basic. Tank underneath, shirt on top. Pull shirt up, pull tank down or unclip, boom. Boobs. Baby. Put ’em together and everyone’s happy (especially the baby).

Bathrobe

I don’t have a preference here. I had one from H&M, and a fuzzy one from Target, they both do the job. Get whatever as long as it’s soft and comfy. It’s just great to wander around the house in a robe when your baby is cluster feeding and you don’t want to have to keep getting your boobs out. Just open up the robe, stick the baby on and you’re golden.

I am probably leaving out some stuff. Partly because I’m still pretty sleep deprived and partly because I didn’t need some things that others might find essential. For example I never really suffered from any nipple damage or leakage, so things like nipple balms and breast pads aren’t things I have strong opinions about. I got a sweet diaper bag but I’ve gone back to using my precious JW Hulme bag anyway. I didn’t have a lot of “downstairs damage” so apart from the first couple of weeks I wasn’t really in pain and during that time a squirty bottle of warm water to rinse with when I peed, and some numbing wound care spray were all I used and I got both of those from the hospital.

The next post will be more about things baby needs (needs is always subjective, you understand!). To tide you over, here’s some pics of my beautiful little bundle!

 

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

 

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The Second Pregnancy Roundup – Indulgences & Non-Essentials

(NB: I wrote the majority of this in the week before I had my baby! next post will be about the first 2 months)

My last post was about things that I found pretty darn necessary for basic comfort levels during my pregnancy. I thought I’d write one up about some little luxuries and things that have helped but aren’t necessary for everyone. Hey, whatever takes my mind off the fact that I’m at full term but no sign of baby yet, huh? kill me

Maternity Clothing Subscription

Ok so this one is a particularly indulgent luxury, I thought I’d get it out of the way first. I LOVE LeTote. Basically, I pay $69 a month and I get boxes of maternity clothes and accessories sent to me as often as I want. A little less basic: I fill up my  “closet” with lots of cool dresses, pants, shirts, tops, blouses, scarves, bracelets, rings – you get the point – and they send a box containing 3 items of clothing and 2 accessories, curated from my “closet” by the LeTote team. They send you an email when your box is made up (typically, they send this within an hour of you lodging your free return bag at the PO), and you have a chance to replace items with other things if you have a particular event or anything like that. This is where it hugely differs from other subscriptions like Gwynnie Bee etc. I love this feature. Then they send the box pretty promptly. I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by since I joined up that I haven’t received a box in the mail unless I’ve taken longer to wear all the items. You can also opt to keep items if you want, always at a reduced price. I kept some amazing, thick leggings/pants with cool raised pleats over the knees that made me feel like a cool biker chick YEAH! I have kept a couple of really nice scarves and some jewellery as well. There were several dresses and tops I wanted to keep but it was hard to justify because they were relatively expensive and it’s maternity wear so I didn’t feel super keen on spending a tonne. You just keep whatever you want and when they get the bag back with your returned clothing they charge you for what you kept. Note: this is a really good way to spend a lot of money so be careful!

It also has a normal (non-maternity) range and you can get fewer items for a cost reduction. I just found this combo to be a good balance. If LeTote sounds like something you’d like to try, use my referral link and you can get your first tote free!

Jacket Extender

This is one of those things that you might not need unless, like me, you live in the frickin Arctic tundra and need to wear a huge puffy coat just to survive the lurch from car to front door. As your belly expands, unfortunately, most coats do not. Did I want to spend another $300 on a coat? No! I like the one I have! So I searched “jacket extenders” and found Make My Belly Fit! It sounded like exactly what I wanted. It requires a little bit of research – basically you need to check your jacket’s zip configuration and might need to order a zip adapter but I didn’t (thanks, North Face). I also bought a fleecy panel to go inside the extender and that was a decidedly excellent decision – it’s been getting down to -30C/-23F here and it’s only December! It’s a Canadian website but the shipping was really fast. The extender panel was $51 which is a bargain compared to buying another coat. You can use it after pregnancy too – right now the snaps are popped open at the bottom for my positively-planetary belly but soon they’ll be popped open at the top for wearing that sweet little bundle in a wrap under my coat to keep him warm. You know where else he’s warm? Inside my body right now, APPARENTLY, SINCE HE WON’T GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, UGH, CHILD, DO NOT MAKE ME COME IN THERE BECAUSE GOD HELP ME I WILL well I won’t, but a doctor might. Ok I’m fine. I’m taking deep breaths.

Good provider/OBGYN etc

One of those most baffling things I encountered about America when we started talking about having a baby was that hospitals just have doctors and nurses. Midwives are still this kind of semi-controversial concept. The reasoning seems to be that you can be a “lay-midwife” ie have no formal training at all and just witness a certain amount of births and call yourself a midwife, but most midwives who work in hospitals or health facilities are “CNMs” or Certified Nurse Midwives. Anyway it was all a bit confusing to me as I was so used to labor wards with both midwives and doctors working together (not always in harmony but still).

The local hospital here doesn’t allow midwives on staff, nor do they allow doulas or extra support people in the birthing suites. I had some other issues too but this isn’t the place. LUCKILY, we had a lot of people recommending the amazing Porter Women’s Health to us, just a short 50 minute drive north in beautiful Middlebury. They have a combined staff of OBGYNs and midwives, and an amazing nursing staff too. They’re great. It’s exactly what I wanted. I barely need a birth plan because all my ideas run in line with theirs. They’re very women focused while still being research based and medically safe. The crunch level is low, which is my favorite level of crunch, but I have never felt condescended to and I love that they have you see all the different providers so that when you go into labor you aren’t seeing a strange face no matter who’s on call. Th

Anyway, this is just on this post because not everyone has a) the insurance or b) the proximity to places like this and I feel so privileged to have both of those things.

Pregnancy Massage

About halfway through my pregnancy, well no I guess it was about 26 weeks, I started getting back pain. Par for the course with pregnancy but I had been relatively comfortable so far, so the fact that I not only had aches in my back but also sciatica (nerve pain shooting down my right buttock into my right thigh at will) was quite a shock. It was pretty horrible. I’d been thinking about getting some pregnancy massage so I called a local lady that I know who I knew would do a great job – Christina at Vermont Vitality Studio. I turned up for my appointment and it was great, right from the start. We talked about what particular aches and pains I was having and she very carefully propped me up on the table with pillows to make sure I was comfy and my bump was supported. I was extremely relaxed by the end of the appointment – I did not realise how much my gait had altered until I could walk normally again. It was so nice.

I continued to get massages each month of my pregnancy, my last one was just a week ago. At about $80 for 50 mins it’s not cheap, but your insurance might cover it (it blows my mind that some insurances cover chiropractics but not therapeutic massage).

Amazon Registry

Registries seem to be kind of a contentious topic sometimes. In America most people have a registry. I hadn’t been to a lot of baby showers in Australia but the latest one I went to also had a registry. I think it’s genius because then you don’t end up with 5000 of the same thing. The only double ups I got were because people REALLY wanted to make sure I had this particular item that they found INCREDIBLY useful, and it turned out someone had already bought it from the registry so it had disappeared.

With Amazon you also get $150 worth of free diaper stuff (wipes included) when people spend $1000 on your registry which didn’t take long with my lovely mum involved! You also get a free ebook, and a discount of about 15% for Prime members on the remainder of your registry when your gift-getting time is over (ie after the baby shower for us).

You can add whatever you want to your registry – they have a button you can add to your browser to add anything from any site to your Amazon baby registry. Sadly there’s no way for Amazon to know if those things were purchased from the registry but still, pretty cool idea!

Right. I’m going to post this now because if I don’t, I never will, and I need to get on with the post-pregnancy ..posts. There will be those. Oh, there will be…