I still remember the day.
We just had our first visit to the hospital antenatal clinic and we were so excited to receive a bag filled with brochures, discount vouchers, guides to pregnancy and labour, and advice about all the products we should have now that we were about to become a family of three.
We were paying off a new home and a new car. We would be going from two incomes to one. We didn’t know how much money we would have. We didn’t know much about babies at all. The only time we had changed a baby’s nappy we had to fasten it together with bandaids!! (I’m not kidding!)
Now we had this list to tell us what we needed. We would be alright.
But there was a problem. This list was enormous. Apparently our baby was going to need an incredible number of things to survive and thrive! Not just milk, nappies, clothes and a place to sleep.
Nappy wipe containers with heaters, special wedges to keep him from rolling over in bed, nappy dispensers and special nappy bins, disposable nappy bags, a portable change mat and nappy change bag, a change mat cover for a change mat to go on a change table, a bouncer, a rocker that played music and had pretty light, mobiles that spun around and played music, play mats, bottles, special teats and formula just in case we couldn’t breastfeed, a steriliser for cleaning the bottles, a bassinet, a cot, a cot mattress and linen, dummies, blankies, lovies and onesies…what were we getting ourselves into?
This was going to cost thousands. Already my stress levels were rising. How could I be a good enough mother when I’d already failed the first step? I couldn’t afford all these things on The List.
So we did something radical! Instead of starting with everything we decided to buy the minimum and see how we went. We bought a beautiful convertible cot, we were given a pram, we bought modern cloth nappies, some beautiful linen for the cot and the basic clothes (singlets) the rest we were given as gifts. And we had the all important car capsule on hire. My big luxury was a rocking chair – a beautiful cane rocking chair that I just had to have.
We had no change mat, no change mat cover, no bassinet, no dummies, no blankies or lovies, no steriliser, no bouncer, rocker, nappy wipe warmers or any of those extras. Most of the items on the list got a firm line through them.
And, it actually worked out fine. Our baby didn’t want to sleep in his cot much. He preferred to sleep on my chest. And it turned out I don’t like rocking chairs. But apart from that we didn’t waste much money!
After our son’s birth we bought a baby bath, a change mat and a modern take on the old fashioned very simple bouncer. As we got to know our baby we experienced how useful these would be and we were able to buy the items that suited our needs and our baby.
And perhaps because we didn’t have everything on the list we had to rely on ourselves to soothe our baby instead of using devices.
We felt the joy and exhaustion of dancing around the lounge room (we got to practise our ballroom dancing at the same time and now my husband does a great foxtrot with a tiny baby in his arms). We learnt new songs and remembered old lullabies to hum or sing to our baby as his head was snuggled over our shoulders or beneath daddy’s neck. We bought good baby carriers as we learnt that our baby wanted to be held in our arms and the pram became a shopping trolley. We learnt that in truth, what babies and new parents need most is left off The List.
So here is My List:
- Love – love for yourself, your baby and your partner
- Patience – with yourself, your baby and your partner
- Support – yes, you need and deserve support. Don’t try to do this all by yourselves.
- You – your baby needs to be in your arms, on your chest, and preferably at your breast. Your baby needs to be held close by you. At first this is a very physical closeness and babies want to be held by you as much as possible. Later as your baby grows up this is an emotional and mental holding close as you keep in tune with how your child is experiencing the world and provide stability, love and reassurance. And forever it is holding your baby in your heart – no matter how old they are now!
- Breast milk (or the best substitute available for your baby’s needs if this is not an option)
- Somewhere safe for your baby to sleep (cot, bassinet, arms reach co sleeper, baby hammock, well researched safe co-sleeping)
There are many practical things you will need and want to help you care for your baby. These are the simplest and most important ones on my list.
- Breastfeeding – bamboo breast pads, nursing bras and a good breastfeeding pillow. Some breastfeeding tops or stretchy T shirts and long tummy covering singlets to wear underneath. The phone number of your local ABA group and the breastfeeding hotline. Better yet, go along to meetings and make contact with your ABA group in your last months of pregnancy. If you need support after birth these women will be there for you!
- Baby clothes – soft, natural fibres, without intricate fasteners and no appliques (cute as they are the underside of a heavily appliqued top can’t be that comfortable for a little baby)
- Nappies – of your choice. Cloth nappies are amazing these days and all in one pocket nappies are my first choice. There’s nothing wrong with buying a mix of disposable and cloth nappies to see you through the early days if you’re not sure about washing all those cloth nappies and their inserts. If you decide to use disposable nappies think about those with the least environmental impact if possible. But the highest priority for me was nappies that worked, nappies that didn’t break (no more bandaids to fasten a broken disposable please!!) and nappies that were comfortable for my baby. You may like to learn about elimination communication too. I have friends who have great success with this approach to toileting and baby care.
- Wipes – bamboo velour cloth wipes, disposable wipes – I quite liked Gaia and other eco brands.
- Change mat – buy a nice comfy one with good high sides to help keep your baby from rolling. Don’t go for seatbelts though! Get soft and easy care covers and make sure either cover or mat has a water resistant layer for little change time accidents.
- Change table – (yes we got one second time around!) yes they are very useful. You can judge whether you need one or not.
- Baby wraps – nice soft really big ones. Don’t bother with ones less than 1m square as they won’t last long. Baby cocoon wraps look quite good too for keeping your baby snug and secure feeling. But both my babies hated being wrapped from quite early on and I didn’t wrap for many months.
- Lotions and Potions – tea tree oil to make up a weak antibacterial wash for wiping your baby’s bottom if needed. Olive oil for their skin. There are many beautiful products for looking after baby’s skin. Look for simple ingredient lists and be aware that your baby’s skin can react to the same products that another baby’s skin loves. Take it slow.
- One baby sling or carrier – a stretchy or woven wrap like a Moby wrap, Hug a Bub or any of the many beautiful woven wraps is my first choice after two quite different babies. You can buy different kinds of slings and carried nce you know what suits you, your baby and your lifestyle. You don’t really know until your baby is here. Please don’t buy a carrier that pins your baby to your body with their legs dangling straight down. Do look for carriers that an older baby almost sits into (such as the ergo carrier) as this is much better for their body.