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As a first time mum, I was fortunate to receive A LOT of hand-me-down baby items and a lot of advice. It was sometimes conflicting, and it was hard to know what baby items were essential to making life easier as a parent. I also out found which items were utterly useless or completely unnecessary.
Here are the items I found the most useful when Ella was an infant and that I will most definitely use again for any future children.
#1. Love-2-Dream Baby Swaddle
I learned how to swaddle my daughter with a baby blanket. She learned how to break her hands-free and startle herself awake. I learned how to swaddle her tighter. She learned how to break free again.
Eventually, I dug out the various Love-to-Dream swaddles that my aunt had stashed away in a box of hand-me-downs for me. They can come in a lighter cotton if you hail from warm climates (like my home in summer). And they have a two-way zip so you can keep your baby’s legs out in a natural position.
This two-way zip proved ESSENTIAL when E was braced for hip dysplasia at 6 weeks old (an age where swaddling was still necessary for us).
These swaddles are on the more expensive side. I was so fortunate to have a few in newborn sizes and only had to purchase 2 large size ones when E grew out of the smaller sizes we had on hand, but they are well worth the investment when they prevent your newborn startling themselves awake with their tiny little fists.
I have purchased a few for friends with newborns and they have all thanked me for it!
I’ve found that you can usually find them on Facebook Buy and Sell pages or eBay secondhand if you’re concerned that they are too expensive.
#2. Baby Carrier
Oh my goodness. My sanity was SAVED when I discovered the benefits of babywearing.
My daughter was a Velcro child for the first 9 months of her life. Naps were usually on me and it was hard to actually put her down long enough for me to do anything productive (like cleaning the house). She fussed in her pram after a short time in the early days. She was only happy if someone was cuddling her.
I had written off the idea of babywearing while I was pregnant but my aunt had provided me with an Ergo Performance baby carrier which helped her. The carrier was amazing.
However, this particular model required a newborn insert for support and this was highly ineffective during the middle of an Australian summer, where temperatures can reach 42 degrees Celsius. The insert in this carrier wouldn’t be an issue in cooler climates.
Please don’t let my initial experience with the Ergobaby Performance deter you – once the infant insert was no longer required for my daughter, the Ergo became my husband’s carrier of choice. He loved the simplicity of it. I even managed to teach him how to use it to carry Ella on his back! I would love to try this carrier again if I have a winter newborn because of the simplicity of clicking a buckle and being good to go.
So, I started with a Moby baby wrap. It was amazing. I stopped fumbling with prams (unless I was having a meal), stopped the stopping and starting with the pram when I was out. I managed to get things done around the house as my baby was comforted and settled by the closeness.
I then moved to a woven wrap and until E was 2+ years old, this was my saving grace as a parent.
Some budget brands of woven wraps include Little Frog, Fidella, Yaro Slings, Girasol and Lenny Lamb wraps.
Go to local meets to experiment with various styles of baby carriers to find what works for you and your baby. You can normally pick up a carrier second hand for a decent price from Babywearing groups on Facebook as well.
Start by looking at the Baby Wearing Buy, Sell and Swap Facebook Group and you should be able to find your local group from there (please note, this is within Australia). From what I understand, there are these groups all over the world.
Here is the link to the BWBSS Aussie Babywearing Support, where you can ask for advice, meet other like-minded mums. A local babywearing meet is also a great way to meet local mums in your area. I found some of my closest mum friends from going to local meets.
#3. Electric breast pump
There are no words for how useful a decent electric breast is to a breastfeeding mama. Especially a working breastfeeding mama.
Or any mama that wants to include dad’s, grandparents, siblings in the feeding process.
I started with a hand pump. I tried. I ended up losing my temper when it leaked milk out of the pump and then the bottle got slippery and I knocked it over.
Whoever said “there’s no point crying over spilled milk” was clearly not a pumping mama.
I had used a Medela at the hospital and thought an electric breast pump was worth looking into, as I planned on returning to work and knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed as long as I could.
But my friend sang the praises of a Spectra electric pump. I checked the reviews of both a Spectra and a Medela and ended up settling for a Spectra S2 Double Electric Pump because of the backflow protection it offered. There’s also the added bonus that the S2 comes with 2 bottles for ease of pumping.
Oh my goodness. I cannot rave about the value of a decent electric breast pump if you plan on pumping regularly. If you only plan on expressing once in a blue moon, I would just stick with a hand pump. But if you’re expressing regularly… make the investment.
I returned to work one day per week when E was four-and-a-half months old. By the time she was seven months, I was working two days per week. And then three days a week once she was 10months. My electric pump expressed more than enough to maintain a decent stash. We breastfed and used expressed breast milk until we weaned at 15months.
I was barely pumping 40mL with a hand pump so it would take several sessions to establish a whole bottle for one feed. I was amazed when I used my Spectra for the first time. 150mL expressed in… 10minutes.
Side Note – how much you express is not an indication of what your supply is like. Some mothers can barely express a drop and their babies are as well-nourished and thriving as any mother who expresses large quantities. A baby is more effective than any pump.
You can adjust the strength of the suction and the pumping speed easily with the Spectra S2.
If you’re returning to work and can’t always be guaranteed a power supply in order to pump. Spectra have a battery operated model- the Spectra S1. From what I’ve heard, it’s just as good as the S2 model that I have, but it’s more portable because of the rechargeable battery. If necessity dictated, I would readily upgrade to the S1, after the easy pumping experience I had with my Spectra S2.
I honestly could not sing the praises of this pump enough. I’ve since sterilized all the parts and have stashed the pump away for the next baby… whenever that happens.
#4. Essential Oil Diffuser
Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I rave about how amazing and versatile essential oils are.
Related Post: My top 5 essential oils for everyday use.
An essential oil diffuser has proved its worth in my household, not just for babies but in general.
My favourite reasons for using my essential oil diffuser, specific to babies, are:
- The ability to create a calming environment that is conducive to sleep and
- Diffusing blends that help clear up congested babies that haven’t learned to blow their nose yet.
For me, an essential oil diffuser is worth its weight in gold when it comes to children. My favourite blend of oils to diffuse for a good night’s sleep is Plant Therapy’s Synergy blend called Nighty Night, which is their Kids Safe version of their other blend Sleep Aid.
If you don’t have a diffuser and won’t be getting one anytime soon, 2 drops of DILUTED lavender essential oil on the sheets will help out.
Honestly, I could sing the praises of Plant Therapy all day long, but I won’t in this post. I’ll just say, their oils and diffusers are worth their weight in gold. If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper but, still a decent quality diffuser, check this one out that I scored on Groupon.
In addition to adding two drops of Nighty Night to the diffuser, I made a roller bottle containing five drops of Nighty Night in 10mL of fractionated coconut oil. I then massaged onto the back of E’s neck and the bottom of her feet has her sleeping a lot better. And this is the child that, at 2 and a half years old still wakes at least 2-3 times a night.
#5 Nose Frida Nasal Aspirator
There’s nothing worse than a congested newborn, right?
When my daughter was about 10 days old, she was horribly congested. As first-time parents, my husband and I sent ourselves into a frenzy panicking about our child’s ability to try and breathe at midnight. There were no chemists open in our area. The closest 24-hour pharmacy was 30km away.
We improvised. As a car enthusiast, my husband had a brand new fuel line (I think?) which came out of the packet. We used this to manually remove snot from our tiny baby’s nose. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. It is disgusting but it worked in the interim.
The next morning we raced down to the pharmacy and discussed the best options for our congested newborn. The pharmacy assistant directed us to the Nose Frida which is essentially the same concept as my husband’s improvised aspirator. Except it has a filter to stop any snot getting close to your mouth.
I cannot recommend this nasal aspirator enough!!! Whenever I am invited to a first-time mum’ baby shower, I always create a “Newborn Survival Kit” for the mum-to-be so that they don’t have to improvise and fashion A DIY nasal aspirator as random hours.
There you have it… my 5 absolute essential items for a baby. What were the essential baby items that made motherhood easier for you? Make sure you check out the list of baby items I found to be useless.