We’re closing in on a month postpartum here in our household. It’s been an intense few weeks, one that at times I doubted surviving! But we’re all still alive, and a bit wiser for it. And yes, we are very very sleep deprived, so mostly, I hope I make sense to the outside world.
Since having a newborn is a very singular, obsessive experience (feed baby, change baby, put baby to sleep. feed baby, change baby, put baby to sleep, baby, baby, baby, baby…), I thought I’d go with the flow and put up a baby-related post, since that’s been my life. Also I hope that in barfing up baby thoughts here, I’ll make room for more literary pondering. Maybe I’ll help some folks, who knows.
If you’re not into it, know that my posts will turn writing-centric again, soon. Because miraculously, I have been able to write in these first few weeks. And I’ve been doing a little bit of Fiction Editor work for Kartika Review. For now, humor me.
Beyond the usual must-haves/recommendations of bouncers, swings, gliders/rockers, and diaper bags (I like the Skip Hop brand diaper bags) and such…I thought I’d chat about baby gear that has been surprisingly helpful in the first postpartum month. These are the items I use every single day that aren’t usually mentioned on baby gear must-have lists.
Soother: This thing was recommended to me by one of my doulas. I seriously was not sure how awesome it could be–it plays lullabies in analog, it’s made of plastic, and it has a few blinking lights; in sum, the contraption is completely underwhelming to an adult. But zomg, my baby LOVES it, even at 3 weeks old, and it gives me a chance to wash my hands after a diaper change while my kid lies in her crib and watches the lights. Even better is the fact that babies love it until 18 months-2 years old, so this is one of those baby items with longevity. (In comparison, baby crib mobiles are only good until 5 months, because at that point babies can push themselves up and the mobiles become a choking hazard). I have the Fisher Price rainforest themed soother, but have heard good things about the Tiny Love soother, too.
Homedics Soundspa Sound (aka white noise) machine: For the first weeks of our baby’s life, all she wanted to do was sleep. A white noise machine does wonders to further that goal. We like the Homedics brand, which is not a baby item per se, but incredibly useful.
Leg warmers: Keep baby’s legs warm while outfitted in a leg-less onesie without the hassle of having to remove and put pants back on (quite a hassle if you have a fussy baby, or if you don’t want to fully awaken your sleeping baby). Completely pragmatic–and if you so choose, also very stylish (see picture above at the top of this post). You can find them in various baby clothing stores, though I got mine from knottybabywear’s shop on etsy.
Red light bulb or a head lamp with red LED light: I got a storm headlamp, which can be found at REI. My newborn is completely fascinated by lights–even at the lowest setting on the dimmer, the track lights in my baby’s nursery would wake her up (nevermind the sconces, which can’t be dimmed at all). Also, with the track lights so low, I couldn’t really see what I needed to see in the dark, especially during diaper changes, when details are crucial. And after taking a good amount of time putting the baby to sleep, the last thing I want to do is wake her up by flipping on white lights, so the red light is a miracle. Baby stays asleep. I see everything I need to see. Hallelujah. Also, it’s great for nighttime pumping–I don’t wake up my husband during those nighttime pumping sessions in the bedroom. Ohwait. I just reread that, and it sounds perverted. But you know what I mean.
Diaper wipe warmer: So we didn’t buy this straight away, because I thought this was one of those frivolous “you don’t need this at all” things. But after hearing my otherwise mellow baby Scream Her Head Off Crying and Shrieking during diaper changes the first two weeks, I broke down and bought a wipe warmer. I should have had one from the beginning; she hasn’t cried during a diaper change since. She is more comfortable. The wipe warmer is $20. Totally worth it. (Beware that some of them dry out the wipes, so you’ll need to add a bit of water to the holder to keep the wipes hydrated).
Rock ‘n play sleeper: We use this instead of a bassinet. A couple stopped us while shopping at the baby store and pointed us towards this item. They said this is what their child slept in, and it beat everything else, hands down, plus it’s good for babies with reflux issues, as the rock ‘n play places the baby in a slightly upright position. And it’s super light and portable. They were right. Thank you, strangers, for your kindness. Our child is now transitioning to the crib (she has all new likes/dislikes as she nears the 1 month mark), but the rock ‘n play definitely got us through the first month.
Yoga ball: Yah. You’ll use this in your last trimester to sit and relieve pressure on your back, you’ll use it while in labor (we seriously took a yoga ball with us to the hospital (not all hospitals have yoga balls available), carrying one in with our overnight bags), and you’ll use this to bounce your baby to sleep. You sit on it with your baby in your arms (or in a sling/ergo), and then bounce up and down. So much better than bouncing your baby while standing and holding her–your poor knees! Beware: your baby might get really addicted to being bounced while you sit on a yoga ball, it is so addictive.
Pacifiers: Get at least a couple different kinds. Your baby’s going to have preferences, and you won’t be able to predict what they might be. Hell, your baby’s going to prefer one kind in the morning, and another kind in the afternoon. Ten minutes later, she’ll change her mind. And then the next day, she’ll prefer the afternoon one in the morning, and the morning one in the afternoon. Have at least a couple different kinds of pacifiers. Our baby likes the mam and first years gumdrop pacifiers in newborn size.
Falke newborn socks: Okay, everyone is going to have socks for their baby. There are some really cute socks out there, like the Trumpette mary jane baby socks. But my baby’s got very long feet, and she is a genius at kicking socks off. I’m not sure why, but all the socks I’ve found are easy to kick off, primarily because they are ankle length, and the newborn socks are all slightly small on my baby’s large feet. Falke newborn socks are really really pricey (nearly $11 for a pair), but I bit the bullet and got a pair, because it’s the dead of winter and my kid’s feet were turning blue. The socks are like tube socks for newborns; they go well up the shins, almost to the knees and they are super thick. They accommodate larger baby feet and because of their longer length they stay on, especially under a footless onesie or under leg warmers.
Food for parents: And this isn’t gear–but it’s still something helpful: have ready-made food for your first postpartum weeks. In the last trimester of my pregnancy, I cooked up a storm and froze a bunch of food in the freezer (bolognese sauce, soup, tomato sauce and other liquids in ice cube trays, and then into ziploc bags, as well as ziti, meatloaf, and macaroni & cheese frozen in serving size squares in ziploc bags, etc). So we weren’t going to starve.
But even then, if people offer to bring you food, take them up on it. Because there were times I stared into the freezer and become so so so discouraged thinking, “Oh, I have to THAW that to EAT it.” I was THAT tired–so tired that the prospect of unfreezing/heating up food was daunting. So tired I chose starvation over the act of thawing food (and this is bad for so many reasons, including the fact that if you are feeding your baby breast milk, it will affect your milk supply). Plus, I had some serious baby blues and lost my appetite, thereby furthering my food-thawing-aversion. I am so grateful to friends who quietly dropped off (without turning their drop off into a full-on visit) hot and easy-to-warm-up food to me in the first weeks. It made me cry with gratitude.
I don’t know what I’d have done if 1) I didn’t have friends who took such good care of me and 2) if I didn’t have food in my freezer. I guess we would have been eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and take-out. For the record, my spouse has been an amazing source of support–but guess what, the Last Thing I wanted my spouse to do in those first few weeks was cook, because I needed him to help me with the baby as much as possible.
Peri Squeeze bottle: That little plastic squeezy bottle at the hospital? The one you fill up with water to squeeze on your vag and perineum post-bathroom-visit? Yah. Take that home with you. It will be crucial to your survival. Same goes for the bag of wipes. And while some hate them, I really appreciated those disposable granny-pants undies. I grabbed as much as I could to go home with me.
Chux pads or Waterproof crib flat sheet: I slept with a crib-sized waterproof flat sheet the last few weeks of pregnancy, because I was paranoid about my water breaking and soaking our mattress. This did not happen, but the reassurance was priceless. Postpartum, I continued sleeping with a waterproof crib flat sheet under me for a couple of weeks. You’ll want something. If you don’t have chux pads or can’t find a waterproof crib flat sheet, lay down a towel you don’t care much about. Also useful are waterproof lap pads, which can be used on your changing table (trust me, you want LOTS Of waterproof lap pads).
Dermoplast pain relieving spray: Along with Tucks pads, you want some Dermoplast pain relieving spray on hand those first few postpartum weeks.