Figuring out what my baby actually needs versus what I am told by a society that over-consumes what my baby needs is an on-going and very interesting experience, especially during baby’s first year. First off, how difficult is it to keep one’s cool when baby stuff is just so endearingly cute? All those cute patterns and beautiful colours and the adorable factor of using it for a cute baby, making it even cuter… Gosh, self-control is so much harder in these circumstances!
The occasional spontaneous purchase of things we really didn’t need but couldn’t resist aside, there are some items that don’t have to do, typically, with a baby, but have turned out to be super practical to have during baby’s first year. Some of them my husband and I discovered totally by accident. Others we do not own but know that our friends make excellent use of theirs.
If You Are An Avid Reader: A Kindle
Attention book addicts: even those of you who prefer good, old-fashioned, printed-on-paper books should seriously consider getting a Kindle before baby is born. And preferably, get it with a cover that has a built-in stand that can hold your Kindle up both horizontally and vertically. Trust me and many other read-a-holic parents (both mothers and fathers!): you will be very grateful to be able to read a good book without having to do anything more than touch the screen, although even that can be quite rough at times. Breastfeeding can be quite a time-consuming activity in those first weeks, and a good book that you can easily read without getting a headache (from the backlight of a laptop screen or the weird positions you might have to take from holding a printed book) will be much appreciated. Plus there is the fact that some babies will wake up at the sound of a page rustling or the book dropping to the ground. For fathers, a Kindle can come in quite handy when having to walk baby around; you can place it on top of a tall dresser or on a bookshelf and rock baby while you read.
Apparently, a Kindle also comes in handy for a long time as baby continues to grow. When baby feels the need to have Mom or Dad around but at the same time wants to play independently, it’s nice to have a Kindle that baby can’t tear if he gets his hands on it. Similarly, if baby requires to be held in your arms while sick, it can make the time go by a lot faster if Mom and Dad have a light Kindle to carry around to read while bouncing baby to sleep. Plus, having beloved night-time stories on one’s Kindle can come in quite handy in case of unexpected changes in plan or plain and simple forgetfulness.
I personally have an older Kindle but from what I understand, the Paperwhite has the extra bonus of being usable in the dark, which can be quite handy for those long, middle-of-the-night, newborn breastfeeding sessions or for sitting up with one’s sick baby.
A Reusable Plastic Cup with Screw-On Lid and Straw
Breastfeeding makes women THIRSTY. Forget about a little cup here and there—you want to have a jug with you at all times. But the thing is that from the day the little one is born until quite some time later, drinking can be, more often than not, an interesting feat combining athleticism, strategy, and flexibility.
Because of these rather unique circumstances, a friend of mine even manage to chip a tooth while drinking from a glass when she had her first baby, and swore by her own plastic cup with a lid and straw for the following three. I happened to have one before I got pregnant, so it was natural for me to continue using it—and I came to realise, very early on, how lucky I was to have had it from the get-go. It contains a larger amount of water than a typical glass but is lighter (which makes a big difference at three in the morning when you are exhausted yet parched), the straw means that, if you have a strategic location where you can place your cup, you don’t even have to hold it to drink, if you accidentally topple it no liquid will come out, and if baby knocks it over, he or she won’t hurt herself as much as with a glass.
Another perk: if you choose such a cup that is black with white patterns on it like mine, you will capture baby’s attention from very early on, providing enough distraction to, say, clean their mouths or snap your maternity bra shut post-feeding.
A Really Good Phone and Phone Cover With A Built-In Stand
For most new parents I spoke with, a smartphone becomes your tether to the outside world. From keeping up with the news and keeping in touch with family and friends—and watching funny videos when brought to the brink of despair by a baby that won’t stop crying—it can even become a touchstone of sorts, helping us remember that this is not going to be our life forever.
Needless to say, you might want to go the extra mile to protect your smartphone, as well as make it easier to use. Because even if you are the most careful person ever, this state of exhaustion is like no other you have ever known before. Those stories about putting salt in your coffee instead of sugar, or of staring at your socks not able to remember how to put them on? They become your reality.
But while a good cover seems like something most new parents have purchased, few thought of getting one with a stand—which can come in quite handy when watching videos or even while just reading the news.
WhatsApp Voice Notes
On those days when baby won’t leave your arms, or when your fingers just won’t cooperate you’re your brain, voice notes become an amazing way to ensure that you keep in touch with your besties and keep getting that much-needed emotional support and line to a world outside of diapers, naps, and feedings. And let’s be honest: the sound of baby cooing in the background is bound to make everyone give you what you want.
There is something utterly frightening about drinking something hot while breastfeeding a little baby. But because the little one spends so much time on your breast, there isn’t much of a choice. However, there is a way of making the experience a lot less frightening and a lot more enjoyable. Hot Straws are pretty much exactly what they sound like: straws to drink hot things with. And as many mothers have learned, it is a lot less stressful to leave a hot drink on a table and lean over to drink than to pick a hot drink up and bring it anywhere close to baby. An added benefit: when the little one reaches the phase where everything within the read of his or her hand is fair game, a hot drink can be placed on a tall counter and drunk through the straw with one’s head facing the side opposite the arm holding baby. Unfortunately, contortionist’s skills are not included.
A Travel Neck Pillow
If we had the energy, we would probably spend the entire night staring at our little bundle of joy breastfeeding in the quiet slumber of one’s household. But fact is that we are often so exhausted that we drift off to sleep. When breastfeeding supine in bed is not an option, a travel neck pillow can prevent more than one neck injury as a poor mother’s head snaps down and back up as she can’t help but fall asleep. It also prevents the poor little baby from being startled out of her attempts at nutrition.
An Electric Blanket & An Electric Heat Pad
This one is of course useful more for cold countries; an electric blanket does wonders while breastfeeding (which involves, obviously, the showing of quite a significant amount of skin, something that isn’t compatible with the words “cold weather”), while an electric heat pad helps keep supple the muscles in one’s back and shoulders which greatly suffer from the constant holding of an ever-growing little baby.
This post is in no means an endorsement of these products; it is more of an encouragement to seek out the items that you already own or can borrow to make these beautiful but difficult first couple of weeks, months, and year a little easier on new parents.
What items you have in your home turned out to be surprisingly handy during your first year with a baby?