Whenever someone I know announces a pregnancy, I always do the following few things: I smile big and congratulate them, I ask them if they've chosen names (I can't help it, I just love baby names), and I send them a list of products that saved me the first month after birth. This last tidbit is a break from one of my top mom commandments — Thou shalt not offer unsolicited advice unto the new parents — but in this case I make an exception. Because, for the most part, these are products that I had to discover on my own, and I often think,"Holy hell things would have been so much easier if I'd had this one thing from the very freakin' beginning."
Plus, and to my continued defense, it's not like I'm shoving these things down people's throats or spouting shaming parenting dogma or giving them side eye or doing anything remotely resembling judgment. They're just things, you guys. You can take them or you can leave them, but either way I found them super helpful when I needed help the most.
The amount of stuff babies (and post-baby you, incidentally) require is daunting. Even if you don't go all out with every new-fangled gadget, the basics are way more than you're probably used to carting around. (And yes, you will be carting it around.) But what is the most useful stuff for a new parent? Well, I can't speak for everyone, but after bringing two tiny human beings into the world on two separate occasions, I can tell you what I gleaned from my experiences.
After my c-section, my assortment of pillows were like family: familiar, comforting, and supportive. They got me through a difficult time by giving me whatever I needed. If I needed to be propped up so that I could eventually sit up without assistance, they were there. If I needed to hug something while I coughed to avoid feeling like my c-section incision was going to re-open, they were there. If the baby fell asleep and I had 20 minutes to take a nap, you'd better believe they were there.
I basically lived in a little pillow fort for about six weeks, and it was kind of awesome.
In addition to regular pillows, a specially designed nursing pillow made breastfeeding my children easier and way more comfortable. As anyone who has attempted to breastfeed a newborn can tell you, the importance of ease and comfort, whenever they can be obtained, cannot be overstated.
Now that my second and last child has been weaned for over a year, you'd think my nursing pillow would have been gifted to a friend with a new baby or donated or something. Yeah, no. According to my partner, it's also a really great "napping on the couch" pillow, so in our living room it (unfortunately) remains.
Some people associate babywearing with hippies or attachment parenting (or attachment parenting hippies), but I associate it with being the only thing that enabled me to get literally anything done in the first couple months of my child's life. It makes sense that a lot of babies dig being worn, too. They were, after all, worn internally, incessantly, and up until very recently. I liked it because it kept my little ones calm and cozy (and, often, sleeping) and my hands free to do whatever I needed to do (within reason).
Personally, I'm a fan of wrap-style babywearing when it comes to infants, but the world is your baby carrying oyster—from slings to structured apparatuses, there are approximately two million options out there. (I may be rounding up just a little.)
Food In Bar Form
They're compact, portable, quick, and can be eaten with one hand. All of these are absolutely clutch when it comes to sustaining yourself when you have an infant.
Plus, if you do choose to babywear, food in bar form won't make a huge mess on your baby's head. (I can't tell you how many sandwiches and sauces wound up on my children's noggins.)
Not only was the (modest amount of) caffeine in tea an absolute must for my sleep-deprived self, but sitting down to a nice cup in the morning (or afternoon) was a calming ritual that allowed me to center myself and relax in those trying days of new motherhood. Better yet if that soothing cup of tea could be accompanied by a conversation with a friend or a nice book, or even a muffin.
My second birth was a vaginal delivery and while I'm really glad I was able to have a VBAC (a vaginal delivery after a c-section), I'd be lying if I didn't say that the ouch-factor of squeezing a nine pound baby out of my ladybits was welcomed. It's not that it was a surprise, but it was a bit of a jolt. Everything gets all swollen and puffy and a steadily intermittent application of ice packs makes it all slightly more bearable.
At the very least we're talking Ibuprofen, but after my c-section I'm also including a Percoset prescription. Both were doctor and midwife approved, compatible with breastfeeding, and necessary.
I mean, do you even know how babies come out? You either have to physically push it out your tiny little vagina (compared to a newborn, even the roomiest vag is tiny) or they need to surgically extract the child. It doesn't tickle, and you deserve some damn relief. I enjoyed regularly scheduled pill-popping for a while there (again, approved and recommended by my care providers), and thank goodness for it.
Rock N' Play
I try to stay away from brand names when I'm speaking generally, usually because I think it's the general concepts and not the particular products I used that were helpful. However, in this case I kind of just have to straight up give credit to the Fisher-Price Rock N' Play, because this thing is damn amazing.
First of all, I know very few babies who didn't like it. Secondly, it's pretty portable, so you can move it around the house so the baby is always in sight (particularly useful for when you want to take a shower, but you're a paranoid new parent and don't want to risk not hearing your little one cry). You can also schlep it with you if you're visiting someone else's home, only because it contains your child without having to take up half their living room with childcare apparatuses.
Not to scare you or get gross or anything, but do you know just how much stuff is going to be spilling out of you in your first month postpartum? A lot. Like, a lot a lot. You are going to be straddling mattress sized pads for a while, so you'll need enormous undies that can uphold such massive sanitary napkins, and drawers you don't mind getting stained and gross.
If you had a c-section, your need for granny panties is even more dire. Trust me when I say you won't want an elastic band within, like, a foot of your incision. Your pride will take a momentary hit, but it won't take you too long to wonder why you don't wear these comfortable ugly things all the time.
White Noise Machine
The sound of soothing ocean waves could zonk out both my children pretty quickly. I guess some babies just respond really well to steady whooshing noises, probably because they mimic the sound of their mother's heartbeat from their time in utero. Now we have a white noise machine (with multiple settings: white noise, ocean, rain, whale song) because my partner and I also like ocean sounds as we drift to sleep.
Just remember, you don't have to get fancy. In the end, a radio set to static can have a similar effect, or you can find hours of particular sounds on YouTube .
While I breastfed both of my children (for longer than I'd intended, actually), I credit supplementing formula with my success in that first month with my first child. Supplementing is a topic of much discussion and debate, and I can only speak personally. However, for me it was an important item in my "Nursing Mom Tool Kit."
So thanks to the formula company that sent me all those free samples. I didn't become a regular customer, but they came in handy.
Membership To A Big Box Store
Babies need a lot of stuff. Diapers, wipes, and formula (if you're going to formula feed). You're going to want to get all that as cheaply as possible. Moreover, shopping in general when you have a newborn can sometimes be challenging, so if you can buy in bulk you may not have to do weekly shopping trips.
And, I mean, free samples, you guys. Miles and miles of free samples.
Getting out of the house for a little while every day was important to me in that first crazy month. (Not to mention the fact that regular walks facilitate healing after a c-section.) If you're not much in the mood for babywearing (or if it's not for you) having a sturdy stroller you like can make these constitutionals more enjoyable. As with babywearing, you have a million different options (and in this case I don't think I'm exaggerating).
My boobs were basically out and in the open for the first two months after I had my children. Those babies are little, but they can eat, and if you're breastfeeding they need easy access. Enter the nursing tank. They look like regular old shirts but you can unclip them (usually one-handed) at the strap to whip out a breast for your tiny milk monster. This helps you avoid revealing any more of your torso than is necessary and keeps you from stretching out all your shirts.
Also, you will most likely be leaking all over the place so, you know, you're probably going to ruin a couple of these. Better them than a shirt you actually like, right?
Lots of babies are instantly soothed by a nice tight swaddle. Crying? Swaddle them. Fussy? Swaddle them. Won't sleep? Swaddle them. Simple swaddle blankets have got you covered.
However, even if your baby isn't one for swaddling (my son was a swaddle fiend but my daughter DNGAF one way or the other) the blankets themselves are like the Batman Utility Belt of Parenthood. Turns out, they're good for pretty much everything. They provide your baby with warmth, you with a lightweight nursing cover (if you want one), a soft place to do a diaper change (in a pinch), and the list goes on. I always recommend new parents pick up a package of these suckers just to be prepared for, well, whatever.
Despite the lore you may have heard from older relatives, you don't need to toughen up your nipples to prepare you for breastfeeding. However, that's not to say that your nipples aren't going to go through their own struggles. Look, neither you nor your baby will really know what you're doing at first, because there's a learning curve and your way up that curve has a lot of pinched, chomped, and sore nipples along the way. Nipple cream is your friend. (Just make sure you're not allergic to wool byproducts before use, since lanolin is often a main ingredient.)
Because if you think you binge watched a lot of shows before you had a baby, honey, you ain't seen nothing yet. There will be more than a few times when there's nothing else you can do but sit with your baby and watch hours upon hours of television.
I'm not going to pretend even a little bit that it's not awesome.