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The Ultimate Checklist – Out And About

It’s time to talk about leaving the house! For many new mums, this seems like a massive step which takes military precision to accomplish. It’s not unusual to make it out of the house several hours after your originally intended time. As part of my ultimate baby checklist series, here are my equipment ‘must haves’ to make getting out and about easier.

Out and About with Baby

Car Seat

Unless you live in central London you’re probably going to need a car seat. Even if you do live in central London and don’t have a car, car seats can still be useful. They are helpful for transporting baby between venues, including on the tube or train or other public transport.

There is plenty of guidance available on car seats and ways to keep your baby safe. Read the brilliant Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website here for all you need to know about current UK laws and regulations.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is an area where you should buy second-hand. You may be told that the seat you are buying has never been in an accident or had a fault, but you don’t have a guarantee of that. By buying a new seat, you know that it is structurally sound and have a manufacturer’s guarantee.

However, there are a lot of fancy seats and travel systems out there that are more bells and whistles than substance. You don’t need to buy something that costs more than your first car!

My recommendation

My favourite car seat on the market is the Doona. Visit their website here.

These gifted and brilliant people have figured out a way to integrate wheels into your car seat. It makes travelling with baby so much easier! You lift baby’s seat out of the car and don’t have to spend hours unpacking the boot to get out a separate wheeled base.

 My favourite car seat on the market

The integrated wheels means a quick conversion from car seat to stroller when you get out of the car, then another quick change from stroller to car seat if you have to climb stairs. It also frees up lots of space in the boot of your car for those trips to relatives you have to make or the normal supermarket shopping trip.

The price is pretty fantastic too and you can get extra add on’s like storage accessories, insect nets and rain covers. Everything you need in one neat little well-priced package! Yes, you will need to buy a car seat base as well as the seat itself. This is about £130, which still makes the whole package extremely good value for the flexibility of the product. It is a category O+ seat, so is suitable from birth to 13kgs, which is about 12-15 months old.

Pram

Having mentioned my love of the Dooma car seat, which transforms into a stroller, I have to admit that I don’t think a pram is necessarily essential. If you decide to buy one, I would still recommend buying new to avoid any worries over undeclared damage or faults. It’s also really important to check how easily it folds and make sure that it and it’s wheeled base will fit in your car. For that reason, you may want to go in store to check these things first, then you can either haggle for a great deal or walk away and buy online to save yourself some pennies.

Sling / Carrier

Baby wearing is a contentious issue for some mums. I believe it can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and make life that little bit easier to maintain when your little one wants to be close to you. Please make sure that you read the safety guidelines below and apply them every time you put your baby in a sling or carrier.

TICKS sling safety guidelines
TICKS images and guidelines used courtesy of the UK Sling Consortium.

Getting out and about is so much easier if you have a hand or two free. This is where slings and baby carriers can come in very handy! There are lots of different styles to choose from. You can make your own with fabric or buy ready made fabric or more fitted, shaped designs.

Simple fabric ones can be easier to store and transport when not in use, but sometime require a bit of origami style fabric folding to get the baby in to them! Others have easier clips and belts that make getting baby in and out easier, but they can end up being bulky.

If you get a chance, try and find a local sling group before you buy. These groups allow mums to swap slings and try out different ones to find out what works for them and their child at whatever stage of life they’ve reached. It’s also a great way to meet new friends!

Car Window Sun Shade

Travelling in sunny climes with little ones can be wonderful. However, if the sun gets into children’s eyes they can find it uncomfortable and they may wake if they were previously asleep. Adding a window shade to the car can reduce the glaring sun as well as protect little one from any harmful UV rays.

For many years, parents have been using suction cups to attach shades to windows, which is really straightforward. These kinds of shades come in all sorts of sizes and shapes to fit various window sizes. They can also have pictures of cartoon characters or cute animals for your child to look at.

However, we now have alternatives which can make life even better. There are some newer styles of shades which fit over the door itself. This enables you to open the window with the shade still in place. It also prevents any tiny fingers from pulling the shade off over and over again as part of a new and apparently exciting game!

 

Car Seat Mirrors

Driving with children in the car can be stressful for everyone. It’s sometimes hard to concentrate on the road, when world war seven is breaking out in the back seat! Luckily, someone has figured out how to help you monitor those back seat brawls without having to turn around and take your eyes off the road.

Buying a rear seat mirror is a very good investment. For rear facing baby car seats there are lots of inexpensive mirrors which tie around a back seat headrest to show you little one’s face. There are also mirrors you can fit under the main rear view mirror which enable you to see the full back seat and all those sibling squabbles!

Travel Cot

Having a new baby always means more travelling. Family and friends can be many miles away and having maternity leave often helps make travelling to see them more feasible. If it has been many years since those friends or family have had small children of their own, you will probably need to take a travel cot along with you.

Usefully, travel cots can be playpens too, if you aren’t confident letting baby loose in a strange house. They can be pretty reasonably priced if you would like the flexibility of having your own. However, if you aren’t expecting to do a lot of travelling, it might be worth just borrowing one from a friend if and when you need it.

Changing Bag

Apparently the latest fashion accessory, this will be your lifeline when getting out and about with baby. You can keep all the essentials in it so you can handle any surprises your baby has in store for you. I’ll spend another post discussing what to put into your bag. For now, why not explore the various options out there. They range from short handled handbag styles, to backpack types. There is something for everyone.

Options to consider: a fold up changing mat included – to make nappy changes on the move easier; waterproof or removable lining – there will be spills!; lots of compartments to keep things organised; fewer compartments to keep things simple; shoulder straps or backpack styles to keep your hands free; pram or stroller clips to attach the bag to the stroller.

Baby Travel Essentials

So there you have it. My equipment suggestions for your new baby’s travelling comfort. Don’t forget to comment if there is something you think I should have included or if you have any tips on great products out there.

While you’re here, why not check out the Ultimate Baby Equipment Checklist and my Nursery Equipment recommendations?

Baby Equipment Essentials
Getting Out and About with a Newborn
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The Ultimate Checklist – The Nursery

Here we go. You’ve read my Ultimate Baby Equipment Checklist, but don’t quite understand why I’ve included some things and not others. Perhaps you’re intrigued by my promise that all this stuff doesn’t have to cost the earth or could be done using stuff you already have. Well let me explain myself more thoroughly.

This is the first of several posts where I break down my ultimate checklist into smaller chunks. I’ll add the links to the others as I’ve written them. We’ll start here with the nursery.

Read the post on equipment to help you when you are out of the house here.

Baby nursery equipment

**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

Nursery Equipment

Moses Basket

A Moses basket or crib is simply a smaller version of a cot. It’s a safe flat bed to place baby in when they need a nap. It is a lot more portable than a full sized cot, so you can move it around the house. It is great if you want to put baby down to sleep while you do some housework or have a coffee, but don’t want them far away in their cot in your bedroom.

There are lots of different styles of Moses basket. Some have stands so they are off the ground. Some have rocking stands which might be useful if your baby likes movement to settle them. Just be careful with the rocking style as older siblings or pets might get their feet, fingers or paws trapped. They might also start rocking the baby by mistake which could wake them when you’ve just got them settled!

Whichever design you decide to go for, I wouldn’t recommend spending a really big amount on this. Babies often outgrow their Moses basket very quickly so it isn’t a long term investment. You could even try finding a second hand basket on Ebay, which will save you some pennies. If you decide to do this, please do buy a brand new mattress for the Moses basket even if the second hand one comes with it. There are certain stains and things you don’t want to share with a previous owner!

Cot

A cot is an essential item and here I do recommend buying new if you can. That is because you know that every new cot sold has to meet the current safety standards. If you buy a second hand cot, you might not know when it was manufactured or if it has a fault. More information on cot and sleep safety can be found here at the Infant Sleep Information Source.

The recommendations to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) include the baby sleeping in their parent’s room for their first six months. It is worth buying one which is height adjustable. That means that as little one gets bigger, you can drop the base of the cot to reduce the likelihood that they can climb out. It also means that in those early days, you don’t have to strain your back lifting little one up or down quite as far. You can even buy cots that can be converted into beds for toddlers. That saves you the expense of replacing it with a separate new bed.

You may want to consider a co-sleeping style cot for the early days. These are designed to attach to the side of your bed, making it easier for you to reach baby when they need you at night.

Cot Mattress

Whether you decide to buy a second-hand cot, or you are reusing the cot your older child had, please buy a new cot mattress for each new baby. Make sure that the size of the mattress fits your cot, leaving no gaps around the edges which could trap or hurt the baby. Also, makes sure it meets all current safety standards. This should be stated in the seller’s paperwork or website.

Dresser

Don’t believe what your local department store baby section says.  You don’t need a specific baby furniture suite with fancy wardrobes and drawers and cabinets etc. A standard set of drawers or a dresser is really all you’ll need to start with.

I promise that your baby won’t mind if it isn’t white with pictures of cartoon animals on it. You can buy second hand and upcycle it if you prefer.

When getting heavy furniture for the nursery, please make sure you buy and fit some wall anchors. This prevents the drawers falling onto baby if they pull on them. Our favourite Swedish furniture store has some tips on anchoring furniture here.

To start with I would go for something with plenty of drawers. That way you can have one drawer for vests, one for babygrows, one for hats and socks, one for cardigans and jackets etc. You won’t be folding stuff neatly and even if you do, a middle of the night scramble for a new babygrow will undo all that hard work!

I’m a bit of a sucker for the Ikea Kallax range, as you can be quite unique and inventive in the style of drawer inserts you choose. The drawers are also deep, which is good for all those extra clothes you’ll get as gifts!

Changing area

Changing areas can be fancy or simple. You can have a specific changing station which has a place to hold your bowl of water and drawers to hold your nappies and wipes.


You can manage just as well with a simple changing mat that you can place on the floor or on top of your bed or dresser.

I would recommend a changing mat as a minimum. Some mums like to simply change their baby’s nappy whilst the baby is lying on their bed. Unfortunately, a projectile poo can mean you have to change your entire duvet set at 2 am. I wouldn’t want to risk it!

The great thing about using a changing mat rather than having just one changing station, is that you can have multiple mats around the house. One will easily slide under the bed or beside the sofa. That means you can change nappies anywhere in the house rather than having to go upstairs every time.

It’s also worth having a nappy changing kit close by. I’ll write more on that in the post on equipment for changing (coming soon). Suffice to say for now, get a small basket or box which can hold some nappies, nappy bags, nappy cream, wipes or cotton wool pads and hand sanitiser. One basket per changing mat, and one changing mat per floor of the house makes everything a little easier.

Rocking chair

To be honest, I’m not totally convinced that this is really essential. Feeding chairs do support you in an upright position and can enable soothing movement for an unsettled baby. However, you can also just stand and move or sit in a fixed chair and rock your torso yourself.

Some nursing chairs come with foot rests, which can definitely be helpful for those times when all you seem to do is feed your baby. Others are just really comfy for long feeding sessions. There is no right or wrong answer here. See what your budget can stretch too or make do with your favourite armchair.

Laundry hamper

Really, you’ll need one. A lot. Babies are messy little people. They will get poo and urine and milk and vomit over themselves and their clothes frequently. Having somewhere to throw the clothes needing a wash means you don’t have to go back and forth to the machine hundreds of times a day.

Co-sleeper e.g. Sleepyhead

A big cot can be very disconcerting for a baby. They’ve spent nine months inside mum, where they can only stretch a little before they meet the resistance of mum’s body. When they then get placed in a cold flat cot where they stretch and stretch and find nothing within their reach, they don’t like it!

Recent trends include the emergence of co-sleepers like the sleepyhead. These can be really useful as they seem to reassure the baby by fitting around him or her. You can have a look at them on Amazon here. If you decide to get one, it’s worth getting a couple of extra covers at the same time, as middle of the night accidents happen, and that’s not the time to run a fast wash and dry cycle on your washing machine!

However, before Sleepyhead arrived on the market and started pulling hundreds of pounds from new parents, midwives had other tricks which use items you already have in your house! Grab one of your big bath sheets or towels. Roll it into a long sausage shape and place that sausage in a U shape around the sides and head of the baby. Magic! Your baby reaches out and feels reassured by the towel being close, and you’ve not had to spend any pennies!

Night light

Many babies sleep better if there is a little light in the room. It also saves you from stumbling around the nursery in the dark as you answer their cries at 3 am. No more stubbed toes as you search for the new pack of wipes or nappy bags!

You can use any light for a night light. Just adjust the bulb wattage so that it isn’t too bright for you, and you’re all set. However, if you want to get a specific baby night light it might be worth looking at this one by The Gro Company.

I like this type of night light because it actually has another function, so saves you money! Two products for the price of one is definitely a bargain. It also serves as a room thermometer….

Room Thermometer

Now, as I’ve recommended a night light which doubles as a room thermometer, you might think this is an essential. If you feel unsure about the temperature of your room, or your house as a whole, a thermometer can give you concrete measurements of heat. This might be really reassuring for you, in which case, buy one and rest easy trusting that little LCD screen to guide you about open vs closed windows and one blanket or two.

A thermometer is not completely essential though. Every house I visit as a midwife has a different ambient temperature. Some people like their houses cooler and fresher. Others (like me!) want to be wrapped in warmth as soon as they cross the threshold. Babies learn to adapt to their environment. They can be dressed in extra or fewer layers depending on the air temperature.

If you want to keep a cooler house, just add an extra cardigan, babygrow or blanket to what baby is wearing. The general rule is one extra layer than you have. If you are wearing a shirt and jumper, baby will need a vest, babygrow and cardigan or jacket. When you are feeling really warm and just wearing a camisole top, baby might just need a vest on.

If you feel comfortable being guided by your own temperature and clothing levels, that’s brilliant. Just make sure you check a baby’s temperature by putting your hand on their chest or the back of the neck between their shoulder blades. Their hands and feet are always cold so don’t be guided by that.

If you feel too unsure about that way of checking, then use a room thermometer to keep the temperature within the recommended range so that you have one less thing to worry about. It’s entirely up to you!

Baby Monitor

Checking on baby is a natural instinct, so most parents like to have a baby monitor of some kind set up. This means they can check that little one is ok, even if they’re in a different room. It can be really useful if you have a big house, where you wouldn’t necessarily hear the baby crying in the nursery if you were in the living room.

It can also be useful if you are having a night in with friends, because being a parent doesn’t mean you can’t be sociable! As sociable and fun as the night gets, you’ll still be able to hear baby from the monitor even if someone is in the middle of a funny anecdote.

Sound and/or vision monitors

The type of monitor you buy is entirely up to you. You may want to just be able to hear when your baby stirs or cries. In that case a simple sound monitor is for you. You can go a little fancier by getting one with a camera. This enables you to see your baby from another room if you prefer.

If you and your partner have the same type of smart phone, you can set them up together as a baby monitor. A simple app will turn one phone into the transmitter that you leave in the nursery. The other phone stays with you and receives any sounds signals the first phone picks up. This certainly works wonders except for those of us who might be a little addicted to our phones. The idea of leaving it in the nursery or by the cot all evening might not be something you can contemplate!

Further functionality

Some parents prefer a little more functionality in their baby monitors. You can get some which have a pressure pad which lies underneath the cot sheet. This picks up on the breathing movements of the baby and can sound an alarm if these movements stop. You can even get monitors which clip onto your baby’s nappy or foot. These provide a continuous assessment of their breathing or blood oxygen levels.

*the Owlet baby blood oxygen monitor seems to only be available via Amazon.com at the moment. You would need to add in import charges if you decide you want one and live in the UK.

Noise Machine

One great recommendation for helping babies to settle and sleep is white noise. This sort of background noise helps to mask any other household noises. Therefore that means baby won’t be woken by you flushing the toilet or watching the latest episode of your favourite TV show. It also helps to cover the noise of older siblings or even just adult conversations.

You can get really clever, and expensive, with noise machines. Some will play heartbeat sounds, so your baby thinks it is back in the womb. You can even get ones which upload your own baby’s heartbeat recorded from an antenatal scan! Some noise machines play nursery rhymes, whilst others go for nature sounds like rivers and rain.

                      

There are quite a few white noise apps for smart phones too. Some of them are free, which also makes sense for any budget conscious parents out there. Unfortunately, as with the baby monitor apps, you do need to leave your phone with the baby. Those parents who like to check on social media or news or communication apps might find that hard.

The alternative is a tablet or laptop and a good wifi signal. Youtube has some great videos with white noise. I like this channel and use it when I’m writing. You can find rain falling on a car, or on a tin roof. Similarly, there are river sounds and thunderstorms. Lots of them have black screens too, if you don’t want to damage your device by playing it for 10 hours straight!

Ultimate Baby Nursery Equipment

There we have it. My guide to what a nursery really needs, and a few tips to make it less of a strain on the purse strings. I hope you found it helpful. Above all, I hope you can see that babies don’t need extra special stuff although if you do feel more comfortable and reassured by having it that’s fine too.

Let me know what you think and any stuff you think I’ve missed by leaving a comment below.

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Postnatal Essentials for Mums

So much of the planning and preparation that happens during pregnancy is focused on the baby. This is wonderful and very helpful indeed. However, I’d like to remind you that you have another person to take care of too – you! Here are some of my tips for looking after yourself in the postnatal period.

Postnatal essentials for mums

None of us can see the future so I don’t know what type of labour and birth you’ll have. It might be really long and painful with lots of complications. It might be really quick and intense. You might deliver the baby by pushing him or her out yourself. Perhaps you’ll need a little extra help like a forceps or ventouse delivery (oh, look, another blog post explaining them to be written in my future!). You may have an emergency caesarian or you may know the date already for your planned caesarian.

However this baby arrives, you will be tired and sore and sensitive in various ways and places. In all of the excitement about finally meeting your little one, you need to take some time to take care of yourself. Having a postnatal care kit set up already can make doing this much easier.

Here are my recommendations for your postnatal essentials. Feel free to choose them all or just pick one or two that you know will be helpful for you.

If you are looking for gifts for friends who have had or are about to have a baby, check out my gifts for new parents post here.

**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

1. Maternity Pads

What to expect after birth:

You will bleed after you’ve had the baby. Women are always asking me how long they will bleed for, but unfortunately, that’s one question I don’t know the answer to! Every woman bleeds for a different amount of time and in a different way. There is even a difference in bleeding after each baby a woman has. Some women will bleed red blood for 6 weeks. Others have a really heavy loss for a couple of days then it changes to brown then creamy before disappearing about 10 days after the birth. I know some who bleed heavily for a few days, then the bleeding seems to settle down, only to come back heavier again when the baby is 10-12 days old.

Most of the time the bleeding will be like a heavy period for the first couple of days before settling down. It will probably be a little heavier if you have a busy active day and be lighter if you are resting at home. You might have a gush of blood after feeding your baby or when you first get up in the morning. You will also notice some contraction-like feelings after the birth. These are perfectly normal and are helping your body reduce the size of your uterus so you can fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes!

The time to seek medical advice is if you have a gush of blood unrelated to feeding or getting up after sitting for a long period; if you think the blood smells funny or infected; if you are passing clots of blood over 4cm diameter after the first day or two; or if you have severe abdominal pains.

What to buy:

Anyway, all that information leads me to my first recommendation: Buy some maternity pads. Don’t get too fancy with them. The thick unscented kind are softer for the first couple of days. You may want to wear two of them – one towards the front of your underwear, layered over one towards the back of your underwear – to catch any leaks or gushes. Eventually, you’ll probably want to go for the thinner kind with the fancy coloured lines of super absorbent somethingorother, but not for the first couple of days.

Even if you have a caesarian, you will still bleed after the birth. Having some maternity pads on hand is essential. They can even provide another benefit for you. Your scar will be covered by a dressing for the first 5 – 10 days. After that the dressing is removed, and whilst this is good for healing, it can be nerve-wracking! Put a maternity pad in the front part of your underwear over the area of the scar, and you’ve got some padding. This makes you a little more confident when moving around and prevents clothes rubbing on the area.

2. Big Undies!

Your inspiration for this period should be Bridget Jones, not a Kardashian of some kind. Get the underwear that reaches right up above your bikini line, towards your umbilicus. Honestly, you are not going to be showing it to anyone so no one needs to know, and comfort is essential for the first few days and weeks. Leaks are also inevitable, especially overnight, so it might be worth buying some mesh underwear which you can either wash and re-wear or dispose of after one use. Big undies help to pull in your stomach, which will look a little like jelly for a while. They are also really helpful if you end up with a caesarian as they don’t end right on the scar line like normal underwear tends to do!

3. A jug or glass

Weird recommendation? Maybe, but entirely essential. Keep it in the bathroom, right next to the toilet. When you go in to pass urine, fill it up first with warm water, then pour it down over yourself as you relieve yourself. The warm water will be soothing and help to dilute your urine so that it is less stingy!

4. Pain relief

You’d think having the contractions was the most painful part of the whole giving birth process, right? Although this is true for most women, I must warn you that you’ll find lots of achy painful bits after the birth too. Whether it’s your breasts, your perineum or even after pains, you may well need some pain relief. Stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen before the baby arrives. That way you won’t have to send your partner out to the 24 hour supermarket for urgent supplies in the middle of the night.

Sometimes, ibuprofen and paracetamol won’t be enough to control the pain. This might be because of the type of delivery you had or if you get an infection. If you find the pain is still unbearable, please speak to your doctor or midwife about it as they may recommend taking something stronger. There are other pain killers that are safe to use in the postnatal period and while breastfeeding. Generally, if you need these it is just for a couple of days to get the pain under control before it naturally settles and subsides.

5. Breast pads

Even if you aren’t planning on breastfeeding, it’s worth grabbing a pack or two of these. That’s because your body is going to automatically make milk, and that milk might well automatically flow when your baby cries! Having pads on hand to catch any wayward leaks saves the need for multiple changes of top each day.

6. Nipple cream

If you are breastfeeding, you need to check out my post on Breastfeeding Essentials. If you don’t have time to read another post, then let me encourage you to at least get some nipple cream. Nipples can get sore, even when the baby has a good attachment. Nipple cream will be your best friend for the first few days or weeks.

7. Laxatives

Ok, this one is a big deal! It’s one of the most frightening things you have to do after birth – opening your bowels!

Some women find that they don’t need to open their bowels for a few days after birth. This is very normal, especially as some women have a clear-out as they go into labour (yes, I do mean diarrhoea). Other mums empty their bowels as the baby is born – this is also very very normal and shouldn’t be something you worry about.

The key is to keep eating and drinking, including plenty of fluids, fruit and fibre. It’s also really important to go to the loo when you know there is something there to get rid of. Don’t hold it in out of fear! The longer it stays inside, the more water gets reabsorbed from it, so the harder it is to push out!

When you decide to face the music, make sure you have someone you can leave baby with, so that you can relax and sit on the loo for as long as it takes. Try holding a maternity pad over the front area to give that support as you push. Most importantly, don’t worry! I’ve never seen anyone split apart from opening their bowels. It’s definitely a psychological challenge rather than a physical one.

If you decide that you need to go but it won’t happen naturally, ask your doctor about getting some laxatives. There are some that are safe to use when breastfeeding and can help ease things along.

8. Pregnancy pillow – v or c shaped

Pregnancy pillows must be the world’s best kept secret! I really don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one. They make everything so much comfier! You may well have found a V shaped pillow helpful during pregnancy to get into a good sleeping position. In the postnatal period, that pillow comes in very handy again. You can sit up in bed, or lounge on the sofa. It can be useful to support as you feed. So many uses!

You can also get C shaped pillows, generally described as breastfeeding pillows. They can be really useful for some mums, as they can help support the baby at your breast during a feed, or give some cushioning to a caesarian scar. However, some people find that they are more of a hindrance than a help to good positioning and attachment. They seem to report that the V shaped pillows or ordinary rectangular ones work better. Try it out for yourself and find out what works for you.

9. Notebook

This is a definite essential because ‘Baby Brain’ is real, people! After a night of non-stop feeding and a day without naps because all your friends want to hold the baby, you might not even remember your own name!

Keep a notebook and pen handy wherever you go. You can makes notes on baby’s feeding and nappy habits. You can write down which breast you fed from last and how long for. Keep a record of your gifts so you can write thank you cards later, or simply start your to-do list for the day. Whatever you can think of, a notebook will help. It can be a fancy smart phone app, or an old-fashioned paper one. It doesn’t matter, just as long as it helps you to stay sane and remember bin day! How does a little one fill up the rubbish bin so quickly?! Personally, I think a paper one might be a lovely memento to keep and look back on in the future, but I’m just a sentimental kind of gal. 😉

10. Water bottle and snacks

This one shouldn’t really require too much of an explanation. You are going to be busy being a mum and partner and life coach and cheerleader and friend and comforter and all the other brilliant things that make you you. It can be hard to remember to feed yourself, so make it a little easier by keeping a water bottle close at hand and some pre-packed calorific goodness by your side. That way, even when you don’t manage a proper meal, you’ve got some supplies on board to keep you going.

11. Wine and chocolate

Also an essential that should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Having a baby is hard work. Keeping that baby alive is seriously stressful. Staying kind and welcoming to an endless procession of visitors who want to hold the baby when you can hardly keep your eyes open is a feat of strength! Treating yourself is not only OK, it’s important. One glass of wine at lunch is not going to be the end of the world, and if the only calories you get for a 12 hour period come from a chocolate or two, it doesn’t matter.

I would recommend keeping the wine as a midday treat if you can. That’s because often newborn babies like to co-sleep, and co-sleeping is safest when you don’t have alcohol in your system. A small lunchtime glass will have worn off by bedtime, so it’s less to worry about on that score.

So there we have it – my list of essentials for a smooth and comfy postnatal period. Let me know what you think in the comments. Have I missed something? What helped you most in those early days?

Postnatal essentials for new mums

Items that will help postpartum recovery for new mums
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The Ultimate Baby Equipment Checklist

You know how it goes. You want to be organised in time for baby’s arrival and the world wide web must be full of great ideas on what you need. Unfortunately, you discover exactly that! The internet is bulging with baby registry lists and new mum lists and equipment lists. Some seem incredibly short so you worry that they’re missing things. Others consider a baby bouncy chair that looks like a space rocket and has 273 modes to be essential!

Don’t panic! In my ongoing efforts to simplify the whole ‘having a baby’ thing for you, I’ve scoured those lists and created my own. I’ve taken lots of great ideas and left out the weird and wacky ones. Check it out below and let me know what you think in the comments section.

I’m going to be creating several blog posts over the next few weeks which will split this list down. I’ll discuss my reasons for adding and excluding certain items. I’ll also give hints and tips on how to save money by using cheaper alternatives or repurposing items you already own! Having a baby doesn’t have to ruin your bank account. I will help you find those great equipment deals and cost savings. Check back at the blog page to catch all my tips as I post them.

The first few posts are up! I cover the equipment for baby’s nursery here. For the ‘out and about’ equipment, read this. You’ll find health supplies here and bath-time equipment here.

 

Equipment checklist

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Latest news, Newborn Care, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Problems

Group B Strep in Pregnancy

You might have heard of it, you might have seen a Facebook post about it or read a poster somewhere. Group B Strep is becoming more widely known about and talked about in pregnancy. So what is it and what impact can it have on your pregnancy, your labour and birth and your baby?

Mum and baby

What is Group B Strep?

Simply put, Group B Strep is a bacteria which is found in about 30% of women. That’s one in three of you and your friends. Most of the time, this bacteria causes no problems whatsoever. It’s like those bacteria in your digestive system which help you to break down your food. Group B Strep bacteria (GBS) are most often found in your vagina or rectum, although occasionally they can transfer to your urine. This can cause a urine infection, which should be treated with antibiotics as soon as it is found.

bacteria in petri dish

How do I know if I’ve got Group B Strep?

Most women discover they have Group B Strep because it appears in their urine during pregnancy.  They may or may not have any symptoms of a urine infection. Your midwife may find it in the urine sample you provide at your booking appointment. Alternatively, you may be aware of a urine infection and Group B Strep is identified as the cause.

With the increase in awareness of Group B Strep and the implications it has on pregnancy, some women ask to be tested. This testing is best done between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. Your own midwife can usually do this at your GP surgery. You will need to sweep a long-handled cotton bud around the inside of your vagina. You put the cotton bud into a tube with a tiny amount of solution in it and the tube and cotton bud are sent to the laboratory. In a day or two, the laboratory can tell you if the sample has grown Group B Strep.

The newest type of test for Group B Strep is the enriched culture medium test which may or may not be available within your local area. Please ask your own midwife for details.

Implications of Group B Strep on Pregnancy

Finding out that you have Group B Strep during your pregnancy does not have a large impact on your care during the pregnancy itself. If the bacteria is found in your vagina or rectum, you will not need any antenatal treatment. If it is found in your urine, we recommend that you have some antibiotics to treat the urine infection.

capsules

Implications of Group B Strep on Labour and Birth

You will be advised to have antibiotics in labour if you have been identified as carrying the Group B Strep bacteria, whether that is during the current pregnancy or at any point in the past. These will be given via a drip in the back of your hand or in your arm. You will get a dose every 4 hours for as long as labour lasts. It’s really important to mention to the hospital that you’ve had Group B Strep when you phone them in labour. The midwife takes into account the time it takes for you to get to the hospital as well as the time it takes to provide the antibiotics when they invite you in to be assessed.

Providing antibiotics in labour has been shown to reduce the risk of the baby getting Group B Strep. It is a pretty simple procedure which can keep your baby safe. That is why it is recommended practice in the UK. Please discuss this further with your midwife or Obstetrician if you have any other concerns.

Implications of Group B Strep on Your Baby

Baby sleeping

Whilst most babies are fine even with exposure to Group B Strep, a small minority can get an infection from it. An even smaller minority can have serious consequences from that infection.

For that reason, if we know that you have carried Group B Strep in the past or in the current pregnancy, we recommend the use of antibiotics in labour. We also recommend that you stay in hospital for at least 12-24 hours after the birth. This enables us to monitor your baby’s heart rate, breathing, temperature and general condition every couple of hours and ensure no infection occurs.

If any signs of infection occur, such as an increase or decrease in temperature, breathing rate or heart rate, your baby will be referred to a neonatal doctor to assess what treatment may be required. Sometimes the baby will need a course of IV antibiotics, which usually lasts between 5 and 7 days. In most cases, you will still be able to care for your baby yourself while the antibiotics are given. A small number of cases may need extra support from a Special Care Baby Unit to help them fight the infection.

Further Reading

Please try not to read every internet story on Group B Strep. There are very heartbreaking cases out there and the internet would have you believe they are the most common kind. The reality as seen in the midwifery, obstetric and neonatal world is that most cases of Group B Strep infection will respond quickly to a course of antibiotics with no long-term effects.

You can read more in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists patient information leaflet, available here.

 

Group B Strep

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Infant feeding, Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

12 Essentials for Breastfeeding Mums

Amongst the many many lists of baby equipment strewn across the internet, you’ll find many variations of so-called ‘essentials’.  What is essential for one person is obviously not essential for another! I thought perhaps I could help bring some clarity to the subject by listing my favourite essentials for breastfeeding mums. These are based on my midwifery experience with hundreds and hundreds of new mums dealing with daily breastfeeding challenges.

**This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

Water bottle

Hydrating is essential when you are feeding a baby. As some feeds can take up to an hour, it’s definitely worth having a source of water nearby. A water bottle will definitely come in useful as it can go wherever you go in the house to feed the baby!

I like this sort of bottle, which shows how much you should be drinking by a certain time of day. It helps you make sure you are getting the right amount of fluid, not just a glass or two. Fill it up twice a day – morning and lunchtime – and you know you’ve got the minimum 2 litres needed. Fill it up three times and you’re doing brilliantly!

Nipple Cream

The reality of breastfeeding is not all rose coloured mums and babes smiling in a shaft of sunlight. Sometimes there is soreness, cracks and bleeding. Your nipples have to adjust from being areas treated gently and softly and covered by a protecting bra, to being worked constantly, sucked and stretched and gummed 23.5 hours a day. It is no wonder that they will often get really painful, with cracks or bleeding noticeable.

While you should always get your attachment and positioning checked if you develop sore nipples, sometimes your body just needs to harden them. It’s like a hiker going on a 25-mile walk. If they’ve only walked 800 metres a day before, their feet are going to develop blisters. If they slowly work up to 25 miles each day, the skin on their feet thickens and hardens which makes blisters much rarer.

As a protective and preventative measure, nipple cream can be really useful. I would recommend buying several tubes of it so that you have one in each place you are likely to feed, plus one in your handbag. If you feed downstairs with the cream upstairs, the likelihood is you will forget to head upstairs and apply the cream after the feed. Just one forgotten application can make more difference than you think.

Nipple cream creates a moist barrier which allows the skin to recover and repair any damage. It is great to use because you don’t have to wipe it off before a feed. Lansinoh is one of the more well-known brands, but feel free to try some other brands and compare the results!

Vaseline

Another tip hot off the press from a London mum friend of mine is Vaseline. Apparently, the midwife helping her in the postnatal ward recommended using lashings of the stuff to repair cracked nipples even more quickly than the standard nipple cream does. My friend can testify to the truth of that promise!

There are two things to remember here: first, use a lot of the stuff! Not a thin layer like nipple cream, but a good thick coating is what it takes to work its magic. Also, you will need to remove this before you feed the baby.

So, have a go and let me know what you think! Is this a London secret that I need to start sharing up in the north?!

 

Nipple shells

The wonder of nipple shells is that they work on two fronts. First, they catch all that extra milk that you might find drips from one nipple as you feed from the other. We don’t want to waste such a precious resource, so by catching it we can store it and use it in the future when we need to top baby up or go out for an evening. Try looking at Pinterest for more ideas on uses for breast milk other than feeding babies!

The other wonderful thing about nipple shells is that they lift your shirt or top off your nipple which, as mentioned above, may be a little sore!

You can go even further and use one of these for actively collecting the milk which drips from the free breast during feeding. The vacuum means you are more likely to collect a larger amount of milk, which can be useful for increasing milk supply.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

If you are collecting all that precious breast milk, you are going to need to store it in something. I cannot recommend these storage bags enough. They are strong, just the right size, and enable you to label the date and time the milk was collected! Did you know that the consistency of your milk changes according to the time of day you produced it? It is often thicker in the evenings and overnight, which helps to keep baby settled for longer.

Snuffle Babe

Any breastfeeding mother can tell you the tale of their baby’s first cold. However and whenever it happens, it can have a serious impact on feeding. This is simply because if your baby has a stuffy, blocked nose, he or she struggles to breathe out of their nose as they feed at the breast. Feeds become shorter but almost constant, with lots of breaks and coughing up the precious milk they’ve just managed to drink.

If you are concerned about your baby’s health, please see your GP sooner rather than later. They will be able to reassure you whether it is just a cold which will pass or whether your baby needs more help to recover.

Once your GP has confirmed that the baby has a simple cold, you can help them in ways which are similar to those you would use yourself. You have probably heard of Vicks vapour rub, which can be rubbed onto a child or adult’s back, chest or feet. The unique smell calms coughs and eases congestion.

Snuffle Babe is a similar product made just for babies, so you can be confident using it on your littlest ones.

Saline Drops

Another essential for your baby’s first cold is saline drops. They are simply a small bottle of salty water which you can squirt up your baby’s nose. Although you may wonder why you would want to do this, you will find that this flushes out all the snot blocking their nose and helps them to breathe more easily.

If you want to be ‘Wonder Mum’ you can even try a nasal aspirator, which is apparently even more effective! This simple device enables you to literally suck out all the gunk from your baby’s nose. There is a filter between your mouth and the gunk, so you don’t get a nasty surprise! When my mum first told me she had used one of these on me, many decades ago, I was horrified. However, I now understand the clear and urgent need to resolve blocked noses as soon as possible! My poor mum didn’t have the luxury of a filter protecting her from inhaling all my gunk – which goes to show the depths of love mums go to, to ease baby’s discomfort and get some sleep! Thank goodness for some advances in technology!

Nursing Bras / Nursing Tops

The other very essential thing for feeding baby, especially at night or in public, is a proper nursing top. This allows you to access the feeding area without having to completely strip off. Most nursing tops also provide a low but significant level of support which you don’t find in normal cami-style tops. Try searching on Amazon here.

If you have the time and the pennies, you can search the internet and online retailers for many cleverly styled nursing tops. If you don’t have the time or pennies to do so, Pinterest can still offer suggestions for altering your normal cami-tops to make them nursing tops.

The very important note is to not skimp when you buy a nursing bra or two! I’m not offering online links for this as I think it’s important to be seen face to face by a bra-fitting expert who can guide you to the right fit and style for you. In the UK, most department stores offer a face to face bra fitting service, and Bravissimo are brilliant for those who may have a larger cup size. Shop around for choice but don’t skimp on quality!

Muslin Cloths

After a good feed comes a good burp and occasionally some positing. Muslin cloths are great for catching anything the baby brings up. They are also brilliant for putting over your shoulder or knee or arm etc when winding or just holding babies. Use them as a sheet on a makeshift bed and dry your tears when the baby blues arrive. You can even use them to squeeze or bite at that point of pain at the beginning of the feed when baby is pulling your nipple out. You know the one, where you clench your fists and curl your toes? Don’t go anywhere without two or three of these lifesavers!

Breast Pads

Have you noticed that your milk will flow at the slightest thing? The power of hormones means even someone else’s baby crying can start your breasts dripping! To avoid rather obviously damp circles on every top you own, make sure you have a good supply of breast pads. They absorb the milk and keep you dry.

Snacks

The other essential for breastfeeding mums to have on hand is a snack of some kind. You may have a long feed ahead, and you need to keep your strength up. Having a pre-packed snack within reach makes this really simple. If you are super organised you could try to create your own homemade organic superfood snacks, but this is real life, people! Most of us are impressed when we manage a shower by 3pm. Let someone else make your snacks for you! You can turn into that wonder woman a few months down the line if you have the energy!

Pretty bags for storing it all!

With all these essentials to keep handy, it’s definitely worth investing in a small, pretty bag or two. Makeup bags can be the perfect size to hold a few pads, a nipple shell, snacks, and creams and keep them close to you. You could have one bag that moves around the house with you. You could even create a couple of them and keep them in your favourite feeding spots.

Breastfeeding supplies

Whatever your essentials list holds, just remember you are doing a brilliant job. Be kind to yourself. Have a treat or two. Embrace naps. These early days can be intense but you can do this!

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Infant feeding, Labour and Birth, Latest news, Newborn Care

Feeding tips for slow or sleepy feeders

Feeding your baby is a fierce biological drive which rises in a mother often as soon as the baby is born. It can be extremely worrying when a baby is not making much effort to try and feed or seems more interested in sleeping than feeding.

mother feeding

Let me state at the very beginning that if you have any concerns regarding your baby’s health including feeding you MUST CONSULT A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY! The following suggestions are only suitable for healthy babies born after 37 weeks of pregnancy, who weigh 2.8kg or above (6lbs 3oz). You can use them while you wait for your health professional to see you but do not delay seeking medical advice.

Why does baby seem reluctant to feed?

It can be helpful to consider any possible reasons for the baby being slow to start feeding.

Some mums may have had diamorphine or pethidine during labour to reduce labour pain. These pain-relieving drugs can make labour easier to bear, but they also pass across to the baby. It is not uncommon for babies whose mum had these medications to be more interested in sleeping them off than in feeding for the first 24 hours or so.

Babies can get tired after a long labour. They may also still have quite a lot of mucus and other gunk in their stomach. This is very normal, but it fools the baby into thinking they are full so they don’t look for milk. It’s similar to how you feel after a large Sunday lunch with all the trimmings. You are often keen for an afternoon nap so you can digest everything! The baby thinks the mucus in its stomach is a large meal, so decides to sleep while it digests. Unfortunately, mucus can take time to be digested or coughed up, so babies can delay feeding while they do this.

Getting in the mood for a feed

breastfeeding baby

One of the simplest ways to remind baby that feeding is a good option is to put them close to the breast! Your breasts start producing colostrum or milk as soon as the baby is born, although the amounts may be small to start with. When you cuddle your baby close to your chest they can smell the milk and that may be enough to persuade them to try feeding.

Try some skin to skin contact. Skin to skin contact is brilliant for mums and babies. It helps babies regulate their temperature and breathing. It also calms them down and helps their stress hormones to return to normal levels after rising during labour.

Skin to skin contact is pretty easy to do. Just take off your top and any maternity or nursing bra you might have, and strip your baby down to his or her nappy. Put baby on your chest between your breasts and cover both of you with a blanket or sheet or two to keep warm.

This will often be enough to enable the baby to smell your milk and move across to the breast by themselves! This amazing reflex they have of moving towards the breast can be seen in lots of youtube videos if you are interested. Just try searching for ‘Biological nurturing’.

Secret Midwife’s Tip for Faster Skin to Skin

Skin to skin can be brilliant for getting baby to feed. However, it isn’t always easy or practical when you have guests visiting or have to look after other children. It can also be frustrating to undress a baby every 2-3 hours to get them to feed.

One great tip handed down by generations of midwives working on postnatal wards is to dress baby in a centre fastening babygro without a vest. You might need another layer such as a cardigan or an extra blanket to keep them warm when they are sleeping. When it comes to feeding time, you can just unbutton the cardigan and unfasten the babygro. Keep baby’s arms and legs in the babygro but open the front of the babygro wide. This means there will be a large enough area of the baby’s chest to enable you to do mini skin to skin! It also means baby doesn’t get cold arms and legs and redressing them after the feed is much easier.

Hand Expressing

sleeping baby

One of the most effective techniques for getting a sleepy baby to feed is to remind them what they’re missing. If a baby gets a little milk into their system, they often wake up enough to want to feed. So how do you get milk into a sleeping baby? It’s really very simple.

Hand expression is a key skill for mothers of sleepy babies. I imagine I’ll do a longer blog post with more in-depth technical explanations at some point. At present though, let’s keep it short and simple. After all, there’s a baby to feed!

Make sure you are somewhere that you can relax and not be disturbed. Oxytocin is a key hormone in producing milk and it isn’t going to flow so easily in a room full of friends, family, a screaming toddler and the postie dropping off baby gifts! You need to feel safe and comfortable.

Make a C shape with your thumb and forefinger. It’s a bit like miming a crab’s claw! Using that C shape, put your fingers around the edge of your areola. That’s the pigmented part of the skin that surrounds the nipple. Don’t put your fingers directly on the nipple, as there is no breast tissue there for you to stimulate. Placing your fingers further back towards the area where your areola meets the normal skin tissue will help you find more milk ducts to compress.

With your fingers touching your skin, gently press your fingers towards each other, squeezing your breast in the process. Don’t slide your fingers forwards towards your nipple or backwards towards your chest wall. Just keep them pinching directly towards each other.

Getting Milk into a Closed Mouth

It may take a few seconds or more but you should start to see little droplets of colostrum at your nipple within a minute or two. This is the good stuff! Now, all we need to do is give that to the baby and let its sugary goodness wake them up enough to want to try feeding.

You may be shouting at the screen that it’s no good having the milk if the baby is asleep and won’t open their mouth. Don’t worry, I’ve got a midwife’s tip for that too!

It is true that if a baby doesn’t want to open their mouth, it’s pretty difficult to force them. Parents who give milk via a bottle will have experienced the frustration of a baby crying for milk but refusing to open their gums to allow the teat in! Thankfully, we don’t need to get the milk past their gums.

Have you ever heard the term ‘pet lip’? It’s used to describe a baby or child who has rolled their bottom lip out and down as a sign of unhappiness. It’s actually really useful to practice it yourself so you understand what I mean. Go on. No one is watching! Without opening your teeth, just roll your bottom lip forward and down, almost like it’s inside out. You’ll notice that the lovely pinkish area of tissue that sits between your lips and your teeth is exposed. This is a mucous membrane and it’s all we need to get some calories into a sleeping baby.

Finger Feeding

So, the next step is to transfer those lovely drops of colostrum to the baby. The simplest way to do this is to run your little finger over the droplet so it transfers to the finger. Take this milk covered finger and run it along the inside of the baby’s bottom or top lip. You don’t need to force the finger in between their gums. Simply coating the mucous membrane will be enough.

Once you’ve done it, go back and hand express another drop and repeat the process. Yes, it’s time-consuming but it works miracles! If you do this for 5 – 10 minutes, the baby will have a crusty milky mouth. More importantly, they will have absorbed the milky goodness and their body will normally wake them up as they decide they want more! That is the time to put your baby to the breast so that they can actively feed themselves.

Making Baby Less Comfortable

Crying baby

Okay, this section shows that I’ve got my midwife hat on, rather than that cuddly mummy hat that keeps babies cozy at all times. The truth is that sometimes babies are just too comfortable sleeping to rouse themselves to feed. A few weeks down the line, I would never encourage you to wake a sleeping baby. During the first couple of days, though, it is helpful in stimulating milk production and establishing breastfeeding to wake babies if they sleep too long.

How long is too long? That depends on many factors and you should be guided by your midwife or health professional. I tend to err on the side of caution and encourage waking to feed if they haven’t done so themselves by 4 hours after the end of the last feed. That’s just until we know that baby has figured out feeding and is putting weight back on after their initial weight loss.

For a baby who hasn’t yet started attaching to the breast, who seems full of mucous or very sleepy, I would encourage you to hand express and finger feed every 2 – 3 hours. Although this is a lot of work, it ensures that even if baby only decides to wake and feed at every other finger feed session, they are still getting enough milk to maintain their health. It also ensures that you are stimulating your milk production in those essential first few days whilst the baby is a little too sleepy to do so.

Waking Techniques

My ‘Pick them up and let them hang’ technique is often very effective at waking babies, although it does tug at the heartstrings. Holding the baby securely with both hands under their armpits, lift them up into the air so that their legs are no longer supported by the bed or your lap. Although the baby is perfectly safe, they don’t like the sensation of having their bottom half unsupported, so it usually wakes them up and sometimes even makes them a little upset. I don’t recommend doing it for long periods! Just use it as a 2-second thing to wake them up enough to put them on the breast.

The other surefire way to wake a baby is to change their nappy! You’ll probably have noticed that babies do not like getting naked and having their bottom wiped. This makes it an excellent tool for waking them up if you need to. You may just need to open their babygro to wake them. You may need to go all the way to changing the nappy (or opening it then closing it again if it is clean).

Another good way to wake a baby is to have a bath with them. This ticks lots of boxes for waking baby – they get naked and they get skin to skin! Of course, it only works if your house has a bath and if you don’t have lots of other children, pets and partners needing your attention!

A Suggested Feeding Schedule for Sleepy or Reluctant Babies

Every two hours start off by doing skin to skin for at least 30 minutes. Follow this by hand expressing for 5 to 10 minutes. Use your finger to transfer the drops of milk to the baby’s rolled down lips as described above. After finger feeding like this for 10 minutes, you can settle baby back to sleep. Hopefully, they won’t settle and will insist on having a proper active feed.

If the baby has a good feed of 10-15 minutes of active sucking and swallowing with rhythmic pauses, you can let them sleep for another 3 – 3.5 hours before waking them again.

If the baby decides they don’t want to feed after you’ve hand expressed, or if they only actively feed for less than 10 minutes, repeat the process in another 2 hours.

When to Seek Immediate Assistance

Always, always ask for professional advice if you are at all worried about your baby’s feeding or lack of it. Whilst most babies will wake up and start feeding themselves, a slow or reluctant feeder can be a sign that the baby is unwell. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please take your baby to the nearest Emergency Care Centre immediately.

  • Jitteriness – this is a repetitive unprovoked movement in one or more limbs
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Floppy limbs
  • Poor sucking or refusal of the breast or bottle
  • Any breathing problems or colour changes
  • High pitched crying
  • Problems maintaining body temperature
  • Unresponsive and/or seizures

Sleepy feeders

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