10 Motherhood must-haves to pick up before the baby gets here
First-time parents can get overwhelmed by the abundance of gadgets and gizmos aimed at newborns. Seven children and countless unnecessary purchases later, Jen Hogan has whittled it down to 10 must-have items
Shortly after the first time I saw the two tell-tale pink lines that indicated life was about to change dramatically, my elation, shock and sense of surrealism gave way to a hundred different questions. I wondered if the baby would be a boy or a girl. I wondered what we would call the baby. I wondered what food I should avoid and I wondered if those few drinks I had prior to finding out that I was pregnant would prove harmful.
As the weeks passed, the pregnancy thankfully progressed safely, my tummy grew rapidly larger and my mind moved on to the acquisition of practical equipment. This baby was a first grandchild on both sides so with no nieces or nephews to learn from, I was a marketer's dream!
At this stage I've now been the mother of a newborn seven times and I have learned along the way that there are many things aimed at mums-to-be which sound wonderful in theory, but in reality, after baby's arrival, just end up gathering dust in the attic.
With that in mind, I've compiled a list, based on my experience, of must-have items for new mums and mums-to-be. Things that will help to make life easier, rather than just adding to the mountain of clutter that already goes hand in hand with having a newborn...
1 Pregnancy pillow Sleep Plus Body Pillow, €55.99 @ Mothercare
These body-length pillows offer the best chance of getting a decent night's sleep from mid-pregnancy on when a burgeoning bump makes getting into any sort of comfortable position seem almost impossible. The length of the pillow means that as well as supporting a bump, it can be placed between knees and ankles, which can significantly help with hip pain. The wonderful thing about the pregnancy pillow is that its life can be prolonged beyond pregnancy, as it doubles as a nursing and support pillow after baby's arrival. This was, without a doubt, one of my best purchases.
2 Baby carrier/baby sling Tomy Classic Baby Carrier, €54.99 @ Boots
Irrespective of whether or not the general concept of "babywearing" is for you, a sling or a baby carrier can make an enormous difference if you're dealing with a fretful baby or a baby who especially likes to be held. My daughter was colicky from an early age and her favoured position was an upright one. The baby carrier meant that I had free hands to get other things done and my daughter was much more comfortable and relaxed. The added bonus was that I never missed a baby snuggle and, if you've a willing partner, this is a load you can quite literally share.
3 Vests and camisoles 100% mulberry silk camisole & shorts set in lunar grey, €120 @ theethicalsilkco.com
These are a fantastic investment for any mum who hopes or intends to breastfeed. When worn under ordinary clothes, they can transform most tops into practical breastfeeding wear without any significant expense - plus, they can be bought in an array of colours. The advantage in wearing a vest is that any mum who might be feeling a little self-conscious, particularly in the early weeks after giving birth, can keep their tummy covered while feeding.
4 Baby bath with built-in support Acqua Bambino Two-stage Bath, reduced to €30.40 @ Mamas & Papas
For my first child I wanted a theme. Winnie the Pooh was the theme and, lovely though it was, not everything that I bought to fit in with the theme was necessarily the most practical purchase. I would include the bath that I bought for my daughter in that. Bathing a slippery newborn is a scary task, particularly the first few times, and a bath purchased in Mamas and Papas for my second child has been in place for all the rest that followed. With moulded newborn support within, and a second support position for a sitting baby, it lasts well beyond the early weeks. While obviously a baby should never be left unattended in the bath, the built-in support means less sore backs for the bathing parent. However, the splashing and resulting wet floor from an excited baby brings its own hazards...
5 Steriliser Philips AVENT Microwave Steam Steriliser, €17.49 @ Boots
Whether you choose to breast or bottle feed, chances are you'll need a steriliser. Breastfeeding mums might choose to express later down the road and bottles, soothers and manual breast pumps will all need to be sterilised in the early months. The type of steriliser that you purchase will largely depend on the type of bottles that you intend to use. Some bottles claim to be more like the breast for easy adaptation for breastfed babies, while some claim to reduce the likelihood of colic. Whichever you choose, the amount of time the steriliser takes to sterilise is worth considering. Speed can feel very much of the essence if you need a clean bottle quickly for an upset baby, or a manual pump at the ready to help alleviate engorged breasts.
6 Lansinoh HPA Lanolin €14.99 (40ml) @ Boots
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience but the early days in particular can sometimes be painful as mum and baby learn a new skill together. Lansinoh nipple cream can help with the discomfort and is safe for consumption by babies so there's no need to remove it before feeding.
Nursing bras, along with their obvious convenience, are the most comfortable underwear of choice when it comes to breastfeeding. Thankfully, much has improved in terms of style and places such as Mothercare and Marks & Spencer -to name but two - have an impressive array on offer. Still, it's not worth buying too many bras in advance as, after birth, your breasts can reach pretty impressive proportions! Best to wait a few days and get properly measured.
With all the beautiful baby clothes available, the temptation to stock up on tiny boys' and girls' clothes is all too common. The reality, though, is that most babies spend a lot of their early days in lovely, soft, comfortable babygros. It's difficult to know what size to buy and worth noting that "newborn" represents a different weight in different shops, so always check the label before purchase. Babies grow incredibly quickly and, while too many of the same size can seem a waste, it is important to allow for the inevitable "poo-namis" that will occur and the uncanny ability of babies to soak their clothing as soon as a nappy is removed. A good guide is six babygros and six baby vests to start with and, after baby is born, depending on his/her size, more can be purchased.
8 Baby monitors
Even though it's unlikely baby will be very far from you in the early days or weeks, baby monitors can give you extra peace of mind. Simple things like hanging out washing, or taking a shower become a much bigger ordeal when you're alone in the house with a baby. A portable monitor means, among other things, that you can take that shower in peace without having to hop in and out every thirty seconds, ready to respond to the imaginary cries that you think you hear over the noise of the running water.
9 Bouncer/baby rocker Fisher-Price Rainforest Friends Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, €61.99 @ Smyths
These are great for a change of location for baby and to allow baby to see (in due course) what's going on around him. A good option is a chair that grows with your baby as some bouncers are unsuitable once a baby can sit unaided. The Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker can recline fully so is suitable from birth and adjusts accordingly as baby gets older, ultimately becoming a rocker for your toddler. Essential for managing a trip to the bathroom with baby safely secured.
10 Playmat/play gym Playgro Happy Neighbourhood Jumbo Mat, €32.99 @ Smyths
When my first child was born I took a notion that her unsettled tendencies were down to boredom. The Public Health Nurse was quite adamant (and yes, as it turned out, quite right) that colic was the source of my little lady's distress. I discovered, however, that she was quite happy to spend periods of time on her playmat. Like most first-time parents, I have hours of recordings of my daughter when she was a young baby and, for most of it, she was lying on her mat. It became very much her "happy place". I have continued with playmats for all the other children, though I must concede the same hours of recordings are not there... Playmats are a great tool for encouraging tummy time. They also help with the development of baby's cognitive skills, and can help with gross motor development too. It's win-win
Shopping for baby can be great fun and is all part of the excitement, build-up and preparation for the impending arrival. The important thing to remember is that babies' needs are simple. Whether mum or dad get carried away by the shopping expedition, however, is a different story...