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How to prepare for a baby – the first-year essential guide

How to prepare for a baby – the first-year essential guide
How to prepare for a baby – the first-year essential guide
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Points to note before you read this article: This is a hefty first-year essential guide on how to prepare for a baby’s, which comes with a YouTube Video. You can watch the video alongside reading the article if you like, but you may need to enjoy more than one cup of your favourite beverage to get through this long, but informative guide 🙂 So, please muscle through, as I will provide tips, tricks, discounts and deals where possible.

Also, some links are affiliate links which means I may earn a commission at no cost to you if you click through. Items marked with a ‘*’ are gifted by the respective brand in return for a 100% honest review.

Whether it’s your first or your fifth, every baby comes with baggage and a whole heap of preparation. I had my third baby four months ago and my lounge looks like a baby has thrown up all over it. Yet, I still didn’t buy half as much stuff as I did nine years ago when I had my first. But, there seems to be a rite of passage that everyone goes through – buy all the unnecessary stuff until you realise what really is necessary.


You don’t have to go through that rite of passage anymore as I’m here to help. So, I present to you my first-year essential guide on how to prepare for a baby. If I miss anything out please comment below as I plan to regularly update this guide.

Check out the full video here!

https://youtu.be/90muIYBraJc

Table of Contents

Start preparing in your third trimester

Preparing for your new baby starts when you’re pregnant (and even before conception) because once labour begins time is of the essence until your little miracle joins you. And, ideally, you want to be ready for when that time comes, whenever that will be. Preparing for labour and birth can be a mammoth task on its own and there are a number of things you should have in your hospital bag before you meet your baby. Here are some of the essentials:

Prepare your hospital bag

What to pack in your hospital bag infographic from Motherhood Diaries

Contrary to what you think (and what I end up doing) is you need not pack the kitchen sink. I would suggest investing in a good changing bag and using that as your hospital bag, so you can transition from packing for birth to packing for baby once he/she arrives.

The changing bag

Essentially you can use any bag you want, as long as it’s big enough to carry all the items you need. Personally, I like using a bag that’s big enough to carry my laptop, as well as having lots of compartments to organise all the bits and bobs I would need for a typical day. During my search, I found the perfect changing bag – one that doesn’t look like carry-on luggage or a soulless black suitcase. I present to you, the Mia Tui Berry Jennie Travel Changing Bag!*

Mia Tui Berry Jennie Travel Changing Bag

It looks like a stylish tote bag, but with tons of cute compartments perfect for me. Mia Tui was created by Charlotte Jamme, a mother of two, who searched for the perfect bag that would suit her lifestyle but would also be useful enough to have a place for everything she needed. The Jennie bag in Berry contains a changing bag accessory kit and is perfect for busy mums who have many feathers in their hats and who need to carry their lives in a bag. Plus it’s totally vegan! The Mia Tui Berry Jennie Changing Bag includes:

Mia Tui Berry Jennie Travel Changing Bag
  1. Gem Organiser Bag
  2. Travel Changing Mat
  3. Clutch Bag with X-Body Strap
  4. Clips for Keys
  5. Clear Bag for Baby Bits
  6. Two Insulated Bottle Holders
  7. Buggy Clips
  8. Waterproof Inside and Out
  9. Large Mobile Phone Pocket
Mia Tui Berry Jennie Travel Changing Bag

The bag also comes in a tote bag of its own which doubles up as a great bag for carrying other bits like groceries etc.

Mia Tui Berry Jennie Travel Changing Bag Tote Bag

So, what do you need in your hospital bag/future changing bag?

For mum

You will be in the hospital for up to three days (more if you require special attention but that’s not common), so think less is more. In fact, the less you pack, the less overwhelmed and stressed you’ll feel when the baby comes. So here is a list of things you will need to pack for yourself:

Your maternity notes

Don’t forget your maternity notes as these notes contain your medical history and pregnancy journey. Midwives and doctors who will be on hand during the birth will consult your maternity notes for special medication or equipment required during labour and birth. Your maternity notes should also contain your birth plan which you created during your pregnancy. Births rarely go to plan, but it would be a great idea to at least write a skeleton birth plan so you know what you’d like to happen. Do you want pain medication? Would you like to be upright during birth? Is there anything you won’t do, like push or get an epidural? Write all these down in your birth plan. If you need some help or something readymade that you can work from then I have a printable for you in my Resource Library which you can subscribe to here.  

2 x nighties and a dressing gown

Pack two light nighties (one for birth and one for after) and a dressing gown to walk around in (if you can walk, that is!) as it will be very hot in the hospital. Newborns cannot regulate their body temperature, so hospitals crank the heat up very high, which means you won’t be wearing much else than the thinnest nightie you can find.

Newborns are unable to regulate their temperature - motherhooddiaries.com

I didn’t even wear my nightie on the first day, I ended up covering myself in a thin blanket provided by the hospital because I was so hot most of the time, and only because I didn’t want to scare people with my wobbly post-baby body! The sweat from the heat coupled with the excessive itching from the epidural and anaesthesia meant I had never felt so uncomfortable in my whole life. I was at the hospital for two days and towards the end, I ended up wearing a very loose-fitting dress. That’s it.

Motherhood Diaries when third was born
Slippers

The hospital gives you compression socks to help circulate the blood as you’ll be stuck in bed. But, once the wires are disconnected the midwives will prompt you to try walking. I had a vaginal birth but I was prepared for theatre as I had two previous caesareans. During this birth, I had an epidural at 7cm, which meant I wasn’t able to push and the last stage of labour was prolonged. I ended up pushing my baby girl out but not without a second-degree tear and an episiotomy (they snipped me to allow for baby to come through). So, walking was difficult. However, I wasn’t allowed to head to the postnatal ward unless I was on my feet, so I was glad I bought very soft, but breathable slippers to help me take my first few steps. I would suggest getting slippers that are airy, thin and comfortable. Don’t forget it’s hot, so fir lined ugg-style slippers won’t work here.

Maternity Pads

Whether you have a c section or vaginal birth, the outcome is the same – you will bleed a lot. And, if you’ve had a vaginal birth, even if it was a straightforward birth, then your front bottom will be sore. So when investing in maternity pads, think about comfort and size. I went with super-sized Abena Premium Maternity Pads which felt very protective, even though they looked and felt like miniature planes. I hardly leaked for the first 4 weeks, but once the bleeding died down a bit, I transferred to the Always Ultra Thin Pads which worked just as well. I wasn’t a fan of Boots’ own maternity pads for the first few weeks as they didn’t have wings and I leaked when using them. I think it’s worth investing more money to protect yourself from leakage, which brings me to my next point.   

I would invest in around three packs, maybe more. So, it may be worth buying in bulk, i.e. 12 packs of 14 which costs much less per pad:

Disposable knickers

Whichever pad you choose, I would suggest wearing only disposable knickers for the first couple of weeks at least. I have used the same brand for all of my three kids (spanning nine years) which is the Emma Jane disposable briefs. You get seven different coloured and patterned disposable knickers, and I found them very comfortable to use, especially after my c section scars, as they went above the scar rather on top of it which is what I found with other disposable briefs. I would also recommend getting a size up to what you think you’ll need. I was around a size 12 when I gave birth to my third so I went for 14/16 and they fit perfectly. Don’t forget you still have a bump after birth and you won’t want to wear anything tight around your bottom area.

Toiletries

I barely used my toiletries as I had to keep my front bottom free from chemicals and external bacteria to prevent infection. So I could only wash with water. But I would still suggest bringing your bare essentials, i.e. shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I also brought my moisturiser, coconut oil and a hairband for my thick curly hair which I wore scrunched up at the top or in a dutch braid. When you can wash with a body wash, I would recommend the Sanex body wash, as it’s kinder to the skin and free of harsh chemicals. I even wash with baby soap because I know that it will be the most gentle on my skin. Also, don’t forget your toothbrush and toothpaste so you can feel fresh in the mouth when you don’t feel fresh elsewhere. I have added face wipes, massage oil, water spray and razors in my infographic above, but I didn’t use any of those, except for my Olay facial wipes to wash my face. They’re brilliant! It’s up to you if you want to bring these. Also, don’t forget your glasses and/or contact lenses if you’re a wearer like me.

Breast pads and nursing bras

You may or may not want to breastfeed, but either way, you may experience some leakage. Breast pads are great to help with leaking, even if you are formula feeding. I didn’t use them this time around, though, because my milk didn’t come in until day three. But with my previous pregnancies, I experienced some leaking and wished I had brought some breast pads with me.

Nipple cream

Depending on how you get on, you might invest in some nipple cream too. I experienced very cracked raw nipples during my first because I had a traumatic c section, which I think delayed my milk coming in. Breastfeeding my first felt like my nipples were being cut by razor blades on fire. With my second I experienced a little discomfort (most likely because I had breastfed my first up to the day before I gave birth and I had probably lost all feeling in my nipples). But, with my third, I didn’t experience any pain at all. So I haven’t touched my nipple cream. But, you never know. Bring it just in case.

A cold compress for downstairs

This birth experience was the first time I had a vaginal birth and I had no idea how sore my downstairs would be. I wished I had bought a cold compress for downstairs. My friend had kindly given me a Multi-Gyn Compress which I had forgotten all about until the second week at home. and, boy, was it soothing! This particular compress has 2QR-complex gel which helps to treat the swelling and it sits comfortably on the pad. I loved the cooling effect and I think it helped me to heal. So I urge you, bring one of these packets with you – you’ll be thankful you did if you need it.

Snacks and water

Most hospitals offer breakfast and lunch. But, I would suggest you bring some snacks in between until dinner. You might want to snack on something if you have long labour too and bring a bottle of water or two to keep you going as you don’t want to keep disturbing the midwives to refill your jug of water when you’re not able to move from the bed.

Something to do

There’s a lot of downtime and babies sleep a lot so you may find yourself unable to sleep, and not having anything to do. I brought my laptop and thought I’d blog and write notes, but I was too tired to stare into a screen and type. The problem was, I had brought nothing else with me. So I asked hubby to get me some magazines, puzzle books and regular books to keep me occupied when I was too wired to sleep. I would recommend trying to sleep first, but if you can’t then at least you’ll have something to do. I didn’t listen to music or watch anything as I was too concerned I wouldn’t be able to hear my baby. But, you can pass the time with screen time if you think it’d help you get through the first few days.

Comfortable going-home clothes

You will be sore, you will have a wobbly belly and you will feel pretty rubbish after you come down from the high of giving birth. So you may not want to dress up in anything too fancy or wear tight clothing when you go home. Leggings are great for all-day wear and baggy jumpers cover up the belly and fat pad sticking out of your bottom. Long flowy dresses, depending on the weather work well as they loosely fit over c-section scars and leaves the bottom part free to breathe.

For baby

Newborn nappies

Depending on your baby’s size, you may require Size 0 nappies (from 1.5-2.5kg / 3.6lbs) or Size 1 nappies (2-5kg / 4-11lbs). You may even require Size 2 nappies (3-6kg / 7-14lbs), but your safe bet is to only buy a small pack first as you can’t predict what size your baby will be when he/she graces you with their presence! I had big babies – my first was 8lbs 9oz / 3.89kg and my second was even bigger, at 9lbs 8oz / 4.5kg). My third baby was smaller at 7lbs 7oz / 3.5kg) so I needed Size 1 and 2 nappies, to begin with!

First, decide whether you want to go disposable or reusable (i.e. you can wash and re-use your nappies). I have always gone with Pampers, which are disposable because I have enough laundry to do, but it’s worth considering going reusable for the sake of the environment.  I like Asda’s Little Angels disposable brand as they feel softer on the skin. But, so far, I’ve found Pampers soak up wet nappies quicker and keep my baby’s bottom drier, so we have less nappy rash incidents. The choice is up to you though, I’d try them all and find one that works for you.

Cotton wool

To begin with, you will want to use cooled boiled water and cotton wool to clean your baby’s bottom, for at least the first four weeks. This gives your baby’s skin time to get used to external toxins and the environment around them. Then you can transition to baby wipes. We waited until around four weeks, but in the meantime we found cotton wool balls to be the best for cleaning baby’s bottom. The first poo is like black tar, meconium, and that’s difficult to clean off. But, after a few days, you’ll find that your baby’s poo will turn yellow and they’ll get easier to clean after that. More on your baby’s poo later!

Baby wipes

I wouldn’t recommend using baby wipes on your baby just yet, but baby wipes are fantastic inventions, which you can use for so much more during the last trimester/labour/birth/new baby phase. Baby wipes are great for taking off makeup, for refreshing your face, for cleaning marks/stains, giving things a general wipe and refreshing yourself if you can’t get to a shower. We have tried many baby wipes, but I found Water Wipes to be the best as they are made from 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract. So they’re the kindest on the skin and perfect for baby when s/he’s ready to have his/her bum wiped.

Changing mat

You’ll need a good changing mat to place over surfaces when you change your baby’s bottom. Most changing mats come with the changing bag, but if you don’t have any to hand, a simple towel will work as they’re large enough and they’re soft on baby’s skin. Just remember to put them in the wash and not use them anywhere else on your baby! At home, we have a great sturdy changing mat that came with the MoKee cot, which I’ll talk about later below.

Hats, scratch mittens, booties, socks

It is essential to pack hats, as mentioned above, babies cannot regulate their own body temperature, and a lot of body heat escapes from their heads, so make sure you pack a couple. The hospital gave us one too, which was this pretty pink and blue hat (below), which I thought was a very sweet gesture. We still have that hat and have kept it for sentimental value. It reminds us of our positive time in the hospital.

Pink and blue newborn hat - motherhooddiaries.com

Scratch mitts are important too because they stop the baby scratching themselves (you’d be surprised at how quickly their nails grow!). Booties are not essential but very cute. And if it’s super cold outside, then booties can add extra heat protection to their feet. Generally, feet should be free for the first year until they walk assisted. Then you can look at baby’s first shoes, which are soft and malleable, so baby feels protected but they can still use their own weight to walk. I have these very cute pink booties from Bobux*, but Ayla has only worn them from three months old. Socks can work from birth onwards.

Nappy sacks

Nappy sacks will probably become obsolete as they’re not great for the environment. But, they’re very handy when you’re out and about and your baby does a number two in an inopportune moment. You can get fragranced nappy sacks which help to keep the smell contained. They’re very cheap and you get hundreds in a pack. I still haven’t bought another pack and it has been almost four months!

Snowsuit if cold

Snowsuits are great. They cover baby from head to toe and some even come with gloves too. Ayla was born in September so she didn’t need a snowsuit until she hit around two months old. She now has four snowsuits, two pink ones (see images below), a grey snowsuit passed down from the boys and a white snowsuit that makes her look like a yeti. They are so useful because they are fleece-lined, which means you only need a baby vest and a Babygro underneath the snowsuit when you’re going out. 

Snowsuits - motherhooddiaries.com
Cellular blankets
Bloomsbury Mill Cellular Blankets - motherhooddiaries.com

Cellular blankets are fab because you can use them both during winter and summer and they are light enough to carry around everywhere. We have sooo many cellular blankets that some have still never been used, but our favourites are the cream and pink cellular blankets from Bloomsbury Mill because they’re super soft, 100% cotton and machine washable at 40 degrees. So, keep around four or five in your cupboard and one in your changing bag, then you can bring them out when needed. Cellular blankets are designed with a clever ‘cell’ construction, so they trap the air to keep baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Also, they’re safer to use during sleep than regular blankets because the holes can allow the baby to still breathe if they accidentally come over baby’s face. It’s safer to use Sleepsacks though, which I will talk more about below.

Baby vests/bodysuits/sleepsuits/baby grows

You only need a couple in your hospital bag and they can be short-sleeved or long-sleeved, depending on the weather. The baby vests or bodysuits go underneath the sleepsuits or baby grows, which can also be long-sleeved or short-sleeved. As this was our first baby girl and we knew the gender before birth, we packed some very cute pink baby vests and baby grows, but you can always go for white, yellow, pink or even leopard print – whatever floats your boat! Just make sure they’re 100% cotton and washed in suitable detergent. We use Fairy Non-Bio as that seems the gentlest on baby’s skin.

Fairy Non Bio

Muslin squares, swaddles and blankets

Muslin squares* are small cloths which are used when you breastfeed or bottle-feed a baby. They’re great for cleaning up spit-ups (when the baby throws up a bit of milk), excess milk and other bodily functions when you’re out and about. You also place these cloths over your shoulder or your hand when you’re burping your baby during winding, as that’s when babies spit-up. So pack a few muslin squares in case your baby is one of those who like to ‘share their food’. 

Bloomsbury Mill Muslin Blankets
Bloomsbury Mill Muslin Swaddles

Muslin swaddles* and blankets are used for swaddling babies, i.e. wrapping babies in blankets which are believed to help them sleep. They are usually made from thin, breathable muslin fabric to help moderate temperature. They can also be used as extra protection for wiping sick and even as a nappy changing mat if you don’t have another to spare. They’re quite multi-purposeful and come in various sizes and patterns. I have some very cute muslins from Bloomsbury Mill, which you’ll be able to see in action in my video below:

https://youtu.be/90muIYBraJc

You should take care of your muslins, so they continue to be fresh and soft for your baby. Place in the wash before you use and wash with similar colours to prevent fading. Also, avoid washing with anything that could snag your muslin, like zips and Velcro and use a soft detergent like the Fairy Non-Bio I’ve talked about above. If you have stains that can’t be removed from washing alone (make way for the bright yellow staining breastfeeding poo!) then fill a basin/sink with hot water and bleach-free detergent. Then soak your muslin for at least one hour – rinse then repeat if needed. Also, keep your muslins away from fire and other sources of direct heat. You should have full care instructions on your muslin’s label, but it’s worth keeping them pretty and soft. You’ll take them everywhere and they’ll be the items you’ll most likely use.

A cute outfit to go home in (not essential, but cute nonetheless!)

Of course, it’s not an essential part of going home, but a cute going home outfit will perk you up once the highs of birth and having a new baby drop and you witness that postnatal crash. I didn’t actually have a cute baby outfit because the one we bought was too small ☹ But below is a picture of my firstborn’s going home outfit nine years ago. It was freezing and we were snowed in, but I still think he looked cute in his winter hat and blanket 😊

Cute going home outfit - motherhooddiaries.com
Christmas going home outfit newborn - motherhooddiaries.com

All items need to be packed and ready by 37 weeks to account for the early onset of labour.

You can also bring lots of really cute stuff that you may not need but would love to have as keepsakes because it’s a monumental time – you’re taking baby home! I love this Ultimate Luxury Hamper for Girls*  which was the perfect hamper to bring with me to my birth as it contained all the lovely items you’ll need for a new baby. It comes in such a lovely box too so it makes for a perfect gift for a friend or family who is due to welcome a baby.

The Baby Hamper Company

The Ultimate Luxury Hamper for Girls includes:

The Baby Hamper Company Luxury Hamper for Girls
Lovely Mini Person Baby Memories Scrapbook
Lamaze Trotter the Pony Sensory Baby Toy – Pink
Toby Tiger Girl’s Horse Applique Rompersuit
Aden & Anais Lovebird Musy Muslin Square – Single
Knotted Hat, White, 100% Cotton
Bandana Bib, White
Baby Bunting Grey Star Print Unisex Bodysuit
Sock Ons, Pale Pink
Organic Monkey Hello Mellow Baby Massage Oil 125ml
The Baby Hamper Company Relax Candle Tin
The Baby Hamper Company Relax Lip Balm Tin

Prepare the nursery

Where is the baby going to sleep when s/he arrives? Are they sleeping in your room for the first year or are they going to have their own room straight away? Even if you transition them from your room to their room within the first year, you will need to figure it out and ideally before the baby gets here. But, if you’re like us and move when you’re seven months pregnant then you may have to prepare a lot more than just the nursery!

(Our old nursery before we moved into our home over nine years ago)
Our old nursery before we moved into our home over nine years ago
Our new nursery which was home to the boys for five years
(Our new nursery which was home to the boys for five years)

which then transitioned to this…

Now baby sleeps with us while we look for our forever home, so we have most of the nursery stuff in the lounge.

Current nursery/lounge

So, first things first. Select the room which will become your nursery and then clear out the area to make way for the baby stuff. You can decorate the nursery however you choose but there are some essentials and some not so essential, but lovely to have items that should go into a nursery. These are:

The bed

If the baby is sleeping with you, then a co-sleeper like a Snuzpod will work well. We had a Snuzpod next to our bed until Ayla was four months old and it helped me to breastfeed her lying down and then roll her back into her bed. I try to avoid co-sleeping as much as possible and always put her back into her bed, but sometimes I’m so tired and find I’ve fallen asleep for a few minutes while feeding. So, at least, this way, I’m just gliding her rather than lifting her up and placing her. It makes a huge difference. Sadly she’s grown out of the Snuzpod now and transitioned to the cot, which has taken its place.

Sleeping in Snuzpod

All my kids had a Moses Basket and it was my favourite bed for them to use right at the very beginning as it felt like their little cocoon. Each child loved their Moses Basket too and slept very well in it, but they grew out of them very quickly. Sadly, my third baby has already grown out of hers, but I’d thoroughly recommend getting one.

Old moses basket for the boys
Both my boys used the above Moses Basket until around 2/3 months (they were big babies!

Ayla slept in the Clair De Lune Limited Edition Cotton Bubbles Moses Basket* during the day until three months old, which was part of a limited edition bundle set, which isn’t available anymore. The set didn’t come with the stand, so we got that separately, but it did come with the mattress, bedding, hood and coverlet. It’s such a lovely little set and I would definitely recommend checking out Clair de Lune’s products as they’re really good quality and so, so pretty!

Plus you can move the Moses Basket around with you everywhere. I had the Moses Basket with me in the lounge next to the couch while I was recovering from birth or getting ready to go out.

Moses basket in the lounge
Moses basket is versatile

Finally, once your little one is not so little anymore, you can then transition them into a proper cot, preferably one which doubles up as a bed later.

We have a MoKee Mini Cot in Ivory Plum* which is a gorgeous cot that comes complete with a MoKee Cot Changer* (more on that later). It’s a perfect size and you can remove the panels to transform the cot into a toddler bed later because even though it’s mini it is still large enough to cater up to three years old.        

MoKee Mini Cot and Cot Changer

We also have a beautiful pink Baby Nest from Kally Sleep* which we placed in the cot to help with the transition from Snuzpod/Moses Basket to MoKee cot and it worked well for a few months. The Kally Baby Nest is a multi-functional cocoon which is designed to keep baby safe and comfortable during supervised naps and tummy time. The Baby Nest comes with a pillow and pillow cover, and a lovely blanket too. Ayla slept very well in the Baby Nest during nap time and enjoyed viewing her world from the nest too. I would recommend buying a Baby Nest from Kally Sleep because it is very soft and firm while keeping baby safe and comfortable during sleep and playtimes.

Kally Sleep Pink Baby Nest

Unfortunately, Ayla has grown out of the Baby Nest at four months, so she now just uses the cot.

Kally Sleep Pink Baby Nest
MoKee Cot in our bedroom

Bumpers and protection for the cot

There has been some backlash about cot bumpers and other additional protective equipment for the cot lately, with some resources saying that they are hazardous and can lead to cot death. But, like anything, as long as you can ensure ties remain securely fastened to the cot and remove cot bumpers when the baby is unaided then you should be ok. When children get older they use cot bumpers as a climbing frame which may lead to falling out of the cot. So once they get to this stage it’s better to remove them entirely. Check bumpers regularly too to ensure they are secure and stop using them when you see signs of damage.

Mamas & Papas kindly gifted us a bumper*, coverlet cot bed* and cot bar bumpers* as part of the pretty 6-piece Lilybelle bundle piece set and I felt they complimented the lovely ivory plum MoKee cot very well. They come in reusable plastic bags, which are very handy to store items in.

Mamas & Papas Lilybelle Set

The Lilybelle set provides a beautiful and decorative touch to the cot with a gorgeous hand-quilted floral design. It’s so nice to have such a pretty bed after two alpha male boy beds!

MoKee Mini Cot with Mamas & Papas Lilybelle set
Mamas & Papas Lilybelle Set
Mamas & Papas Lilybelle Set with Clair de Lune Musical Mobile

Bedding

The bedding you have depends on the bed you have. We got given lovely 4-piece bedding set from Clair de Lune* in white, specifically for our Moses Basket, which included a Cotton Cellular Blanket, very soft Fleece Blanket, Cotton Flat Sheet and a Cotton Fitted Sheet. The set creates a quality finish and Ayla seems to love the feel of the bedding on her skin.

You’ll need a bedding set for the cot and the world is your oyster when choosing a particular style. We are saving our Magic Unicorn Set from Bloomsbury Mill* for when Ayla is a little older and transitioning to using a duvet and pillow. I can’t wait, the bedsheets are so pretty!

Blankets

Each boy had a favourite blanket, one which they fell asleep very quickly. This time, Ayla has her favourite grey blanket (well it’s my favourite blanket) and she goes to sleep in it instantly. It’s a beautiful 100% Cotton Knitted Blanket in Grey from Clair de Lune* and it goes everywhere with Ayla, with a lovely breathable material that is a heavyweight knit so it provides very good insulation and natural comfort and warmth. The blanket has such a cute design and it was Silver winner of the Mumii Best of Baby and Toddler Gear 2016 in the Blanket category. So it’s worth getting one of these – plus it makes for a great gift for winter babies!

Clair de Lune grey blanket
Clair de lune grey knitted blanket

Air purifier

An air purifier is a must-have in the nursery because it removes up to 99% of airborne particles as small as 0.1 microns in size. People spend most of their time indoors, yet indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. This is because of pollen and car exhaust fumes entering buildings, chemicals in paint, furniture, clothing and cleaning detergents, mould and dust. Breathing in fine dust or PM2.5 (also known as fine particulate matter) contributes to asthma, heart and lung problems and a host of other diseases. We were gifted the Blueair Blue Pure 411* which is a whisper-silent, energy-efficient air purifier with one-button speed control for the nursery. The air purifier is very compact and is perfect for smaller rooms. The Blue Pure 411 is easy to assemble, and, depending on where you need it,  you can move it around too. When you need to replace the filter, just twist the lid, replace the filter and then cover it back up.

Blueair Blue Pure 411 Air Purifier
Blueair Blue Pure 411 Air Purifier

Baby monitor

During the first year of birth, your baby will sleep a lot and not always at night. Sometimes you need to get on with daily tasks or other duties while your baby sleeps, but, you want to make sure that when you put them down, they’re safe in their beds and you can monitor them from wherever you are. We have tested some good quality baby monitors over the years, both audio and video, and I think we have found the best of the best. We have the Nanit Plus Camera* which is the most advanced baby monitor ever introduced into the nursery. Nanit combines learning algorithms with advanced smart technology to provide in-depth data about your baby’s sleep patterns, quality and more. In fact, 94% of Nanit parents say they sleep better using Nanit’s products, so we gave it a shot ourselves!

You get two different baby monitors, the Nanit and Nanit Plus Camera. The Nanit Plus does everything the Nanit does except it has extra features, including one year of Nanit insights for free, which offers video history, sleep tracking and coaching. You can buy the Nanit Plus with a Wall Mount (which needs to be drilled to the wall), or a Floor Stand, which allows you to place the Nanit Plus anywhere in the house. You can also buy a Multi-Stand travel mount which makes your baby monitor a Nanit on-the-go or a nanny cam. 

We got the floor stand so we could move the Nanit between Ayla’s three beds, but we ended up keeping the Nanit upstairs where Ayla slept during the night. To use, you assemble the Nanit Plus using the instructions provided and then you pair the monitor with its app via your phone. Your phone then connects wirelessly to the camera and the app takes you to initial settings where you configure the Nanit monitor and position the camera view on the phone. Once set up, you can view your baby and the crib both with natural lighting and infrared lighting.

Nanit Plus video camera

The camera view is excellent and there are so many additional features which make the Nanit the best out of all the ones we’ve tried so far. When away from your baby, Nanit will continue to work in the background on your phone or Alexa Show.

Nanit video monitor via the Alexa Show

The Nanit will alert you on the phone or Alexa Show if there are any movements or sounds, and if your baby wakes, you can talk to them through the two-way microphone/audio and/or play bird noises, wind noises or white noise to help settle them back to sleep. The dashboard allows you to catch up on your baby’s sleep with data showing everything from how long they slept to how many times you visited or helped them.

Nanit Video Monitor

But, the real pièce de résistance is that the built-in Insights will help you understand your baby’s sleep patterns and offer personalised Sleep Tips related to your baby and their surroundings. You also get a Night Timelapse every night to show you what happened during the night while you’re asleep, which is available every morning and eventually, you’ll see how your baby is becoming a better sleeper as time goes on. If you’re struggling with a certain aspect of your baby’s bedtime routine you can consult a team of parenting experts who will provide you with advice that will help you to achieve a bedtime routine that suits everyone.

The Sleeping Bags have now launched in the UK and Nanit are giving you one on the house when you buy a Sleeping Bag at Nanit.com when you use the code SBBOGO. The Sleeping Bag is designed to be worn over pyjamas and comes in three sizes to fit babies aged three to 24 months, allowing you to use Breathing Wear as your little one grows.

Nanit also has a built-in night light so if you’re settling your little one to sleep when everyone else is asleep you can see what you’re doing and not startle your baby awake with harsh light.

You can find out more about the Nanit Plus Video Monitor in my video below.

https://youtu.be/90muIYBraJc

Night light

If you don’t have a Nanit then you would need to purchase a separate night light. We had a Gro Light but we found it to be too dark and I ended up using my phone’s torchlight which was too strong. We love the Lumie Bug which both of our boys use. You can fully adjust the lighting, especially for bedtime and the low blue-white light avoids stimulation during the bedtime routine, allowing your baby to wind down ready for sleep. The sunset with a realistic colour change means that the light can gradually fade to off to naturally promote sleepiness and settle your baby. You also have two light intensities and a non-alerting orange light which doesn’t trigger wakefulness. Perfect for those night-time feeds, when the whole world is sleeping – except for you and your baby.

Somewhere to sit and feed

This is not essential but unless your baby’s bed is right next to yours, then you may need to find somewhere calm and comfortable for you to sit and feed, like a nursing chair or a couch. I used to have a lovely comfy nursing chair (which you can see in the image of our old nursery above) but now I just use my bed as my baby’s bed is right next to me. During the nightly feeds, make sure you are sitting comfortably as feeding time could take a while. Try not to fall asleep during feeds too. I normally look at my phone on the brightest light which helps me to stay up during feeds and prevents any risk of falling asleep with the baby in my arms.

Cupboard/drawers for clothes

You will need a nice set of drawers and cupboards to hold your baby’s clothes and other bits and bobs. We currently have a tall set of drawers with five compartments and Ayla’s items are separated into the following:

  • Socks, bib, hats, mitts etc
  • Baby vests and babygrows, sleepsacks
  • Blankets and hooded towels
  • Baby slings, car seat cushions etc
  • Clothes which are too big

Sleepsacks

Sleepsacks

A quick note about Sleepsacks. These are very important during the night as one rule of safe sleep is to make sure you eliminate any possibility of your baby pulling the blanket over their face and potentially suffocating. Sleepsacks are great to protect the baby and keep them warm but with the added protection of being secure so it doesn’t move around when they sleep. They look like pillowcases but with zips on either side and you have different sized togs, one for summer and one for winter. You can also get long or short-sleeved sleepsacks, depending on the temperature.

More on baby clothes later.

Baskets and organisers for other bits and bobs

You will accumulate quite a lot of stuff during the first year, so it’s a good idea to get things organised from the get-go. Little wicker baskets are cute and very useful for small items, while shelving will help to house larger items out of the way and out of reach of wandering hands too!

Prepare for Sleeptime Fun!

Baby sleeping

If you managed to get in eight hours sleep every night before the baby arrives then prepare for one big culture shock! “Sleeping like a baby” doesn’t actually apply to newborns, much less to babies. You may be one of the very rare few and birth a baby that sleeps through the night from six weeks old but that’s rare – very rare! Newborns should get around eight hours or three naps during the day and then around eight and a half hours of sleep at night, but, they will not get these hours in all in one go. Generally, they will sleep at two to three-hour stretches until their little tummies get bigger, then at one month, this should change to around six to seven hours or three naps during the day and then eight to nine hours during the night. The daytime naps should drop during the gradually and sleep should increase at night until babies get to around twelve months when they should get around two and a half hours of sleep during the day and eleven hours sleep at night. This sleeping pattern can fluctuate but it’s important to ensure that they are sleeping enough. Once your baby is around three to four months you can follow a set pattern every night and by six months establish a night routine that works for you and the family. Check out my article on how to help your kids sleep better at night here.

Prepare your changing area

Why do you need a changing area? Because your baby is going to poo a ridiculous number of times in a day and you can’t just stick them in the loo and wipe their bum with tissue (we hope that’ll happen around two to three years old). You need wipes, nappy sacks, nappy cream if the bum gets a bit sore and of course nappies. So, a great way to save yourself some time and hassle is to create a changing area.

Our very first changing area over nine years ago – we still have those Lamaze cubes!
Our very first changing area over nine years ago – we still have those Lamaze cubes!

MoKee cot changer*

The MoKee cot changing mat sits on top of the MoKee Mini Cot and saves space in your nursery. The ergonomic design means it sits comfortably on top of the cot while the wedge shape keeps baby on the changing mat. We use the changing mat for most of the nappy changes, and it has been a great time saver for us. But, make sure you don’t knock the changing mat off with your arm or hand as it can come off and drop into the cot – with baby in it! It has happened to us a couple of times as the changing mat isn’t attached. This is so you can take it off and put it away when you’re done.

Apart from the nappies, baby wipes, cotton wool and nappy sacks, there are a few extras that will need to sit in your changing area for ease of access. These are:

Nappy bin

A nappy bin is not 100% essential but it is time-saving and more hygienic than throwing used nappies straight into the main bin. We have the Tommee Tippee Sangenic Nappy Bin along with the bin refills next to our changing area so we can wrap up our nappies in a fragranced nappy sack and then dispose of them in the cleverly designed nappy bin. It’s quite simple to use, you place the nappy in the system and then you twist and click so the nappy is encased in the nappy bins’ fragrance film. Once the bin is full, you use the blade on the underside of the bin to tear open the end and then knot together before you throw it in the main disposable bin.

Nappy cream

If you leave a soiled nappy on for too long or your baby starts teething (more on that below) and the body produces more acidic poo then your baby may end up with a nappy rash. There are a few major brands in the market that everyone uses, these are Bepanthen, Sudocrem and Metanium. Out of all three, I think Metanium is by far the best, as it heals the rash and protects the area. You need a microscopic amount to thinly cover the rash and within hours the nappy rash has improved. The Bepanthen and Sudocrem act more like a barrier cream to prevent nappy rash and can be used two to three times a week. But, to be honest, I leave my baby’s bum open so her skin gets used to its environment. 

Be prepared for lots of poo during your first year that you’ll become obsessed with it! Are they pooing enough? Are they pooing too much? Are the breastfeeding poos too yellow? Why is poo green? What’s with the smell? Why is the poo so black? Just remember, if the baby is happy they are probably fine, but if you’re worried, never be too ashamed to consult your doctor – you are not wasting their time! Better safe than sorry.

Towels or muslins

Hooded towels and extra muslins are great to have in your changing area because if there is an accident you can mop it up pretty quickly. I love the Bloomsbury Mill muslins as mentioned above, but you can find muslins from pretty much anywhere. Hooded towels are great for when it’s cold and you’re wrapping your baby up before and after bathtime. You can find hooded towels from anywhere too.

Extra set of clothes

Inevitably your baby will poo up their back, thanks to runny poo, either from teething or from digesting new foods. Keep an extra set of clothes handy for when this unpleasant surprise happens and make sure you soak the stained clothes in cold water before throwing them into the wash. I made the mistake of thinking hot water will boil the stain away but instead, it sets the stain and now I have beautiful items of clothing with bright yellow breastfeeding poo stains on them! ☹

Entertainment

It’s good to have some entertainment for baby as they get older and use their arms and legs. More on how to entertain your baby below, but from birth, you can add black and white patterns to the changing area to encourage their brain and eye development.

Bloack and white patterns

Going home time

You’ve had your birth, you’ve welcomed baby (or babies!) into the world and now you get to take the baby home. It can be daunting to go from the comfort of hospital care to going it alone with your partner.  But you’re not alone.

So, what do you need?

Ring cushion after vaginal birth

So I had two caesareans before I had my vaginal birth and I was expecting the recovery to be easier. Boy, was I wrong! I had a forceps delivery with a second-degree tear and an episiotomy which meant I had to have stitches and I suffered a minor prolapse too. The result was that I could not sit on my bum for about four weeks and even the ring cushion for the first two. The only way I got through it was to bring a rolled-up towel everywhere with me, which I could manipulate to help me take the pressure off my front bottom and then transition to a ring cushion afterwards. Essentially what a ring cushion does is that it allows you to sit down so there is no impact or pressure on the sore area until you can sit on it again. I would thoroughly recommend a ring cushion if you have a sore bottom.

Medication

And after birth, if the delivery didn’t go quite as planned you will likely end up taking home some painkillers – and added extras like I had to after this birth. This time around, I came home with Co-dydramol, Ibruprofen, iron tablets (as I lost 1.5 litres of blood during birth) Lactulose (to counteract the iron tablets) and Enoxaparin which my husband needed to inject into my belly to help prevent blood clots like thrombosis.

Pain meds

My haemoglobin levels were inevitably very low and I was offered a blood transfusion but I refused, opting for the iron tablets instead. I have since taken another blood test and my levels are almost back to normal but the doctor has advised I eat an iron-enriched diet, so I can bring my iron levels up even further.

Postnatal supplements

Your doctor advised you to take prenatal supplements during pregnancy to get that all-important folic acid and the A to Z of minerals and vitamins. Well, taking your supplement is just as important after birth, especially after the trauma your body went through. You can continue to take your prenatal vitamins after the baby is born but postnatal vitamins have added nutrients to support you during breastfeeding. Postnatal vitamins should include Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 to keep mum and baby healthy. 

Car seat

Hospitals will not allow you to go home after birth if you don’t have a car seat so make sure you have one sorted straight away. But picking any car seat won’t do. Find the one that is the right fit for your child’s weight, not age – this is the key factor when choosing something that is suitable and safe. By law, all children under 135cm must have their own car seat and they should continue to be in a rear-facing car seat until they are 15 months old for maximum protection against any forceful impact. Check the table below for the right sized seat (from John Lewis’ website):

GroupChild’s weight*Approx. age of childChild’s height¹
0Birth – 10kg/22lbBirth to 6 – 9 months40 – 85cm
0+Birth – 13kg/29lbBirth to 12 – 15 months40 – 85cm
0+ and 1Birth – 18kg/40lbBirth to 4 years40 – 105cm
0+, 1, 2 and 3Birth – 36kg/79lbBirth to 12 years40 – 150cm
19 – 18kg/20 – 40lb9 months to 4 years85 – 105cm
1 and 29 – 25kg/20 – 55lb9 months to 6 years85 – 150cm
215 – 25kg/33 – 55lb4 to 6 years105 – 150cm
1, 2 and 39 – 36kg/20 – 79lb9 months to 12 years85 – 150cm
2 and 315 – 36kg/33 – 79lb4 to 12 years105 – 150cm
 *Applies to R44.04 seats ¹Applies to iSize seats

So you’re looking to get a Group 0+ car seat because they are rear-facing and the safest way for babies to travel. I would recommend getting one with an Isofix so you need not use a seatbelt. Group 0+ car seats also have a carry handle useful for transporting baby when they’re asleep. They also have a curved base for gentle rocking. These kinds of car seats also have comfort extras like cushions, head huggers and padded straps which can be removed as the baby gets bigger.

As your child grows you will transition to the Group 1, 2 and 3 car seats accordingly. We currently use the Nuna Car Seat gifted by my best friend and the BeSafe car seat which came with our UppaBaby Vista 2019 Travel System. The Nuna has an Isofix but we have to use the seatbelt with the BeSafe because we don’t have the right Isofix. It makes me appreciate Isofix so much more!

Car seats can be expensive so check out Kiddies Kingdom’s child car seats for sale – every little bit helps!

Added protection for winter babies       

KURA Organics gifted us a beautiful KURA Organic Wrap in Sorbet* which keeps baby warm when they are in the car seat and pushchair. The outer fabric is a five gauge reverse jersey knit in a two-colour striped design and has a chunky knit alongside the organic cotton yarn. The lining fabric is soft and non-toxic so it keeps baby safe and warm. The poppers ensure a quick and easy fastening without disturbing baby when you want to keep them either warm or cool. You can machine wash this blanket in 30-degree wash and it fits babies up to six months old. It’s very easy to use, you open up the blanket and feed the car seat straps through the blanket’s holes. Then with the blanket open, you place baby into the car seat and then wrap them around with the blanket, fastening at the button. It’s -2 outside at the moment, so we are definitely using the KURA blanket during car and stroller trips. I also use it as a handy blanket when I’m out and about as well.

Prepare your changing bag

You’ll have all of the stuff you added to your hospital bag above, but you’ll need a few extras for your daily changing bag. These are:

  • Hand sanitiser for cleaning up hands after diaper changes
  • Bottles of formula or expressed breastmilk if bottle-feeding
  • A breastfeeding shawl
  • Snacks for babies/toddlers depending on your child’s age. This includes a jar of baby food and a spoon, or finger foods
  • Bibs to wipe up the drool from teething, food from feeding and spit up for after
  • Extra muslin blanket for all sorts of things, including covering your baby, using it as a changing mat, nursing cover or for spit ups
  • Sippy cup of milk, water or juice
  • Extra clothes for accidents
  • Dummy if your child uses them
  • Teddy or soft toy comforter
  • Suncream, sunglasses and a hat for sun protection
  • Emergency information just in case anything happens. This should include phone numbers of your emergency contacts and doctor. 
  • Nail clippers – this is great for when your little one takes a nap and you have time to trim those nails
  • Baby sling for carrying the baby – if you have a large enough bag you should bring a baby sling so you can shift from using your pram to being a hands-free carrier
  • Toys, activity/board books and crayons depending on your child’s age. This is great for entertaining your child while out. Ayla is happy with just a rattle at the moment or a squishy book
  • First-aid kit which can include plasters, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, thermometer and painkillers like infant Calpol or Ibruprofen.
  • Don’t forget your wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses, a diary/notebook and pen, snacks and a bottle of water for yourself!

Prepare your outfits

If you’re one of the lucky ones you may wear your pre-pregnancy clothes sooner than you think. But, if you’re like me and the fat likes to stay around your belly and bum area then you’re likely to continue wearing your maternity clothes. I’m living in my maternity leggings at the moment and wearing breastfeeding tops under baggy tops. This way, if I forget my breastfeeding shawl, the top on top of my tops acts as a cover. 😊 I also have a different array of nursing bras and have had to change the size twice since Ayla was born. Now that breastfeeding has been established I have to change my bra size again! If you can’t get to a shop to measure your bra, I use a fantastic website called Boob or Bust which has a Boob or Bust Bra Calculator that you can use to measure at home. They also have a very supportive Facebook group where you can ask questions if you’re struggling to work out how to measure your bra. I was always a 34D until I used the calculator and found out I was a 32G! I was shocked and didn’t think it was right, but lo and behold, the bra fitted me perfectly! It’s well worth giving it a shot if you find it difficult to get to the shops.

I love my super supportive Black High Waisted Leggings* which is designed to be comfortable when running up and down doing my daily mummy tasks, plus they’re high waisted and not see-through, so no one has to see my wobbly bits!

I have a couple of cardigans which double up as breastfeeding shawls and blankets because of the extra-long panels. These are great, especially in the winter. Also, I have long shawls which I use as scarves and they also work as breastfeeding shawls too. Think about comfort but also about how easy it will be to whip out your boob and feed your child if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re healing from a c section scar then keep that area loose and make sure the waist of the trouser goes over your scar rather than under to prevent irritation.

Prepare for Feeding – and your feeding area

Breastfeeding

I breastfed all three of my babies, I’m still breastfeeding my third and I’ve had all sorts of experiences with nursing. With my first, I absolutely hated it until my baby was one month old and then all of a sudden it all clicked into place and I ended up feeding him for 15 months, the day before my second was born. Feeding the second time was slightly painful but I ended up having an oversupply and breastfed my second for 2 ½ years! I produced so much that I donated over one litre of breastmilk to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. This time around I found breastfeeding the easiest even though Ayla was clicking for the first few months and ended up quite windy. But all experiences are unique so if you’re struggling, I would thoroughly recommend seeing a breastfeeding counsellor. I was lucky to meet one at the local weigh-in clinic and she helped me to latch Ayla on properly. Even though this was my third time breastfeeding, this is Ayla’s first time so both of us needed to learn together. Whether you’re experienced or not it doesn’t matter, if the baby isn’t latching on properly it will bloody hurt and baby won’t get milk. So if you want to persevere then get professional help, I can’t advocate this enough.

After two weeks with my first, I was dead set on giving up because I was in so much pain, I had panic attacks from the trauma of birth and I just felt rubbish all of the time. And then I had to stick a baby on my boob every two hours when all I wanted to do was sleep! But, if it wasn’t for my mum then I would have given up.

I wrote an article on how to ensure a proper latch when breastfeeding, which may help. For more information on breastfeeding visit my breastfeeding pages (link below). There are tons of personal stories and factual information over there so you should be able to get an idea if breastfeeding is for you.

Breastfeeding archives

I want to show you what helped me (apart from mum) to get through breastfeeding. I saw the below table on the wall at one of the hospitals and it resonated with me after suffering from bleeding nipples and wanting to throw myself off the balcony.

Reasons to be proud

These are just some of the ways that breastfeeding makes a difference to both mothers and babies

Time BreastfeedingFor BabyFor Mother
First feedHelps to stabilise baby’s blood sugars and protect baby’s gut.A great opportunity for the first skin to skin cuddle.  
1 dayThe antibodies in your colostrum provide natural immunity from infection.Helps womb to contract towards normal size.                            
2-3 daysSticky black meconium is cleared more readily from the baby’s bowel.  Instant relief for hot, swollen breasts when your milk comes in.  
1 weekTransition to the world outside the womb is eased.Frequent feeds mean time to sit or lie down and for you and your baby to get to know each other.
2 weeksFood and drink always ready at the right temperature, adapting to the baby’s needs.Hormones help you get back to sleep after night feeds.  
4 weeksFor premature babies lower risk factors for heart disease in later life.Saves time sterilising and making up bottles.  
6 weeks  Half the risk of chest infections now and up to seven years old.Breastfeeding likely to be easier and you can go out and about without bottle-feeding equipment.
2 monthsLower risk of food allergy at three years old if breastfed only.Reduced risk of ovarian cancer in later life for mother.  
3 monthsFive times less likely to get diarrhoea now and a reduced risk for the whole year.Fewer visits to the GP as a baby is less often ill.  
4 monthsHalf the risk of ear infections. Reduced risk of asthma now and protection continues up to six years.Feeling of empowerment at having been solely responsible for growing your baby to four months.  
5 monthsFive times lower risk of urinary tract infections.  A lovely way to reconnect with your baby if you go back to work.  
6 monthsLower risk of eczema now and up to six years old.Less risk of osteoporosis in the long term for mother.  
1 yearThree times less risk of becoming obese by age six and a lower risk of heart disease as an adult.No need to buy formula milk at all, saving at least £450 this year.  
2 yearsLikely to have higher than average scores on intelligence tests.Expect fewer visits to the orthodontist when your baby is a teenager. Risk of breast cancer reduced by eight per cent for mother.

Some people find breastfeeding easy, but most people don’t. Try not to compare your experience to others, and remember every baby is different and your mental health is more important. If you’ve tried everything and breastfeeding still isn’t working, then it’s important to note that FED IS BEST. As long as you have a happy healthy baby who has a happy, healthy mother, then that’s the most important thing. I used to judge women who bottle-fed before I even had kids myself. Now I have kids of my own, I know that anything related to parenting is rarely that black and white.

Find your way to get through it, regardless of the outcome because baby needs to eat whether that’s from your breast or from the bottle.

Pumping

If you have continued to breastfeed and your baby has an established latched, then you may want to consider introducing a bottle. I didn’t introduce a bottle with my two boys until they were way past 12 months and my first accepted a bottle straight away and naturally weaned onto cow’s milk from 15 months without any fuss whatsoever. My second was like a vampire. For him, it was all about the breasts and for a good 18 months after that, I tried everything to get him off my boobs. It didn’t work and I had to stay overnight at a friend’s house to finally wean him. After that he was fine! But, during that time I kept giving my eldest a bottle of my breastmilk because I was donating milk to the local hospital at the time and I had tons of leftover. I thought I’d find it super difficult but it wasn’t at all!

Breastpumps

I’ve had my fair share of breast pumps, both manual and electric and I’ve had quite a tumultuous relationship with both styles. I was gifted the MAM 2 in 1 Breast Pump* and this is legit the breast pump I have used to date! I haven’t used the manual pump yet as the electric pump is so efficient in getting my milk out in record time. I managed to pump over 160ml (size of a newborn bottle) in less than the recommended pumping time of 15 minutes. The pump has a two-phase expression process which begins with the stimulation mode, to stimulate the milk to flow (there are nine levels) and then once the milk is flowing you switch to expression mode, again with nine different levels, depending on the strength of the vacuum in the pump. Research shows that pumping is more efficient at a maximum vacuum level during the expression phase, and I saw that by how quickly my milk came out and filled the bottle – and some of the storage cups too! You can find more information on how to use the pump in my video below. Watch this space for an article dedicated to breast pumping coming soon!

MAM 2 in 1 breast pump
https://youtu.be/90muIYBraJc

Ayla was six weeks old when I introduced the bottle and she took to bottle-feeding like a duck to water! No child of mine refuses food, no matter how it is presented! 😉

Which milk bottles do you go for?

The MAM Breast Pump supplied us with two Easy Start anti-colic bottles and Ayla only struggled a little bit with the slightly bigger bottle but she got the hang of it quickly afterwards. It may be worth going for a range of bottles and then finding the one that suits your baby. We are happy with the bottles MAM provided us and even though we need a bigger size now, Ayla mostly breastfeeds anyway so we don’t use bottles that often. If you bottle-feed, you’ll likely need a few to hand and in the changing bag to keep up with demand.  

Storing breastmilk

The MAM breast pump comes with storage pots to store milk, but some pumps offer storage bags that you can pump directly into and which come already pre-sterilised so you can just pop them in the freezer afterwards. To store breastmilk using a storage bag, lay flat on top with a sheet of kitchen roll in between to prevent sticking to the freezer or to another storage bag. Freezing the milk flat allows breastmilk to defrost quicker too. When you need to use the milk, let the bag thaw in the fridge or at room temperature. You can also place the bag in warm water or hold it under cool running water, gradually increasing the warmth of the water to increase the temperature of the milk.

The rule of thumb is untouched breastmilk is safe for your baby if it has been sitting at room temperature for four hours or less. If you know you will not use it within four hours then stick the milk on the bottom shelf at the back of the fridge where it can stay for up to eight days, but it’s best used within four. Breastmilk can stay in an insulated cooler with an ice pack for up to 24 hours but if you will not use it for longer than eight days then stick it in the freezer within twenty-four hours of pumping or four days from the fridge and it will be good for around nine months  If you have a deep freezer or a chest freezer you should be able to freeze milk for up to one year.

Compress for your breasts

I had an unfortunate experience with self-diagnosed mastitis where my left boob was warm to the touch and painful when feeding because I wasn’t emptying my boob properly. I thought I had the flu as my body temperature was out of whack and I was shivering. But I had read somewhere that the more you feed off the affected breast the better you feel, and I did start to feel better. I also cooled my breast down with a hot/cold Lansinoh Therapearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapypack for Breastfeeding Mums, which helped to cool my boobs down while I was unclogging the blocked tube. It turns out that mastitis that goes away on its own with no antibiotics is a mild form of mastitis, which means.. what the hell is full mastitis like!?

Baby soothers/dummies/comforters

My babies have never taken dummies or soothers before, nor did they have comforters – they just didn’t want to know. They were much happier just using my breast as a comforter until they were old enough to use bottles. Parents use dummies to help soothe and calm their babies, but sometimes it gets to a point where they aren’t able to get through the day without using a dummy. Some parents strongly disapprove of using them. I have no judgement towards them and if my kids had used dummies I probably would have controlled the time my babies would have used them, i.e. only at night or only after feeding etc. And, in fact, my third baby now sucks her thumb which I think is worse because you can take a dummy away but you can’t take their thumb away.

Sterilise your equipment

It’s important to sterilise all of your baby’s feeding equipment, including dummies, and milk bottles until they are at least 12 months old to prevent your baby against infections like diarrhoea and vomiting. Clean your equipment with hot, soapy water first and as soon as possible after feeds before you sterilise. I use the Tommee Tippee Steriliser which is very simple to use. I place all my feeding equipment, including my breast pump into the dishwasher and once the cycle is over, I place the items in the steriliser, add 80ml of water and then turn it on. It will take around five minutes to sterilise. I leave it to stand for one minute and then the items are ready to use.

Prepare for the weaning stage

From four to six months, depending on your baby, you will think about weaning them onto food. My eldest was almost seven months when he started nibbling on food for the first time and he was built like the Michelin man and my middle one was on three-course meals plus breastmilk by six months and he was built like a rake! This is where instinct and following baby’s lead comes into play. If they’re reaching for your food and sticking it in their mouth, they’re most likely ready. There are two ways you can start them on food, either pureeing everything and adding water or breastmilk or following the Baby Led Weaning route, i.e. leaving sticks of food on their tray and allowing them to touch, feel and taste the food themselves. I followed the baby-led weaning route with my first two and I plan to do the same with my third. But variety is the spice of life so I also introduced pureed foods using my super-duper Babymoov Nutribaby+ which is a steamer and blender in one. It’s the perfect size for little homemade meals.

Nutribaby+ Babymoov

Be prepared for all the food mess though!

Messy highchair food

Watch this space for great weaning meals using the Nutribaby (plus a review) coming soon!

Using a highchair

Highchair

Before you use a high chair make sure your baby is ready to sit up on their own first – usually around six months. Then finding the right highchair is paramount to having a pleasant experience during meal times. Make sure the model you use is safe, durable and easy to clean. Get recommendations from friends and family to see if there is a running favourite or look online for reviews. Look for functionality, i.e can you operate the tray with one hand? Does the highchair lock into place when in use? Is it space-saving and easy to fold up? And can it grow with your baby? Does it have a five-point safety harness and is it comfortable for your baby?

Highchairs

Prepare your bathing area

Bathtime

I love bath time – it’s a soothing, calming, relaxing and clean way to bond with your baby. At first, you only need to bath them once or twice a week. After that, and when they attend playgroup or classes, then you may want to bath them every other day or every day. It’s great to get into a routine of bathing every night before bed so baby gets the trigger that bedtime is coming. 

Baby bath

From newborn to around three months you can use a baby bath or a top and tail designed to keep baby safe while you bath him/her. From three months onwards you can use a normal bath.  Click here for more information on how to bath your baby.

Bath toys and entertainment

Bath toys are a great way to entertain your baby and distract them when you’re washing their hair and cleaning their bits. There’s not much baby can do at the beginning than watch, so toys that are bright, flashy and colourful to begin with would work. Singing to your baby is also a great way to bond and play with them. Then around four months, you can encourage them to pick up bath toys that float in the bath and then make noise when they’re rattled. Water operated toys are good too as they encourage your baby to follow the toy as they whizz around in the bath. When they are a bit older teach them the alphabet with floating letters and numbers. They may not understand now, but soon they will spell out words and messages to you with the letters. There are lots of educational and interactive toys available for babies so it’s worth shopping around and having a look. 

Baby shampoo and oil

You should not use any oils or lotion until your baby is at least one month old and, to be honest, there isn’t any need to bath your baby in anything other than water for the first four weeks, as they’re not exposed to too much dirt. After four weeks you can introduce baby shampoo and sunflower oil or coconut oil during and after the bath and when you’re doing your baby massage.

Baby massage

Baby massages are great after the bath to soothe your baby to sleep. Baby massages can also help to improve weight gain and aid digestion, as well as improve circulation and ease teething pain. Watch this space for an article soon on how to do an effective baby massage. I did it with all three and I could see huge benefits.

Prepare for your baby’s health

Your baby is a blank canvas, so be prepared for your little one to pick up all sorts of bugs from the outside world. There’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening but you can prepare them as much as possible and offer them the best fighting chance to protect themselves against the nasty bugs. Keeping your baby warm when it’s cold, ensuring you are eating a good diet if you’re breastfeeding, protecting them against unnecessary germs, i.e. not allowing others to kiss them on the lips or sick people to come near them, will help to protect your baby as much as possible. Make sure their vaccinations are up to date and you and everyone around baby get their flu shots every winter, so that baby is protected against the flu virus and other deadly diseases like measles. From three months babies can have infant Calpol, from the time they have their first jabs. And when they have teething pain, Calpol helps to soothe their gums. But, there are some ailments that you may need to prepare for regardless of how protective you are of your baby. 

Colic

If you’re unfortunate enough to have a baby with colic, then you’ll likely not be sleeping at night and the sound of your baby crying will make you want to reach into your ear and pull out your eardrums. Colic is defined as when your baby cries a lot but there isn’t an obvious reason why. Of course, all babies cry but a baby with colic will cry for more than three hours a day, three times a week for at least one week. You may find that it’s really hard to soothe them when they’re red in the face and they clench their fists. It’s a horrible sight to witness, and your health visitor or doctor will advise you to hold or cuddle your baby when they’re crying, sit or hold them upright during feeds, wind your baby afterwards and gently rock them either over your shoulder or in their bed. Bathing your baby in a warm bath may help too and try things like white noise or TV in the background to distract them. You can get anti-colic drops or herbal supplements which may help but make sure you obtain medical advice first and consult your GP if you’re worried and nothing seems to be working. You should also seek medical advice if you’re finding it hard to cope too.

Reflux

I have never experienced colicky babies, but I have had babies with reflux – not the same I know.

There are tons of information online on how to deal with babies with reflux, i.e. food from the stomach returns back up to the food pipe which causes heartburn. In babies, you’ll find them spitting up milk or being sick shortly after feeding, and they will cough or hiccup when feeding. They may even become unsettled and cry due to the pain. All of my three had reflux at varying levels. My eldest was the worst and had silent reflux (meaning he didn’t bring up milk or be sick). Sometimes we would have to rock him at 3 am to get him to sleep after a feed and it could take hours. The doctor prescribed us Infacol which we were convinced made no difference, but after about three months he got much better. My second would bring up everything he ate, but he was a happy baby and the reflux didn’t seem to affect him. My third one sits somewhere in between. She spits up occasionally and as she used to click during feeding in the first couple of months, she would swallow a lot of wind and then we would spend a good ten minutes rubbing her back to burp her. She’s now a little burpy but she seems to just get on with it. Remember that it’s important that if your baby has reflux, you don’t change your diet during breastfeeding, that you do not raise the head of their cot or Moses basket and you ask your health visitor for advice and support. Hold your baby upright during feeding and for as long as possible after feeding and consult your doctor if symptoms don’t improve after trying to ease reflux, your child gets reflux for the first time after six months old, they’re older than one and still have reflux or they’re losing or not gaining weight.

Cradle cap/eczema

Cradle cap is very common, all three of my babies had it. It is a harmless skin condition that usually clears up on its own. There are things that you can do to make it better. You can wash your baby’s hair regularly with baby shampoo and gently loosen the flakes with a soft baby brush and you can also gently rub coconut oil to soften the crusts. My eldest had eczema too and even though we were advised to use a cream, we ended up leaving it and it cleared by itself. Sometimes it’s worth leaving cradle cap and mild eczema to clear up by themselves. But if you’re concerned or it’s getting worse, contact your GP for advice.

Items you should have to hand

Healthcare set

A healthcare set will contain all the items you need to get you through the first year at least. A general healthcare set will include:

  • Digital oral thermometer
  • Nasal aspirator – to decongest your baby’s nose as they can’t clear the mucus on their own
  • Toothbrush
  • Emery board for filing nails
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors
  • Brush
  • Comb

Painkillers

Make sure you have infant Calpol to hand and then later Ibruprofen if your baby has a fever or is in pain from teething or other ailments.

Vitamin D Drops

Vitamin D drops are really important to boost your baby’s immunity and if you’re in a country that doesn’t see much sun then you and your baby may be deficient in vitamin D and there is even more reason to take vitamin D drops.

Prepare for the jabs!

The dreaded jabs! Unfortunately, we have to go through them and even though they are gruesome, first immunisations are one of the best ways to protect your baby against diseases like measles, tetanus and meningitis. Your baby will have injections at eight weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks and then one year and the first one is nasty (3 jabs and 1 oral!) Your baby will get the following:

8 weeks

12 weeks

  • 6-in-1 vaccine – 2nd dose
  • PCV (pneumococcal) vaccine
  • RV (Rotavirus) vaccine – 2nd dose

16 weeks

  • 6-in-1 vaccine – 3rd dose
  • MenB vaccine – 2nd dose

1 year:

  • Hib/MenC vaccine given as a single jab containing vaccines against meningitis C (1st dose) and Hib (4th dose)
  • MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella), given as a single jab
  • PCV (pneumococcal) – 2nd dose
  • MenB vaccine – 3rd dose

Bring Calpol and lots of cuddles – you and your baby will need it!

Prepare for teething

Teething can be the bane of parents’ lives and seems to go on forever when the process starts, which is generally between as young as two months and 24 months. You’ll find when teething starts they will become irritable and their gums will be swollen and tender. Babies will want to put objects and fingers in their mouths to reduce the discomfort and their cheeks may become red. You may even find that they will have more nappy rash because their poos become acidic and they have a slight fever and/or diarrhoea. There’s nothing you can do but ride the process and help baby get through it until their teeth come through. Increased drooling means they will need a bib, so make sure you have some to hand wherever you go. Calpol is great to reduce the temperature when their fever runs high and teething toys can help to soothe their gums. All three of my kids starting teething very early so I gave them teething rattles which worked well and then Bonjela or Ashton and Parsons from six months. When they got older I used to freeze fruit and place them in protective nets for them to suck on which they enjoyed. Plus it helped soothe their gums and worked well for Baby Led Weaning too!

Look after yourself

So, you’re looking after baby, and you’re looking after the whole family but you forget to look after yourself! This is normal but needs to be rectified ASAP. Don’t forget that you’ve also gone through trauma so it’s important to take time for yourself too to nurse your mind and body back to health.

Start the process by taking the time to heal after birth. Don’t rush the recovery and listen to your body. Surround yourself with your support network and get help when you need it. Then when you are ready you can focus on your post-baby body.

Check out my article on how to take care of your post-baby body here.

Exercise is important

I had my baby in September, so I gave myself Christmas to enjoy and indulge in the Christmas food and then in the New Year, I would start my diet and exercise and get my life back to normal. It’s February and I’ve worked out a total of three times! You may find you won’t have time to hit the gym so home workouts are good or you can find classes where you can incorporate baby into new postnatal exercises. There are tons to choose from on YouTube alone, but my favourite is still Shaun T Beachbody.com and the new Jericho Matthews 100 workouts which I have been working through – I am so unfit at the moment but it will come 😊 When I change the pram to a stroller I will start to run in the park which I am really excited about, as that’s a great way to exercise too plus baby gets some outside space.

You’ll naturally exercise when you’re picking your baby up and down so you may end up with a bad back if you’re not using the correct stance. Percko gifted me an innovative posture t-shirt which uses explosive elastic to remind me not to slouch and ultimately solve my lower back pain, which has grown over the years because of slouching when picking up and putting down heavy kids. The design uses a patented ‘TENSOR technology’ to signal me when I’m hunching by applying light pressure on the lower back and shoulders when needed which naturally pulls me back into a more supportive posture. The Lyne Up* comes in black and nude and is a stylish undershirt that fits under any top.

The right exercise outfits will help

Your bits will be wobbly so it’s important to be protected and wear the right clothing to help you exercise. The Lyne Fit* works just like the Lyne Up but offers extra protection from harmful shocks while exercising to readjust the spine. The top also frees up the diaphragm for healthier and easier breathing and slows down muscle fatigue thanks to better blood circulation. Check out the image below of me exhausted but feeling very supported with the Lyne Fit top. You’ll have to take the whole top off to breastfeed though!

LyneFit top from Percko and Focus Full-Length Mulberry Plum Sports Leggings from Love Leggings

Fully supportive workout trousers are a must and my favourite at the moment is my Love Leggings Focus Full-Length Mulberry Plum Sports Leggings* which are flexible enough for me to stretch during yoga. They’re supportive too, so I can feel my waist is cinched in when I’m doing ab work. They’re also breathable so I stay cool and dry when sweating through my cardio exercises. Check out my super cool leggings in thunder thighs in the image above. I plan to get back to my Size 8 figure this lifetime, although I haven’t started yet. So, I better get a move on!

It’s worth investing in proper clothing to work out as you’ll feel more supported and comfortable, which means you won’t shy away from exercise the next time.

Prepare for hair loss!

I have very thick curly hair, which was thinning just before I got pregnant with my third baby. Then when I got pregnant again, my hair became really thick and glossy again. Now Ayla is four months old, I have noticed that my hair is falling out again and I’m upset because I loved how voluminous it got. My hair is still thick, but at the rate, it’s falling out, my hair will soon become thin and straggly again.

Thankfully I was gifted a beautiful set of Pure Diamonds Line Espresso Black Clip in hair extensions from Rubin Extensions*, to cover up the shortfall! I will be publishing a video shortly on how to get your hair from curly mop to super thick straight hair using the clip-in extensions very soon so please watch this space!

Look out for signs of postnatal depression

Having a baby is hard. Having a baby with kids is hard. So when you’re feeling down in the dumps and sleep-deprived soon after birth, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at your impending new normality. But, if the ‘baby blues’ don’t seem to be fading away and you feel down in the dumps for longer than two weeks then you may need to seek further help for postnatal depression (PND). PND can be mild or severe and affect you in different ways.  You may feel constantly low and/or lose interest in the world around you. You may feel tired all the time or not be able to sleep. You may even feel like you don’t want to or can’t look after your baby, and you have scary thoughts, perhaps about hurting your baby or considering suicide or self-harm.

After my eldest’s birth, I suffered from panic attacks for about six weeks afterwards and had horrible thoughts about someone stealing my son or him falling off our balcony. Unrealistic as it sounds they seemed very real to me and the thoughts would linger and result in panic attacks. I remember unlocking and locking the balcony door and front door and going around to make sure all the windows were locked to minimise any chance of Aron falling or being stolen and then when I went to bed I would think about how he may climb out of his cot (at four weeks (!)) and fall on a knife by accident. I suffered in silence for about six weeks until I consulted a very close friend of mine and she said;

“Well, I suppose you’re probably just being a protective mother, right? You’re trying to cover all bases. But it’s unlikely that will happen you do know that?”

It was then I realised that something may have been wrong with me. However, my friend’s words also resonated with me. “A good and protective mother, but what I’m thinking is unrealistic” That was nine years ago and I never sought help for my thoughts. I somehow managed them and they faded over time. And nine years go, neither myself nor my friend knew anything about PND. So, very occasionally, when I’m down for the night and my head hits the pillow I will have a sudden nasty thought that takes a while to cloud over with thoughts of something more positive like work, or going out somewhere with friends and family. But, I do know that I should have sought help. Don’t make the same mistake. Go see your doctor.

Prepare your for entertainment

Right! Onto more fun topics, like entertainment. Entertainment is a huge part of baby’s play and development and I would strongly suggest that if you’re going to spend your money on what I call unnecessary necessary things, spend it on educational toys or entertainment that will make your baby happy. Not all toys are unnecessary though. Here are some items that I think your baby shouldn’t live without:

Musical mobile

Whether you’re changing your baby’s nappy or you’re settling baby to sleep, a musical mobile is a lovely way to introduce music into their lives while offering a visual stimulation too. Listening to music can help your baby grow in every possible way and it can contribute to your child’s cognitive and sensory development. We have a Tippy Toes Musical Mobile from Clair de Lune* which Ayla loves to follow when I’m changing her nappy. When she wakes up from her nap, she also likes to stare at the pretty pink hearts and ballerina. It plays a soft lullaby to help her drift off to sleep too.

Black and white patterns

Sensory toys and books

Babies see in black and white, to begin with, and from about four to six weeks they start to see other colours. But, developing their eyes can allow them to appreciate colour sooner. The visual contrast between black and white will also encourage babies to explore different textures and patterns and provide a multi-sensory experience, as well as helps to focus their attention and enhance their levels of concentration.

Skip hop activity gym

Skip hop activity gym

Tummy time should start from when your baby is a newborn, even if for a few minutes at a time. Placing babies on their front encourages their muscles and neck to develop and get stronger and eventually by about four months your baby should be able to lift their chest off the floor and lean on their elbows. But tummy time can be enhanced with some visual patterns on the floor and above to encourage them to look upwards. Activity gyms work for this reason. They improve hand-eye coordination, stimulate baby’s senses, boost cognitive development and encourage freedom and movement. We have a lovely activity gym from Skip Hop* where Ayla regularly likes to chat to the animals, especially the fox who moves his head when he hears Ayla babble.

With this gym, you have three modes of use; babies on their back, tummy time and sitting up. You attach the arch above for overhead play, then bring it down for tummy time or to a seated floor activity centre. There are 20 developmental activities you can do to entertain your baby and you can even slip your phone behind the mirror to record the fun. The sound-activated dancing fox seems to be Ayla’s favourite though.

Sensory toys and books

I always try to go for toys which are educational and sensory-based, i.e. they have lots of different shapes, textures and colours to expand the baby’s mind. Lamaze make some great toys – the boys used to enjoy playing on the Lamaze Space Symphony Activity Gym, which covered all aspects of development – the black and white patterns, the motion of the arches, the different smiley animals and lots of things to grab and pull. The activity gym grew with the boys and eventually, we took off the items and they carried them around like toys. We also loved soft sensory books that have tags made of different materials for smashing, squashing and eating. We landed onto normal books but the kids enjoyed being interactive with their toys. Rattles are great to start off with as they can double up as teething rings too. Things that make noise are great for introducing music and sound. Ayla loves her Lamaze caterpillar and teething rattle, as well as her array of soft playbooks which I read regularly to her. She seems to love me reading her “That’s not my unicorn” book where there is a different texture for her to feel on every page. I read a lot to the boys and my eldest started reading from age three. My middle one started speaking very early as he learned a lot from his older brother. Stimulation, interaction and continued surrounding change all helps to develop the mind. Expose your babies to new things all the time and invoke all of their senses, then see how they grow.

Dens/Play area

Homemade den

To expand on enhancing their development I always wanted to provide the boys with a den because the one in their old playgroup was amazing. It was a large dark sensory tent which contained lava lamps, flashing lights and soft music. It was so soothing that I never wanted to leave that place, so, I decided to create my own 😊 I plan to do the same with Ayla too, so watch this space!

Aron's den

Bouncer

We have had a bouncer for all three kids as we believe that bouncers are a great way to strengthen, stretch and build a baby’s legs in preparation for crawling and walking. It also gives them a sense of balance and it’s a great exercise for them too. A bouncer seat is great to use from day one as the seat can be a great place to lay your newborn so you can free your hands. I bring my Chicco Swing Relax&Play* into the bathroom when I shower as I know Ayla is protected by the three-point safety harness, entertained by the music and the hanging animals in the arch and soothed by the gentle rocking motion of the seat. There are five different speeds and you can choose the rhythm in which your baby rocks by how fast or slow they sway.

Chicco Relax and Play Bouncer
The Lamaze cubes have travelled everywhere with us!

Bumbo

Ayla in the Bumbo

Ayla has just started using the Bumbo at four months for a few minutes at a time, but I’m on the fence about using a Bumbo so early. The Bumbo is designed to help babies as young as four months learn how to sit, but I think that sitting upright at this time may be a bit immature and cause unnecessary strain on their pelvic area. And, in fact, I found this review from Kidspot which confirmed my concerns. Having said all of that there is no reason why you can’t use the Bumbo for a short period. At least you get some free time for three minutes!

Prepare for travel

Onto travel! Because inevitably you’re going to travel with your little one, whether that be to the shops, to baby classes, to school runs or for a walk. I find that the more alternative methods you have for travelling with your baby, the more likely you’ll stay out – and venturing outdoors is far more beneficial than being cooped up indoors all day. So, first things first. You’ll need a good travel system!

I have the Uppababy Vista 2019 travel system kindly gifted by my sister and which includes a carrycot for use with a newborn up to around four months, a stroller for use after four months, a car seat and other accessories like a rain cover and a cup holder (thanks sis!) The Uppababy is a bit of a beast and looks like a large high-quality palace for your baby. But you may be better off getting something smaller. I absolutely loved my boys’ Phil and Teds Sports double buggy and should have gone for the single version instead as it was so nimble. I may consider getting it for my new running buggy sport, but let’s see how the Vista fares in the park when running first!

Baby carriers

I didn’t use baby carriers nearly enough with the boys and I sooo missed out. I reviewed the Lifft Baby Sling for MadeforMums from when Ayla was about two weeks old and I fell in love with it. It was a bit of a learning curve to create the wrap but once I got the hang of it, it was pretty much wrap and go. Plus the sling looked like a t-shirt. Sadly Ayla has grown out of the baby sling now as she’s massive and I’ve gone back to my super-duper Babybjorn Baby Carrier One* which I used to use on the boys from when they were six months old. The one I have now is a Babybjorn Baby Carrier One* and it’s awesome! It’s ergonomically designed so you don’t feel the weight of the baby when you’re walking around. In fact, I travelled to Winter Wonderland by tube with the family using the Baby Carrier One and I walked around, got back on the tube and headed back home all with the baby carrier on and Ayla asleep the whole time. The journey took around five hours and I didn’t feel any back pain or discomfort. The clips may be a little tricky to slot into place, but other than that, it’s the best baby carrier by far. I still use it to walk Ayla in the school run and find it a lot easier to travel hands-free. And as we’re deep in the throes of winter, I have an awesome 3 in 1 maternity coat by Seraphine which has an attachment that is built entirely for going over the baby carrier, so Ayla is even more protected than when she is in the pram.

Other things to think about

Prepare your finances

Buying a henry when pregnant

I won’t go into it in too much detail here, but you do need to prepare your finances for another human. It may not feel like you are spending that much on your baby at the very beginning, but once you factor in the above equipment, the expense could hit the thousands. I have written an article on how to plan your baby budget before birth and have an archive of money topics that will help you to understand what your costs are before you spend.

Prepare your relationship with your partner

Anniversary outing

Whether you like it or not, your relationship with your partner is going to change. You’ll have less time for each other and your nerves will be frayed from lack of sleep and too much going on, so you’re also going to argue more. It’s important to understand that you are in it together and you make a team, even when you don’t feel like it. Try to spend some time with each other when the baby is asleep and get back that intimacy because your relationship shouldn’t change towards each other. 

Prepare your relationship with your kids

Either your baby will slot right in or you’ll receive one heck of a culture shock. I found it way harder to go from one to two rather than two to three, but that may be down to age. I had my first two almost back to back (15 months) so I had two babies to look after for a while. I had my third when my boys were seven and eight so they had more independence and they were also at school for most of the day, so most of the time I felt like I had only one. But, there are some other unforeseen issues that you may want to prepare for, like repeating the same sentences over and over again:

  • Don’t shout in her ear!
  • Stop putting your fingers in her mouth!
  • Stop kissing her on the mouth!
  • Stop picking her up as soon as she’s made a noise!
  • Don’t wake her, she’s sleeping!
  • Please stop shouting, she’s sleeping!
  • No, she doesn’t need another bath!
  • SHE’S SLEEPING!

But, truth be told, my boys are amazing at looking after their baby sister. My eldest is very loving and my middle one is very protective of her. In fact, during the boys’ school fair, I had to collect some alcohol that my boys had won for me (#modelparenting) and I left my baby girl with a good friend whom I trusted. When I went to collect my daughter my friend pulled me over and said:

“Your son stared me down for a full five minutes while you were gone and when I asked why he was staring at me like that, he replied with ‘Why do you have my sister?’ I mentioned that I was babysitting her until mummy came back and he nodded in agreement but continued to stare at me with daggers in his eyes.”

What more can a mother ask for than thoughtful protective older brothers like them?

The trick is – and you will get days when there will be fighting, especially as baby gets older and is less ‘cute’ in front of their eyes – involve them in everything you do, whether it be changing the nappies, reading a book at bedtime and/or bathing them and changing their clothes. These everyday routines will make them feel as if they’re responsible for another human and it helps them to grow into very thoughtful and caring young people. I know my boys love their sister more than anything so they are happy to help. Sometimes this may not always be the case in your family. If you find that there isn’t a relationship between the siblings, try and build one. Mention how amazing an older sibling they are and how their youngest sibling will grow up idolising them. They need to feel needed to respond accordingly.

Prepare for the noise

Having said all of that, prepare for a whole heap of noise coming your way! My boys play the piano, violin and guitar and they like to sing at the top of their lungs, even when their sister is sleeping. They also like to play loudly through roleplay and fight loudly too. Nothing you can do about it. I keep shushing them and they keep apologising but the truth is, they’re kids and hopefully their sister will eventually be able to sleep through the chaos. In fact, I don’t think she can sleep if there isn’t any noise at all! Hmm… this may be where I’m going wrong at night… Maybe I just need one of the boys to shout repeatedly in her ear during the night to help her sleep… Or maybe I should just get a white noise machine, that might be better for my mental health – and hers.

Prepare for the lack of time to yourself

Do you watch your second cup of undrunk coffee get cold? Did you forget to eat or shower… or go to the toilet? Yep, as a mother of three, I’ve experienced all of this, including forgetting to sleep! It’s normal, babies are demanding. Life is demanding. My husband is demanding. Be prepared to hold everyone’s hands but find that your hands are empty. Be prepared to drop everything at the drop of a hat, but mould your timetable towards your family’s. Just roll with the punches, kids get older and they become more independent. And believe me, at seven and nine my boys need fewer cuddles and less mummy time and it hurts my heart sometimes. I’m thankful that I have a baby who takes the love I want to give because once they get older you’ll wish you could hold their hand instead of drinking your hot cup of coffee. Kids grow up too fast. ☹

Prepare for lots of new experiences

Seeing Santa

You probably won’t foresee this but you’ll end up learning a lot about yourself and revisiting memories from your own childhood. The first time I went to visit Santa with my eldest, it reminded me of the time when I went to see Santa and how much I loved Christmas when I was young. It’s going to be one of the times in your life when your inner child will take over. I love going to soft play with my boys and crashing into the soft mats and singing at the top of my lungs to Disney songs and playing with rattles and musical toys. Utilise this time with your kids to be a kid yourself. It feels amazing!

Also if you’re the first one in your friendship group to have kids, then you’ll find that your priorities have changed. Make some friends with mums of kids with similar ages and use this as an opportunity to broaden your social circle. But, remember who you were before you had kids. Having a child should only enhance your character, not change it.

Prepare for lots and lots of pictures and videos!

A picture is a thousand words but a video is worth a million. I used to take a lot of pictures of my boys until someone said to me that taking a video will capture their character forever, so now I take millions and millions of pictures and videos! Make sure you back them up safely. I use Dropbox as it is safely stored in a cloud and then I back up the pictures in Google Photos and then my own PC harddrive. So if I lose a file from one place, I have it in another place. I constantly look back over when my boys were young and it’s so nice to reflect on not only how much they’ve grown but how much you’ve grown as a parent too.

Family picture
Nine years ago – very first image of us as a family
Family Chrsitmas pic
The latest pic of us as a family taken last Christmas – the boy in blue was the boy in the image above taken nine years ago!

Prepare for the most amazing time in your life

I haven’t talked about baby-proofing the apartment, the dreaded mum guilt if you’re going back to work or deciding to stay at home, or the opinions you’ll get from everyone and their mum on how to raise your own baby! I also haven’t talked about all the presents you’ll get for baby, but not always necessary for you – in fact, you may hardly receive any presents for you as people will think a present for a baby is a present for you! Yup. You no longer exist.

But, forget all that for a moment.

The cuddles you will get from your baby during the first year is indescribable and incomparable to anything else you will have experienced in your life. It makes the uncomfortable pregnancy, the painful birth, the cabin fever, the sleep deprivation, the nappy changing and the feeling of uselessness all disappear when your baby first smiles at you, laughs at your jokes and gives you the biggest cuddles. Then you’ll know why you did all of this in the first place. You are a mother now and it’s the best job in the world! Go enjoy it 😊

I hoped this guide was useful. Well done if you made it all the way through! Please share it around to new mothers and write in the comments below if I’ve missed something. I’d like to make this guide interactive and comprehensive so please share your thoughts.

Congratulations and I hope the first year goes well for you. Coffee helps 😊

Check out the full video below!

https://youtu.be/90muIYBraJc

*Some photos by Dallago Photography

Leyla Preston (595 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 7. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked!You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: https://www.facebook.com//groups/motherhooddiaries/


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