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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

new parent must haves: the less conventional list

Holy Frijoles, Batman! Is it October already? My goodness. My last post was in July, if you can remember that far back. We've had a few changes since then, the main and all-consuming one being that we are currently in England, not in Arizona. We have no idea how long this change will last, but it does provide me opportunity to mess about with recipes in a different climate and offer new perspectives that Arizona cannot. I hope you continue to find my posts interesting and helpful. Part of my delay in posting these recent months has been due to lack of working camera. Or, lack of connector cable to upload pics from camera to the computer. I think I have that fixed now, but today's post is still photo-less, and I shall start snapping pics for the other posts I've been working on for you. Some good stuff is coming!

I was thinking, though, about babies. Nope, not mine. Well, mine a little, but not any new ones. I have one kid, a boy, and it's staying that way unless God provides differently, but I do still have a lot of friends in the baby factory. Just this morning, we received in the mail another one of those twee little baby announcement photo collage thingamies. I started remembering that time a little over three years ago, when we had all our cloth diapers assembled neatly in drawers, all the clothing and knits washed and ready, and were totally clueless as to the size of the bombshell our tiny boy would drop on us. Boy, did he ever! We had latching issues, SNS and pumping for the SNS, nursing every flipping flapping hour around the clock, and a newborn with extreme colic to the degree of crying 8-12 hours in 24, sometimes for hours at a time... Oh, my goodness. We survived because we had to survive. I hear stories from other parents and I think perhaps our situation was a little more extreme than most, mainly because few babies are so colicky, but every parent seems a little shell shocked by all the newness. Some of that just has to be weathered. There is no preparing for the unknown personality that is about to enter the family dynamics. But other things we learned on the fly I think we would have been glad to consider ahead, if we'd known. So, here. This list is basically my survival kit for a new parent, and includes things I would love to give to you had I the ability. In lieu of endless stacks of cash, this list is my gift to you.

Wireless headphones. 

My husband and I got these when our son was four months old, and they were amazing. I'm not majorly into my gadgets, and I initially thought these were kinda gimmicky. I was so wrong! Our sleep was all off kilter, and sometimes I'd crash early and then be up in the small hours with the boy while my husband tried to sleep in anticipation of another work day. Sometimes, Cariad (my pet name for my man) wanted to play video games and listen to the sound without disturbing us. Sometimes, I couldn't sleep with the baby, but I couldn't always get him to stay sleeping without holding him, and watching a show with headphones on helped to preserve my sanity sitting and rocking for hours. I tried holding books, oh, I did. Long explanation cut short, some babies are just picky and like to be held a certain way that doesn't allow for mama to have one hand free, and sometimes a parent just needs a little personal entertainment that isn't geared for infant ears. If you don't want to watch TV, just getting a headphone set and a CD or mp3 player with audio books can save your sanity. Listen to the bible, sermons, Agatha Christie, Def Leppard, whatever rocks your socks.

Two different baby wearing devices. 

We loved the Moby wrap. We loved the Maya ring sling. We loved the Mei Tai. All were bought at different stages in the first year, all were loved, all were used a lot. I wore my son daily, even just around the house. It doesn't really matter what baby wearing thing you use. The point is that it needs to work for you, and needs to also work for your kid. Sometimes, kid just wants the other style carrier to go to sleep in, or you want to pop babe on your back instead of your hip, or daddy is wearing babe instead of mama and he prefers the other style carrier. Sometimes, a diaper leaks and you need a backup carrier while washing the other. It's all good. Keep an open mind and an open eye. Ask other baby wearing parents you know what they prefer, and if you can try it out with their help sometime before your bump gets too huge, and then when the baby is born have two carriers in different styles ready to go. Many carriers last a long time so if you are uncertain about baby wearing have a scout around for second hand and save a bit of cash.

Dry shampoo. 

Even when bathing daily, or more than daily, it is not good to wash hair too frequently. Healthy hair will stay at it's healthiest when the natural scalp oils are balanced and allowed to nourish the hair cuticle instead of being stripped off as soon as they form. Post partum hair is for some mamas a bit of a nightmare. You go from lustrous, thick pregnant mama hair to clumps of it in your hairbrush daily, loose strands on all your clothes and furniture. Gotta love hormones. Add to that the sudden panic that you need to dash to the store and you've not washed your hair in days, simply due to lack of time. Dry shampoo is your friend, mamas. I don't know now what I did without it. I've tried the homemade powders that are applied to the roots with a brush. Ugh. Plain old Batiste or some other inexpensive thing on the shelf in one of those pressure spray cans is worth it. Dry shampoo the roots, quick brush through, tuck hair out of the face with a braid swept to the side or gather up in a messy bun, and nobody will be the wiser. Abby over on Twist Me Pretty has very clever videos put together with great ideas, and she also only washes her hair about once a week so has plenty of tips for up-styling dirty hair.

Coconut oil. 

This stuff is second only to mama's milk liquid gold. Coconut oil is liquid silver. Again, good for hair. After not washing your hair for several days, massage some oil into the scalp and tips and leave overnight. Shampoo in the morning. This helps keep the scalp healthy and nourishes the fine baby hairs that are growing back after losing all that pregnancy hair. Want awesome mama hair? Treat your scalp well. Coconut oil is also mildly antibacterial, and washes out of fabrics easily. This makes it brilliant for baby's bottom, even compatible with most cloth diapers, and good for a healthy lubricant for those first few times of postpartum sex. Buy an organic, cold-pressed, expeller-pressed coconut oil. If you can't find a reliable brand, Nutiva fits the criteria, sources reliably, is priced fairly, and is available in the USA, UK, and more countries.

Rapha salve. 

This salve heals all kinds of ouches, from sore nursing nipples and vaginal tears to diaper rash and insect bites, even helps with acne. The whole family wants Rapha salve, not just mama.

White noise CD. 

My mother gave us this, after the colic started. I blessed her for it. I don't know why it works for some babies, but it really does, and any overloaded and tired parent will agree that if it is ethical, safe, law-abiding and humane, and works, you do it! It doesn't matter what Josie down the road thinks. If you get more sleep this way, good. There are many white noise albums for babies on the market. We had one by Harvey Karp, "The Happiest Baby on the Block", that had 6 tracks including various different noises like vacuum cleaner, heartbeat, and rain on the roof. It helped us survive that first year.

Spare mattress. 

There is no one particular use for this. It just seems that every new family of parents and first baby is met with a learning curve when it comes to meshing sleep with personal space. For some, babe sleeps next door. For others, babe co-sleeps in the same room or the same bed. You might find that the mattress is most handy in the living room, stashed behind the sofa and pulled out for sex not-on-the-floor when kiddo is sprawled out in the center of the king bed. You might need that mattress on the floor next to baby's bed or crib, for mama to use when daddy needs to work the next day and baby keeps waking up in the night. Who knows. Chances are, that mattress will serve more than one purpose in months and years to come.


Um, yeah. This is for mamas more than daddies. That dreaded first post partum poop? Not always so bad, as it turns out, but some mamas I know have reported more inconsistency during subsequent months as their bodies try to find a new normal. If laxatives never become needed, so much the better, but I think it is a good idea to have a comfortable form of relief handy in the medicine cabinet, rather than having to pop the baby in the car and trundle on down to the drug store when you are actually in need.

Merry Muscles baby and toddler bouncing swing. 

Our son loved this. I don't usually brand recommend, but we really do not know of any better baby swing or bouncer or jumper or walker toy that is more worth the cash than a Merry Muscles. It is designed to protect the crotch and the spine, unlike pretty much all other baby entertainers currently on the market, and is therefore able to be used with younger babies than any other bouncer, as young as 2 months old. It is designed to put weight on the heel, not the toe, and so encourages greater muscle stability and balance for later walking. And, it fits babies for a long time. My son is a large boy, grew from tiny baby to 95th percentile everything very rapidly, and at 2 years old was the size of most 4 year olds. He still fitted in the swing safely until he was almost 2 1/2, and it was a sad day for everybody when he did finally outgrow the swing. Merry Muscles also creates a swing for special needs.

Baby swing. 

Less essential than the Merry Muscles in my book, but this is still really handy for any parent with a newborn infant. Get yourself a swing. Borrow, buy second hand, put it on the wish gift list for benevolent and rich aunties to buy for you. The fanciest and most expensive ones out there are probably great but this swing will not be necessary for long, so why bother? Anything motorised, whether by a hand crank or batteries or outlet power, that provides a safe recline for baby's spine, secure straps, and consistent movement, will save a lot of things. Having sex, making dinner, taking a shower, doing anything where you can't baby wear but the kiddo needs some form of distraction and is too young or tired to go in the Merry Muscles? Baby swing. And I'll say it here, although manufacturers and baby "experts" and so many sources say that it is unsafe and unwise to allow an infant to sleep in a baby swing, I have done it. I'm one of those parents. And I know so many parents who have confessed as much to me, too. A baby swing can knock out those lights if nursing didn't work, and when you are at your wits' end, you do what works. (Dr Sears, don't come after me. You and I would have a very long conversation if you did.)