Say hello to Maggie. She’s my third child, and at the time of writing she’s just over three weeks old. I’ve got big age gaps between all of my kids, so each time I have a newborn it’s like they’re my first, me seemingly having forgotten everything, including how to hold a tiny baby. Having recently bought a load of baby stuff, gone through the NHS maternity system and immersed myself in the world of latest safety advice for the third time, I thought I would offer my top tips if you are expecting a baby. These aren’t the most important things to know, but instead the less-obvious baby products I have found really useful, and some advice I wish I had heeded in advance.
Get a TENS Machine
Unless you’re planning a c-section, get yourself a TENS machine. I used to think these little devices couldn’t possibly make a dent in terms of pain relief, and even as I recently bought mine I had visions of me tearing it off and flinging it out of the window mid-labour. But actually, much to my surprise, the difference it made was immense. My TENS machine allowed me to stay at home, in familiar and comfortable surroundings, for as long as possible during early labour. No, it didn’t reduce the pain in the later stages of labour significantly, but pushing the all important boost button to get me through each contraction gave me something to focus on and really helped me to feel in control. The same principle as hypno-birthing I guess, but without all the prep work. In fact, my TENS machine and only my TENS machine got me to 10cm dilated during a back-to-back labour. I only took it off in the end because I was getting in the pool. So don’t dismiss the TENS!
I opted for the MamaTENS from Amazon. At the time of writing it’s showing at £59.99, but I paid £29.99 not long ago. Amazon really do shift their prices around like crazy, so if you’re not in a rush, stick it in your basket and keep an eye on the price.
Baby’s First Feed
If you’re planning to breastfeed, you can skip this one. But for those planning to formula feed, if the hospital give you any milk at all, it will likely only be one bottle. So make sure you get a starter pack or two to take in your hospital bag. Cow & Gate, Aptamil and SMA all do these packs (not sure about HiPP Organic or Kendamil), and they contain 6 bottles of pre-made formula, with 6 pre-sterilised teats to screw to the bottles. Trust me, when you’re sat with an umbilical cord hanging out of your vagina waiting to birth the placenta, while simultaneously cuddling your naked newborn on your bare chest and reeling from the shock of what the hell just happened, the last thing you need to be thinking about is making up a feed. Starter Packs are super-easy to use and get you through the first few hours and days very conveniently. Cow & Gate and Aptamil milks are made in the same place by the same company by the way, so before you opt for the more expensive Aptamil, check the ingredient differences between the two.
These squares of cotton are ESSENTIAL and you cannot have too many. Whether you opt for white and/or some vibrant colours, buy them knowing you will use them for everything. From cleaning up baby sick, to lining the chilly changing mat, keeping baby warm when they nod off on your lap, cleaning up more baby sick, protecting your clean-on-today jumper from baby sick, sick sick sick, you get it…. I have 30 muslins this time round to keep me ticking over. But then I am a bit lazy when it comes to putting on the washing machine.
Consider a sling. I don’t mean an expensive one with clips and buckles and what not, I mean a cheap and cheerful length of stretchy fabric which to the novice looks hopelessly complicated, but which in reality is a piece of piss once you’ve practiced a few times. Baby will love being held closely to you in a sling, and these fabric ones, if used correctly, mean baby is supported on the optimum position for their hips. If you’re well enough and inclined enough to potter around the house/cook/clean/whatever in the first few weeks, you will find your sling a massive help since newborns aren’t all that keen on being put down. And if you’ve got other kids you need to walk to school, or even if you just want to pop to the shops, the sling trumps the pram in my experience. They are also super helpful for the colic-y/reflux-y baby who needs to stay upright after each feed. I opted for the Hana Baby Wrap for Maggie, and <slight tangent> also very highly rate their Swaddle Pod too if you want a soundly sleeping newborn.
Ah, the new baby rush! All those relatives and friends wanting to come round and coo over your new arrival. In reality though, house guests too soon after the birth – unless they are the kind that clean the house, make you cups of tea, cook you dinner and take your other kids to the park – are a massive pain in the arse. Once the initial adrenaline following the birth has worn off, and as your hormones quickly start to shift, you will find yourself tired, overly anxious about your baby, and in a bit of a mental whirl while you adjust. Your lochia will be heavy, your undercarriage will feel rather <ahem> uncomfortable, particularly if you’ve needed stitches, and you’ll really not want to share you bathroom with anyone but your partner and kids. Furthermore, if you’re breastfeeding for the first time, a load of people coming round and plonking themselves on your sofa will not help you settle into it one bit. My advice is to limit visits so they are short and sweet – 30 mins to an hour was long enough for me in the first few weeks, not forgetting you’ll have midwives visiting regularly during that time too. And as for overnight house guests – accept them at your peril! Seriously, just say no. Schedule a visit for when baby is a little older…and more interesting quite frankly. All newborns do is sleep, and those first few weeks are so special for you and your new little family. You and your partner, if you have one, will much prefer gazing at your amazing new son or daughter for hours on end, than playing host to a ton of visitors.
If You Go Overdue
My three children were all late: 4 days, 3 days and then 9 days. The 9 days I went over with Maggie were excruciating in terms of my stress levels. Rather than relaxing from 40 weeks onwards, trusting my body to do what it is supposed to do while eating chocolate and watching Netflix, I googled frantically about how to bring on labour, Googled how to spot the early signs of labour, read lots of hideous stories about being induced and then went back to Googling how to bring on labour again. Oh how I now wish I had stopped fretting and relaxed instead, enjoying my last few precious days to myself. Now baby is here, I seem to have entered into a parallel universe where the days are only 1 hour long; where I wake up, blink, and then it’s bedtime again! So, step away from Google, try to stop stressing about being overdue and enjoy the extra time. Remind yourself that most countries other than Britain don’t count term until 41 or 42 weeks anyway, and that your baby will come in her own time. Also clue yourself up on expectant monitoring, as this is an alternative to being induced. And, even if you are induced, please be reassured that during my frantic Googling stage I found many MANY positive induction stories.