The things you need + the things you certainly don't once your baby arrives.
Read on to learn more.
*I do not receive compensation for affiliate links - they are my honest suggestions.
Like anything these days, there is an enormous amount of information that we have access to daily, which at times can be overwhelming.
When it comes to first time parents and setting ourselves up for the fourth trimester, we want to make sure that we are ready to roll - and waiting to take advantage of our ready-to-over-purchase hearts are the internet cookies that latch on to our metaphorical tail end and follow us around every single internet platform we engage in after that one time we searched 'baby essentials' on Google. Suddenly every ad you see when diving into your phone is baby related.
Suddenly alllll this advice from those in the birthing world.
Suddenly, the dummy clip you 'can't live without'.
Then poses the question: What do we actually need?
I am hopeful this article will assist!
I have carefully curated the lists below from my first hand knowledge of the past 6 weeks experiencing newborn (and new parent!) life.
These are the things I wish I knew before stepping into this new chapter.
THE THINGS YOU NEED:
Double Zipped Onesies
Oh dear god whoever invented clip stud onesies was NOT a parent. Don't even go there. You may feel up to tackling the studs during the day (less studs the better), but of a night, stay clear of the press stud onesies. Do yourself a favour and get double zipped onesies for baby to sleep in during the night (unzips also from the bottom instead of undoing the whole suit) making those night time nappy changes a lot smoother (my husband refers to these night nappy changes as similar to the formula 1 pit stop - GO GO GO!).
Pre baby we both never really understood the point of giving baby a dummy - why give them something that further down the track they need to be weened off? Alas another humbling moment (there have been many) when we realised our baby very much required a dummy. Not only is it brilliant for soothing baby (it really does work!) we were told by a Midwife that when/if baby starts sucking on thumb to grab a dummy - because later on down the track you can remove a dummy, whereas removing a thumb - frowned upon.
Set yourself up with at least 2 different kinds of dummies because babies are fussy when it comes to what dummy they prefer. We started on an orthodontic style which our baby girl was absolutely not interested in, but to our delight we found the 'just right' dummy for her on the second go. The ones we use are here:
This was a little lifesaver when we were experiencing latch issues when navigating my nipples in the first few days of breastfeeding. I found that Violet (our daughter) tended to lose her way on my enormous JCups, but the nipple shield offered her a strong protruding destination to land on in her travels. Latch was easier = better and more frequent feeding. We used it for the first 2 weeks to establish a good feeding routine and then gently weened off it with no issues. A good friend of mine recommended the linked shield below and I am so grateful (thanks Ange!). In all seriousness, breastfeeding in itself is a very emotional journey that requires saint-like patience. This shield supported me so much, and is actually the #1 thing I recommend on getting for yourself 'just in case'. And if breastfeeding isn't your journey, or at first you do a hybrid of breast and formula (we did this in the first week waiting for milk to come in), know that a fed baby is best, wherever their food source comes from.
Nervous System Calmer
Oooo Mama will you want this one set up ready to go.
Taking care of your nervous system is an important job. In doing so it calms anxiety, allows the body to repair, and offers respite to a busy mind (all very important in the fourth trimester). As a new parent, you may find you are in a constant state of 'fight or flight', so it is important to be conscious of dropping into your 'rest and restore' NS to offer yourself some space and love. Time to yourself like you knew it before baby has changed, so take the moments where you can. Perhaps that looks like intentionally carving space or it could be, for example, used when feeding baby. I have found baby doesn't always want to be social when feeding and won't make eye contact - so why not use this quiet time wisely and pop on a 5 - 10min meditation that you can do (I personally love a 5min body scan meditation to relax).
If a led meditation isn't your thing, I suggest calm music and taking slow deep breaths.
Check out my short meditations here (I recommend the Grounding album):
Save yourself the (very embarrassing) moment of when your GP asks whether you have a thermometer and you reply with 'what, for her bath?'............ (yeah that happened) and hook yourself up with a digital thermometer to check baby's temperature whenever they seem very fussy. Knowing that baby doesn't have a high temp or fever brings such peace of mind.
Whether you are choosing to co-sleep or have baby sleep in bassinet beside you, set yourself up with a caddy beside your bed with all the essentials: nappies, wipes, water, burping cloth, dummy, blanket (to wrap around you when feeding), little bin for dirty nappy (to empty the next day) + a towel to lay under baby for nappy change (in case any mid change pee's occur, you are safe). My bed station set up makes me feel smug and organised - and if you are breast feeding there is no need to leave your bed at all for the feeds and changes throughout the night. If you are bottle feeding, its a quick trip out to the kitchen and right back again knowing you have everything you need at your fingertips.
Did you know that your baby might prefer to be swaddled arms up? (I didn't even know that was a thing). Violet loves a hybrid of sleeping arms up and arms down pending her mood (the guessing game is always fun). There are options out there for both kinds of sleepers, and whilst you don't need to invest in both swaddles, its great to be mindful that there are options if your baby is trying to Houdini their way out of the swaddle.
So much learning is already occurring in fourth trimester - do yourself a favour and engage in some light research before birth, regarding support in your local area that you feel you may need. Such as: sleep consultant, lactation consultant, pelvic floor + physiotherapist for post birth recovery (massage therapist?! ... we can dream right?) etc.
Baby loves your voice. I have found my mediocre singing voice = Beyonce level of greatness when it comes to Violets perspective. Have some songs (of all genres) up your sleeve, it really is a secret weapon in soothing your baby. If ever that was to fail - white noise for the win!
Seek a support person outside of your relationship to talk to about the fourth trimester. I think this is important for both parents to have. It could be a parent, friend or professional - someone that will listen, and give huge amounts of encouragement. If it is a parent or friend in this role, talk to them before hand so the role is set up and ready to go. They know what to expect and you can call and melt down without feeling weird about it. I have found my Mum to be the best support person ever when I have just needed a safe place to have a meltdown without any judgement. Better out then in.
THE THINGS YOU DON'T NEED:
Change Table (with a thousand bells and whistles)
Just a regular table works fine with access to nappy + wipes. What I do recommend is a changing pad that you can move around your house to accomodate where baby is most comfortable in that moment. The change pads don't need to be expensive (I have seen some that are outrageously like $400). We got the $20 one from Target + a couple of extra covers to accomodate for the blowouts (that happen all too often).
Its a consumer trap! No need to worry about a nappy bin, we put all nappies in our regular bin (there have been no issues with smell) and because you are always changing in a different spot there is really no point to it.
Excessive buying before baby arrives
Grab your basics - but don't over purchase, because once baby arrives you will most likely receive A LOT of clothes, books and toys. I also loved chatting with our family and friends about not over purchasing (we don't want to waste!) and loving anything that was gender neutral so we can use for future children as time rolls on (again limiting waste).
$14,000 Baby Bag
Ok that price might be taking a dramatic licence - but seriously why are baby bags so expensive? Again, don't fall in the trap - all you need is a bag that suits your vibe and that has lots of pockets. We went for a lululemon backpack, less than $100 - cute, functional and drama free. *The exact one we got isn't available anymore so I linked something similar, any kind of bag works - so don't feel the pressure to spend more than you feel comfortable on a bag!
Soooo tempting to investigate all corners of the internet at 4am when you feel like your baby made a strange face that you haven't seen before. (I am sarcastic now, but seriously we hauled ourselves off to the hospital at midnight the third day of being home because I was concerned about something SO small after Google told me it could be this MAJOR issue (not my finest moment - but also I am a new Mum - comes with the territory). I have given up on Google now, because as my husband says 'the internet will always confirm your worst case scenario' - true.
So I suggest going against the (very tempting) urge to scroll Google and instead contacting your GP with any questions if you feel the situation isn't urgent. Of course, if your gut feeling tells you otherwise - call the hospital to put your heart and mind at ease (no matter how dramatic you feel, it's not worth the extra anxiety - make the call, that is what they are there for).
There will be plenty of opportunities for you to judge every.single.corner you turn in these first weeks. Be kind to yourself, knowing that everything is heightened to the most intense level. I thought that whenever my baby was screaming or unsettled I would be able to look into her eyes - we would have a deep, spiritual understanding of connection and she will be calmed knowing that she is safe...
Couldn't of been any more naive.
Baby's cry! They are navigating a whole new everything and even if you have given them everything they need, they simply might be overwhelmed with this new world. If you can't find the answer in soothing them, put on some gentle music (to calm you!) and try your best to breathe through it.
There will most certainly be moments where you question whether you are even any good at this - let that thought come and go. It is just a thought, please don't do yourself the disservice by holding attachment to it.
You are doing a wonderful job navigating all this change.
Breathe, and let it flow.
Some Kind Advice
I find that the physical load of things can be equally shared within a partnership, but the mental load of the birthing mother is a lot heavier than that of their partner/support person - as we are recovering from birth, hormones flood our body, and a new (and highly responsive) part of our brain is unlocked that we are learning to navigate.
So, if you are a partner/support person, learn to ask the birthing Mother 'What do you need?' I have found this to be most helpful from my husband, instead of not being sure and assuming what may help.
For example; early on when I was feeding our daughter, my husband would use the opportunity to go put the dishwasher on, tidy the house and get things organised (all very helpful) - but I felt so alone when breastfeeding because it was so new to me, and so I felt like I needed emotional support. That to me was a priority.
By cleaning the house, he was showing up in the way that he knew best in supporting (alleviating any pressure I might feel to do it later) but what I needed was him by my side as I learnt about this new role of feeding. We have both found over communicating helpful (even if it feels like you have zero energy for it).
Partners + support person roles: Don’t forget to care of you as best you can whilst taking care of the birthing Mother. You have been through a different journey in experiencing birth, but your feelings and emotions are also heightened and valid. Seek your own support person if needed and know that you hold a lot of power in creating a safe space for yourself, baby + Mama. Your role is very important and you are doing a wonderful job.
It is hard to distinguish what we actually need in these first few weeks because all thoughts are jumbled. Even when Matt would ask me "What do you need?" I would just have a good cry, because I don't know what I need in that particular moment - but let me tell you, hearing that question asked is sometimes the most beautiful thing and all that is needed. To have a cry, clear it out - freshen up and move forward.
Above all else, here is the thing to remember:
You being your baby's parent is no coincidence. Your baby chose you to parent them, and you are perfect in every moment (the messy ones too). Show up the best you can and be kind to yourself. Give yourself as much grace as humanly possible. Savour the light filled positive moments, and release the darker filled emotions as quickly as they come.
Any change is tough to navigate, and oh boy this is the biggest change we will ever experience in this life - but this is what its all about right? That is the biggest thing I have taken away from these first 6 weeks - this is what life is about.
Experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions on levels that have been blown out of the water in comparison to before my daughter entered the world.
They are here to teach us, from day one
- may we be open to learning.