Miss Georgia Vivien is now two weeks old, and just beautiful. She’s got such a sweet, good-natured temperament, and we fall in love with her about twenty times a day. Expecting, delivering and breastfeeding her has been without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life, and we are learning more about how to nurture her every day. I’ve been amazed at how effortlessly some aspects of parenting come to first-timers like us, and equally surprised at how difficult certain “perfectly natural” things have been (nursing comes to mind).
The first few days home were overwhelming: she had her days and nights mixed up, she fed constantly, our cat was totally freaked out and we were zombies from lack of sleep. Thanks to the generosity of family & friends who brought over food, cleaned our house, or held Georgia while we showered, Mark and I survived. I don’t know how anyone does it alone, or with a partner who isn’t also your best friend — you need to divide, conquer, and laugh when things get crazy!
A few of the other key items we couldn’t live without in these first few weeks?
The Fisher Price My Little Snugabunny newborn rock n’ play sleeper.
We can’t imagine not having this. Georgia naps in it during the day in our living room, and she seems to prefer the slight incline and self-rocking motion of this to her flat bassinet or her co-sleeper. It’s also portable, so you can move it to another room or even take it to a friend’s house, and the center comes out for easy cleaning (we’ve already had one diaper blowout in it, and you’d never know).
We also use this Summer Infant sleeper on our couch and on the bed, and will likely take this with us when we fly to see relatives in a few weeks. Until she transitions to her crib, Georgia is sleeping nightly (sort of) in the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, which is attached to the side of our bed for easy access for 2 a.m. diaper changes and feedings. Later, it can convert to a four-sided bassinet or a play yard, and it’s portable for travel.
The Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper.
Georgia was born at 7 lbs 7 oz, which is very average; nevertheless, we still found ourselves without enough newborn outfits for daytime, so we made a run to Babies R’ Us after her first pediatrician appointment to pick up some Carter’s onesies on sale. We also grabbed more sleep outfits — in particular the Halo Sleepsack, and some Gerber Sleep n’ Plays. We also got these fabulous swaddling blankets by Aden and Anais as a shower gift, and I can’t say enough about how indispensable they are. You can swaddle them during the day for comfort, tuck them into their crib or bassinet, cover them up in the car seat and stroller, wipe spit-up, and drape over yourself while nursing in public. They are SO soft and get more so with each washing. If you’re ever in need of a shower present, these should be tops on the list. You can never have too many!
Aden + Anais Swaddle Plus Wrap Blankets.
OK, I am going to level with you — breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Despite my baby having what the doctors and nurses called “a perfect latch,” I still found the first week and a half to be constantly painful. Newborns feed even more frequently than I could have imagined, especially overnight, and often want to nurse for comfort when they get startled, overtired or over-stimulated. I feel like I’m finally turning a corner in terms of the pain now that she’s two weeks old, but I find it very psychologically trying to be the only source of food and soothing for such a tiny being. It makes recovering from labor and delivery that much harder, too, and because you’re not supposed to pump for the first few weeks, nobody else can step in to give you relief unless you decide to supplement with formula. Add to all this the fact that society is super judgmental about the choice to breastfeed or not, and moms can be left feeling guilty, inadequate and exhausted. If I said I hadn’t considered giving up in the first few days, I’d be completely lying. Thanks to the kind words of many moms in my life, I am trying to keep going. Here’s what’s helped.
The “My Brest Friend” pillow. Essential.
Screw the Boppy, this is the best breastfeeding pillow around. It straps around your waist and perfectly positions the baby in your lap so you don’t have to hold her up against your tummy to latch. It offers back support and has a little pouch for your water bottle, cell phone, snack, lanolin cream, etc. I use it on the couch, in bed, in the rocking chair, you name it.
$21.98 nursing camisoles at Motherhood Maternity. Comes in six colors.
Good nursing tanks and bras will make you the most comfortable while breastfeeding. A friend sent me these from Motherhood Maternity, and I really like the snap-down front. I also bought this bra for day and this one for night at Target, and wear both with regular shirts (although having a v-neck or button-down neckline helps when baby’s frantic and you’re in a hurry to nurse). I’m only wearing leggings, yoga pants and cotton skirts on bottom, since I still have sutures that need to heal and comfort is paramount. Nursing tanks are great because you can layer them with a pretty cardigan if you have to leave the house or have visitors over and want to look human.
What else do you need for nursing? Snacks are key, as is lots of water. Breastfeeding is dehydrating and also requires between 300 and 500 extra calories per day, so I even leave granola bars, dried fruit and oatmeal raisin cookies on the nightstand for middle-of-the-night feedings. Most babies vary between 10 and 40 minutes per feeding, and those long sessions can really leave you starving and shaky if you don’t stay ahead of your appetite. I also like to keep my Nook, some fluff reading (think People magazine) and my laptop handy. Sometimes I play music to relax us both, or I catch up on Netflix if I need to keep my hands free to help her latch.
Our baby doesn’t seem to respond to pacifiers, but the pediatrician told us it’s fine to give them one if they’ve been fed and are demanding the breast for comfort soon after. We got lots of brands as gifts, but have been told Soothies are the best for breastfed babies to minimize nipple confusion. Along those same lines, we bought Phillips Avent bottles designed to have a slower flow that mimics the way milk “lets down” from the breast, so you can offer pumped milk to your newborn and not cause them to reject your nipple. (If you’re interested, here is the Medela hands-free pump I bought). Last but not least, if you find yourself with bleeding, cracked or burning nipples, it can’t hurt to keep a ready-to-feed bottle of newborn formula on the nightstand. If it can buy you 4 or 5 hours to heal, it might make all the difference in you continuing to breastfeed your baby long term. Two things I found useful for soothing wrecked nipples: reusable cooling gel pads, and Lansinoh lanolin cream. The cream is particularly nice because you don’t have to wash it off before feedings.
I also found it helpful to have a reference book on breastfeeding handy, and the bible on this seems to be The Nursing Mother’s Companion. I read it before having Georgia, and found it twice as useful after she came home when I was having trouble.
Talk about scary — bathing a newborn?! Luckily they don’t get that dirty so you only have to give them a “bath” 2 or 3 times a week. And until their umbilical stump falls off, it can only be a sponge bath. All you really need here are some soft washcloths, a couple hooded bath towels, and baby hair & body cleanser. The hospital gave us Johnson’s Baby Wash but we are hoping to try some more natural and organic products such as The Honest Company and California Baby. Friends have recommended both.
Changing diapers: probably the least difficult newborn skill to master. Mark did the first few in the hospital and now he does the lion’s share of changes at home, too, since I’m on 24/7 boobie duty. My top suggestion here is to buy plenty of diapers and wipes before you go into labor, because you’ll go through them faster than you can imagine when baby is home. Dozens a day at least. We explored the option of cloth diapers, both the kind you wash yourself and the kind you send out with a service, but for a variety of reasons we decided it wasn’t right for us. So we are trying each brand’s hypoallergenic / natural options, and at this stage are sticking with the ones that fit her best physically to prevent messy blowouts. I’ve already had to put all three bassinet pads and her changing pad in the wash due to bad blowouts with ill-fitting diapers, so fit is critical — brand be damned! As for wipes, we are also buying the “sensitive” version of each brand, and so far we like The Honest Company and Pampers Sensitive. We bought a changing pad that we mounted to her dresser, but to be honest we only end up using the portable changing pad that came with my diaper bag because you can slap it down on the couch, the guest bed, the back seat of the car, wherever.
Carter’s Zip Front Diaper Bag. Doubled as a hospital bag for me! $50 at Babies R’ Us, often marked down to $39.99.
To leave the house, all you need is the pad, a couple diapers and a pack of travel wipes. If you want to use diaper cream with each change to prevent a rash and make cleanup easier, we recommend Butt Paste. Last but not least, get a diaper pail such as Diaper Genie (what we have and like so far) or Ubbi. Ubbi is more stylish looking and doesn’t require special refill bags, but the Diaper Genie was taller — important to Mark — and had a foot pedal for hands-free operation.
FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
There are so many other little things. Such as: hand sanitizer for you and your guests to use before touching the baby and after diaper changes; newborn hats, even in summer; fragrance-free laundry detergent for baby’s clothing; and a nightlight for your hallway to make middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings easier (even if the little one is in your room, you’ll appreciate having this ambient light from the hallway instead of turning on your bedside lamp and waking everyone up completely). We haven’t used our baby carriers yet, but we got an Ergo Baby and a Moby wrap, and I’ve heard great things about the Baby K’Tan. If you’re interested in what we use for our car seat and carriage(s), we have the Chicco KeyFit (love it) and caddy, and the City Mini GT (which has a height-adjustable handle to accommodate 5-foot-tall Mom and 6’4″ Dad!) We keep the fold-able caddy in the car, pop the car seat in for errands, and will use the City Mini when she gets bigger. It also has an optional car seat bracket mounter.
The ErgoBaby carrier can be used from birth with the newborn insert. Baby can ride front, back or on the hip.
Last but not least, remember to take care of yourself, Mama. Minimize visitors (we learned this the hard way) so you don’t over-tire baby or miss out on naps yourself, and accept any and all requests for help in cleaning your house, doing your laundry, or bringing you food. The hospital will tell you to take home a supply of the maternity pads, mesh underwear and witch hazel wipes they provided during your stay, and you should take them up on this offer. In fact, ask for extras. Healing takes time and every little bit helps. Take care of yourself. XOXO