Oh baby, baby: Useful support, a.k.a. life-savers for moms (to be)

While there are many tips on stuff to get for mom during and after the pregnancy, such as a nursing pillow or nursing bras and shirts, I wanted to share my list of things that are not on the traditional must-have lists, but that I found particularly useful and/or fun (because being pregnant and being a new mom is meant to be fun and exciting).

During the pregnancy

yoga.jpgYoga cushions are a great support in the later stages of pregnancy, as they are wonderful for taking pressure off your pelvic muscles as these grow ever more sensitive and soft as the pregnancy progresses. Plus, you can use it for meditating or mindfulness exercises, both of which I found to be extremely helpful to mentally prepare for the birth.

Get yourself a good pregnancy body oil. I magically got through the pregnancy tiger stripe-free and only had a few of them post-partum. I put this down to using bio-oil –since the start of the second trimester and applying it twice a day to keep the skin smooth. This was of vital importance in my case, as my belly looked like I was carrying twins. And this product is honestly truly amazing. I also continued with this habit post-partum to help my skin cope with the deflation process and so far it is working wonders.

No, this does not make you look eye-wateringly gorgeous, but it will be your new best friend in the later stages of pregnancy when the belly gets really huge. I am talking about a pregnancy belt. It says “I got your back, girl” and it does really mean it. Although it can’t save you from getting back pain, it certainly reduces it and allows you to handle walking longer distances and be more mobile. Because no matter how many workout sessions you dedicate to strengthening your lower back, it will never be quite enough as soon as your pregnancy reaches the home stretch. There are different types of belts and I tried several styles. The only one that gives you the feeling of actual support and isn’t merely a tight ring around your ever rounder waist is this system.

Delivery

I rarely see this one on any of the hospital bag checklists, but I do highly recommend it: get yourself wet toilet wipes, not only for when you are home again, but bring them to the hospital with you, as they won’t provide them there. Everyone tells you how excruciating and frankly a bit traumatizing the first bathroom visit after birth will be – and that’s true – however, wet toilet wipes can help you with this a little bit, as normal toilet paper will feel painful.

Back home

mugholder.jpgOne of my dearest possessions with regard to all the baby stuff is my coffee mug holder (click here) for the stroller. Make sure it fits the width of the handlebar of your stroller. Mine was a present from my wonderful partner, as he knows how much I love going out while sipping on my coffee (always with a straw!). Since the caffeine would go straight through to my baby, it is mostly decaf, but I still enjoy it while on our daily 1-2 hour walks. Speaking of walks, they are a great way to support you in getting back into an exercise mindset before your doctor gives you the green light for it. Simply try to maintain a brisk walking speed and it is almost a mini-workout. P.S. the first walks will anyhow feel very much like a workout for your sour body.

Another wonderful item for the stroller is the mommy hook (e.g. this one) with which you can hang a shopping bag or a gym water bottle there or for your portable diaper changing station.

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Oh baby, baby: Apps for nursing and diaper-changing locations

img_20180411_142349_830-1133690521.jpgSooner or later it will happen to you. You are casually strolling through the city and your mini-me starts crying because he’s hungry and/or in need of a diaper change. And while some people are completely comfortable to feed or change their baby wherever, such as the nearest park bench, others prefer a bit more privacy and/or for weather-related reasons (like rain or snow) you anyhow want to be somewhere indoors. A lot of stores and cafés offer nursing and/or diaper-changing spots that are a bit secluded and private, where you can tend to your baby without being in the public eye. In Germany, for instance, the drugstore chain DM offers diaper-changing stations with free diapers in almost all of their facilities and a breast-feeding corner in a growing number of their stores all across the country. Obviously it would be impossible to memorize all of the spots that might be suitable for your baby’s primary needs, but as we are living in the digital era there are really great apps for that which show you the nearest breast-feeding or diaper-changing spots available in your near vicinity. Since we live in Germany, I use the App BabyPlaces, for instance.  A solution like that can seriously help you keep your sanity. I compiled a little list of such apps and the countries for which they are available. All apps listed are free and work for iOS and Android phones unless otherwise stated. Most of them are based on user-generated content, so each mom (or dad for that matter) can add and rate new locations that are suitable.


Oh baby, baby: Outfits – dress for success

20180412_1415591163540177.jpgWe enthusiastically bought lots of onesies, pajamas and bodysuits for newborns, only to find that our baby turned out to be quite long (56 cm/22 in) and thus the newborn-sized clothes were actually too short for her and we went straight to dressing her in outfits for babies 1-2 months of age. This was a big lesson learned for me, to rather get only a couple of newborn-sized onesies and bodies and only when your doctor gives you a clear general tendency for the size of your baby in the last pregnancy weeks or when the baby is actually there and you know what fits him/her, is it safe to order more newborn options online and have them delivered, rather than piling up lots of stuff that might not even fit.

That being said, there is no standard newborn size when it comes to clothes (so exactly the same challenge as with clothes for us grown-ups). Every company uses its own measurement. So while our daughter was definitely too big for newborn outfits from the vast majority of companies, everything we bought at Gymboree in the US was magically a perfect fit. In Germany, baby outfits are mostly measured in centimeters unlike in the US where it’s newborn/1-3 month/3-6 month, etc. So I recommend erring on the safe side and rather than getting the small size (50 cm/19,5 in, newborn), opt for the next one up (56 cm/22 in, 1-2 month). However: don’t forget the average newborn is 51-52 cm/20 in.

Also, don’t forget that your baby will only wear each of its outfits for a very limited amount of time, as it will outgrow even the cutest onesie within 2-3 month. Hence, a great resource for clothing is second-hand outfits, either through family and friends or through online second-hand websites and the numerous baby flea markets out there. Maybe get one or two cute key pieces new (as we all know, it is soooo much fun browsing a store full of baby clothes) and get the rest as hand-me-downs or second-hand. Especially since it can actually bring friends and family great satisfaction to know that another kid will enjoy wearing an outfit that already looked very adorable on their own baby.

20180412_141501-537305670.jpgMoreover, with everything you get, keep in mind that you will go through 6 to 9 diaper changes every day. That means you will partially undress and dress your baby 6 to 9 times a day. Sometimes you will go through those motions with a perfectly calm and content baby, other times your little bundle of joy will seem less joyful and scream at the top of her lungs and you want to be quick. So convenience is key when it comes to the clothing you pick. Hence, the smaller the number of tiny buttons you need to fasten, the better, as this all takes time and is fiddly. If you can get outfits with a zipper, do yourself a favor and get those, as they are vastly superior to buttoned ones in terms of convenience. It is much faster, which is especially essential for the nighttime diaper changes when you are still half asleep.

Keep the seasons in mind! So if your baby is born in June your starter sleeping bag should be a light one and you want to have short sleeved outfits handy for starters. If you shop ahead for the outfits for the first year, do your math, does your baby need warmer winter clothes when she/he is 6 month old or will it be spring/summer/fall by then? We got the cutest warm woolen hat as a birthday present for our daughter that is for kids 3-6 month old. So it would fit her right at the height of summer and since we have no plans to take her on a hike on a glacier, she will thus probably never use it. It’s a bit trickier if your little munchkin is born in spring or fall, but for anything your newborn will wear that is NOT for outside/walks with the stroller, a long sleeve light version probably suffices unless you are strictly against heating your home.

Regarding sleeping bags. One per size is enough. If that one needs washing simply use the one the next size up. I recommend getting the first three sleeping bags, again on of each size (newborn/50cm, 1-2 month/56cm and 3-6 month/68cm), then you are all set for the first couple of month. Here size is less of an issue anyways as your mini-me will actually even enjoy a more compact bag as it reminds him/her of the tightness of the womb, which is makes your baby feel calm and secure.


Oh baby, baby: Baby care products

In the first two parts of the “Oh baby, baby” series, I talked about furniture and items for the nursery and our key takeaways from setting that up and shared my experience with regard to the stroller/buggy and car seat. In this post (part 3), I want to talk about baby care products. Check below for my list of must-have essentials (including links to my favorite products) and a list of do-NOT-need recommendations.

20160713_114356Diaper changing

A remarkably high number of baby care products are one-use-only and can thus drain the family wallet, and it is obviously wasteful for the environment. A lot of times, the same products could just as easily be acquired as a non-disposable (washable) version, which might also be less stressful for your baby’s skin. And this makes sense, since there are only a few challenges with baby care that a washer and dryer combo can’t solve to your absolute satisfaction. Besides the most common example of washable diapers, this also goes for diaper-changing mats to lay on the changing pad so your baby is feeling nice and comfortable while lying there butt-naked, and also to absorb moisture. So make sure to stock up on a reasonable number of cotton mats that are robust enough to withstand millions of washing cycles.

Speaking of pads, for whenever you leave your house with your baby, I strongly recommend a portable changing station, as you never know where you will be when you have to change your baby’s diapers nor how clean it will there. Even if there happens to be a changing table where you are in that moment. I wouldn’t want to be without ours. It’s a diaper changing bag that double functions as a pad.

If you opt for disposable diapers, I recommend the Amazon Prime Diaper subscription (if available in your country). You will go through so many of them that it doesn’t make much sense to get only one or two packs every time you go to the grocery store. And Amazon kindly offers packages that last you half or even an entire month. Don’t forget a baby, especially a newborn, gets through approximately eight diapers a day. That’s a whole lot of diapers… (240 in a month, hence why some opt for washable diapers)

With wipes there are two general options: scented versus non-scented versions. While it might be enticing to buy something with a nice and fresh smell to it, keep in mind that this smell is usually an artificial addition to the wipe/diaper/etc. and that there is actually no real need for a baby butt to smell like a field of spring flowers. Moreover, it might do your baby more harm than good, as its very sensitive skin might get irritated from the ingredients. As it will by using wet wipes, so rather go for dry ones and a bowl of water to wet them. So rather opt for neutral options and if your newborn’s skin does end up being red and irritated, add chamomile tea (or black tea for that matter) to a bowl of water and use a cotton cloth aka dry wipes to clean your baby with it. You do, however, want a good butt cream against the inevitable diaper rashes.

A last word on diaper changing: I strongly recommend investing in a high quality diaper disposal system to keep the odor as minimal as possible. Realistically no one carries a dirty diaper outside to the trash bin every time, especially not at night. A small poll amongst friends and family revealed the Angelcare diaper disposal system to be everyone’s absolute favorite. We also have the Angelcare Sound Monitor, as it is one with the lowest radio wave emissions available on the market. So overall a brand we have quickly learned to love.

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Baby skin care

To save yourself an aching back and make sure you have a good handle of your latest family addition, get yourself a stand-up baby bathtub. Thereby you can bathe your baby without hunching down like you would if you were to use your normal bathtub. Plus, there are plenty of great options that have a newborn inlay to support you supporting your baby. When bathing your baby you do not need any bath ingredients and do not need to soak your baby in baby cream afterwards. A newborn does not really get dirty (unless you purposefully throw him or her in the mud), at least not so badly that water alone and a washing cloth couldn’t solve the problem. Moreover, why tamper with your baby’s natural skin with cream and scents. You should, however, have a bit of baby oil handy in case he or she gets dry patches of skin. This can also double function as a bath ingredient if you really deem it essential to make your baby’s skin smoother. Always wash the face and head last and use a different wash cloth for that. It also pays to have baby towels with a small hoodie to keep your baby’s most vulnerable spot warm: the head. A really nifty thing for when your baby has a cold is a boogie sucker. Hands down, one very smart inventions for your mini-me.

Recommended shopping list of baby care essentials:

  • Diapers: either disposable or non-disposables. If you get the former, get an Amazon Prime subscription for regular resupply. We now tried several different diaper brands and nothing, really nothing, beats Pampers 
  • Angelcare diaper disposal system  (see here)
  • Cushioned changing pad (make sure to get one with a plastic cover to be able to wipe it clean when necessary)
  • 6-9 changing mats as a changing pad cover
  • Disposable dry wipes 
  • Butt cream
  • Portable baby changing station (we got this one and I love it, it fits everything needed for changing the diapers, including your nursing scarf and a set of new baby clothing in case of an accident)
  • Black tea bags or chamomile tea bags
  • Nursing scarf for concealed breast-feeding in public (a truly amazing lifesaver when you are out and about with your mini-me, click here for a great example)
  • Baby oil
  • 4 washing cloths, 2 for the body, 2 for the face
  • 2 baby towels with a hoodie
  • Baby bathtub with newborn inlay and bathtub stand (click here for an example for a stand)
  • Boogie sucker (click here)

List of things you do NOT need:

  • (Scented) wet wipes: if you do however get them, get dry once as well, as you otherwise constantly leave your baby with a wet butt, which causes irritation
  • Baby bath ingredients: at least not until the baby gets so dirty that they need a proper soap to get clean, water is really all that’s needed to wash your baby. We ended up buying lots of baby bath stuff that we never used. Well at least we now already have it for later.
  • Disposable diaper changing covers (that’s a true waste of money, simply get washable ones)
  • Wipe warmer (unless you live in an ice block without heating)
  • Baby bath thermometer (use your elebow and common sense, we got 2 thermometers for some bizarre reason and never used them)

Oh baby, baby: Getting mobile – strollers and child car seats

Stroller.jpgNew strollers are like new cars in so many ways. The second you drive a brand-new ride off the dealer’s compound, the value drops by about 30 percent. Moreover, strollers have become a bit like a lifestyle statement, like an SUV or big truck, when it is not only about how practical your car or stroller is, but also about what image it portrays about its owner – which usually comes with a fitting (high) price tag. Plus, everyone knows the distinct “new car smell”. While that might be enticing for your horse-powered mode of transportation, it ain’t ideal when it comes to the stroller that your baby will lay in as the fabric of a new stroller tends to have that “new” smell as well. And it is certainly not something that you want your newborn to inhale. You can of course bypass this by getting the stroller so far in advance that the fabric loses that chemical smell. Or, you can simply get a second-hand one. We opted for the latter and haven’t regretted it one bit. One to two-year old strollers are available second hand for as little as 10-25 percent of their original store price. A good quality one will still feel like it is almost new after that short a lifespan, so we concluded that there isn’t really much justification in spending all this money on a new one that, to top it off, also comes with this straight-out-of-manufacturing smell.

20180314_170903-1027171807.jpgWhatever stroller solution you end up opting for, ensure it’s one that can be modified in accordance with your baby’s development. Sooner or later your baby will want to upgrade from laying in a baby bassinet/carrycot to sitting upright. Ideally, you want to choose a stroller system that allows you to exchange the bassinet for a stroller seat option. That being said, we were very glad that we got a detachable solution with a car seat adapter that allows the car seat to be placed on the stroller and thus makes it a more flexible solution for a quick trip to the grocery store or in a crowded city environment. Hence, if your stroller doesn’t already come with an adapter, I strongly recommend this investment. Good news is that they are usually a one-fits-all kinda product, so you don’t have to worry whether the seat and/or the stroller fits to the adapter, though companies will however give you precisely this impression.

Unlike the stroller where it is perfectly valid – and recommendable in my view – to get it second-hand, a baby car seat is a completely different beat. Many countries demand by law that an infant needs to be restrained in a designated baby car seat to protect him when driving, and rightly so. In the United States and Canada, they are also pretty rigid with regards to second-hand car seats in terms of safety requirements. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Even though the likeliness of a car seat having been involved in an accident or otherwise damaged might be low, it isn’t worth the risk as you can simply never know for certain whether the seller is telling you the truth about the history of the product. And can you really have faith that the car seat might not have some invisible structural damage inside, because it fell down once? That is unless, of course, you can get a hand-me-down from a friend or relative. Also note that the best aka safest and most hassle free car seat is not always the most expensive one or the one that’s most frequently purchased. In Germany, for instance, the most popular brand actually scored lower in safety tests than a cheaper and lesser-known brand. So we were glad we checked those test results before getting ours. So consult the most recent baby car seat crash test ratings to check what’s best. For Germany this would be the published by the ADAC, for the US it is NHTSA by the United States Department of Transportation, for the UK it is ROSPA and for Australia it is Child Car Seats, an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP), to name a few. Any option you choose should meet the United Nations standard Regulation 44.04. Simply look for the ‘E’ mark or if the product indicates that it meets the i-size standard (R129).

One worthwhile investment when it comes to car seats and driving is a small baby car mirror (like this one) that can be attached to the back seats neck area. Since babies are rear facing in the car, this allows you to check on him or her by looking in your back mirror. A small expense that repays you with peace of mind as you can focus on driving and do not have to sit there guessing whether your mini-me is sleeping safe and sound or silently in distress.


Oh baby, baby: Setting up a baby’s nursery

img_20180327_151603_3681166008031.jpgAs we very recently had the priviledge of becoming mom and dad of the cutest little girl on earth, I thought i deviate a little from the food theme of my blog and share our lessons learned about how to best prepare the arrival of your mini-me in a little mini-series on this blog. So while going through the prep motions for the nursery of our daughter Grace and now while having her with us in our home, I took stock of a couple of smart baby prep hacks we came across in the hope it might help others keep their cool in one of the most exciting times of their lives. So here are our recommendations (split into several blog posts) on the nursery/furniture (post 1); getting mobile – strollers and car seats (post 2); a few takeaways regarding baby care products (post 3); baby clothing (post 4) and helpful apps for moms (post 5).

A very common myth – that you encounter no matter where you’re from – is that having a newborn comes with approximately one million things you supposedly need to buy right away to make sure your baby is healthy and happy. Couple that with a billion (rough personal estimate) websites and checklists on the internet on all the supposed must-have items for the arrival of your brand new family member. All of this creates more confusion than clarity and leaves a couple in nesting mode with the uneasy feeling of having missed something essential. And I am certainly not excluding ourselves from that, as I guess every new parent kinda falls into this trap. One list will promote a certain item as an absolute essential for your newborn’s survival, while others do not even mention the aforementioned device/clothing piece/nursery accessory, etc.

In essence

img_20171201_084512_0191529279075.jpgSpend your money on things that last a long time in your child’s life (like a bed). Look for saving potential with products that you will need in abundance (like diapers) or items that your baby will only need within a limited timeframe (like a stroller). And always remember: we live in a world of online shopping and overnight delivery. Anything that you didn’t get before your newborn arrives can be ordered and on your doorstep in no time, so do not feel pressured to already have absolutely everything before the big day. In fact, with a lot of products, it makes sense to wait till your baby is actually there to determine if you even need it. Like a swing or a rocking chair for example – while some kids love sitting in them, others are completely indifferent or even become anxious. Since a rocking chair is NOT essential for your child’s survival, it makes sense to hold out till your little one is there and then to try your mini-me out in one to see if it is a worthwhile purchase for your family.

Let’s get real on furniture. In the beginning all you truly need is a place to sleep and a diaper-changing station on top of a chest of drawers for your baby’s clothing. Anything else is truly optional and more for the parents to enjoy looking at than for your infant to actually use.

Our baby, for instance, does not like sleeping in a crib by the bedside – she only slumbers into sweet dreams when she is placed in a little nest – this one – in her parents’ bed. So while those cute baby cribs might melt your heart when you see them in store, keep in mind that they would most likely only be in use for maybe six months, before your little one moves into his or her own bed. So that being said, before you sink serious money into a new crib, I highly recommend getting it second hand, as you will only need it for a limited amount of time and a remarkably high number of babies do not really like laying in a crib, plus it’s not like it will have to endure a lot of wear and tear, as a newborn baby isn’t exactly mobile or strong enough to accomplish that. Same goes for a baby bay option, a.k.a. a tiny bed that can be directly attached to the parents’ bed. Again: you will only use this for a very limited amount of time, so why not get it second hand and save yourself a few bucks. That being said, a lot of families – like mine – have a family crib that is passed down through the generations. Why not start such a family tradition yourself, if you do not have one yet. It is quite powerful to know to know that the crib your newborn lays in was your own when you were born and your mom or dad’s before you.

img_20180106_220059_8071852277315.jpgSooner or later, however, your little one will need her own bed. A smart money-saving hack we discovered is baby beds that can be modified according to your child’s changing needs (this one is a great example). We got one that basically grows with the kid until the age of 11/12. It can be assembled as a baby bed, then reassembled to fit a toddler and then later be set up as a standard school kid bed. Thus, you basically get a 3-for-1 deal and so spare yourself the need to constantly buy new sleeping solutions for your mini-me. That being said, since this furniture piece can stay in your child’s life for a substantial time (i.e., a decade or so) of its upbringing, it is worth investing in one that is made from good, long-lasting materials.

Something that your kid will always need in her room is a chest of drawers for clothing, etc. Hence, it makes sense to invest in good quality, as the furniture piece may stay in your little one’s life for the majority of his upbringing. Therefore, it makes sense to get it new and make it fit the bed, as you will get many years of usage out of it. That being said, it is absolutely essential to get a strong, stable and sturdy furniture piece that can ideally even be fixed to the wall, as kids are adventurous and will climb on everything within reach and the last thing you want is a chest of drawers falling on your child while it tries to climb up it.

By getting a diaper-changing tabletop (like this one) that you can secure on top of a chest of drawers, you save space and make sure you do not end up with an extra piece of furniture that is “only” a diaper-changing table and so goes out of style as soon as your toddler moves on to using the bathroom like a grown-up. A great tip we got from friends of ours was to set up the diaper changing station in the bathroom. It might be less needed with a newborn, but sooner or later there might be accidents that make you glad that you are very close to a source of running water.