Planning to start a family? You probably have all the big-ticket items covered: crib, buggy, car seat, changing table, maybe a rocker in either adult or miniature size. But what about the small things, the ones you don’t think about before the birth? To celebrate our fourth week, here’s my list of Things Nobody Warned Us We’d Need.
DISPOSABLE OR AT LEAST EXPENDABLE PANTS
All the baby books say, ‘Take a pack of sanipads to the hospital with you.’ So I duly did exactly that, packed a single pack of pads in our hospital bag, thinking that would be the right number for the day or two’s bleeding that would happen after the birth. My sisters, it is not the right number. None of the books mention the two weeks of gore that follow childbirth, probably because if they did no woman would ever volunteer for the process. You need as many sanipads as you can airlift out of Boots, and several items of underwear you are happy to burn at the end of the process.
MORE BRAS THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE NEEDING. THEN DOUBLE THAT NUMBER.
When thinking about the less rosy bits of what early parenthood would look like, I had a vision of soiled nappies stacked ceiling-high and a general whiff of bodily expulsion throughout the house. Thanks to the twin miracles of ultra-absorbent Pampers (I don’t know what they put in there but it would soak up the Nile) and the Sangenic Tec nappy tub that was recommended to us by three different friends and is a work of MAGIC, that’s simply not the case. What the entire house is is in fact coated in is insane quantities of milk. Every time I do anything at all (run the dishwasher! Change the baby! Sit quietly on the sofa watching Archer!) the stuff gushes out and douses everything in range, and unless you like having permanently damp boobs you will want several changes of boob-wear per day. Or you will need to stop doing things.
Don’t do what I did and purchase nursing bras in your old size before your milk comes in. That will not be the correct size. I think that might not be the correct size ever again.
SOME BOTTLES, EVEN IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO BREASTFEED
Because giving your husband a bottle of expressed milk so he can do the 8am feed while you catch up on your zeds is awesome. You might also need something like this to complete the picture.
AND ON THAT TOPIC
Although I went to the NCT breastfeeding session, and to a breastfeeding clinic at our local Children’s Centre on Day 4, and read all the books and watched a load of YouTube videos, nobody really warned me what one needs to keep the whole shebang crack- and pain-free. This is what I wish I had stocked up on before beginning nursing:
Lanolin – vats of it. Look out for special deals online or in your local chemist; it’s not cheap but it’s so worth it. I keep a couple of tubes handy in different rooms because if I can’t find one I cry.
Silicone shells – you pop these on to stop sore bits chafing against one of your many nursing bras, to prevent drying out and promote healing, to reduce engorgement with gentle compression, and – if you sterilise them first – to catch quite astounding quantities of leakage (see above). Pro tip: don’t then spill a full shell all over yourself, your daughter and your duvet. You will swear a lot.
Silver shells – the super deluxe version of the above, these are cooling and soothing and the antiseptic properties of silver aid healing. Also, they make you look a bit like an armoured warrior princess which is cool.
I have no idea why all this is kept so secret until after you have large quantities of boob missing, but if you’re planning to nurse any babies soon: stock up on the above. Nipple shields also come in handy once you’re a few weeks in and baby isn’t going to mistake you for a bottle – I use shields at night to prevent S from chewing me in her sleep.
A CORRECTLY-SIZED DUMMY
Our early experiments with a Tesco Dummy for Really Large Infants* were met not so much with resistance as with the actual physical impossibility of getting the thing in her mouth. Then a) she grew a bit and b) we worked out these things come in different sizes and bought a nice Tiny Baby Dummy from Waitrose. It even has the word ‘orthodontic’ on the label so we can feel unconcerned about any future dental developments. The term may be meaningless, we don’t care, she really loves to suck things and this is probably the best choice right now.
*not an actual brand name, although it may as well be
FEWER BABY CLOTHES THAN YOU’D THINK
We get through three outfits in a typical day: sleepsuit, indoor, and outdoor if we head to the shops (or sleepsuit, indoor, and replacement when she pees all over the first outfit while being changed yet again). If we were being efficiently frugal, we could get by with three of each: one on the baby, one in waiting and one in the laundry. Naturally, thanks to enthusiastic shopping and kind friends and family, what we actually have is about nine billion of each. We do enjoy playing dress-up but it recently struck us we might never, ever wear all the clothes we currently possess (if we don’t and one of the unworn items was a gift from you we’re sorry, it’s nothing personal, we’re just drowning in clothes).
My advice: save yourself fifty quid on baby clothes and spend it instead on spare bras and nipple cream – you’ll thank yourself, believe me.