About four months ago I woke up in the middle of the night, and realized I knew nothing about babies.
My experience was pretty much limited to when colleagues would bring them in to work for show and tell, where I and my male colleagues would awkwardly stand around said colleague wondering what the appropriate social etiquette was, before hurriedly returning back to the comforts of our desks. Brian was much the same.
And now, here we were in a foreign strange country with family and friends about as far away as geographically possible and we were about to become parents. We’d be on our own with no-one around to show us the way.
I needed a crash course fast.
So, I started to read, only to quickly become overwhelmed with the conflicting advice offered everywhere.
Should you let a baby cry, or soothe him instantly? Should you wake him for scheduled feedings, or let him work out for himself if he’s hungry? Should you use cloth nappies, or disposables? Should you give him a pacifier, or finger?
And every point was highly contested – you could be mistaken for thinking you were arguing right/left wing politics.
Then, there were all the gadgets you supposedly required.
In my mind babies were easy, surely all I needed was nappies, some sort of wrap to carry him about, and the boob would take care of everything else. We have, after-all, been successfully having them for millions of years in much more difficult circumstances.
Did I really need that breast pump, bottle sterilizer food warmer, milk warmer, food maker, white noise generator, bouncy swing set, cradle rocker, stool analyzer, baby gym, temperature regulator, web-cam, moisture content analyzer, long distance radio monitor, and a baby wardrobe larger than myself and Brian’s combined? I deliberately avoided going into baby shops as I knew I would be slapped in the face with anxiety looking at all the things I apparently needed in order to make it as a parent.
So, I went to Amazon and bought a comprehensive 700 page baby manual written by a pediatrician, and two additional manuals for good measure. Over the next few weeks I read them cover to cover, and slowly started to feel confident enough to draw my own conclusions where conflicting recommendations were given.
I now felt I knew what to expect, and more importantly be able to put together my own baby starter box, with the essentials to see me through the first month, and none of the other stuff advertising would have me believe I absolutely needed, lest I be a lousy mother.
As I put together the list, I passed it over to the soon-to-be grandparents for review, who made some minor adjustments.
So, here it is. Michelle’s essential baby starter box.
Now, we are ready : )
- Barnavogn / Stroller: These are ridiculously expensive to buy new, and cost as much as a small car. You can buy them second hand at a fraction of the price, and unlike a car, can be reasonably confident they haven’t been abused and will likely still be as good as new. Is a mother really going to be taking her stroller into salt water, through a stream, do a high speed 1000km journey over rocky terrain, overload it with five babies, use it to store dangerous substances, or push it over a cliff?
- Stellebord / Nappy changing station: There is dedicated furniture for this, but a good set of drawers, with a non-slip soft mat to sit on top will do.
- Seng / Bed: Nice to have in the first month but not essential. You will have an infant who’s just come out of a very confined dark space. Putting him in his own bed straight away is just going to freak him out. The stroller can double up as a bed nicely if need be, or he can sleep next to you.
- Breast pump. An infant’s stomach is about the size of a small walnut. They will drink milliliters of milk at a time. Chances are in the early days, you’ll have enough milk for five infants, and feeding just the one baby will result in engorged, uncomfortable breasts leaving them susceptible to infection. Drain them, and keep the pickings in the freezer for feeding emergencies.
- Nursing bra and pads
- Nasal syringe: Infants have tiny airways which easily get congested, and may require unclogging
- Baby nail clippers
- Baby bath: Not completely essential. You can always use the sink, but nice to have.
- Formula, bottle and nipples – Stress, anxiety, or even just a cold can halt the flow of milk. Having formula on hand in case of a Sunday 3am emergency can save a lot of stress.
- Rug: A non-expensive, washable rug – somewhere baby can lie down on, safely wriggle about, burp, drool, and even pee and poo on in the event of nappy malfunction.
- Nappies, talc and wipes: Have some different brands and sizes available, so you can experiment and don’t need to rush out for more during the first few days.
- Nappy cream: Apparently nappy rash is a given. It will happen, and is no reflection of your skills as a parent.
- Nipple cream: Ever been in a very dry environment and suffered from dry chaffed lips? Now imagine that happen to your nipples, and needing to apply a suckling infant every few hours? Keep cream on hand.
- Pacifier: A bit controversial. But they’re cheap, so good to have, just in case.
- Maternity pads / heavy duty menstrual pads
- Baby wrap: The best way to sooth an infant is to carry them close to you. Have them in a wrap, leaving your arms free. the baby feels secure and is reminded of his womby days, can feel your heartbeat and according to numerous studies, will generally be more relaxed and content than if put to rest in a crib.
- Nursing chair: Somewhere you can sit comfortably to feed a baby 24 hours a day. Rocking chair is extra good.
- Thermometer: Is he sick? Is that why he’s crying? He feels a bit warmer than usual, what if he’s really sick? A thermometer can quickly lay those questions to rest.
- Swaddling blanket: All a newborn knows is the tight, dark confines of the uterus Open spaces will scare him. For the first few weeks/months newborns tend to be instantly soothed and feel secure if they are swaddled. Over time they will become accustomed to their new world, and begin to resist swaddling, at which point they are ready for their own bed. Even then, keep the swaddling blanket with the baby, using it as a security mascot, something the little guy knows, and which helps further soothe him.
- Baby oil / soap
- Non allergenic laundry detergent
- Gripe water: To help sooth colic
- Baby monitor: Particularly useful in a two-level house, where baby may be sleeping several rooms away, while you are rummaging in the kitchen.
- Instant food: Chances are during the first few days newly-appointed parents will be exhausted, and cooking dinner will be the last thing on your mind. Stock up on snacks, frozen pizzas, frozen veges, couscous, instant soup, and ice cream. It’s allowed.