While I was pregnant I skimmed through a TON of online lists. “Everything You’ll Need When Baby Arrives” “Minimalist Guide to Baby Gear” “Top 10 Postpartum Essentials” “Things You Are Obligated To Buy So Your Baby Doesn’t Turn Out Permanently Scarred.” You know these lists. We all know these lists.
BUT, despite this endless Pinterest quest, when it came time to put things on our baby shower registry, I was completely hopeless. I still had no idea what our baby and I would actually need! I relied helplessly on these countless advice lists and other new mom friends, but often they contradicted each other. Some seemed helpful, some not so much, and occasionally I would see the same item on multiple lists and start to suspect it might actually be important. At the end of the day, our registry ended up being fairly minimal (and maaaaaybe slightly overloaded with adorable clothes).
As our first month with Freia came to a close I started tallying up what had been essential to me so far. I decided to jot down a list, which grew to 20 items pretty quickly. This is by no means an exhaustive list of “everything you’ll need” (for example, onesies) because you can find those lists anywhere. Instead I’ve tried to pick out a core group of somewhat more specialty items I would have definitely had a rougher time without. We’ve separated them into the following loose categories: Holding Baby, Cleaning Baby, Comforting Mama, and Mama Doing Work.
And for those who are following purely for Freia updates, this one doesn’t have many but is a pretty comprehensive glimpse into our functional day-to-day. Plus wonderful baby pictures, of course.
***We’re not nearly prolific enough bloggers to warrant sponsored posts, so 100% un-biased opinions here, folks! We have however inserted affiliate links for products found on Amazon, so if you follow them we’ll get a tiny cut. (A mama’s gotta eat!)***
Blessed Nest Nursing Pillow
Nursing pillows kept turning up on many essentials lists I read and I was quite skeptical about the idea. Really? A pillow just for nursing? We have literally dozens of pillows, can’t I just use one of those? But they just kept cropping up, so I went ahead and put it on the registry and received it as a gift from a kind coworker.
I did not expect I would be saying this, but even at nearly $100 this specific pillow from a small company called Blessed Nest has definitely been worth it. If you’re going to breastfeed, or bottlefeed in a breastfeeding position, you will need a pillow to effectively prop up the baby so you don’t kill your back and arms. This pillow is made of all natural materials, so no weird chemical smells, and its bean-bag-like consistency makes it able to easily fit whatever weird position you find yourself in, bed chair or couch. Plus, it keeps that shape until you move it. Winner here.
I don’t know about your baby, but ours does not want to be put down (not that we really want to put her down). Still, sometimes you need to do dishes, brush your teeth, fold laundry or perform any number of tasks which require two hands. The carrier allows us to do this while making baby feel all snuggly up against us. We also use them any time we go out of the house, and it disperses her weight much more evenly among our shoulders and core muscles instead of just our arms and back. As an added bonus, she falls asleep nine times out of ten we put her in them. These have been so helpful and highly recommended to have on hand – maybe ask a friend to borrow one before committing to buying so you can try a different style.
We actually have four – two we bought, a Baby K’tan Wrap for Aaron, a Solly Baby wrap for me, and received both an Ergobaby and Hotsling as hand-me-downs from a friend. I’ve grown fond of the Solly and Aaron prefers the K’tan. She’s not big enough yet for the Ergo (12lbs and up) and we have yet to fully explore the sling positions. The Solly is certainly more stylish, customizable, and breathable, but it’s also more of a commitment to get on. The K’tan is easy and quick to don while still doing the job well.
Stationary Baby Swing
We received a motorized swing from a mommy friend who swore by its magic. Honestly I was skeptical – was this just overkill? Couldn’t we just carry her? We already had a snuggle puppy, a bassinet, and endless good ol’ surfaces all over the house. Surely these would suffice?
No. No they do not suffice. No we can’t carry her 24/7. No, she’s not content to be chill on a stationary surface (even if I’m rocking her bassinet). I don’t know what kind of voodoo they use to make the thing, but this swing is magic, and for those brief hours of time when Aaron and I need to get actually working on something it’s the only place she’ll sleep outside of our arms.
Thank you, Christine, for your wisdom. And your magic.
Our midwife wanted us to have 10 (!) receiving blankets in our birth kit for warming and drying the baby after delivery. I was skeptical at the quantity, but folks, it’s always a good idea do as your midwife says. We went the DIY route, took a 35-week-pregnant trip to the fabric store with my mom, picked out 5 cute patterned “nursery flannel” fabrics, bought a couple yards of each, and commissioned mom to hem up the sides.
On delivery day, these went into the warm oven when I went into labor and were the first things besides myself that Freia felt against her skin. Since delivery day, we’ve used them for swaddling, tummy time, under the bed to catch any leaky fluids, and as burp cloths, blankets, and towels. After seeing the variety of roles they can fill, 10 is the minimum number I’d recommend to have on hand.
Aaron’s even trying to get my mom to go into business making them. Keep an eye out for Grandma’s potential Etsy shop!
Muslin Swaddling blankets were one of those items common to many essentials lists I’d read, and they really are very handy. We received two as a gift and bought two ourselves. We use them for everything we use the receiving blankets for, but the lighter weight breathable material makes these handy as sun shades and light blankets for the unreasonably warm days here in Houston. Plus, a lot of the patterns are cute enough to double as a blanket scarf for mama when they’re not used for the baby. I’ve kept one in the diaper bag for every outing thus far.
There are brands out there which folks swear by with pretty high price tags. We went for a cheaper option I found on Amazon, made from organic cotton, and while I cannot compare them directly with the fancier options, I have zero complaints with these and cannot imagine what feature could make the other brands that much better.
We’re about a month into our cloth diapering endeavor. I did a ton of brand research, and settled on Grovia’s hybrid system which involves a waterproof shell and can be used with their snap in inserts (soakers) which are made of organic cotton, or pre-folds. We’re using Grovia’s inserts until we run out (we only bought twelve as a trial set), then switch to pre-folds until it’s time to do the laundry. We also use the pre-folds as burp cloths, for under her on the changing table to catch the pee she likes to squirt out at us as we change her nappy, and for anything else we need an absorbent cloth to do.
We’re still 100% diaper rash free at this point and really happy with the way things are going here. We’re definitely still learning though and will eventually do a write up on all things cloth diaper when we’re a few months in.
These were a gift from a mama friend who also cloth diapers her wee lass. You dissolve a “Bit” into hot water and use it in a spray bottle or wipe warmer to wet cloth wipes. The stuff is all natural, smells wonderfully of lavender, a $10 package is good for 1,000 cloth wipes, and it seems to be really nice to Freia’s delicate undercarriage. Two thumbs up.
These are our back-up wipes for the really messy diapers or when we run out of cloth wipes (we only have 12 terrycloth wipes, again as a trial. I’ve sense ordered more). They’re just water and 0.01% fruit extract. Nothing weird, works great, no issues with skin reactions.
Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Hemp Soap
We can count the sudsy baths Freia’s had so far on one hand – our herbal baths are soap free – you don’t want to wash the herbs away! Aaron and I have been using Dr. Bronner’s castille soap for years for ourselves (love the tingly peppermint!), which makes me feel like a doofus for doing hours of research into the best baby soap when the obvious answer was already in our shower.
Babies don’t get dirty in the traditional sense, and certainly don’t need thorough bathing every day. Her delicate skin was inoculated with all that good bacteria at birth, and the vernex which coated her was rubbed in and absorbed to continue providing benefits to her – it’d be a shame to wash all this natural goodness away! She does get a nearly daily wipe down with warm water all over because I tend to sweat on her with all that skin to skin in this Bayou City, but we use this soap for any place that might get a bit funky – diaper area, hands (always in her mouth and touching strangers as the offer fingers to her), and in skin creases as she bulks up with adorable chub. There is no chemical weirdness with the product, and I like not worrying about what’s being put on or absorbed into her skin.
Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray
I don’t recall where I first heard about this, but for under $12 it’s well worth it. It’s a soothing and cooling mist your post birth (or prenatal) lady bits will love! I’ve used this with nearly every trip to the bathroom since her birth and have yet to finish the small bottle. It’s refreshing and healing and the scent of cucumber essence is a welcome reprieve from that fleshy, open-wound-like fragrance which wafts up at every trip to the bathroom every new mama is familiar with. Also some genius in development at this company fitted the it with a spray top which works upside-down. I am planning on gifting this to every pregnant friend I encounter from now on!
We’ve droned on about these already, but I cannot overemphasize how wonderful this ritual was. I was in a bath with Freia a couple hours after her birth and about twice daily her first couple weeks of life. My midwife provided herbs to sustain us for that long, and because I didn’t want to give them up, I kept up the habit a couple times a week with herbs I received from a friend from this company until those ran out. There are recipes to make your own blend and I’d highly recommend looking into it before delivering.
This was another item the midwife wanted in our birth kit. We brewed a strong pot of comfrey tea and soaked a package of 4×4 gauze pads in the solution which were frozen individually. In the days after birth the cold (VERY COLD!!) compresses felt great on sore perineal tissues and the comfrey helps with healing and inflammation. Again these herbs were provided to me by the midwife, but I found on amazon a pound of organic comfrey leaves for quite a reasonable price. I did not make any “padcicles” or the like – only used these and did not feel like I was missing out.
Majamas Nursing Nightgown
I was supposed to have something ready to put on after the delivery in my birth kit but had no idea what I’d want to wear, what size I’d be or what I would be comfortable in. I tossed an old nightgown that thought I could probably breastfeed in (I couldn’t, come to find out later) into the birth box and tried not to think about it. My mom had literally given this Majamas nightgown to me the day I went into labor as an early birthday present (Freia’s birthday is two days before mine!). I ended up laboring in it and putting it back on after the post-delivery bath since her birth was so mess-free. From then on I’ve also probably worn this 75% of of my time and have become a huge fan.
It’s made by a small company in the USA of environmentally friendly materials, is super comfortable, stretchy enough that the small fit well while I was 40 weeks pregnant and still flattering now that I’ve shrunken down quite a bit 6 weeks later. Its extremely soft, flattering, and nice and modest enough that I felt fine wearing it while we saw a slew of guests visiting the baby. At the end of a night of side-lying nursing when its composition has gone from entirely fabric to mostly leaked milk you can’t tell at all thanks to the dark patterned color and double layer. A boob is popped out easily from the neckline and a milky nipple has never stuck to the inner fabric. Five stars for sure and I’m not sure what I would have done without it, besides be uncomfortable, embarrassed and certainly not very stylish.
Your midwife or the hospital or birth center should give you a peri bottle to have at home after giving birth, but if they don’t, make sure to get one for yourself. The simple squirt bottle apparatus can be filled with just water or I filled mine from a pitcher of herbal water collected from the baths before I got in each time. Basically you squirt yourself with each trip to the bathroom which can take the major sting out of any perineal trauma, and the cool water just feels great on sore tissues. When I thought mine was thrown away a couple days after giving birth I sent my parents on a wild goose chase to find another (no luck with three pharmacies, but they did come home with two squirt top water bottles!)
We started up a lullaby playlist when I was pregnant to play to Freia in the womb. It’s only continued to grow with our favorite soft or sweet songs and is becoming a reliable standard to fill the quiet in our house. Having this music as a constant which flowed through the last weeks of pregnancy and the first weeks of her new life has been a comfort. Would highly recommend starting to compile one of your own, or feel free to use ours!
Mama Doing Work
Dairy Fairy Pumping & Nursing Bra
I found this company through instagram and debated for months about buying one of their bras. They’re gorgeous, functional and it seemed like folks thought very highly of them. I’d bought a basic, cheap cotton nursing bra off of Amazon to have on hand and generally feel silly spending any more than the minimum on something like a bra. Upon seeing my inner turmoil and need for more than one bra Freia’s grandma stepped in again and got me an Ayla bra in two colors (Thanks mama!).
I see why they have such a following. They’re very comfortable, easily snap open to nurse the babe, have an opening to accommodate a pump, are very supportive, seem to be well-made, and are soft and flattering. Lastly, they are beautiful bras. When you’re wandering around in a sleep-deprived stupor, with a new unfamiliar body, squishy tummy, and full, leaky, shape-shifting bosoms, a little confidence booster in the form a lovely undergarment is a wonderful escape. Those feelings of I‘ll never be a pretty young maiden again can be damned.
I started taking the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri as advised by my midwife in the first trimester of pregnancy. Studies strongly suggest that they aid in preventing Group B Strep (GBS) positive status at term, and help maintain beneficial flora in the genitourinary tract. I found this brand containing these specific strands of bacteria at my local sprouts around the start of the third trimester. Jarrow has a great brand reputation, these are shelf stable (major plus) and were about half the price of other options I’d found in the stores. On amazon they’re even cheaper. Sold.
I was GBS negative at term, and have not had a single yeast infection, UTI or dreaded the Bacterial Vaginosis which often plague pregnant women. Whether or not taking these probiotics were what saved me the discomfort of dealing with these issues or not, they can’t hurt. I’m still taking them now and plan to continue through my childbearing years (and they may help to lower your cholesterol too!).
I'm so grateful our breastfeeding journey has gotten off to a great start; I know others don't have it so easy! Freia got her first shots today, and while I wasn't able to feed her during the injections, I was able to nurse for about 10 minutes beforehand, comfort her along side her papa on the exam table while the medical assistant gave three lightening-quick sticks, and put her right back on the boob before she realized what was going on. Breastfeeding combines a comforting hold and sucking action with the sweet taste of milk which all together can drastically reduce pain and discomfort for babe. She gave a little cry right after the shots but was quickly consolable and hasn't shown any signs of being extra fussy or feverish yet, 5 hours later🤞. We're so proud of this tough little lady! . . . . #breastfeeding #feedingwithlove #uniteinmotherhood #feedingwithlovesubmission #6weeksold #newmama #motherhoodunplugged #motherhoodrising #fourthtrimester #stopcensoringmotherhood
I have a lot of books on pregnancy and birth on the shelf but this classic from La Leche League is one of the most practical and I would consider it a vital resource for anyone intending to breastfeed. I read it cover to cover months before I delivered and consulted it when I had some issues with serious nipple pain in the first week of breastfeeding. I found what seemed to be my issue, followed the suggested changes and by the next nursing session noticed a huge difference. Now, over 6 weeks out I very rarely have any pain with breastfeeding and would even describe it as a pleasurable activity I get to enjoy several times a day.
I’m sure I could have contacted my midwife, mother, or La Leche League for advice and would have received comparable information, but the act of discovering it on your own can be very empowering. There are a lot of books I’d recommend for new or soon to be moms, but this is certainly a must.
As the time with Freia continues to fly by and we continue to figure out what has been helpful and what has not I’ll update this list. For now I hope this can help one person make a decision or two, and quality mama- and baby-friendly brands get a tad more exposure.