Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Best and Worst of baby products: a post for expectant and new mums!

Warning: Shockingly long post, sorry. There is a list of recommended reading at the end if you like books but can't bear to read all this blurb! Skip to that if you like. We bought a lot of stuff we didn't bother with for our first baby. Similarly, there were lots of items we came to a bit “late” and wished we had known about/ bought them earlier! Here is a list of my personal best and worst baby buys, for each good thing, there is usually a similar or opposite crap thing to be avoided! I've told you why below! But don't let me pursued you, every baby, and parent, is different. Have a read, see what you think, but my best advice is not to buy loads of baby gear before baby arrives. As long as you are reasonably healthy after the birth (unlike me!) you will be able to leave the house and shop gently for things you discover you need, as and when you realise you need them. This will save endless trips to the charity shop later to off-load all your junk.

Best buy:
A sling: last time we didn't discover slings til Boy was 4 m old, but this time, I'll be packing a sling in my hospital bag! Newborns need lots of reassurance in this strange new world, my Boy needed to be held almost constantly. Slings give you the hands-free opportunity to keep your baby close to the familiar beat of your heart and sounds of your digestive system, and warmth and smell of you, all the things he craves. And you can make a sandwich at the same time! I struggled to bond last time, and to breastfeed, and slings are great for both these, and PND, you can go skin to skin under the sling, which helps with all three. Have a look at :, which make the stylish sling pictured above, and give info on the scientific benefits better than I can! Or for a bigger range and help choosing, try: we were very lucky to have a local slings group, with highly informed members just waiting to help (and become my friends :-)) and a massive library of slings (& related products) to borrow for free for a week to try before you buy.

Worst buy: PRAM! Every bugger will tell you that you need one, this is not necessarily the case. Ours (and at least two friends I know agree re: their own pram) was a complete waste of money, and is only used by Nana, thus lives at her house. If you have to relent to the pressure, put off buying one as long as possible, and then get a £20 buggy when baby can sit up, and Nana can use that, instead of spending £500 on an all-singing & dancing high tech model that will rot under your stairs, as ours did. Slings are the way to go, even when they get heavier, if you've always carried, your body adjusts naturally and you don't notice the weight gain, then before you know it, they are asking to walk anyway!

Best buy:
Ice pops: this is a weird one, and a bit horrible to think about. I had 3rd degree (i.e. very extensive) tearing during the birth, and spent 4 hrs being repaired in surgery. I was SORE. HID suggested popping an ice pop wrapped in a flannel in my knickers: the relief was immense. I also bought a cheap kids rubber ring to sit on for a while (6 months!!) too.

Best Buy:
Lansinoh cream: for breastfeeding. Do be warned though, it stained all my bras and pj tops, so remember to put a breast pad in too. It can be quite stiff to apply, and that's the last thing you want on your ultra-sensitive nipples, so warm it between your fingers before applying, or keep on to of a radiator. It's expensive stuff, but the only thing that got me through the painful early days of breastfeeding.

Worst buy:
Disposable breast pads. I did not ever “squirt” or “leak”, see above for the only thing I used breast pads for!! I have some washable ones, so will not be buying disposable this time.

Best buy:
Moonlight lamp: a plug in night light that gives a green glow: not bright enough to wake you or baby properly in the middle of the night, but more than enough light to feed by. Eco-friendly too.

Best buy:
Dishwasher baskets:if you bottle feed, or use dummies, or wish to sterilise any small toys/weaning equipment, these are fab! I didn't find out til later, but to put bottles in the dishwasher is to wash and sterilise them at the same time, due to the hot water! No more scrubbing then fiddling with the steriliser for me then! (And with ours having a setting that is more eco-friendly than filling a sink with hot water, it really was the way to go.) Dishwasher baskets are great for all those tiny items that would otherwise not really have a place in the dishwasher, and easily get lost. We had three! Ours were from Woolworths :-( but jojomamanbebe sells them too.

Best buy:
Sleepsuit bags/baby nightgowns: poppers on baby grows will become the bane of your life. Forget the whole thing and ask well-meaning relatives to buy you these instead of babygrows. They are open, but elasticated at the bottom, for midnight nappy changes, simply pull up the whole item. Akin to wearing a summer dress as apposed to going to the loo and struggling with the fly on your skinny jeans.....try ebay or, known on mothercare site as baby bundlers.

Best Buy:
Baby sleeping bags: as soon as Boy was big enough, these replaced blankets for us. No more confusion as to how many times it's ok to fold a blanket, how thick should it be etc, as sleeping bags have clear instructions for the season. Plus, no kicking of covers & getting cold, thus waking up! Our Boy is an “active” sleeper, we often find him at the opposite end of the cot, wrong way round, or simply splayed horizontally, but his sleeping bags keep him well covered and happy. Bedtime is not bedtime without one. You don't even have to spend a fortune! Get to TKMaxx.

Worst buy:
Millions of blankets, currently in a bag at the bottom of the stairs waiting to go to the charity shop. You need one, maximum, if you use sleeping bags.

Best buy:
Shoo-Shoos (May find cheaper on ebay, but as an idea of what they are.)
Baby shoes do not stay on. Ever! You will lose one of a very cute pair, and be gutted. Until you see the light and choose shoo-shoos. Then you will never allow baby to wear another!! These soft shoes are also great for letting baby's feet develop naturally, and stepping in these is akin to walking barefoot, and professionals recommend 1st steps should be done barefoot.

Worst buy:
Any other type of shoe in the days before baby can walk!

Best buy:
Ikea Antilop high chair: this is literally an essential for every baby household come the time to try grown-up food, especially if you plan to BLW. (which can cause extra mess, and this product is literally the easiest thing to clean on the market!!!) You must buy it, as it is only £9.78. You can buy the tray separately too but we never bothered as it fit straight under our dining table, so it feels a bit more social. Also ideal for multiples and baby & toddler households, as they are stackable when not in use!! Think I'll get the red one this time....

Other ikea children's foody things I like include the barnsling rand bibs and kalas crockery. Don't forget a splash mat......mum's best friend!

Worst buy: a present of an expensive mama's & papa's highchair. Loads of handy crevices for food to get stuck in and go rotten, with an impossible to remover cover, too massive, too high for our table, and a removable tray that was figured out very quickly by our then 6 m old and became not an easy way to remove the mess to the kitchen, but a very efficient way of throwing your entire dinner on the floor/at the wall all at once. Rubbish. And his tummy is too big, at just 18 m, to fit in it anymore.

Best buy:
Babylegs: These are mega-cute leg warmers, for boys as well as girls (you should see how fetching our black and red striped, denis the menace pair look on!!) and are amazingly practical. We use them round the house when Boy is just in a vest, great for protecting crawling knees, or making newborn nappy changes much easier (potty training too I'm told). Also great if you have a sling for keeping exposed legs warm under trousers! Or camping when you just need that extra layer at night.

Best buy:
Sock ons: Similar to shoes, baby socks don't stay on! A great little invention for when you little one isn't wearing shoes. Be warned, don't lose these tiny items in the wash....

Best buy:
Mothercare smart nappy system: If you are even considering using real nappies (and it's a lot easier than you think, once it's in your routine, you hardly notice it!) you must use the mothercare range, it is simply the very best out there. They don't leak, they don't start looking old and grubby after only a few washes like other nappies, they are VERY easy to use and put on, they look cute, they don't leave angry “the velcro has rubbed” marks on your baby, grandmas and nursery staff were eager to use them, they dry quick, they are fairly cheap (being an own brand), there is a mothercare local to everyone so you can stock up with ease and not have to wait ages for internet delivery, and there is even an option to go half & half: with disposable inners available, great for those 1st few newborn weeks or for holidays.

Worst buy:
Motherease one size re-usable nappies. Way too many poppers for a wriggly baby, nowhere near absorbent enough and always leaked poo, and very fiddly covers that never fit properly, at 18 m, ours still look massive. Expensive rubbish basically.

Best buy:
Baby flannels (morrisons): we use these as washable baby wipes, which isn't as bad as it sounds. Many people try to use cotton wool and water for the first few weeks, as did we, but it's such a bloody faf! If you're going to have little bowls of cooled boiled water around the house anyway, you many as well use these flannels as babywipes. They do the job much better than cotton wool, and indeed even the top brands of disposable babywipes, which tend to spread poo around the bottom instead of wiping it off, meaning you use 5 or more wipes. Clever marketing! But I can clean a pooey bum with a maximum of 2 flannels, and they are smaller too. We simply chuck ours in with our re-usable nappies, but if you don't fancy going the whole hog, wipes is a good compromise, (every little helps the environment) as cotton wool is, arguably, rubbish, as are shop bought baby wipes, plus they are full of chemicals and you will chuck away literally millions. For going out, you can often buy plastic baby wipe cases in a travel size, simply dampen a few and pop in before you go (also great for eating out with a weaned baby, again, ten times better than shop bought baby wipes), or we just pop a few in the “messy bag” that comes with most changing bags, I find these too small for all the items we manage to get messy when out (they only really fit a bib in and I'm talking entire outfit changes....) so I tend to carry a plastic carrier bag for this purpose instead. Buy a small lidded bucket to keep them in pre-wash. To wash: put on a rinse and spin with a little lemon juice and nappy-san (available at most supermarkets), and then add the rest of your ordinary washing. Feel free to wash as low as 30, I do, they still come clean.

Worst buy:
This is obviously cotton wool! We have loads that we still didn't use after 18m! It's main use is for cleaning little eyes that have conjunctivitis...will last forever at this rate!

Best Buy:
Metal tipped forks and , to a lesser extent, spoons, especially if you're planning to baby-led wean. Thing is, as soon as they are ready to feed themselves, they want to be just like mummy and daddy, who don't use plastic they don't work very well. Forks are great, as it's much easier to stab food that chase it around a plate with a spoon.

Worst buy:
Loads of weaning spoons! Almost never use them, he eats yoghurt with his fingers! Weaning spoons are often the wrong shape for self-feeing too, too flat, food falls off.

Best buy:
Avent hand breast pump: once you're familiar with it, it was the fastest and most comfortable way to express milk. I was fascinated with watching it come out out, I mean, not only could I make actual milk (!!!) but what no-one tells you is you don't just have one hole in each nipple, it's several! And goes off in all sorts of directions! Anyway, I digress...

Worst buy:
Medula Electric breast pump: noisy, painful, and nowhere near as effective as actually getting milk out of the boob as a hand held. Plus, you can't use it in the bath!

Books I wish I had read in my 1st pregnancy:

The attachment parenting book, Dr Sears and Dr Sears

I recently read this in my pregnancy after being told by friends that the style of parenting we use is “attachment parenting”. I just thought we were going on instinct! Well, that's pretty much it, but I loved reading it, and it gave me even more ideas for baby number 2. Plus it's nice to know, when your mother in law is looking at you like you're crazy, that you're not the only one out there doing it like this....

Baby-Led Weaning, Gill Rapely & Tracey Murkett

Luckily, I did get chance to read this before we started weaning, I just wish I'd read it before I bought loads of useless weaning spoons and ice-cube trays for purees we never made! It's all about waiting til your child is truly ready to try grown-up food, and then letting them actually try it, not giving them mush before they can even sit up! It was amazing for us.

Three in a Bed, Deborah Jackson

I recently read this after deciding to co-sleep with our new baby this time. I feel we were naïve last time, and too frightened in the early days to go against the norm, and thus forced our son to sleep in a cot alone. Is it any wonder it took him til he was 16m old to sleep through the night?? He was a terrible sleeper, and we now realise this is because he needed comfort and cuddles from us through the night in those early months. The book helped me see the benefits, and plan for sleeping SAFELY with baby number 2. It also gave me some good stock answers to ward off people who may not agree with co-sleeping. (i.e. most of the western world....sigh). It's fascinating to look at other cultures who co-sleep. I learned from this book that cot-death (SIDs) is unheard of when families co-sleep! As are nightmares and tantrums!! Sounds blissful.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favourite baby things, and I do hope it's helped any expectant mums out there to feel a bit more confident in the minefield of baby products everyone tells them they “must have”. At the end of the day, it's your baby, and you know what works best for you, even if no-one else is doing it, your baby will love you for it. Get what you need, not what the magazines say you can't live without!

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At 2:54 am , Blogger Margarita said...

I really enjoyed reading this, but it's true that it's different for everyone. I leaked a lot, so I needed breastfeeding pads in my bra constantly, and some kids HATE being in a sling. My friend was so lookin forward to a slinging, co-sleeping baby, who hated both! Everyone is different.

At 8:34 am , Blogger Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Thank you. This is a great post. As Margarita said (and you did yourself, in fact), everyone is different, so what's a best buy for someone might be a worst buy for someone else. The more information like this there is available, though, the easier it will be for new mums to get an idea of how they want to do things/what they will need!

I would second the lanisoh cream, though I didn't really need until Rosemary's teeth started coming through. Every time a new tooth came through she took a little while to adjust her positioning so she wasn't scraping every time (ow!).

I also never needed the breast pads, but I have friends who went through boxes of the things. We had a few baby sleeping bags (fortunately passed on to us, rather than bought) and Rosemary hated them. She instead had a big thing for fleece blankets, to the point where she had to have one underneath as well as on top - can't say I blame her, as they are lovely and soft - during the winter months.

We didn't use any kinds of shoe at all, until Rosemary was walking. Which got us lots of funny comments from friends and relatives. But I think that's one of the most important lessons we learnt - ignore any derogatory (or even well-meaning) comments and go with how you want to do things. They might turn out to be right, but you have to find your own way in the end!

Rosemary actually liked the weaning spoons. Not for eating off, but for chewing on when she was teething! My MIL insisted on buying her some for her first Christmas (she was four months old). Bah. She now uses them to feed her toys, so they weren't wasted.

I had a hand pump (Boots) and never, ever, ever got it to work. When Rosemary was in SCBU I had a loan of one of their huge electric ones and they worked brilliantly, but they cost almost £100. So I basically never expressed - and breastfed for over two years!

I'm very interested in the dishwasher baskets and will be looking for some of them. And will also look at the baby flannels. We used warm water and cotton wool until she was about a year old, I seem to recall, though did start using some special Wella Baby shampoo and bath stuff when she was around 9 months.

Thanks for the sling links, too. Am thinking of getting one, as well as a pram/buggy of some kind this time. I considered just a sling, but I am convinced (in a completely unscientific way, of course), that Rosemary's advanced speech is completely down to me pushing her around in her buggy and talking and singing to her for hours on end - and it helped me get fitter, too! Also, I don't think either of the grandmothers would be keen on a sling!

At 12:00 pm , Blogger SandyCalico said...

I enjoyed reading this too and I'm not pregnant!

It's so true that every baby is different and every mum is different.

My eldest wouldn't take to a sling at all, but the youngest lived in his (Wilkienet), it was the only way to stop him crying when he had reflux. I wish I'd known about the sling place as I have two others that I didn't like!

I hated hand pumps (I have two) and loved the Medela mini electric.

I used washable breast pads all the time.

I only use cotton wool and water, tried washable cloths and couldn't keep up with the washing demands!

At 1:05 pm , Blogger Cave Mother said...

Brill post. I do so love connecting with other people who actually get my style of parenting. I wish we hadn't spent £200 on a travel system, and like you I wish we had just bought a sling right from the off. By the way, I just plain don't believe that any baby would hate a sling if they were introduced to a decent one, early in life. And there are so many different carrying positions that no baby needs to be carried uncomfortably.

Glad you liked Three In A Bed. That book made me feel SO much better about our co-sleeping arrangements, which we started doing because my DD was literally impossible to get to sleep any other way. When I read books like that, it really makes me wonder how parenting has gone so wrong in our culture.

Oh, and your homemade baby wipes are a great idea. We are still using cotton wool and she's 10 mths old!

At 7:03 pm , Blogger allgrownup said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying reading! Especially as I spend AGES adding links to make it useful too :-)
Margarita: I do agree with Cave Mother, if a newborn is put in a well made & fitted sling, they don't know any different, otherwise, how would all those ladies in Africa continue to work the fields?! Lol. Prams are just the norm in the UK. People always comment on how unlikely a candidate my Boy is for slings, he hates any form of affection and close contact and squirms to get away, UNLESS he is in a sling, which he adores :-)
Tasha: if you visit Lifft slings, you will see that studies show children pick up language much faster in slings, as they are close enough to hear clearly, and see your lips. Plus, adults simply tend to talk more to a child in a sling than one in a buggy facing away. Supposed to be same for physical development too! I too will be using a pram/sling combo when the new baby comes, I'm certainly not shelling out for a double pram when I didn't even use the 1st one I had! Lol.
Sandy: Ironically, the sling group is in Preston :-)
Cave Mother: I feel the same when I read your blog :-), another AP blogger is Luckily, we got our pram from Netto for £70, carseat included! So don't feel too duped. I do agree with you, I shall be most shocked if my newborn doesn't like slings, and even co-sleeping, if done from the start. We ARE so deprived in the Western world! When did we stop loving our babies?? Its sad and sometimes shocking...that's another post.
Thanks all xxx

At 7:29 pm , Blogger JK said...

Can't imagine what I would do without my slings. An absolute essential. And I agree that it would be rare for a baby to reject being in a sling as long as it is carried often from early on. And in a sling that suits baby and parent. Which probably rules out most that you can buy on the high street. I bought a pram and pushchair on eBay and am so glad i didn't waste money on new ones that would hardly have been used.

At 9:14 am , Blogger Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Like you say, everyone is different. I have a bad back and couldn't use the slings (seriously, my 7lb baby put my back out the one time I tried it in the carefully researched so called best sling for those with bad backs), so if you have a dodgy back - DO BE CAREFUL.

I lived with my buggy but we have a dog and I have to walk her every day, come rain or shine and I feel we got value for money. But, you should think about your lifestyle, where you live, what you will be doing and then you can find the thing that suits you both the best.

Ebay Ebay Ebay but, another word of warning, check the new prices first. We found many things were going on Ebay for more than you could buy them new in Mothercare, and that isn't even including postage!

At 8:07 am , Blogger Dancinfairy said...

This post is great, I read it a while ago but seem to have forgotten to say thank you. Apologies for that, how very rude of me!

I am just so pleased that I have started blogging again and found all this wonderful support and advice from people. I don't have many people in my life with kids so this is a real lifeline.

At 10:34 am , Blogger allgrownup said...

Fraught Mummy: weirdly, I have a bad back too! I found baby wanted to be carried so often, I couldn't do it without my sling as it hurt my back too much. Even now, with him 18 m, and me 10 weeks off my due date with pelvic problems, I can carry him on my back or hip for short periods. Daddy does the long trips.
Dancin Fairy: very, very glad to be of service. I only wish I had this network of mums when I had my first! Real mums know so much more than the books,don't they?!

At 1:50 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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