Far be it for me to offer parenting pearls of wisdom, I am kind of new at this! But…I have already discovered some fairly priceless bits of kit that make this gig just a bit easier, and I’m all for that. I’m also all for sharing this handy information, because I’m nice like that. So in an effort to remember all these bits and bobs amongst my new mama fog brain I thought I’d best document them in a succinct blog post – added bonus if any other future mama’s find any of these items useful, but if for no other reason I may need to re-visit this someday when we have another baby. (Yes I just mentioned another baby before my first child is even four months old – gasp!)
I know when I was pregnant I was asking all my mama friends what was the item, the one piece of baby paraphernalia that they swore by, would almost sell their first born for (but that would defeat it’s purpose wouldn’t it?) Before you actually have a baby you have noooooo idea. People tell you this, yet still you can’t fathom the clueless imbecile you are B.C. (before children). And I was fairly up with all things kid, lots of mama friends, lots of nieces and nephews, mama bear in the waiting, yet still there were some baby items I underestimated, and some I thought would be oh-so-useful…turns out they went unused. Funny that.
Let me add this disclaimer: I know every parent is different. I know every child is different. Some of these might not be your cup of tea, but maybe, just maybe, one of these items is the key to early parenting harmony*. Imagine! Yup, She Sows Seeds: helping new parents since 2014…
Hands down our #1 most used and loved item of baby gear. I can not emphasise this enough: this thing is a game changer. Eleanor gets feed, changed and put in her swing. Not for a long time sometimes (she’ll go down and play on her rug under her play gym often), and about 90% of the time we don’t have the swing motion on. It’s just somewhere for her to sit, it’s so much better than a bouncer down on the floor because she is up higher and can look around, she can see me in the kitchen, she can see me at my computer, she can watch Tessa trotting past and, much to her father’s dismay, she watches the lights and colours on the TV from her swing. The period between 5-7pm when Eleanor will often not sleep between feeds, she is in her swing. I turn it on, eventually she’ll get tired and I’ll put her dummy in, she’ll doze in and out of a sleep until it’s late enough for me to give her her ‘bedtime’ feed. Without the swing she basically just grizzles for two hours and wants to be held – she wants to go to sleep, but she wants to be fed, but she doesn’t know what to do with herself basically! The swing is the answer, the key to sanity at arsenic hour. I haven’t ever had a shower whilst she was in the swing, but I know lots of mums swear by them for getting a shower in the morning. Our swing is my sister’s hand-me-down, but she had it only for her third baby and couldn’t get over how much of a game changer it was, and wished she had it for her first two babies. Swing = game changer.
Love To Dream Swaddle
I will admit that to begin with I was neither here nor there about these swaddles. Eleanor has always been a great sleeper, never needing me to rock her to sleep, always settling herself and not a Houdini out of a snug wrap like some babies can be. I started using the swaddles as more of a sleep cue, a part of the bedtime routine I was trying to establish to let Eleanor know the difference between night and day. And it worked! Eleanor only wears her special ‘sugar glider suit’ at night, during the day I still wrap her snugly in stretchy big blankets (although I am starting to question this, she loves her fists to suck and can’t get to them when wrapped up). Now, after her ‘bedtime’ feed (anywhere between 6-8pm) she will be put in her sugar glider suit and put in her bassinet, no rocking to sleep, just a quick cuddle and kiss good night. I will give her a dummy, but most nights she sucks that for about 10 minutes, awake, then will lose it and find her fist in her swaddle. Brilliant! After a middle of the night feed I will again give her a dummy, but she will inevitably lose it and find her fist. The self soothing of the suit is brilliant, although the arm parts of her suit get so dirty from her sucking! Earlier in our breastfeeding days she would inevitably get milk all over her little arm bits in the suit in the middle of the night, I think then when she was going to sleep she would suck on her suit which was saturated in milk, keeping her nice and content. Clever!
Old School Toweling Nappies
Yes we are using modern cloth nappies, but that whole story deserves another blog post dedicated entirely. The day after we arrived home from hospital my mum bought us a pack of plain old school white toweling nappies from Kmart. They have been hands-down one of the most used baby ‘things’ we’ve used. We keep one draped over the couch arm where I feed, Eleanor likes to lean over that arm after a feed and stare at the fire while I burp her. They are used as spew rags, general towels, bibs, under a quick nappy change on the floor at someone’s house – we use them all. the. time. I always have at least one in my nappy bag, sometimes three! They are the perfect size, not too big, not too small, and obviously nice and absorbent being a towel. Before I had a baby I had visions of pretty little embroidered bibs and tiny cute burp cloths to casually throw over my shoulder. Uh, no. These are what you need. Whether you have a windy, spewy baby or not (Eleanor is really the latter). End of story. Get some. Put them on the list if you are pregnant.
This was top of our priority list early on in my pregnancy, and it has been a brilliant system. I think especially for a Winter baby, I didn’t want to be getting my teeny newborn in and out of the car and into the pram in our freezing Gippsland Winter. We bought the Phil and Ted’s Navigator pram (again, probably worthy of a whole other blog post), which you are able to buy an adapter for (basically a metal bar that attaches to the pram) whatever capsule you may have. The capsule has to be one that Phil and Ted’s is compatible with, but there is a whole list that are, ours is a Safe n Sound which we got from our friend Lou (thanks Lou!) The capsule is super easy to click in and out of the car, and then into the pram. Eleanor falls asleep in the car hands down every time, so I’ll get to the supermarket with a sleeping Eleanor, click her capsule out of the car and into the pram (she might wake up with that) but then into the pram and whizzing around the shops she’ll generally stay asleep. Capsule back into the car and sleeping continues! All whilst being covered in her blankets, undisturbed and still clicked into her seatbelt.
Big Stretchy Blankets
And I mean big. Bigger the better, can’t be big enough. I literally have about 15 stretchy baby blankets, only about 2 of them are now big enough to wrap our long giraffe legged babe. The stretch is important, I also have a handful of flannel or knitted blankets, great for layering on top of them sleeping but no good for wrapping. Eleanor gets wrapped snugly in a big stretchy blanket for every nap during the day, keeping her tightly wrapped is key to sending her off to the land of nod, restricting her involuntary jerky movements. She has started to really like to suck her fist (like in her sleepsuit at night) so a dummy is fairly key for a day sleep nowadays since her arms are wrapped up. A nice big stretchy blanket is a great baby gift, yes you get a million blankets (well at least it seems we do) but honestly the ones that get used again and again and again and are actually useful, are worth their weight in gold – and they’re the big stretchy ones. We have a grey clouds one from Target which my mum bought me when I was pregnant, it has been a winner. I’ve also made some just with two pieces of stretch jersey (the pink red stripe one is a favourite), but to begin with I was making them too small – BIG is best.
There’s loads of other items I can think of which are useful/useless. Useful: footed jumpsuits, Medela swing breast pump, Ikea play gym, glow in the dark dummies. Useless: jumpsuits with no feet (well for a Winter baby anyway), anything too hard to put on/off easily (I’m looking at you gorgeous knitted jumpsuit from Big W with buttons all up the legs!) muslin wraps (we haven’t used any for our cold climate babe), milk bar pillow (I found it super uncomfortable and subsequently sold it on eBay, I feed with no pillows, no worries).
What are your baby essentials?
Have I missed something you found saved your sanity?
Got some useless items to add?
* Unfortunately I can’t get your baby to sleep, no more than I can get Eleanor to keep a dummy in for longer than ten minutes for her day sleeps!
Long time blog reader, first time commenter! But I have been loving your blog for years … I was also planning a rustic Gippsland wedding about the same time you were and now I’m also expecting a winter baby. Which is why I’ve found my way back to this post to ask a question about the baby carrier that clips into the pram … I LOVE the idea of it but concerned about the cost vs how long we’ll actually be able to use it. I was chatting to someone the other day who had a chubby baby and they were only able to use it for three or four months, which doesn’t sound like very long to me, esp given how $$$ they are. How long was Eleanor using her capsule for before you used a normal car seat?
Also, a few ppl (including the lady in the shop who was meant to be selling it to us – !!!) have said that because we have a bassinet with our pram it’s kinda overkill to have a capsule as well as the baby can just continue sleeping in the bassinet when we take them out of the car, which is kinda what the capsule does also. I guess it depends on how easy it will be to move a sleeping baby from car to bassinet, which is impossible to predict in advance, I know.
Anyway, any with-the-benefit-of-hindsight tips you can give on this would be ace.
Hi Zoe! So glad you commented after reading my blog for so long 🙂
Ok, so Eleanor was a big bubba (still is!) but I jammed her into that capsule for as long as I could – 6 months! Although I probably stopped using the capsule to pram earlier than that, she still went in the capsule in the car. The capsule to pram was really really great, as I’ve mentioned, for moving a sleeping bub. Eleanor is a very light sleeper and we have never been able to pick her up whilst sleeping and move her, she will always wake as soon as the car stops anyway! But perhaps this is because she was always moved in a capsule? Hard to say, like you said every bubba will be different and hindsight is wonderful! I really wanted a pram with the bassinet (and ours can come with one) but as we already had the capsule from a friend it would be obsolete like you said, Eleanor always slept in her capsule in the pram just fine. I perhaps would’ve got the bassinet attachment if we didn’t already have a bassinet for her to sleep in but we did. We were given the capsule so $$$ wasn’t an issue, but even without the capsule-to-pram capability I really loved the capsule to click Eleanor out of a take her places quickly and easily just carrying the capsule (ducking into friends houses etc). I can’t imagine clicking/unclicking a little bubba in and out all the time, especially in winter, so I LOVED the capsule for that reason alone. Sorry if that was totally not helpful! Ha! Good luck, ask any other questions you need, happy to help xx
Thank you for writing this post for me haha! I’m due in March with our first and, unlike you, have never been a “baby” person so I am desperate for advice from anywhere I can get it.
Can I ask: what brand/model is the baby swing?
Oh ask anything you want! Seriously, people need to really pick brains of other first time mums, it’s the only way! Our baby swing is a Fisher Price one, and looks like a sheep…if that makes sense. It has lambskin on it and ‘lamb ears’ on the seat. I really like it because it’s not too offensive looking for baby gear! Soft muted colours and cute animals on the mobile. I know Corrie from Retromummy has the same swing and she got hers secondhand on ebay, have a look on gumtree too. Worth their weight in gold!
Thanks for this!
I have found a cheap pillow to be a godsend… Strange but true. My baby lies on it on my lap, I use it to prop her up when she falls asleep on me. It saves my arms and is comfortable for her.
I am with you on the towelling nappies. We use them for everything too.
Reannon @shewhorambles says
I love muslin wraps. Have used them on all four of my babies.
Yes to the cloth nappies for spew rags!
I use bunny rugs under my babies heads ( folded long ways & tucked into the mattress) in their basinets & cots so if they are sick I don’t need to wash all the sheets, just the bunny rug.
These last two babies I could not have done without my hug-a-bub, especially while out shopping or on the side of the footy field. Life saver!
I haven’t used my stretchy wrap (like a hugabub) in awhile…I used it more when Eleanor was smaller, but I have always said I could totally see how I would use it more with subsequent children. I’ve been using my Ergo a bit more with Eleanor lately, just to hang out washing and collect the eggs outside.
Old fashioned nappies are the bomb! My babies are 19 and 16 (years!) now and I am just coming to the last of the nappies that have done stellar service. They started on babies bottoms and graduated to other tasks as the children grew; sick cloths, cleaning cloths, emergency towels (I always carried a couple in my car). I will miss them when they are all done.
And your comment regarding cute little embroidered bibs and burp cloths made me laugh. They are beyond useless!
SO useless! Cute, but USELESS! Good to hear that I will be getting YEARS of work out of that humble pack of nappies!
Definitely the good old faithful terry-towelling nappies! My most used, for all purposes, item for my two babies. So handy. On top of that, I also had the flannel style. Much softer and great for popping under their heads in the bassinet or cot to soak up those little possets!
Yes I preferred a flannel under Eleanor’s head in early days, husband just chucked whatever under her poor soft little head – he’s such a rough nut with her!
Lil Fraser wraps are terrific stretchy wraps that are nice and big. My first bub was a big boy and they were fantastic for him and I just doubled them over for our second son who was prem and little.
Quite the contrast in bubs for you then! Sometimes I look at smaller babies and wonder what on earth I’d do with them?! So used to our hippo.
You get used to them being teeny and treat them the same! Otis was a big 3.8kgs (8pd 5oz), and Felix was a teeny 2.69kgs (5pd 14oz). Sometimes it seems weird (Otis was in 000 size within a few weeks, Felix is just starting to stretch his 00000), but I’m definitely adjusting…and he’s growing FAST!
Love your blog, will be saving these ideas for future reference!!
totally agree with the white cloth nappies – and you’ll be using them for ever more for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. I still use the remains when the kids are sick on their pillows.
As a tropics dweller, muslin wraps were a winner! And perfect for throwing over the pram when baby is asleep to block the sun but not the breeze. Don’t write them off for summer time use!
Oh yes, actually we HAVE used them for that on the pram, apologies! It was positively HOT here today (about 24 degrees) and all the usual blankets were getting Eleanor all hot and bothered. Heaven forbid I should reach for the muslins?! Ha!
Anne@Grit and Giggles says
Well I’ll have to keep this one for future reference … one day. What great ideas. That pram/capsule thing sounds great. I know loved her rocker at that witching hour/hours but the swing does the work for you when they are too small to move it much themselves.
Hi Emma – long time reader/follower on Instagram, first time commenting…
I have an Eleanor too – she will be 6 months old tomorrow. We’ve also found the Love to Dream swaddles amazing. My girl sleeps all night from 6:30pm – 5:30am every night and I really do credit the swaddle for that!
The best purchase for my Eleanor has been a pair of sheepskin booties from a shop here in NZ called Nature Baby. She wears them EVERYWHERE! A definite worthwhile buy for keeping tootsies warm over our chilly winter!
Oh good one! Eleanor has some very cute little uggies she should crank out before the weather warms up too much. Our friends also got her some gorgeous cow hide slippers from NZ on a recent trip.
Jo @Countrylifeexperiment says
I loved the capsule with my 2nd and 3rd because I could put them down whilst dealing with another child, and know that they were safe. If I knew we were going out, I would put the baby to sleep in the capsule by the front door next to the nappy bag, and just pick them both up on the way out 🙂
Yes I just cart Eleanor anywhere and everywhere in her capsule, although unless she’s on the move she’s not overly a fan, so can’t put her to sleep in it or if she’s asleep in it and I bring her in from the car she won’t stay asleep! Dang it.
Alli @ ducks on the dam says
Big fan of the sleep suit. My girls – one Autumn one winter – both wore sleeping bags then suits with feet in until they were about 3. Kept them warm. Meant night time. Great list Emma