Congratulations! And welcome to parenthood. Starting a family is a life-changing adventure, so it’s only natural you want to feel prepared; it’s exciting, comforting and reassuring. But I remember feeling confused as I sifted through never-ending baby registry lists and attempted to reconcile what we really needed.
Do babies really need so much I wondered. And then, shortly after our new crib arrived, an off-the cuff comment from our midwife changed everything. “He’ll sleep with you”, she said. I thought she was mad, but she aroused my curiosity; I had to learn more.
It was a journey of discovery which transformed the course of our family’s future; inspiring us to embrace attachment parenting and a minimalist approach to baby gear. We sold our unused stroller, crib and more on Craigslist within months of our son’s birth and never looked back.
Following natural parenting concepts will save you time and money while also reducing unnecessary clutter in your home. It will also remove the obstacles to connecting with your baby, which many conventional baby items throw in your way. And our minimalist approach to baby gear supported our passion for travel and adventure; keeping us light and gifting us a sense of freedom we know would have been challenging with the weight of traditional baby gear.
What babies really need are their parents; everything else is an accessory.
Yet, if chosen consciously, baby gear can foster closeness and security, while also making our lives a little easier in the process. So, this is an unconventional list of essentials you’ll need for practices like breastfeeding, babywearing, elimination communication, cosleeping and other attachment parenting choices. I hope it helps guide you in your choices and bear in mind, every family is unique making choices that are right for their family.
They say pregnancy has a 4th trimester, so being nestled securely against mum (or dad) makes the transition to a brand new world less daunting for young babies. Surprisingly, it also helped me; softening the edges of pregnancy and motherhood, recreating our physical bond and comforting us both.
But, many babies are spending too much time in containers, spending their days moving from car seats, to strollers, bouncy seats, rockers, swings and vibrating chairs. It has become such an issue that there is a recognized term for it: container baby syndrome. While these forms of transportation promise convenience and safety, when used excessively, they can result in health and developmental problems. So, what’s the solution? To honour our biology and carry our babies; to hold them close. Here are my favourite wraps and carriers:
Stretchy Wrap: We used the Moby wrap from birth and it was gave us even more opportunity for skin to skin contact. It takes a little practice to perfect the various holds but there are some excellent instructional videos online to make it simple and it becomes second nature in no time. Having two hands free was a lifesaver for me, giving me back some much appreciated independence.
Structured Carriers: My two favourite carriers are the Beco Soleil and the Tula Toddler carriers. We started with the Beco Soleil in the frog leg position at around six weeks of age and used it right through until around 18 months when I needed more hip and shoulder support, which was offered by the Tula Toddler. We still use the Tula Toddler as a backpack carrier for hiking and we love it. Tula also makes a baby carrier which receives rave reviews.
Baby Carrier Cover: I searched high and low and eventually decided on a Chimparoo Babygloo cover to keep my baby warm and protected from the winter elements when he was in the carrier. The Chimparoo was incredible, we loved it. It was fleece lined, wind proof and kept him warm and snug. And importantly it can be worn on the front or back.
Diaper Bag: I had a regular diaper bag initially but I quickly changed to a regular backpack using cells to separate what I needed. If you babywear it’s much easier to have a backpack on your back and baby on your front rather than having a diaper bag on your shoulder – it just kept slipping off for me.
Diapers: I’m a passionate environmentalist; we practiced elimination communication (EC) and used cloth diapers, but in the early days and as a back up, disposable diapers can be a lifesaver. We tried a few different brands but our favourite was Seventh Generation. They’re free of chlorine, whitening agents and petrochemicals and allow babies to feel wet which helps EC babies. Another brand I would have loved to try is Bambo but they weren’t available in Canada.
Elimination Communication: I can’t recommend practicing EC (or early potty learning) highly enough. It is one of the most rewarding and compassionate things we committed to with our son. To get started with EC you’ll need a potty, cloth diapers and baby leg warmers (too cute and practical to pass up even if you don’t do EC). Check out my post, How To Go Diaper Free With Your Baby for more details on everything else you’ll need.
Change Pad: We absolutely loved our Keekaroo, as it was soft, waterproof and easy to clean.
Baby Balm: A lovely, natural baby bottom balm is by Earth Mama Angel Baby, but if you practice EC you probably won’t need it.
Baby Clothes: People LOVE giving baby clothes as gifts, so bear in mind when you’re shopping you may need less than you anticipate, although baby clothes are nearly impossible for a pregnant mama to resist. My advice is to keep it simple with a few gowns or kimonos giving easy access for diaper changes, as well as baby leg warmers or drawstring pants.
Go Naked: Mothers and babies experience so many benefits from skin to skin contact immediately after birth, as well as later. It helps to regulate baby’s temperature, stabilizes heart and breathing rates, promotes healthy growth and allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. As well as promoting healthy attachment, skin to skin contact combined with breastfeeding, is thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases.
Baby bath: This is going to be pretty short and sweet: don’t buy a baby bath! Bath time can be scary for young babies so use it as an opportunity to bond and make your baby feel safe. It’s an especially brilliant way fathers to connect with babies at a time when mothers seem to be needed for most things.
Bath toys: Our favourite bath toys are the natural rubber Begin Again Natural Rubber Bath Toys – they’re safe for babies to chew on and have large openings to prevent mold buildup. We have the shark, turtle and crab and our son loves them. To trim our babies nails I filed them rather than using nail clippers – I was always too scared he’d move at the wrong moment.
Bath salts and bubbles: Babies don’t need to be bathed very often and plain water is fine, although we tend to add a combination of Epsom Salts, Dead Sea Salts, coconut oil or our favourite natural bubble bath from Rocky Mountain Soap Company. If you’re concerned about chlorine in your bath water, it can be neutralized with a bath ball or a teaspoon of vitamin C per bath tub.
If you’re breastfeeding there are a bunch of items to help make it easier. Nursing can be difficult for some mother-baby pairs so if you think something isn’t right or if nursing is painful (which it shouldn’t be) don’t suffer in silence – reach out for advice from a lactation consultant, chat to other mums or email me. Two books I read when I was pregnant which helped me push through the tears were Ina May’s Guide To Breastfeeding and The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding.
Lotions and Potions: A tube of Lanolin work wonders for cracked and sore nipples and so is a cabbage. Yes, a cabbage! My midwife recommended it – keep a cabbage in the fridge and after you nurse place a leaf on each breast inside your bra and it will provide instant relief. If you’d like a lanolin-free option try this natural and organic nipple butter by Earth Mama Angel Baby.
If you’re working with a midwife chances are they’ll give you a prescription for Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment – this is like liquid gold for new mothers as it helps treat multiple causes of sore nipples quickly. If you’re having any issues and haven’t tried this yet, it’s a good place to start.
Nursing Pillow: A nursing pillow helps improve your posture when nursing, preventing getting a sore lower back. I used the My Brest Friend but there are so many options and another pillow I saw recently looks amazing: it’s called The Nesting Pillow and it’s 100% organic, quarter moon-shaped and is unique as it conforms to baby’s bodies.
Nursing Pads: My favourite nursing pads were the LilyPadz which are made of 100% medical grade silicone – they prevent milk leakage rather than just catching it. And they’re reusable so you only need to buy them once.
Nursing Clothes: Nursing in public can feel awkward, but having the right clothes can make all the difference. I use a Naked Tank layered with a loose top most of the time and I also loved my Embrace Tanks. And finally a well-fitting nursing bra: I recommend being fitted by a specialist as your size will likely change dramatically throughout the first few months of nursing. For nursing in bed I had a nursing gown which I loved and a couple of Glamourmom nursing tanks. It can help to layer a nightshirt over a tank in the cooler months so you don’t get cold, especially with bed covers a little lower if you’re also cosleeping.
Where your baby sleeps is a very personal decision. And whether you decide to share your bed with your baby or not I urge you to share your room for at least the first year – it is well documented that babies sleeping alone in a crib in a separate room have an increased risk of SIDS.
I recommend reading Sleep With Your Baby by Dr James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. He explains why it’s normal from an evolutionary and biological point of view to co sleep and outlines how to do it safely.
Bed sharing: If you decide to share your bed, you don’t need to buy a crib (yay!). We have a king size bed which gives our trio a lot more space. Many bed sharing families place the mattress straight on the floor to reduce the risk of falling. Or another option is to place a bumper under your bottom sheet or use a bed rail. Placing a puddle pad directly under your baby can help with any spills from a leaky diaper or breastfeeding. If you’d like to keep your baby close but not in your bed a sidecar arrangement is another option.
Keeping Warm: Sleep sacks are great for keeping babies warm during naps as well as during the night, especially if you have a baby who likes to kick of the covers (like mine!). We loved our merino cocooi gown when our son was a newborn and moved onto a merino sleep sack after three months of age.
Naps and Hammocks: For naps we used our Nature’s Sway baby hammock; this was one of my favourite baby gems and I shed a tear when our son grew out of it. The cocoon-like environment minimises pressure on babies’ developing spines and nerve pathways due to the c-shaped curve. Also by slightly raising your baby’s head and shoulders hammocks can help prevent reflux. The Nature’s Sway is also mobile so you can take it travelling and hang it in a doorway (with the hook you can purchase as an extra). As well as the hammock, our son also napped in the carrier or we napped together on our bed.
For Your Birth: I bought myself a Pretty Pushers gown for our birth instead of wearing a hospital gown. It gave me a sense of individuality, control and a little luxury while I was in the hospital. Pretty Pushers have thought of everything with a halter neck for immediate skin to skin contact and breastfeeding as well as a low cut back for epidurals and frontal openings for fetal monitors. I loved mine!
After Your Birth: Traumeel is a homeopathic anti-inflammatory and pain reliever and is great after birth whether you’ve had a natural birth or caesarean. Sitz Bath Concentrate is so lovely to have on hand after your birth, with a combination of herbs to soothe the discomfort of sore perineal muscles.
Treat Yourself: If family and friends ask what you’d like ask for something for yourself; new parents need looking after too. A massage, a few hours of cleaning or meal delivery can work wonders.
Bouncy Seats: Nobody can hold their baby 24/7 so having a bouncer can be a lifesaver; allowing you to have a shower, dry your hair and have a much needed break. A friend sent us one as a gift when our son was a few days old and it was invaluable. There are so many choices and it comes down to personal preference and budget. Here’s a couple to get you started: one by Baby Bjorn and another by Fisher Price.
Car Seat: Having a baby car seat fitted properly into your car well before you due date is essential. We took a lesson in car seat safety at our local baby store which was so helpful.
Reading: I read a lot during nursing sessions and when my son was napping (on me!) and quickly learned reading on my phone or tablet was much easier than reading books when you’re holding a baby or reading in the dark! So, invest in a few eBooks. I’ve recommended a few of my favourites in this post and also over on my resources page.
ENJOY YOUR BABY
I hope this list helps narrow down some of the choices you’re making about how to prepare for your baby. And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten something – they really don’t need that much and you can always get it later.
Most importantly, when your baby arrives, give yourself the freedom to revel in the intensity of the love you feel for your new, tiny family member. Don’t rush. Stay in your pyjamas and nap with your baby, banking sleep whenever you can. Don’t be in a rush to return to world – it will be waiting for you when your come out of hibernation.
What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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