Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The noobie mummy's guide to newborn essentials

I've received another request for some newborn essentials recommendations so, ok, I feel pressured into doing this. Since this is really a vast topic well beyond the scope of a single post, I shall just share what I use, as well as some tips on choosing the right products for you. Here we go.

As far as I know, many local hospitals use Huggies. This is probably a marketing ploy on their part, but not without merits. When both the boys were born, Huggies was the hospital's diaper of choice and it did well to minimise any incidences of diaper rash (unlike Petpet - this was the worst). I also like that they now come in a JustBorn size, perfect for premies or extra-little babies.

Look how cute the new Huggies designs are. Each size comes in 2 unique patterns. The L size comes in Energetic Red and Fresh Green. 

As a new mother, it is also extremely helpful for a diaper to have a wetness indicator, until experience grants you the amazing power of being able to tell if a diaper is wet purely by looking at it. The large numbers on the tab indicators is also a minute detail that I am appreciative of. When you have to change baby's diaper under low levels of light -because you don't want to wake her up fully- this is an important feature to help you get non-lopsided diapers. In case you didn't realise, an asymmetrical diaper means higher chance of leaks.

Having said that, my babies also use Merries at night because it seems to hold more pee - especially true for E1. It does have a wetness indicator but sometimes it doesn't turn colour like it should. It's generally more expensive too.

Merries diaper. I have trouble getting the tabs symmetrical when I change E2's diaper at night.

For those who haven't done their research/gone for antenatal class, here's a nifty guide on how to change diapers. I will also put in my 2 cents' worth on leaky diapers - often this can be corrected by choosing the right size and adjusting the tabs accordingly. If the diaper doesn't seem to hug baby's lower back properly, try angling the tabs to more of a \ / shape so that the back is more snugly covered.

Wet wipes
My current go-to is Bosomi, which I've done reviews for here.

There's a whole array of weird and wonderful bathtubs but I prefer to stick to something more conventional. With a modern improvement. Our bathtub is of a simple design but comes with an insert. When you're not experienced with handling newborns in the water, this is an absolute godsend. It also frees your hands up to grab whatever you forgot to put within arm's reach - washcloth, towel, soap, etc. I got mine from Kiddy Palace. It's big enough that E1 sometimes still uses it.

Removable insert makes this a good bathtub from newborn till whenever your kid outgrows it

I use everything from Gaia, which is an organic brand from Oz. It's the most affordable and widely available organic baby product and smells lovely, thanks to the lavender and sweet orange oils in most of their concoctions. Of course if your baby is blessed with healthy skin and you're not buying into the whole "everything has carcinogens" movement, most baby products on the market are fine. Johnson's, despite all the controversies, actually has nice products that aren't too drying or smell too overwhelming.

Gaia travel pack: (L to R) body wash, shampoo, lotion, nappy cream, massage oil

Big topic, so let's break it up.

Ok this one is not really a domain I've concerned myself with since I don't pump primarily. I do have a single electric pump from Avent which I used when I was still working but didn't endeavor with for very long. Most mothers I know use Medela. But it seems now that the competition is fierce in the form of Spectra, a revolutionary Korean pump. Based on a quick search online, the benefit of this brand is that it's quieter, lighter, better at emptying the breast and is compatible with wide-neck bottles like Avent (jumping the gun here). Since I've never tried any of these brands, the most I can say is that if you are planning to pump often, consider these 2 brands (personally it sounds like Spectra would be a good option for me - see next subtopic).

The ubiquitous brand is Philips Avent. I use the Natural range bottles, which I find pretty good at minimising air swallow, hence reducing reflux. I really don't bother with trying other brands.

Well-loved bottle

Nursing bras
This is a very personal choice. But I found a brand on qoo10 that I absolutely like and it's so affordable that I must share it. It is sold under the brand Autumnz. There are a few types but I love the padded ones. These are non-crush cups that fully drop down and come in both sensual and funky designs, even lacy ones. If you're gonna be a cow, at least be a sexy one right? I also love the night nursing bras that are so easy to use and so comfortable that I could wear them all day. They retain their shape well and I will probably still use them after I stop breastfeeding. These bras sell for about $16-18 each, which is a steal given the quality of the bras.

I have yet to find another lacy nursing bra that doesn't cost more than $20 

One of my many night nursing bras. The padded ones are easier to wear and give a nice shape.

Breast pads
Currently using Pigeon, which is nice and affordable. If you don't mind spending on something more luxurious, you could try Philips Avent nursing pads.

Car seat
I can't stress enough how important this is, if you do have a car. In other parts of the world, you aren't even allowed to bring your baby home without a car seat. Judging from some horrific reports recently, perhaps Sg should be stricter in our car seat laws too. This site has quite comprehensive and updated information on car seat safety. We use Combi seats as they are all convertible and are quite compact. The only downside to this is that upon actual impact, they may not absorb as much damage as other seats. We also have a Joie and a Britax in grandparents' car, but these are more bulky. Consider the following when choosing a car seat:
  • For the thrifty ones, choose a seat that "grows" with your child. Many manufacturers have models that accommodate newborn to 7yrs. If you think you won't be able to keep it in a good enough condition to last that long, seats for newborn to 4yrs are also common.
  • For busy or jetsetting parents, consider a travel system. If your little angel is born with the wonderful ability to sleep in moving vehicles, this is a good option for maximising their sleep. Bear in mind that this option can be pricey and generally used only for up to 6 months before you need to change some component.
  • Make sure you understand how the car seat needs to be installed before you buy it. Some imported seats come with anchor straps that may not be compatible with your car. Most seats are able to be fixed using just standard seatbelts.
  • Check that the safety rating is from a reputable rating body
  • Avoid buying secondhand or from dubious sources (ie online). Getting it for cheap is not worth your kid's life.
Where possible, put car seats in the centre to reduce the chance of injury during impact. There is a chance of having a Final Destination scenario but statistically it's less likely to happen.

This is pretty personal and there are plenty of options out there. I got mine from Spring Maternity, which sells decent sturdy cots for around $200-400. I rigged mine into a modified "open system" that the West dubs as a co-sleeper. I have never let my babies sleep alone and they have never wanted it any other way. But, to each his (her) own. Some things you'd want to consider when choosing a cot:
  • Most cots nowadays are height-adjustable. Get one with at least 2 height options and ensure the lowest level is way down low.
  • Make sure it's sturdy. Give it a few firm shakes. If it moves more than a few degrees in a horizontal plane, forget it. It won't withstand your baby's weight when she starts using it as a gait aid. The sturdier ones tend to be made of solid wood.
  • Consider transformer beds. These tend to take up more space but will convert to a toddler bed when the time comes.
  • Built-in teething guards are a good idea, although experience has shown me that baby will bite every single surface of the cot (E2 is now gumming his way across the footboard) so make sure the paint is non-toxic and doesn't chip.
  • Some may prefer cots that have a side that can be lowered. This is a good idea if you use the cot often but these tend not to be as sturdy as those that can't be lowered. 
If you do like the idea of sleeping with baby but have heard all about the dangers of SIDS, just get a good mattress/futon and sleep on the floor. Seriously. You'll save money and the headache of when baby starts rolling all over the place.

If you're gonna copy this, make sure the cot is secured to the bed so that baby doesn't fall through

This was an important one for me as both my babies hated strollers when they were young. They loved (still do) being carried every where. The two main contenders are usually slings versus front carriers. I shan't go into specifics because there's just too many brands out there and I can't say for sure that there's any best one of the lot.

I use a sling because you can continue to use it right up until toddlerhood and I find it easier to breastfeed with it. The downside is it really places a huge amount of stress on that one shoulder and can leave you aching till the next day. This is where the carrier is more advantageous, although I shied from it due to stories about how it isn't healthy for a baby boy's family jewels.

If you're going to get a sling, look out for extra padding over the shoulder and easy-to-adjust loops. For carriers, make sure the straps are wide to prevent it digging into your skin, and that it straps well over the shoulders, thoracic cage and waist. Easy-care, breathable materials are a must for both.

I use BabySafe slings for the lovely colours and breathable material

I don't really consider this an "essential" since ours was very underused. But that's just us. I bought a Capella stroller after a hand-me-down Maclaren annoyed me so much I didn't want to use it. However, getting a stroller is really like buying a car since there's a plethora of options out there to suit your individual needs. Nonetheless, these are some important points when looking for one:

  • Should be one-hand operable and easy to use. My stroller folds up once using only one hand, then again so that it stands on its own. This has impressed a few single friends who actually exclaimed: "Wah like Transformers!"
  • Consider if you prefer a forward-facing (outwards) or rear-facing (towards you) stroller. Younger babies may become scared when they don't see Mum's face. Babies tend to become curious after 4 mths so they may become less frightful of strange environments. My stroller converts to either direction. 
  • Consider overall bulk and weight. The advantage of a light stroller is, of course, it is easy to carry in and out of boots or up and down annoying stairs. The drawback is that people can often bump into them so you can't really use it to mow a path through crowds. Heavier strollers also mean you can pile diaper bags and shopping bags on without it toppling over. Try to anticipate where and how often you will use it to help you decide which type to get.
  • Make sure the stroller is designed for the age range that you will use it for. I spent the first few months of E1's life believing that our stroller was only suitable for babies who could sit up, despite it being marketed as suitable for 3mths and older. Then I discovered that it could actually recline to flat. Oh. How silly. 
  • Test the brakes and wheels. You may prefer 360 deg revolving wheels or those that have limited direction. If you're really into it, test the brakes on an incline. The last thing you want to do, ever, is chase after a runaway stroller with baby still inside. 
  • How much are you willing to spend on it? Despite my love of Combi products, their strollers were too expensive and I knew I wasn't going to use it enough to justify the price. This Capella stroller was a good dupe with similar features. 
  • If you had decided on a travel system when looking at car seats, no problem, this section is sorted out for ya.
Was too lazy to bring the stroller out for a picture. This is courtesy of Google.

Convertible direction; Half or full canopy option; Also comes with detachable leg warmers (not pictured)

So, there you have it. Far from being exhaustive, but good to know if you're a first time parent. Hope that helps!

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