Must haves? Nice to haves?

It seems almost every parenting blog and forum features these lists of so-called newborn essentials, baby essentials, diaper bag essentials, travel essentials, essential essentials…

And I always shake my head a little, because dude, what does a baby REALLY need?  Food, warmth, somewhere to sleep, something to catch all that poo and pee…yeah.  In other words, my boobs, a few sleepers, a bassinet/crib/mum’s arms, and diapers or a potty if elimination communication is your thing.  The car seat is another one unless you are only using human-power transportation or public transportation.

Are playmats and exersaucers and video monitors travel systems and fancy muslin swaddle blankets and vibrating bouncy chairs and top of the line breastpumps really essentials?  I guess it depends on your situation.  Or wallet.  Or friend’s wallets.

Then again, it could also be this: how willing are you to believe that you need every.last.thing. on the Babies R Us gift registry?  We were told we needed to register for everything from birth to age two, completing ignoring that most of this stuff can be bought second hand, that your baby might really really hate the swing or bouncer or whatever, and that not everyone has an entire room dedicated to the storage of baby stuff.

(Yes, stuff, that old chestnut.  Have I mentioned that Jason and I took yet another load of stuff to Value Village last week, enough to fill the back of our van.  Where does it all come from?!?!?)

Most of my “essentials” are probably “nice to haves” or “things that make my life just a wee bit easier”.  So here they are, in no particular order.

-Baby carrier.  For the first four months of Georgia’s life I wore her out and about in a Cuddly Wrap (more popular brand is the Moby).  This thing was a lifesaver, literally and figuratively.  I found it way more convenient than using a stroller or travel system, and it let me get out of the house every day, even in winter.  I credit these daily walks as a Very Important Thing, as they reduced my post-partum depression and helped me cope with anxiety.  Plus, Georgia really enjoys being held close and being able to look at what’s going on around her.  We just bought a Beco carrier today, because baby girl outgrew the wrap, and I can’t wait to try it out.

-Nosefrida the Snotsucker.  Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like, but it’s the best way to get boogies out of baby’s nose (even if it is a tad disgusting).

-Diapers: We use cloth during the day, and disposables at night.  I don’t have any particular brand allegiance, although I do like our pocket diapers because the microfiber insert soaks up so much pee.  For sposies, store brand is cool, and I’ll take Pampers if someone else is offering.  Hate Huggies.

-Breastfeeding supplies: lanolin for my nips, bebe au lait nursing cover for public outings (although a scarf or nothing at all will work in a pinch), a medela harmony handpump, nursing pillow, and nursing bras and tanks with good support.  The bebe au lait cover was bought second hand, and works WAY better than scarfs, because it provides better coverage and has some structure at the top so I can see my bebe and she can see me.

-A bouncer chair/portable playmat.  I could have lived without these, but they make life so much easier.  Georgia is on her playmat right now, and very happy to be there.  Bonus: It’s made of fabric and folds easily, so I can toss it behind a chair when I need it out of the way.  Other bonus: both came second hand.

-Baby “ramp” for the bathtub.  It just helped with bathtime.

-A small selection of baby toys.  True, I’m the kind of mum that’s going to give my kids kitchen utensils to play with, but there are certain toys that have been very popular with Georgia: anything that hands, anything that rattles, anything she can shove in her mouth.  So, in other words, baby toys.

-Burp cloths.  Millions and millions of burp cloths.  And bibs.  Lots of bibs.

-Swaddle blankets: We used this long stretchy cotton blanket for a while, until I found a Swaddle-Me blanket second hand.  Love it.  It cocoons my girl and helps her sleep.

-Gripe water.  Georgia can be a very gassy baby.  This stuff helps.  Sanity saver, even if only for a few minutes.

-And then there’s stuff that’s good for all of us: a humidifier and the iPad.  And youtube videos of Adele, Arcade Fire, and OK GO.

Could I survive without these items?  Of course, many are luxuries as far as I’m concerned (women have survived the boredom of nursing without an iPad) but they do help.  So there you go: My must-haves and nice-to-haves.

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More food for thought

After Georgia was born, eating became somewhat complicated.  I was exhausted, hormonal, trying to build my strength back up, breastfeeding, and learning to care for a small and demanding human being.  Food needed to be simple and nourishing.  And if I could eat it with one hand, even better.

So: here is Mary’s top foods for nursing mamas:

1.  Cheese.

2.  Fruit slices.  I went wild for clementines, but some breastfeeding mamas have a hard time with citrus.

3.  Cooked chicken.

4.  Deli meats.  Not everyone will agree with me about this food, due to concerns about preservatives and listeriosa, but it use your own common sense and go with what works.  In my case, a nice little pile of ham with cheese and breton crackers was divine…sounds like a lunchable!

5.  Yogurt, especially high-protein Greek yogurt or balkan style yogurt.

6.  Finger foods.  To celebrate New Year’s my sister Katie went out and bought some delicious appetizers.  Those nibblies were divine.

7.  Boiled eggs.

8.  Ice cream in a flavour that your partner doesn’t like.  In my case, mint chocolate chip.

9.  Bagels-now is not the time to avoid carbs!

10.  Anything that you desire or have been avoiding for the past nine months.

I learned through trial and error about what foods would upset Georgia: black bean enchiladas and thai chicken in peanut sauce were OUT.  Basically, if a food upset her I would wait a week or two to try it again, so I could see if it was a fluke or not.  I also found that my tastes had changed, and so had my digestion.  I have IBS, which means I usually avoid trigger foods such as beef.  However, all throughout my pregnancy I craved red meat, and it didn’t give me the usual problems if I ate it more than once a week.  About a month after Georgia was born this stopped being the case.  I had to re-discover my no-no list, in addition to learning the baby’s no-no list.  My advice: don’t beat yourself up too much.  The night of the black bean enchiladas left everyone in tears, but it was only one night.

Remember: it’s a new process for everyone.