run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Everything you need for your hospital bag (bar the kitchen sink)

If you’ve never given birth before, packing for hospital is one of the few ways you can actively feel like you're prepared for this crazy event that looks, uh, pretty awful on One Born Every Minute. 

I didn’t want to get an actual case out too early (partly out of superstition, partly because we were trying to squeeze in as many mini breaks as possible before delivery day...). But I started Making A Pile. And as I read blogs and saw other peoples’ lists of hospital must-haves, that pile was eventually needing about this much luggage when I was ready to shove it all in a bag carefully pack it at 36 weeks. 

Since I reckoned my husband might have to carry me into the labour ward rather than worry about buckets of stuff, I streamlined.. Here’s what I took – lots came back unused but I was glad to know I had it just in case:

For the baby:

  • three vests
  • three sleepsuits (go for ones with inbuilt mittens... cos no one wants face scratches in the first baby photos their baby to hurt themselves)
  • two hats
  • 10 nappies, plus cotton wool for bottom wipes
  • Car seat ready to go in the car
  • Cosy blanket to go home in

For me the mama:

  • (Yellow) book of hospital notes and birth plan
  • TENS machine (BEST THING EVER, bar drugs - you can buy one, borrow or rent - if the latter, remember to buy new electron pads - I forgot and had to keep resticking mine on with sellotape..)
  • Going home clothes (I took tracky bums and a hoodie - go for loose and dark coloured bottoms, rather than going Kate Middleton-style..)
  • Two big Primark nighties that I didn’t care about if they were ruined
  • Pack of Primark big, black knickers (ditto)
  • Pack of maternity pads 
  • Loads of food... Haribo and chocolate, three bottles of water with sports cap lids for easy drinking, a straw, tins of spaghetti hoops, crisps, cereal bars - I didn’t eat anything in labour but it was useful for afterwards – we had a midnight feast.
  • Toiletry bag filled with: toothbrush and paste, deodorant, Evian water spray to keep cool in labour (forgot all about it; my husband chucked school-style wet green paper towels on my head..), massage oil, lip balm for hot dry ward, moisturiser, shower gel, Batiste dry shampoo for after, Arnica pills to lessen bruising, hairbrush and hairbands)
  • Towel and bikini top if you want a bit of modesty in the birth pool (though when it comes down to it, you probably won’t care)
  • Camera- fully charged
  • Phone charger (and phone)
  • iPod loaded with lovingly-made ‘labour playlist’ that I failed to listen to
  • Thick cosy socks – transition, before you start pushing, can make your really chilly apparently, but I didn’t have time to use them
  • A book (took an easy reading childhood fave because I was told 'you can get bored'. Seriously, I didn’t open it..)

Your birth partner might also want to pack some comfy clothes and food and drink

So yes, more preparation than packing for a week by the beach, but it's worth it when you come home with....


Saturday, 30 May 2015

The best apps for easy peasy baby nostalgia

During the two weeks between leaving work and giving birth, I went on a lot of shopping sprees. One of them was a scrapbook spree - a big book, cool papers, stickers etc that I'd use to document the babba's first few months. The contents of that Hobbycraft bag are now staring forlornly at me, unopened. I'll get round to it one day ... But in the meantime, I've had lots of fun making nostalgic memories of these early days in another, easier way: on my phone.

Apps mean you can collate your baby's first moments into cool videos and long-lasting memories using just one thumb - whilst breastfeeding, half-napping or just relaxing. That's my kinda nostalgia. 

Here are the ones I've found best:

1SEImagine a movie that includes every day of the the first year (or whole!) of your baby's life. That's what the 1 second everyday app lets you do - it's a visual diary with one snippet from each day, and I've been doing it from birth. It's actually the first app I've ever paid for - only £2 and so worth it. It's fun picking the moment of each day - first bath, a particularly cute roaring session, feeding, etc. At the end of the year, you have a 7-minute video that's just short enough to keep everyone's attention. This guy's version is amazing:

Magisto: an easy peasy video editing app, where you select up to 10 photos and videos, it turns them into arty, cool short films with great soundtracks that make it seem like you spent hours putting them together..

Lifecake: an easy way to save all the photos, videos, stories and milestones of your children, from the phones/cameras of you, your partner, family and others, in one private and organized place. It turns them into a chronological timeline for you too.

With Moment Garden you can easily make your own baby journal - record pictures, first smile, giggle, meal - etc. The journal is private but you can invite friends and family to have access. And Peekaboo Moments does a similar job - it's like an online scrapbook. Both are free to download. 

If you've found any other great ones, please comment below.


Friday, 29 May 2015

7 bits of baby cr*p you really don't need

The shops'll make you believe otherwise, but here's the collective wisdom of new parents on stuff you really don't need to bother buying...

  • A bath temperature monitor: it's what your elbows were made for (don't use your hands as they withstand higher temps).
  • Pretty crib mobiles, bumpers, etc for newborns - most mobiles aren't much use until the babe is in a cot and bumpers aren't recommended by midwives.
  • 'White noise makers' like Ewan the Sheep - see if these work/are needed for your baby with a free Youtube soundtrack or app, and only splash out if so.
  • A baby monitor (for the early days): unless you live in a mansion, your baby will be very audible - probably sleeping in your bedroom and with you all day long, so you don't usually need a monitor until later on.
  • A special 'nappy disposal system' - I use this cheap pedal bin with a lid from Wilko - looks good and works well.
  • Shoes for your newborn. Aka pram shoes. Aka see the ridiculous items in the pic above? They'll last a week, and will never get walked on.. Stick to cute socks.
  • Baby wipe warmer. WTF? Even a day-old babba needs to learn that life sometimes hands you lemons. Aka room-temperature wipes on your bum.
  • Anything to add? Leave a comment below. 


Thursday, 28 May 2015

The ultimate newborn shopping list

Wandering around a kiddy superstore, befuddled by buggy choices and wanting to buy something to feel a bit more prepared for the impending tiny human coming into our home, I spotted a 'plastic baby wipe container' (£9.99) - and realised just how much shops like to grab hold of your new-parent insecurity and make you hurl your cash into their pockets. Because baby wipes come in containers already. Those £120 nappy bags are handbags with a few pockets. "Specialist nappy bins" crowing about their hygiene benefits are like normal bins - with a decent lid.

And when you're a newby to this baby malarky, shops like to suck you in.

After hours of shopping and getting bogged down in comparisons on forums (take 10 parents and they'll have 19 opinions on every single car seat / bottle / nappy), I learnt a lot. 

These are the items I've found most useful in the first months. For the stuff to avoid, see 7 Things You Really Don't Need.

This here is a big old list, but you can buy loads of stuff second-hand to save cash (check out Facebook's Buy & Sell Your Baby Stuff group, NCT nearly-new sales, or the likes of eBay and Gumtree), and often family and friends will have stuff they can't wait to clear out of their loft too. 


A cot is too big so you'll want a Moses basket or crib for the first few months. We've been happy with this rocking one - the stand, helpfully, is sold separately..) and you'll soon find your hand automatically jiggling a rocking motion even when it's nowhere near the thing). But with hindsight I think a co-sleeping one like this one would have been good: you attach it to your bed for easier baby-grabs at night-time feeds and it's safer than having your babe in your bed.

Blankets: rather than the kerfuffle of grappling in the dark to firmly tuck in crib blankets etc, baby sleeping bags like Gro-bags are much easier. I'd say buy at least two for the first few months because one is always covered in sick and then in the washing machine... You can get them in different tog ratings for different times of the year - babies are supposed to sleep in rooms at around 18 degrees C - and should never be bundled in too many blankets.

A thick towel - sounds weird, but this was crucial in our baby's first few weeks: the Moses basket is huge compared to a womb, and coiling a towel round the edge makes it much cosier. Or you can buy a device that does the same. But towel is cheaper.

Some kind of night light is useful - we used a handheld soft-glow torch for night changes (putting the light on wakes the babe too much and you want him/her to go back to sleep ASAP!), but a torch on your phone or normal torch works just as well. 

Out and about: 

The phrase "travel system" sounds ridiculous but you'll soon find yourself baffled over which to go for - it involves buying a chassis, carrycot, buggy and car seat combo altogether. The different seats all attach to the same wheels, meaning you can pop a sleeping baby in the car seat straight onto the chassis for a quick shop etc. (Babies shouldn't be in their car seat for more than two hours at a time). 

I was pretty shocked to find some brands, (Bugaboo I'm looking at you), charge as much as £1000 for the whole package. Our Cosatto kit - buggy, carry cot, car seat, nappy bag, rain covers and all - came in at under £400; it's such a smooth push, and unusual looking, people are always complimenting us on it. Things to think about when buggy-picking include the ease of pushing, ease of dismantling, size of basket, weight, and if it fits in your car boot. When buying bigger items like this, I definitely recommend signing up for a Which? membership - you can always do the £1 trial and cancel it later and the site has really comprehensive reviews.

For drivers, buying a car seat base costs extra but means you don't have to fiddle around with the seatbelt or IsoFix fittings every time you take the car seat in and out. 

For travelling, you might also want a sling - we were given two, a soft Caboo which the babe falls asleep in easily, and is usable from birth, but it does make my back moan fairly quickly. We also have a more structured Baby Bjorn for older months. Test out any slings (preferably with something weighty inside!) before buying - they can be invaluable: some mums I know use them around the house and say it's the only way they can cook/work/go to the loo without their little one going loopy.

You'll also need a changing bag - there's a huge range but you just need one that you like, with a portable changing mat inside, and bottle-holder if you're formula feeding.

Meal times...

If you're planning on breastfeeding, I'd recommend buying a tube of Lansinoh just in case - it soothes any cracked nipples or pain, and some nipple shields for the same. It takes the boobs a while to get used to feeding and if the process becomes painful, these can be brilliant. 

A breast pump is probably the least sexy device ever invented - it makes me feel like a dairy cow - but it means you can give your milk to someone else for the odd feed, giving you an early night or some time out, so it's definitely worthwhile. I went for this Medella model but you can also opt for double pumps which make the process speedier.

If you do express, or are formula-feeding, you'll want some bottles: we went for the Lansinoh breast-feeding-friendly one and our little one took to it like a milk-aholic. 

You'll want a steriliser too - a microwave one or plug-in: factors to think about are kitchen-counter space, how much they fit inside, and how long they take to do the job. 

Around the home...

Whatever beautiful soft furnishings you've installed or decor you've introduced into your home, post-baby you'll drape white muslins EVERYWHERE. They're vital to mop up sick/wees/tears/milk/etc., so get loads. Don't worry about going for pricey ones - the supermarket cheapies do the job just as well.

For bathtime, we bought a cheap Ikea baby bath - but ended up using the sink at first, when the little one was tiny (and for bum-dunks after bad nappies). You can also buy a bunch of hooded baby towels, or just use your existing small ones. 

And baby-occupying devices.. it's amazing how much infrastructure a tiny person can have - and how useful (and room-swallowing) some of it is. We were lucky to be given a rocking swing chair - and found it gets the babe to sleep when nothing else will. 

A bouncer chair is great to keep him occupied whilst we're eating - as is a jungle gym activity mat. The latter gets our little one smiling more easily than any of our gurning/grinning/contorted faces ever do..

This one's a total luxury, but we received a baby sheepskin rug as a gift, and it's so soft our babe loves lying on it. It's a lovely backdrop to newborn photos too.

As for toys etc - I found (with regret!) that cuddly bears etc aren't appreciated by young babies, but one thing really does capture their attention: this black and white book. Babies are really short sighted but this is something they really gaze at.

Bum deals...

You'll spend a LOT of time at your nappy changing station, so make sure it's the right height for you. Instead of buying a changing table that could only be used for that purpose, we stuck a changing mat onto a nice chest of drawers, which will be usable for far longer.

Obviously you'll need loads of nappies - but I recommend only buying a couple of packs for starters to work out which ones you like: some friends swear by Aldi's cheap range, others only use Pampers, and one even raves about reusables. For disposables, check out comparison site to find the cheapest shop for your chosen brand.

To clean the babe's bottom, we used cotton wool and water (it doesn't need to be sterilised), but when they get older you might want nappy wipes. As for nappy cream, for healthy babies most midwives say steer clear for the first few weeks.

The babe's wardrobe

With any luck you'll get some cute outfits as prezzies  - but for starters all you need are a bunch of vests, and sleep-suits: I'd say at least 10 as nappy explosions/sick/etc means lots of daily changes. 

Apart from that, you'll want some..

Mittens - to stop the baby scratching themselves 
Hats - to keep them warm or cool outside, depending on the temperature
A thick all-in-one for a winter baby 
A really cosy blanket for carrying them out and about

Stuff for you...

Oh it's sexy, this stuff... Stock up on maternity pads, breast pads, and wet wipe toilet roll - because most new mamas find that every orifice that can leak, does, and the others are just sore. If you're breastfeeding, some PJs with a shirt top or a vest top are useful for night-time - and stock up on suitable night-time snacks like cereal bars for when you get the munchies.
If you've had stitches, a ring-shaped cushion can help with sitting down... And you might want to buy some stretch mark cream or oil to soothe any angry marked skin too. The things we do for babies..

And just in case...

A dummy - for soothing when Nothing. Else. Will. Work.
A few bibs to save outfits from sick-mageddons 
A few bottles of formula for intending breast-feeding mums, just in case of a feeding problem. You can buy 50p bottles of ready-made Aptamil, for example.


Monday, 25 May 2015

Life with a newborn

I was terrified about life with a newborn - everyone said it was so life-sappingly, unrelentingly awful. Announce that you're pregnant, and any parent of a baby or toddler reacted in the same way: first the smile, the congratulations, the announcement that they're so excited to have a new play-date buddy - then they got on to the negative stuff. 

"Enjoy your sleep now, because..." "You're reading a BOOK? That'll be the last book you read for 18 years..." "Restaurants? You'll miss them when the bump's gone.."

Well, maybe I'm overly stuffed with happy-hormones, and my six-week-old babba is currently slumbering on my chest. But... I've loved the newborn phase. I know going out gets tougher when the cute lil babe grows into a noisy, routine and cot-requiring toddler. But don't listen to all the doom-mongers. Quite apart from the fact that you have a tiny human, with teeny ears and fingers and toes that you'll stare at wondering how your body conjured them up, life with a newborn can be pretty chilled.

They say... you'll have no time for you, ever again.
 My experience has been... newborns sleep for most of the day. Yes, there's washing to do etc but there's also hours on the sofa cuddling your baba with your feet-up, and a film or TV catch up if you fancy.  
They say... They eat, all the time. You're just a dairy (or bottle-holder).
 I say.. yes, there are all those hours of feeding - and the boob experience definitely wasn't as easy as I expected, and hurt at the start - but it's pretty cool to look down and realise you're single-handedly sustaining your baby. Plus feeding time leaves at least one spare hand - to read blogs on your phone, read a Kindle at night, or just watch TV. 
They say.. you'll be fat..
 My experience has been: yes, my body's changed and not in a good way, and at times I find that a bit depressing. But the bump bit sucks up pretty speedily - and then it's just a question of actually doing some toning/exercise - just like life pre-baby. 
They say... You'll be knackered. Forever. 
 Ah, the sleep thing.. OK, that's true, I have occasionally found myself hallucinating about going to bed at 10 and sleeping alllll the way through til morning, like in the Old Days. But the body seems to adapt - I've been less tired in the first baby weeks than I was during pregnancy - and their sweet face gazing up at your takes a lot of the pain away from a 3am demand for that all-you-can-eat buffet you're providing. My husband even secretly admits to getting more sleep nowadays - because he is more disciplined about going to bed earlier.

Some other amazing things about newborn life: people are so nice to you. Random strangers come up to you to congratulate you on your ability to leave the house - no one did that on even your worst hangover days, when it was far tougher. Others will coo at your baby and tell you it's the most gorgeous thing in the world. Friends you haven't seen for yonks will suddenly send a Baby Gap parcel. Colleagues you've never seen smile will melt when you take your babe in for an office show-off. 

You'll have weeks (followed by months, and years) of firsts - first bath with your babba, first time they wee in your eye (one for the boys), first smile, that amazing smell of their newborn skin... So don't listen to the moody old-time parents!


Fatherhood: what no one told me

* New father David Yehuda Stern writes about the dad's eye view of labour and parenthood
Blogs about becoming a parent for the first time are almost all written by mums for expectant mums and I asked myself, “Why aren’t first-time dads rushing online to share their thoughts on newfound fatherhood?! Well, as a ‘gushing’ new father I thought I would share my experience of the last two months.
I was always looking forward to the labour and birth of our baby. I expected it to be a unique bonding experience, primarily between my wife (Robin) and I, but also with our baby. Prior to the birth, people often asked Robin if she was feeling nervous about labour. Me, I felt quite calm with my only concern being for Robin and baby’s welfare (in that order). I felt confident in my wife’s ability to deliver the baby and knew that, even if there were complications, the likelihood was that our baby would be born safe and sound. The birth went smoothly and I was largely surprised at how quick the ‘final push’ was, imagining that it would take much longer. Robin gave birth on a birthing stool – a sort of chair with no bottom – whilst I sat behind her and she leaned back into me for support. This intimate embrace allowed us to share the first view of our daughter together (and I was able to cut the umbilical cord).
My first feelings were pure joy. I felt overwhelmed with emotion and, though I did not cry, I could feel my face buzzing with excitement. Feeling Robin relax back into my body as she held Aviva Clara (Chaya) was a very powerful moment and I will probably remember that embrace for the rest of my life. Holding my daughter for the first time was incredible! In my adult life I had spent little time around young children, let alone newborn babies, yet I felt instantly comfortable. I am naturally quite a confident person and was not worried about the way I handled Aviva. Yes, she was delicate but she had managed to survive the upheaval of birth so I was certain that my grip wouldn’t harm her.
The first six weeks were a total readjustment for Robin and I as we got used to sharing our lives (and home) with an additional person. A newborn is quite a demanding tenant and both of us had to contend with putting her needs before our own. Robin was particularly tied to Aviva during this early stage as she was breastfeeding exclusively. Prior to having a baby I often remarked at how amazing a bonding experience breastfeeding must be for mother and child and how we, aka dads, suffered from not being able to partake in this activity. Post-baby I still believe we men miss out on this special bonding time, however I also realise that breastfeeding can be very challenging. Assuming the mother has no problems with latching, mastitis – google it :-) – and blocked ducts the demanding routine that breastfeeding requires is enough to make anyone lose their sanity. Robin did a phenomenal job nursing our baby but the round-the-clock, always-ready-to-feed lifestyle was not one I envied. In fact, my respect for Robin increased dramatically during these first weeks as I realised just how taxing being the mother of a newborn really is! Not only are their bodies recovering from the birth itself, they are also denied the precious sleep needed to allow their bodies to heal quickly.
This time was challenging on both for us in different ways: Robin was getting used to the new demands on her body and I was getting used to supporting her as well as looking after Aviva in other, non-feeding ways. (In particular, this meant changing lots of dirty nappies but luckily breastmilk poo does not smell too bad.)
People had told us that things would get easier at around the six week mark and this largely proved to be true. Aviva felt calmer, perhaps more familiar with her world outside of the womb. (We even got a couple of smiles around this time). Robin relaxed as we began to share the responsibility of feeding via the introduction of a bottle feed. I also felt content seeing the positive change in Robin as she regained control over her body, and how seamlessly Aviva adapted to the changes in her feed.
Aviva is just over two months now and things continue to run a little smoother each day. I love being a dad and feel fortunate to have such a sweet-natured daughter; she smiles often and rarely cries for very long. Fatherhood has been a tremendous experience and for the first time I feel like I begin to understand the term ‘unconditional love’. Having Aviva has meant that I have grown in my relationship, not only with her, but with my wife, family and friends, too.  For any man who is considering whether or not to become a father, it is an adventure I highly recommend.
* David Yehuda Stern blogs at, where this post originally appeared 
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