Things you never knew you never knew
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a baby bump must buy a whole heap of unnecessary baby stuff. Or at least, I certainly did, and a lot of it ended up unloved and unused, whilst the things I've really needed were the things I could never really have anticipated. With that in mind, I thought I might try to pre-empt the un-knowable for any new mums out there. Without further ado, here's my list of 'Things you never knew you never knew'. Or rather, things you never knew you actually really, really need.
1.) A Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo. I debated whether to add this to the list, since the word 'jumperoo', (which I'd never uttered pre-baby) is now such a permanently ingrained piece of my day-to-day vocabulary, like 'cup of tea' or 'must sit down now' that it seems weird to me that I would have ever not known about it. In short- if you already have a baby, then odds are that you probably already know that you need a jumperoo. Nicknamed by some as the 'circle of neglect', the jumperoo is probably more vital than a cot, or a pram. I'm being serious. If I could pick one out of those three things to have for a future baby, it'd be the jumperoo, though this may be biased by the fact that my baby rarely sleeps in his own bed. Anyway, you need one. Bean went in his from just before 3 months (which isn't strictly recommended...) until 9 months. During that time period it was the one place in this whole world where I knew I could put him and he'd be not only happy, but ecstatic. Without the jumperoo I'm not sure if I'd have ever been able to make myself lunch, or do laundry, or just sit down. All babies love the jumperoo. I got mine for £35 from a Facebook selling page, which is pretty great since they're not cheap first-hand.
2.) A travel cot in your living room. 'I don't need that!' I hear you cry. But yes, yes you do. You just might not need it yet. You need it after your baby has outgrown that jumperoo that you now know that you'll need, and can crawl to absolutely everywhere dangerous in the time it would take you to make a cup of tea or answer the door. Mine functions as a playpen, ball pit and daytime nap centre. Isn't that amazingly multipurpose? I make it transition smoothly between these functions using a 'play and go' play mat that turns into a storage bag. That way, if I can sense a nap coming, i can just whip out the toys or ball pit balls and turn it into a cot with absolutely no fuss. I got mine from Not on the HighStreet. The travel cot was a hand-me-down. http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/undercover/product/red-play-and-go
3.) A Sleepyhead Deluxe. Like most newborn babies, Bean never liked being put down. Not at all. Not during the day, not at night time, not when he was already asleep. Somehow, he knew he was being put down and would wake up and cry in alarm. Subsequently, not a lot of sleep was had for the first six weeks of his life, and certainly none was done without him snuggled up and latched onto me. Enter the Sleepyhead Deluxe: a sleep pod that hugs your baby like they're being held, and somehow magically tricks them into going to sleep.
I cannot promise that this will happen for you, and to be honest, it was a bit of a one off for us too- but after six weeks of broken sleep, we put Bean into a sleepyhead and he slept through the night. There has been no repeat performance of this miracle, but it did happen! Bean did, however, sleep a solid five hours a night, and then only wake up once or twice for the whole time until he grew out of it. Unfortunately for us, that was around 5 months, since he's always been a pretty big baby, but most of our friends got another month or two out of it.
If there is one thing I really regret from my first few weeks of motherhood, it's not trusting my instinct and buying one in the first week. Everyone seemed to think that it was much too expensive and that rolled up towels would work just as well. They really don't. Nothing works as well as a sleepyhead- it looks so ridiculously comfortable, it stops your baby rolling into frightening positions when they're first learning to roll over, and it can be used as a travel cot wherever you go, either on the floor, inside a travel cot, or as a co-sleeper in your bed. Plus it's made of some kind of wonder-substance that doesn't smother the baby or grow any nasty fungus. I managed to find one that had only been slept on once or twice on a Facebook selling page, and I got it for a real bargain, but I really would fork out the full price for one second-time around. Little tip: you can just put a normal crib sheet over it when it's in it's 'clipped up' cocoon-state, or even just a big muslin, which will save you a lot of washing and also means you don't need to get an extra cover. Handy when they're a little pricey if you're a mum on a budget. Since Bean was always a bit sicky, I don't have any pictures of the sleepyhead uncovered, so I've included a stock image here so you can see what it looks like.
You can buy a Sleepyhead Deluxe from John Lewis and will probably, like me, consider buying the Sleepyhead Grand (for babies from 8 months+) every night of your life after they grow out of it. Literally the only thing in my way is £165.
4.) A Sleeping Bag. I've left this one a little open, because different sleeping bags have worked for different stages of Bean's babyhood thus far, and I don't think this one's a one size fits all thing. You definitely need a sleeping bag though, and you really, really don't need a million and one baby blankets. I can guarantee that if you use them in your cot, you will just worry all the time that they are either too cold from having kicked them off, or that they've managed to smother themselves. The best sleeping bag for us has been the 'Swaddle Up' by 'Love to dream'. We started using the Swaddle up at the same time as the Sleepyhead. We were feeling a little desperate and really needed something to make Bean sleep in his cot.
Since we started using them at the same time, I can't scientifically prove whether it was the the swaddle up or the sleepyhead that had the biggest affect on Bean's sleep, but I can say that just zipping Bean into the swaddle up seemed to have an instant calming affect on him. He's always been wriggly, kicky baby- even in the womb, but this suit seemed to just chill him out. We didn't get along with conventional swaddling- Bean wriggled out of our best attempts, and it seemed to make him cross having his arms at his side, and since he was an occasional thumb-sucker, it seemed cruel to take away his hands.
The swaddle up gives you the best of both worlds- they have the tight, secure feeling of being swaddled, with the convenience of being able to just simply zip them in or out if they need changing or you're in a hurry- and it's impossible for them to escape from! You can even use it in a car seat or pram, since it has a nifty back opening and a double ended zip. It also made it impossible for him to scratch himself in the face, but because of the positioning of the arms, meant that he could actually stick get the comfort of sucking his thumb, through the material. They make a version of it where you can zip the arm sections off if you prefer, so you can use it to transition your baby out of swaddling, which is recommended when they're confident at rolling over both ways.
5.) Bum Pills. This one isn't for the faint hearted, but I'm being serious. Paracetamol suppositories are available, and they're your friend. In most of Europe, parents don't try to force their sick babies to put hard plastic syringes into their mouths and expect them to swallow weird sugary liquid. It almost always all comes out of the sides of their mouths, gets coughed up, spat out or vomited up some time later. That all makes for a frustrating and difficult to judge illness. You can't give them another dose- because you can't be sure you're not giving them an overdose, but you know full well that they didn't receive enough medicine to make them truly feel better. Suppositories are also absorbed into the body much faster than medicine that is given orally, so it can set to work faster. Also, Calpol stains.
We discovered 'Doliprane' when we were on holiday in France and Bean was suffering with teething pain. We asked the pharmacist in our best (broken) French if he had something for a fever in a baby. The pharmacist's first question was how much Bean weighed, because that's how the suppositories doses are calculated-not by age. I'm just going to pause here to just make your think about how sensible that is, considering the massive range in size between babies of the same age. And then, with my answer, he handed over the box, and we really didn't have the French to explain 'we're British, and we're squeamish of bum holes over here!', so suppositories it was.
I must confess that I didn't have the nerve (or stomach) to do it myself for maybe the first few months of using these, but Sam didn't seem to have a problem with it. I've subsequently done it and can confirm that it's no more gross than changing a nappy, and that Bean doesn't seem to notice a thing. Watch out for them flying back out again when you think you've got them in though!
You can get paracetamol suppositories on the NHS, but only if your baby has a medical issue with swallowing. We tend to stock up when we're on holiday. The ones we've used look like this:
Was there anything that you discovered after becoming a parent, that you never thought you'd need? I'd love to know your thoughts.