Mummy Mondays - The New Mother Survival Kit

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

This time last year, I had a five-week old baby. Already, the days of wistful daydreaming, planning, nesting, buying and (yes, I know) ironing tiny little babygrows were over ... and I was in the midst of the exhausted, house-turned-upside-down, washing-pile-the-size-of-a-mountain, sick-of-the-sound-of-the-breast-pump stage.

And as much as I loved having a tiny little wiggly baby to coo over and adore, parts of it were really hard. Like, really hard. I was having to adjust to life with a new little person, who despite being so small demanded everything, and my emotions were all over the place, and I didn't know who I was supposed to be now. Do you know what I mean? I flip-flopped from blissful highs to crazy, scary panic-stricken lows for those first few weeks.

So with that in mind, I've come up with a list of practical things you can buy for a friend who is about to have a baby, or for yourself. Here are the essential things that helped me to survive that crazy newborn stage:

1) Breast pads

I once told a colleague that I had been to Boots to stock up on baby toiletries. She asked what I bought and I reeled off a list and ended it with 'oh, and breast pads.' She said, smiling, 'Oh yeah, you'll need loads of those!'

So I went and bought a couple more packs. I had, in total, 200 breast pads. What more could I need? I was quite smug in my confidence that I had not only enough to last me this baby, but maybe even some left over if we decided to have another one. I mean, who uses 200 breast pads?

Er. Two weeks in and I was chucking box after box of breast pads in my trolley at the supermarket like a woman possessed. What did we go in there for? Food? Forget it. Breast pads are all you need. I spent a tense afternoon of shopping praying that my baby didn't cry (or come to think of it, any other small baby within hearing distance) because if she did, I would have been in trouble, and I didn't think I was emotionally capable of running to the toilets in Morrisons to stuff my bra with loo roll.

The moral of the story is this: breast pads. Buy them. Buy them for your friend. Don't let her have an unexpected-wet-patch moment.

2) Lansinoh cream

Should we have another baby, this will be the first thing I buy. In fact, such is it's importance that I feel it will take precedence in my hospital bag over anything else, including my phone, and food, and money.

Really, this stuff saved my sanity. While it didn't make breastfeeding sustainable in the long term, it helped to calm down the searing agony I felt. Your friend will want to have this stuff already bought and ready to take to the hospital. Believe me, you don't want the alternative, which in my case was begging my husband to buy it with a look that suggested that, if he didn't find the exact right cream that the midwives suggested, I might possibly explode with pain.

Don't be fooled: no other cream will do. It's expensive, yes. What is it made from? Flecks of gold? Unicorn tears? Who knows. But it's worth it.

3) Chocolate

I had visions of laying on the sofa in pristine loungewear, breastfeeding, eating wholesome but filling snacks, smiling peacefully at my baby whilst glowing with this natural beauty I saw in all the mothers in the baby magazines I bought. All I can say is a) LOL and b) my healthy snacks sat uneaten in the cupboard while I sent my husband out for packet after packet of chocolate digestives.

Healthy snacks are a good thing and should be there as an option, but sometimes, all you need is a bit of chocolate.

4) Money or vouchers for a takeaway, or a homemade meal

When we got home with the baby I was baffled as to how we would possibly get everything done. Sometimes we went for hours without eating at all. (Except, obviously, chocolate). Cooking was literally the last thing I could think about.

Thankfully my saint-like friend (who had a baby only ten days older than mine and seemed to be coping suspiciously better than I was) bought over an enormous pasta bake that she and her husband made, and it lasted us two days. Honestly, when she presented me with the pasta bake I wanted to cry (I might have cried, actually, it's all a bit hazy). Thank you Sarah ;)

If you don't know what to give a pregnant friend: try vouchers for her favourite takeaway. Or cook her a meal. She will love you forever.

5) Practical help, and maybe sometimes advice

If your friend is obviously struggling and say, thinks it's okay to hold the baby upside down by its feet or something, you may need to intervene. If not? Seriously consider whether the advice you are about to give her is necessary. If ever there was a time to be sensitive with your words, it's around a new mother. Maybe I'm the only one, but I found the advice I was given by people to be wildly conflicting, to the point where I just stopped listening to it and made decisions myself.

The most helpful people came over, tidied up a bit, and took the baby when I asked them to so I could have a sleep. Sometimes, though, I didn't want to be told what to do, and I didn't want to pass her around to everyone (especially when trying to establish breastfeeding), and what I now see as kind words of advice I saw at the time (in my hormonal state) as rage-inducingly interfering.

Give your friend a text, see how she feels. Ask her if she needs anything. And don't comment on her use of a dummy/the way she responds to the baby/how she's feeding her: just be there for her, and offer your experiences if you feel it is right. Let her learn to trust her own instincts. And maybe offer to whip the hoover round or something.

6) Photobox vouchers

Your friend will take approximately 8,000 photographs of her baby within the first few months, and all of them will be precious to her (even the ones where the baby has a weird, squinty, drunk-old-man face). Give her some vouchers to get the pictures printed, and she will happily display them around her house and give loads of them to her loved ones whether they want them or not.

And as a little break of number 5, the one bit of good, solid advice you could give is this: the days are long, but the years are short. Sometimes in the midst of a day on your own at home with a baby, it feels like the hardest thing in the world, and you wonder if the day will ever end ... and yet you blink, and suddenly a year has passed. Taking lots of pictures will help to ease that baffling feeling of time slowing down and yet flying by at the same time.

So there we are! Helpful things for a new mother. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there any essential bits I have forgotten? Comments are welcome as always!

All photos except for the top one are from Google Images!


  1. Love it!! So very true! Your bit about breast pads actually made me laugh out loud!!! Somehow I had managed to forget util you said that just how many breast pads I used. I mean we are talking thousands aren't we? Oh and the only way I was even able to entertain the thought of making a meal for you guys was because we had 2 weeks; worth of home cooked meals at home courtesy of kind and generous family members that we were enjoying! Even better than a cooked meal would be if you were able to enlist and organise other people and have a whole week's worth of meals for your friend. Seriously makes a difference doesn't it. x

  2. Ha, I forgot about them too until I sat down to write this. I honestly thought 200 would be plenty!

    It does make a huge difference. I am still grateful to you for that one meal! Next time I might hire my Mum as a chef for a week ;) x


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