9 things I completely rely on as a new mom

The first few months with my baby were a beautiful and terrifying blur of waking, feeding, playing and adjusting to my new role – along with keeping the household going, getting food on the table and the laundry done while trying to juggle my a freelance schedule – and all without getting more than 2 hours of consecutive sleep a night (which went on for months on end).

Truth be told, while I was often overjoyed that I could do this all with my baby by my side, there were also days it felt like too much to handle and all I wanted to do was curl up and cry alongside her.  I found that when the days became hazy, and dragged on forever, I began to rely on small systems I set in place, and gadgets which made it easier to get things done in a hurry. For those hoping to skip some trial and error in your early days with your baba, here are some of the tried and true items and systems that I couldn’t have coped without:

1. B12 Boost – vitamin B spray and DS24 – these two items help keep my energy levels up and I function fairly well day-to-day because of them, despite the constant sleep deprivation.

2. Schlehlens Tonic  – this has been a great maintenance tonic for me which have helped enormously with my energy levels, and I quite like the taste of it. There are also plenty of tea blends available which claim to help boost your milk supply, and even if they don’t work as well as necessarily claimed, it cannot hurt to have hydration options available that have no added sugars.

3. A coffee pot on a timer – this singular item is the only reason I was able to function for the first 6 months of motherhood. The simple joy of waking up at 6:30 and walking into the kitchen, where I was greeted by the delicate scent of freshly brewed coffee, is still one of my all-time favourite simple pleasures in life.

4. My breastfeeding essentials – most of these are still applicable a year-and-a-bit on, and I am known to still bake truckloads of gluten-free mini muffins, so that I can scoff them down after a midnight feed and stay relatively happy, while being woken at least 3 – 5 times a night.

5. Tidying up at night – I used to be a bit manic when it came to keeping the house neat, as we had people over all the time. That was until hubby pointed out that nobody but me actually cared. Now, I do a quick surface clean before people arrive, but the main tidying up of the house only happens after Amelia’s been put down at night, and it’s seriously saved my sanity.

6. Overnight oats – the ideal breakfast, especially on busy mornings. It’s super quick to heat and eat before rushing out or settling down to work. One scoop of oats, enough almond milk to cover it, a spoon of chia seeds, some ground flax seed, some date syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten it, a few drops of vanilla essence, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds is all I use. Pop it in a jar, shake and put it in the fridge overnight. Eat as is or heat first.

7. Meal prep on the weekend – I do all of the cooking for our family, every single night, and find that if I do some basic chopping and prepping on a Saturday or Sunday, I can use the items throughout the week and cut down on the time it takes to make healthy, flavourful meals.  I’ll buy in bulk and prep items which I then stick in the freezer and pull them out as required. Smoothie making is so easy now with pre-portioned items in a ziplock bag, so all I need to do take the fruit out, add yoghurt and milk, and a sprinkle of coconut sugar and blend. It also cuts down on food waste and means those last few berries or bananas don’t go bad. For veg I mainly grate, chop and peel carrots and portion them out into ziplock bags. Ditto with leeks. For soups, I toss everything into a pot to boil. I grate up all the cheese blocks into a container to use for the week. Little things like this make such a difference, especially on days when Amelia is cranky. It may seem like a ton of work when you first start, but it makes such a difference. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in a full post about this some time.

8. My handbag. While I still love the baby bag I have, we’re now a year on and I’ve found it’s far more useful to keep all the items I need in my regular handbag, rather than carry two separate bags (especially since we hardly use the pram anymore). After taking stock of what we did use when out and about, I’ve found it’s easy to downsize to having two nappies and a small pack of half-used wet wipes on hand, two small toys and a board book while out and about, along with a small water bottle and snack container that baba and I share. You can see my full list of items I keep on hand in my “what’s in my mama bag” post 🙂

9. Medela Harmony handheld pump and Medela bottles – I absolutely love this brand (no, I haven’t been sponsored). I love it’s simplicity, it’s durability, and the fact that I haven’t had to replace the (very) pricey teats that come with every bottle purchase as they’re from birth to toddlerhood.

10. A pashmina scarf or lightweight scarf – a lifesaver when out as a nursing cover, blanket, sunshade, etc.

11. Go-to outfits options – apart from doing a closet overhaul so I only had breastfeeding friendly items in it, having an outfit formula I stick to has made my life so much easier. Be it sundresses, jeans and a slogan tee, or shorts and a 3/4 top, knowing at least 2 outfits you can slip on in a hurry and look pulled together quickly is incredibly important on days you’re feeling sleep deprived or sick – or when your little person just spit up up on you as you were heading out the door. #momlife ammirite?

12. Keeping makeup simple – a touch of colourful lip balm or a matte lipstick, a flick of mascara on the ends of my lashes, and ensuring my eyebrows are filled in is all I do nowadays, along with some sunscreen before heading out. I’m certain I’ll be back to cat eye flicks, on fleek brows, perfectly primped nails, and an elaborate eyeshadow game at some point, but when I’m just meeting friends, or running to the shops, I don’t need to look IG perfect, because to my little girl, I already am. And really, that’s all that matters to me at the end of the day.

I’d love to know some of your everyday essentials as I’m always looking out for hacks and hints to make life easier. 🙂

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What’s in my bag? (Mom and baby edition)

I’ve always had a slight obsession with what other people carry around with them on a day-to-day basis and I’ve always wondered if it stems from curiosity into others lives, or from being stranded in my car one too many times, or because of that dreaded “just in case” mentality which used to mean I was the worlds worst over-packer.

As a new mama I’ve had to pair down my own essentials (like makeup) and make room for my little ladies items – which has led to me bringing along just the necessities. This change happened mainly out of fear of breaking my back (as my nappy bag used to be soooo heavy), and be panting 30m into a walk for a picnic at Kirstenbosch, once I started going stroller free.

 

1. Breast Pads

The absolute number one item I cannot travel without are breast pads. I adore the Medela ones as while they are single use, they hold a ton without feeling awful against my skin. I have used a wide variety of other brands and have found that they just don’t quite compare. I do have washable cotton breast pads but in the early days I found they saturated far too quickly, especially at night and in the beginning I honestly didn’t enjoy using them as they felt awful on my skin (cue the ‘funny’ story about how I accidentally leaked milk all over a table when I was doing a  short-course at UCT and then had to use my pashmina to hide the stains *facepalm*). However, now that my supply has settled, I mainly use the cotton ones at home during the day, and keep my disposable ones in my travel bag for convenience.

2. My Medela Harmony Pump

This item is always in my bag because I never know when I’ll need it. I opted for a small hand pump as opposed to the electric version, mainly because of Eskom’s power cuts … and that small matter of not wanting to feel like a glorified milk cow. After over a year of use I can say I absolutely love it and can’t do without it. It’s small, quiet, portable and I can fit in any bag discreetly. I did have to get another breast shield attachment as the one provided was a tad to small for my rather engorged self. For those wondering, I picked Medela based not only on their amazing Amazon reviews and customer satisfaction, but because they are the only company on the market to have a bottle teat from birth to toddler hood, as it’s design mimics how a baby needs to suckle at the breast to get milk out, meaning it’s easy from day 1 and there’s absolutely no bottle/breast confusion.

3. Milk Storage Bags

While these might not be the most eco-friendly of items, they are a necessity for me because of how little freezer space they use, and I love that I can fit more than I actually need for a trip in my bag – especially when compared to how bulky the little pots and full-sized milk bottles are. Shop around for a brand you like as it can be tricky to find bags which won’t leak when submerged in hot water (wasting some of your precious milk and becoming a source of frustration).

 

4. Water

I cannot go anywhere without a full bottle of water. Seriously though, I think I drink over 3 litres of water a day now as I refill it so often. My skin has been loving this, and from a practical point of view I prefer taking my own water with me rather than buying plastic bottles on the go. And lastly, this is also handy to have in case your car overheats.

5. Snacks

I came to the realization that I love baking just before I had my daughter, and subsequently I made a huge amount of muffins, date balls, coconut clusters, meringues and cookies in my last trimester. While those quickly went, I’ve continued to make extra large batches of baked goods when I do bake, so that I can easily freeze them as snacks on the go or as a quick breakfast on days I’m halfway out the door before realising I haven’t eaten yet. Dried fruit like raisins and cranberries, dates are safe for Amelia to snack on too, and I find that for me, nuts are another great option to help keep energy levels up.

9. Bib and small cutlery set

A washable bib and a small cutlery set are ideal for restaurants, a picnic, or a trip to granny.

7. A spare outfit (or two) for baby

It’s inevitable that while they are little, babies will get messy so a seasonally appropriate outfit, or two, are generally toted along. I keep one in the car and one in the bag.

6.  Pashmina or Shawl

The second most used item I pack is a large shawl or Pashmina wrap. It quickly becomes your feeding cover, or handy stain hider should baby spit up on you while out. It’s a picnic blanket, an extra blanket, a sunshade, a pram cover, a tank top, a beach sarong, you name it.

8. One or two small toys

Gone are the early days bringing along 5 or 6 different, bulky toy options for my little one to play with. Now, she gets one or two to keep her interested if we’re out, otherwise she can play with the frog flashlight on my keys. I found that after she turned 18 months, a small soft toy she can hold and an attachable small book/rattle/teether suffices for most short trips. I also keep a strip of stickers in my wallet as an emergency distraction item for her if we run late anywhere, like at the doctors office.

10. Small first aid kit

I always have something on hand for bumps, bruising, insect bites, cuts, or teething while on the go. I carry my Buchu first aid gel and micropore strips, as it’s small and convenient, and the teething gel and travel-size panado bottle makes life easier when Amelia’s had a fall or we stay somewhere longer than planned and she gets cranky or hurt. I sometimes also carry the travel-size version of Oh-Lief insect repellent and a saline nose spray.

11. Lip balm

I use Simply Bee lip balm and love it. It’s odorless, softens my lips, and has even been an emergency bum balm and hand cream (ssh, don’t tell!)

12. Wallet

Obviously a necessity when heading out.

13. Sunglasses

I am cranky AF if I leave these behind at home, because my eyes do not adjust well to glare. Keep a spare in the car for the inevitable break that can happen when you’re sleep deprived and sit on them. I am not even joking. 😦

14. Hat

A pretty hat hides all my hair woes, and it keeps the sun off my face to boot, which for my skin, is a win-win. A fedora for spring, a peak cap for summer, a felt hat for autumn and a beanie for winter mean year-round I have a go-to solution that looks fairly stylish. Thank you hipsters for making my hat-choices mainstream trendy.

15. Earphones

A small set of earphones mean I can listen to my music or podcasts while Amelia naps in the stroller or car.

16. Tissues and asthma pump

Allergy season and colds dictate these items as necessities.

17. Hand sanitizer

With more and more places shutting off their taps, hand sanitizer for me ensures some kind of preventative measure against germs and touchable grime.

18. Nappies and wet wipes

Three nappies and a half-used pack of wet wipes live permanently in my bag, along with a spare set in the car in case there are any oopsies. The wet wipes I find also double as a wipe for hands, faces, fruits, and even feet.

So that’s that from my end. I’d love to hear what kind of things you carry around in your bag on a daily basis.

What’s in my :: Nursing Essentials Kit

Hi lovelies,

After trolling countless websites and Pinterest, I’ve gathered more than a few ideas of what to keep close at had for the early days of breastfeeding. And after several months of cuddling Amelia closely and having her reach up to me asking for milk, while yawning and nudging at my chest,  I can say that I’ve now got my own personal favourite items, found below. Please do comment and let me know what nursing essentials you’ve relied on! 🙂

1. Lay out all your breastfeeding clothes – before baby arrives

My absolute number one tip for nursing, which I tell all my expecting friends (and came up with all on my own), is to put aside all your tops that you can feed in (defined as tops or dresses you are able to pull down under your breasts, those which have a cowl neck, are super stretchy, have a very low v-neck, etc) and put them in an easily accessible place. Then pack away ‘non-breastfeeding-friendly’ tops for days when you’re away from baby or stop breastfeeding. This way, you won’t be caught trying to figure out what to wear when you’re in a rush or end up cursing your outfit choice and resort to going to a bathroom to take your top off to feed baba (#notideal).

2. Kindle

Without a doubt my favourite item to have on hand is my Kindle Paperwhite. From evening feeds to early morning ones, this little gadget has seen me through hours and hours (and hours!) of cluster feeds with Amelia.The long battery life is a bonus, as is the gentle backlight –  which I’ve found to be perfect for early morning feeds, so you don’t wake your partner when moving around the room.

3. My feeding pillow

When you start out nursing, the first few feeds will be a leisurely dream, leaving you gazing at your precious little life, mesmerized by their nose and eyelashes … that is until  your arms start to ache from holding your growing little one in this new and awkward position. A feeding pillow helps to keep you both comfortable – especially if you wound up with a C-section. I’d also like to recommend that you check out a variety of breastfeeding positions as often you’ll find some are much more comfortable than others (in fact, one of my favourite ones was the ‘rugby ball’ hold).You definitely don’t need one that’s top of the range as they’re all pretty identical, but do get a spare nursing cover for whichever one you pick as they can get grubby. When baba’s a bit bigger and starts sitting, it will double as a safe sitting doughnut for her.

4. A full water bottle or lunchbox-sized juice

The often talked about ‘great thirst’ is a real thing, especially when feeding at 3am and you wake up with a parched throat. A full water bottle or small juice box somewhere close by will ensure you don’t have to disrupt or delay your feed and go wandering through the house.

5. Snacks

Like ‘the great thirst’ mentioned above, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start to find yourself getting cranky after waking just after midnight. A small snack like a healthy muffin, a block or two of dark chocolate, a handful of nuts, or some dates in an easy to open container (bonus if you can open it one-handed), worked wonders at making me less cranky early in the morning.

6. A cosy blanket

Regardless of the time of year, having some kind of blanket (or blanket scarf!) nearby is quite useful when breastfeeding, to snuggle underneath together if the fan makes you a bit cold during nap time. It’s also great if during the day you have unexpected visitors pop by to visit and you don’t have a feeding cover* close at hand. In summer I used my BabySense muslin blankets for Amelia as a  feeding cover, blanket, spoegdoekkie (spit rag), peek-a-boo tent, teething rag, etc, while now as autumn creeps up and it’s getting chilly, my cosy plaid blanket scarf from CottonOn has become my best friend and I wear it almost daily, while at night it doubled as a light blanket for baba and I.

*I dropped using a feeding cover at home in the first week, and only really used it when out and about in public (as our society still thinks having a nipple peeking out from an infants mouth is somehow scandalous, while one seen under a sheer top or at the seaside is ‘sexy’ … #gofigure).

7. A breast pump

I don’t know what I would have done without my breast pump in those early days (and I still use it quite often). When Amelia was fast asleep I would pump any milk that came in (and I have to say that the milk coming in during the early days was not a gentle letdown, it was a full-on prickling-bordering-on-painful experience). So having a pump to save myself being very uncomfortable or soaking through my nursing pads was a huge plus. I picked the Medela manual breast pump (and Medela bottles) for a number of reasons and can highly recommend it! What reasons? Firstly, it’s more discreet than an electric pump and can easily fit into my handbag when out and about away from baba, secondly, Eskom turning the power off and on at random means I don’t want to be stranded in a power outage with milk leaking out that could be saved for my little girl for later. Thirdly, while I’m sure electric is great for some, I don’t really want to view myself as a milking cow just yet, and the manual pump ensures my dignity at least in this regard. I did have to size up the actual funnel attachment as the one which came with the pump was quite painful to use, but with a size up (bought from Toys R Us) I found it far more enjoyable.

8. A hairband

When you’re on your umpteenth feed of the night and you wake up with both breasts full of milk, it can be a bit tricky to remember which one was the one you last fed baba with. A hairband on your wrist will help – I used to keep mine on the wrist of the side I last fed from, and would swap it over before feeding Amelia again. It was a much simpler  way to remember than some options on the market (thanks to my sis-in-law for this tip!).

9. Breast pads

While I now absolutely love my re-washable cotton breast pads (as they’re far more cost-effective for long-term breastfeeding), in the early days before my milk settled, I’d end up soaking through them in a 5 minutes once my milk started and I’d be left with embarrassing wet splotches on the front of my tops and dresses for the first few weeks, until I figured out disposable ones hold more thanks to the gel inserts, and they’re quite easy to keep in your bag (though as a price point, they are quite expensive).

10. Sports Bras

While I have four cotton nursing bras that I do use often, the Mr Price sports bras, with padding in the front, were for me an absolute lifesaver in the early days and anytime I go out. I found I could pull them down to feed Amelia very easily, and if I did leak a bit, the absorbent insert in the bras soaked up the excess milk, giving me time to quickly change out of my drenched pad before it becomes obvious to everyone what was happening (smelling like cheese for the rest of the day though … not so great). That said, they are far less breathable than cotton nursing bras and I found myself becoming quite hot while wearing them (which now the weather is becoming chilly is lovely, but it was far less enjoyable in summer).

Things I didn’t use:

My fancy-schmancy infant schedule tracking app

After buying and almost religiously filling in Amelia’s feeding times, poop times, awake times, et al, I didn’t once practically use the app for anything – not even my pediatrician (as he never asked about those things on checkups) and after a month I just stopped using it and reverted to a paper system. I used that to check off her feeding times, until even that fell away and we just settled into our own rhythm of wake, sleep, play, etc. For those curious, I never fed her on a set schedule, rather trusting her to know when she was hungry or not and feeding her according to that.

Nipple Cream

While some women swear by nipple cream (and prefer one brand over another), I haven’t  ended up using the one I got at my baby shower. It has, however, made a lovely emergency lipgloss / lip-ice in my baby bag when I forgot my Labello at home. I also like that you don’t have to wash off, should you use it and your baba wakes up needing to feed. 🙂

Nursing-specific tops

While I invested in two nursing-only tops, I have to say I could very easily do without them, since I already have a variety of tops that work for nursing my little girl in.

 

I’d love to hear what your favourite nursing items are, and I’d love it if you’d share my post if you found it useful. 🙂

What’s in my :: Hospital Bag?

It’s funny to think that I used to be a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kinda gal, as being pregnant morphed me into one of those incredibly over-eager ladies who packed and repacked (and repacked and repacked) the hospital bags for baby and I … “just in case”.

While I plan 100% to bring my little girl into the world via natural birth, pragmatically anything can happen between my plans and her actual birth, which is why I’ve also packed items that would come in handy should an emergency C-section occur. It’s funny to realise that a lot of what I’ve packed in here for me doubles as some of my travel favourite items, so read on to have a peek.

 

Labour Bag

  • Oversized black t-shirt and mini skirt (because I really don’t want to end up in a hospital gown)
  • Nursing pillow – in case I decide to contort into a variety of shapes while feeding baby McBean
  • Socks – I hate, hate, hate having cold feet and want to have the option to warm any cold tootsies during my stay … though I do plan to have  a pedicure in a cheerful colour that I can stare at while pushing
  • Music – I focus really well when there’s music playing, and have a labour playlist already put together with a combo of soothing classical, trippy new age, dubstep and heavy rock … depending on my mood
  • Earphones – in case I can’t play my CD then at least I can still listen to music on my phone
  • Camera – I plan to document my whole journey to show my beautiful little girl one day, so a camera is kinda a given to be packed :p

Snacks:

  • Homemade date balls – these will come in handy for energy, just in case the labour goes on for ages.
  • Pomegranate seeds – I’ve read up and apparently pomegranate seeds are highly recommended for preggy mamas in the last few weeks before birth as they have protective properties in the event baby’s oxygen is cut off. While this could be completely untrue, I do quite like their taste so have been snacking on these like crazy.
  • Raspberry Leaf Tea – I’m planning to make a batch for my refillable water bottle on the day, but so far I’ve been sipping it for the past week and it’s flavour-wise, it’s not all that bad (and is a nice change from Rooi8os).

 

Hospital Bag for Amelia:

First up, after shopping around on my own and coming up with nothing, hubby surprised me with one of my top 3 favourite bag choices, the BabyMoov BabyChic. I fell in love with this bag for all kinds of reasons – it’s spacious, the inner dividers look like they’ll come in handy, the exterior is a wipe-and-go fabric which makes it perfect for all seasons and events, and the practical attachable changing mat, bottle pouch and dummy holder mean they can come or go as needed. I could go on, and on, but I’m certain you get the idea – it’s got everything a new mama could want and then some. The colour is a lovely neutral red and gray which means hubby can wear it too, when out and about with her, and it should last well into her toddler years (and beyond) as a bag for weekends away.

While I’m certain the hospital will have most of the items required (including a medi-clinic bag to take home), I’m packing anything and everything which could come in handy for her:

Clothing

As we’re been repeatedly told our baby girl is going to come out between 3kg – 3.5kg, I’ve packed a variety of newborn sized items -> though I’ve also packed two tiny baby long-sleeve vest and jacket, and a 0 – 3 month old babygrow, in the event she’s actually smaller / larger then predicted as this has happened to my a good friend of mine. So in her bag I have:

  • 2 x baby grows – pink and white
  • 2x vests – in white
  • 2x jackets – white and beige
  • 2x sleep suites
  • 2x footed pants
  • 2x baby socks
  • 2x cotton hats

Other items

I’ve included 2x BabySense Muslin receiving blankets in pink and stone, one soft cotton receiving blanket, and a fluffy acrylic blanket to boot. This may be overkill but because it’s summer I don’t know how warm/ cool the hospital is going to be and I don’t want to boil my baby (or freeze her) inadvertently.

Medications and Hygiene

Packing for the hospital

Most of the items I’m bringing with for Amelia’s hospital stay are sample sized versions that were supplied by Dischem when I signed up for their baby program (and received a well-stocked black and white paisley bag).

Items include:

A sample-sized sudocream, Baby Johnson’s Vaseline, Bennetts bath oil, surgical spirits, rounded earbuds, size 0 nappies and Huggies wet wipes.

A medicine pouch with a thermometer, nasal aspirator, nail clippers, nail file, and a small saline solution drops. We’re totally unlikely to need all of this in a hospital, but I’m a first-time mama, so this is going to stay close, until baby is at least 3 months and I feel comfortable leaving something behind. :p

Hospital Bag for me:

So I may or may not have originally packed as if the apocalypse was coming, going so far as to include a pair of chic combat boots (a tad much, right?). But to be fair, my recent edits to my hospital bag have left me only with the items necessary for immediately after birth and to comfortably tide me over for a day or two spent in hospital. I do plan to have visitors and have packed accordingly so I look and feel presentable (each to their own on this score – I personally want my  Labello Cherry Red lip balm and eye-shadow … mainly so I look awake for the inevitable photographs).

Wearing

2x nursing bras from Woolworths

2x sports bras from Mr Price (sooo comfy to wear while I’ve been preggies)

2x tank tops that can double as nursing tops

1x black maxi skirt

1x loose cotton pants

1x black maxi dress

Sleeping

2x lace nighties (because who says you can’t look cute when you’ve just had a baby?!)

1x Cotton On Kimono nightgown (I seriously love this style so much!)

1x slippers (I refuse to walk barefoot around … it will probably be cold)

Hygiene

1x Dark blue facecloth

1x Soap and travel-sized shower gel

1x Carriwell Maternity Pads (they are giant – GIANT – scary looking things, but will come in super, super handy because regardless of how you give birth, you turn into a bit of a bleeder) 0_o (or so say those of my friends who’ve had kids) ;0)

1x Pack of Medela Nursing Pads – in case my milk comes in early and is fairly plentiful (**here’s hoping)

A small selection of makeup items

C-section items:

1x Dry shampoo – I’m a big believer that if your hair is clean and smells good, you feel so much better so dry shampoo is one of my favourite items when I go anywhere for more than a day

1x Enerjelly sweets (so yum!) in case I need to snack and can’t walk to a vending machine

1x Cleanser and toner and 5x cotton pads (because if I can’t go to the bathroom to wash my face, I want to be able to freshen up somehow)

1x Spearmint Chewing Gum – again, if I can’t make it to the bathroom to brush my teeth, at least my breath will smell somewhat fresh

1x Tissue pack – in case I need to blow my nose / blot my face / I run out of cotton pads

And that pretty much wraps up my list of items so far. Who knows, maybe this list will change again, but this is it for now.

Any advice you can give on what you packed in your hospital bag will be gladly received in case this undergoes another edit. 😉