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.