Jasmine: I have wanted to write this post since Dylan was born (and that’s over a year ago!) but it was a talk with a dear friend who’s expecting that really gave me the urge to write about what I consider to be essentials for pregnancy and for your newborn.
1. Leachco Back n Belly pillow
I have written about this here, and just want to say that this pillow is a lifesaver for second trimester all the way to postpartum, providing support for both my tummy and aching back every night for both pregnancies. Andrew likes to hug it as a bolster at night too, I have had to shoo him off quite a few times, because, y’know, there are two of us now (baby girl and I) and we need more space. Haha.
2. Maternity and nursing bras
These are a must, especially if you plan to breastfeed. Basically, the difference between a maternity bra and a normal one is that the maternity one does not have underwire (for comfort and also to prevent cutting off milk supply) and comes with clips for easy access while breastfeeding.
If you need something right away, Mothercare’s nursing bras are very decent, durable and come in pretty patterns. However, my absolute, all-time favourite would be the Bravado Body Silk bra. It really feels amazingly soft yet completely supportive. The way it maintains the support without underwire is via a clever ribbed band of fabric around the rib cage.
I was also initially confused by the sizing, as the standard cup sizes are grouped under S, M or L, but later realised it simplifies decision-making, as you just have to choose a size and should your cup size increase during pregnancy and lactation, the bra will still be able to fit you. If your cup size is borderline between say, S &M, I recommend sizing up for comfort.
I got mine off a Singapore website with great service- a free courier left the parcel at my door 2 working days after I placed the order. Message me if you would like the link!
3. Clarins Huile Tonic
Okay, now this is my nightly pregnancy indulgence!
When I was expecting Dylan, I tried Palmers Cocoa Butter which was supposedly the top stretch mark cream around (ok but strong chocolatey scent) , and Mustela Double Action which claims that 96% of users are stretch mark-free (but I hated the texture, as anything more than two applications would leave flaky residue on my skin- this stretch mark cream seemed to think it was an exfoliating gel). I am a long time user of Clarins products and had a Clarins spa package then, and my facialist recommended me the Huile Tonic.
Formulated from natural plant extracts, I love the woody scent of hazel and rosemary, as well as the comforting, enveloping sensation when I moisturise my tummy every night. The belly gets itchy due to the stretching of the skin, but I have been lucky enough not to experience that, perhaps because of my nightly application of Huile Tonic. Whenever I begin to feel even slightly itchy, I dab a smidgen of the oil on (a little goes a looong way) and the skin calms down right away and stays un-irritated.
Most importantly, it delivers (bad pun)! For my first pregnancy, I cleverly tried to save on the Huile Tonic by only applying it to my tummy and not my sides. You see where this is going, right…?
As a result, my tummy is stretch-mark free but not my sides! Haha! This time round, I am taking no chances!
Clarins counters also offer samples of Huile Tonic in these teeny-tiny glass jars- use sparingly and it can last you a week! I used to request them whenever I went travelling!
This is alot trickier than pregnancy essentials as alot of the newborn “essentials” will differ based on the parenting choices you make, e.g. breastfeeding or formula, co-sleeping vs crib in separate room.
The baby industry is darn profitable, with all kinds of gimmicky products, but especially in those first few hazy sleep-deprived days of becoming a new mother, it’s the simple yet effective products that we will turn to again and again.
1. Aden+Anais Bamboo Swaddle Cloth
We used this from Day One. Larger than a traditional receiving blanket, it meant that Dylan could use it for ages. In fact, he has been sleeping with the swaddle cloths every night for over a year now!
Because this swaddle cloth is sized larger than most, it was pretty easy to get the hang of swaddling. And the swaddling really helped to calm his startle reflex and help him stay asleep longer for the first few months!
Three days old and ready to go home, bundled up in the swaddle cloth
As Dilly grew bigger and lost the startle reflex, it was nice that the swaddle cloth could transition to being a lightweight blanket. (There are some foolproof swaddles that do the swaddling for you, by encasing the baby in a cocoon and all you have to do is fasten the snaps, but once the baby outgrows it, it has outlived its purpose.) The beauty of muslin is that it’s such a breathable fabric, perfect for our summery weather, yet when you layer it it provides warmth. One layer will do when it’s hotter, two layers for aircon. And the more you wash it, the softer it gets!
We’ve also seen the swaddle cloths used as a stroller canopy as the muslin provides ventilation while blocking out some sunlight, though I personally always found it a bit scary to see the feet poking out. It also comes in handy as a burp cloth and even for playing peekaboo.
We always pack a swaddle cloth whenever we are bringing Dyl to Granny’s house (and he needs to nap) or for travelling. Look how we “bullied” him in Taipei:
There’s quite a marked difference in softness between the bamboo muslin and the cotton muslin, so if you have the means, by all means splurge on the bamboo. We got ours for about $79.90 for a 3-pack (patterned), and just got another 3-pack (plain, $69.90 before our member discount) for Dylan’s baby sister.
2. Change mat
Instead of buying a changing table which costs a few hundred, we opted to buy a simple change mat for $25, which we placed on top of our mirrored dresser.
Also turned out quite useful for infant massage, especially when Dilly had colic.
The set up was simple, some pictures for him to look at (with the silver frames and black board providing high contrast stimulation for newborns), and an Ikea trolley containing all our diapering supplies.
We also have another, more compact change mat which we bring out with us. You’ll see that later.
I have written extensively about my Sakura Bloom ring sling, but it’s definitely worth including here as we used this all the time up until he was about six months old. The linen fabric was cool enough for our humidity and Dylan fell asleep many times in the sling, sometimes within minutes. At night too when he was inconsolable from the colic, the only thing that would put him to sleep was me cradling him in the sling.
Dilly and I did lotsa things with him in the sling… Apparently you can even nurse discreetly in the sling but I never figured out how. However, I could go shopping, travelling (to Bali), put on makeup and even drink Milo…
His baby weight was distributed not just across one shoulder, but across the whole back, as you can see here, so I could carry him for 3-5 hours without any strain on the back.
This ring sling was essential in helping us return to our normal lives quickly, plus Dilly. However, Andrew refused to try it as he thought the toga style looked “girly”, and as Dylan got heavier we began to use our Ergo more and more.
I totally understand the feeling of wanting to get everything ready before the baby’s arrival, especially when nesting instinct kicks in! However, for ring slings and carriers (and strollers too), I suggest waiting until baby has been born, then bringing baby to try out different wraps and slings to see which one suits both you and baby.
I went to this warehouse near Marymount that my friend recommended, which I have since recommended to a few girlfriends- again, do message me for the link if you’re interested! When I went, Dilly didn’t like the Boba wraps that I had in mind, but he was snug as a bug in the Sakura Bloom ring sling. Also, the salespeople patiently showed us newbies step-by-step how to “wear” baby and adjust the carriers for maximum comfort. It does take practice but once you’ve got the muscle memory, it becomes pretty intuitive! And baby fusses much less!
Baby “Essentials” That You Don’t Actually Need
1. Diaper Bag
Now, we actually didn’t intend to get a diaper bag, but when I saw this cool Allerhand one, I bought it mainly for the Celtic design, and also because I thought that with all the waterproof compartments inside, Andrew could use it as a gym bag. It was his erm, Christmas present, and he told me never to give him such a present again. Haha.
Dilly claiming the bag for his own?
To be honest though, when I was breastfeeding Dylan, we could travel light, with just an extra diaper, diaper wipes and a change mat (above). So instead of getting a bulky diaper bag which could set you back $100-200, I’d suggest buying just the change mat for $8 or $10 from any major department or baby store. It’s easy to fold away in existing bags and a cinch to wipe down. No need also for those fancy change mats with designer fabrics and cushioned head support. A change mat is a change mat is a change mat.
Now that Dilly is on solids and formula, the bag has come in much more handy as its size means it can accommodate a hot thermos flask, milk bottle, pots of porridge, change of clothes, high chair toy etc. But it’s still not necessary in the first few months of life, methinks.
2. Breast pump
I am an ardent and unabashed advocate of breastfeeding, but I’m not sure why the breast pump is touted as an essential unless you are returning to work and need to express milk. I know many stay-at-home mums who have shelled out hundreds only to use this for a short while or not at all, as their babies prefer to latch on directly.
Same goes for breast pads, since in the first six weeks the milk supply is regulating. Some women experience leakage (hence the need for breast pads) and others don’t. I suggest waiting a few days to a week after baby is born and then sending hubby out to pick up some en route to work, if you are experiencing oversupply and leakage still. They’re available at any department store.
3. Bottle warmers and sterilising equipment
Similar to the breast pump.
For expressed breastmilk, putting it in a cup of steaming hot water is enough to warm it. For formula, you need to make it fresh each time, so there’s really no need for a bottle warmer.
As for sterilising, we have been sterilising Dilly’s bottles and pacifiers in, you guessed it, another cup of hot water. No need for bulky appliances that only serve one purpose cluttering up our kitchen countertops.
4. Baby bedding
I see many baby cribs filled with all sorts of stuffed toys, pillows, bolsters, loose blanket and crib bumpers (the worst). Actually, all the baby needs is a swaddle and a flat, fitted sheet- we ordered ours from American Baby Company. When baby outgrows the need for swaddling, a long-sleeved footed romper will keep him warm without requiring additional blankets.
Anything more and American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) advises that it could pose a suffocation or overheating risk to the baby, especially before the newborn gains mobility and is able to free himself.
Yup, precisely. We want to avoid gang kor (dialect for “awkward”) situations like this.
This zig-zag fitted sheet has maintained its brightness even after a year of regular washes- I just ordered one more for Dylan’s baby sister!
On crib bumpers (the padded quilts that line the cribs), people have told me that it’s to prevent baby from injuring himself by knocking his head against the bars. I guess I’d rather have baby knock himself a couple times (and then learn to avoid doing so) then end up with his face squashed against the bumper and be unable to breathe.
A turquoise fitted sheet made from T-shirt material- very comfy!
Ending off with one of my favourite chubby pictures of sleepy Dylan!