Friday, July 25, 2014

46 Things Every New or Expecting Dad Should Know:

Dear Expecting and/ or New Moms,
I know there are a million things you have wanted to tell the father of your child while expecting and as a new mom. It can be frustrating that your male counterpart does not understand exactly what you are feeling. But how can he? He is not in your place; he did not feel those kicks and hiccups in the middle of the night. Nor did he have nightmares about a giant head coming out of him. However, we don't always take the time and step back to explain. So here is a post for all the new and expecting fathers. Since you make up most of my viewership feel free to share with your men if you think this will be of benefit to them (and you).

(Note: I use the terms wife, husband and marriage loosely, as these points are applicable to all new parents regardless of the type of relationship you are in.)

Dear Expecting and/or New Dads,
I know fatherhood doesn't really begin for you until you hold your baby. Your wife however has been a mother for approximately 9 months and has probably been in love with her baby since she found out about it's existence. She has given up alcohol, heels, caffeine, raw foods, hair color, control over her body, sleep, and probably even her wedding ring. Her parental sacrifices began a long time ago, which is biology's way of starting you both off on different pages with parenthood. She's probably sleep deprived, exhausted and maybe hasn't even had the energy to tell you everything she is feeling through the day. (I won't hone on about female emotions I promise), here is my attempt to help you get back to at least the same chapter.

(Dear Husband,
If you do take the time to read this, this post is not a list of everything you did not do. It is the oppposite, as you have become an amazing father already and I hope that every new mother is able to receive such support. I know I don't say it enough -- I love you. Thank you!)
 Most of my pictures are from an amazing maternity and baby shoot with Namita Azad Photography.

Things Every New or Expecting Dad should know:

About your pregnant wife:

  1. Don't ignore the cravings, cater to them. They only get worse! Take it from someone who has driven around the Bronx looking for Taco Bell. 
  2. Make time to be a part of those doctors appointments. It may not be important to you but your spouse needs to know she is not alone in this. 
  3. Pregnancy can be overwhelming and isolating, specially when you don't feel well and don't think anyone else understands what you are going through. Try to remember to ask her how she is feeling.
  4. Just listen, you don't need to fix everything.
  5. She has probably never felt this exhausted ever before. Get into bed early with her and cuddle. 
  6. Don't mess with the instinct to nest, or the nest. If she wants to do the baby's laundry and get things set up in advance, offer to help. Seeing it come together will help make your baby real for you too.
  7. Parenting is all about decisions and they start here! Give your opinion when asked for it, because you will want to be involved later and it may be too late. If you're being asked, it's because your opinion is valued too.
  8. You don't have to know the answers to all the questions she wants help answering, but look it up or ask someone who knows, because your opinion does matter too. 
  9. Be involved in the shopping because when the baby is home, it will be too late to start (or like me, your wife may stock up for a few years beforehand). For more on where to start with this click here.
  10. Remember to give her complements as often as you can. She may feel beautiful but she may also be feeling really huge, swollen and scared that she will never get her body back. 
  11. Attend lamaze and childbirth classes so you understand the process better and can be an informed decision maker when the time comes. Labor as an idea can be terrifying.
  12. If you don't get to attend a class though, it's important to know that the water usually doesn't break until just before the time to push and is not the first sign of labor. Nor will it only take a couple hours to be done (usually) with guests relaxing outside. That only happens in the movies! 
  13. Her memory will continue to get worse (it does come back, at least most of it!) as the hormone levels increase so try and (gently) remind her of things you think she wants to do. (And stash post its around the house). Don't worry, her memory won't fade when it comes to keeping an eye on you (I know this didn't make my husband too happy!)
  14. If she is able to work until the day she delivers and wants to, let her. It's important to stay mentally occupied and active. She is already protective about her child and isn't try to hurt the baby by living her life to the extent that she can. 
  15. Don't let her feel incompetent. If she is not able to work or do what she wants to, help her stay busy with projects and ideas. 
  16. If you are stressing about labor (or sleeping on a couch in the hospital), can you imagine what she is going through?
  17. When your wife is in labor or stressing about it do not say that: It's easy, just breathe, even I can do it, we're in this together (maybe but not really and I know I definitely didn't want to hear it). 
  18. If poop happens (in labor, it usually does), let it go and just try and pretend like it didn't. 
  19. It will be your role to be her advocate in the hospital so understand what she wants it to be like. If things don't go as envisioned (and they usually do not), it will be your role to help her be more flexible too. You will need to be her advocate through motherhood too.
  20. Cut the cord! My husband had to be desensitized with you tube videos, and everyone thought he would faint at the blood, but he didn't and is so proud that he got to do this. Symbolically too, it's your role to do this as you are entering into the parenting relationship too.

About the new mother (who used to be your wife above all else), and your baby:

  1. A baby can bring a couple closer together, or further apart. If you're a great dad, your wife is just going to fall more in love with you. That's just one of the many reasons to step it up if you haven't already.
  2. Some moms fall in love with their baby at first site. Others take time to bond and get attached. Both are completely normal, for her and for you! Don't worry if you're not feeling it from day 1.
  3. Adjusting to new roles as a parent also includes some adjusting to your spouse as a parent, each of you will have your own parenting style and that's ok! Your child will also soon respond to you differently, and has different needs from you both. 
  4. You get to be the fun, playful one, while she gets to be the one that feeds and is exhausted around the clock.
  5. While you used to be priority number 1, you may shift to number 2 (in priorities only not in affection), but that could just be because you won't scream or cry when you're ignored (you will probably take the space and go watch a sport). 
  6. Labor is a marathon in every possible way, be her champion. I recently read somewhere that it's like having 22 bones broken at the same time in terms of how much the body has to recover (women, don't panic, you have everything at your disposal in a hospital to make sure that you don't feel anything like that). 
  7. Your wife is going to be exhausted after, take charge and let her recover, sleep and bathe, while you ask the nurses to teach you how to do the diapers, and take care of your new baby. 
  8. The first night home was the toughest. All she wants to do is sleep, and all your baby wants to do is eat (and poop). So help change the diapers and do everything else, so that she can be in bed and just feed when needed. 
    Hospital Diaper Duty
  9. That should really happen every night as her body needs to recover and rest, and even make  milk (for your baby), if she is breast feeding. 
  10. When you go back to work, or leave, make sure the house is stocked up with food for your wife that is easily accessible and ready to eat! It's not easy doing things with a squirmy baby in one arm. (Nursing burns 500 or so calories a day, she will be hungry). 
  11. Tell her how far she has come and how much weight she has lost, not how much she has left to lose. It took 9 months to come on and it's normal to take that long to leave too. Plus, there are really not enough hours in the day to get to the gym regularly (or to have the energy to do so). 
  12. When home from work, try and give her a break. She may not ask for it, but even if it's just to lie down it's going to help recharge her batteries.
  13. Your wife is irreplaceable to your child, but don't forget that you are too. 
  14. While you are falling in love with your baby, don't forget to thank your wife for everything she has given up to get you both where you are, and to tell her you love her. (Women, make time to do the same even if it's just a simple text message). 
  15. When your baby is ready to take a bottle, leave your child with someone you trust and go out. Spend some baby free time, even if its just a movie. (This is cliche but so important to keep your relationship fresh). Note: The baby free time includes baby talk and that's only because I'm sure the men have heard it all and are up to speed already.
  16. Be patient while her body recovers.
  17. If your baby sleeps in your room, don't leave the room and sleep elsewhere. I'm sure it's tempting and that you might be working all day, but that's your primary family unit now, and your wife needs you. And (hopefully) your baby won't be in there forever.
  18. If your baby sleeps in your bed, don't be offended if your baby is between the mom and a guard rail (that is safer than having the baby between you too, unfortunately way too many babies have been hurt that way). I'm sure you are careful and aware of where your child is, but do you really want to take the risk?
  19. Be cautious with your blanket and pillows too.
  20. Don't forget that she is also working all day, if she is staying at home, her rewards are not financial and her work is around the clock as there are no breaks. If she goes to work, she's coming home and is on the job there too. 
  21. Seriously, don't mess the nest. (I've gotten up in the middle of the night to fix the drawer and I'm not that tidy. It's just something about moms and baby things). Though this isn't a way to get your wife out of bed either!
  22. Everyone asks how the baby is feeling, it's rare that people ask about the mom (post delivery). Your wife may not care when it's anyone else, but she will be upset if you forget about her too.
  23. Your mother-in-law can be your greatest asset. Welcome her as you will miss her (and the freedom you may get with her presence) when she is absent. 
  24. Though if you leave your wife and child with her and disappear to party (particularly if the party is a long flight away), you are likely to never hear the end of it (ever!) Babies are unpredictable and you never know when a growth spurt or sleep regression can hit.
  25. While you may be fascinated with all her body can do, resist the temptation to tell a room full of guests (or your male siblings), that milk starts flowing whenever the baby cries. She will be embarrassed and you will be in trouble!
  26. Smile for the camera, whether you have shaved or not. Those are memories you will all cherish someday.
I hope this post is helpful to all you new and expecting fathers and helps you realize that you are a pivotal part of it all too. Feel free to comment or let me know if there is something you do that is appreciated and other dads should know about.

Moms, step back and let the dads jump in. Show them how to do things without being critical, or let them figure it out on their own if they do not want the help. You will see that isn't just one way that works. (I know this is hard but it's worth it and important for your family).

Feel free to reach out if there's anything I can elaborate on.
More to come!

PS - I had to do two versions of this as my blogger didn't save, so if I missed anything/ have redundancies, feel free to let me know.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Things Every Parent Should Know About Starting Solid Foods:

As new parents, we all hear about how kids love or hate their food, sleep better with cereal, make a huge mess while eating, and so on. To me, a lot of this was fact and some turned out to be fiction. I must admit though, I was really excited to start solids. Not that nursing isn't easy and relatively mess-free at this point (5 months in, that is), but I wanted to see how much of mine and my husband's foodie gene is genetic. I was looking forward to yet another new experience with my baby.

There is a lot I knew about solids before starting and a number of decisions I made based on the information I had. However, the experience teaches you more than anything I read could have. For those who already know the basics, feel free to skip on to downward to look for pearls of wisdom through my experience.

What I knew before I started solids:

  1. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends starting solids (mushy solids of course) around 6 months of age because children should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months and there are doctors who believe that food allergies can be increased if solids are started too early. However, this research on allergies is not conclusive (and is even more unreliable for people without a family history of allergies). 
  2. Most American pediatricians recommend that solids be started between the ages of 4 and 6 months, as iron and vitamin D are nutrients that breastfed babies tend to be deficient in (formulas have this added in).
  3. Before 6 months, children are only learning to eat, even when solids are introduced. Breast milk and solids should be their primary form of nutrition. (The amount you are feeding your child should not go down even with solid food.) Some moms believe this to be true till 1 year but medically, your child should be getting 3 meals in addition to breast milk or formula by 9 months of age.
  4. Foods should be introduced one at a time so that if your child does have allergies you are not guessing to find out what caused it. Each new food should be consumed for 3 consecutive days. 
  5. You can continue to feed foods that your child does not have a reaction to, but add new foods every 3 days. 
  6. A number of cultures start with rice cereal but there is no evidence that one form of food is better than the other. You can start with veggies, fruits or cereal. 
  7. Some people advocate that you should start with vegetables as fruits can make children susceptible to getting a sweet tooth. However, other experts state that a predisposition to sweet things is predetermined by genes and food exposure in the womb so, what you start with is irrelevant. 
  8. Your child should be: able to hold their head steady, sit steady when held (or in a highchair), show an interest in food, and have lost their extrusion/tongue-thrust reflex (this is when they keep sticking their tongue out to avoid choking on things at an early age). 
  9. Some parents believe that their child walking up more or feeding more is a sign that they need food. Maybe so, but this could also be a growth spurt and there is no reason why they cannot get more food just from you. It could also simply be a sleep regression, or a habit that has developed from needing food in the middle of the night while younger. 
    For more on what you need to feed, click here.
  10. You should feed your baby solids just after breastmilk or formula but while they are still alert and awake.
  11. Your child could sleep more with solids, or wake up more (with gas from the solids). Both reactions are completely normal. 
  12. Even the most benign vegetables can cause gas in an infant's virgin belly and if they do, cereal can help. 
  13. Cereal should be mixed with breastmilk or formula, whatever your child is used to. 
  14. Expose your child to different foods and textures so that they learn to appreciate a variety of flavors. 
  15. If your child does not want to take a spoon, start by using your finger as their first spoon as that is most familiar to them. 
  16. Their tummies are the size of their fists, so do not be surprised if they eat very little. 
  17. While they learn to eat, it can be messy.
  18. You should not overfeed your baby as they will learn to ignore their body's hunger cues and later eat too much or too little. 
  19. Don't be afraid to stash the food if your baby is not hungry and try again later.
  20. You will know your baby is full when: they turn their head away or refuse to open their mouths.
  21. Foods to avoid until 1 year of age: cows milk, wheat, strawberries, nuts or egg whites (can cause allergies), honey (can cause botulism), chocolate or caffeine (do you really want to anyway?),  unpasteurized cheese (too much bacteria), shellfish, and too much juice (more sugar than nutrition, healthier to give baby the fruit). Note: Strawberries in packaged foods (like Ella's kitchen) are heated to a point where the allergens are destroyed. 
  22. Is it necessary to buy organic food? No it is not, most baby food only uses ascorbic acid (this is vitamin C) as a preservative so do not worry that you are putting preservatives into your child if you do not buy all organic. However, there is no harm in being safe if it is within your means and easily available to you. For the dirty dozen (fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides), stick to organic. These are: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, nectarines, cucumber, cherry tomato, snap peas and potato. Most of these are not first foods anyway. 
  23. Take out the quantity of food that you want to serve and keep the rest aside. Do not put the contaminated spoon in the clean food or you will have to throw away whatever is left.
  24. Best first vegetables based on being non-allergenic and nutritious: Sweet potato, carrot, winter squash, and then peas and string beans (greens come later as they can be gassy).
  25. Best first fruits: Apples, Bananas, Avocado and Pears.
Basically, there is an endless supply of information out there, and as you can see there are multiple sides to every story (and theory). At the end of the day you need to do what feels right for you and your baby. Below is what I decided to do.

The decisions I made:

  1. I bought all the essentials I needed - wipeable bibs, plastic spoons, suction bowls, secure highchair, and finally, the food. (For more on baby products and what you need to feed please see my post on baby shopping.)
  2. I choose to buy all my baby food. Having set the microwave on fire twice in the last year (don't ask me how, I have no clue!), I didn't want to experiment my culinary prowess with my child. However, this completely your decision, there is no right or wrong, it is what works for you. If you choose to buy, check expiry dates and refrigeration and heating instructions carefully.
    Baby food galore
  3. I considered feeding Riaan solids at 4 months, after the green light from our MD to start as soon as I feel ready. We were going through a severe sleep regression, and he was suddenly feeding 6 hours a day (instead of our normal 4). I was tempted to start solids or cereal, just to get some sleep. However I slept on it (or tried to) and then decided that I was lucky to be able to feed him as much as I could and that while he was interested in food he didn't really need it.
  4. I did however, test to see whether his tongue thrust reflex was gone. I did so by feeding him milk with a spoon. Most of it did come out but it could have also just been the consistency. I did discover though that he loved the spoon, and was trying to move his face toward it for more (even though he had just been fed till he stopped himself).
    Our spoon and milk test!
  5. I held out almost another month, his sleep regression ended, and we went on vacation and came back. A few days before he turned 5 months I decided to start, mostly because I knew he was ready for it and interested in food, and a little bit because I was excited to see his reaction to food and also did not want to start solids too close to our moving date (just after he turns 6 months).
  6. I knew I was going to start out with vegetables. I wanted to start with something more nutritious than cereal (even though it is not as filling), and less sweet than fruits.
  7. I decided to mix cereal and most of his first foods (definitely all vegetables) with breastmilk (eventually only 1 ounce) so that the taste is more familiar and the food is more easily digested.
  8. I gave him sweet potato for the first three days, carrot for the next three, apple for the 3 after that (with carrot for dinner), banana for three after that (with sweet potato for dinner). We then did three days of winter squash for lunch (alternating carrot and sweet potato for dinner), and are now working on a peach and banana mix for lunch (will do veggies for dinner). 
  9. I switched to two meals a day after week 1, because cereal at night is helping him sleep better (even though he isn't feeding any less from me).
  10. Once a food has no reaction or allergies and is cleared (by you), you can add other things to it. It's fine to mix foods as long as you introduce only one new one at a time and know at any given point what the new food is. 
  11. I introduce new foods only at lunch time, incase he gets gassy or has a reaction I want to be able to see it during the day. 
  12. I do not mix fruit with anything, but I also do not give him fruit for dinner. I like giving him cereal and vegetables at night as they are more wholesome, keep him full longer and I prefer to avoid sugar at night.
  13. On days that I introduce new vegetables, he does not get any fruit. I will eventually give him both daily but after he has been introduced to a bigger variety of foods.
  14. I stopped adding milk after 2-3 weeks, as he got used to the thicker texture. 

First bite on it's way in (and then out)..

Here are some takeaways from my experience:

  1. Even the most simple seeming high chairs take time to assemble, so do it before hand. Our footrest is still wrong side up!
  2. Make sure your table, bib, high chair and baby are all easily cleanable. 
  3. Do not make your child wear anything that you wanted to frame, or even use for another (future) child. 
  4. Bowls that have suction at the bottom are even more important than I could have imagined. Though the suction will not stop little fingers from ending up in the bowl (and then all over the place) anyway. 
    Sweet potato spread
  5. Your baby will go through phases while learning to eat. Mine started by lapping up the food like a puppy, gurgling in it, spitting half the food out while closing his mouth and finally swallowing most of it down. (All these steps do not necessarily happen the same day.)
  6. Mixing food with breastmilk is a great idea, but the food will also be spat up like breastmilk so keep your baby upright for a little bit after.
  7. You can gradually change the consistency by reducing the amount of milk mixed in. I started with 2 ounces but that resulted in too much food for his tiny tummy so I had to quickly go down to one ounce. ( I didn't mix milk in with fruits.)
  8. Only start with one or two table spoons of food (your the judge as you know how hungry your child is or how much they eat), their tummies are really small. You can increase it if you think your baby wants more.
  9. Try different techniques to teach your baby how to eat - use your finger if the spoon is unfamiliar and not easily accepted, or leave the spoon in the baby's mouth for a few seconds after each bite (if they do accept it) so that they get accustomed to it and take the food off it (eventually). 
  10. Make sure you have your camera handy to capture that adorable food covered face!
  11. The first feeding will take almost an hour from set up to clean up, it gets quicker after that. 
  12. Initially, more comes out than goes in (I kept scoping it up from his face and putting it back in his mouth). Feel free to keep a bib on your baby for an hour or so after you have fed him. You can switch from a wipeable bib to a softer one. 
  13. My son loved his food (and exhibited this love more on day 2 of sweet potato), even thumped on the table and opened his mouth as he waited for more bites. However, he spat a crazy amount of it out, through the day (spit up records were made) on the second day, so I mixed cereal (baby brown rice from Happy Baby) in with his sweet potato on day 3. That really helped!
  14. The change in consistency to less watery and more heavy helped keep the food down, and reduce any reflux he may have had.
  15. Spend time trying to understand your babies cues as they may not be what you expect. On day 4 (after starting carrot), he started crying while eating but kept his mouth open and wanted more. I kept going and gave him more as I thought he was frustrated with the speed of the food (since he is used to a constant flow). However, I tried cutting back on the quantity the next day (this was when I cut the milk added to half), and we have had no more crying at mealtime. 
  16. Some kids need you to talk them through their meal. Even though Riaan LOVES his food, he begins to day dream while I am feeding him and will open his mouth but forget to swallow. I have to talk to him (I recite his favorite books) or sing, and he stays focused and eats happily. He now eats more than he did before and whines if I stop talking to him or look away while feeding him.  
    Pre-mealtime distraction
  17. Be prepared to change your routine based on what your child needs. I added two meals a day even though I was only planning to do one. It's double the work but he does seem fuller (the last feed of the day is shorter resulting in less spit up and quicker sleep).
  18. Make sure you measure how much you are feeding (by tablespoons or ounces, whatever is easy for you) and keep track of it.  It breaks my heart to throw milk (even when food is mixed in with it).
  19. It is easy to make more than you intended to once you mix in milk, cereal and food.
  20. Less milk added = less spit up after!
  21. Keep track of what your baby likes and doesn't like, and his reactions. (In your phone or some place easily accessible.)
  22. Babies don't need hot food but if your food is homemade or refrigerated, do reheat to kill bacteria. Make sure you test the temperature (yourself and/or with a temperature testing baby spoon). I only serve room temperature food and not hot, as I wait for it to cool down after I place the packet in hot water.
  23. Babies do not need water until they are 1 year old, at least breastfed babies (and all babies till 6 months). Water is usually introduced in limited quantities (with an MD's instruction) at 6 months. I chose to start sippy cup training with solids and offer Riaan a cup of water (it only has one ounce in it and he maybe gets a couple drops at best) at mealtime. It will take a while for your baby to learn to use this so start early! You can offer milk (not cows, breast or formula only) instead of water if you prefer, but I personally don't want to waste my milk. Let your baby hold it, play with it and get used to the idea that there are other forms of liquid with different routes to drink  them.
    Sippy Cup Training
  24. If you have a fur baby like I do, keep paper napkins or cleaning cloths handy to wipe up immediately, unless you don't mind your baby food being cleaned up for you. 
  25. When your baby starts to grab the spoon, give him his own. But ensure that it is not metal (yours shouldn't be either, as rubber is easier on the gums), and that your baby doesn't use it to accidentally scoop food out of his own mouth. (Or start a swordlike spoon fight)
    Trying his own spoon
  26. Beware of diaper rash (double up on the preventive vitamin A and D ointment I mentioned in my previous post), as new substances are introduced into the diaper that can irritate your baby's skin.
  27. Your baby may fart a lot (I'm not kidding!) as their digestive system matures and they get used to food (I'm hoping thats really it and that this isn't just a male gene coming into play). I used to be able to tell when Riaan pooped from the sound but no longer can as it is gas more often than not. 
  28. Forget everything you knew about baby poop until you start solids. I don't think I knew anything until I had to clean carrot poop out of Riaan's hair (don't ask!)
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions and good luck with your baby food adventures! 
More to come!xx

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baby Shopping Guide that Every New Parent Should Have:

Preparing for a new baby can be daunting, specially when it comes to picking the right products. There is an endless supply of adorable baby things and given that every parent wants the best that they can afford for their baby, the choices can be overwhelming. However, if you know where to start looking, buying your baby's things can be really fun! It will also help prepare you for the little life that is about to change yours.

Dads, you probably don't feel like it's real as yet (even though you may tell your wives you do). My husband recently admitted that he was only pretending to feel the kicks and didn't really feel like he was going to be a parent until our son was in his arms. However, this is your chance to get involved. Try not to want to buy everything (that your wife has already purchased) after the baby is born.

If you have already had your little ones, this list can still be of benefit to you. Due to our upcoming move to India (and my conviction that I may not get the things I need there as easily, since I don't know what is available and haven't lived there in over a decade), I have purchased everything I thought I would need until Riaan turns two. (I really had to resist shopping for any future kids I may have.)

Also, if anyone knows a rehabilitation center for Amazon withdrawal symptoms please do send the information my way. Due to my addiction, I have bought multiple versions of products and been able to choose the ones I like and so I am basing this list on Riaan and my preferences.

To my international readers, I know most of these products link to Amazon US, but I still wanted to give you access to the links so that you could see what I am talking about and try and find it where you live, or at least read the features and find a similar product.

Note: I do not receive endorsements from any company.  My only goal with this list is to help you streamline your baby shopping, by letting you know the product features that my family loves.
While waiting for Riaan, with the amazingly creative and talented Namita Azad and her camera.

(Almost) 100 Things every baby is likely to need:


  1. Clothes: Just pick what you like! Sizes are tricky though, if your child is born above 8lbs they will not fit into any clothes in the newborn category.  However, even though I did not buy any newborn clothes I did have to run out and purchase them because my son was born 2 weeks early at alb 9oz. So pick a few outfits in the newborn size (just full length onesies will work best since your baby is going to be feeling a little cold at first). If you live some place really warm though or are having a summer baby, shop accordingly. Buy clothes in different sizes instead of buying too much in any one size and keep them organized by size to avoid having too many PJs in one size and none in another.
  2. Nightsuits: I found that the two pieces last longer than the one pieces (size wise). However, the onesies with buttons are easier to change at night (due to diaper leaks and spit up). Avoid velcro for nightwear, it's noisy and can poke once it gets rough in the machine! Absorba is my favorite PJ brand as they are soft cotton, have accurate sizing, go on easily and wear well; plus they are adorable!
  3. Shoes and socks: I bought gorgeous loafers online in size 2 (thinking they were 2T) while I was pregnant! Now I am trying to make my baby wear each one at least once (there's no point to shoes before they can walk, specially when all your baby wants to do is hold his feet). Definitely check the sizing guide before buying shoes for your baby. Socks though are a necessity to keep those feet warm and because people (even ones you don't know or like) love touching baby feet! 
    Waiting for our baby to fill those little shoes, during a maternity photoshoot from the talented Namita Azad, Namita Azad Photography.
  4. Swaddle cloths: These can be multipurpose, as we used ours as blankets in the winter (my son is a "polar vortex baby") and burp cloths till date. If your child doesn't have the Houdini gene and is able to keep their hands in a homemade swaddle, it is more economical to buy swaddle cloths than to keep going up a size. Muslin swaddles stretch the most and dry quickly, and Aden and Anais are my absolute favorite due to their adorable prints, softness and lasting quality. 
  5. Pre-made swaddles: These are amazing for children with the Houdini gene, midnight diaper changes and for parents who aren't great with the old-fashioned swaddle (I know my Husband thinks these are a gift). While the velcro ones are great they do not come in big sizes and will stick to everything in your laundry. Halo Sleep does have a sleep sack swaddle (it does have velcro but also a zip), which is great since it zips from the bottom up and helps you change diapers without having to redo your squirmy baby's arms. These are only available in one size though and start at 14lbs up. Aden and Anais have a beautiful selection of muslin pre made swaddles that are really comfortable and keep baby's arms in best. They come in 2 sizes and can be used by your tiny infants. 
    Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle
  6. Sleepsacks: (once you have graduated from a swaddle): While there are multiple companies you can go to for these, I love the Halo ones since they zip from the bottom up, and at this point since your baby has no use for the arms and the fabric is completely on top of the pjs. You get a suggestion of velour, cotton and muslin and can pick based on your baby's needs. Sizes go up to 18 months for the normal one and they now have one with legs for kids who walk (currently, I prefer the bag since Riaan is trying to eat his feet). 
  7. Diapers: Don't buy too many newborn diapers, I had to give mine away! But definitely get 2 weeks worth as the belly cutout is very useful for umbilical cord stubs. The wetness indicator that both Huggies and Pampers have are really useful too! 
  8. Wipes:  You can never have too many! 
  9. Wipe warmer: Will help prevent your baby from screaming in the cold winter or in a cold room.  Below is the Munchkin one we use.
    Munchkin wipe warmer with nightlight.
  10. Bibs: Feel free to buy cute bibs that say entertaining stuff, everything is adorable on your baby!
  11. Burp cloths: Don't bother with those tiny napkins or really small burp cloths, bigger is better here as it generates less laundry and is also less annoying to keep track of. 
  12. Crib/ Bassinet: I bought a convertible crib/ changer for our new place (he will be 6 months old when we move), but used a bassinet until he outgrew it (most bassinets have 15 to 20 pound limits). We are currently using a travel crib since we are moving in less than a month. Even for parents who chose to co-sleep you will need a safe place to keep your baby for nap time or just so you can get an alone pee break.
    Our summer infant bassinet, with a device for white noise and vibrations. 
  13. Blanket: While blankets are known to increase the risk of SIDS, if they are tucked in safely and securely they will not harm your baby. I kept blankets (sometimes swaddles) in every room through the winter, as we needed them. 
  14. Baby pillow: The right pillow can help prevent flat head syndrome, but even if not used in the baby's bed (only use it if it can be secured, ours was the same width as our bassinet), moms can use it to lie down and sleep so that baby is on the same level as her breast. Clevamama has a lovely memory foam pillow that is thin and the right size for your little one's neck.
  15. Co-sleeper: While I do not have much experience with these products, I do know that there are safe ways to co-sleep. A guard rail is helpful so that baby can sleep between mom and the rail (safer than sleeping under covers between parents), and some even stowaway in the day. Arms Reach also has beautiful, well reputed and safe co-sleepers that I was looking into before I picked my bassinet. These will give you a little more space and keep baby next to mom but in their own safe area.
  16. Rocker: Since babies are born needing a fourth trimester, and used to being rocked to sleep inside mom's body, these are really helpful in the early days. Rock and Play sleepers seem to be popular but if you want your child to learn to sleep stationary and keep the rocker for emergencies and naps you can strike a safe balance (eventually, in the beginning baby may prefer this to anything flat or stationary).  I loved our 4Moms MamaRoo rocker with multiple types of automated motions. Riaan slept in this really well initially and it helped give us some relief on those endless sleepless nights. He reached a point where he wasn't interested anymore as he prefers to be further upright when awake, and I prefer to put him to sleep in his bed, but it was definitely worth every cent. 
    My newborn in his 4Moms MamaRoo Rocker 
  17. Changing Table: Definitely worth investing in one with drawers and storage space. Specially if you don't have someplace high to change your baby, as mom's tired back will need some relief and bending over will not help. 
  18. Diaper Genie: My husband didn't see the point of this until he realized how many diapers are generated in a day, and how many times a newborn poops at night. It really does help keep the smell in and you won't be running to a compactor through the night. We use the Playtex Diaper Genie and love it, though there are several options out there. 
  19. Creams and Bath products: This really depends on you but there are all types out there, Organic, environmentally friendly Honest Company has some great products in this category  and is one of my favourites, as is Mustela's new born range!
  20. Massage lotion: The Aveeno calming comfort lotion is great, specially because they have a nighttime one with oatmeal that even works on sensitive skin and for babies with allergies. Plus, I think the smell helps Riaan sleep better.
  21. Diaper Rash Cream: Using a Vitamin A and D cream overnight is great for keeping diaper rashes at bay, but when that little tush does get an outbreak, it is quickest to use something with Zinc Oxide. Desitin provides quick relief and instantly for us.
  22. Sunscreen: Whether to use sunscreen on an infant (under 6 months old) is hotly debated. However, sunscreens with natural products are safe, and it is definitely better to have some sun protection than none, specially if your baby is outdoors or in the pool. Try to keep most of their body covered though and use hats and rash guards, use small amounts of sunscreen on the exposed areas. Feel free to slather it on if your child is over 6 months of age. My personal favorite is Babyganics sunscreen, the products are all natural and the sunscreen is available in a spray for easy application. 
  23. Insect repellent: I haven't had to use these yet but I picked up insect repellent patches for our move, and also babyganic's insect repellent spray (I trust that company since all their other products have worked well for me). I have personally used the california baby insect repellent which is also very good, though I am not sure how widely available it is internationally.
  24. Other rash cream: Aquaphor is a hidden gem, great for rashes everywhere, including on the face (spit up and teething rash included). 
  25. Perfume: I know a lot of people like these but I think my baby's skin is sensitive enough and personally I love the smell of baby lotion. 
  26. Oils: Johnson and Johnson baby oil now comes in a gel form which isn't sticky! However, for everyday use we just use lotion and the oil was only used when Riaan was a newborn for that dry newborn skin.
  27. Cradle cap cream: Finding the right cream was this was really tough! Specially because most people try to use oil and since cradle cap is actually caused by an oil build up, that does NOT help. Use oil for a maximum of 15 minutes (any almond or mineral oil) to help scrape off scales before a bath but to actually get rid of cradle cap the only thing worked (for us it cleared things up in a month) was the Mustela Stelaker cradle cap cream. Leave it on over night (I left it on about 24 hours, maybe used it 6 times at most), and his scalp was completely clear!
  28. Nasal Aspiration: If your little one doesn't like saline solution up his nose, you can use a snotsucker, these are easiest when baby is in a tub, or if the steam has been running. Nose Frida has the best one that I know of, and is really easy and convenient to use. You can also use a q-tip in collaboration with the snotsucker, to help clean up quicker.
  29. Pacifier thermometer: Most thermometers come with a note that it is more accurate to take a baby's temperature rectally since babies won't hold things in their mouths long or will move them around with their tongue. However, they do hold onto things they can suck (and I am not shoving anything up my son's butt). This pacifier thermometer is an amazing invention. There is a medicine dispensing pacifier too but with all the medicine flavors now, getting syrups into babies is usually not an issue. 
  30. Safety swabs: These are amazing for cleaning baby's ears without actually going into the ear and risking damaging the eardrum. They clean well behind the ear too. Johnson & Johnson's safety swabs.
  31. Teething gel: Most doctors do not recommend gels with benzocaine even though I am sure they are more effective (I won't try though), because they can reduce the oxygen in baby's blood and have other scary side effects. Oragel Naturals does have an all-natural benzocaine-free gel, which is great! It is helpful when your baby won't nurse due to teething pain but it may be better to just use ice as the effect does not last long, since it wipes away. The homeopathic drops gave Riaan diarrhea (all-night) since it has camomile in it in higher doses than the teething gel, while Hylands Tablets (really popular with moms) has Belladona, a hallucinogen, and has been recalled in the past due to this ingredient, so Oragel Naturals is the safest. 
    Baby Oragel naturals
  32. Infant Bath Tub: There are a crazy amount of these out there of all price ranges! Keep in mind - your baby may feel cold if they are not immersed in the water, and so a tub that holds water is better than a seat that you pour water onto. Also, a tub that has a device to hold baby up so they don't slip and space for them to sit upright in when older may last you the longest. We use the aqua scale 3 in 1, which is convenient as it is multipurpose and anti-slip (though my baby scale has never worked). 
    Our infant to toddler convertible tub
  33. Towels: Choose something soft (though they will continue to soften over time with washes), and with a hood so that your baby's hair can be covered and dried while you dry and cream your baby's body.
  34. Baby nails clippers: Small clippers are a little easier to use than scissors when your baby is pulling his hands away, I have tried both. Nail files are the easiest, but take much longer so if your child will give you their hands easily (try in the tub), don't be afraid to use the clippers. 
  35. Baby Safe Detergent: Buy a baby safe detergent, what you use depends on whats available to you and your preferences, I personally love the smell of Dreft and haven't had any issues with reactions or skin allergies to the chemicals in it, I believe it is made for sensitive baby skin. 
  36. Baby safe Bleach: Aden and Anais has a great chlorine free bleach. It is definitely worth having a bottle on hand for when baby wears white shorts for the first time and poop just happens to explode on them! (or when daddy does the same - with baby's poop exploding of course).
  37. Humidifier: We have tried a few different ones and neither has worked well for long (one wet my floors!), I believe we tried Crane and then AeroSwiss, so let me know if you have recommendations! But it does help specially in the winter to keep baby's nose (comparatively) unclogged.
  38. Pacifiers: This is controversial again but I see no harm in them if it can help your baby self soothe and you don't want to become a human pacifier. Do not introduce before 1 month of age though to avoid nipple confusion, and only use if you are certain that your child is not hungry. Also try and wean your baby off by 6 months as it can cause ear infections and orthodontic trouble. We only used these for a month but it helped when it did. The Avent Soothie was the easier to use, even though its not the cutest one. Also, pacifier wipes and a pacifier clip is handy (don't leave this around baby's neck though). 
  39. Baby monitor: I did not need a video monitor as I have a dropcam to keep an eye on Coco, and continue to use that (wifi access to your camera from anywhere). However, for sound we use the Philips Avent Baby Monitor. They do have one with Video too for the same price but I would recommend the drop cam for that since you can login remotely or from your cellphone if you are not home.
  40. Baby carrier: There are a ton of options out there again, I used the moby at home and Riaan loves it, but it's impossible to put him down when he's asleep as he wakes up (with any baby carrier though), it is a little easier to do that with a baby sling, though the slings don't feel as sturdy. Try both and see what works for you! For outdoors though I don't think there is anything with more support, and that is more sturdy than the Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier. There is a whole range to choose from, we use the Miracle carrier, it really is a miracle how much my baby loves that thing! 
    Nap time with dad, in the Baby Bjorn
  41. Car seat: Even if you take cabs and don't have a car (I no longer have one either), it is safer for your little one to be secured in a car seat. Britax B-Safe (rare facing infant seat) is reputed as the safest and that is what we use. It also snaps in easily into a new car/rental  if you are using the base, and snaps into our Bugaboo stroller.
    Newly installed car seat to bring baby home from the hospital.
  42. Car mirror: These are great for your baby to entertain themselves in the back seat but also for you to keep an eye on your little one through your rare view mirror while driving. There are a whole bunch of these to choose from including ones that have music and can be adjusted by a remote.
  43. Stroller: Dads can really have fun here! There are a ton of strollers to choose from so see what fits your needs best. We picked the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 which I absolutely love as my car seat snaps in and its a really smooth ride. However, I believe the Bugaboo Bee is easier to fold, though my husband found it too low for him and he didn't want to have to keep bending over. The Cameleon comes with a bassinet which unfortunately we used less than 5 times, as we used the car seat on the bugaboo base and Riaan did not like being flat. However, he LOVES the toddler seat it's angle adjusts and it can be made flat for nap time. It is not the most conducive to travel with but for everyday use and for walks it is amazing. Uppababy has similar features for parents who do not want to spend as much (ours was a gift from my brother who is an extremely indulgent uncle).
    Waking up from nap time in our Bugaboo Cameleon.
  44. Mommy Hook: Must for every stroller! Even if you have space under the stroller to store things a buggy or mommy hook is perfect to keep bags on your stroller (don't overload the weight though or your baby will tip over) specially when you have to run out to the grocery store or just to run errands. I love the shape of the buggy gear heart hook since it sits well on my the stroller and is easy to put bags onto even when your hands are relatively full.
    Buggy gear heart hook
  45. Diaper Bag: I initially picked the skip hop essential duo diaper bag because of the price and the convenience.It is really popular so if you don't carry a ton of stuff everywhere like I do it will work for you. I ended up switching because I didn't find it easy to organize my multitude of things in here and wanted something wider. The Danzo Hobo Diaper bag, fits on my bugaboo handle and not under the stroller (it's wide) but it's super organized and has fun pockets than you can customize with labels and I love it. I usually shove my wallet, keys and phone in there though as it's easier for me to get in and out of taxis with the car seat and only one bag and this is large enough. It comes with a changing pad but not a case for your wipes so make sure to pick up a small wipe case too. 
Inside pockets of the Danzo Hobo Diaper bag.

For solids:

  1. Spoons: Rubberized or plastic spoons is best on those infant gums. We love this set from Munchkin.
  2. Bowls: Get something with a suction cup at the bottom so that your baby can't knock it over (and make sure the suction cup is working/ activated properly!) We use the Munchkin stay put suction bowls.
    Solids Time!
  3. High chair: Have fun with these dad! I have a really simple one currently, but shipped a more fun Fisher Price one (with toys and trays) to India. I think that will help keep Riaan focused on eating, as I currently have to sing to him or recite his favorite books to keep his attention (even though he keeps opening his mouth to eat more he gets distracted). I originally thought I could feed Riaan in something else (MamaRoo or Jumperoo) so I did not have to buy a highchair for one month, but it is necessary as baby needs to be strapped in properly, stationary and upright.
  4. Highchair cleaner: I wanted something organic, specially for those straps since he does try and get them into his mouth. Babyganics has an all natural but very effective highchair cleaner that does the job just right. (Also works with toys).
  5. Storage bowls: Anything small will do, these are more necessary if you are making your food at home. I keep our food in the packet it comes in. (Do not save anything that has been contaminated or been eaten from, serve your child first and put away the rest before it has been eaten from).
  6. Wipeable bibs: These are a necessity for solids, specially ones that collect the food at the bottom. Have fun with these, there are so many options! 
  7. Food Grinder: I bought the one from Munchkin but haven't used it yet though it is well reputed and reviewed, and NUK has a food masher with great reviews.
  8. Storage tray: For packaged food, make sure you have a place to keep them baby food together and organized.
    Riaan's colorful food storage tray
  9. Mesh Feeder: Super for homemade food, even if your child can't hold it. They can get juices and nutrients out of bananas and avocado and it does a lot of the work for you (the mushing part), and can help teach your child how to hold on to food and also prepare them for real solids/ finger foods. The munchkin fresh food feeder is great!
    Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder
  10. Training Sippy Cup: Babies do not need water before 6 months, specially if they are breast fed they get most of their water from mommy. However, you can start training your baby to use a sippy cup before 6 months. Add one ounce (30 ml) of water and let your baby test it out. Maybe they will get it by 6 months! Also, if they do get some water in this tiny amount cannot do any damage (I checked with my MD, I  promise). They need to start learning just to hold it and get it to their mouths. I tried a few but the Philips Avent Trainer cup is the best so far, has two handles (helpful since we don't know if baby is left or right handed though we may have an inkling), is leak proof and BPA free. 
    Sippy Cup Training time!

  11. Baby Bottle holder: This does not work with my medela bottles but do work with a number of others including our sippy cup, and this Ba baby bottle holder is a really smart invention.
    Ba Baby Bottle Holder
  12. Food dispensing spoon: I haven't used this yet (since we just started solids and I am still getting used to what quantity of food he wants) but I cannot wait to use it, seems like the best invention ever. It may be particularly useful for my son (and new feeders) who gets frustrated in the seconds it takes for me to fill his spoon since he is used to a constant flow. It really is a food dispensing spoon!
    No, this is not my baby dyed blonde. 

Fun stuff:

  1. Baby gym: There are so many that it was difficult to choose and I kept second guessing whether I picked the right gym, maybe I should have gotten one with more toys. But, I definitely picked the right baby gym! The Fisherprice kick and play piano is perfect for tummy time and for baby to hit and grab those toys. Also the music keeps baby entertained, and the mirror is just perfect as your baby will respond to their own face even before he or she responds to toys. 
    Riaan, at 2 weeks old, on his kick and play.
  2. Jumperoo: This is great once your baby hits the 3 month mark (even if their feet don't touch down). I would initially sit with him so that he didn't bob his head, but once his head got steady I could leave him in here while I ate or ran to the bathroom. It keeps him entertained for a while and the seat on our Fisherprice Jumperoo spins around which is great so he can play with all the toys. These are also great for helping baby build these leg muscles which will come in handy when they are ready to start walking. Fisherprice has quite a few so pick the ones you like or pick another with the features necessary, I think it is important that the seat spins, that there is something in front and overhead, and that the height is adjustable. And of course, there should be music! 
    Baby feet (they do reach the ground now) in motion.
  3. Walker: These are not recommended so if you are considering getting one beware that they have been associated with baby injuries as they tend to move really fast (and your child can crash into things). We don't have one. However, if you are keen on getting one, get something that your child can walk with (once they are walking), instead of something they sit inside of, before they can actually walk. 
  4. Rattles: These are really fun as you can see your child's response to the sound and also sight once he recognizes his rattle. Riaan loves a mickey rattle that he has used on his changing table since before he could hold it. I also love the NogginStik, which is a great developmental tool and the sound, mirror and lights keep my baby fascinated.
  5. Easy to hold toys are great once baby starts reaching for things. Rings, Round rattles, and baby keys.
  6. Black and White toys: Babies respond to black and white before color, and so anything with black and white patterns will draw their interest (including Mickey Mouse due to the contrast of colors).
  7. Teething rings: are great but get ones you can freeze as they will bring the most relief to your child. The smaller the area (for them to bite) the better as it actually is easier for them to keep in their little mouths. Also, teething pacifiers are great for kids who take pacifiers.
    Finally able to hold the teether and get it into his mouth at 5 months (he started teething at 3 months).
  8. Soft blocks: While wooden blocks  and alphabet blocks are great for older kids, soft blocks are amazing for the younger ones. I use these to entice Riaan to crawl forward or just for him to knock down stacks that I build for him. 
    Bright Starts colorful soft blocks.
  9. Sophie the giraffe: Sophie is reputed to be the best and easiest to hold teether on the market. I do not have one as I know Coco will want it since it is rubber and squeaks.
  10. Stuffed animals: You can never have too many of these but make sure you wash them regularly to avoid dust mites and fur bunnies. 
  11. Bath books and toys: Bath toys are great, but if your pet enjoys them more than your baby, you will need something to entertain your human child. Riaan has a series of elmo bath books that he loves (and now recognizes with a big dimply smile), and also a set of Sassy bath books that are really fun and colorful. These tend not to have a lot of words so that you can describe the pictures and talk to your child about what they are looking at. 
  12. Spiral toy: I bought this not knowing where I would use it and now I don't know what I would do without it. "Simba and Kitty" as we refer to these little ones, live on our car seat (or stroller) and have become Riaan's security blanket when we go out. He gazes at them lovingly while falling asleep, holds on to them when in motion and moves them around when he wants to play. Definitely recommend this for a crib, stroller or carseat. Ours is the Lamaze Activity Spiral.
    In Central Park with Kitty and Simba.
  13. Lovey: You know all those 12 by 12 blankets with stuffed animals you got as gifts? They can be used to cultivate a lovey or a security blanket for your child that he learns to sleep with (ultimate goal is for him to sleep with it and without you). Babies need to be trained to use these though (keep it between mommy and baby while feeding) and by baby at night. However, I didn't feel too safe with a loose blanket and chose something Riaan could throw around instead, we use Aden and Anais Musy Mate Bunny. I figure, it's also easy to replace if something happens to ours (and Baby won't sleep without it)
  14. Developmental Toys: Have fun picking these for your child, right now they just need something they can learn to hold on to, and that is colorful and won't hurt them, so whatever you like and can afford will work for them too.
  15. Lamaze toys: Our absolute favorite due to the colors, black and white patterns, mirrors, crinkle and squeaking sounds. I don't think you can go wrong with any of these.
    Loving his Lamaze Toys! (yes, you are seeing a foot inbetween his hands too)
  16. Books, books, books: Read to your little ones! It is one of the best habits you can cultivate as no matter what technology comes up with, we are likely going to have to read how to use it. They will learn to love books if they hear them in their parents voices. Riaan's favorites right now (at 5 months are): Goodnight moon, Baby Bear Baby Bear What do you see (& Series), Hungry Caterpillar, Ten little fingers and ten little toes, More More More says the baby, Love you Forever, Curious George Touch and Feel books and Where is Spot. 

For travel:

  1. Travel Bed: For those who read my last post, you know that I think you should get baby into this before you travel. I do think it is important (despite training issues) to have a travel bed though that is light and easily portable. There are several in the market - Phil & Teds, Leachco, Lotus etc. We picked the Bjorn travel bed because of it's easy assembly, light weight and the mattress pad (it is plusher than the others and yet sturdy). The sheets are pricey so try and get them from another company if you can (there are some generics out there, at least on amazon). I did also buy the Lotus travel crib (for a long-distance grandparents house) but have not used it as yet.
    Playtime in our Baby Bjorn travel crib 
  2. Umbrella stroller: These are great as they can be wheeled up to the airplane, and fold very easily. We just picked up the Uppababy G-Luxe and loved the smooth ride, easy folding, color options, sunshade cup holder, maneuverability and most of all the price! Maclaren had some great options too but we liked this one more.
  3. Foldable high chair: You could make do with one parent holding the baby or even using your stroller (with you on the floor), but I think it's easier to use what your little one is used to and take a collapsible/ foldable high chair that clips on to the table. This lobster chair by Phil&Teds is my pick. Chicco has a less expensive option if you do not think you will use it as much as I know I will.
  4. Inflatable tub: I prefer to give Riaan his own space in the bath than to hold him in the shower with me, so if you don't want to lug your bath tub around (specially for a trip by plane), pick up an inflatable tub. (Use strictly supervised though, most are for children 6 months and up) I love this adorable sesame street inflatable tub with bottle holder for your products.
  5. Co-sleeper: It is great to have a place to keep baby that is safe while you are in a hotel or in a house that isn't carpeted. Something that your child can play in or that works as a diaper changing area is perfect. We used the Leachco Nap N Pack, you can even use this to sleep as a co-sleeper at home or on vacation. It folds up into a little bag.
  6. Foot pump: Way better than a hand pump for those inflatable pools, floats and toys.
  7. Baby armbands: These are great and actually do come in sizes 3 months plus! 
  8. Baby floats and boats: Swimschool has some great products that can accommodate you and your little ones. The one I used said 6 months up, but I held on to Riaan to keep him steady constantly and had arm bands on him too. I recently picked up a baby and me combo that will be more helpful since I am holding on to him anyway.
  9. Swim diapers: You can pick between disposable and reusable. The disposable ones (I read this on a mom chat recently) apparently do not hold in pee too well, and need to be put on just before getting into the pool. Their purpose is to contain poop from getting into the pool. I used the disposable ones because I did not trust the reusable to contain the poo as well, but next time I will be trying a combination of the two. Huggies and Pampers both have disposable swim diapers.

For nursing:

  1. Nursing pads: Self explanatory, helps contain those leaks. Also, for people who don't want to wear bras at night, you can stick them under your t-shirt! The Johnson and Johnson ones were good, but Lansinoh are better. They are more adhesive, both seemed equally absorbent and comfortable. 
  2. Lanolin: Again, the Lansinoh lanolin is the best (it's what they are known for). The Medela lanolin was too creamy for me and the tube was stiff and ripped open from the back. 
  3. Lechitin: If nothing else, these will help  you lose weight. But for me, lechitin pills saved my breastfeeding relationship with my son. There were only a finite number of tears from blocked ducts that I had in me, and these help make your milk less sticky and eventually the blocked ducts just stopped. I take 1000mg a day normally (some brands only make pills in 1200 mg and thats fine too), and then double that if I have an issue or feel a problem coming on. 
  4. Nursing pillow: I got a free nursing pillow from while pregnant (they always have super deals) and thought it was great! I needed a second one for India though and bought the Boppy and that is amazing too! The former does the job for sure, but Boppy was plusher and can hold your baby securely too. Which one you choose just depends on your needs and willingness to spend, I recommend both and still use both.
    My Blue Minky from
  5. Mother's love: More Milk Plus are pills (or teas) are great for boosting supply and definitely worth it! I could see the change in output when I started them and they definitely were helpful when establishing supply. Luckily I was able to maintain mine without issues after I stopped (they do give heartburn, at least they did to me).  Definitely worth it though while you are trying to pump up your supply. It's all natural, even vegan.
  6. Milk Screen (alcohol test): I know a lot of moms do not drink while nursing, but 9 months of sobriety was my limit. There are safe ways to drink and still nurse without your child getting any alcohol. You can drink small amounts of wine (2 hours before nursing) a few times a week (too frequently can inhibit milk supply). If you do go out though and drink more, give your baby a bottle (or have someone else give it while you are away), and when you do nurse next, test your milk with Milkscreen to make sure your little one isn't getting a buzz or hangover with you. 

For pumping:

  1. Pump: I've used a single manual pump (geez, arm muscle cramps!) in a car no less before I discovered my Medela had a battery pack, and I strongly recommend a double sided electric pump. Feel free to rent or borrow from a hospital or even someone who isn't using it currently (get your own accessories). I personally love my pump in style Medela pump, I haven't tried any other but haven't had any issues at all which this and find it extremely comfortable and easy to use.
  2. Pumping Bra: I was appalled at the concept at first (of the handsfree pumping bra), but it's impossible to hold those bottles/ bag in place. Definitely worth it! Buy two if you can, so you have one when the other is in the wash (and doesn't dry in time). The simple wishes pumping bra is really great, and adjustable with an option of straps.
  3. Bottles: Buy ones that match with your pump, to make your own life convenient. Medela has a breastmilk storage solution  starter kit that has everything you need, as it really is confusing. New parents, you won't need more than 5oz bottles to start. I like that their tray gives me a separate section in the fridge and my bottles stay together and organized. 
  4. Storage bags: For the freezer, Lansinoh has some great breastmilk storage bags. They are roomy so when the milk expands when frozen (it does so always leave room in the bag). However, if you want to pump directly into the bags, Medela pump and save bags are more expensive but worth the cost (they have less room though than Lansinoh, so do not fill them to the top as they will burst when the milk expands).
  5. Nipples: I used the calma nipples initially despite the cost, as I had heard so much about them helping avoid nipple confusion, but they really are expensive! Also, Riaan spat up a lot more with these than normal Medela slow feed nipples. We were quick to switch and haven't gone back. Follow the age guides though and switch to medium flow after approximately 3 months (we did it after 4 months). 
  6. Drying rack: I personally do not like Riaan's things mixing with our household dishes, and also leave them on the rack (due to lack of kitchen space) until I reuse them, so I like having a separate drying rack for him and think this is important so that your baby's sterilized bottles do not come in contact with specs of food that may be on other dishes. You can choose whether you want a counter rack or one with multiple levels, I use the first years spinning drying rack.
    First Years Spinning Drying Rack
  7. Bottle brush: There are a ton of these out there, I prefer an all sponge brush and use the born free twister bottle brush. The Dr.Brown's brush is great too, if you do not want all sponge. 
  8. Nipple brush: I did not realize the importance of these until later and was fascinated by how well it works! My pet peeve was residue even on sterilized nipples. I love this hidden find, that is actually made in Japan. It's the pigeon baby silicon nipple cleaner brush, but is just the right shape and since it is foam it really gets milk, residue and spots out well.
  9. Bottle warmer: There are a ton of these out there but I love my Philips Avent bottle warmer. It is the perfect size to carry if you are traveling but has a great guide to heat bottles (based on bottle size) to 5, 20 or 32 degrees C (room temperature). It switches off on its own incase you forgot to put it off (trust me that happens), and it doesn't catch fire (like my microwave) if you forget to put  in water. 
  10. Sterilizer: Some experts don't think baby bottles should be sterilized every use, as germs build immunity. However, I do still sterilize my bottles and nipples at least weekly. It's also great for pacifiers. I use the Philips Avent electric steamer, it's really quick (6 minutes) and easy to use, however, mine does leak water onto the counter which is annoying. I would have it replaced as I am sure its just a defect, except I only have a month of use left before we move (can't take it with me due to voltage issues). 
  11. Breast milk removal wipes: These are super for on the go, when you pump outside the house and  for travel. Medela has quick clean accessory wipes. 
  12. Breastmilk removal soap: I use this for everything!! Pacifiers, teethers, all his bowls and food stuff. Since it's baby safe, its definitely worth the purchase. Again, it's the Medela Breastmilk removal soap.

Sorry about the lengthiness of this post, I didn't want to miss anything I consider essential! Do let me know if I missed anything you would like to know about.

I hope it is helpful to you and as always please ignore any typos (my little one's schedule isn't permissive to proof reading and I took a while writing this post).
More to come!