12 July 2019

5 Must Have Baby Items That Have Gotten Me Through The Wildest Times

If there's one question I consistently get asked about raising kids, it's what my absolute must-have baby items are — that is, the things I really couldn't have survived the last two and a half years without. Or, more accurately, that I wouldn't have wanted to survive the last two and a half years without.

There are endless listicles and hot-takes on the subject out there, all of which are wholly subjective. I believe we each have to learn what our preferred methods of parenting are, and what items might suit those methods (not to mention our financial situations) best. It's not something that can necessarily happen until our babies are here, nor is it something that becomes crystal clear overnight once they are.

There are arguably very few things a brand new baby, or even a toddler, needs outside of love (cheesy as it may sound), care, and basic necessities (milk, food, clothes, diapers). A changing table isn't anywhere near as "essential" as setting aside some uninterrupted time to play with your kid. The latest designer buggy won't scream "I love you" more than shutting off your phone for some legit quality time. And as great as she may be, Sophie La Girafe is simply no substitute for a parent or guardian's embrace.

That in mind, there are material goods that may make things easier for all parties involved. There's no shame in buying shit (if and when you can) that's going to help get you through the day, nor in prioritizing self-care even when you have other human beings to look after.

The below items are the things that have genuinely helped me out along the way, and that I hope will be useful to other carers as well. This isn't a sponsored post — just a bit of a glimpse into the things that make my day-to-day walk in motherhood a little calmer and, inevitably, a lot more fun.

1. Zipper Onesies

You might think you know what to expect in terms of your infant's bowel movements — but, if you're anything like me, there's nothing that can quite prepare you for that first explosive poonami. We're talking an overflowing nappy of liquid poo, usually in a too-bright yellow hue. It drips out of every possible Pampers corner, seeps through countless layers of clothes, and forever permeates your environment with the distinct smell of pre-solid-eating baby crap. 

Hopefully, your child won't choose to erupt in the middle of Camden Market, with no bathroom in sight, on a cold March day (we put quite a show on for passerby as we dealt with the disaster on a patch of fake grass near the late-great Amy Winehouse's statue). If and when it happens, however (and it will, especially before your baby is on solids), you probably won't want to be messing about with tights, or buttons, or over-the-head ensembles that'll smear all the poo up the baby's back and into their hair. Zipper onesies, my friends, are where it's at.

With just a quick zip down, you can extract your child from the soiled clothes without making even more of a mess. They won't cry as much. You won't cry as much. It's a win-win for all. My favorite places to shop zipper onesies are Carter's in the U.S. and Bonds Wondersuits (which you can find via Brighter Babes) in the U.K. For some reason that I cannot for the life of me fathom, there aren't a ton of U.K.-based brands making these (I usually stock up when I visit family in the States). My greatest sartorial wish for the world of children's clothing is that this soon changes.

2. A Hand-Held Vac

Children are messy. And dirty. And will very likely tear your house apart mere minutes after you've just finished the rare three-hour deep clean.

They are equally nasty eaters, keen on crumbling every bit of solid food you give them into a million little pieces that will soon decorate your floor. They may throw their Ella's Kitchen packets onto the tiles with such force that the contents squirt across the room, coating everything in squishy fruit and veg compote. Think muffins are a good, quick breakfast solution? Think again — never have you seen such an abundance of crumbs on your baby, on the high chair, across the dining table, and all over the ground you walk on.

If you don't want to be faffing about with a standard vacuum cleaner several times a day, I highly recommend investing in a heavy duty hand-held vac. Our very cheap pre-baby handheld Hoover was ultimately no match for the quantities of food my partner and I found ourselves cleaning up on the daily, but this Holife Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner has been everything we could ever want and more. It's suitable for wet and dry cleaning, comes with a handy-dandy charging station, and gets even the messiest jobs done in a matter of a minute or two. Just don't forget to empty the vac regularly, for the contents can get rank fast.

3. An All Terrain Double Buggy

When you're navigating the transportation of two children of two different ages, the struggle to find the perfect double stroller can be all too real — especially if you want a product that's going to be suitable for any kind of terrain. My family and I live in the countryside and love taking long walks into the hills, forests, and verdant abyss. Because my toddler only has a certain amount of walking in her per day, and my baby can't yet traverse rocky, cobbled, sandy, or muddy ground without face-planting, I needed a buggy that would survive even the roughest of roads.

Buggies are, unfortunately, absurdly expensive. On occasion, you may strike luck and find a good deal on a second-hand one within driving distance of wherever you are, but we did not strike such luck. Not the first time, anyway.

Initially, I opted for the Joie Evalite Duo Tandem Stroller — one of the most budget-friendly options on the market. I actually opted for it twice. The first time, it simply stopped folding up (thus making it completely impractical and impossible to fit into my car). I figured it was a fault with my particular stroller, so I chose to purchase the same product again. This time, I found one on eBay. 

And this time, it literally exploded. I wanted to take the girls to a nearby park, so I strapped them into the stroller and made my way down a cobbled road. The stroller struck one particularly raised cobble, and bam. Screws burst out from every direction, my toddler's front seat fell completely off the base, and one of the wheels sprung off and away before I knew what the hell was going on. 

Suffice it to say, I decided right then and there (as I was forced to ditch the buggy components next to a nearby bin, only to make the walk back up the hill toward my car while carrying a toddler in one arm and my baby — plus her carseat — in the other) that I needed to invest in something that would last.
Mountain Buggy
Cue the Mountain Buggy Duet Pram. This thing is indescribably magnificent. So far, we've taken it into stony forests, onto fields of tall grass, across deep mud, onto the beach, and literally everywhere and anywhere else. It is not cheap (and is in fact the most expensive thing I have ever bought, which required a while of saving up), but it is still significantly cheaper than many of the other "all terrain" options out there, which can soar well beyond £1000.

Because of this buggy, I feel safe navigating any weather and any environment on my own with the girls. It's also one of the narrowest side-by-side double buggies you can buy, meaning you should be able to fit into any standard-sized door without having to leave your children on the street (a must for us, as we live in a small town with equally small doors and only sometimes want to leave our children on the street).

4. A Comfortable Nursing Pillow (If You Can & Want To Nurse)

I knew throughout both of my pregnancies that I wanted to try to nurse. I work from home, so it wouldn't mean a ton of pumping, and — I don't know — I just liked the idea. I liked thinking of holding my babes close, literally nourishing them with my body. 

Nursing is not a prerequisite to being a good parent, and it definitely isn't right for everyone. If, however, you can and want to breastfeed, the Chicco Boppy Pillows might be a godsend. 

In the early days of breastfeeding, little ones are often more attached to your breast than not. This could mean hours, upon hours of nursing (with, if you're lucky, enough of an intermission in between feeds to pee or brush your teeth).

Finding a comfortable position to nurse in when I first had Luna was hard, but it became much, much easier when I tried a specifically-designed breastfeeding pillow. It meant she was comfortable, and I was comfortable. Heck, I could even sit on the couch and watch some TV while she dozed into a milk coma.

5. Lulla Doll

The Kid Collective
If I had to choose the hardest thing about raising children, so far, it would hands down be the lack of sleep. The exhaustion caused by days, then months, then potentially years of not getting a good night's rest is something you cannot ever plan for. It penetrates body and mind alike — it impacts your memory, your mood, your ability to find joy in things, or to complete even the most basic of tasks. It's just terrible.

My eldest barely slept for the first 18 months of her life. Whether we bed shared, or tried a near-me cot, or put her in her own room, nothing worked. Well, almost nothing. 

I won't say the Lulla Doll will guarantee a restful night, or solve all your sleep-deprived crises. However, it certainly helped Luna sleep for longer stretches at a time. For 12 hours, Lulla will play breathing and heartbeat sounds meant to imitate a carer's natural noises. As we bed shared for a long time, and Luna was pretty used to our noises, she took to Lulla right away.

I purchased Lulla as a gift for Luna on her first birthday, and the calm that struck her little face upon hearing Lulla's soft noises was instant. I only wish we'd found the little blue-haired baby sooner.

Again, these products are things that have worked well for my family and me, but they are by no means "essential" or "required." Above all, you absolutely must "do you" when you're raising little ones. If you find what works for your unique needs and wants, nothing else should really matter.



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