I approached the arrival of our mancub with a "start slow and simple" mantra, betting on experience to be our best guide for practices and products. You can see what we bought in advance here. Here's what we've tried, adopted, and abandoned so far.
Practice: We originally planned to use disposables for the first few weeks, but we ended up switching to cloth right away. That tiny body produced a lot of fluid, and each brand of tiny disposables we tried (including the eco-friendly ones) leaked. When his height and waist outgrew the newborn size, his legs were still thin, which resulted in leaks in the next bigger size. So we switched to disposables for a bit until his legs thickened up. Our kid soils an average of 6 to 10 diapers a day, and that results in two wash cycles a weak. Turns out doing wash that frequently in coin laundry machines is about equal to the price of disposables. Having our own machines would definitely make cloth the cheaper option. For now, his comfort and trying to reduce waste keep bringing me back to cloth, but I definitely go on the weekend bender and use disposables now and then! Little Journey from Aldi are my favorite and the cheapest. We also have only used disposable wipes so far. I'd consider us a hybrid diapering family at this point.
Products: (Click images for more info)
Practice: I use a manual pump when we leave the mancub with a sitter. I find he only ever needs six ounces for a night out, so I keep two six ounce bags in the freezer. When we use one, I pump during the feeding he's not with me, and so easily replace the bag he's used. The manual pump is very easy to use and wash, and allows for quick pumping! I used a stash of disposable nursing pads from my sister-in-law, who stopped nursing earlier than she planned. This month I switched to cloth after finally using up the disposables and it's like heaven! I recommend going with cloth. I'm doing enough laundry, that it's no big deal to just toss them in when they're dirty. I have worn the same nursing sports-style bra (I have two) since giving birth, and it's pretty comfortable and flexible for full and empty breasts. I love having lip balm and a water glass close to where I nurse. It's thirsty work!
Practice: We swaddled him in sleepers and laid him on his back propped up slightly on one side (to avoid choking) in the Moses basket as a newborn. He slept in the basket for about 8 weeks, but then he started kicking more, which would scoot him forward bumping his head into the rough side of the basket. So we moved him into his antique crib. He uses a Soothie (we tried alternatives that didn't take) to fall asleep, and around 12 weeks old he started enjoying having a small ring blanket or animal to touch and hold to his face. He also loves to be completely covered, which I was nervous to do until we moved him out of the Moses basket. At that time, we also started sleeping him on his stomach which he definitely prefers.
Practice: I didn't buy many newborn items because I wasn't sure he would wear them. As it would happen, that's all he could wear for the first 10 weeks. I use way more than I thought I would. Fluids run in abundance when it comes to him. Even if an outfit isn't soiled, it's often damp. I'll change him so one outfit can dry and be put back on later. Laundry is my most frequent chore. Detergent isn't a bad gift for a new mom, just saying. I love zippers more than snaps, and organic cotton sleepers are my favorite. They're footed which removes the need for socks and they stay in place all over (shirts tend to ride up at the waist and pants at the ankles.) It being winter, I bought him a double-layer fleece suit with a hood and fold-over mits. Hats are more essential than I would have guessed for both maintaining his temperature and keeping him from scratching his head! As he's begun to drool more (around 12 weeks) I love bandana-style bibs. They cut down on outfit changes!
Practice: I fed him every two hours in the beginning. At night he would sometimes sleep three or four hours between 10 pm and 2 am, but then he would wake to eat every two hours after that. Before having him, waking at night really made me nervous, but I ended up adjusting to it. He would wake and fuss. I would nurse him for maybe ten minutes, burp him, change his diaper and then lay him back in his basket. He rarely cried except when first waking up.
At 10 to 12 weeks, I stretched feedings to every three hours day and night. Sometimes he wouldn't make it quite that long. During the day, I would keep him up after he ate so he could digest, and then put him in his bed when he got grumpy for a nap. He would occasionally do a long stretch of sleep between 9 pm and 3 am (skipping his midnight feeding) but not usually, and he would sometimes wake and fuss more often in the wee hours between 4 and 7 am.
Recently, he isn't urgently hungry even after 3 hours, so I'm stretching again. Soon, he will probably just do a breakfast (8 am), lunch (noon), snack (4 pm), and late dinner (8 pm), with one longer morning nap, and one longer afternoon nap. At night, when he wakes and I nurse him, he's becoming disinterested and falling back to sleep in about 2 minutes, so we have decided to stop nursing through the night. Right now, he still wakes when he's used to nursing, but I just give him a pacifier and his animal, and he falls back to sleep. Hopefully, he will cease to wake and connect his sleep cycles all on his own before too long. *Note* my body hasn't adjusted to not nursing at night yet. I still have to pump to take the edge off at least once, or they feel full to bursting. I'm told my body will regulate to his feeding schedule before too long.
I've found I prefer a rhythm to a schedule. I have a loose idea of time, but I rely heavily on observing him, and I look for clues based on the one parenting book I read before he was born (linked below). I've realized as a very loosely scheduled person myself, a rhythm suits us both better than a very fixed schedule, and it's just enough for me to feel like things make sense without me feeling like a slave to the clock. It also keeps me from grading my son based on whether or not he does things at the "right" or "normal" time or age.
essentials for us
(links for more info in bold)
- Nail Clippers - Baby fingernails are lethal and fast-growing! I trim multiple times a week.
- Nose Plunger - I didn't need ours until around 12 weeks, but it was essential to help him clear congestion when he got his first cold.
- Bouncer - We thought a blanket on the floor would be sufficient, but our guy likes to be up to look around when he's awake. It's ugly, but I cover it with a neutral organic cotton blanket.
- Sling - Ours is homemade by my mom. This is our only carrier still. It's simple to use and keeps us both warm when we're out an about.
- Car Seat Head Pad - I never even thought about this, but his little head was completely dwarfed in his carseat until recently, and he didn't have the head control to keep it from lolling about.
- Glass Bottle - He drinks from his when he's having pumped milk.
- Bag - We love our Everlane bookbag for transporting diaper and outfit changes.
- Waterproof Bag - We keep these in the diaper bag for soiled cloth diapers and outfits.
- Blankets - Our boy loves to be bundled regardless of temperature.
- Natural Moisturizer/Soothing Balm - I used ours a lot in the beginning for scratches and baby acne (which he had pretty bad from weeks 2 to 5) and dry/pealing skin.
- Baby Hangers/Clothes Storage - We hang his clothes with mine. Baskets, dressers, drawers in a changing table, and any other bags, boxes, crates or bins will work.
non essentials for us
- Swing - My mom has one and he likes it. We borrowed it for a week while he was really congested so he could sleep in a seated position to make breathing and draining easier. We haven't bought one for our tiny place, but it could be nice.
- Rocking Chair + Boppy - We didn't go for a rocker or nursing pillow. Again, I've used them other places, but found my own sofa and cushions work just as well for me.
- Changing Table - We change him on the floor on a pad. When he was a newborn, I did a lot of bed-changing. This created more laundry because our sheets definitely got peed on, but that was my own laziness. Floor-changing is definitely a convenient option.
- Stroller - We're still waiting to make this purchase. I find I want to baby-wear while he's still so small.
- Toys - Besides his blanket ring, he's uninterested and incapable of engaging with them so far.
- Baby Bath, Wash Cloths + Towel/Robe - I always just bathed with him in the beginning, which was good for my healing as well. Now I lay him on a rolled towel in the bathtub while I shower. The water runs down away from his face, but keeps his body plenty warm. He lays contentedly on his back and kicks and plays.
- Formula - I haven't needed to supplement, and nursing has been the best option for me so far.
- Nipple Cream + Nipple Guards - I had sore nipples for a while and also a breast infection, but they cleared up with natural treatment, so I never elected to use cream or guards, though my sister and other gals have told me they can be a lifesaver.
- Nursing Cover/Cape - I just use a blanket.
- Nursing Tops - I just lift, pull down, or open normal shirts. Dresses are a little trickier.
That's what we're looking at as he approaches 4 months old on February 1st. Obviously, this is just what's working for us. If you have another experience, thoughts, or suggestions for our fellow mamas, please leave them in the comments! I'd love for this post to be a resource that expecting mamas and their loved ones can reference when faced with the question of what to purchase and try in the first few months.