The A-Z of life with a baby (0-12 months)
Babies sure don't come with an instruction manual, but I've put together this little A-Z guide which you might enjoy having a read of!
A – Advice – Everyone will want to give you advice about how to raise your little one. Heck, I’m giving you advice right here! Sometimes the advice you receive will be helpful, sometimes it will not be. My approach to advice is to listen, say thank you for that, and then implement at your own discretion. The advice you receive is often conflicting and you will need to make the calls about what advice best works for you and your family. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you. You’re the best judge of what is right for your baby.
B – Boobs – Well, it’s hard to write a post about babies without mentioning them. For some people breastfeeding is an amazing experience, and for others it can be very difficult. I had two totally different experiences with my boys – struggling with the first one to get even a small amount of milk out, and then the second time around I had loads of the stuff! If there is one thing that I always tell people, if it doesn’t work for you don’t sweat it – you can only do your best, and it’s better to go for the other B word (bottle) than to put yourself under too much pressure trying to the boobs working for you.
C – Cuddles – This is truly one of the best parts of parenthood. There is just something so special about cuddles, especially with a little baby. This is a really important part of bonding, and I know that everyone says this about babies, but really make the most of it when you can (you’ll miss it once they’re running around and aren’t quite so cuddly…no, really you will).
D – Dummies – Some people love them, some people hate them, some people hate them until they have a real baby! I was adamant that my boys were not going to have dummies, until at about 1am one night after hours of screaming my husband decided to make a middle of the night run to the supermarket to find one as we were getting desperate. I know some people have troubles getting their babies to stop using them, but both of our boys lost interest in the dummy after a short while and took to thumb or finger sucking instead.
E – Education – This might seem a little random to include on a post about babies, but someone once suggested this to me and I think it’s a great idea so I’ll share it here too. Start putting a small amount of money each week into a separate bank account that you can use for your child’s education. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but if you think about it $5 a week saved for 5 years will give you about $1250 in the bank by the time your child starts school. That will help you to pay for the things you need to get them started e.g. uniforms, school shoes, fees etc.
F – Food – Starting solids can be a really fun time, or a nightmare! Babies are so different in what they want to eat and whether they take to solids or not. My first son was chomping at the bit to get started on solids and was trying to swipe food off us by 4 months. Our second son was not so interested and only really took to solids around 9 months. Our first son loved to have his foods pureed and would eat pretty much anything, our second son hated puree and would only eat finger foods he could hold in his own little hands. Plunket has some great resources about getting started on solid foods, and I found their one page guide to what’s suitable at particular ages a really helpful quick reference for what to feed my boys. In terms of recipes, I really loved Annabel Karmel’s recipes and she has heaps of free ones available on her website!
G – Growth Charts – I saw something about this is one of the Mama groups I’m in recently, so I thought I would make a mention of this here too. When you baby is born you will be given a Well Child book with a series of growth charts. One of the things us Mamas tend to worry about a lot is where our baby sits on the growth continuum and whether he or she is normal. I worried about these things with my first son as he was always on the bottom end of the growth chart (2nd percentile). Looking back I don’t know why I was so surprised about this…I’m one of the shortest people I know and my husband is blessed with amazing skinny genes which he passed on to our son, so our son’s size is what you would expect from someone with that parentage.
H – Hydrogel Breast Disks – Related to B, but these things are amazing. I had terribly sore nipples when breastfeeding my first son and these were a lifesaver. They are cooling and take away the burning soreness that a lot of mums get when they start breastfeeding. Put some of these in your baby bag. You can thank me later!
I – Infant car seats – This is so important to get right. There are so many choices these days, but not all seats are created equal and it is important to make sure you make a good choice. Do as much research as you can before purchasing or hiring a seat. It can be a big investment and you want to make sure you get the right one. If you can, it’s great to get a seat with an isofix base that stays in the car. It makes it so much easier to get the capsule in and out of the car and you can get baby all buckled in before you leave the house. We found Baby on the Move to be really helpful with car seat choices and are able to show you how to correctly install the seat in your car. If in doubt you could also contact a registered child seat technician for advice. A list of technicians can be found on the NZTA Website (https://www.nzta.govt.nz/safety/vehicle-safety/safety-belts-and-restraints/child-restraints/find-a-child-restraint-technician/).
J – Judgment – this seems to be something that is pretty much unavoidable when it comes to babies. Inevitably there will be someone who judges the choices you make as a parent, and often it can be the people closest to you who do this. Most of the time people mean well, and sometimes the feedback they give you is based on ideas that they have that aren’t the most up to date advice or which just doesn’t work for you and your baby. My advice is to take this with a grain of salt, and keep on doing what works for you. Also, watch out for judgment on social media. I’ve noticed that it can be the communities that are meant to help mothers out that have the most judgmental people of all in them. If you’re looking for a friendly and non-judgmental mama community head along to our Facebook page and join our Mama Group (The Mama Love Tribe).
K – Kleenex and Baby Wipes – something you will probably need to have in your bag for the next 10 years! I still carry around baby wipes even though my little ones are well and truly out of nappies. You never know when you might need them!
L – Lanolin cream – Again, related to breastfeeding, but this stuff is another absolute lifesaver for sore nipples. Put some of this in the nappy bag too.
M – Manduca or Moby Wrap – Baby wearing is big these days and it can make your life so much easier. When you’re making a quick trip into the shops or popping out for a walk, it can be so much easier to get out and about if you have a good baby carrier. I used both the Manduca (structured) and the Moby Wrap (soft wrap) for my boys. I also used a Snuggle Wrap (similar to the Moby Wrap). These were a lifesaver when my second son came along and I often carried him in one of those while my eldest son used the pushchair. Xavier was a real clingy baby and if I hadn’t had him in a carrier, I doubt I would ever have been able to get anything done!
N – Nappies – You will go through a lot of these! I’ve used both cloth and disposable nappies. I personally found cloth nappies to be very good, and I didn’t find them too much trouble to care for or to use. I did favour disposable nappies for outings and holidays however, and some day cares will not allow you to use cloth nappies either. I found the Real Nappies cloth nappies to be a great option for cloth nappies, and Huggies were my preference for disposables.
O – Onesies – Probably the best piece of baby clothing ever invented. Simple, practical, comfortable and make nappy changes easy. Need I say more? If you’re a new mama or mama to be trying to decide what to buy for your baby, buy these! They are so much more practical than all of the little cute dungarees, jeans etc that you see around. Love those things, and they are cute but my babies pretty much lived in bodysuits, cotton or merino pants and onesies.
P – Pushchair – An absolute baby must. For me, having a good sturdy pushchair was an essential. This enabled me to get out of the house and helped me feel like a human again. If I was to start over again, this would once again be the place where I put a lot of my baby budget. I purchased a Mountain Buggy Swift, which was light enough that I could manage it easily when I was juggling around kids, preggy bellies etc, and strong enough to carry a good load of shopping if I walked to get groceries. Though, if you are planning on having more than one child I do think it is a good idea to invest in a pram that can convert to take two kids. We ultimately ended up purchasing a double buggy, so I could still get around easily with two under twos.
Q – Questions – Probably the number one question you will ask as the parent of a new baby is, “Is this normal?” I had so many questions about babies and how to care for them, which I’m still learning the answers to as I grow and learn as a parent. There are lots of places where you can go to, to have your questions answered. Often a good place to start is your Doctor or Midwife, and believe it or not, your Mother! I can’t even count number of times I called my Mum late at night asking her for advice on whether something was normal and what I could do to manage a particular baby challenge.
R – Rocker – This was one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that I did need! You know sometimes you do just need to put baby down, and they don’t always want to just lie in the bassinet or pushchair. I found a baby rocker was a big help when you needed a few minutes just to prepare some food or whip to the loo. This was especially helpful when we had our second son as it enabled me to do activities with my toddler while the baby happily sat in his musical swing. Some days it was the only way to get him to sleep too! I didn’t splash out on anything too expensive – it was just a fairly basic second hand one, but it did have a battery operated arm which enabled it to keep swinging when you stopped pushing it.
S – Sleep (or lack thereof) – I’m pretty sure that whoever came up with the saying “sleeping like a baby” didn’t have a real life baby. Adjusting to the sleep deprivation of having a new baby can be one of the hardest adjustments to make. Even if your baby is a good sleeper, months of being woken up every few hours all night long can be hard to bear. Being realistic about the amount of sleep you will get and what you are able to achieve on little amounts of sleep is important in the early stages, and while I know you have 100 other things that you want to get done around the house the whole sleep when baby sleeps thing is actually good advice. Babies take time to adjust to the outside world, and every single one takes it differently. For our eldest son, the only place he wanted to sleep for the first few weeks was in our arms, so we had to take turns sleeping in order for him to be comfortable. That might seem kinda crazy, and isn’t usually the norm, but think about it from baby’s perspective. They’ve been snuggled constantly for the last 9 months, so being put down to sleep in a foreign bed must be a bit of a shock!
If you’re really struggling with your baby’s sleep I’d highly recommend getting the help of a sleep consultant. A good sleep consultant can provide you with advice tailored to your own personal situation and contrary to popular belief doesn’t mean you need to let your baby cry it out. We used the Baby Sleep Consultant (www.sleepconsultant.co.nz) with both of our kids with great success.
T – Teething – Teething can be one of the other big challenges of parenting. This period too often results is poor sleep and grumpy babies. Giving baby something to munch on really seems to help. I found that teething rusks and a teether that had been cooled in the fridge were popular with my eldest son, and my younger son really liked to chew on a cool flannel. I used bonjela teething gel to help ease the pain, and Pamol is a great help with nothing else will work.
U – Underwear – Here’s one for the mums to be. Pack your most practical and comfortable black granny panties (buy some if you don’t have them) into your hospital bag. Even better, purchase yourself a pack or three of the disposable kind so you can just throw them away during the first few days after your baby’s arrival. You can buy them at www.breastmates.co.nz
V – Voice – There’s one thing for sure, your little one has a voice even from the very first moment and they sure do like to be heard, but one of the cutest part of the first 12 months is often hearing your little one speak their very first words. Cherish it, and remember to take notes about when they first talk and what words they say.
W – Washing – Oh my, washing! I never thought my washing machine could go so often and yet I’d never ever reach the bottom of the pile. I don’t think my washing basket has been empty for over 5 years, and that’s not for want of trying. I’d love to say I have some miracle tip for keeping on top of the washing, but I don’t! The only advice I can give here is to try and not let it get on top of you by putting through a load each day.
X – Eczema – Ok, so I couldn’t think of a good X one, but this sounds like X, so it still counts right? My eldest son has suffered from Eczema since he was small, and it’s something that can be a real struggle to treat. We’ve found that wool layers close to his skin can actually make it worse, so for him it is better to have a cotton layer close to his skin. We also stick to bath products for sensitive skins and this does seem to help a lot.
Y – You – So much of you gets taken up in looking after your little one, and it’s really really important that you make sure you take time out for yourself. From time to time get someone else to mind the baby and go to the spa, the gym or out on a girls’ night. Trust me, this will help preserve your sanity in the long run and leave you feeling refreshed. I strongly believe that taking time out for ourselves makes us better parents, so go on and book yourself some me time!
Z – Zoo – Struggling to think of a good Z word for a post on babies, but I think Zoo is entirely appropriate! I actually spent quite a lot of time at the zoo when our boys were babies. It is a pleasant place to go for a walk around, they have lots of places to stop for coffee and the little ones love it. Oliver was probably only about 6 months old when we bought a zoo pass, and it made for a year full of outings for the two of us and as one of my other Mama friends had one too, it was a great way for me to get out with a friend and feel like a human again!