It wasn’t that long ago that I vividly remember calling my big sister in a panic “Quick! Tell me! How many crib sheets do I need?”
I was 8mths pregnant, and sorting through my New Baby Checklist – I had torn it out of a magazine, and was working my way through it with a fine toothcomb.
Oh, the desperate, imperative urgency I felt about those crib sheets. What if I didn’t have enough? How many was enough?
After all, I had never done this before – I had No Clue what I needed, and it was so bloody reassuring having a piece of paper that basically told me ‘here – if you get all this, you’ll be set’. It felt like I had a grown up showing me what to do, and I was grateful.
In actual fact, that phone call was over 17 years ago. SEVENTEEN! But such was the stressful emotion I was feeling that I can vividly recall where I was standing and how it felt when my lovely patient sister gently laughed and talked me through the list carefully.
And now I’ve been through the whole ‘new baby’ thing four times; the firstborn that instilled such crib-sheet-planning terror is now a 6’2″ scary 17yr old manchild, and my ‘baby’ girl at the bottom is 9-going-on-16.
And suddenly I find it’s me dispensing that reassurance and knowledge to new mothers – not that I consider myself an expert in any way on this parenting malarky, but you can’t help but learn a thing or two along the way. Including how many crib sheets you’ll need (three’s more than enough, by the way).
There’s things I never bothered dragging out of the loft for subsequent babies that I wouldn’t have done without for my first – a baby bath, for instance. It’s brilliant for allowing a nervous new mum to feel confident and in control. But once you’ve got the hang of the whole baby-bathing thing, you just find the bath is easier. And you can climb in with them yourself, or have them share with their older sibling. But those first few weeks? I completely get it.
Pretty baby clothes? Just… don’t.
New babies tend to live in sleepsuits (getting from one end of the day to the other is a task in itself in the early days – let’s not complicate it with extra layers of clothing at nappy change time, and stupidly annoying flippy collars at feed time), and you’ll be awash with pretty outfits after the birth from loving family and friends.
Maternity pads… stock up.
Of the big fat super-absorbent extra-long kind. My lovely almost-retired midwife who knew everything warned me that wearing them double (yes, one on top of the other) for the first couple of days might be a good idea. Not only was this a super-handy tip, but it also really gave me an idea about what to expect in terms of… ‘flow’ shall we say. Plus don’t bother with the disposable paper knickers lots of new baby lists recommend – they rustle irritatingly, they’re uncomfortable, and you’ll just feel ugly and awkward in them. Instead, grab yourself a few multipacks of cheap and cheerful cotton granny knickers; you can get a pack of 4 ‘full briefs’ from supermarkets for just £4. WAY more comfortable, and at that price it doesn’t matter if they have to end up in the bin.
And while we’re on the subject of leak protection…
Breast pads. Again, stock up.
If you’re breastfeeding you’ll need them for a few months, and if you’re not you’ll STILL need them for a short while (you may even need them before the birth). Breasts are astonishingly brilliant things – but they do squirt in random directions at awkward times, and they’ll occasionally just insist on dripping like a leaky tap.
And another absolute essential I picked up for my my first child
and used for all was a rubber-backed cotton mat for the bed; not a whole-bed sheet, just a 90cm square soft cotton mat backed by waterproof rubber. They’re usually sold as mattress protectors for toilet-training children, but they’re flipping brilliant to have under yourself in the last few weeks of pregnancy (saving your mattress from the ignominy of your waters breaking in the night), and in the first few weeks when your boob will insist on developing a leaky valve at 5 in the morning. They’re brill to keep in the cupboard for the toilet training of course, and they’re very reassuring to have ready to whisk out for sick bugs. Come on – no one wants to change a whole bed at 2 in the morning.