hello, little mother
Written for you with love.
Understanding the overwhelming feeling of not having enough time to research every item I needed to buy before giving birth, one of my friends handwrote a note with 10 must-have items. It was one of the most thoughtful and useful gifts I received — saving me days and weeks of research because I fully trusted my new-mom friend — and every one of those items were so useful to me and baby.
This page is an expanded and high-tech version of that handwritten note. In addition, I made a sister page of linked images for most of the items detailed here.
Big-Dollar items worth every ¢
If you are a working mom (goodbye awful “nursing room” dungeons) or if your newborn one has trouble latching or if you just want to top off feedings with a small bottle of fresh breastmilk (so they sleep more through the night and your milk supply stays high with more coming out each feeding), this pump is a godsend. You can be breastfeeding on one boob and pumping the other, or pump while you’re taking the dog for a walk. Willow allows you to pump into bags or into a reusable container. Insurance will pay for many pumps, but they will not pay for this one (it’s too new, hopefully in the near future they will at least partially cover it). Another in-bra pump that got my attention was the Elvie Pump. I read several reviews of both and am happy with my Willow purchase b/c the suction is quite strong and gets out a lot of milk. Elvie doesn’t have bags as an option (something I don’t use often, but is very nice to have when I’m out and about and don’t want to risk milk spillage). The best discount I know for Willow is this offer for a $50 free container with your pump purchase, which allows you to pump into a container instead of a bag (I also suggest joining their newsletter for special occasion discounts like Mother's Day and Black Friday). If you're a teacher, healthcare provider, or military they will give you $50 off.
Yes, it is expensive. But it is truly gave me 1+ extra hours of sleep a night. It is pure magic and making baby #2 sleep insanely better than baby #1 ever did (and their disposition is similar, it’s just that now I have a robot night nurse to soothe babe back to sleep while I clean/cook/pump/bathe/rest between feedings). You’ll only need this for 6 months and there is a weaning mode that helps with a smooth transition into crib. Rental is also an option. Craigslist is also a great option for buying used. Snoo regularly has sales ~20% off on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Black Friday. You can schedule the magic bassinet to arrive around your due date so the 30-day trial period can still be useful, just in case.
I used this “pregnancy pillow” (the big one not the smaller “nursing pillow”) for 4+ hours every day for breastfeeding. It is super soft and big (home use only, not for travel); awesome for not having to hold the baby up to my breast or be on a chair with arms on each side to support. I can be in bed and prop him up and be hands/arms free as he is fully supported. You can have it long as a body pillow or tie it together to wrap around you for nursing (here’s a pic). It’s not cheap, but because I use it constantly, per-use is pennies.
This well-designed pack and play allowed us an easy-to-carry (like a backpack) crib so we could be out of the home during naps or nighttime. It also became the primary bed for my second-born. The fun and functional "tent" makes for a cozier and darker resting place and I am a fan of the easy-to-clean fully-removable mesh fabric. We have now used ours for four years and expect to keep it indefinitely, for friends to use as they visit with their little ones at our home. Another plus is that I could zip the side open, lay down beside baby and breastfeed him to sleep, and then slip out without waking baby (I cannot begin to explain what a tight-rope walk it is to get a sleeping baby from your arms and into a crib — and that obstacle is removed because of this crib's smart design.
My search for the smallest and most compact stroller led me to this magic origami stroller. I thought I'd just use it for our travel adventures, but it has turned out to be so tough and easy to fold, that it became our go-to stroller, replacing our Brooklyn-standard Uppababy. It has been used daily for 4 years now. This stroller folds up so tiny, I can bring it with me to work or inside a no-stroller restaurant in a tote bag — allowing me much freedom (and time saved from locking it up on a fence with a prayer, or having to go back home to drop it off). I was a folding-pro after watching a tutorial video and doing the fold 10 or so times. People stop me regularly to ask what stroller I have when they see how tiny it folds up! Be prepared with a rain cover (most "universal size" fit well on this model) and if you need extra shade for a sunny day, I like this sunshade.
Some mamas enjoy pushing their newborn in a stroller with a bassinet, but I preferred to primarily wear my newborns for the first year. While I was prepared with a bassinet attachment for my fancy full-sized stroller, I never even used it. I was told the bassinet was "essential" so I was prepared, but this is a heads up that unless you really want to put your tiny one in a bassinet stroller, you can save a good chunk of money (and get some super-sweet snuggles) if you wear them. After 6 months, when baby is able to sit up, you can transition to gb Pockit or any seated stroller.
The Oeuf crib I wanted for our nursery (aka closet) was out of budget, so I found it on Craigslist and toted it back from the Upper West Side. Regardless of which crib you choose, definitely put this mattress on it. 100% breathable (and super easy to wash, even with the worst blowout); I cannot recommend it enough.
Best price for quality I could find, I wear these 24/7 (even after breastfeeding my second, I still find myself wearing these bras because they're so comfortable).
After hearing horror stories about infections and cracked nipples, I am so thankful to have not been through either and I have breast shells (I called them my "turtle shells") to thank for that. They made a little no-touch terrarium for my tender supple nipples while I wore a bra. “Your nipples look amazing!” — my midwife at my 6-week postpartum checkup. Quite possibly one of the best (and most unexpected) compliments of my life .. at a time when I could really use a compliment about my very-broken-just-recently body. You can also use a clean breast shell to catch let-down milk while you breastfeed baby on your other breast (and save/freeze the milk for later).
1,000x better than the awkward peri bottle that the hospital gives you. Every product I have purchased from Frida has been a big win.
Freeze milk in 1 oz sticks that can easily fit in a bottle; makes for minimal milk waste.
Life bottles were my favorite with baby #2.
Comotomo bottles were my favorite with baby #1
With these handy alcohol test strips , I can be sure my milk is best-quality every time. I learned a lot about the science behind safe milk from this article.
In hindsight, I wish I had worn this after giving birth; it helps with ab separation (very noticeable post-birth not just visually but also weakened core). Here’s a video to test how separated your abs are. When you're ready to commit, EveryMother is a clinically proven method to correct diastasis recti. Here is a post on what not to do until your abs are back together by a mama with great post-birth workouts/ideas. As far as abs/belly — my stomach was softer than it ever was before after giving birth. The pooch eventually went away, but it took time (for me mostly back to normal by about 6 months and then my body was fully back to normal when I stopped breastfeeding at a year), but I started to see some big changes by 2-3 weeks. Pilates significantly helped me (specifically abs and abdominal floor) during pregnancy and after.
I only wish these postpartum underwear had been around when I gave birth. They are 1,000x better than the bizarre frankensteined-together setup that the hospital guided me through (mesh undies with 3-4 pads stuck on a large absorbent sheet). It blows my mind that there is not a better setup for after-birth bleeding; the hospital's solution is awkward and gross to put together and then a huge bloody mess to throw away. After the first few days of heavy bleeding, I wore these adult diapers for several weeks. I then transitioned to Thinx period panties, then panty liners until I was done bleeding (~5 weeks).
After trying slew of stretch oils both pregnancies, Weleda was my favorite. Toward the end of pregnancy, I would going through 2-3 bottles a month and I have very few stretch marks from pregnancy. Heads up: myself and every friend who has breastfed has gone down a cup size after breastfeeding (I never knew this until after a year of breastfeeding my first child when I tried to wear my pre-pregancy bras and the cup size was too large). After breastfeeding my second child, I remain the cup size I was after breastfeeding my firstborn — so, that's nice that my breasts don't get even smaller after every child. Kind of an odd thing to be thankful for, but hey I'm excited nowadays just to get an extra 2 minutes of sleep ..
More Milk Plus Supplement was helpful for milk production after my firstborn, as were these lactation cookies. With my second, my little one had such a hard time latching (and ended up needing a medical procedure) that I spent every Tuesday at a lactation consult appointment. I got to know a lot more about breastfeeding and milk production. My #1 takeaway was an extremely helpful technique for increasing production — “power pumping” — once a day for 2 weeks, pump for one hour (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off). My milk production increased significantly afterward so I could build up a supply in my freezer and I know at any time if supply starts to dwindle, I can do the 2-week power pump technique again and be back up to what I need (as long as I’m staying well-nourished).
Yes, it takes some getting used to, but it is the fastest, most controllable and easiest way to unclog precious tiny nostrils.
This is the best one I’ve found with a wide range of noises and volume levels. It’s small for easy traveling and can last all night without needing to be plugged in.
Whether you get a Snoo or not, their swaddles are the most fool-proof (...with all due respect, Dad-friendly) way to keep your little one swaddled.
A sturdy, wipeable playmat, fort and gym: (1) beautiful backdrop for a mass of adorable pictures of your little one (2) book included with fun help for mom and dad to know age-appropriate activities for baby (3) adjusts to be appropriate from newborn to one-year-old. Their play kits are also wonderful.
Diapers are a personal preference, but after a lot of research I ended up using these consistently. They are wonderful quality and the materials are as chemical-free as I could find. Ideally, I would cloth diaper, but with no washer/dryer in my apartment, these are the next best thing.
There are a bazillion but after trying them all, we ended up on WaterWipes because they are just water and a drop of grapefruit seed extract. Many other brands have a long list of questionable ingredients. Only thing that’s a bummer is they aren’t the easiest to take out of the package, so we’ll get 5 or so out, flattened and ready to go before taking dirty diaper off so they are ready to grab/wipe quickly — a tiny baby’s projectile poop is something you will never forget .. and never want to see / clean up again; so speed is of the essence.
This was one of the few mom/baby things that was not instinct-obvious to me. I am grateful my mom told me to be mindful about flat head prevention (via this book) which lead me to this very helpful occupational therapist’s instagram tips.
Mom-owned Canadian business Loulou Lollipop makes the softest and best quality blankets and pacifier clips. After getting a truckload of swaddles/blankets as gifts, these stand out as the very best and are always the first I pick to use (plus my toddler still sleeps with them, so we’re getting continued usage).
The best baby holder wrap — super soft and light. I tried several others that were either thicker and/or somewhat stretchy so the baby would slowly sag down while walking for a long time. I wore my babies in a Solly Wrap for the first year and then transitioned to a more substantial carrier (a hand-me-down) that was an Ergo (my husband preferred this carrier over the wrap, as it's fast to put on).
When I want to get some rad expensive designer clothes for my little one, I buy them used here.
Some unexpected things
I knew that giving birth would involve a lot of bleeding. I didn't realize it would also involve a lot of post-birth bleeding. I bled for 3 weeks and then spotted for another 2. Any pressure (i.e. puffy pads) down there is not comfortable and it's just nice to know you're covered regardless of how/where you end up sneaking in a nap while baby is sleeping. If you had visited me anytime the first 3 weeks after my firstborn, most of the time I was just walking around in the diaper and nothing else. All my energy was to keep this baby fed, clean(ish) and not crying. Pulling up a diaper was the easiest way to hygienically tend to my bleeding bits. For the first 1-2 days, I needed to wear the bizarre frankensteined-together setup that the hospital guided me through (mesh undies with 3-4 pads stuck on a large absorbent sheet), then I wore adult diapers for several weeks and then transitioned to Thinx and then panty liners until I was done bleeding.
I tried Dermoplast and witch hazel pads (both of which the hospital supplied) to sooth my stitched up nether-region, and they were better than nothing, but thankfully one of my friends recommended ClaraDerm (a blend of oils) and it was far more effective. Bonus: I used it on my pregnancy-induced hemorrhoid after giving birth for about a month and it completely went away. ClaraDerm is not inexpensive, but it was a small price to pay to relieve the pain that was ever-present for the 2 weeks after birth. Bonus-bonus: a friend who gave birth a few years after me suggests Earth Mama Perineal Spray and the price tag is a lot lower.
Breastfeeding can be extremely challenging and painful the first few weeks to months, but it gets much better, so if it’s something important to you, fight through it and it will allow you to have many sweet, relaxing bonding moments with baby. And if it's not a good fit for you, definitely don't do it. Breastfeeding fully, partially or never is a personal choice with the only wrong answer being one that is made for anyone other than you and baby. With my second baby, I supplemented with formula for the first 2 weeks until my milk production caught up with what he needed. My first birth, I forced myself to exclusively breastfeed (baby and I both suffered through with less-than-ideal milk production). If I could go back in time and give my less-than-enough-milk-producing-self advice I’d say something like “it’s not only okay but it’s good to supplement with formula and let your partner take on a night time feeding (or two) so baby can get plenty of milk and you can rest. Pump throughout the day to keep your supply up but just trying to tough it out with a low supply of milk is hard on both you and baby. Temporary supplementation is only for a little while and will help substantially, especially the first few weeks when you and baby are at your weakest.”
Post-birth pooping: take the stool softener that the hospital provides (my drug-free mentality was not the best choice for this situation). Nearly everyone I know has had this issue as well; take that little pill and feel better. Another tip: I was afraid it was going to hurt .. any pressure around that area was not welcome. But even though my stitches were quite close to my non-broken hole, it did not hurt. So don't worry. Sounds bizarre to say it but what a relief it is to go #2 that first time post-birth.
Breasts and feet — one will grow and one will shrink! After breastfeeding, expect your bra to go down a cup size. Sometime between pregnancy and birth, expect your feet to grow (and stay at) 1/2 size larger than they were before your body began making a new life.
In your hospital bag:
- • ear plugs
- • sleep mask
- • white noise machine
- • nursing bras
- • breast shells
- • postpartum underwear
- • frida peri bottle
- At the hospital, be sure to ask a nurse (it’s free/included) for a sitz bath. Either get two or don't open it until you get home so it will be clean for home; use it to soak your broken vagina and very-likely hemorrhoid(s) in Epsom salt for the first week or so.
After the birth of my firstborn, I began to work on this website so that my soon-to-be-a-mom friends could have an easily-accessible list of items I found helpful as a new mother. Since so many products have affiliate programs, I thought it'd be smart to give back to new moms through this website. This website's profit is donated to new mothers in need. I link directly to the makers of products when they have the best price or if they're a small business. If the price is lowest on Amazon, I have associate links that earn from qualifying purchases. Sometimes there's a referral link with money off (like Thinx) and I do that because I cannot find any other way to get a discount. If you have a link or code for a new mother to purchase these products for less (or a more responsible company with a similar item), please contact me at [email protected] and I will update the site.
If you like to shop visually, I made this shop page for you.
If you like to shop visually, I made this shop page for you.