After ten years as a momma, I’ve learned a thing or two. For instance, I’ve learned that a lot of the things on most soon-to-be parents’ baby registries (and in some of their carefully decorated baby nurseries) are non-essential. There are really very few things most new parents/babies need, and some of the best essentials aren’t really available for baby shower presents (boobs, for instance). It has been a while since I attended a baby shower for a first-time momma, but next time I’m invited, here’s what I wish I could afford to load into a pretty basket for her, though I’ll probably settle for just one or two items from the list…
As I posted back in January, even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present. You’d never be sorry that you had birth supplies on hand. I know I was glad I had a kit for the car when I drove to my midwives’ office in labor last time! I’d also include a print-out of the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ Giving Birth “In Place”: A Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth.
2) Stretchy Wrap
Second only to a pair of breasts, a stretchy wrap is, without a doubt, the most helpful and useful newborn care item available (in my opinion). Once baby gets to be over 15 lbs or so, a more sturdy baby carrier is also essential. You don’t need an expensive swing, stroller, or baby bouncer (though I’ve used them all, and they can be so helpful). If you had to pick just one thing to free-up your new-momma hands, a wrap is by far the best. And I can pretty much guarantee that your baby will agree with me. This is why mothers have been tying their babies to their bodies for thousands of years. I love making stretchy wraps and giving them away to any new mom who will take them. They’re so easy and inexpensive to make, if you watch for good clearance fabrics. See here.
3) Birth Ball
A birth ball is one of the most versatile items I’ve ever owned. It’s an exercise tool, a desk chair, a laboring mother’s best friend, and a fussy-newborn-baby bouncer. You can bounce your way to an easier delivery and then bounce your way through the newborn transition, all while strengthening your core muscles and improving your posture! For something so inexpensive (we got ours for $7, I think), that’s a lot of usefulness!
4) Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is just as versatile as a birth ball. First off, you can cook with it and enjoy its many health benefits. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which is a component of breastmilk. The higher your intake of lauric acid, the higher your breastmilk’s lauric acid content will be. And that’s a big plus for you and your baby because lauric acid is powerful, wonderful stuff. “When lauric acid is present in the body, it is converted into monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound which exhibits antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties. It acts by disrupting the lipid membranes in organisms like fungus, bacteria and viruses, thus destroying them” (source). I used these benefits to my advantage when my baby and I developed thrush several months ago. By eating more coconut oil and slathering it on my painful, cracked, thrushy nipples and my baby’s yeasty mouth and rash-filled bottom, we kicked those bad guys out of the house. You can also use it as a lovely smelling moisturizer which is far better for your skin and body than any lotion available. Every new momma needs coconut oil in the house!
5) Quick, Healthy Snacks
It’s my understanding that it takes even more calories to produce breastmilk than it takes to grow a baby. New moms need to eat a lot, but it is so hard to find the time and energy to eat when you have a new baby. One of the best things my grandma did for me after I had my first baby was to bring me a bunch of fresh fruit. Those yummy fruits were perfect for quick energy and excellent for stool-softening. ;-) I’d love to give every new mom a big stash of high-energy, nutritious snacks—trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, string cheese, yogurt packs, hummus or bean dips, etc.
6) Epsom salts
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with magnesium. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. When you soak in a bath with epsom salts, you boost your body’s magnesium levels. Magnesium has been called “nature’s Valium” because of its anti-anxiety affects, so it can help new and soon-to-be moms to quell their stress and fears. Magnesium will also help release tension, reduce fluid retention if you’re swelling, help prevent preterm labor, ease muscle cramps, and reduce constipation, among other things.
7) Small House Plant
Not only would this lovely little friend remind her of your love and support as she prepares for birth and then adjusts to her new life as a mother, but it would also purify the air in her home and possibly help prevent a whole slew of pregnancy complications and health problems, as I blogged about in May. You can never have too many house plants as far as I’m concerned. I’d be sure to give my new momma friends the most tolerant and low-maintenance options, of course. Rubber plants and snake plants are very forgiving when it comes to neglect from busy caretakers.
What’s on your list of new momma essentials?