I originally wrote this as an email to expecting friends a few years ago, after I had my first child. This is a list of things we found useful (or not!) as first time parents. I have added in notes about what we did with the second baby and what we would have done in hindsight.
This is from my own experience and is in no way professional or medical advice. Always research the latest laws and regulations and recommendations.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
Useful links & tips
www.mocka.co.nz - cheap and durable high chairs and kids furniture
www.sleepstore.co.nz - a good range of baby products including sleeping bags, clothing, shoes etc.
www.babyfactory.co.nz - strollers, cots, products, and a small range of baby clothing.
www.babycity.co.nz - more upmarket than Baby Factory with a much larger (and sometimes more expensive) range.
www.farmers.co.nz - Farmers have a 50% nursery sale approximately every 3-4 months and includes clothing, strollers, cots, accessories etc.
www.babyonthemove.co.nz - buy/hire capsules and car seats and other products.
With our daughter (#1), we hired a capsule from Plunket for the first 6 months because we couldn’t decide on a car seat that we liked. You need a car seat before baby goes home from hospital. A lot of places do 7 month rentals and let you rent it from a month before the due date, in case baby is a bit early. Plunket no longer does capsule hire. We hired a capsule for our son (#2) from Baby on the Move.
Capsule hire was less than $100 for 6 months.
Eventually, we decided on the Evenflo DLX Symphony Platinum because it has cup holders, comfier padding, temperature regulating fabric, buckle pockets (nice for hot days so you don’t burn the kid with metal buckles!) etc. http://www.babyonthemove.co.nz/car-seat/shop-by-weight/0-18kg/evenflo-platinum-symphony-dlx
Car seat was $500-$700. Don’t buy second hand unless you know and trust the seller.
#2 will get the hand-me-down carseat once he's too big for the capsule. #1 is getting an Evenflo harnessed booster seat. The harnessed booster is less than $200.
No regrets. We love the Evenflo seats and would pay top dollar again.
We took ages to decide on a stroller. My husband eventually decided on the Baby Jogger City Elite stroller. It has an adjustable handle bar (useful when you have a tall/short person), it folds up easily in one motion with one hand without having to detach half the stroller. It has shocks for a less bumpy ride and buggy brakes that you don’t have to operate with your foot.
They range from $600+.
The stroller is still in a great condition for #2 to use. We bought a glider board that hooks onto the frame of the stroller for #1 who is 3.5 and she loves gliding along.
In hindsight, we should have bought a good quality stroller on Trademe. #1 wasn't very keen on the stroller for a long time so the money could have been spent elsewhere in those first few months.
We have a food tray for the stroller and used it all the time with #1.
We have a wind cover which we've used a few times to block out the sun/wind.
We have a rain cover which we never used.
We have a capsule seat adapter which we never used.
We used a bassinet for the first 3-4 months but #1 outgrew it quickly and we wanted to transfer her to her cot before she got too attached to the bassinet. The bassinet was great because it was small enough to stand close to my bedside and it was small enough for her to feel cosy. We got one from Baby Factory but any bassinet or moses basket should be fine.
We bought a cot second hand on Trademe for $150 and bought a new mattress from Farmers at one of their 50% off sales and paid around $100. The cot also converts into a toddler bed which was useful for the transition between cot and single bed.
He was in the bassinet for 2 months before moving to the cot. He was just too tall. If I knew the bassinet would be short-lived, I would've skipped it and put him in a cot from the start. We use the same mattress for #2 - good thing we used the mattress protector for #1 because the mattress is still in perfect condition.
We would skip the bassinet all together and put baby in the cot.
We had a chair/bouncer in the early days and used it every single day. We used to pop #1 into the chair/bouncer when we were cooking and she chilled in the seat watching us.
We bought a swing on trademe with the intention of using it but #1 never liked it so we didn’t use it more than 2-3 times. It operates on big expensive batteries.
The first bouncer was bright pink and we sold it before #2 came along. We were gifted a bouncer in brown for #2. We use it just as much for #2. We didn't use a motorised swing for #2.
We love the bouncer chair but hated the swing.
We used a Mum2Mum Dream Swaddle #1. Babies have a startle reflex which wakes them up. It’s cute to see but not cute when you’re trying to get some shut eye. The swaddle is also warm and cosy and keeps their arms from flailing everywhere when sleeping. It has a zip that can be zipped from the top or the bottom which means you don’t have to take baby out of a swaddle for a midnight nappy change.
Babies have a startle reflex which wakes them up. A swaddle also makes them feel snug and warm.
We also used the ergoCocoon when #1 was about 5 months old before transitioning to arms out.
We used the Love to Dream Arms Up swaddle from birth and we loved it (and so did he!). The only drawback is that the fabric over the hands can get wet from sucking (self soothing) and needs a wash more often than another swaddle. We skipped the Dream Swaddle completely with #2. We have also used a mix of ergoCocoon and Angel Sleepsacks for #2. We transitioned #2 to an arms out sleeping bag around 5 months (#1 was much later).
No regrets; would swaddle again.
Once #1 was too big for the swaddle, we moved her into a sleeping bag. A sleeping bag means they stay warm even if they move around in the cot (and they move around a lot!). It also keeps them safer because there aren’t any loose sheets/blankets in the cot which could suffocate them if they pulled it over their heads. They come in different togs (thickness/warmth): 2.5 or 3.5 tog is for winter, 1.5 or 1.0 or 0.5 tog is for summer.
We used 1.0 tog ergCcocoon as a transition bag, 0.5 tog Slumbersac for summer and a 2.5 tog Grobag in winter. There are cheap options and expensive options (Merino Kids etc.). We have about 5 or 6 sleeping bags in different weights and have had to find a clean one in the middle of the night when #1 was sick and vomited on 2 sleeping bags (also - yay for the mattress protector!).
#1 was in a sleeping bag until just before her third birthday.
#2 was in an arms out sleeping bag from around 5 months. We started by putting him in a sleeping bag at night because they're in a deeper sleep than daytime naps.
No regrets. Warm babies mean they don't wake because they're cold which means you get more sleep.
White noise mimics the sounds in the womb and also drowns out outside noise so that baby can stay asleep for a bit longer. With #1, we lived on a very busy and noisy street. White noise was useful on trash days or a house full of inlaws/flatmates. We used Spotify on offline mode and played a white/pink noise track on repeat.
We didn't bother with white noise with #2. He sleeps perfectly fine with a noisy older sister in the house.
A lifesaver for #1, not necessary for #2.
#1 wasn’t very keen on the stroller in the first 3 months (it was cold and she clung to us like a little monkey). We used a baby carrier often. We used a generic baby carrier from Baby City. My husband loved it but I found it very rigid and buky. A lot of my friends used Manducas, Ring Slings, Ergobabys etc.
I swapped over to a piece of “brushed cotton” from Spotlight (about 1m x 4m) which is snugger to wrap them close to your body. Wrap similar to this: http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/Instructions/WRAP_-_Front_Wrap_Cross_Carry.ashx
I got a sweet deal on a second hand Manduca and used it from birth with #2. It fits me and my husband both and #2 loves sitting close to us.
I would have bought a decent baby carrier from the start with #1. I love the Manduca but it doesn't have any pockets for tissues or keys or a phone.
This thing is amazing. It is a plug with a thermostat and you set your desired room temperature. You plug your heater into the HeaterMate and it regulates the room temperature by switching on/off based on the room temp. This has saved us from getting up to check on the room temperature, switching heaters on/off, stressing out if the babies are dressed too warm/cool.
We swear by Olbas Oil (either normal or baby version) on a tissue in the room.
Baby Vicks on the chest. Don’t use normal Vicks, it’s too strong and baby’s airways might constrict.
Those stick thermometers are crap. Don’t even waste your $15 on one. We bought a Braun Thermoscan 4020 because it’s the exact same one our doctor/midwife/nurse use and it is accurate. We use the thermometer quite often. Doctors/nurses always ask you “did you check the baby's temp?” and they respond well when you say “yes, baby’s temp was 38.6”. We bought ours from a pharmacy.
NoseFrida also known as a "snot sucker". For the first while, babies don't breath through their mouths so when they're sick they struggle. It’s gross but it works and you get sleep and baby gets sleep.
We tried a bunch of different brands and found that we liked Huggies the most with Treasures coming in at a close second. In the early days, we got a bulk box of cheaper nappies (DryUps) because nappies are expensive and in the early days you go through 10+ nappies per 24 hours. We got specials from this site: http://www.babyonline.co.nz/. We used DryUps during the day and Huggies at night. Once #1 was a bit bigger and used less nappies we’re usually lucky to get either Huggies or Treasures on special from either Countdown or the Warehouse.
Don’t change baby in the middle of the night unless it’s a poo. Huggies/Treasures can last 12 hours between changes and even then they can take even more.
We buy wipes in bulk. You will never have enough wipes. We tried a bunch of different brands of wipes and we like Huggies Pure Baby wipes from Warehouse the most. Waterwipes are good too but very expensive.
We used newborn size nappies for about 4-6 weeks. They go through about 8-12 nappies per day in the first 6 weeks. After that, it gets a bit better. When you introduce solids, it gets worse again but you start using less nappies. Once #1 was about 2 years old, she was down to 4-6 nappies pre day.
#2 loves to poop so he's on DryUps for day and night time. The DryUps aren't as absorbent as the expensive brands but if you're changing a nappy every 2 hours then you might as well be cost effective about it.
We found that the ‘cheap’ supermarket brands like Johnson & Johnson were very harsh on both our babies' skin. We have used Mustela, Baby Sebamed, Ecostore and Cetaphil Baby (not all at the same time) which are all softer and gentler on baby’s skin. Also great for eczema skins.
Breastfeeding hurts like hell in the first 2 weeks. These breastpads are round discs with Manuka honey (to promote healing). If you cool the breastpads in the fridge, you will also get some relief for the sore nips. We bought ours from the pharmacy and cost around $15 for a set and last 3-5 days.
We got a boppy pillow, didn’t like it. Any pillow would do to prop up your arm and baby.
I had my Manuka honey breast pads ready and also got a tube of pure lanolin to help cracking and nipple pain.
The heated debate! I had to go back to work eventually with #1 and had to suppliement her with formula. All the formulas in New Zealand go through rigorous testing and are all suitable for babies. Some have different whey/casein ratios but this would usually not make a difference. Whey based formulas are easier for young babies to digest and casein based formulas are generally cheaper and more suitable for older babies.
For bottles, we used Phillips Avent bottles.
When #1 started on formula, we used S26 Standard and/or S26 Gold.
In the first 3 months, bottles need to be sterilised. You can do this in a microwave steriliser or in the dishwasher. I used to boil a jug of water in the morning, let it cool and then heat up the pre-boiled water in the microwave before adding formula. Saves you time from waiting for water to cool down.
Spill rags (burp cloths)
We bought a pack of 12 old school towelling nappies from Kmart. They work great as burp cloths and general “oh shit there’s a mess” cloths. They were $20 or $30 for a pack of 12. I still use them with #1 (drying her hair, change table cloth etc.).
#1 was a sucky baby. We introduced a dummy around 12 weeks and she used a dummy until just before her third birthday. She hated silicone dummies so we got her a latex dummy (Nuk Latex). Once they're hooked on dummies, always have a spare hidden in a cupboard. A few times we would've had a problem on our hands if the dummy was lost in a toy box and it was time to go sleep.
#2 isn't fond of a dummy and we haven't pushed the dummy idea. He's not a sucky baby as #1 was.
The dummy worked with #1 to help her soothe and fall asleep. We loved it but we also hated it at the same time.
Other bits and bobs
We used Mustela, Sudacrem, Bepanthen etc. If you go to the doctor and ask for a prescription for bum cream, you get a 500ml tub of zinc & castor oil for free. The zinc & castor oil has worked the best for us so far and it’s free!
Black out blinds/curtains
This was another lifesaver. They darken the room and keeps some of the heat in. In summer, babies wake up when the sun comes up at 5am. You don’t want to be awake at 5am. Black out blinds and you get some extra sleep until 6:30 or 7am.
Things we found useless
We used one for the first 4 months while #1 was exclusively on milk. Milk nappies don’t smell that bad so you can have a few dirty nappies in the bin in the room/bathroom. After they start solids, you don’t want those nappies to stick around in the house. Chuck em outside. We found that scented nappy bags ($2.50 for a pack of 100, New World etc.) worked well to mask poo nappies.
Stroller capsule adapter
It was such a mission to the get stroller out, get the adapter out, attach the adapter, click capsule in and then walk with baby. We either used the babycarrier/sling or popped the capsule into a trolley.
A thousand blankets.
Everyone gives you a blanket. You might use 2-4 but that’s it. A muslin blanket is great for swaddling or covering the capsule when moving between the car and house.
If you have small towels (like hair towels, not hand towels) they work perfectly to dry baby. We found the hooded towels were too small and a bit awkward to use because there was always a bit of baby sticking out somewhere.
We used the microwave. Quicker than a bottle warmer. And an appliance most people already have in their homes.
Phew! That was a mouthful. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.