Monkey & Mama does not accept incentives for product endorsements. These are things we use and love.
Early days (birth – 6 months)
Things we wouldn’t have done without from birth to six months.
Our son slept in this from birth until he was just over 6 months old and we used it as a ‘travel cot’ when we were away. It holds babies in a more naturally-cradled semi-foetal position which reduces the startle reflex and helps them to sleep better on their own. We thought it was brilliant and used it not only during the night, but also (because it’s so light) moved it around the house for his naps too. He was happy in it awake as well as asleep which was helpful to allow us to eat in the early days. The only downside, it’s a little pricey…a grandparent gift perhaps? It fits perfectly in the Stokke Day Bed, but I’m sure it would fit other cribs too. Because it moulds to the baby you mostly don’t need to use blankets – in a cold room we’d use a 1 tog baby sleeping bag over his sleepsuit.
Some days babies just want to be held all day. This enabled me to still have hands free to eat, go to the loo, etc. and it was easy enough to put on and take off that my husband used it lots too. Until he was about 4 months old our son would be asleep within seconds of going into it. It also enabled us to easily get out of the house when we’d rather go off-road than stick to pavements. Super useful, really comfy for you and the baby, and suitable from birth – highly recommended!
We had great intentions of using washable nappies, but decided to use disposables at first because in the first few weeks you need to make your life as easy as possible! In the end, we were so happy with Beaming Baby’s biodegradable nappies that we’ve stuck with them. No nappy rash to date and, once the baby stops pooing at night, they’re absorbent enough to last the whole night through. They’re only sold online, but deliver next day as standard and will swap any unopened packs for the next size up if you over order. We use the Naty nappy sacks (which are also biodegradable and aren’t horribly perfumed like some).
Everyone (midwives, NHS online, etc) tells you you should just use cotton wool and water in the early days. We did and it’s a faff. We couldn’t wait to get to baby wipes then we discovered how much they vary. In time we discovered Water Wipes which are thick and big (so you don’t need many per change), don’t leave a residue (which is great for little hands when you start solid foods) and are sensitive enough that they could have been used from birth which, if / when we have another, is exactly what we’ll do!
We didn’t bother with a separate baby bath (partially because we don’t have the space) and used this baby bath seat in our full sized bath until our son was sitting comfortably on his own. This meant we didn’t have to contort ourselves to hold onto a slippery baby with one hand while trying to wash it with another. Made bath time much more relaxing.
It took me a while to figure this out as your boobs get so huge in the early days, can be massively different sizes throughout the day depending on whether you’re about to feed or have just fed, and will settle back down to a sensible size about 4 months in. Ultimately what this means is that you need something supportive but stretchy (surprisingly hard to find). After a few non-starters and a lot of conversations with friends, Bravado is now the only brand I use. I recommend their Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bras for daytime use and their Original Nursing Bras for night-time use (if you need breast pads overnight).
Lansinoh Nipple CreamYour nipples will get sore in the early days as your body adjusts and your baby learns to latch. In my view the only nipple cream worth buying is the Lansinoh lanolin cream as it’s the only one that you don’t have to wipe off before feeding – trust me you really won’t want to do this if your nipples are sore; I have been known to claim that other nipple creams were designed by men! This has the added benefit of supercharging handcream / lip balm if you have some left when you finish feeding.
I used this a lot (7-8 times a day!) in the early days as my son didn’t latch at all until he was 5 weeks old. Hopefully you won’t have this problem, but you may find a pump useful nonetheless both to relieve engorged boobs (which can be sore) and / or to express so that your partner can do a night feed while you sleep (trust me this makes a huge difference as newborns feed every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day). I used the Medela Swing pump largely as Medela was the brand I started using in hospital, but found it reliable, comfortable and effective.
Toddler times (6 – 24 months)
When our son turned 6 months, my husband and I fully embraced baby-led weaning. It was wonderful in so many ways (he could eat our food, no tedious pureeing, he fed himself rather than us feeding him, etc.) but, in the early days, boy was it messy (see here for an hilarious insight into the approach)!
We quickly realised that good bibs were a must, but it took us a while to find ones that worked well – by which I mean that they were both absorbent and had a scoop to catch bits. In the end we found these, which we still use today. The Nature Babycare biodegradable bibs are not cheap, but represent great value when out of the house as they can be used once and left, removing the need to carry dirty bibs in your bag. The Brother Max bibs are two years in and still going strong – comfortable fabric that goes round the neck, with a practical rubber scoop to catch falling food. We have four sets of three that we cycle through the wash.
While we loved our Caboo sling at around 6 months our son started to bounce as we walked, putting pressure on our shoulders and making it less comfortable to carry him for longer periods of time (although we still used it for quick shopping runs until he was 12+ months). We were lucky enough to have been given a beautiful Ellevill woven wrap by a good friend which, after a little practice, we loved and used on a daily basis – yes, even my husband! – mostly using a front wrap cross-carry tie (although the options with a size 6 woven wrap are multiple!). I could carry him all day in this sling without noticing the extra weight.
As he got bigger again, at around 18 months, and I started to struggle to see over his head using a front tie, I started using a mei tai for back carries. I found this easier than back carries with a woven sling as I could swing my son onto my back from my hip rather than over my head. My preference, having got used to the adaptability and comfort of a woven sling was for a traditional woven mei tai without buckles or rings. However, plenty of friends have been pleased with soft structured buckle carriers of which the Ergo Baby is one of the most widely available.
Last winter, as the mornings got dark, our son started waking up earlier and earlier and earlier. In a sense, who could blame him – it was hard to tell the difference between 4am middle of the night and 6.30am time to get up when both were dark! After a lot of internet digging, I chanced upon this Gro Company clock that uses a star and a sun to indicate time to sleep from time to wake up. Children have to be old enough to understand the concept – our son was around 20 months – but he slept right through from the first night we used it. It’s proving just as useful in the summer now it gets light long before wake-up time. This clock has nearly 2,500 review on Amazon and still averages 4.5/5. That many parents can’t be wrong – this works!
We were given a conventional travel cot before our son was born but, while it is spacious and robust, it also weighs a ton and is big even when packed down. When we started planning a trip to India when my son was 20 months old, it became quickly clear it wasn’t going to be the answer. After a lot of web research we came across the Nscessity Travel Centre which is a light-weight (2-3kg), mosquito-proof travel cot. It operates like a pop-up tent – so there’s a bit of a knack to packing it down – but it’s small and light enough to carry in a large suitcase while still leaving space for clothes. It sits on the floor when erect, but has an integral self-inflating mattress so is comfortable, and includes vents that can be opened to help circulate air in warm rooms. Our son used this overnight and for naps during our three-week trip to India and has used it for numerous stays with friends since. The “deluxe” version is big enough to be used to 4 years. The standard, smaller version is aimed at infants under 2.