This post is far more on the practical side than I have written about our adventures with Ellie thus far. I've been asked to expound all of my knowledge of breastfeeding, and our favorite baby items. I know for me it was really helpful when I was pregnant to read books and other mom's blogs of what things they loved for their baby, or what things worked for their baby. But as a disclaimer...get to know your baby and take everything you read with a grain of salt. What works for some, may not work for you and that is a-okay!
Here are 14 things/practical lessons that have helped in our house:
1. Breastfeeding is hard work. Hard work. For both you and baby. One of the silver linings of Ellie having to be in the NICU for 7 weeks was all of the wonderful support that we got from our lactation consultants. I felt like Ellie and I had our personal team of cheerleaders. They celebrated every little accomplishment. And I am so glad that they did. Breastfeeding is really hard work and I can see how easy it would be to give up if you don't celebrate every little success.
When I first started pumping, I got maybe 4 or 5 mL. They cheered so much I felt like I had just gotten out of a limo on the red carpet. I pumped and pumped and pumped for 4 weeks before Ellie was big enough to even try to start learning how to breastfeed. Ellie would latch on. They would cheer. The next time, Ellie wouldn't, but they would cheer us for trying. So my advice on breastfeeding....celebrate EVERYTHING and keep trying. Just like in life, you will have good days and bad days. Lactation consultants are available outside of the hospital too. Your pediatrician should have information on how to get in touch with them near you.
2. Burp Cloths - you can never, NEVER have enough of these. Yesterday, Ellie was particularly spitty and we went through Every. Single. One. They come in all kinds, each with their own benefit. My favorite is probably the aden + anais burpy bibs that function as both a burp cloth and bib. Its wide kidney shape helps it site perfectly on your shoulder to give you maximal coverage.
3. Swaddle Blankets - these were especially important for us with our premie, who loved to be swaddled when we first brought her home. The receiving blankets that they sell are too small for good swaddling. Another shout out for aden + anais. Their blankets are fantastic and have been great to have as Ellie grows. Now we can swaddle her loosely while she sleeps, with her arms out - just the way she likes it.
4. Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat - Every baby needs a good car seat. I wanted one that was highly rated in safety, but that was also easy to use and carry. After much research, and lots of recommendations, we settled on this model. Three words for you: We love it!!! My mother in law was a gem and got us ours right after Ellie was born (it was the one thing we hadn't gotten yet!). Another thing that was great for us was that it supported infants as low as little as 4 pounds so we were covered when she came home from the hospital.
5. Sheet Savers - These come in several different forms. We have two different kinds. These and these. They are perfect to put under her head when she is in her crib so that all of her spit up lands on it instead of the sheet. These beauties have helped me only have to change her crib sheets every couple of weeks.
6. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child - This book is amazing. It came highly recommended from my dear friend Ashley. If I had only bought one book, this would have been it. I teaches you about baby brain and sleep development. I read and re-read this book every day and it has been so great in helping me know how to respect Ellie's sleep and train her to have healthy sleeping habits. And yes, a happy, well rested baby makes for a happy, well rested mama!
7. Changing Stations - you can put together your own changing stations and have them in key locations over your house. We have one upstairs in Ellie's room, and downstairs in the living room. My changing station is house in a basket and has diapers, wipes, and diaper rash/bum cream. There is also a changing pad or mat near each basket. So simple, but so helpful!!!
8. Bibs - I never thought I would need bibs before she started eating solid foods, but Ellie spits up so much that if I don't put a bib on her, I am guaranteed an outfit change after she nurses (And if I don't have several burp cloths handy, then I am guaranteed an outfit change after!!)
9. Soothies Pacifiers (and the Pacifier clip) - we were introduced to Soothies in the hospital. We are a pro-pacifier family. It helped Ellie learn her suck-swallow reflux, which helped her be successful at breastfeeding as a premie. I also really like this model because we can help her get started sucking on it with our finger. Its also pretty cute to be able to see how their mouth and tongue moves when they suck on it.
10. Baby Carrier - Having a premie, we loved starting out with a wrap style baby carrier. It was like portable kangaroo time when we got home. We also have the traditional style that will be so great when she gets a little older and is has more control over her muscles. These carriers allow hands free holding and carrying. Ellie has spent many a day in her Boba sleeping while mommy cleaned, visited with friends, or shopped (although you will need a reliable baby-holder if you are going to try anything on!).
11. Snugabunny Swing, bouncy seat, or rocker. These are great items for baby to nap in, or have a safe place to quietly play when its time to put them down. In the wonderful "newborn" phase, Ellie slept really well, pretty much anywhere. It was great to have one or two of these items strategically around the house for her to nap in where she would be close by where I was. (i.e. near the kitchen while I was cooking, or upstairs when I was doing laundry). The older she gets, the more and more she needs to be in her crib while she naps, so we loved having items that are multi-functional. Her swing is still a great place for her to be in while she is awake, and her rocker converts to a bouncy chair that she usually plays in when I get ready in the morning.
12. Bottle supplies and such - Ellie took bottles more than she would nurse while she was in the NICU because I could only be there for so many feedings during the day (which still also left all of the night feedings she had). As she came home, we gradually transitioned her from all bottles to a bottle once a week or so. Having said that - here is what she needed in regards to bottles:
Ellie had such a strong suck-swallow reflux that she would suck down her milk faster than she should have even with a standard slow flow nipple. We had to get her on an Avent nipple size 1, which is slower than a slow flow until she was 5-6 weeks old gestationally. Now, she uses a size 2, which is basically a slow flow. Every baby is different, and it is a trial and error to find the right bottle/nipple size for you. Because we needed the avent nipples, we use the Avent bottles.
The other thing we love is a dishwasher caddy that allows safe storage of bottle parts and pacifiers while they are washing!!
13. Baby monitor - we ended up getting a Samsung model that has audio and video. We tried a wireless indoor camera, but were disappointed with the poor audio quality. I love having the audio and video and our model has an option to set the camera to only come on when Ellie makes noise!
14. Stroller and conversion bar - last but not least, we love the stroller that we decided on. Just like with the car seat, I did a lot of research to find the right one for our lifestyle. I wanted one that Ellie could grow into, but could also have her carseat snap into it while she still has to ride in it so that we didn't have to buy two of them. We went with a baby jogger (City Mini) because I know I would put a lot of miles on it walking several miles everyday. It is also a cinch to get out or fold up. Our GT model has real wheels that allow for easier access on grass or "off road" terrain for parks. The conversion bar we got for it is perfect and snaps right onto the stroller to allow any easy and safe snap in for her car seat.
.....and that's all folks!