It can be overwhelming as to what you actually need when preparing for your little one to arrive in the world so we've created the Panda Bear Edit to give you a little bit of guidance on how to navigate the array of products out there.
Following on from Part 1 which covered the essentials to consider when looking at baby transport, what products can support you on your feeding journey and the bathtime basics, this week is all about snuggling up to sleep, changing time, inspiring some sensory play and the all important outfit decisions...
SNUGGLE & SLEEP
The top priority for any new parent is helping their little one get to sleep happily, safely and snuggly. And let's face it, this in turn helps you then rest easy and bank some much needed energy.
With sleep deprivation instilling a similar feeling to a hangover it made me realise how all those previous groggy mornings were just as much to do with broken sleep as they were to do with the 'one more glass/bottle of wine' from the night before!
And I quickly realised one formula does not fit all. The multitude of middle of the night NCT Whats App's were testament to everyone's babies needing different things at different times to inspire those all important zzzz's, and there were months apart in all of our baba's offering up the golden six hour stretch.
There were however some basics that we found essential to get started...
A crib: We plumped for a crib for bedtime purely on the recommendation of a friend who had had a good sleeper and put it down to their baby being able to see her at night. Equally by having slats they felt that when they did transfer him to a cot he settled much more quickly than with previous siblings due to the outlook being the same. Whether or not this was true or just good luck we brought into the dream and I suspect it helped me sleep just as much by being able to see my daughter as it did her.
On a practical level it also meant my daughter could stay in our room for six months rather than growing out of a Moses basket at three months and having to worry about moving cots around between our bedroom and the nursery.
The array of open sided cribs also follow a similar concept and I know those who have them have found them brilliant at both keeping close to their little one, and on a practical level being able to easily lift them out at night for feeds.
Moses basket: We did also have a Moses basket which we kept downstairs for daytime naps. In my mind this helped distinguish between day and night as they were slightly different sleeping environments.
The reality is that I have no idea what impact it had if any, however it was helpful to have another secure location to pop my daughter in when needed downstairs.
The Sleepyhead: Apparently a miracle worker for little ones who have trouble getting down. I know people who's lives have been transformed overnight with one of these!
A monitor: We have gone through many a monitor however started the journey with the all singing all dancing option that included a video and temperature display to attempt to calm my fears of leaving my daughter to sleep alone.
This of course didn't stop me staying awake and staring at the monitor for the first two nights when she did move into her own room, not to mention many an eye-roll from my husband in response to my obsession over her room temperature, however I do believe that anything that minimises your anxiety is worth the investment.
In terms of creating a sense of calm when settling my daughter down the heartbeat setting on our monitor was a miracle worker. I also know many new parents who eulogise about Ewan the Dream Sheep as being the hero in this space.
While it was only being tested when I had my daughter I would now snap up the Owlet in an instant. This nifty invention is worn as an anklet and tracks a newborn's heart rate and oxygen levels, alerting you if there is a change in regularity to help kerb any overnight anxiety, something that often kept me resisting sleep even in the deepest throws of exhaustion.
Baby sleeping bags: A brilliant invention I did not even know existed before I had a baby. They are so quick and easy to pop little ones in and out of while keeping them super snuggly and safe, rather than having to worry about then wriggling under blankets in the middle of the night.
We had three on rotation to allow for any unexpected leaks in the night.
For style, safety & practicality the Mama Designs Babasacs has it all due to their smart design that enables you to adjust the tog of the bag depending on the temperature of the environment your baby is in. Incredibly useful if your little one is born across seasons or you escape for a holiday to foreign shores.
Cot sheets: Again, we found having at least three to rotate was essential as there is nothing like a reflux prone baby at 3am.
Cellular blankets: Great both for at home and out and about in warmer months.
I must have breezed over the page in the What to Expect book about how many nappies your little one would require in a day. A personal best was 18 in one 24 hour period, and the norm would be around 12.
With this in mind setting up one or even two changing areas that work for you in the home will help make your life just that little bit easier when you're navigating those first couple of months.
Nappies: There is so much debate on what brand to use and the simple answer is, like bottles it can require a little bit of trial and error to ascertain what works best for you and your baby.
We used Pampers Premium due to the smart blue line that appears when the nappy is wet - a handy visual cue to help diagnose the cause of any crying. We then signed up to Amazon Family and subscribed for a rolling delivery to have one less thing to think about!
There are also now some great brands with an eco-friendly approach such as Kit & Kin set up by ex / former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, who equally offer a subscription service to make your life just that little bit easier.
Wipes: There was one memorable moment in our NCT class when one of the dads-to-be mentioned Cheeky Wipes and the rest of the men all whipped out their phones and ordered immediately, possibly in part to having just been tasked with changing a nappy with the surprise appearance of peanut butter.
While at the time this created a collective groan from the female contingent in attendance as we mentally pictured the washing element (which I realise in itself has fallen dreadfully into gender stereotypes), the reality was that these re-usable soft cloth wipes infused with baby friendly essential oils were great for those early weeks due to their softness on delicate skin and their gorgeous smell helping to mask the less appealing aroma's emanating from our little bundles of joy.
Once things became more 'active' we gradually phased these out and moved on to Water Wipes seduced by their base of water and fruit extracts, which also helped to curb my mum guilt at not being all out eco and using recyclable nappies and liners. (Although to be honest that guilt quickly passed once weaning had started in full earnest...)
A Nappy Bag: There are so many brands out there however I would recommend looking for something that has both style and substance. It's astounding how much stuff someone who is small enough to they themselves fit in a bag requires for a simple trip to the park.
Anything that easily compartmentalises all the different things you carry around is a winner as there is nothing quite like foraging for your water wipes when your little one has decided to re-share their lunch with you, at scale... We went with Storksak who also have a great line of bags tailored to men which the husband loved and made him feel equally as involved in the more practical side of things. (All hail venues that now have dedicated changing facilities or have stations in both the male and female bathrooms!)
For the ultimate in style stakes new kids on the block Tiba + Marl would also appear on my wish list next time.
Nappy bin: Where this may lack excitement it certainly makes up for it in terms of practicality. And get the biggest capacity going!
Having a proper nappy bin next to the changing mat makes make for quick and easy disposal which not only ensures there is one less thing to muster up the energy for (i.e. heading outside every time you change a nappy), it also minimises odours with the internal system sealing off each nappy once deposited. We used the Tommee Tippee Sangenic.
Sudacreme or coconut cream: To help minimise any skin irritation - both your baba's and your own hands from the constant washing.
SENSE & PLAY
The first year is such an incredibly important time for your little one's sensory development. Sensory stimulation of any kind causes the nerve cells in a newborn's brain to multiply and start connecting, something you can read more about here.
In terms of the absolute essentials to get started my recommendations would be as follows...
A Playmat: I slightly underestimated the amount of little liquid hiccups that would come from a newborn, especially if your little one suffers from reflux. Therefore a playmat that is machine washable and easily wipeable is brilliant at keeping your little one comfortable and protecting your floor or carpet.
The gorgeous Etta Loves playmat has the added benefit of being designed to stimulate your little ones eyes to support this all important brain growth.
As my daughter got older and had an increased ability to move at pace we graduated to the Munchkin & Bear mat which is gorgeously padded yet easily wipeable. In hindsight I wish we had got it a little earlier than we did as it's brilliant when little ones are learning to sit up as there is nothing quite like a baby falling backwards and hitting their head on a wooden floor to prompt a bout of anxiety...
Playmat Gym: One of the key sources of early entertainment for my daughter was her playmat gym. They are brilliant when you want to keep your little one stimulated post a daytime feed to start to try and regulate their feeding pattern, not to mention when you have exhausted your armoury of entertainment ideas and need a 10 minute break yourself. Done by Deer do a gorgeous version that ticks both the style & stimulation boxes.
When my daughter was old enough we graduated to what fondly became known as the 'circle of neglect', essentially a static version of the Jumperoo.
She absolutely adored it and it was a brilliant source of entertainment when keeping her safely contained while cooking dinner or having a shower.
We brought the Skip Hop Activity Centre which has the nifty design of converting to a toddler table as they grow older.
Black & white toys: Research has shown that the best thing to stimulate little eyes in the first three months is simple black & white shapes and patterns.
With newborn's only having 5% of the visual capability of an adult yet 80% of the vital stimulation they need to prompt brain growth coming from what they see, getting a couple of dedicated black and white toys will really help support their sensory development in the early days.
Panda Bear was actually born from my own difficulty in finding great black & white toys and accessories when I had my daughter, and now having discovered what amazing brands there are out there I mentally redesign my daughter's nursery on a weekly basis!
Have a browse through our Sense & Play collection for a range of black and white options from books to rattles, cue cards to pram toys, and even wall stickers to help you create your own mini sensory zone at home.
DRESS TO IMPRESS*
*Or rather just dressing for practicality...
We bought so many clothes for my daughter before she was born which in hindsight was not the best idea as when she arrived three weeks early all the gorgeous outfits I'd splurged on completely swamped her.
When she did finally amass enough body weight to wear them many items were only worn once due to the season changing so it's worth considering what you buy now versus what you add to your wish-list before your little one arrives.
While also having visions of dressing my daughter in a gorgeous outfit each morning the reality was that I found it much easier to keep her in a baby-grow for many of the early weeks due to the constant cycle of feeding & changing... There is nothing quite like re-dressing them in a vest, top/dress/dungarees, leggings and socks multiple times a day when you can pull on an all-in-one relatively quickly.
For your own sanity it is also worth avoiding anything that is too fiddly to pull on and off, for example an outfit that does up at the back or has numerous small buttons. Whoever designs these has clearly never had to wrestle with a small baby resistent to change.
As a rough guide to the absolute essentials I would recommend...
12 long and short sleeved baby-grows
12 short & long sleeved legless body suits (great to go with leggings)
Six x leggings & socks
Six x cardigans / jumpers: A tip on these... while tops with hoods look cute, unless it is cold enough for your little one to actually wear the hood don't buy too many of them in the very early stages as they bunch up under their neck when in the pram. Hoods however do come into their own when your little one is in the carrier.
THE END OF THE EDIT
So that concludes my edit on the essentials that supported me on my own maternity journey.
In the newborn haze I am sure there are other things I eulogised about at the time so please do comment below with what makes your life just that little bit easier to support others embarking on their own journey.
And for those counting down the days...the very best of luck and go forth and conquer.
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