There's a long running superstition in my family that you're not to buy anything for the baby until he or she is home safe and sound. I stuck to this and given Finn's entry into the world, I am glad I did! The challenge was coming home from the hospital and having purchased almost nothing for me or the baby. I had looked at the lists for new moms and bookmarked some things I liked, but I was overwhelmed by choice and would spend twenty minutes debating what fancy burp cloth to get (FYI dish towels work great and that's usually what I have within easy reach).
The truth is that for the first six months, you really don't need much at all. Your baby is just discovering that his hands and feet belong to him. In the first months, you are mostly doing your best to keep your baby fed and in a (somewhat) clean onesie, to avoid letting your nipples scab up and bleed, to help your yoni or c-section incision heal quickly, and ideally have all your insides find their way back into place. A pretty burp cloth very quickly falls to the bottom of the list of priorities.
Now that I am nearly six months in, here are the products that made all the difference for me. Consider this your eco-friendly, natural-minded wishlist or shopping list.
25 Essentials for New Moms and Babies | Best Eco-Friendly and Non-Toxic Products
The first few weeks of nursing are a little nightmarish. This is the reality for most women, so know that you are not alone. After about six weeks, it becomes easier, less painful, and truly enjoyable. Try your best to hang in there if you can. Many lactation consultants will be quick to make recommendations for prescription nipple cream (these have antibiotics in them, so avoid if you can), prescription milk production meds (obviously you want to avoid medication if you can), or suggest that your baby has a tongue tie if there is a problem latching (an experienced cranial sacral therapist can help as a first step).
Most nursing pillows are made of polyurethane foam. This pillow will be wrapped around you and have your baby resting on it for hours and hours and hours in your first six months. Skip the chemicals and opt-for a wool stuffed version. Yes, it costs more. Yes, it's worth it.
Nipple Balm: Matter Company
Your nips are going to hurt. After about a week, mine were chapped and would bleed every time I nursed. There is nothing you can do to prepare for this. What I would recommend is to start using a nipple balm straight away. Also, if you are able to find the time to pump in the early days, this can be helpful so that you can space your feedings a little bit and give a bottle in between. Lanolin is a common recommendation for the nipples but this comes from sheep, and the sheep may have been exposed to chemicals/pesticides. Whatever you put on your nipples your baby is going to be ingesting. I chose the Nipple Balm from the Matter Company.
Some moms have had success using a silicone nipple cover as a temporary remedy so your baby can continue to nurse but there is less stress on the nipples. If you are going this route, just be mindful that you wash the nipple cover and your nipple really well. Yeast infections of the nipples are possible, and word on the street is that silicone nipple shields are a prime culprit. The nipples do heal remarkably fast but it is not fun times. I had 48 hours of hell where I would be nursing with tears rolling down my cheeks. Now, this period is a distant memory and I am glad I was able to stick it out.
Breast Pump: Medela Breast Pump
I got this as a hand-me-down from a friend. These are pricy machines and if you can get one second-hand, do it. You can find replacement tubes and bottles on Amazon.
Pumping from the early days can be really helpful to start getting your back-up stores ready (what some moms refer to as freedom milk). I kept trying to pump full servings at one time, and soon realized this didn't work. If your baby is nursing every 3 hours, try and pump an ounce an hour after your baby is done or 90 minutes before your next feed- somewhere in that window.
This pump works great. I have a big version, but if you're buying it new, consider where you'll be pumping, as a portable version might make more sense. (And get these milk storage bags that are both BPA and BPS-free)
Bottles: Como Tomo and Others!
You'll often hear that you shouldn't give a bottle too soon due to nipple confusion. I don't know of a lot of moms who had babies that preferred drinking from a bottle instead of from mama, but it's your call as to how you want to proceed.
We started Finn on a bottle at around one month and he was super fussy about it. We tried first with the Como Tomo bottle, but he wasn't having it. We switched to a higher flow glass bottle that worked. Once he got the hang of it, we switched back to the slow flow Como Tomo and he was all good. A few other tricks that worked for us included someone else giving him the bottle, and to have him in his chair rather than in a nursing type position. Now, at five months, he'll take a bottle from anyone, anywhere.
Organic Cotton or Bamboo Breast Pads
I had been given a list of things to buy before the baby and this was on the list. I didn't really have too much of a problem with leaky boobs, but I know this is the case for a lot of women. As I mentioned above, in the early days of nursing, your nipples are going to be insanely sensitive. A soft organic pad, whether you're leaking or not, can be nice.
I also loved these as mini heating pads or ice packs. I would drop them in warm water and use as a compress pre-nursing to increase the flow, or soak and freeze and use as ice packs post nursing to help with the pain. Either way, as these are going up against your skin where your babe will be spending a lot of time there, you want them free of synthetics.
Investing in a good nursing bra (or four) goes a long way. Prior to pregnancy, I basically wore training bra halters so this was a whole new experience for me. I opted for bamboo and wire free for optimal comfort.
Your rib cage will expand in the later months of pregnancy and come back down 3-4 months postpartum (at least mine did). This is my favourite one. And in the early days if you need to sleep in it, it’s comfortable enough. With the one I link to below, I am still wearing the medium/large five months later, and am waiting for the smaller size to come back in.
Milk Flow: Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle
As I mentioned above with nursing, flow is a popular topic in mom groups. Your milk supply will ebb and flow and is built on demand.There are several prescriptions on the market including Metoclopramide (Reglan), Domperidone (Motilium), and sulpiride (Eglonyl, Dolmatil, Sulpitil, Sulparex, Equemote). I would look to these as a last resort after you've tried herbal remedies and/or intermittent pumping.
Assuming you are living by the UnDiet philosophy of chemical-free, low sugar eating and staying well hydrated, herbal remedies should do the trick. There are several herbs and tea blends that can help. Check out the tea from Honest Leaf Tea and Harmonic Arts. I personally think lactation cookies are a bit of a load of hooey. It's a cookie, that usually includes oats and flax, which are two known galactagogues.
If you really want to increase your milk flow noticeably, pick up a bottle each of Blessed Thistle, and Fenugreek (I recommend getting them as separate herbs). The recommendation given to me was to take three caps of each, three times a day (yes, this is 18 supplements a day*). After twenty-four hours, my milk came flowing in. Combining this with trying to pump a little between feedings should help with flow.
*Please be sure to consult with your natural healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.
I've heard rumours that there are babies out there who love to sleep and sleep six, eight even ten-hour stretches from the get-go. These babies love napping and it's all just sweet and perfect. Not over here! At nearly six months, sleep is a tricky thing. We're not here to debate co-sleeping versus crib sleeping, sleep training versus not. That's not for me to decide for you. You do you, my sleepy boo. What I can share are the things that I use and love.
Co-Sleeping: What about the Dock-A-Tot?
We used the Dock-A-Tot for co-sleeping. Partway through, there were some blog posts and a statement from Health Canada that the Dock-A-Tot is not approved for safety for the sleeping of an infant. By the time this recommendation came out, we were no longer co-sleeping. If co-sleeping is something you want to try, you may wish to opt for a small bassinet that can fit in your room or a sidecar type basinet that clips to the side of your bed. Living downtown Toronto, space in our old house is limited and the Dock-A-Tot worked for us for the first few weeks. We then moved on to helping our babe sleep in his crib (and we all slept better after that!).
Crib Sleeping: Latex Mattress
We picked up a wooden crib that had no VOCs in the paint, no MDF or toxic glues. Most important however is the mattress. If there is one thing you are going to splurge on, let it be the mattress your baby will be sleeping on (if you choose crib sleeping) for a solid three years. Given that in the first year, most babies spend more time asleep than awake, this matters.
Mattress are loaded with toxic chemicals including flame retardants that are known endocrine disruptors. I will stop here as I do need to write a post on a health nursery, but in the meantime, opt for a pure wool or natural latex mattress (or a mix of the two.) We got ours from Dormio, which you can purchase online at Sunshine Mattress Co*. Use the coupon code MEGHAN10 for 10% off mattresses and accessories.
Swaddle Blanket: Modern Burlap
I loved that these were black and white, organic cotton and large for easy wrapping. You need about four if you have laundry in your home, get more if you're using a laundromat. I wasn't sold on the velcro swaddle options. You can read more about the importance of letting your babe be able to free himself from the swaddle if needed and this felt like an important thing for us. As always, do what makes sense for you.
There are loads of options to choose from with swaddle blankets, but these are the ones I love. Now that our boy is long past the days of swaddling, we use them in his stroller, carseat, on the floor for playing and I will occasionally use it as a scarf. Winning all around.
Onesies/Sleepers: L'Oved Baby
I loved these onesies so much. They are 100% organic cotton, super soft, wash really well and don't have elephants, llamas, airplanes or other cutesy baby patterns that aren't really my thing. I had three sleepers for each age range and that worked well with our laundry schedule. You don't need a ton of anything.
I also loved their shorty options when Finn a newborn during the summer months. We were gifted a whole bunch of onesies but for sleeping, these remain my top, top, top pick.
Lighting: Red Light Head Lamp, Red Bulb and/or Salt Lamp
Lighting isn't something I read anything about or that anyone mentioned to me at any point. Lighting matters. Chances are good that you and your partner are going to be up at all hours, and you want your sleep hormones as undisturbed as possible. Guess what? The same goes for your baby. Whether your baby is in your room for nighttime feedings or you are going to theirs, you'll need to turn a light on. Make it a red light to preserve melatonin.
We had red lightbulbs installed in our bedside lights and in the nursery use a 20-watt bulb in a salt lamp. This may also help make it much easier for both you and your baby to fall back to sleep after feedings. If you're like me and have a tough time falling back to sleep once woken, get a headlamp for late-night reading. You can get these at most sporting goods store. You'll feel like a total dork but trust me, it helps.
And I am going to assume it goes without saying that turning your phone on to scroll through social media at 4:00 am is an absolute no, no. Don't fall into that bad habit.
Cozy Robe + Mama Sleepwear
Welcome to your new uniform. I opted for low v-neck men's t-shirts for sleeping as it allows me to easily whip out the goods without getting undressed or dealing with buttons. I also prefer this to having to lift up my shirt and tucking it under my neck to hold it in place. The cozy robe is essential. No matter the season, you tend to be little chilled (once the postnatal night sweats pass).
Aim for a robe that is organic cotton as you and your babe will be snuggled on the regular and also narrow sleeves to keep them out of the bath, sink, spray line if you have a boy, stove etc. I love this one from Coyuchi but it may be tough to find in Canada.
Bathtime is the best time. Your little one may scream like mad the first few dips in the tub but in time, most babes grow to love this.
Baby Bath: The PUJ
As newborns are often wrapped tight in a swaddle or are bundled in a bassinet, a big tub can be a scary place. This bath was a gift and we loved it from the start as it allowed us to bathe the babe standing comfortably at the sink rather than bent over the tub. It fits in most sinks (ours is very small and it works great). It stores away easily and is free of PBA, BPS, phthalates and all the other undesirables commonly found in plastic. You definitely want to be mindful of plastic in bathing products and toys and these are most often being used in warm water where they are even more prone to leaching.
Shampoo, Soap, and Moisturizer: Living Libations
Obviously Johnson and Johnsons isn't hanging out in my house. I personally use Living Libations for everything, and their products are just as awesome for baby. I use their Seabuckthorn Shampoo as shampoo and soap, and the Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever as a post-bath moisturizer. They have a beautiful set for baby which I loved the first time I ordered it. Then I ended up just using the same things I use as it was one less thing. I also used the Scalp Tonic on Finn when he developed cradle cap. Worked like a charm after two applications.
A lot of people assumed I'd be using cloth diapers. I never considered it. I have nothing against them, but I knew that I would need to pick and choose what was reasonable for us. Cloth diapers didn't make the cut and so far, I have no regrets about that decision.
Diapers: Seventh Generation
We tried a few brands and settled on Seventh Generation as we had the fewest leaks. There's no chlorine or any extra chemicals and no scents. We've had no diaper rash issues, the sizing is accurate and overall, we're just happy with them. One less decision.
Nappy Ointment: Substance by The Matter Company
This is the same brand as the nipple balm. Again, this works, no rashes, no smells, all crisp and clean ingredients. When you find something that works, just stick with it.
Wipes: Water Wipes
I know a lot of moms opt to make their own, or use cloths and wash them. I love this product as it's pretty much what I would use if I were to make my own- a cloth, water, and a little grapefruit seed extract as an antibacterial. No scents, no fuss, no muss.
For Postpartum Mama
I didn't need or want much aside from food, shoulder rubs and sleep. There are two things I do have to mention that I can't praise more highly.
Belly Wrap: Bellies Inc
I researched this one big time as I'd read a lot about postpartum practices in other cultures. It's very common in several cultures to wrap the belly after birth. This helps put all the internal organs back in place. I don't know about that, it but it felt amazing to have that support on my belly when it was all loosey goosy post-delivery. There are different wraps recommended based on whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean section birth. I had a the former and this was the wrap I used and swear by.
Yoni Spray + Padsicles
You are going to be pushing a human through the vagina. Facts. And the tissue of this region will be stretched from here to next Tuesday. Hopefully you have done your perineal massage or even better, used the torture device known as the Epi-No (if you're prenatal or know anyone who is- get this!)
There are many recommendations for sitz baths post-birth which is a nice idea. Unfortunately, I was in the hospital for a week using a public bathroom, and so this wasn't an option and I would imagine for most new moms, having time to do this would be tricky.
Padsicles are my second best recommendation. This is where you take a normal postnatal pad and douse it in a blend of alcohol-free (very important!) witch hazel and some soothing essential oils of lavender and peppermint and then freeze them. The idea is postpartum, you wear the pads and this helps reduce inflammation and promote healing. I had made these, but being in the hospital meant they weren't an option.
Yoni Spray is the easiest and is a must. I made my own and swear by this soothing spray. I mixed 1/4 cup witch hazel, 1/4 cup water and 10 drops each of lavender, peppermint and frankincense. You can also buy them ready-made.
Baby Bjorn Bouncy Chair
When you're not nursing and your baby isn't sleeping, sometimes you need to put him down and actually have your hands free. We were able to put our baby in this chair from newborn through to now and he continues to love it. There is a lot of controversy over the Bumbo chair which seems to be the most common baby chair option and its lack of support for a baby's spine before they are able to sit on their own. I love that our bouncy chair starts very reclined, ideal for newborns and has differing positions you can use as your baby grows. The cover is removable and washable.
Oh the world of wraps. There are seminars and workshops and whatnot on babywearing. I love wearing Finn on short walks, but he pretty quickly became too big and heavy for me to carry everywhere all the time. Mu husband, however is a huge fan of babywearing. We have three carriers so that my husband and I can both use them. Here are the three we settled on and love:
- Solly wrap - Great from newborn onwards
- Helina carrier - This has been my personal favourite as it's snug for the baby and I can get it on easily on my own.
- Ergo 360 - This one is awesome from about two months onwards. The baby can be worn facing in or out (once he has neck control), or also carried on the back (when old enough).
The Things we don't have
- Baby monitors (we opted out due to EMFs). We live in a smaller home and can easily hear if Finn is crying whether we're in our room or on the main floor.
- Giant plastic baby gym/floor mat things. We got a small wooden baby gym toy.
- Crib mobile. I'd read that cribs were for sleeping, not playing and so we never installed one and our baby falls asleep fine without.
- Plastic toys. This has been one of the toughest given all the wonderful gifts we've received. At this young age, everything goes in the mouth and many toymakers replaced BPA with BPS, which is still a hormone disruptor.
If you have anything you have loved to bits and would like to share, please post in the comments below.
(This post contains affiliate links but is not a sponsored post. I purchased all of the items I am recommending)