"Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart."
~ Unknown

Monday, June 9, 2014

Baby "Gear" - What Do You Really Need?

One of the most popular questions among expectant parents is, "What do we need for our new baby?" Lists from major retailers, magazines and parenting books detail the latest must-haves. However, what a new baby really needs may actually differ from what your family may need for your new baby.  Let me explain...

We'll begin with the basics.  Here is my list of baby's needs:

What does a baby need?

  1. Love & Nurturing
  2. Nourishment
  3. A safe place to sleep
  4. A car seat
  5. Protection from the elements
  6. A feeling of security
  7. Diapers, lots of diapers
  8. Health and hygiene care

Now, we'll take a look at each item on baby's list and what your family may like to have to help meet your little one's needs.

Love & Nurturing
Of course, we know that a baby needs lots of love.  That is item number one on our list.  No one can provide that for your baby but you and those who love you and your baby; and, no special "gear" is required.  Just an open heart and open arms.  Skin-to-skin contact is one way that families are able to nurture their newborn right from the start.

Skin-to-skin contact is the primal form of nurturing that can begin immediately after birth.  It helps to facilitate breastfeeding and is also helpful for fathers and co-parents to bond with their new babies. Skin-to-skin contact is essential for baby's brain and it assists in the regulation of respiration, temperature and heart rate.

Breastfeeding is the biological norm for babies and is the primary mode of feeding recommended by the World Health Organization.  There is no more perfect food for your baby.  Breastfeeding does require support, though, and it is especially helpful when your partner has also learned about breastfeeding and how best to help you. His or her reassurance may be exactly what you need if challenges come up. Getting involved with an organization like La Leche League International and finding other breastfeeding mothers to build a support network will also benefit you.  You may also want to find out what other supports are available in your area.  (Lethbridge-area resources listed below.)

If breastfeeding is not possible due to health concerns, separation of mother and baby, or maternal medication, speak to your midwife or doctor about alternatives. Support, again, is key!  As a mother of one bottle-fed and one breastfed child, I know that it can be a difficult and even heart-wrenching decision to make; but, no one should ever make you feel guilty for doing what you need to do for your child's health and your family.  If you need to bottle-feed, the choices are endless.  Find what works for your baby.  If anything, your baby will teach you about flexibility.

Lethbridge Breastfeeding Resources:

Lethbridge Breastfeeding Clinic
La Leche League Canada: Lethbridge
Nursing Cafe Lethbridge

A Safe Place to Sleep
Where baby should sleep has become a bit of a hot topic in recent years.  Regardless of whether your baby sleeps in a crib, bassinet, co-sleeper or in your bed with you (bedsharing), the following guidelines should be observed:

  1. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs.
  2. Health Canada recommends that baby sleep in his or her parents' room for the first six months.
  3. Baby should always sleep on a firm surface. (See here for safety regulations for cribs, bassinets, etc.)
  4. Baby's bed should not contain loose covers, stuffed animals, pillows, bumper pads or sleep positioners.
  5. Parents should not co-sleep with baby if they are smokers or have consumed alcoholic beverages or certain medications.
  6. Babies should not sleep in a seated or semi-reclined position such as in an infant car seat.
  7. Babies should not sleep on a sofa or other soft furniture.

More on sleep:

Health Canada's Safe Sleep Tips
Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory for Safe Cosleeping (Bedsharing) Guidelines

A Safe Car Seat
For Canadians, follow Health Canada and Transport Canada guidelines when choosing a car seat for your new baby.  Remember, recently, it has been recommended that children remain rear-facing for up to two years rather that the previous recommendation of 20-22 lbs or one year. See this article from the CBC.  Also, remember that it is illegal to use a car seat purchased outside of Canada. Make sure you familiarize yourself with up-to-date car seat regulations for your country, state or province.  Remember to never use aftermarket products with your car seat.  This includes bulky winter clothing such as snowsuits.

Protection from the Elements
Obviously, baby needs clothing. Shop for the season your baby will be born in and keep in mind that baby needs one more layer than you would wear.  Basic items to look for are diaper shirts (or "onesies"), sleepers, newborn hats to keep baby warm (not for sleeping), socks and wearable blankets or SleepSacks for bedtime.  If you choose to swaddle, muslin swaddling blankets are breathable and stretchy.  Make sure you research safe swaddling techniques to avoid hip dysplasia and also keep blankets away from baby's face. For winter transport, see this article for tips on how to keep baby warm and safe.  As cute as those fancy (and pricey) name-brand outfits are, they are not "must-haves," and baby may only wear them once or twice.  Invest in the basics.

A Feeling of Security
You and your partner are your child's security.  Learning to interpret and responding to his or her cues or cries in a timely manner builds secure attachment between you and your baby.  Utilizing skin-to-skin contact, as mentioned above, feeding with love and engaging in babywearing can also help your child to feel secure.  Investing in a few safe hip and spine-healthy baby carriers can not only assist in your bond with baby, but also enable you to carry out day-to-day activities with greater ease.  Research has shown that babies who are carried or "worn" by their parents cry less, sleep better and develop better socially.

Diapers, Lots of Diapers
What goes in, must come out.  This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Health & Hygiene Care
Keeping baby healthy and clean is definitely a priority; but, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money.  Invest in a good thermometer (ask your midwife or doctor what they recommend for accuracy) and learn how to do a "top and tail" cleansing of your newborn for those early days. Soft towels and washcloths can be added to your list of necessities.  A simple baby tub or even your bathroom or kitchen sink can be suitable for full immersion bathing.

The Essentials
To recap, here is my simplified list of essentials for your new baby:

  1. Love
  2. Breast Milk (or alternative if necessary)
  3. Safe Sleeping Area
  4. Car Seat
  5. A Safe Baby Carrier (or two...or three...)
  6. Basic Clothing (diaper shirts, sleepers, newborn hats and socks)
  7. Wearable Blanket/Sleep Sack
  8. Muslin Receiving Blankets (if desired)
  9. LOTS of Diapers
  10. A Thermometer
  11. Towels and Washcloths
  12. Somewhere Safe to be Bathed
Depending on your lifestyle, you may find additional items that may make your life a little bit easier such as a portable crib for travelling, a swing for a fussy baby, or a baby gate to wrangle some furry friends.  Just know that you already have the absolute essentials to parent your baby. They are love and your maternal (or paternal) instincts.  Trust in those and your baby will flourish!

One final note, when purchasing items for your baby, please remember to check your government's recall database.  For Canada, visit Healthy Canadians: Recalls & Alerts.

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