Life with a newborn

So teeny tiny!
Our 'baby' year with Millie is drawing to a close. I can't believe she's almost one. She is such a joy to have around and cracks us up all day long. Whenever my friends said 'My baby is hilarious! You wouldn't BELIEVE the things she does.' I'd always smile politely and wonder what drugs they were on. But now, I am a convert. My baby is hilarious.
I digress. (Have I mentioned that I am also a baby bore?)
As our baby year with Millie is ending my sister's baby year will be beginning in the blink of an eye. And it's gotten me to thinking about our year with Millie, and how on earth we I coped. The big key for me was organisation. If I couldn't control anything else at all in our day (like eating or sleeping) I could control how things could pan out. It was the simplest things that my mother laughed at when I told her, but things that helped Mr S and I no end.

Change Area aka How To Avoid The Poo
There are no photos of this because this part of the lounge room looked like a bomb site a lot of the time. We have little plastic baskets under the change table. One had lotions, creams, thermometer, panadol, nail clippers in it. The other had face washers. Another had cloth nappies, another disposables. The bottom shelf had white terry square nappies and coloured terry square nappies. Wet wipes usually lived on the dining table next to the change table. We did not eat at the dining table for about six months, never fear. Also, now Millie is mobile the lotions & creams basket lives in the top of our pantry.
We had another plastic basket that I would often prepare in the afternoon for bathtimes. I'd stick a wondersuit, singlet, nappy and nappy rash cream in this. Seems overly simple (thus Mothership laughing at me) but 5-7pm used to be somewhat hellish in our house so it eased my mind to know that everything we needed for bathtime was right there and ready to go.
Mr S adds that his hot tip is to make sure there's always a clean white terry square on the change table to put the baby on to. As I've mentioned before we use white terry squares for the business end of the change table, and anything to do with bottoms, and coloured terry squares for faces, to place on the head end of the change table (M used to vomit quite a bit), keep around for feeding etc etc. Mr S also used to tuck a clean white terry nappy into his waistband with the other end laying on the change table. This protected him from... erm... explosive matters approximately 90% of the time. (The other 10% were well aimed and therefore one could only be impressed.)
Coloured towel for the head, white for business end.

See the blurry legs? This is what you get to deal with.

We started setting out our early morning kitchen things the night before, and it's a habit I still do now. For us it's coffee, tea, mugs and spoons. Let's face it, if you're up at 5am, it's a welcome sight to see your first hit of caffeine ready to go. Also fill the kettle up the night before for extra smiles. Everyone repeat after me, first cup of coffee.... ahhhhhh. Also, if your bub has bottles, boil the kettle before you go to bed so there's cooled, boiled water ready to roll in the morning.
I hate myself for saying this, because I am only a recent convert... but wash up. A lot. Like, after every meal. When there's only you and a baby home during the day, it takes approximately thirty seconds to wash your lunch dishes. I have found that if I do not do the dishes and high chair table after every meal, by dinnertime there's been some sort of strange party in the kitchen and the dishes have shared drinks and played seven minutes in heaven and there's far more dishes than before. It's a strange phenomenon. But yes, dishes, often.

As I've previously mentioned, we cloth nappy mostly during the day with disposables at night. We are inherently lazy so we assemble each cloth nappy right down to the liner placed inside and clip them up, ready to go. Then when you are wrestling a mini Incredible Hulk changing the light of your life's nappy, they are there, ready to go. Biodegradable, flushable nappy liners are mandatory. Cost vs spraying unspeakable volumes of poo into the toilet... I'm happy to pay that money. It means that instead of unspeakable volumes of poo, it's often just volumes of poo.

Around The House Basket
I've mentioned this before, and I'm fairly sure most of you looked at me with collective 'You're Such a Weirdo' eyes. I was SO tired and SO forgetful in the beginning that to save my own sanity I trotted a small basket around the house with me for the first few months. It had
  • My mobile phone
  • The cordless home phone
  • Spare breast pads
  • My notepad & pen
  • A muesli bar and
  • Hair ties

When I would be often pinned to one spot for an hour or so feeding, this was great. Everything I could possibly need quickly, right to hand. You could also add television remotes if you so choose. Vodka optional, potentially not the best idea before 4pm. (What? In winter the sun sets early here.)

Clothes Washing
Show me a baby that doesn't generate a bootload of washing and I'll call you a liar. I know it's the last thing you feel like doing at 3am, but let's face it, you're awake and up already so put a load of washing on. Then it's ready to hang out, and forces you to go outside, at least twice during the day. We are lucky that our laundry is outside our house so the noise isn't an issue for us. That said, even if your laundry is inside, put it on anyway. I think it's best everyone gets used to a bit of nocturnal noise. The other way to look at it is that if you're not sleeping, no one is. As for the hanging out and bringing in and folding... well, you're on your own. My most loathed jobs and I am exceptionally bad at it. The clothes have been known to stay on the line for a few days, and it's only when we are missing things ('AMY! HAVE YOU SEEN MY SOCKS?') that I remember I put the dryer on four days ago.

If you are a newly breastfeeding mama (I have no experience of non-breastfeeding Mamas, so excuse my ignorance please) you will be hungry. All. The. Time. My mother was wise to this fact and when she stayed with us after Millie was born she would provide me with food for all hours of the day and night. Mr S would help me get set up to feed Millie at 3am, then bring me a perfectly quartered egg sandwich tightly wrapped on a plate that my mother had prepared during the day and put in the fridge. Never has an egg sandwich tasted so good. If you're making a lunchtime sandwich, make two, and put one in the fridge for later. If you have an aversion to fridge cold sandwiches, think of it like a) hospital sandwiches and b) stop bloody complaining, it's food you don't have to make for yourself on the spot.
Ditto meals. Put one half of the dinner in the freezer. It's so much easier! Label everything in the freezer, and if you're extra organised, write a list for the front of the fridge with the freezer contents. That way, you can think about dinner in the AM, scan your fridge list, imagine it's like ordering takeaway, just with a 12 hour wait, and put your frozen meal on the bench to defrost. Dinner is done!

The Nitty Gritty
If you're way too tired to understand this, take heart. I understand. Here's the cheat's list of everything I've just said.

  1. Change Area: Nappies, Wipes, creams. A garbage bin close by is extra handy. Baskets to put all this stuff in is extra handy.
  2. Change Area: Coloured towels. White for bums, coloured for faces. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.
  3. Cloth Nappies: Nappy sprayer. Essential.
  4. Kitchen: Set up your mugs for morning coffees the night before. Boil the kettle for bottles. 
  5. Kitchen: Wash up. Often.
  6. Around The House Basket: Daily essentials, right at hand.
  7. Clothes Washing: Wash in the middle of the night. Stuff the noise.
  8. Food: Freeze meals. 
  9. Food: Prepare sandwiches for nocturnal feedings.
  10. Food: Label your meals and put a list of frozen meals on the fridge.
What are your hot tips to add here?

So... YOU'RE having a baby...

My sister Salad is pregnant with her first child and I keep promising to make a list of what we've found to be 'must haves' in our household.

It's really very daunting because every magazine/shop catalogue/television advertisement will tell you what you really MUST have. To be honest, there's not a lot that you need. I'll cover what we found we needed, but also what we found mighty bloody useful. 

Your hospital midwife/homebirth midwife/antenatal class/Dr/Obstetrician will probably hand you a very simple list of needs. Trust us, it seems like not enough stuff, but it really is.

This list is taken from my hospital book of what you need for bubs in hospital.
  1. 4-6 jumpsuits
  2. 4-6 singlets
  3. 4-6 light weight wraps
  4. Nappies
  5. Wet wipes/facewashers/cotton balls for changing.
  6. Socks/Mittens
  7. Hat
  8. Light weight blanket
Adding to that list of stuff for home is
  1. Somewhere to sleep the baby.
  2. Light weight wraps and blankets, bedding linen and towels.
  3. Jump suits, jackets, singlets, hats socks, mittens face washers and nappies.
Straightforward huh? So that's the 'Need' list, here's our 'useful' list.

Beginning with the business 'I've just had a BABY OH MY GOD' end...
  1. Breast pads. Buy many boxes. You will burn through them in the first week. I recommend Rite-Aid Nursing Pads ($7/box) or Pigeon Premium Breast Pads ($13ish/box).
  2. Breast Pump. I could write a weepingly long letter to Avent professing my thanks for their invention of the Avent IQ breast pump. The skinny (ha!) of it is my recommendation that if you're intending on breastfeeding, purchase a breast pump BEFORE you need one. You can always re-sell it - I was lucky enough to get mine second hand for a song, and then I found out how much it cost new.

    Basically if you're intending to give your bub an expressed milk bottle every now and then or going back to work and expressing bottles further down the track pony up whilst you've still got disposable income and purchase a good quality manual/electric breast pump. There's also the chance that like me, you'll need a breast pump for use before every feed for a really long time. So I recommend buying one before you need it because when and if you need it, you're possibly not going to be in the frame of mind to do research and compare prices. If you can, think of this expense as a bit like insurance... you may not need it, but by golly if you do, you'll be SO glad you've already got one.
  3. Disposable nappies. We use cloth during the day and disposables at night, and when it comes to disposable nappies I worship at the Huggies altar. Nothing contains everything like Huggies. And trust me, in the beginning the volume and velocity of poo is frightening. If you're going the disposable route in the first few weeks/months like we did, buy giant sized boxes. You won't find baby has suddenly outgrown them and you don't want ever to be caught short.
  4. Nappy Sacks. If you're using disposable nappies it's really useful to have disposable nappy sacks. There are heaps of brands available varying in price and eco-friendliness. Think scented. 
  5. Maternity pads. I don't really need to say this do I? But, buy more than you think you'll need, as you're probably not going to want to leave the house in the first week or two. And yes, they're exactly as you would imagine.
  6. Terry flat cloth nappies. We use two kinds. Dickies White flat squares ($20 for 12)for the business end of the change table, and Big Softies coloured squares ($20 for 8) for vomits, dribbles, peek a boo, everything else really. n.b. White for bums and Coloured for faces is a theme we continue through towels and facewashers. Just to be sure.
  7. Face washers. We have a dozen in constant rotation. Mr S uses them as baby wipes with water. I use them for baby distraction toys, wiping mouths etc.
  8. Baby Socks. Babies have sharp nails that don't need trimming immediately. Millie's just peeled off in the first week or so. However, they'll also try to scratch themselves a lot. Mittens are super useful but somewhat ugly. Let your newborn socks do double duty - they make awesome mittens. Poor Millie was still getting around with socks on her hands in winter, I didn't want to buy mittens that would fit for about three weeks as her meaty paws delicate little hands grew so quickly!
  9. Onesies. Jumpsuits. Whatever you call them. Lots of them. Millie had an ability to dirty a nappy, singlet, onesie and the carpet within minutes of having a fresh one on. Have lots on hand.
  10. Singlets. See #8. These are useful in a size bigger than you think you'll need. Babies grow super quickly and bigger singlets are so much easier to put on.
  11. Breastfeeding pillow. I had many problems breastfeeding and I finally caved and purchased a Tetra Nursing Wedge when M was about 7 weeks old. This was literally the only thing that kept me breastfeeding. Highly recommend. Worth every cent, and it was so much cheaper than other pillows.
  12. Bibs. I used a lot of bibs on Millie in the first month (again with the feeding problems) or so whilst I was feeding. I was a bit slow on the uptake and it was only after needing to change her onesie after every feed that I cottoned on to this.
  13. Carpet Spot Cleaner. Maybe your baby will never do anything anywhere near your carpet that will require cleaning. Maybe not. Have some on hand just in case. Trust us.
  14. An extra phone charger or two. I have an iPhone which chows through it's battery life quickly. I have a dock by my bed, a charger next to the couch and a charging cord plugged into my computer. When you can be (happily) pinned by a newborn for a couple of hours at a time it's nice to know that your phone is charged and Facebook, Twitter, email, pizza delivery is only a few clicks away.
  15. Lansinoh. Lanolin cream. It's the business for any newly breastfeeding mama. I still recall a Twitter conversation with Veggie Mama that was along the lines of 'Lansinoh. MY LORD AND SAVIOUR.' It's expensive but you'll probably only need the small tube. Pony up. You won't be sorry.
  16. Wrap Me Up swaddle. In the beginning we found Millie loved to be swaddled, but by golly swaddling the traditional way can be cumbersome. I waxed lyrical about these over here, so I won't do it again. But trust us, and buy one.
That's all I can think of right now. I know there was more, and I thought of it not three hours ago... but now it's 8pm and Millie's asleep and I've only had four hours sleep, so... vacant mind it is.

What can you add to this list for me?

Mrs Smyth... makes Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.

On my list was 'Bake weekly.' It's no secret that in his house we are massive fans of anything home baked. Mr S bakes once a year - my birthday cake. I make his, he makes mine, it's how we've always rolled. Other than that, the baking's up to me.

I love baking brownies. So simple and so delicious. This recipe has taken me through many variations, my favourite still being additions of dried cranberries, white and dark chocolate. However, Casa Smyth was short on white chocolate and dried cranberries, so it was two kinds of dark chocolate instead. I know, dreadful.

I did a bit of a pictorial of my process for you. This also coincided with my '24 hours with' documentation for Sarah over at Dear Baby G.

We started with this...
I started after Millie self settled in the cot for the first time in weeks. EMPTY HANDS? WHAT NOW? I toddled around the kitchen getting everything out and measured in record time, because honestly? A baby that suddenly self settles again makes me uneasy and overjoyed. In equal measures. And makes me work at lightning speed in case she wakes up before her allotted 40 minutes.

I love learning about baking and I've always wondered why this recipe calls for eggs first. Can anyone enlighten me about this?

This is my best kitchen friend, my Willow Blue Kitchenaid. 
I love baking from a trusted recipe. This brownie recipe lives in my display book that I made when I moved out of home. It's full of family recipes and some that Mr S & I cut out and thought they'd be nice. I have an entire bookshelf of cookbooks and really, I mostly cook from this one. I've been baking these brownies since I was about 13 and Mum tells me that it's from a No Frills Cocoa packet. Way to give me glamorous designs on this Mum. I'd like to think it's at least from a Bourneville Cocoa packet...

64% & 72% chocolate. Choppity chop chop chop.
Ingredients together and I'm humming away, with one eye on the time. The kitchen and our bedroom are at opposite ends of the house, and it's very convenient when you lock yourself in the kitchen to get away from the screaming every now and then don't hear the baby wake up, but I kept an eagle ear out. Radio silence from the bedroom. Brilliant! 

I get the mix into the pans, and I hear the protests of a baby who hates waking up almost as much as she hates going to sleep. I go and retrieve her, we play a peek a boo game through the cot bars and I sing my version of 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do'... 'Waking Up Is Hard To Do'.

My baby is free range.
I give Millie the empty egg carton that the politely poses with but has no idea why I've given it to her. She's happy enough to sit in the Bumbo while I finish up.

Pans in the oven, timer on, we head to the lounge room. Millie knows just how to pass the time. Pushups anyone? (No. No thankyou.)

I did a thousand you know...

Then, we had these.*

Fancy Brownie Recipe
125g margarine (whatever, I don't do margarine. I used unsalted butter.)
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa (I'm pretty sure I always use more than this.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts/chocolate/kitchen sink

  1. In a large bowl beat eggs.
  2. Add sugar and butter and beat until smooth.
  3. Add baking powder, salt, sifted cocoa and flour, beating thoroughly until all ingredients are mixed.
  4. Add vanilla and other additions. Mix should be firm, not runny.
  5. Spread mixture into a greased sandwich tray and bake at 1800C for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool in the tray. After mix is cool, using a sharp knife cut into slices.
Mr S & I had a cup of tea and brownie as I was writing this. The brownies I baked for 20 minutes are not cooked. Gooey and delicious, yes, but not cooked enough. They're back in the oven and now they're extra fancy brownies... Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.