Bun in the Oven, Bats in the Belfry: Conquering Post Partum Depression
Published on February 20, 2014 by GirlieGirlArmy · No Comments
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One Mom’s Story of Pregnancy Anxiety After Childhood Sexual Abuse: Brook Bolen is a survivor (she’s also a vegan, AP, BF, activist, pit-bull rescuing, Mom) who is brave enough to share her harrowing emotional pregnancy experience with our GGA readers;
Bun in the Oven, Bats in the Belfry: Conquering Post Partum Depression
Conventional wisdom holds that pregnancy is the most miraculous, magical thing that can happen to women. And it’s true that much of it is extraordinary. But for many women like myself who bear the emotional scars of childhood sexual abuse, pregnancy can be painfully alienating, disempowering, and frightening.
It’s not that it was physically hard or dangerous. Fortunately, throughout my pregnancy, I was in spectacular health. I had nary a hint of nausea, craved (and ate) kale and grapefruit like they were going out of style, and walked or swam several miles five times a week. I was such a model of physical health that my midwife used my urine to show her apprentices ideal protein and sugar levels. I loved being able to joke that I finally had evidence that I, like Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights, really did “piss excellence.” Yet even though I’d been dealing with the effects of my childhood sex abuse for almost half my life, I was wholly unprepared for the ways it affected my experience of being pregnant.
When I became unexpectedly pregnant, I knew very little about what was to come, so to educate and prepare myself, I immediately began reading about it. While the natural pregnancy and birth books I read were very informative and affirming, they contained nothing that really addressed my intense, ever-growing fear. I’d always been anxious, but pregnancy catapulted my anxiety into frequent full-blown panic attacks and uncontrollable terror that, more often than not, translated into bouts of random and self-inflicted violence.
Everyone is an individual and experiences things differently and on their own terms, which are no doubt mediated by their own unique history, yet women’s responses to pregnancy in our culture are unilaterally represented as positive. Unlike the stereotypical woman who reacts with joy to the news, I went absolutely crazy. I couldn’t function. It wasn’t simply that I couldn’t sleep without waking up gasping for air or that I alternated between stupefied shock, uncontrollable sobbing, and terrifying panic attacks when awake, I was so fearful I practically vibrated. My panic would build and build until I erupted violently, breaking most of what I could get my hands on, including the front door panes, the bathroom sink, lamps, glasses, and more. I couldn’t seem to get a lasting grasp on my feelings and subsequent actions.
I felt completely trapped and helpless. More often than not, I was my own primary target. I began beating myself about my head and shoulders as frequently and violently as I could, stopping only when I developed a spinning dizziness Google said was related to head trauma and my inner ear. I then moved onto my legs, Hulk smashing them with my fists, my hairbrush, and my sizeable Maglite flashlight, among other things. I left myself visibly swollen and bruised.
No one had ever accused me of having high self esteem, but this news and my reaction to it made me feel lower and more worthless than I had ever felt. While I felt that having the baby was the right thing for me to do, I felt guilty for not being more than fleetingly happy with the situation. My predominant feelings were blistering fear and dread. The prospect of being congratulated and not responding in a socially appropriate way, in conjunction with my own crippling shame and self-judgement, led me keep my pregnancy a secret from everyone but my family and closest friends until the end of my sixth month. I felt completely lost and more alone than I had ever before felt. In my more functional moments, I was able to masochistically marvel at what a dubious achievement that was. In most others, I was unreachable and inconsolable.
I looked at my life and the blinding, unexpected happiness I had found with the beautiful man I loved. What on earth was wrong with me that I didn’t feel happy or excited about starting a family with him, the person I loved most in the world? This was his baby; that was the sole selling point all along.
Fortunately, my therapist understood what was happening. She, along with a handful of books I found on the subject (most notably Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering, and Healing After Sexual Abuse), helped me understand that my pregnancy was powerfully triggering the feelings of helplessness and victimization my molestation had caused so many years before. I began to see that these horrible feelings fueled the depression, anxiety, alienation, and anger that led me to hide the news and beat the tar out of myself. And even though I never met another mother in person who could relate to me, I was grateful to find solace and understanding in the pages of that book.
As a small child, I had been powerless to stop or defend myself against my brother’s repeated sexual abuse. I came to understand that pregnancy was making me feel the same way. While not exactly non-consensual, it was something I didn’t purposely achieve or undertake. It was something that I couldn’t really control; I had to endure it. I couldn’t schedule it, delay it, or opt out of it. Even the positive stories about birth made it clear: labor is a wildly powerful physiological process that happens to you. Some women’s accounts recounted abuse flashbacks during labor, and I became fearful the same would happen to me, as my other memories had been out-of-the-blue flashbacks.
While pregnancy largely remained a foreign, uncomfortable state for me, with the continued support of my therapist, partner, family, and friends things started to get better. Though I never completely stopped feeling anxious, my panic and self-attacks did abate. And when the day came, my home birth was easier, better, and more positive than I could have imagined. Thankfully, I didn’t have any flashbacks, either.
Despite still routinely struggling with depression and anxiety, I am happy to say that life is infinitely better now that my daughter–the happiest, funniest, sweetest, and most beautiful tiny person I’ve ever known–is here than it was when I was pregnant. I have more certainty and control, as well as greater understanding and compassion for myself about the ways my abuse shaped and affected me. Maybe most importantly, I know that the sky won’t fall even when I am convinced otherwise.
Brook Bolen was born and bred in Appalachia, Brook Bolen is an urban transplant living in the heart of the Dirty South with her true love, daughter, and pitbull. She works as a writer, editor, and proofreader.
Originally published on SpeakMom.com – published with permission by author.
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- Veg Family Reading … From Start to Finish!Have a vegetarian or vegan family, or have plans to in the future? Look no further! We have myriad books for you to read, from having a vegan pregnancy … to raising a vegan child … to vegan family cooking … to animal-friendly books to read with your child from vegan mamazon Robyn Moore.
I suggest reading up on a few of the informational books before the baby arrives—to get a head start. Once he or she is here, there will be no time—take it from me, I have a 5-month-old! Here are some excellent choices to get you inspired about raising a vegetarian or vegan child.
Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven, from New York Times bestselling authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. These feisty ladies give it to us straight. They include tips and facts on how to have a healthy vegan pregnancy, which—surprise, surprise—pretty much just involves eating a balanced diet of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and avoiding processed crap. I read this book when I was pregnant, and it helped me have a wonderful vegan pregnancy: I had no morning sickness and no mood swings, and I gained less than 10 pounds. (Editors Note: I too had a very healthy vegan pregnancy, but gained a whole lot more than 10 pounds! This is very unusual. Don't feel like a pig if you put on 25-50 pounds.. this is more of a regular expectancy)
MOGO—Most Good, Least Harm, by author by Zoe Weil. She teaches us how to live with integrity according to our deepest values and urges us to become conscious consumers in our everyday lives—by investigating the effect our daily choices have on the environment, workers, and animals. She doesn't expect us to be purists; she just encourages us to strive to do the most good and the least harm whenever we can, which she terms MOGO living. It's eye-opening, informative, and not at all preachy.
Above All, Be Kind, by the same author, stresses the importance of teaching our children how to think critically and make kind, informed choices that show respect for the environment, animals, and people. It gives us the tools to cultivate a compassionate child from birth to the teenage years. This one is a gem!
Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World covers the nuts and bolts of raising a vegan child. It offers advice from other parents and tips and ideas for navigating the often challenging social aspects of being a vegan in a clearly non-vegan world. If you're choosing to raise your kids vegan, then for their sake, you should get this book.
Of course, you'll also need some vegan cookbooks in your arsenal, of which there is no shortage! Here are two that are sure to please any kid—and any adult, for that matter! These offer delish recipes for non-vegans as well, as you can't even tell the difference: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, both by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. On these pages, you'll find the recipe along with a photo of the finished product. Yum!
Vegan Lunch Box is filled with fun, easy ideas for kids meals—you'll discover that there's a whole world of food out there for vegan kids besides PB&J! They even have an international book filled with cool meals and snacks from around the world. Once your child is old enough to eat food—babies need not apply—then you should run out and get yourself a copy!
There are also cookbooks to encourage kids to cook and make easy meals for themselves—there's one for younger kids titled, Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes, and one for college kids titled, PETA's Vegan College Cookbook: 275 Easy, Cheap, and Delicious Recipes to Keep You Vegan at School.
Next Stop: Books to Read to the Kiddies!
There are literally millions of children's books out there, so when you start choosing for your child, be selective. Find books that portray animals in a good light, as sentient beings with a purpose of their own. Many kids' books are fantasy-driven and feature animals driving cars, reading, cooking, and other human-specific activities, which is fine as long as the animals are not being exploited by humans for entertainment, food, clothing, or anything else. Stay away from books that focus on circus animals, zoos, and other artificial venues where animals suffer in confinement. If you happen to receive a book from someone that is not up to par with your beliefs, try using it as an opportunity to teach your child.
In a sea of animal-friendly books for kids, here are a just a few suggestions:
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals, by Ruby Roth, is a straightforward picture book that doesn't sugar-coat the issues of factory farming. This should be on every vegetarian/vegan family's bookshelf.
Do Animals Have Feelings Too, by David L. Rice, is an important book to get kids thinking about animals and their emotions. Once kids make the connection that animals feel sadness, loneliness, and happiness just as we do, then their family's decision to go vegan becomes crystal clear. This book helps validate why we shouldn't eat animals, wear animal skins, or use animals in experiments or for our fleeting entertainment. It is a simple concept for kids to get.
Granny Gomez and Jigsaw, by Deborah Underwood, is a story of friendship between an old lady, Granny Gomez, and a pig named Jigsaw. What stands out in the book is how deep the connection is between the two and how much Granny understands and respects Jigsaw's needs and desires. After outgrowing his accommodations in Granny's house, Jigsaw is moved to the barn. Rather than leave lonely Jigsaw in the barn by himself, Granny decides to move into the barn with him! It's nice to see a book where a human caters to the needs of an animal, instead of the typical vice versa.
Horton Hears a Who is a classic Dr. Seuss rhyming book. Horton is a kind elephant who defends tiny creatures, called the "who's." It's a book that highlights the importance of protecting and fighting for the vulnerable ones around us who can't stand up for themselves. This book especially is an excellent choice because Dr. Seuss is such a famous, mainstream author.
The Lion and the Mouse, a retold Aesop fable, is a beautifully illustrated tale with few words. It's about a lion and a mouse who end up helping each other. The lion spares the mouse's life, and then later when they meet up again, the mouse saves the lion's life by nibbling through the hunter's net that he is caught in. It's a nice story of an uncommon friendship between a mighty lion and a tiny mouse. I wish the other animals of the planet would get this memo and unite to fight against human abuse.
50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals, by Ingrid E. Newkirk, is for the budding animal activist or even just the animal lover—which most kids are. There are lots of fun, easy ideas in here to get your kids involved in helping animals, from lemonade stands to dog-walking to petitions.
For more ideas on animal-friendly titles, check out VegBooks —it's a website that offers reviews to assists parents, teachers, and anyone else interested in finding books and movies that affirm vegetarian and vegan values. The list is endless. The site also links to other websites where you can find similar humane-focused books. When family and friends ask you what to get you for Christmas, birthdays, etc., forward them this link!
For those interested in raising a humane child (I assume that's everyone?), there's an upcoming online class —called "Raising a Humane Child"—being offered through the Institute of Humane Education. It looks amazing. For the sake of my little girl, I'm definitely signing up!
Of course, this is only a tiny smidgen of the animal-friendly books on the market. Whichever books you choose to read to your kiddies, make sure they have a humane message, not only for animals but also for the environment and the people who are portrayed. Some books are not as obvious as others, so read between the lines.
Remember, whatever you choose is most likely to be read over and over again to your child, so make it count! Instill compassion.
Robyn Moore was inspired by the birth of her daughter Charlotte to surround her family with a supportive community of like-minded people in my city. She created the NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup. It’s a place for families to gather and exchange ideas, and where veg kids can have fun without having to worry about what they can eat or participate in. It’s a group of families who are choosing to raise their kids humanely, according to the belief that animals are not here for our use, whether it be for our food, products, entertainment, or clothing.
Veg Family Reading … From Start to […]
- The Big Secret: Downlow and Pregnant In The First TrimesterA friend recently confided in me that she's knocked up, but that I'm one of a chosen few she has shared this little piece of info with, and to keep my mouth shut about the big secret. (Stop trying to guess who it is, you don't know her and even you did, my lips are sealed!!!) Why? Well surely you remember back to when you got pregnant, and if you were anything like me, you kept it a secret for the first few weeks. The reasons may have been different or the same, either way deciding not to go public with the news makes an already challenging first trimester even more stressful. Let's take a walk (okay, waddle) down memory lane, shall we?
If you've been trying to get pregnant, the feeling of pure joy and excitement at seeing that little "plus sign" on the pee stick is amazing. But euphoria is soon commingled with anxiety (many women have their first panic attacks during their first trimester of pregnancy) and fear: Will my baby be okay? What if I miscarry? When should I tell people? The inner dialogue spins out of control, The first trimester is the hardest, hands down.
There are so many physical and emotional challenges to contend with that you really need to lean on family and friends at this time, but can't for a host of reasons. Yes, there are some women who tell the world they are pregnant right away, but most of us are more cautious and keep it a secret during the first trimester. Why? Well I hate to even mention it, but the reality is that not all pregnancies make it to term, and if there's a problem it will usually be discovered in the first 3-4 months (20% of all first time pregnancies end in miscarriage.) Genetic testing, amniocentesis, and other tests usually take place at this time and we hold our breath hoping for the best that everything will be okay. Miscarriages also tend to occur at this point in time as well, so if you make it to month 3 you can exhale and be pretty much assured you're out of the woods, at least statistically. And THAT'S why most women don't tell anyone (except Partner or Hubby and Parents) about the pregnancy until month 4. There's also the superstitious component, that we keep our lips sealed about the big news fearing some jealous or malicious acquaintance will give the evil eye and curse us and our baby, or that even mentioning the pregnancy is somehow tempting fate and will jinx the whole thing. Many of us even start carrying good luck charms and wearing "evil eye" jewelry to ward off toxic energy.
So this is how life changes after conceiving: no alcohol (or cigs - if you still smoke, what's wrong with you!?); fatigue worse than anything you've ever experienced; for some, horrible nausea and puking; bloating and weight gain, and worse, the burden of having to come up with ridiculous excuses for all this since it's all a big secret. It's a crazy charade, but we do it because the idea of having to turn around and tell everyone that actually, "no, I won't be having a baby because I miscarried" or "we decided to terminate because the fetus had a fatal defect" is more than we can bear.
We run around the office not telling our boss or colleagues, pretending we just fell off the diet wagon and indulged in too much conference room cake. Maybe if they knew about baby we'd be at the top of the list for the next round of recession layoffs. We skip the wine at dinner telling friends "Oh I got wasted last night and need to take it easy" or "I'm detoxing, my nutritionist said alcohol's a no-no" or "I pulled a Cat Stevens and have discovered Islam in all it's non-alcoholic glory." We suddenly become hippie chicks, embracing the bohemian fashion trends of baby doll dresses, caftans and tunics with distracting prints and leggings 24/7. Goodbye Edie Sedgwick, hello Mrs. Roper.
Everything kind of turns upside down, inside out: munchies but not because you smoked a doobie; in bed by 7p but not to take a disco nap before hitting the town; falling asleep at work, but not because you were out the night before; snapping at everyone around you, but not because of PMS. Your hormones are raging and you KNOW everyone wants to have an intervention and ship you off to Bellevue, but you still stay mum, only a few more weeks...
So if a friend starts acting a little bizarre, puts on a little weight and stops making sense, please don't corner her and try to make her admit she's pregnant. Give her some space, respect that she's decided to keep it to herself for now, and quietly be super pleased for her (you have my permission to plan a baby shower extravaganza, but only in your head). And if months come and go without any big announcement, again resist the urge to cross examine her and just be available; she will open up if and when she's ready.
EDITORS NOTE: We want to know when you (Mommy's and current Pregger Glamazons) told people about your impending nugget. Lettuce know (in the comments section below) what your process of telling folks looked like, and more importantly, how it felt. We bet this section could be very useful to certain expectant Mommy's in our midst!
Diana Nikkhah Harfouche is a Mom of two boys in New York […]
- Newborn Musts: What To Register For When You Are Knocked Up And OverwhelmedWhen GirlieGirl Army Founder revealed her first pregnancy to her posse of Glamazons five years ago, they all immediately wanted to know where she was registered. Here she shares her initial horror, and eventual meticulous research on what a newborn and infant really needs and what a Mommy and/ or Daddy would enjoy having.
When folks first started telling me to register with my first child, I felt super embarrassed. EW, I thought. How gauche to tell people what (if anything!) to buy you! So I talked to my (many) Girlfriends and Boyfriends with babies. NOT AT ALL, they assuaged me. People don't want to buy you things you do not need, and babies are expensive! Most Momma's would rather have a great wipes warmer over a fancy onesie (that will get instantaneously stained,) and how would your friends, biz associates, and family know what you really need unless you tell them?
That cleared it up for me and I began my search on what first-time parents actually need for those first few months. First lesson: do not be ashamed to register for breast pads or wipes! People are used to giving these things as gifts off registries. There is NO shame in the baby game. Obviously the GREENEST, cleanest option is to get as many hand-me-downs and second-hand bits and pieces as you can for first baby, and for the second (and onwards if you are so brave) to reuse what you already have. Trust me, the baby won't realize he's in a swing that was used by one other newborn for 3 Months.
Tips: Troll freecycle.com for baby freebies and hit up your local vintage and resale kids clothing stores too. But if you don't have any friends or family to get left overs from, here's what to register for and/or buy.
And although when I wrote this article I was still a first time Momma, I was no stranger to swaddling (but don't swaddle!,) diaper changing, bedtime stories, and burping with a sister 11 years younger than me and tons of babysitting under my belt. So, I was slightly ahead of the game. Still, I asked hundreds of parents and did my own research to decide what I actually needed. And here I am now - three kids later! So I've updated this piece to reflect a very experienced, attachment parenting Mama's 6+ years of breastfeeding (yep, been breastfeeding and pregnant straight) and co-sleeping to the mix.
Not a registering type? That's fine, you can always tell your friends the best present they could give you is a box of green juices (the ones from Bundle Organics are special for breastfeeding mamas!) or a gift card to your local take out or to rock the baby for you for 10 minutes so you can shower. Either way, you'll be glad to have this intel. And if you have any questions - do leave them in the comments, I promise to answer every single one! We were all first time Moms at one time and we are all pros a few years and babies later!
Currently I'm often in the media in the eco style and sustainable parenting space, most recently collaborating with About.com as their host and content creator of a series of 35 glam green family videos, with Katie Couric in a one on one interview with Katie about attachment parenting, in Italian Elle photographed as a “rule changer” breastfeeding my first baby alongside Demi Moore photographed by Amanda De Cadanet, in Japanese Madame Figaro, and in Natural Child World magazine. I'm regularly featured on radio, print, and tv discussing my favorite eco baby lines and products - so you can trust I've tried it all and know what works and what's all hype. Of course, each baby is a fussy little Prince/ss with her/his own uniquely discerning likes and dislikes, but the few products recommended below are hits across the spectrum.
Newborn Musts: What To Register For When You Are Knocked Up And Overwhelmed
Here was my pre first baby research, with some post 3rd pregnancy edits noted as "updates" so you can see what I found to be right on and what advice from the masses ended up being useless;
Diapers (newborn size): Get a few packages, at least to start you off. I got half cloth diapers and half eco-friendly diapers. Diaper Kind is the only cloth diapering company left in NYC. Find your local diapering service here. Many folks swear by G Diapers and the numerous other similar brands which are a mixture of eco-friendly, disposable insert, and cloth, reusable outers. Most of the parents I surveyed who had tried said diaper combos reviewed them as being too messy and not poop explosion proof, they said going with traditional cloth diapers was a better bet. But, it's certainly worth trying them all out! Either way, you'll always need some disposables on hand for travel and emergencies. We recommend Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Diapers for those times. We got advice from the girls at Metro Minis NYC on the best cloth diapers (they give the best advice and even teach cloth diapering workshops!) and found Tot Bots and Kissaluvs to be our favorites. Update: I ended up doing half and half with the first baby, but the second was a little harder and I found myself relying more on eco friendly disposables than I'd have originally liked.. so I tried to offset that carbon footprint by making other green parenting choices, like exclusively breastfeeding (no pacifiers, no bottles,) co-sleeping, and using almost exclusively hand-me-downs.
Diaper Bin: You'll want one that is really stench proof. Particularly if you live in an apartment or a smaller home. We got the Diaper Dekor Plus which holds disposables or cloth diapeys and really blocks the smell. Plus the liners (be sure to register for those too!) are biodegradable. There certainly are more expensive and cheaper versions of the diaper pail, but this one seemed just fine to us. Update: We realized soon in that you can use regular garbage bags for your diaper bin with a little maneuvering. After baby #2, we started just taking out the poops in regular plastic bags. We found that the diaper bins begin to stink after a while. But if you are decorating a first nursery, you'll want one. Pass it on to another Mama when you're on your second baby and the nursery turns into a shamble of legos and crayons.
Wipe Warmer: Poor little man/ lady doesn't need her tushy getting freezing when it's bad enough s/he had to sit in her own doody! Make sure those wipes are cushy and warm. Update: this really is a wonderful product from Prince Lionheart which we continue to use throughout each kids life. Who wants an icy wipe in mid winter? This one is a real must.
Undershirts & One-piece suits: Spit up and poop keeps you changing these a few times (at least) a day, so you'll need a big handful of them. Register for and buy organic as much as possible. You don't want icky pesticides and chemicals next to your bambino's delicate skin. Organic onesies are now relatively the same price as conventional cotton ones, and just as precious! It goes without saying that all other products we recommend buying should be organic. Of course, you can find organic onesies anywhere now, even mainstream emporiums BuyBuyBaby, Target, Amazon, etc. Update: Yes, it's true. All newborns wear is onesies, and in winter you need under suits to add to the mix. We love the Kate Quinn Organics, Baby Soy, and Kickee Pants brands best of all for their cute design and cco-conscious, soft, delicious feel. We've regularly scoured Zulily and Gilt for insanely good deals on organic luxe brands that we'd be foolish to buy full price.
Socks & Soft Booties: Babies toesies can't get cold. Buy a package of (organic) baby socks so you have plenty. Update: Socks disappear unlike anything you can imagine. Buy more than you think you'll need. Babies also easily kick them off - which is why we love Goumi Kids who make booties they can't get off.//
Blanket sleeper/ Swaddlers: If you don't know what swaddling is, you should probably read this first. Then make sure you buy Swaddlers with VELCRO. My friend Amanda said of her son; "He was like Houdini always breaking out." She loved the Hippopotamus and Miracle Blanket brands. The consensus amongst my research was that some babies hate being swaddled, but most adore it and won't sleep without being tucked into a good swaddle. Update: My kids hated swaddling and didn't need it. Babies who are safely co-sleeping next to Mommy and breastfed don't tend to need that tightly wrapped feeling since the comfort of Mama is right there. But your baby may thrive on it. It's worth it to have a few on hand just in case it's a hit with your muffin. If you want to learn more about attachment parenting, use the search engine of this here website. Update: Swaddling may be unsafe! Choose blanket sleepers if you must.
Bibs & Burp Clothes: You'll need plenty. Choose organic. And ones that look cute since they will be wearing them for so many visitors. Update: accept plenty of hand me downs too. You'll need back ups since the cute ones get ruined pretty quickly. the ones from Roux Roo are extremely gorgeous and perfect things to register for since they are fancy and people will like to give them as gifts. They also have the added bonus of being visually stimulating to encourage baby brain growth, the company is spear-headed by two highly educated Mamas who want to raise mini geniuses.
Thermometer (digital): Just in case s/he feels warm. Unfortunately, the only effective way to ensure you are getting a correct read out is to use a rectal thermometer. Be gentle and use baby butter or coconut oil on thermo so it doesn't hurt them. Update: As they get older (2 and up) you can try using the forehead digi scanner. We've bought a few of these and have yet to find one that works effectively. Let us know if you do! Til then, it's the good ole' thermo in the tush.
Nasal Aspirator Bulb Syringe: For removing mucus from a teensy stuffy nose. Update: We've found the Nose Frida to be the best product on the market and have a bought a few of them over the years, but have also discovered that a dull tweezer (you know, the kind that doesn't catch any of your errant eyebrow hairs!) works like magic to get out crusty boogers. This is one of favorite parenting tricks ever -- so satisfying - and less traumatic than suction.
Safety Manicure Scissors: Tiny nails grow super quick! You'll need to trim those nails constantly to make sure s/he doesn't scratch him/herself. Update: We always preferred a small clipper over the scissor or emery board.
Baby Wipes: Some folks use disposables, others actually wash 'em and reuse (bamboo cloth). I've been told Mustela and Seventh Generation Wipes are both thick and sensitive-butt approved. Update: Seventh Gen are my family faves, but we also have come to really like the Honest Company ones a lot, and they reseal easier than any other pack to open and close. You'll appreciate the person who sends you a few boxes of Honest Co wipes, trust us. Wipes are like gourmet chocolates, perfect in a box and one second later - gone! (BONUS: Get a free trial of their non-toxic, eco-friendly home and baby products with our special code here!)
Baby Wash, Shampoo, Moisturizer, and Diaper Ointment: I've heard nothing but raves about Angel Baby tushy creme. It's vegan, eco, and all natural.. and I hear it's magical! Shampoo, moisturizer, and wash should all be natural and organic. Don't mess around in this department. The general favorites are California Baby and Mustela products. Update: It's ALL about Earth Mama Angel Baby® Pregnancy Products. We also love EO, Rainbow Baby Oh Baby, and a few others. But Angel Baby always wins as favorite with their gentle products and divine smells.
Baby Bouncer Seat: Many swear by the Baby Bjorn, but I ended up registering for the much prettier and eco-friendlier Coco Stylewood Baby Lounger, which uses white birch from certified sustainable wood forests. The less plastic you rock in your nursery, the better. Plus, this one looks so much cooler than the others. That said, a number of surveyed Mom's said they Tots went koo-koo for this basic Fisher Price jobby. Not nearly as pretty, but certainly a hell of a lot cheaper at $50. Update: We ended up taking a hand-me-down Fisher Price and it worked beautifully and lasted through 2 babies (and looking forward to poppin' our 3rd in the same seat!) But we do hear magical things about the MamaRoo which we've yet to try on any of our babies, but hear miraculous raves from girlfriends. This is one where the plastic seat wins.
Diaper Bag: Make sure you choose one your Husband or Butch partner will wear, as he may not be into your hot pink MAMA tote. Update: We had a few, but generally used a regular bag and had more than enough room. Don't buy into this hype unless you must or fall in love with a particular style. Here's our list of eco-friendly bag lines, half of them do a great diaper bag or large bag that works. We ended up with a Matt & Nat diaper bag (as a gift) that doubled as a normal bag and was perfect.
Beba Babycook: This baby food maker is supposedly a life-saver for so many of my Girlfriends. It steam cooks whatever you want to use in your fresh baby food, whether it's veggies, fruits, or grain. Then blend the ingredients into a soft puree. The Babycook can also reheat or defrost meals, so you can make several days' worth in advance. This all-in-one appliance has everything you need in one compact unit. Update; Didn't use it or need it. But because so many of our BFF's lived for it, we are keeping it on the list. We ended up steaming and blending on our own or using organic ready-mades more times than not. At the end of the day, mushed banana and avocado were more our kids speed than any fanciful blended creations. But if you aren't an experienced cook, this product would be incredibly helpful.
Stroller and Car Seat: This took up the most of my deep research time. Getting a cheapo stroller just isn't an option when you are planning on being an on-the-go Mamazon or Daddytron. We ended up choosing the City Mini Stroller, but many of our peeps swear by the Bugaboo, Uppa Baby, Orbit, and McClaren. The Boo and Orbit are both over $900, so not for those on a budget. We choose to not go with the other "bests" because although they ride like a dream (the wheels are massive and roll along anything seamlessly), they are big, cumbersome strollers, and not easy to fold. The City Mini is the Queen of an easy fold (you literally lift one strap, and up it goes), and you can insert any additions to you want (ie, car seat adapter, bassinet, etc,) but you'll have to pay extra for them. The controversy is that the City Mini doesn't come with the bassinet (which some people swear by for comfort for the baby and proper spine development,) but you can add one on to the mini for an extra charge or just keep your newborn in the car seat adapter on this stroller or have the Mini go flat and add the sherpa-esque insert. Almost all of these strollers will have your baby facing you (with the Mini adapter, in the car seat) which some new studies are saying makes for a happier, more secure baby. But this is one thing you'll want to spend time researching. Go push around a few strollers, see how they feel and how they fold. And talk to other Mommy friends. And even if you live in a big City, you'll need a car seat. Hospitals won't allow you to leave with your baby unless the baby is in a car seat. Weird, but true, rule. Update: A few days after writing this article, my Hubby and I went back to the store to play with some strollers and ended up changing our mind and getting the UPPA BABY which comes with the bassinet (so much comfier for the newborn for long strolls, and since we are having a summer baby, it makes more sense for us,) a sun hood, and some other excellent features. My reason in updating you on this is you'll want to make more than one visit to the store to test run strollers. Your life will revolve around pushing this dang thing around for a few years, you better make sure you love the one you choose and find it comfy to push.
Final Update A Few Years Later: If you live in an urban environment you'll likely end up with a few strollers and a few baby carriers and slings. We ended up with a City Mini (for car travel, easy folding), Uppa Baby for neighborhood walks, easy-folding Bumbleride for subway rides, and finally a Donkey Bugaboo double once we had more than one child. They all have their pros and cons. The Uppa has been across the board our favorite - most comfy for kid, most stable to push, and best storage by far. We've found our Bugaboo to be all hype. Not a comfy seat, bad storage, shoddy design, and impossible to fold. But it is the only double stroller where one kid doesn't get the shaft and have to sit near the ground. It's the only stroller where both kids can face you, and that's huge. What they don't tell you? You'll also want rain shields, cup holders, cell phone holders, stroller muffs, warm inserts (register for a 7am enfant, trust us) sun hoods, and mosquito nets for each stroller - not to mention custom fabric color combos if you go with the Bugaboo. Register for those additions, trust us. As for car seats: They are updated and change so frequently, we recommend going somewhere like Giggle (or calling) to see what their current favorite is and what's been rated highest safety the month of your due date.
Carrier: The Ergo Carrier got the highest reviews from my peers for it's ability to have baby be on your front or back, extra storage, strong construction, and sleeping hood (which lets you cover baby as s/he snoozes.) Update: Though we ended up not liking the ergo and going with a Beco, Boba, and other beautiful wraps from Wild Was Mama. It's a scientific fact that babywearing makes for happier babies. So wear your baby more than you push him or her if at all possible. We did 95% wearing, til we were pregnant (gets pretty uncomfy and isn't recommended.) One thing to note: one size does not fit all - we learned this from the now defunct babywearing store in NYC Metro Minis who taught us certain sized women and certain sized babies do better in certain carriers. There are a billion carrier brands and slings and wraps. Contact Wild Was Mama to help figure out the best one for you. Nursing and walking is easy with a great fitting carrier. It allows you pure freedom, not something you'd have otherwise! The Boba is great because they make prints Daddy feels comfy wearing (we have a Camo one that was a big hit with our Papa Smurf) and the Beco makes the prettiest prints and is so soft. We also recommend a baby wearing shirt for the beginning. They are amazing for skin-to-skin.
Sling: A sling is great for when you are just walking around the house but want to be hands free without hooking up the carrier. Update: See above. We recommend buying from Wild Was Mama- they are the bible on all things baby wearing.
Reclining Chair/ Footstool: All night feedings will have a reclining glider/ rocker be a perfunctory item for new parents. There are gorgeous, fancy versions that you would feel proud showing off in your living room that cost over 1G, and really comfortable ones that look like a Grannie chair that cost about $500. You'll need to go to your local baby spot and test 'em out to find your comfiest choice. Make sure said chair glides and/ or rocks. Baby will need that soothing, and your aching back (from carrying those huge milk jugs!) will need the relief. Update: The Dutalier is the least pretty, but by far the most comfortable. We are SO glad we didn't go with a high design one from Giggle. And they are always on sale from places like Zulily and Gilt who also incidentally have brilliant discounts on high-end and organic/ eco-friendly baby gear. A good trick is to search your favorite baby brands on those two sites and schedule reminders for when they come up on sale, and then load up. Try and find a glider on sale prior to baby being born, you may find one more than half off.
Swing: Nothing seems to calm a cranky pants down better than a swing. Yea, they are cumbersome and sometimes noisy, but babies go bonkers for them. So you may just need to suck it up and buy or borrow one. Some Moms I polled said the bouncy chair was more than enough. Some Moms claimed an Exersaucer was a better buy. Proceed with caution, that thing is big and bulky and not remotely attractive. Update: You'll want all of them and you'll use all of them. We used our bouncy seat, swing, and exersaucer to death - each filled a particular need and time. Try and borrow them from a Mommy friend since they are big and annoying. But if you have to buy them, you'll know for sure you will be able to pass them once you're done. Wish we could tell you that those three are all hype, but they aren't. They are life savers! There are eco-friendly, extremely expensive versions of these available at places like Giggle, but your best bet - in all honesty - is just to borrow these from a friend who already has them and is over the 1st year hump.
Breast Pump: A really good breast pump, don't cheap out here, is a no brainer. All my ladies have told me not to bother with the cheaper versions, and have advised that I would only end up buying the expensive one later on. If you live in New York, I'd highly advise a visit to the Upper Breast Side where they know just about everything and anything about breast feeding. Not to worry, your town is bound to have a breastfeeding center full of experts and wonderful hippies if you do a little googling. In the meantime, register for a Medela pump and make it easy on yourself. Update: I have exclusively breastfed for 4.5 years now (2 kids and counting -- still nursing my 2nd while 7 months pregnant with my 3rd) and I still found my pump to be useful even though my kids never did bottles. I pumped to encourage milk production with my first baby, and pumped a few times at the start of my second baby to have a storage supply for emergencies (ended up donated that, but that's a whole other story!) Point is -- buy or rent one. You'll be happy to have it regardless where your breastfeeding journey takes you.
Co-Sleeper: Haven't heard about co-sleeping yet? First read this article, then scour Mothering Magazine (the most progressive and holistic of all the parenting e-mags) and then buy yourself a co-sleeper, or up the ante and buy a co-sleeping crib from Arms Reach. Remember that every 1 1/2 hrs, around the clock they need to be fed, and many believe they need to be close to Mommy. Research co-sleeping and make your own decision. Update: Co-sleeping is the single best thing we've ever done with our kids. The closeness is incomparable and it makes breastfeeding so much easier. Not to mention, there's proof attachment parenting kids have extremely secure attachments to their parents which makes for confident and secure kids. Start by reading Mayim Bialik's book on attachment parenting, scroll our Mamazon section on this site, go from there. Most importantly: trust your instincts, listen to your Mama heart - she's always right.
Crib, Crib Mattress, Crib Sheets, Bumpers, & Waterproof Pad: If you don't want to co-sleep or plan on doing both, you can do a bassinet for the first few months if you are short on space, but they usually cost a few hundred bucks, and you are better off just putting that money towards a beautiful crib that will turn into a bed once your little one hits 4. Like this eco-friendly option (below from Oeuf) that you can get in a number of beautiful finishes. Giggle also has some really chic round cribs (with wheels) which are big favorites amongst City dwellers. Wherever you'll register, you'll see sheet sets. Steer clear of bumper which have been proven to be dangerous for babies time and time again. We (once again) recommend organic. Update: We bought into the whole kit and caboodle.. and then ended up cosleeping anyway. So we had this expensive crib and piles of high end sleepy-time gear for nothing. Though later we did convert it to a toddler bed for our eldest, so it did get some mileage. Still - if you are going the traditional route, you'll want these things. If you are cosleeping, you'll want to get a waterproof pad for your bed for leaky diapers or spit up in the middle of the night. In retrospect, I wish I'd just invested in a high end organic natural mattress like Essentia for my own room since we all generally slept in the same bed anyway. We now use Boll & Branch organic sheets in our cosleeping bed and are obsessed with them.
Baby-Friendly Eco Cleaners: You should be using these already, but if you aren't.. get to it.. STAT. You don't want your baby sucking in hideous, dangerous chemicals. Some brands we love: Caldrea, Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Ecos, or make your own. Honest Company (discount link at the bottom of this email) also makes really good eco-cleaners. That includes laundry detergent. Don't buy into the Dreft cliche. Dreft is adrift in chemicals and not safe for baby. Babyganics is pretty great, but your local health food store or Whole Foods has walls of safe and effective baby detergents. Or make your life super easy and just clean with white vinegar.
Room Thermometer: Not 100% necessary, but will put your mind at ease that baby is not too hot or too cold. The Grobag Egg thermometer is a big favorite. Update: We so didn't use this - because we attachment parented and co-slept, so baby was always in our room and we could gauge if it was too cold or hot ourselves. If you aren't going to co-sleep, this is a must we've heard.
Bottles: You'll need something to feed him/ her from with all that pumped milk or to have as back ups or for water later on. Born Free BPA Free bottles are everyone's favorite.
Highchair: You won't need one of these for the first 8 months, but the Prema Papa by Peg Prego got rave reviews from our posse. Update: We tried some of the fancier designed high chairs and they just didn't stack up in comfort or stability to the Peg. On this one, our Mama friends were right on. Props, sisters.
Breastfeeding/ Lounging Pillow: You'll use your boppy or breastfriend far past nursing, it's just a good firm pillow. Organic slip covers are available. Update: They do make positioning nursing much easier when it's new to you, though once you're a pro - you'll be able to nurse dancing in heels, pillow or not. Buy one anyway.
Insert or Plastic Tub For Bathing: Choose a simple tub that is small enough for the sink and will fold up after use. Remember, you won't want to purchase a big plastic tub, because your back will kill bending over the bathtub every single day. You'll want to wash your little Pee-Wee in the sink for the first few Months. Update: Couldn't have been more off on this advice, ladies. You DO want the big tub, it's the easiest and most reliable. The hip fold up ones suck, they drain and don't work well. You'll wash the baby in the sink the first few weeks, then transfer to the big tub using the little sling it comes with. As soon as s/he can sit up - you'll want to switch to one of these chairs. This is another annoying plastic item you wish you didn't have to buy, but they are often happily handed down from friends. Ask around.
Hooded Towels: Choose super soft and super organic. This is not the place to cheap out. Update: Damn straight. The good towels last for years. The stingy generic ones aren't nubby or warm. Let your friends buy you beautiful towels for baby. You'll want five to be safe. People love buying soft blankets and towels as gifts, so this is a good one to register for.
Breastfeeding Tops and Bras and Pajamas: Easy boob access will be key. Hit up a maternity store or a breast feeding specialist store and stock up 1 month before the baby is born. Where we live in New York, we have Upper Breast Side and Yummy Mummy who have everything you could possibly need for your boobalicious journey. The BOOB brand and Hatch Brand make fantastic maternity-to-nursing clothes. Update: You don't need to exclusively buy breastfeeding clothes, but it certainly helps. In general, I just wore wide necks, low cut, and v-necks for a few years for easy access. Note: I don't include breastfeeding covers on this list because I never used them and most babies hate them. Breastfeeding is the most natural and normal thing in the world. If someone is uncomfortable with you nursing, that's their issue. The Bravado bras are my favorites, I've been wearing them daily for 5 years. Anytime I try another, something feels off. They are classic and the fit is wonderful and comfortable, which is not an easy feat when your boobs are massive and filled with milk. The Japanese Weekend PJ's are lovely and last forever.
Breast Pads: We've been told that the Lansinoh pads work best. You can register for them anywhere from Amazon to BuyBuyBaby. Re-usable and cloth pads are available as well, but we have heard they leak through your shirts from our Mama's surveyed. And the last thing anyone wants it to walk around dripping milk. Update: I never really needed these much, but when I did - I much preferred the soft bamboobies reusable to the icky lansinoh throwaways. They are crazy soft, and much more economical and eco overall. And they totally don't leak.
Rattles: You won't need plush toys for the first few months, babies aren't allowed to have them in the crib with them anyway, so no point in buying them now for any reasons other than to decorate your nursery. What you may want are a few black and white, interactive toys to try and distract the little during a diaper change. Update: You'll get so many of these, you won't know what to do with them. Keep 5, return the rest.
Play Mat: This will be invaluable to you. Baby is stimulated by all the "action" and you can sit close by and check your email without stressing. Watch out for kittens and dogs who love to fall asleep on these suckers. Update: You may want two of these. We tended to like one in different parts of the house. One hand-me-down, one registered for makes life a little easier.
Birth Announcements: A family member wants to get you something special? Why not ask them to foot the bill for high-end beautifully made birth announcements? It's something you'll want and need (get ones you can use as thank you cards on one side and announcements on the other.) We are particularly fond of the Eco-coconcious wooden ones from Night Owl Paper Goods which we used for baby #2 and got endless compliments on.
BONUS: Use coupon code GGABABY for 15% off all personalized baby announcements through June 30, 2015.
Many of the parents I talked to advised me to register for items that could be used later in the babies months as well, even six months and up, so you have enough to distribute equally between the months. And don't forget to calculate what season your baby will be born in! If you have a winter baby, you'll need plenty of cold weather gear, but a summer baby may need water proof diapers, and a beach tent. One friend who had her baby in winter swore by the Mama Jacket, which keeps both you and the little snug as a bug in a rug. However, this jacket is "eco-wool" so definitely not vegan friendly. Let's pressure 'em to make a cruelty-free option! Update: Review our pinterest baby wearing board (link below) for cruelty-free baby wearing jacket options, or you can do what we did and buy a large puffy coat which fit easily over me and baby in carrier for at least 1.5 years each time.
I went to BuyBuyBaby and was totally not into the lack of personal attention I got there. The "help" totally ignored my Husband and I and acted annoyed when we asked the most basic questions. So we busted out and ended up at Giggle (where most of my like-minded friends told me to go in the first place). Giggle is, off the bat, a thousand times nicer than Bye Bye Baby (which resembles a massive emporium ala Bed, Bath, and Beyond). All their items are eco-friendly, sustainable, and organic.. and the stores are intimate and cozy. The staff is BEYOND lovely and helpful. They take your coat, offer you tea, and literally hand-hold you through any and all dumb questions you may have. I (and so many of the parents I polled) highly recommend Giggle. And for whatever you have left over that you may want (baby books, videos, lower-priced items that Giggle doesn't have) feel free to register online at Diapers.com (use Refer-a-Friend Code: CHLX4305 for 25% off your first purchase!), Amazon.com, or BuyBuyBaby.com. I added Urthchild.com to my registry just because they have the most precious organic clothes and toys. Either way, if you do register in person - try to NOT go on a weekend. And DO book an appointment in advance. It's never too soon: be sure to order your crib and furniture sooner rather than later, as they often take a while to be delivered. BUT have closet space or a corner or a closet devoted to gifts, because once you register, the gifts WILL start coming in fast and furious, and you'll want to have them out of the way. Particularly if you are the least bit superstitious.
Update: this is still all true, though there are endless more eco-friendly baby sites now, and you can register on all of them. Choose one mainstream, and one that has the niche special things you want.
Obviously there are a million more little odds and ends you may want to add to this list (and feel free to do so in the comments section below!!), but above are the can't-do-without basics that you should be sure not to forget!
ALSO: We are CONSTANTLY updating our PINTEREST parenting boards - follow us here on any/ all of these boards:
Visit Chloé Jo Davis GirlieGirlArmy.com's profile on Pinterest.
And our little bonus gifts to you:
20% off all your diaper baby needs at Diapers.com when you click the image below and use our special code (you'll really want to take advantage of this discount - use it to buy your layette !)
use code: CHLX4305
New customers to Diapers.com, Wag.com or other Quidsi sites only. $20 maximum discount. Subject to change or cancellation.
Newborn Musts: What To Register For When You Are Knocked Up And Overwhelmed
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AND 25% off anything from Tea Collection, who have some really cute gift options.
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