When my first baby was born two years ago we were blessed to receive a huge amount of well-wishers, all arriving festooned with gifts for baby and I. But most of the pampering New Mum gifts and cute newborn outfits sat unused while I searched on eBay, Amazon and Boots.com at 3am for products that promised to restore my sleep, sanity and sense of dignity.
If you’re about to visit a friend who has recently had their first baby, here’s my list of gifts which they might really appreciate. (If it’s not their first baby they’ll basically need everything listed here, plus about 6 months of babysitting).
You think: Caffeine-free herbal teas ¦ They need: Small bottles of wine
There will come a point when New Mum will need wine but will feel too guilty or self conscious to go and get some from the corner shop at 10pm in her pyjamas with baby in the pram.
Like packs of baby wipes, small bottles can be stored in most rooms of the house for emergencies.
You think: Fancy bath products ¦ They need: Dry shampoo
For the first few months of life many babies do not like to be put down. If you do not know why this is, Google ‘the fourth trimester.’
In fact, it may not be until the new baby is packed off to school that New Mum gets an actual soak in the bath, by which time the fancy organic lavender and rose blossom bath oil will have gone off. Or more likely been spilt/eaten by a toddler.
Quick showers every other day will be the most she can manage. On the other days she will get by on a Glastonbury-esque freshen up of vital areas with baby wipes.
Her hair will be greasy and unwashed for even longer periods and this in particular will make her feel totally crap. Dry shampoo works wonders and will make her more inclined to face leaving the house. Buy her a big can of it.
You think: Books and magazines ¦ They need: Extra long phone charger
Babies just sleep and feed, so surely New Mum will have all the time in the world to get through her must-read list? The thing is, she’s likely to be spending most of her day trying to get baby to sleep and stay asleep. Babies can need a lot of convincing (jiggling, shushing, bouncing, pushing in the pram) to go to sleep and stay that way. When she is not doing the above she will be feeding baby, which, as it turns out, can be bloody hard (and constant) work.
The resulting exhaustion and stress means she may not be able to focus on reading more than two lines of any book. But her phone will be her new lifeline. Facebook, WhatsApp and Google will be her New Best Friends, connecting her with Other Humans Who Are Awake Between 3am and 6am and enabling her to buy nappies at midnight for next day delivery.
When she is trapped under a sleeping baby for hours on end, she will need that phone within 3cm of her fingers. (Stretching more than 3cm will wake Previously Sleeping Baby). Buy her an extra long phone charger – most are universal now but check her make/model first – and she’ll thank you every day.
You think: Boob firming serums ¦ They need: Nipple cream
I was bought some cocoa-butter and vanilla boob-firming cream when my first boy was born. It smelled like Haagen Dazs but sadly wasn’t suitable for newborns to eat (I was breastfeeding).
Also, none of these serums and creams actually work. Instead, get New Mum some newborn-friendly Lansinoh nipple cream if she’s attempting to breastfeed. Nipples can get sore, cracked and even bleed, in those early weeks and this little tube is all natural, soothing and bloody marvellous.
You think: Make-up ¦ They need: Stool softening laxative
A friend bought me a very expensive lips and eyes set to perk me up when baby boy #1 was born. However, I was so puffy-faced from tiredness and crying and feeling generally shit that the only thing that would realistically have perked up my face was a brown paper bag with a smiley face drawn on it with a black marker pen.
What I really needed was a poo. Six days since labour and I hadn’t had one. Every time I tried to go for a poo I thought I was going to pass out. I was scared of tearing my stitches (turns out they are quite resilient but I didn’t know that then), had only eaten refined carbohydrates for a week and was pretty dehydrated.
A gentle stool-softening laxative (Movicol – it even comes in chocolate flavour) was my saviour. It basically makes your poop come out like Mr Whippy and makes you feel half a stone lighter. Bliss! So buy New Mum a month’s supply of it from the pharmacist. Maybe tie a ribbon around it to make it look more celebratory.
You think: Dungaree set with hat, socks and scratch mittens ¦ They need: Sleepsuits
Socks are cute but never stay on babies’ feet. Scratch mittens will be found under cushions, on the pavement, stuck to bottoms of slippers but never on babies’ hands for more than 15 seconds.
Wrestling baby in and out of pooped-in dungarees may be enough to tip New Mum over the edge on a bad day. Sleepsuits – all-in-one, long-sleeved, poppered garments with feet – are what new babies will mostly wear, unless they are born at the height of summer (in which case it’s baby vests she needs).
New Mum will need lots of inexpensive ones for baby, as sometimes a baby’s poop shoots all the way up to their necks and the idea of washing the already-stained-yellow garment (it will also stain everything else in the laundry basket) may be too much for her. It will need to be chucked in the bin with the nappy.
You think: Chocolate ¦ They need: Chocolate.
Think how much a reasonable person might eat in a fortnight and buy twice as much. Aim for a mix of posh boxes and lower-grade super-sugary bars.
You think: Visitors to cuddle baby ¦ They need: Helpers
….to make lunch and dinner, empty the bins, put a load of washing on and, if they would like you to, take baby for a walk in the buggy so they can shower and/or sleep.
Because all new mums are superheroes – but even superheroes have side kicks.
About Hannah Wallace
Hannah lives in South London with her husband and two young sons. She loves her boys, eating cake, babywearing, salsa dancing, having a good rant, large glasses of red wine, talking about theology and having uninterrupted time in the bathroom.