Friday, 17 May 2013

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: BABY ESSENTIALS

When it comes to baby kit, especially with your first baby, I say get everything. EVERYTHING. A tummy tub? Why not. An £8,000 buggy? Go for it. Fourteen different kinds of dummy? Great!

Because all babies are different and they like, weirdly, different things. And some things might work for you, others not. Both Kitty and Sam for example like Avent bottles and dummies and immediately spat out any dummy that was not made by Avent.

Avent's anti-colic bottles do, I think, work in reducing what is known in my family as "squirty tummy" in newborns. ALL BABIES have "squirty tummy" to varying degrees, whether you use an anti-colic system or not because they are new and rubbish at everything and their stomachs don't work for ages, resulting in "squirtiness", which is an unspecified gas/digestion problem that makes them screw their faces up and go "meerrggghgh" or even "WWAWAAAHHAHHAHHAHAH!!!" I like to try to avoid this.

So I also use Infacol, which is an orangey-tasting liquid that helps babies bring up their wind. You can give it to babies from birth, but I find that wind problems only emerge at about 3 weeks onwards. You give them a little dropper of it before a feed and then they bring up lovely rich, orangey burps and sleep like logs and are less "squirty". Kitty lived on it for about 3 months.

I also believe, with swivel-eyed evangelism, in swaddling. This, for the uninitiated, is when you wrap a newborn up very tightly in a long strip of cloth to replicate the squashed-in feeling of being in the womb. There are some cloths specially designed for swaddling called Grobag, which are very good

and also the terrific giant muslins from Aden + Anais, which used to be very niche and hippy when I had Kitty, but now everyone uses them. They are absolutely brilliant for all sorts of things, from swaddling to using as a blanket, a sunshade, rolling it up into a sausage to wedge newborn into sleeping on its side if you feel a bit neurotic that the baby is going to puke in its sleep and choke on it, (but are too scared to put it down on its tummy), using as a vomit sheet to stretch over the bottom sheet of a cot belonging to a child with noro - you get the idea. They are quite expensive but they will last you for years.

There are millions of swaddling tutorials on YouTube - I urge you to look them up if you are about to have your first. Just do it before every naptime until they are about... I dunno... six weeks old.

Chloramphenicol antibiotic eye drops.

Available over the counter at any pharmacy. If your baby's umbilical cord is taking its sweet time to come off and is starting to stink, slosh this over it to prevent any infection. It is mild enough to go in your eye, so it's perfectly okay to use on a tummy button.

Lansinoh cracked skin balm

This will rescue your nipples if you are breastfeeding - put it on every time you breastfeed or any time you express, or any time you remember to. Buy one for every room in your house so you are never without it. You can never have too much because it has a million other uses - it mends cracked heels overnight, works as a basic but effective night eye cream and is officially the world's best lip balm (second only to Lanolips - available at Waitrose).

Gap make the only socks that babies will not kick off.

Seraphine make very nice nursing bras. They have one that comes in a small, medium and large and another that comes in traditional bra sizes. I'd say that the one that comes in traditional sizes is better.

I've got this bra in a size 1 million. And also some others that I had specially made... BY NASA

Aptamil formula. I fed Kitty a combination of formula and breastmilk from pretty much day 1 and have done the same with Sam. My personal attitude to breastfeeding is this: I do not like hearing babies cry and if I don't have to, I don't want to. So if my child is crying or unsettled because it is hungry, and I do not have enough breastmilk to sort it out, I give them formula. I partly breastfed Kitty for about six weeks and will probably do the same with Sam, unless with two children in tow breastfeeding and expressing becomes completely impractical, in which case I will stop sooner.

For expressing, I use a Medela Swing, which is about 10 years old, but gets the job done. Muy sexy, no?

I must also give a plug to a company called, which sent me a lot of babygros for Sam. They couldn't possibly have forseen that babygros with slogans on the front are my least favourite thing ever, but it was a kind and thoughtful gift. And one with LOL on the front, did make me smile, although I cannot guarantee that Sam will wear it. Looking at their website, they have all sorts of terrific things on there without hideous slogans, so do give it a go. 

Little Clothes Mouse - - sent me some excellent newborn stuff for Sam, including a Petit Bateau hat that actually fit his weeny head (he was not born small - 7.5lb - but 0-3 month stuff was HUGE on him). In general, the website sells discounted designer childrens' clothes and is a small company run by a very nice lady, so I heartily direct your business to her. She has also kindly and generously offered Rifle Readers a 10% discount at checkout with the code RIFLE. Use it or lose it ladies (and germs). 


  1. And if even your GAP socks fall off there are sockons. Them and a bag of infacol = best baby gifts ever.

  2. Hi, this is Jo from - a) many thanks, Esther, for writing such nice things and b)I've had a couple of emails about the coupon code which was flagging up as "invalid" as I'd preset it to work once you'd created an account. Anyway, I've now changed it to work on a unilateral basis so you shouldn't have any problems. Go into "view cart" and apply the coupon code there.

    And I thoroughly recommend Infacol - I brought both mine up on it and it works a treat to minimise colic and wind.

  3. Great tips for others uses of Lanolin cream. I have discovered that Sudocrem works wonders to heal a red nose caused by a cold, but smearing bum cream on your face also not very sexy

  4. My lovely friend has just had a much longed for baby boy. I'd like to send a wonderful present to her, do you have any any suggestions? My 'baby' is now 19 so I'm completely way beyond knowing what gifts glamorous new mother's are given.

    1. In the previous post about jewellery, the necklace from Babes with Babies is really very gorgeous. If £160 is a bit out of your budget range, has some similar personalised charm necklaces that I think are really lovely.

      Failing that, I don't know a mother who hasn't appreciated a generous box of Aden + Anais giant muslins, they really AREN'T cheap so are an extremely respectable gift xxx

  5. I have bookmarked all of this to return, faithfully to in 10 weeks time when life as we know it, shudders and changes for ever.

  6. So it turns out that your nips should not burn and sting like hell after you have applied the 'soothing' Lansinoh cream which everyone went on about. I did consider chopping them off such was the agony. It seems I am allergic to lanolin and applying it to the most sore and sensitive part of my body was not the best idea. If this is you too, then Boots sell something called Bio-Fem nipple cream which is just as good but without the dreaded lanolin.

  7. Im allergic to lanolin as well, you have to be careful when your applying it.

  8. Loving your work, as ever, Esther. Thanks for your terrific blog. I'd love to know how you get exercise (perhaps irrelevant right at this new baby stage, but generally) and also your thoughts on the 5-2 diet that everyone's talking about? Just figured you'd have a creative, funny, intelligent take on the both that would be worth sharing. Thanks again!

    1. I do no exercise at all, but must start. my plan is to start running round the block 3 per week and see how much I hate it.

      the 5-2 diet is brilliant, I'm sure, but I would fail at it because it requires too much creativity

      now I'm worried that was neither creative, funny or intelligent

  9. Love your comments on bf/formula. During the amazing but incredibly intense early weeks, the added pressure from my HV to breastfeed at all costs was stressful to say the least. Good to remember that formula wont kill them.

  10. My HV was supportive of my breastfeeding and formula mixing. Gets the job done and took away a lot of stress (and embarrassing public feeding was avoided). Good to let people know they can do it and baby won't be pained but might, you know, feel settled and happy and mum will feel less stressed. Who doesn't want that?!

    ALso aiden & anise sleeping bags are amazing.

  11. No, that's helpful at reducing the guilt associated with me not doing any exercise either (though without the new baby excuse). I hadn't realised there was any creativity involved in the 5-2 because I thought it was just a matter of not eating much two days but I will check that out, thanks.

  12. Due in October and haven't got a clue. Thanks for the tips. I'm getting some of the magic infacol

  13. Esther, tweeted you to say I got the swaddling muslins in a starry pattern, thanks for your suggestion. (I also got the Hush scarf that you mentioned in your previous post, little present to myself, it arrived yesterday and am LOVING it!)
    NB to new mothers: as the mother of a 19 year old,can I advise you to do whatever suits you best, breast feed or bottle feed or both, work or don't work, potty train early or whenever, and don't listen to the naysayers. Can you look round your friends and tell who was breast/bottle fed? If they had mothers who worked or didn't work? Potty trained early or late? Probably not....

  14. Top 5 essentials:
    Metanium cream (sorts out even severe nappy rash)
    Bed blocks (raises head of cot/moses basket and a great deal safer than the upside down fruit crate we used with child 1)
    Aveeno cream (prevents/treats eczema)
    A sling (fabric ones by 'Close' were especially good and safe enough for my tiny 5Ib