So I’ve been thinking about this for a while: I bloody love Christmas – but the whole thing has gone slightly mad.
Something changed in me when I had B. Suddenly I stopped not caring about stuff. (Some would say my stone cold heart may have thawed a tiny bit.) There’s something about having a child that makes you care a bit about the world they’re growing up in and the one you’re going to leave behind.
I’m very very far from eco. I have always been a consumer. But the tide is turning (figuratively and literally, a giant wave of rubbish is moving across our oceans, smothering the sea life) and most recently here in the U.K. we’ve had a high profile advert imploring us not to use palm oil because it’s killing orangutans and the rainforest, and we’ve had Martin Lewis of moneysupermarket telling everyone not to go into debt for Christmas, and to give people the gift of not being obliged to reciprocate gifts.
Now, I love gift giving. And I honestly don’t expect stuff in return. (I’m a dreadfully ungrateful present recipient – I am really bad at pretending to like things I don’t like.) But it’s got me to thinking whether I should really be buying loads of stuff that I’ve done in previous years.
I’ve tended to go all out at Christmas and it probably isn’t necessary. If it’s not reusable then it’s just going to be wasteful. I love the high end luxury stuff but a lot of it is glittery disposable stuff that isn’t worth the premium packaging that gets instantly discarded. (I’m looking at you, Jo Malone / Molton Brown!) Plus I just don’t have so much spare cash now I seem to enjoy spending it on B!
I’m not quite at the wooden toy evangelist level. I don’t ban plastic from our home or anything like that. (One of B’s favourite toys is the €4 cleaning set with a dustpan and brush that his godmother bought him when we went to visit her. Yes it’s plastic tat but he uses it a lot.)
I’ve gently tried to steer anyone who asks towards some of the sustainable / wooden toy providers (Yes Bébé is my current favourite) but I also appreciate that people like to choose gifts or may not afford certain things and I’m not going to deny them the pleasure of choosing something for themselves if that’s what they want to do. I mean, B likes everything (especially the boxes it comes in) so it’s a win win.
Anyway, tonight I ordered a load of my Christmas stuff so I thought I would share because things like that make me excited and get me in the Christmas mood! Here’s my list so far… I am getting a lot of repeats so most people will have a combination of a few of them! Plus there are still some Black Friday deals on some of them!
We had a potted tree last year in the hopes we could keep it alive and reuse it. That didn’t work! We ended up with two trees and we kept one alive until August but then he died… So this year we are getting a 7-8 ft tree from Patch London. Using code RUPERT0010 may get you a discount this weekend! We saw them (pic above) at Taste London and they look like great quality. So cutting down a tree doesn’t exactly fit with being eco, but Patch replace all the chopped trees and it seems better to use a nice tree for a few weeks and dispose of it in a biodegradable way than to buy a plastic one.
Again I’m not going to sound any credentials for these because the true way to be sustainable is not to send cards. But I have family and friends who I still share cards with and so I’ve decided to send just to a few people and the others can go without as we’ll just message each other on Facebook or something. I’ve ordered ours from Vistaprint – they have a Black Friday deal code VP2711 for up to 60% off and that runs till 27 November.
I’ve ordered calendars featuring the latest photos of B that we took in the bluebells. They’re the third session with our photographer who took his newborn shots and they are amazing. Obviously I’m utterly biased but he looks really cute and it’s a nice gift to give grandparents, aunts and uncles. Not massively eco friendly but they’re in use all year round and with the Black Friday code from Vistaprint they cane to just over £6 each, which is amazing! I’ve enjoyed seeing his photos from last year on our calendar and it’s up in my parents’ kitchen as well so they must like it!
Reusable drinks containers
So my big present this year is coffee cups from Stojo. The difference between these and others is that they’re collapsible so they don’t take up loads of space in your bag. I’m very excited about these. All the chains have now started charging for paper cups, and giving you about 25% off your drink if you use a reusable one, so I think these will come in handy. I found them in Robert Dyas for £5 under retail. And they come in a nice holiday red! I’ve literally bought 15 or something which is crazy but I think it’ll be a cool little gift for friends and family.
If you’re like me and drink a lot of water, you’re already carrying water bottles around with you. I love the brand Cotopaxi – it’s an ethical brand that employs local people in South America and Asia to make its products. I already have three rucksacks and a bag from there and I have this awesome water bottle – it’s a bit expensive to buy all my friends as gifts, but if I was feeling more flush, I would. You may have guessed by now I like red.
Organic cotton travel towels
Okay bear with me because this sounds boring AF but I am soooo pleased with these! I saw these at Taste London and the moment I felt the blanket I was sold (soooo soft!). They’re made from Turkish cotton (some kind of organic certification and whatnot) and the selling point is they are way absorbent but pack down really small, and they look cool and they also can be worn as scarves, used as blankets etc. I bought two travel towels for my best friend and her sister who always travel on holiday at Christmas, and I got the larger (sooooft) blanket for us. And now they have a Black Friday deal on where their new range of travel towels are like 40% off which is insane, so I just bought a load more to give to friends, because who doesn’t want a travel towel / scarf thing? Exactly! You can also get free shipping thru Cyber Monday with code BLACKFRIDAYSECRET!
If you could only touch this blanket you’d be able to feel how soooooft it is! Swoon!
Fair trade ethically sourced artisan scarves
Yeah that was a mouthful but these things are pretty gorgeous. Fair Fibres is a start up company selling gorgeous scarves and pashminas made by disabled weavers in Nepal and Kashmir. I gave my first one as a birthday gift and the recipient was over the moon. I think now people are becoming more aware of the provenance of things and they want stuff that is less disposable and that hasn’t been made in a sweatshop. After the glowing review the first one received, I ordered a further two for friends’ Christmas gifts. There are lots of different colours and patterns… of course I went for the red one!
Bamboo (and rainbow!) toothbrushes
I found these on Amazon… I haven’t bought them yet as I was debating whether to or not, as I’m not sure if a toothbrush as a gift is something my friends and family aren’t quite ready for! But I love rainbows and it would be a bit eco, so we shall see. Either way I’ll probably end up getting them at some point!
Finally I had a whole internal debate over packaging. I’ve always loved making amazing exciting looking presents. When I was younger I’d pride myself on my gift wrapping. BUT, that’s very un-environmentally friendly! As a compromise I have decided I’ll try and use up the wrapping paper from last year (if I can find it in the spare room) and I’ve also bought a load of red cotton totes off amazon that I’m going to decorate with gold fabric paint. Some of you will remember my projects from last year with the jute bags. I thought totes might be more usable in an everyday context because you can fold them up. And they’re cheaper to buy in bulk. So not eco in themselves probably (I doubt they’re organic cotton for that price!) but it’s kind of encouraging re-use so I hope that’s doing a bit.
So that’s my Christmas shopping so far! I don’t know if that’s really boring looking or what, but I feel like I’ve tried to be a bit more thoughtful in what I’ve bought. In the end it comes to quite a lot, but probably less than if I’d gone and spent £50-£100 on people to get them a “decent” gift.
My other plan is to put a handwritten (yeah maybe I’ll print it!) note in explaining the thinking behind the gift and also saying what I am really thankful for from that person. Because I want to give people the gift of time, and effort. If I have time I might even make some items of food, but I don’t know if I’ll manage that!
What do you think? Does this all sound whacko or is it old hat and you’ve already gone off grid and live a minimal carbon footprint life in a forest somewhere?!
Of course we’re not doing sustainable or possibly even ethical for little B… He’s getting a ride on train set in the middle of the living room on Christmas morning because that’s how we roll! 🤣🤣
We actually bought it at the Baby Show last year but he finally seems big enough for it now and he absolutely loved it when he tried it at this year’s show!
So I said I’d do a post for those who are interested on what we actually needed / have used for the baby (B) versus what I thought we would need. This has been sitting in my draft posts for ages so I’m going to post it!
(I have about a million thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head that I need to blog about, but somehow don’t seem to be able to formulate much right now. Suffice to say we are really enjoying parenthood. It’s better than I’d hoped for. I really hope all my friends still in the trenches get to experience this. I’ll try and do a post on that stuff soon, if I ever get comprehensible.)
So, recommendations for Stuff. I know all babies are different yadda yadda and we are definitely not experts or the first people in the world to have a baby! So feel free to ignore!
In fact both T and I were amazed we didn’t really need a lot of stuff in the first place, although you do need to go out to the shops fairly early on. This was quite easy for us as we have shops onsite on our estate plus other larger shops just outside in the town, so it wasn’t difficult and was a good excuse to get out of the house in week 1.
Anyway, I’ve broken it down into a few categories and we’ll see how it goes…
Hospital bag and antenatal stuff
I really think we ended up bringing a lot of unnecessary stuff! But I had gone off lists from NCT (antenatal class) as we had no idea. I think they’re slightly into overstating it as we traveled fairly light and it was fine.
What you need:
- Hospital notes. (I kept forgetting these – best to leave them in your bag!) In the UK they ask you for these at every appointment and tire meant to carry them around with you so may as well stick them in your bag.
- Something to sleep in x2. You will probably labour in something else and you don’t want to sleep in that later. I took vest / shorts as that’s what I sleep in. I just got a couple of cheap sets in a larger size than pre pregnancy size.
- Something to labour in. I brought a swimsuit / tankini but didn’t end up using the birthing pool due to the birth not going according to plan. I just wore the t shirt I was wearing to the hospital and pants. I thought I would care what I was wearing but I really didn’t!
- Pants! (Not trousers – knickers / panties) Ideally big enough to fit hospital pads in, which are huge. They give you disposable ones in hospital. I had also bought some disposable ones but they were awful – too big – so I preferred wearing my own normal pants, which are bikini style so can just about take a big pad. I later bought some “granny pants” (big knickers!) to wear during recovery… well, more (seamfree) boy shorts than anything else. I’m still wearing them five weeks on! They do help with healing after a c section as my normal bikini pants aggravated the scar.
- Maternity pads. They did provide some in hospital but the ones I brought myself were better – they had sticky on and the hospital ones didn’t, and were a better shape. NB In Boots (UK) they have two types. You need the big thick ones initially but then you can use the smaller thinner ones by week 2. TBH I have not been able to work out much difference between maternity pads and normal pads, except you want long ones. So Always Night are also fine. And eventually, pantyliners are fine (end of week 2 / beginning week 3 for me).
- Slippers. I brought some fold up ones shaped like mice that my best friend got me for Christmas!
- Dressing gown. I brought a light maternity one which I got in the Mothercare sale for £7. Hospital was sooo hot so it was good I didn’t bring a heavy one but nice to wear rather than the open back hospital robes!
- Nursing top and bra. Came in handy for when we had visitors.
- Something easy to slip on to sit around once you are up and to travel home in. I really didn’t want tight fitted stuff as I had a caesarean. I wore tracksuit trousers or maternity jeans, t shirt, coat / sweater, slip on shoes (I live in TOMS).
- Basic toiletries like toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush.
- Contact lenses if you wear them!
- Bottles of water and bendy straws. This was a tip from the midwife and we drank the entire 12 pack. Straws definitely came in handy when I couldn’t easily sit up / was nursing.
- Camera. You’ll want to take pictures. Also camera phone but now is the time to take the proper pics.
- Chargers. All of the chargers for phone, etc.
- iPhone. I have become dependent on it. iPad is too big / heavy when dealing with baby!
- Baby bag (see below).
- Car seat. Make sure you know how to fit it in the car and also how to put baby in! We almost didn’t and had a mini argument in hospital about how to do it!
- Blanket. For baby in car seat and you can also use it in hospital if you’re staying in. I now leave that blanket in the car. I also have a collection of blankets like one on the sofa, one in the cot, one in the baby bag, pram, etc.
- Optional: Contraction counter app. I had this on my iPhone and used it linked to my Apple Watch to time contractions. It did help with this setup as it got to the point where I couldn’t really speak.
What you don’t need that I took:
- Breast pads. You don’t need them until your milk comes in which is Day 3ish and I didn’t stay in that long. But I guess you’d need them if you did. When you do need them – Lansinoh are far and away superior. The own brand ones didn’t stick properly and bunch up.
- Vast quantities of toiletries. I didn’t end up using them. Thought I would but waited until I got home for a shower as I didn’t want to leave B alone. Maybe a bit crazy as they had showers but it was fine for me to wait.
- Makeup – ha! Totally expected to want to wear it but don’t think I even thought about it until week 2. I felt fine. Must’ve been new mother glow! Confession: Didn’t brush my hair until day 2. Was needed after labour!
- Snacks. They said we’d want them but I really didn’t bother with much.They have food at hospital and I was just too busy. It maybe depends how long you stay in but B was delivered late Sunday night and we just stayed in Monday then left on Tuesday so didn’t eat much. I had a bag of crisps plus the hospital food! I had some Haribo sweets the next day.
- Lots of clothes. Didn’t end up wearing them. Kind of slummed it in hospital and then just wore something light to go home in.
- Biscuits / chocolates for nurses / midwives. It’s a nice thought but because of what happened we didn’t really have continuity of care. So didn’t know who to give them to. I think we will send a thank you card when I get round to it.
- Champagne was suggested but wasn’t really in the mood as there was no fridge and who wants warm champagne?!
- Mood lighting. They suggest battery tea lights and fairy lights for a natural birth but I had an emergency caesarean so it didn’t work out that way. T did get them out during my labour and I barely noticed them. Same goes for the music which I didn’t use despite having hypnobirthing tracks downloaded. I just never really got to that stage of having my own room to set up for birth, so it wasn’t really necessary. I also had photo books that T had made me as they suggest having something nice to focus on during birth, which was a lovely thought but never happened. The books are nice though!
We took a separate bag for B which we’ve carried on using as his baby bag. We think we have it down to a fine art now and have streamlined it. It’s a rucksack which is for babies but is quite neutral just with lots of pockets and space.
- Baby clothes. We took quite a few for B for hospital and only just had enough. You need (in the UK, winter): 3 short sleeved bodysuit vests, 3 long sleeved bodysuits, 2-3 sleepsuits, hat, scratch mittens, jacket/cardigan, socks. Usually in his nappy bag I have one change of clothes for the day.
- Nappies. He wasn’t small so didn’t need mini, and he uses size 1 Pampers. We just brought a whole pack to the hospital. Usually in the bag I keep at least 4. (Update: This has sat in drafts so long he’s now in size 2!)
- Wipes. We use Water Wipes as he seemed to get an irritated bum from anything else. I just take a whole pack.
- Nappy cream. We use Bepanthen and seems to work fine. I got travel size to go in the bag.
- Changing mat. Turns out he hates having his nappy changed and especially hates being on a changing mat. I guess it’s cold on his back. At home we use a towel which can be washed. Out and about we have a small fold up mat (Polar from Amazon, under £10) and also you can get disposable changing pads from Pampers which can be used a few times depending on if they get dirty. They are nice and soft. From hospital they give you bed pads so they also work as nappy changing pads, so take any spares! Also it turns out you can use puppy training pads as disposable changing mats! We have hundreds!
- Dummies. Spare ones clipped into inside pocket.
- Muslins. They do come in handy although you can get away without them. They are cloths you use to wipe up baby milk / sick / drool. I tend to tuck one in the sling and a couple in the bag.
- Red book. In the U.K. all babies get a red book which is their medical records. We keep it in the nappy bag.
- For shorter trips I use the Skip Hop changing mat pack which is a mat and smaller case which holds a few wet wipes and nappies. It’s good if you don’t want to take the whole big bag out with you.
Stuff for baby at home
What we needed in the beginning:
- Sling. I have used this so much. The one we have is the Soohu sling from WeMadeMe. It was tricky to set up but now it is, it’s easy to plonk him in for toting about the place and you can even use it as a discreet breastfeeding cover. So works for me. I might even consider wraps later down the line now I’m feeling more adventurous!
- Cot. We have the Snuzpod side sleeper cot which is joined on to our bed. Would I buy it again? Well my in laws bought it for us. It’s quite expensive but it’s a nice style. He is not keen on sleeping in it yet – he wants to sleep on a person! But hopefully he will get used to it. It suits him until six months and then we will have to figure something else out. TBH I can see us cosleeping (which is soooo bad) although may try to get him into a pack n play. He’ll be in our room for a while as we don’t have a spare room (it’s currently a walk in closet). Update: He now sleeps in his cot for longer during the night and we use it in conjunction with the Cosydream sleep nest.
- Newborn baby clothes. We totally didn’t appreciate that newborn size is different from 0-3 months. There’s even an in between size called Up to one month. So we ended up needing a load of newborn clothes which now at three weeks he’s kind of grown out of. For what it’s worth, I totally didn’t know what babies need clothing wise. In the UK, babies tend to wear shorty vests underneath (short sleeves and short legs). At night they wear a sleepsuit over that (long arms long legs, all enclosed). During the day they wear a long sleeved babygro (long arms short legs) over the vest, plus some trousers and socks or shoes. I guess girls maybe wear something different. Anyway I totally thought the vests were actual outfits but they’re not! And you need a few changes in case they get dirty, which happens! He moved to Up to one month size at about three weeks and I think he will move to 0-3 months in a couple of weeks. For me the best baby clothes for boys (as there seems generally less selection) are from M&S and baby Boden.
- Nappies and changing bag. See separate section!
- Blankets. We used a baby blanket in the car seat that I just leave in the car. And tend to wrap him in soft blankets if we are on the sofa with him. Not baby blankets. But in bed we moved away from blankets to the sleeping bag and then the swaddle bag. It seems an easier way to get him to sleep. Blankets are handy when out and about too. I have a cute small one from Tobias and the Bear that I take with me in his baby bag and he can lie on when we are out and about. I’m also eyeing up one from Mori.
- Muslins. They say you can’t have too many. I got some half price in the sale and pop them all over the place.
- Nappies. They’re always on offer in various shops, up to half price. So it’s worth buying them in bulk!
- Nappy disposal bin. I’ve had debates with friends over this. I think it depends if you live in a house or a flat. We live in a top floor apartment and so we don’t take rubbish out all the time. It definitely helps to have somewhere to leave stinky nappies which contains the smell! We have the Tommee Tippee Sangenic bin and it seems to be working fine.
- Room thermometer. We have the gro egg which is a glowing egg. It means you know how much clothing he should wear to sleep in. As a rule of thumb, it’s one layer more than you.
What we didn’t need in the beginning:
- Pushchair / stroller. It’s week 3 and we still don’t need it. Although I guess I’ll start using it at some point soon. We got the Stokke Scoot. (Edited to add: We have started using this at 5 weeks. It’s great, but we definitely didn’t need it earlier and it’s still easy to use the sling on public transport. It’s nicer for strolls as B is getting heavy now!)
- Dummies / pacifiers. I started using these around week three. They say not to until later in case it interferes with breastfeeding but I can’t see that happening as he loves to feed. I also got the clips that mean if it drops out of his mouth then it doesn’t fall on the floor. I have one clipped on the sling, one in the changing bag, one in his cot, etc. The only ones he will currently take are Tommee Tippee. (Update: Philips Avent are the currrnt winners.)
- Older clothes. Like I said, 0-3 months is too big for a newborn. He’s three weeks now and has put on almost a kilo since birth but still isn’t in those yet. He’s sort of grown out of newborn but now in Up to 1 month clothes which are slightly bigger. Also, we got loads of hats as presents and they’re still way too big. One month on, my favourite clothes for boys are from (UK shops) Mini Boden, JoJo Maman Bébé, the Little White Company, Mark’s & Spencer. Also I got some cute clothes from Europe in Bruges and Italy, and when I was in the US, I loved the store Janie and Jack. I think it’s sort of harder to find cool boys’ clothes but I enjoy the challenge! I like him to wear funky / classic and animal stuff, not so much cartoony stuff that seems to be everywhere for boys. I’m sure he won’t care!
- Mobile. We haven’t fitted it to the cot yet. We do have Whisbear (white noise teddy) which we’ve used although I’m not sure whether it works. He doesn’t stay in the cot for stimulation so we don’t use the mobile yet.
- Bouncy chair. We thought he could use it for when I need a shower etc but he hates it so far! I had high hopes for the vibrations but he just screams. Hope it works in future. (Edited to add: He is only now getting used to it at just over a month. It’s handy for when I want to shower!)
- Baby carrier for Dad. We got a proper carrier from Stokke but he’s only just started using it. T felt B was too small for it initially even though it says suitable from birth. It was a lot more expensive. I’m thinking the sling has more ROI. (Edited to add: T started using this at around a month old and it is working well but definitely more fiddly than the sling.)
- Sleeping bag. We got a cheap one in the sale and he did use it a while, as he really didn’t seem to take to the cot blanket and it caused him less trouble. Then I decided to try swaddling so got him a swaddle bag (I got one from MORI for newborns to 3 month olds) which seems to help as long as he doesn’t realise he’s in it. I use a mix of the swaddle sack until he wakes up and gets mad he’s in it, early morning, and then switch to the blanket. I have a bunch of nice blankets but use the Snuz branded ones in the Snuzpod because it looks cute.
- Bath stuff. The midwives said not to bathe him for at least a month! You wipe them down to clean them but apparently they don’t need it and the natural fluids from childbirth are apparently good for them! Have to say I felt a bit squeamish about this but he was fine. We bathed him for his one month birthday! We used the Angel soft touch bath support which is like a reclining seat the baby can lie in whilst you bathe him. It worked great. Also a Nuby turtle bath thermometer which helped get the water to the right temperature. It’s cute! And we used Burts Bees baby bath which I received as a baby shower gift. I felt like it was nice but left quite a strong smell. I was glad when he got back his new baby smell!
So that’s it for now! This has gone through a few edits as some stuff has become more useful as time has gone on, but it’s a representation of what we used in the first month. We are now at 5 and a half weeks. I can’t believe it! We seem to spend our days doing a lot and not very much at the same time. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m already dreading going back to work as I only get four months off, but trying to focus on the good stuff right now.
I’m so enjoying motherhood and I can barely believe it has finally happened for me. B is a lovely baby and even though he’s a bit nocturnal, we have all settled in really well. It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago he was still inside me, and this time last year he didn’t even exist as we contemplated our second IVF cycle (and I was hugely pessimistic). In fact during February 2016 I was at an all time low as we passed the due date for our first baby, PB.
I’ll never forget the pain of infertility and loss. It was something that went on for so long, over 10 years for me. And yet now, with baby B snuffling on my chest, Dog snoring and T snoozing beside me, I can feel the pain recede into memory. I feel at peace. I am hoping for others that they can find their peace.
I had trouble sleeping tonight so I’ve been up most of the night surfing the web and I saw this on Etsy:
I need this.
Even if little baby doesn’t make it (please no), one of my favourite past times is making Dog into a burrito. (Dog is currently snoring on my shoulder in bed, but I think if I showed it to him, he’d agree. Possibly.)
In other news, it’s Day 57 and I’m still pregnant!! Which means I made it to 5 weeks. Still not sure how these calculators work but I’m taking it. It was a bit alarming doing the test as it didn’t show up straight away. I still keep thinking something is going to go wrong. At least I’m now on every other day tests. I even let myself do a bit of baby window shopping (prams and stuff! I’ve always known which pram I wanted… how sad!) online as I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it’s because the tiredness knocked me out yesterday. Either way it looks like I’ll have to get up shortly and go into work. Eek.
My friend and I are possibly going to the cinema to watch a chick flick (Pitch Perfect 2) this evening so I’ll have to try and stay awake. Not sure how that’s possible without coffee. I think I’m just feeling out of sorts generally. Like my hay fever was really bad overnight which was partly why I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t been taking anything as I was told not to, but it means I’m super snotty and my eyes feel nasty and even my face itches. And sneezing makes the back of my throat raw.
Anyway, it’s a small inconvenience when I think about my little baby burrito. Looked him up on an app and apparently he’s the size of a sesame seed. Seems a bit weird that he’s causing all these changes to my body when he’s so little.
I’m listening to early morning sounds and my boys snoring. Dog is the loudest right now. He’s a right snorer!