*A friend emailed today asking for input – he’s having a baby in the near future and was a bit lost about what to buy and what to avoid (particularly around clothes, which is why this post focuses on it. I wrote a long email, and then Kat wrote her bit of it, and by the time I was finished adding to it I thought we’d leave it here to serve as an update of sorts – in many ways it’s less about advice and more about our experiences… Later on I added to it whenever I had an email conversation with a friend having a baby *

Congratulations!

Two facts about clothes:

  1. you WON’T be able to move for people giving you new clothes
  2. they’ll miss out lots of important bits.
    This is an excellent time to start going to car boot sales – almost all of Nova’s clothes were bought for about 20p an item in a field. Quite a lot of the rest were hand me downs. Anything with buttons is cursed, poppers are where it’s at.

Important purchases:

  • A couple of good insulated cups. You are entering a phase of life where you keep finding half full cups of stone cold tea. Get some flasks. I love this brand.
  • Laser thermometer (ours is apparently no longer on amazon). Either have an argument four times a day about if your baby is too hot or too cold or buy one. It’s about a tenner and is fun to use.
  • Two apps: the contraction timer, and the “baby feed timer”. Use them – otherwise one of you will delusionally convince the other that your baby hasn’t eaten in three days.

Useful facts:

  • Going to the prenatal classes isn’t particularly good for information (Drinking game: take a shot every time the person in charge avoids a question by saying “Whatever works for baby”), but is good for relaxation – turns out that you guys are more ready that most of the people there (and you’ll find yourself vastly more ready than most to-be fathers). It’s also good for your partner to start making her baby friends. This is essential for lots of sensible mental health reasons and it’s amazing how much the mummy groups are the de-facto information source.
  • Gender reveal scan – is fucking awful because it’s also the anomaly scan. It’s thorough and it’s brutal to go through. In advance, agree to get the gender written down on paper (if you are finding out early) so that you can find out at home when you have calmed down.

In response to ‘books for my partner who is going to be a father’

Almost all the books directly aimed at fathers are complete wastes of paper and are more written for comedy than anything else. Reading ‘What to expect when you are expecting’ was good, and in general ‘Reading the same books as the mother because then you share a frame of reference’ is a good plan.

I got more about parenting from Freakonomics (including names actually) than I have from any other book. In general I found that most books about ‘evidence based parenting’ weren’t anything like as useful as ‘normal’ pop-science books that happened to use parenting as an example for a chapter. I also got a lot of value out of this one, but it’s long term.

Totally honestly – the best thing an expectant father can probably read is a big stack of ‘dealing with your emotions’ books, along with another big pile of books on sexism and gender roles. The practical STUFF – nappies and washing and the rest of it, is all trivial, particularly for people like us who naturally think in terms of processes – the books are for later.

Kat random brain dump

Baby clothing sizes – These are sooo confusing!

  • Newborn/First size means items they can wear for the first month. If you have a baby bigger than 8lbs, you probably only need a few this size as they’ll only be in them a week or so!
  • 0-3 is the next size up and obvs will last until they are around 3 mths). It’s then 3-6mths, 6-9mths, 9-12mths, 1yr, 2yrs etc

Every brand of baby clothing is slightly different size wise. As a rough guide the posher the brand the more generous the sizing seems to be!

I’m still unsure about the difference between a babygro/vest and a sleep suit! With Nova, at the beginning we had her in a babygro and sleep suit at night (and a sleeping bag/gro bag on top – these are great as the baby doesn’t kick them off). Now it’s summer, we have these old fashioned nighties, which mean you can change her nappy in the night without having to do loads of poppers. I think if I did it again, I’d prob have her in nighties (and babygro) from the beginning. Sleepsuits are still good for wearing during the day when you want to have a simple outfit (i.e. rather that nightmare for changing trousers and socks combo). I’d suggest you get 5-7 baby gro and 5-7 sleep suits to start off with (remembering Joe’s point above that EVERYONE gets you clothes :))

Baby Gear

There is SO much out there, especially baby sleep aids. We used a moses basket but I’ve heard really good feedback on the next to me cots (CHICO I think is the brand). Try and get second hand (buy a new mattress) though as they’re only in them for 4 mths. One of the best bits of kit we got for Nova was a baby swing. I think she could go in it from 6wks and it gave me my arms back as she’d happily rock in there for a bit (whereas she got fed up with lying down for too long).

Being me (Kat), I put together Excel spreadsheets of all the baby gear/hospital bag contents/nappy bag contents that I thought would be useful and have edited these over the years. Happy to dig them out if there’s interest!

  • Mat leave - If you can, give yourself two weeks off before the baby comes - Even if they miss their due date, you’ll look back and treasure your last few days pre parenthood!
  • Life assurance - Something we never bothered with before kids, suddenly a very good idea! Also a will.
  • Nappies - If you decide to try reusable nappies, definitely, definitely plan to still use disposable whatever was cheapest on eBay, but friends recommended little lamb and baba and boo.
  • Breast feeding/pumping -schedule If you unfortunately end up in a similar position to us with Leo and need to establish supply with a pumping schedule, there are hardly any good resources for this online.If you’re in a hospital, ask if there are any nurses experienced in bf support/lactation. They were a great source for me, and I’m obvs v happy to talk anyone through the schedule that worked for us.
  • Feeling like you’ve ‘got’ it - I didn’t feel like I was any good at breastfeeding, sleep or any of the billion things you have to learn with a baby until Nova was about 6 weeks old. Give yourself at least until then to just doggy paddle your way through everything. Parenthood is like learning a new language, and not everyone is an instant natural at it!
  • Breast pumps - If you’re planning on doing a lot of pumping, look into a hospital grade pump - they are waaaay more efficient. I’ve heard positive things about the Elvie pump too.
  • Social media accounts that are inspiring/helpful:
    • The modern midwife (insta) - positive birth stories, helpful advice from qualified midwife
    • Pregnant then screwed (insta) - pregnant then screwed - movement/high profile woman advocate for pregnant/working women’s rights with a lot of information about current situation in Uk on everything from hospital appointments to working conditions)
    • UK breastfeeding support (Facebook) - Invaluable support/advice from fellow mums, lactations specialists and midwives in very friendly group - covers almost any issues that may come up! One of the most friendly, non judgemental and helpful groups I’ve come across.
  • Breastfeeding/pregnancy clothes:
    • Can I breastfeed in it (Facebook) - Group where people share clothes from highstreet shops/supermarkets that may not be specifically for bf, but work really well/can be adapted. Lots of advice and friendly. Also has separate page for selling second hand items.
    • Molke - Really comfy breastfeeding bras, extra points for being small UK business.
  • Hypnobirthing - We used the positive birth company for Leo’s birth and it was excellent. I was sceptical about it and didn’t do for Nova - was soooo much more relaxed during Leo’s birth using the breathing techniques I’d learnt through the online course. 100% worth it.
  • Harmony test - If you are unable to get a good reading on the neck folds scan and they offer you the NHS blood test (can’t remember the name), this does not give as confident a result as the scan in detecting anomalies. It is 100% worth going privately for a Harmony blood test - both for the reassurance, and it’ll give you the gender result earlier than the 20 week scan if you’re interested!
  • Don’t tell people the names you are thinking of - you’ll be able to tell from their facial reaction what they think and best to just wait until it’s a permanent decision so they don’t put you off!
  • Everyone has a dramatic/scary birth story they know of - try to avoid listening to them if you can - the best thing you can do is be prepared, and no need to scare yourself with horror stories!
  • There is no difference between having a boy or a girl baby!