8 Apps to Ease Life with a Newborn

I know we live in a world that is largely over-dependant on smart phones, but they do come in handy. I’ve played around with quite a few apps for various different things since our daughter was born and I thought I’d share the ones I’ve found most useful.

Baby tracker app

Baby Tracker (free or AU$6.49 | iPhone only)
For tracking feeds, nappy changes & sleeps. You can use it for free or you can pay a one off fee to keep using the graphs, which I really like because they’re a good visual summary and can help to identify patterns. I tried a lot of different tracking apps and I like this one best because it’s reliable, easy to use, and isn’t crowded with a lot of other features I don’t want to use.

23 Snaps (free | iPhone & Android)
A private way to share photos and videos with family and close friends, saving your Facebook feed from baby photo overload. The people you share with don’t need to have the app or even an account – all they need is an email address to receive updates, which is great if you have any non-tech-savvy family members! If they do sign up, they can post comments and likes like any other social network.

The Wonder Weeks (AU$1.99-2.28 | iPhone & Android)
Accompanies the book of the same name, which I’d also recommend. I’ve tried to avoid information overload from reading too many baby books but I like the Wonder Weeks because it explains why your baby might suddenly become clingy or start crying a lot and what big developments you can look forward to once s/he’s gotten through the fussy period. The app doesn’t replace the book but it gives you summaries from it and a little chart of when your baby’s wonder weeks will most likely happen.

My Baby Today (free | iPhone & Android)
Daily articles about what progress you could see in your baby. It’s from the Australian version of the Baby Center website but the info is not quite as good as the Raising Children Network, it’s just I don’t think RC has an app.

Sound Sleeper (free or AU$3.99 | iPhone only)
White noise app for helping babies sleep including noises like shhhh, a mother’s heartbeat, vacuum cleaner, rain, etc. You can even record your own noises. You can pay an upgrade for extra features such as longer play and a sleep tracking thing if you want to.

Spotify (free or AU$11.99/month | iPhone & Android)
I’ve used Spotify to play instrumental lullaby versions of pop songs, which Clem seems to like and it’s a bit more interesting for us than traditional lullabies. ;) Some of the artists I’ve found for this are Rockaby Baby!, Sweet Little Band, Nico Infante, Rockaby Lullaby and Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. I ended up paying for a monthly subscription because I found the ads a bit jarring if she was drifting off to sleep.

Feed Safe (free | iPhone only)
A timer made by the Australian Breastfeeding Association that calculates when your breastmilk will be free from alcohol. It also contains a useful (and not too overbearing) FAQ about drinking and breastfeeding.

Mind the Bump (free | iPhone & Android)
Meditation/awareness app developed in association with Beyond Blue for use throughout pregnancy and after birth to promote bonding with your baby and partner and to help avoid baby-related depression.

As a general thing, I also found that while I was breastfeeding I tended to mindlessly go over and over my Facebook feed, refreshing it even when there was no new content, just as something to do. I’ve felt much better since I turned off all social media notifications and started using the Kindle or iBooks apps to read to pass the time instead. That way I feel like I’m nuturing my brain rather than letting it slowly rot! Podcasts are also good for passing the time when your hands are occupied with feeding a bub.

Antenatal Classes for Labour, Birth and Parenting

We ended up going to quite a few antenatal classes. We signed up for the hospital one early on because we didn’t have time to research alternatives before it got booked out but the other classes we went to in between booking and attending the hospital one were the most helpful. We were also very lucky that one of my aunts happens to be a midwife and she flew down from Brisbane to Melbourne specially to give us a private session of her own class!

We didn’t set out to do quite so many classes but I liked it because it gave us refreshers on things we’d forgotten, the opportunity to ask questions that hadn’t occurred to us earlier, and different perspectives on various aspects which enabled us to form a well rounded picture. I also preferred classes over reading books: I think hearing the information is more helpful than reading it because the tone with which it’s delivered makes a difference and it’s really great being able to discuss questions live.

Antenatal classes

birthwell birthright Lamaze: Weekend Intensive Course

This was our main labour & birthing class. Apparently Lamaze used to be a big thing in the US and was all about a particular type of breathing, but it’s moved on since then. I found it really helpful because it was the first time I’d really heard about the different stages of labour (especially reassuring to find out the worst part is the shortest!) and it gave us practical things to do when the time came, from taking our mind off it in the early stages to hands-on physical strategies for when things got serious. After the class I felt like I was much more mentally prepared for what was to come. It wasn’t heavy on any candles/music/visualisation stuff, which just didn’t appeal very much to me personally.

Other options are Rhea Dempsey’s Embracing the Intensity workshop which I’ve heard a lot of good things about, Calmbirth and HypnoBirthing. I recommend finding out what is available in your area and reading up on their approach to see what appeals the most to you.

Parent Prep: Full Parenting Preparation Group Class (Intensive)

This is a fantastic class! It’s all very well going to classes to help you through the day or two of labour, but this class focuses on the first 3 months of you newborn’s life. We learnt lots of different settling techniques, practised swaddling and bathing, and discussed all different kinds of baby stuff. We got to try on different wraps and carriers and look at different brands of nappies and bottles, as well as all sorts of other things. Doing this class meant I never had that feeling of coming home from the hospital and wondering, “Ummm, so what happens now?” Highly recommended!

Royal Women’s Hospital: Fundamental Childbirth Education (Group Sessions)

The hospital class was split into two parts which kind of summarised the two areas above: labour/birth and early parenting. It was okay as a refresher of what we’d already covered in other classes but fairly rushed and it didn’t feel like they covered things in enough detail. If we’d only done the hospital classes I don’t think I would have been filled with the same level of confidence we got from the others. What was good was just casually chatting with the midwives that led our sessions about their experiences, finding out the hospital’s policy on things that we’d heard about during the other classes and taking a tour of the hospital’s birthing suites and maternity wards.

Disclaimer: I’m not any kind of birthing/parenting expert, these are just my opinions based on personal experience and research. It’s all Melbourne-centric too, since that’s where I live!

Baby Stuff: Clothing, Transport and Bedroom

Nearly one year since my last post and I now have a 3 month old bundle of joy in my life! In the spirit of my travel-related posts I wanted to share some of the things we’ve found useful just in case anyone else finds them helpful too. I’m certainly no kind of parenting expert at all, and goodness knows you get bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information and (often conflicting) advice when you’re about to or have just become a parent, but if you do find any of this useful, fantastic! If not, that’s totally fine too.

This post is about… STUFF.

Nursery bunting

Maternity Clothes

They are expensive. For the most part you can get away with buying larger sizes of normal clothes, but there are certain things – namely pants – that you will want to get a maternity version of for your own comfort.

Side note: maternity jeans are the comfiest jeans ever. You will wish all jeans could be like maternity jeans.*

You can get significantly cheaper maternity clothes at H&M and large Kmart stores, but I’d recommend getting bras from somewhere you can be professionally fitted (eg Myer). If you need some fancy maternity clothes for a special event (eg wedding) try the Pea In A Pod factory outlet in Collingwood. (Still more expensive than normal clothes, but they have a much bigger range than H&M or Kmart.)

*Top tip for post-baby pants: Katies denim! Probably the closest thing you can get to maternity pants that aren’t actually maternity pants.

Baby Clothes

Basically, don’t buy heaps of newborn (0000) and 0-3 month (000) sized clothes. They’re ridiculously cute and tempting but your bub will most likely grow out of them before each outfit gets even one wear. You will need some though – babies can go through several changes of clothes a day. Oh, and unless you’re due in winter, you’re unlikely to need any socks until they’re at least 3 months old. Target and Kmart have quite decent and very affordable babies clothes. Cotton On have some very cute stuff too.

In a similar vein, don’t stockpile too many newborn size nappies or you could end up with heaps of unusable leftovers.

Transport

Car seat/capsule, carrier and pram/stroller will probably be your biggest investments. Having said that, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get good ones. I recommend signing up for an online Choice membership, which you can always cancel after 3 months if you don’t need it any more. They have a detailed section on kids stuff and their tests often reveal that cheap models can be just as good as, if not better than, expensive ones.

Important considerations:

  • Car seat – They can take up a LOT of room. If you have a small car ask about models that won’t leave the front seat passenger with their knees folded up around their ears. You don’t need excessive padding either. It looks good, but in our experience it just leads to a screaming, overheated bub. If you’re the least bit unsure about how to install it get it professionally fitted. We got a Britax Safe-N-Sound Compaq AHR which suited our Toyota Corolla, but removed all the strap padding because it’s too hot and choke-y in summer.
  • Soft structured carrier – Not all babies like being in carriers but we’ve found ours very convenient for our life in the inner city and it gets more use than our stroller. Carriers that allow your bub’s legs to sit in a froggy “M” position are best for hip development. We were tossing up between an Ergo and a Manduca – we went for the Manduca in the end because it was cheaper and didn’t require an additional padded insert for the early months. We’ve also found a borrowed Hugabub wrap invaluable for surviving the witching hour in the early days.
  • Pram/stroller – Visit a physical store to do some test driving. Make sure it’s easy to manoeuvre, fold, lift and load into the boot of your car. Then you can buy the model you like online where it’s probably cheaper. We skipped the pram and went straight for a Maclaren Quest Elite stroller: it lies back so it’s suitable from birth, turns on a dime, folds up in seconds and is super light.

Be aware that sometimes models go out of stock across the board and it can take a couple of months until they’re back in, so you might want to get big items sorted a couple of months before your due date. If you’ve only got enough brain power and energy to sort one thing, make the car seat since you need that to get home from the hospital.

Practise using all of these before the baby arrives. Especially the car seat!

Sleep

I always thought we’d put our bub straight into a cot, but we wanted to have her in our room for at least the first few months and a cot was not going to fit, so we used a moses basket and stand. She was wee when she was born and grew out of it in only 2 months, but for us it was better than a traditional bassinet because it was easy to transport up and down our stairs and we could even pop it in the car to take on visits to family and friends’ houses. We got our cot and change table from Ikea.

Practise your swaddling skills before your little one arrives. If you want to make things easier on yourself try to snag some second hand Love to Dream Swaddle Ups on eBay. They’re usually in good condition because they aren’t used for very long and they’re just too expensive new ($40!). They’re brilliant and as a fun added bonus they make your bub look like a starfish. Or a caterpillar. :)