new mom must haves

New Mom Must-Haves.

*The number of pictures I have of Hill/Emory and I in permutations of this exact pose in my bed is…uncountable.

As a follow up to my post sharing 15 must-have items for newborns (read the comments — some great additions/caveats!), sharing some must-haves for new moms…

+Water bottle. I was so thirsty — always — while breast-feeding and recovering and often immobilized because I was either nursing or rocking baby. I learned to keep a full water bottle at my bedside constantly (can’t tell you how often I’d send Mr. Magpie for a refill), and I specifically loved my Klean Kanteen with the sports nozzle attached because I could drink one-handed/without having to screw anything off. However, I did find it leaked when turned on its side in the bed, which happened…several times. Bonus points for one that does not leak if turned on its side in a bed — maybe the hydroflask is better in this regard!

+Mother Love nipple cream and gel pads. Nursing can be painful at the start — good to be prepared with these items.

+Nursing pads — some mothers prefer the reusable ones but I used the disposable. It’s important to replace them frequently to prevent infection/irritation and I found that aspect easier to stay on top of with the disposable ones.

+Post-partum underwear. These are the best! Very soft and non-cinching. I also found the high-rise waist a must with the c-section scar, but imagine these would be fantastic regardless of how you’ve delivered.

+Nursing bras — I tried a lot of different brands but Bravado was my favorite. Soft, comfortable, yet thick/supportive, and not all nursing bras fold down/unclasp with the ease/simplicity of this style. I also liked Majamas when I was first starting out — it’s a pull-down style so good when you are just getting the hang of things.

+Nursing nightgowns — I preferred these to pajamas while immediately recovering from my c-section (nothing close to the incision, pls and thank you). These Gap ones are inexpensive, soft, and pretty.

+Cotton bathrobe — I would layer a robe over my nightgowns most nights, and I liked this ultra-soft, breathable cotton layer.

+Nursing pajamas — A little further out from the c-section, I started living in my Lake nursing pajamas. Super soft, well-designed for nursing, and I love the fun stripes/prints. I also loved my Cosabella maternity sets — they work with an enormous bump and in the weeks/months following delivery!

+Mother’s milk tea and lactation bars — To be honest, I have no idea if these worked or not. I was never able to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed either of my children despite a fervent desire to do so. These made me feel as though I was doing something to help. I am pretty sure water and pumping are the best things for increasing supply (the more you pump, the more your body will receive the message that more milk is needed, and — supposedly — the body will eventually catch up. I say supposedly because I tried my hardest at this and my body never caught up. Then again, I think the round-the-clock pumping created so much stress that it inhibited milk production and so was literally counter-productive.) Anyhow, I honestly liked the licorice tea and didn’t hate the taste of the bars, which brings me to the next point —

+Snacks on snacks on snacks. Breastfeeding and caring for a newborn left me insatiably hungry at all hours of the day. I started lining up snacks on my bedside table for my middle-of-the-night feeds so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed! I ate a lot of these Nature Valley Soft Oat bars in the middle of the night. Probably not the healthiest snack but I couldn’t get enough of them and they were blessedly quiet to eat. I also kept a fully loaded fridge with sandwich fixings (ham and swiss on rye, toasted in butter in a pan, is about the most delicious treat you can have at 11 p.m.), tons of fruit, oat milk for bowls of cereal, frozen waffles to slather in peanut butter, good cheese (Eataly sells these incredible little nuggets of individually-wrapped hunks of parmesan that I loveeee), and lots of flavored seltzer water. My advice is to think of quick little meals you can fix in a matter of minutes at any time of day…and then to stock your cupboard with quick grab-and-go snacks. I wish I were the type of woman who would snack on raw almonds and dried fruit, but that’s disingenuous — I’m talking spicy cheez-its level snacking.

+Kindle! My best friend while breastfeeding.

+Extra long charging cord. It’s all about making life as comfortable as possible and not having to move from your bed at night.

+Breast pump — you can get one for free through your insurance carrier (ask your doctor for a prescription and they will follow up with details). With Emory, I rented a hospital-grade pump for for the first few weeks and it was incredible in terms of efficiency. Then I switched to the insurance-provided Medela Freestyle, which I hated — it felt like it was wheezing and sputtering with every use. With Hill, I had a Spectra S2, which I hated a little bit less — quieter and more powerful than the Medela. I did not like that the pump parts were not dishwasher-safe and I found the “bottles” easy to tip over (ahhhh). But honestly I have bad memories of pumping in general so my emotions are coloring everything! I pray the same not prove true for those you expecting; I know some Magpie Moms have enjoyed their pumping time and/or had the gracious perspective that these tools enabled them to feed their babies while working/if nursing did not work out. I have heard good things about the Elvie wearable pump but not sure how/if that works with insurance — perhaps worth the investment regardless if you are planning to pump a lot. I will recommend buying a set or two of spare pump parts that are compatible with the breast pump you buy so you aren’t hand-washing these items 1,000 times a day. Mr. Magpie still has PTSD from dealing with all of the pump part washing we endured with mini in particular — there was never a moment where those damn things weren’t cluttering the sink! Ha! And then of course you MUST buy a pumping bra so you can pump hands-free.

+These are useful also for baby bottles, but a bottle brush, a large mixing bowl for soaking, unscented (!) dish soap, and Boon drying grass are musts for cleaning all the pump parts.

+A reader made this point in a comment on my newborn gear post, but treat yourself to some new duds that make you feel good! When I was at home and it was cool out, I liked to wear leggings with a nursing tank and a long/duster cardigan (I probably would splurge on this one or this one, but this less expensive style has coordinating knit pieces that are tres chic, and I love this $59 style, too!). When it was warm, I loved wearing easy button-front dresses — my favorite was this one from Sleeper, which worked with bump, too, and I currently LIVE in my nap dresses (even while not nursing!) and several of them work while breastfeeding. LOVE and can’t recommend strongly enough. Would probably have bought several as a present to myself if I were giving birth this year. Hatch also has some cute ones (I find this brand runs really big), and I LOVED shirtdresses while nursing — these are cute (and on sale) and J. Crew always has classic prints. I’d pair with Chanel ballet flats or spiffy statement shoes to make myself feel put-together.

+Life lines in the form of other moms going through the newborn days or very empathetic to the travails they entail. I could not have survived without round-the-clock texts of support from my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and a few very close friends (Steph, thank you thank you thank you).

+A couple of TV series you can lose yourself into. One of the fun parts of those hazy newborn days was burning through entire seasons of shows you’ve always been curious about. I watched and loved “Gilmore Girls,” “Downton Abbey,” “Veep,” all of Mindy Kaling’s shows, “The Great British Baking Show,” and I’m sure a few others I can’t now recall.

+Stepstool — if you’re having a scheduled c-section, you will almost certainly need a stool to climb into bed. I did!

+A night light! So handy to not have to turn on all the lights in the room when you are up in the middle of the night. We achieved this with Philips Hue lightbulbs, which we’ve gradually installed in all of our lamps. You can turn it on with Alexa/Siri or your phone and dim it to whatever brightness you like. I know other moms love the Hatch (also a sound machine) — you could keep it in your bedroom until baby is sleeping in the nursery!

Not a Must-Have, but the Luxury I Wish I’d Treated Myself To…

This is not a must-have by any stretch of the imagination — rather, a tremendous and indulgent luxury! — but one thing I really wish I had done for myself after Hill was born was hire a housekeeper. Landon and I drove ourselves insane trying to keep a tidy house during those early months (we are both neatniks, and there is so much stuff going on with bottles, hasty meals, laundry, visitors, and — of course — a toddler in tow that it was an exhausting and constant up-hill battle) and I wish we’d sought help in that department. I would blissfully have spent the extra time doing a million other things — probably would still not have rested (ha!) but it would have been so wonderful to have outsourced that aspect of keeping things afloat.

Maybe for you, the luxury would not be housekeeping — but outsourcing meals (delivery or one of those meal prep services), or laundry (in NY, there are wash and fold services that deliver to your door), or a night nurse.

Or maybe you are in a position where you can ask a parent or sibling to temporarily move in with you or help you out on a regular basis?

The point here is — if there is any way you can get help in a specific category, do it…!

Popular Items That Did Not Work for Me.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge a few items you might consider that did not work for me, but that many other mothers swear by…

+Haakaa — so many moms love this! A lot of the time, moms use these to catch the milk on one side while you are nursing on the other (so horrible to waste the milk your body works so hard to produce!). I never got into the groove with this — I felt like it was just one more thing to fuss with while baby was clamoring for milk, and the bottle was easy to tip over (you can buy stoppers, though), and it was another thing to clean, and sometimes it got things going too well, and then baby would have very little left on the other side. Probably worth a shot, though, if you have more determination than I do.

+Nursing pillows — I never got the hang of these either. I found it much more comfortable/natural to just prop up my arm on a spare bed pillow. I liked these for positioning baby in front of me/to my side while bottle-feeding, though!

+Papablic sterilizer — We simply did not have the counter space in our apartment for something like this, but I see the virtue in it. I have heard conflicting things on sterilizing bottles — my own doctor said it was unnecessary (after an initial sterilization when you first take bottles out of the packaging, which can be done with boiling water on stovetop) given that both of my babies had healthy immune systems and thorough washing with soap and water does kill most germs. With Hill, we ended up dish-washing bottles most of the time to save our sanity, so not even sure we would have used it. The most attractive feature for me? The fact that it reports to fully dry all parts. Even after using the Boon drying grass and leaving out for a few hours, I often used a clean dish towel to wipe bottle parts dry.

+Frida Mom post partum essentials kit. I had two c-sections so did not need these items, but, had I been able to do a VBAC, would have ordered this kit. I believe it has a lot of the same types of items that the hospital provides you with, but have also heard a lot of moms loved this brand in particular for when back at home!

I’m sure I’m missing a couple of things. Mamas, help me out with any holes!

P.S. Oh man, revisiting these breastfeeding and weaning posts gives me all the feels. I feel the rawness and sensitivity in them — ahh! New motherhood is wild, even the second time around. (And some thoughts on that here.)

P.P.S. A random roundup of fun things.

P.P.P.S. New home finds!

29 Comments

  1. I love these suggestions! I’ll agree with the person above who mentioned My Brest Friend Pillow, I actually had a hard time nursing without it. And I totally agree on treating yourself, whatever that means to you- a house cleaning, a spa day, new clothes, etc. This time around I’ve bought myself several new tops that I can wear pregnant and nursing from Latched Mama. I love their stuff bc it’s all soft fabric and loose, flattering fit, and nursing access. I found some of the cheaper nursing tanks/tees were so tight I wouldn’t wear them outside the house and didn’t feel comfortable.

    Thanks for all your recs, have added a few for this time around!

    1. Thanks for these recs, Shannon!! So fun that new moms will have all of these great suggestions in the comments!

      And CONGRATS to you, my friend!!! Wishing you an easy pregnancy and smooth delivery.

      xx

  2. This post brings me right back to all of the feelings of those first few weeks. I “just” had my second – he is 9 months old now, but it still feels like I just had him. Two organizational things that I found really helpful in the newborn fog:
    1. Having all of my supplies in a basket in the bathroom – pads, peri bottle, dermoplast, Tucks cooling pads, ice packs (bought the Frida mom ones because I didn’t have the brain capacity to make my own DIY padsicles). It was so convenient having it all in one place and not running around trying to find it all.
    2. Similarly, I made a baby diaper changing station downstairs and in our master bathroom (or could use your bedroom). Made daytime and middle of the night changes much easier. And when you’re sore and exhausted, you want to limit the walking back and forth as much as possible.

    Also, random, but if you have the space for it, I actually moved the baby’s nursery glider into our bedroom for baby #2. I preferred sitting in the chair to nursing in bed as I could get all of my intricate positioning correct 🙂 and was more comfortable.

    P.S. Bring home extra supplies for you and baby from the hospital!

    1. These are so fantastic. Nine months indeed feels like you *just* had a baby, especially the second time, when you look up and realize you’re closing in on a year and have no idea how you possibly did it! I TOTALLY agree on creating multiple changing stations in the home. In our house in Chicago, I set up a changing station in the basement, on the first floor, and in our bedroom (in addition to the proper changing table in Emory’s nursery) and I feel like all of the stations got more use than the one in her room!

      xx

  3. Oh man I’m right there with you and Gina on the pumping PTSD. That was a pretty rough time for me. I couldn’t produce enough milk either.

    I don’t know if all other moms but me knew this but I would recommend getting ALL the sizes of flanges for your pump. I NEVER would have imagined that me, being 32A all my life pre-pregnancy, would get so engorged that I would need the largest size, which I didn’t have. I did start pumping in the hospital but by the time I got engorged I need flanges 2 sizes up. My milk came in when we got home 5 days after delivery and my baby couldn’t latch properly and I couldn’t pump because I didn’t have the correct size flanges. I was miserable — I remember crying in the shower from the pain of engorgement! My husband and his friend (who is thankfully medically trained so I didn’t feel like I needed to disappear into the floor from embarrassment) went all over town at 9 pm looking for flanges and couldn’t find them. Thankfully we Amazon Primed them for next day delivery but I needed something right then and there. I couldn’t nurse and couldn’t pump. I suspect I botched my supply because of this, ugh.

    All this said, this was 3 years ago and the pumps nowadays seem to be more modern and perhaps comfortable (???) in their design, so I don’t know if any of this is relevant anymore… but nevertheless have all the possible parts/sizes you need!

    1. OMG – what a horrible experience! The engorgement pain — ahhhh! Poor thing! And while you’re coping with all the other aspects of recovery and figuring out how to parent a newborn, too. It’s just too much! I think I know what you are talking about only because I tried to wean too quickly with mini and was in TERRIBLE terrible pain. It is SO uncomfortable.

      xx

  4. Ohh agree on the Haakkaa! I really wanted it to be better, but it was awkward for me to use! I felt like I had to hold my baby in a weird way so she wouldn’t kick it off, and she still did sometimes. Honestly wasn’t worth the oz. or so collected with the headache it caused. It just turned in to something else to fiddle with during nursing.

    For nursing pillows, I started with the Boppy and it was not good for nursing in my opinion. The pillow would slide away allll the time. I did get a Brest Friend pillow and it was better (as a previous poster mentioned). Wish I didn’t need one, but it felt like I needed six hands during nursing, so it did help a bit. I did stop using the pillow after two and a half months or so, but it was really helpful for me when the neck support wasn’t established yet.

    I used a Spectra pump. It was fine, but I had visions of chucking out the window, especially towards the end of my time breastfeeding.

    Totally agree with the luxuries for yourself! I bought a few pairs of statement earrings, elastic waist skirts, and fun, trendy tops (in a size up) that really helped make me feel better when I wore them. Having cute, comfortable clothes that fit and that aren’t pajamas is key!

    One thing I wish I wore during those early days was an Apple watch or some other digital watch to easily check the time. I feel like I was so frantic sometimes that I would misplace my phone and not know the time. Maybe it was a sign I should take a step back from obsessing over tracking wake and feed times. Anyways, will get for the next baby!

    1. These are such great points/tips — it sounds like we had similar experiences with a lot of these items! The watch is a great point. That also reminds me that I tried several different nursing/newborn-tracking apps and would consistently forget to stop the timer, and then I’d check back in and it would say I was breastfeeding on one side for 8hours3minutes or something insane like that. Haha!

      xx

  5. It is amazing how the newborn nursing PTSD kicks in immediately just from reading a few lines! It is a challenging time for every mother for sure. I was one of the people who found the haaka on my second go-round and it was huge for me– I was capturing 1-2 ounces every time I nursed, majorly increasing my “freezer stash” which alleviated some of my return-to-work anxiety. I will say I did have to work hard to keep the baby from kicking it though, ha!

    My holy grail discovery with baby 2 was this bra from Kindred Bravely, which has layers for nursing AND pumping– a total game changer when you do not have to get completely naked and wrestle on the pumping-only bra. A word of warning to my fellow ample-chested sisters: this thing adds a lot of bulk, so I never wore it out of the house except for under heavy sweaters. But it was on constantly when I was home and saved so much time!
    https://www.kindredbravely.com/products/sublime-hands-free-pumping-nursing-bra-pink-heather?variant=32801426341984

    1. Thanks, Gina! These are so helpful!

      Nursing PTSD – yes. AHHH. There are whole weeks that go by without my thinking of it and then I’ll revisit a post or chat with a friend or see a mom with a newborn and I feel this ping of painful recognition! You again!! I remember when I first pulled out the pump for Hill, I took a photo of the pump and posted it to Instagram along with the words: “hello darkness, my old friend.” SO many moms reacted strongly (laughing/commiserating). Ahhhhh

      xx

  6. Thanks for this post, Jen! I am actually expecting baby #2 in late May (!) [nineteen months after baby #1….eeeeek] And it’s good to get in that newborn headspace. Will definitely reference this post as I prepare. One thing I was SO glad we did beforehand was freeze meals in the freezer (especially soups). I plan on doubling that effort this time around. Also, depending on your circumstance, maybe lower expectations around family help 😉 Be honest with yourself about which family members are coming to HELP and which are coming to MEET THE BABY. Those can be two very different things. What I often wanted (for example) was someone to take out the trash and wash the dishes. What I got (most of the time), was people who wanted to hold the baby. 🙂 Which, of course, is beautiful and wonderful ANDDD leads me to my next point: post partum doulas exist and WILL do housework for you too, because they understand. They are there to mother the mother. I loved mine! (She was also my birth doula.) Could be a nice way to hire someone who will help in many ways, including but not limited to baby care. [And several states are vaccinating doulas now (!!!!) especially if they are working regularly in births in hospitals, so yay on that front!] [I know the nicest doula ever in Madison, Wisconsin if anyone is looking!]

    1. First – wow wow wow CONGRATS on baby 2! You got this! I am in awe of you moms to two-under-two!

      Second — these are SUCH great, insightful, honest comments, as always! Thank you!

      xx

    2. Joyce – just wanted to chime in and say that I’m only 18 months older than my sister and having a sibling that close in age has truly been the gift of my life. I know that we would be close now regardless, but there’s something about that less than 2 year age gap that allows that to happen at a much earlier age because your sibling is your peer for almost all of your functional memory. I don’t know how my mom did it but I am so grateful to her and I know that your kids will be so grateful to you as well!!! You got this and a HUGE congratulations!!!!!

    3. Love this, Molly. So sweet. I wish I could forward this along to your mom and sister!

      xx

    4. Thank you, Jen! All mothers of two are an inspiration to me, yourself included! And as an aside, since you like Gilmore Girls I recommend googling “Mike DiCenzo Gilmore Girls twitter” to see a funny thread of how each character would respond to the pandemic. It cracked me up 🙂

    5. Molly – thank you SO much for sharing!!! It is stories like these that I’ll be holding in my heart as I navigate (read: muscle through) the young baby days. Xoxo.

    6. Wow, Joyce! Excellent insights. Have you heard of the family freezer? Amazing library of crock pot meals, shopping lists, recipes, all in one place. You have a great game plan for baby #2!

      +1 to your thoughts on visitors – it became clear early who was a HELPER and who was a HOLDER. I will never forgive my MIL for showing up 6 days PP with a “meal” that was actually uncooked and had to be cooked in our kitchen, whilst demanding time with the baby and insisting on looking at every inch of him. We drew some very clear lines after that!!

  7. The Elvie breast pump! Totally hands free and tube free. Especially if you plan on going back to work before weaning your baby (or just making the most of nap time lol), these are seriously a game changer (https://www.elvie.com/en-us/shop/elvie-pump-usa). If you’re looking for a pump covered by your insurance (aka don’t put it on your registry), I highly recommend the Evenflo Advanced Double Electric pump. It’s loaded with features like independent speed & suction, angled & cushioned flanges (your boobs and back will thank you), and is still surprisingly light and quiet (https://www.evenflofeeding.com/insurance/find-through-insurance). I would definitely contact their customer service. They’re super responsive and will help you out!

    1. Thank you so much for weighing in on this! Definitely think I would try Elvie if presented with the opportunity now. Thanks for these tips!! xx

  8. Second the recommendation about ordering from Aeroflow! They took care of everything and got me what I needed. We also use the Medela sterilizing bags and can’t recommend them enough.

    If anyone is in need of postpartum and nursing/pumping information I highly recommend looking up karrie_locher on insta. SheIs a nurse and has such great information on all things post partum (nursing, caring for your baby, how to use your pump, etc.) I believe she recently developed a course you can take as well!

    Finally, we took the Taking Cara Babies newborn course and it was so helpful to understanding newborn sleep, wake windows, and what their cues mean.

    Congratulations to anyone having a baby soon!

    1. Thank you so much, Cristina! I wish I’d gotten those sterilizing bags. It’s funny because several people recommended those and it went in one ear and out the other and I have no idea why I didn’t try them with Hill. Would definitely follow this advice!!

      xx

  9. Reading this as my 7 week old naps between nursing sessions! So spot on with the recs. I also can’t figure out the Haakaa, when holding baby across my body to nurse I seem to lack… space for the haakaa? Anyways!

    One pointer for moms using a Spectra pump and Avent bottles… the bottles screw directly on to the Spectra flanges! I found this out from Google. I also wish I’d brought my pump to the hospital as their pump did not work at. all. for me and I had to unbox and quickly figure mine out on that first day home.

    YES to the water! I found myself reverting back to my old plastic Nalgene bottles since my hydroflask is now too heavy and burdensome to lug around the house with baby. (And I have a fear of dropping it on baby when nursing.. eek!!)

    I love your blog and scoured it for baby and child recommendations (and your sweet musings) once I found out I was pregnant. Thank you for introducing me to 1212 – so soft!

    1. Hi Ann – Thank you so much! So happy to have you here, and thanks for all of these amazing notes. A) Nalgenes!! What! I had forgotten how important my Nalgene was to me in high school. Haha! B) Spectra and Avent!! Wow! Had no idea!!

      xx

  10. Yes to all of this! A few notes I would add:

    1. Highly recommend Aeroflow for ordering your pump. They get your prescription, work with your insurance, and ship your pump straight to your door. So easy.

    2. I used and liked the Medela steam bags for sterilizing. Like you, I mostly hand washed, but would give bottles and pump parts a good steam once a week or so and did feel like it helped get them super clean. They take up no space and can be reused 20x or so.

    3. If you are commuting to work and pumping, or planning to pump on the go at all, I loved the small size LL Bean tote with extra long handles and the zip-top as a pump bag. It fit my Spectra pump and all of its parts, a small cooler, and a few personal items. No need for a fancy pump bag in my opinion! And love that it can continue to be used after your pumping days are over.

    1. Such great tips here – thank you so much! I love all of these pointers for new mamas! Merci my friend.

      xx

    2. Breastfeeding is truly an experience, for better or for worse haha. In addition to the steam bags, highly recommend the medela sanitizing wipes. Obviously not as thorough as a true clean but great for when you are out and about. Also, I bought the Ameda Mya pump when I went back to work and can’t recommend it enough. It’s tiny and just as effective as my spectra.

      I had a large baby so needed a BF pillow to just give my arms a break. I tried a few and My Breast Friend was by far my fave.

      I was late to the haaka with my first but when I did use it I found it very effective in building a stash. I always used it after nursing and got the one with the suction bottom to prevent spills (highly recommend).

      Finally, the nipple creams are great, also heat packs, but if it gets really bad, don’t be afraid to ask your doc for a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment.

      Apart from breastfeeding, I agree with Jen. Treat yourself to all the things, nice jammies and a robe, housekeeper, and takeout meals. Someone gifted us a grub hub gift card, seemed so random but honestly the most useful gift and I’ve since gifted them to several other moms.

    3. These are so great – thanks, Jen! I think your experience with the BF pillow and Haaka are definitely more the common ones! I feel like everyone loves them, especially the Breast Friend pillow over the Boppy kind. Thanks, Jen!! I’m sure other moms will appreciate these insights. xx

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