29 November 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Before I had a baby, I was always at a loss for ideas when it came to getting gifts to congratulate the new parents. More often than not, I ended up getting an item for the baby, which always turned out to be something cute but not particularly useful, like a nice onesie or cute pyjamas because one can never have too many clothes right?
Well, wrong. Now I know how fast babies outgrow their clothes. Colette has so many pieces that have only been worn once or twice (some never at all) before they got relegated to the storage box. She has received enough clothes to last her until she is a year old. When I was pregnant with Coco, well-meaning mummy friends told me not to buy too many new clothes for my baby because she will receive many as gifts, as well as hand-me-downs from older babies. But all that advice fell on the deaf ears of an excitable mum-to-be! Who can resist all the cute little bodysuits and dresses? I once walked into Cotton On Kids and had to phone the husband to come and drag me out NOW before I bought up the entire store. The second time around, I exercised more self-restraint. I had picked out two armfuls of baby girl clothes on SALE (I had just found out that we were having a daughter then and that four-letter word is all the justification you need to shop), looked through all of them but couldn’t decide which ones I really wanted. Instead of impulsively buying the entire pile of clothes, I returned each item to its original spot on the rack, took a deep breath and walked out empty-handed. Man, I felt pretty proud of myself… and relieved too.
Well, almost empty-handed. I couldn’t help buying wooden letters for $1 each to spell COLETTE. The letters are now sitting in a bag on the shelf because I don’t have any suitable spot in the room to display them. Pffft.
The Right Stuff
When it came to my turn to deliver, I received a few items which I found very useful as a clueless new parent. Since then, I have been putting together my own ‘New Mum Care Package’ as a gift to friends who have just delivered. They may not use everything that I give them, but should they need it urgently (and everything becomes urgent when you have a screaming newborn on hand), they won’t need to dash out and buy it for themselves.
The Stuff That Will Make You GO
Besides all things baby, what I was most worried about immediately after delivery was the first poo.
Not the baby’s poo. Mine.
In the aftermath of the delivery, I was pretty sore from the stitches down below and totally dreaded having to strain the area any further when on the toilet. My mother-in-law wisely bestowed upon me boxes of prune essence to, well, oil the body machinery and get the dreaded first poo going and over with.
It worked! It was hardly a traumatic experience at all. So now, I include a box of Brands InnerShine prune essence in the care package for new mums.
With all that puffing and pushing going on during the delivery, haemorrhoids are quite a common form of collateral damage down there. Especially if you were already suffering pain in the butt from these little nightmares during the later stage of pregnancy. My friend gave me a few tubes of Forever Living lip balm with aloe vera and jojoba oil to soothe and moisturise the traumatised area.
Yes, you read correctly. It does say Aloe Lips on the tube. The lip balm doubles up as, well, bum balm. Just make sure that you label the individual tubes clearly should you be using more than one tube for dual purposes.
I also have an inflatable donut cushion available for loan to friends. Great invention.
For some women, the body may need a little boost to get the milk going. My doctor and the nurses at KKH recommended a herbal supplement called Fenugreek to help the milk come in. The recommended dosage is thrice daily, up to a maximum of three capsules each time. Following our starving baby and jaundice episode, we were so desperate to try ways and means to dramatically increase my milk supply quickly that we hit GNC and bought TEN bottles of Fenugreek on the spot. It worked very well. I still take it as a daily supplement because it helps to keep blood sugar in check (yes, men can consume fenugreek for this purpose – and no, it will not cause them to lactate) and up the dosage when I need to quickly ramp up milk supply to meet the baby’s sudden increase in demand during a growth spurt.
I also religiously drank cup after cup of brown rice tea, which is also said to help increase milk supply. My non-pregnant colleagues also drink it as a health supplement and its ‘clean’ taste is especially pleasing after a heavy meal. It’s not unlike drinking Chinese tea – just that it’s caffeine-free and thus ideal for breastfeeding mums. The Highlanders brand of brown rice tea is available at NTUC supermarkets.
Next up, Medela breastshells were a lifesaver, thanks to my friend Mandy who gave me a pair while I was still pregnant. These largish plastic half-domes are basically protective armour for poor sore nipples in between feeds by preventing further chafing from your bra. The shells also help to contain leaking milk – just make sure that you wear them the right way up so that the aeration holes are on the upper half of the dome. In my new-mummy blurness, I wore them upside down and got my clothes soaked through. Not smart.
A new mama is a hot mama. Literally hot. I thought the pregnancy heat wave was pretty bad. During confinement, it was pure torture, aggravated by all the ‘heaty’ confinement food I was eating. It didn’t help that I delivered in August, which is one of the hottest months of the year. Babies are very hot creatures too. During breastfeeding, the baby’s neck rests on your inner arm, leading to some furious sweating in the crook near your elbow and consequently, itchy rashes for both mum and bub. My friend gave me a breastfeeding sleeve to wear over the area. The padded sleeve also provides soft cushioning for a newborn’s fragile head. I’ve only seen it retailing at Giant supermarkets so far for about $5.
Before I delivered, I had grand plans for complete breastfeeding and didn’t intend to bottle-feed the baby for the first couple of months until I had to return to work. As a result, I didn’t buy any milk bottles at all. My noble ideals pretty much flew out of the window the very next day when Coco was diagnosed with jaundice and her feeds had to be supplemented with formula in order to keep her hydrated. My mum rushed out to buy a bottle and came back with one from Nuk. The wide-necked Nuk bottles and strangely-shaped teats are designed to support breastfeeding. True enough, Coco switched easily between bottle and breast with no fussing at all. Nuk bottles are pretty pricey though, retailing at about $16 for the 150ml bottle and $19 for the longer 300ml version. Just recently, I discovered that Kiddy Palace was selling a set of three for $32 and snapped up two sets! While the bottles come packaged with silicon teats, Nuk recommends that breastfeeding mums purchase the latex teats, which are sold separately, for feeding thinner liquids such as water and breast milk.
For Those Gassy Days
Many of our parents would remember feeding us Woodwards Gripe Water when we were babies. The sweet herbal concoction helps soothe turbulent tummies by getting rid of gas, thus helping gassy babies sleep more soundly.
Gripe water is commonly known as ‘fei zai sui’ (Fat Baby Water) in Cantonese amongst the older folks, thanks to the depiction of a chubby cherub on the label of the bottle. It can either be consumed on its own or mixed with water as a drink. While breastfed babies don’t need extra fluids in the form of water, there’s no harm in giving it to them in small amounts, usually after their morning bath. We mix one teaspoon of gripe water with 50ml of warm water for Coco, twice a day after her morning and evening cleaning sessions. She sleeps beautifully thereafter.
Yu Yee oil (or Ruyi oil in Mandarin) is another traditional favourite. Interestingly, the oil isn’t applied directly onto the baby’s skin. Instead, place a tiny drop onto your palm and rub your palms briskly together till the oil warms your hand. Then, place both palms gently over the baby’s tummy and let the warmth from the oil soothe her. Repeat a few more times. It doesn’t just work for babies. My sister was having a stomachache and she rubbed the oil over her tummy and was fine in minutes.
We also use ‘telon’ oil, another form of herbal oil, to massage the baby’s limbs as per how my jamu lady taught us when she performed infant massage on Coco. Unlike Yu Yee oil, telon oil doesn’t feel hot to touch but the herbs still help to warm the baby’s body and aid the body in ridding wind.
These were the few items that played a big part in helping us survive the first month of parenthood and we highly recommend them for all new parents. If you have any other suggestions as to what to include in a care package for new mums, feel free to share by leaving a comment 🙂