Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire


Beyond Birth: The List

I still remember the day.

We just had our first visit to the hospital antenatal clinic and we were so excited to receive a bag filled with brochures, discount vouchers, guides to pregnancy and labour, and advice about all the products we should have now that we were about to become a family of three.

We were paying off a new home and a new car. We would be going from two incomes to one. We didn’t know how much money we would have. We didn’t know much about babies at all. The only time we had changed a baby’s nappy we had to fasten it together with bandaids!! (I’m not kidding!)

Now we had this list to tell us what we needed. We would be alright.

But there was a problem. This list was enormous. Apparently our baby was going to need an incredible number of things to survive and thrive! Not just milk, nappies, clothes and a place to sleep.

Nappy wipe containers with heaters, special wedges to keep him from rolling over in bed, nappy dispensers and special nappy bins, disposable nappy bags, a portable change mat and nappy change bag, a change mat cover for a change mat to go on a change table, a bouncer, a rocker that played music and had pretty light, mobiles that spun around and played music, play mats, bottles, special teats and formula just in case we couldn’t breastfeed, a steriliser for cleaning the bottles, a bassinet, a cot, a cot mattress and linen, dummies, blankies, lovies and onesies…what were we getting ourselves into?

This was going to cost thousands. Already my stress levels were rising. How could I be a good enough mother when I’d already failed the first step? I couldn’t afford all these things on The List.

So we did something radical! Instead of starting with everything we decided to buy the minimum and see how we went. We bought a beautiful convertible cot, we were given a pram, we bought modern cloth nappies, some beautiful linen for the cot and the basic clothes (singlets) the rest we were given as gifts. And we had the all important car capsule on hire. My big luxury was a rocking chair – a beautiful cane rocking chair that I just had to have.

We had no change mat, no change mat cover, no bassinet, no dummies, no blankies or lovies, no steriliser, no bouncer, rocker, nappy wipe warmers or any of those extras. Most of the items on the list got a firm line through them.

And, it actually worked out fine. Our baby didn’t want to sleep in his cot much. He preferred to sleep on my chest. And it turned out I don’t like rocking chairs. But apart from that we didn’t waste much money!

After our son’s birth we bought a baby bath, a change mat and a modern take on the old fashioned very simple bouncer. As we got to know our baby we experienced how useful these would be and we were able to buy the items that suited our needs and our baby.

And perhaps because we didn’t have everything on the list we had to rely on ourselves to soothe our baby instead of using devices.

We felt the joy and exhaustion of dancing around the lounge room (we got to practise our ballroom dancing at the same time and now my husband does a great foxtrot with a tiny baby in his arms). We learnt new songs and remembered old lullabies to hum or sing to our baby as his head was snuggled over our shoulders or beneath daddy’s neck. We bought good baby carriers as we learnt that our baby wanted to be held in our arms and the pram became a shopping trolley. We learnt that in truth, what babies and new parents need most is left off The List.

So here is My List:

  • Love – love for yourself, your baby and your partner
  • Patience – with yourself, your baby and your partner
  • Support – yes, you need and deserve support. Don’t try to do this all by yourselves.
  • You – your baby needs to be in your arms, on your chest, and preferably at your breast. Your baby needs to be held close by you. At first this is a very physical closeness and babies want to be held by you as much as possible. Later as your baby grows up this is an emotional and mental holding close as you keep in tune with how your child is experiencing the world and provide stability, love and reassurance. And forever it is holding your baby in your heart – no matter how old they are now!
  • Breast milk (or the best substitute available for your baby’s needs if this is not an option)
  • Somewhere safe for your baby to sleep (cot, bassinet, arms reach co sleeper, baby hammock, well researched safe co-sleeping)

There are many practical things you will need and want to help you care for your baby. These are the simplest and most important ones on my list.

  • Breastfeeding – bamboo breast pads, nursing bras and a good breastfeeding pillow. Some breastfeeding tops or stretchy T shirts and long tummy covering singlets to wear underneath. The phone number of your local ABA group and the breastfeeding hotline. Better yet, go along to meetings and make contact with your ABA group in your last months of pregnancy. If you need support after birth these women will be there for you!
  • Baby clothes – soft, natural fibres, without intricate fasteners and no appliques (cute as they are the underside of a heavily appliqued top can’t be that comfortable for a little baby)
  • Nappies – of your choice. Cloth nappies are amazing these days and all in one pocket nappies are my first choice. There’s nothing wrong with buying a mix of disposable and cloth nappies to see you through the early days if you’re not sure about washing all those cloth nappies and their inserts. If you decide to use disposable nappies think about those with the least environmental impact if possible. But the highest priority for me was nappies that worked, nappies that didn’t break (no more bandaids to fasten a broken disposable please!!) and nappies that were comfortable for my baby. You may like to learn about elimination communication too. I have friends who have great success with this approach to toileting and baby care.
  • Wipes – bamboo velour cloth wipes, disposable wipes – I quite liked Gaia and other eco brands.
  • Change mat – buy a nice comfy one with good high sides to help keep your baby from rolling. Don’t go for seatbelts though! Get soft and easy care covers and make sure either cover or mat has a water resistant layer for little change time accidents.
  • Change table – (yes we got one second time around!) yes they are very useful. You can judge whether you need one or not.
  • Baby wraps – nice soft really big ones. Don’t bother with ones less than 1m square as they won’t last long. Baby cocoon wraps look quite good too for keeping your baby snug and secure feeling. But both my babies hated being wrapped from quite early on and I didn’t wrap for many months.
  • Lotions and Potions – tea tree oil to make up a weak antibacterial wash for wiping your baby’s bottom if needed. Olive oil for their skin. There are many beautiful products for looking after baby’s skin. Look for simple ingredient lists and be aware that your baby’s skin can react to the same products that another baby’s skin loves. Take it slow.
  • One baby sling or carrier – a stretchy or woven wrap like a Moby wrap, Hug a Bub or any of the many beautiful woven wraps is my first choice after two quite different babies. You can buy different kinds of slings and carried nce you know what suits you, your baby and your lifestyle. You don’t really know until your baby is here. Please don’t buy a carrier that pins your baby to your body with their legs dangling straight down. Do look for carriers that an older baby almost sits into (such as the ergo carrier) as this is much better for their body.

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Beyond Birth: Where Will Our Baby Sleep?

When I was pregnant with my first son, my husband and I read our way through a pile of books on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. As we eagerly discussed all our new ideas, my husband shared one that floored me.

He wanted to ditch the beautiful, adorable, and rather expensive convertible timber cot we had just bought after a great deal of deliberation…and have our baby sleep in our bed! Did I mention how beautiful that cot was? It was our one big baby purchase. I loved it so. When we set it up in the ‘nursery’ it seemed to say “This is real. We’re having a baby!!”

My husband gave me plenty of reasons for co-sleeping or bedsharing and they all sounded remarkably sensible. He told me how co-sleeping regulates baby’s temperature, heart beat and breathing, promotes breastfeeding, and provides our baby with the reassurance and comfort he is used to.

But I was terrified of putting my baby at risk. A baby seemed so fragile. Surely, our baby would be safer in a cot on his own? We would start with the cot and maybe when our baby was a bit bigger he might sleep next to me.

Our newborn had his own ideas. He preferred to sleep in my arms and preferably chest-to-chest on top of me with his head just below my lips. I didn’t mind – I loved smelling his fuzzy, soft, fresh baby hair. I kept putting him down in the cot once he was asleep but when he was about four months old, he moved into our bed and slept next to me each night from the beginning. He didn’t go back into the cot until we converted it to a toddler bed when he was older.

During this time, I did my own reading about co-sleeping so I could make sure we were using the safest arrangement possible. I learnt from Dr James McKenna that it was best to put the bed on the floor. So out to the shed went our bedframe. We put away the feather filled doona and used blankets and sheets only. Now we had the peace of mind knowing that our baby wouldn’t roll out and hurt himself and he wouldn’t overheat. I slept with one small pillow long ways, under my head and not near my baby. I was very careful with where the bedding was placed and checked for any gaps around the mattress frequently. Our bedroom may have looked odd to other adults but it worked well for us.

When it came to our second baby, I didn’t think twice about bedsharing. I knew the benefits and was confident I knew how to keep my baby safe. I also knew that there were no significant difficulties in transitioning a child out of the bed and my older son was now sleeping happily in his own bed and own room most nights.

Many families will have a baby or toddler in their bed at some stage. Occasional and unplanned bedsharing seems more likely to be risky, as parents may not be aware of safety recommendations or may not be able to set up a safe sleep environment. For example, parents end up bedsharing with their baby in a hotel room or at a relative’s house when baby is unsettled away from home. Or an intoxicated or exhausted parent accidently falls asleep with baby in the bed and sleeps too heavily to be aware of where the baby is. Smokers should not bedshare and either should obese parents according to research into safe co sleeping. Occasional and unplanned bedsharing seems more likely to place a baby at risk of suffocation or an injury than planned and carefully considered bed sharing.

Now researchers from Murdoch University are asking health organisations to rethink their statements about the risks associated with bedsharing.

Associate Professor Catherine Fetherston said a critical risk factor was unsuitable environments, which could involve too much soft bedding, sleeping with siblings or pets and sofa-sleeping.

“Often when researchers look at bedsharing, they include sofa-sharing or armchair-sharing, which have been shown to be very dangerous, with a number of associated deaths,” she said. “In fact, when you remove deaths associated with sofa-sharing from the analysis, the rate of bedsharing deaths is lower than the rate found in babies sleeping by themselves in cots.”

She added that more could be done by agencies to highlight breastfeeding’s role in protecting against SIDS, saying breastfed babies who bedshared benefited physiologically, with more stable temperatures and heart rhythms, better oxygen saturation and fewer pauses in breathing. “While we accept the need for preventative strategies to reduce sleep-related infant deaths, we believe health agencies should shift from absolute messages discouraging bedsharing to messages that address known risk factors.”

We need to focus on knowing what the safest bedsharing looks like and avoiding sleeping with our babies when the conditions are not ideal.

Links for further reading:




*Now I have read the reports in the media recently about the study from Auckland that concluded there was a significant increase in SIDS amongst cosleeping infants under 3 months. haven’t read the actual paper to see what information they used to reach the conclusion. I think parents are still going to co sleep, either intentionally or out of fatigue and desperation when nothing else seems to work, so we need to realise this and educate and support parents about the safest options for sleep and what alternatives might work for them if they are not going to bed share and bed share safely. Personally I would still prefer to have my babies within arms reach than in that beautiful cot across the room or in a separate nursery.