The nights a breast pump saved my life

motherhood, Reviews

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Breast pumps have been liberating women since their inception! Offering the freedom of a night off, be that to catch up on much-needed sleep, party (we can dream) or just work.

I remember vividly the first time I used a breast pump. It was February 2007, (almost 10 years ago- eek!!) and with my due date long gone I was eager to get my labour going and avoid an induction. I twiddled my nipples (it’s a thing look it up) and pumped using a handheld manual pump throughout the entire movie of Happy Feet in a desperate bid to get the oxytocin flowing. All I got was RSI.

That manual pump was hard work but later it saved my nipple from falling off. Breastfeeding was tough and painful at first, I’d probably got the latch all wrong and Oisin fed ferociously. I was determined to do it though so persevered through gritted teeth. The pump enabled me to keep feeding Oisin breastmilk whilst giving my nipples a break from bring gnawed on, thus allowing them to heal.

Second time round I bought a secondhand electric medela swing pump and it was amazing!! So easy in comparison. I discovered I could pump for 20 minutes straight without getting cramp in my hand or even breaking a sweat. I found I could pump whilst drinking a cuppa and reading a magazine with Arlo snoozing beside me. I had a pretty good set up going on if I say so myself.

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I pumped a lot regularly second time round because it was so easy. We got into a nice little pattern of James feeding Arlo expressed breastmilk on a Friday night to give me a night off (to sleep) and then early Saturday morning I’d pump to ease the inevitable engorgement from missed feeds then pop it straight in the freezer ready for the following Friday! God I loved those Fridays!! Living for the weekend took on a whole new meaning.

I also credit the pump for getting Arlo to sleep through the night. He used to wake so often at night and have these big long feeds then tiny top ups throughout the day. My milk therefore came in big time at night and not so much in the day. Because I couldn’t live a nocturnal life forever I had to switch things round. I took to pumping diligently; every single feed, every day, for about a week. This way I was able to ensure Arlo was getting all the milk he needed during daylight hours. Almost overnight he started sleeping better and eventually we cracked it! Whoop Whoop!!

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By the time my third came along I was offered a medela swing maxi to try out. The maxi is basically the double version. If the original swing was amazing then this was even more so. Now it was not only easy to pump one bottle, but I could get TWO in one sitting. Time saver. Game changer.

To be totally honest I don’t know what I’d do without the pump. It has been a genuine lifesaver. As a busy mum of three, juggling running a business with raising children, there are times when I have to be away from my baby. Without the pump I would have to frequently throw formula at the situation. Not that I have a problem with formula and I do sometimes use it, but my breastfeeding journey would probably have been cut short as a result, which would have been upsetting. I really want to be able to feed Foxy until he’s at least one. The pump has allowed me to continue breastfeeding but with time off. It’s been totally liberating and has saved me on many a night.

I’ve been recommending the medela swing for some time – both on my blog and to my mates – but now I’d say definitely look at getting the maxi. If you’re going to sit there pumping you might as well get two bottles for the time it takes to express one.

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So after clocking up a considerable amount of hours pumping over the past decade, here’s my TOP FIVE TIPS for a successful expressing session:

1. Make sure you’ve got a nice cup of hot tea ready and in position. This is ESSENTIAL.

2. Make sure you’ve got snacks to hand before you start. You need the calories when you’re breastfeeding, same goes with expressing. My choice of snack is biscuits but yours might be carrot sticks. Whatever. It’s all good.

3. Make sure you have entertainment to hand e.g. a remote for the TV or a magazine or a book or your phone. You probably don’t just want to sit there staring at a wall else it will feel tedious.

4. Ideally pump when baby is asleep so you don’t have to try and attend to anything else. Baby juggling whilst pumping can result in spillage of precious milk, which is more than a little frustrating (speaking from experience)

5. Best time to pump is in the morning. This is usually when you have the most milk.

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And remember you can store breastmilk in the fridge for 5 days and the freezer for 6 months! Further info on storing breastmilk can be found here.

Happy pumping Mamas!

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SIABA’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

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It’s been a while (sorry) but ‘In The (Mother) Hood’ is BACK!! And today we have Siaba the Mama behind Boo.B Smoothies. These aren’t just your average, run-of-the-mill smoothies, these are ingenious milk supply-boosting smoothies, created especially for breastfeeding Mamas (and they taste pretty good too). So here’s your chance to learn a little more about the Mum Boss behind this wholesome mission as we chat public breastfeeding, birth and the joys of getting your eyebrows done…

Name: Siaba Tumoe

Age: 26

Location: East London

Number of Kids: 1

Names and ages of aforementioned: Mannie Mansa, 9 months old

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Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Humm, it was unplanned and took me by surprise.

What were your initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

WHAT!!!! SHIT!!! OMG!!! I’m going to be a mum. How??

How did you tell your partner?

On the phone

What was his reaction?

“ Are you sure??”

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

Everyone kept telling me “you carry very well”.  I was shocked at how amazingly my body carried my baby and didn’t make me feel like a balloon (well not until the last month anyway). I felt the sexiest I’ve ever felt in my life. Who would have known?

Tell me about your birth experience…

It was awful. I don’t even like talking about it because it just sucked. I had my son at Homerton hospital in Hackney, I choose to give birth there after some extensive research on the best hospitals in East London. It lived up to all my expectations; the staff there were all amazing. I had planned a water birth but that quickly went out the window because I was 12 days over due. I was induced on the 12th day and after seven hours of riding labor pains with only gas and air I decided to opt for an epidural. Within minutes, my son’s heart rate dripped and I had to be rushed off to get an emergency C-section. I felt like I had failed because I was set on giving birth naturally but I pulled myself together quickly because I could see my mum was petrified for me. My mum and I held hands and prayed quietly through the whole operation because there was nothing else we could do really. I hate hospitals and my mum hates blood so you couldn’t have two worse people in a operation theatre.  Soon after my son was pulled out, my my mum and I burst out crying. I will try and do it as natural as possible next time so I will definitely be in touch with Hollie De Cruz from London Hypnobirthing.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Thrilling, tiring, selfless and mad.

Can you share any highlights?

My son often plays a little joke on us and he gets us every time. Sometimes after brestfeeding he goes into a mini milk coma that makes him look like his in a real deep sleep. When I lay him down in his bed he stays still for just long enough for me to reach the door and then he opens his eyes and laughs out loud! I can’t help but crack up every time. It’s a sick joke to play on a sleep-deprived mother.

Can you share any low points?

Gosh! Which one do I pick? I think just the amount of crying I did in the early days of motherhood was crazy. I could have supplied water for Thames Water, that’s how much crying I did. All it did was give me a headache, so I don’t know why I did. 

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Make a cup of hot chocolate and drink it with a mouth full of digestives. Oh and I watch Girls on repeat. Gosh I love that show!! I discovered it when my son was a few weeks old and it got me through some long nights evenings and nights of non-stop breastfeeding.

Tell me about your business…

I have a start up business called Boo. B. Smoothie. I make smoothies for breastfeeding mothers made with lactogenic ingredients (foods that promote the production of breast milk). When I first had my son, my milk took ages to come in so my mother began feeding me plenty of lactogenic foods she had read about. She made me baked fennel, home made almond milk, home made carrot juice, and lots more. My milk come in floods. Because of that experience I became obsessed with reading about lactogenic foods. Doing extensive research on it became my new passion not because I needed them any longer but because I’ve always been interested in how foods affect the body. I stated blending the ingredients into smoothies because as a new mum I had less and less time to sit down and eat a whole meal. Soon after a friend of mine who was also breastfeeding asked to try the smoothies and a week later she called and told me how much she loved them. That’s when the idea of Boo. B Smoothie was born. The joke is before having my son I use to be one of those people that would pull faces at mothers breastfeeding in public (shame on me). Now I’m a number one breastfeeding advocate, I encourage everyone to do it for as long as possible. Breastfeeding my son made me realise just how incredible it is.

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What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Getting the best cuddles from someone that smells like baby powder.

What are the worst bits?

The lack of sleep. What I would do for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Being a single mum is hard full stop. Other than that I would say the lack of me time has come to a shock to my system.

If someone agreed to mind your baby for a week what would you do?

Sleep, walk down the road swinging my arms (buggy free), consciously eat my meals and get plenty of Boo. B Smoothie related work done.

Is there anything you wish you had known? 

Be kind to yourself! In the early days it will be very difficult to separate yourself from your baby, but if you can face it, just hand them over to Dad, or grandparents and take the time to do something small for yourself. Three weeks after my son was born I left him with my mum and went to get my eyebrows done. I felt like a new women after. It only cost me £3 to get them done but what it did for my mood was priceless.

What do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Very thick sanitary towels, loose comfortable clothing and chocolate. Breastfeeding lowers your blood sugar so you may find yourself wanting sugar (hence the chocolate) if you decide to breastfeed.

What’s been your best baby product?

My Bugaboo Bee buggy and Lanolin nipple cream.

What was really useful in the early days?

My Medela breast pump.

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Hahahah, oh yes. Well I didn’t buy them, I asked family to buy them for me. The My brest friend feeding cushion was more of an inconvenience then a help. Not to say women shouldn’t buy it, I just personally never got round to using it more than two times. Also the Moby wrap was such a faff to tie that after two uses I decided it would be quicker to just cuddle my son to sleep.

Who inspires you?

My mum. She came to this country on her own with a child with very little money and has worked her ass off to be where she is now. She would leave home at stupid o clock in the morning to go to her cleaning job, leave me with a close friend then get back in time to make me breakfast and drop me to school then go back and work all day at various jobs. Now she is teacher. Her work ethic is insane.

How many children do you dream of having?

Two max.

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what would you?

Travel more.

What do you miss about life before kids?

Just the freedom to up and go.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

How it’s changed the way I think. I’m a lot less selfish and think more about our world more.

MASSIVE THANKS to Siaba for taking part and answering all our questions! Make sure you all check out her Boo.B Smoothies… And I’m sure she’d be hugely grateful if you could also spare a like for her Boo.B Smoothie Facebook page!

If you’d like to take part and have a small biz you’d like to give a shout out to, then please email thedoublemama@gmail.com – would love to hear from you!

Baby paraphernalia – what you really need to have a baby

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

A few of my friends are (FINALLY) pregnant (yay!!) and because I’m prepping (in the loosest sense of the word) for numero 3, and have spent the best part of a decade rearing small people, they’ve asked me for advice on what they should buy in anticipation of their precious arrival. So I created a list for them and thought I’d share it here too…

In short, you really don’t need a lot. These newborn babies don’t want for much and they mostly just eat and sleep (and maybe cry). So you’ll need milk (but if you’re breastfeeding, that’s already on tap) and a place for them to sleep i.e. a moses basket, a stand, a couple crib sheets and a baby sleeping bag or two. Of course you’ll also need a shedload of nappies and some basic baby clothes like vests and sleepsuits. Maybe some baby-friendly washing detergent and softener. But that’s really about it, in terms of what you NEED.

Then of course you’ll probably want a pram or a sling so you can get out and about and a bouncy chair to put them in when you need a wee (because that’s the only time you’ll be putting them down. And no, you don’t eat, unless some kind person feeds you). Oh and you’ll also need a car seat if you’ve got a car and plan on using it (go for Maxi-Cosi EVERY time – I speak from crash-testing experience).

Muslins are useful. So are dummies (you might be anti them now but withhold judgement until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation coupled with screamy baby at 4am at which point you’ll realise you will try anything. And dummies really aren’t that bad and in fact they are said to decrease the chance of SIDS. So get a few in, even if only for emergencies).

If you’re breastfeeding you might need lansinoh (magic stuff that protects nipples and is safe for babies), breast pads and a pump. If you’re bottle-feeding, you’ll need bottles (obviously), formula and a sterilising device.

You can see how things can quickly get out of control and how easy it is for a first-time pregnant mama to feel overwhelmed with all the paraphernalia on offer. Also decision making is tricky at the best of times but near on impossible when pregnant and really, how can a first-time pregnant mama really know what they actually will need?! Maybe I only speak for myself here, but I certainly couldn’t differentiate between what would come to be a literal lifesaver and what would become just another T.U.P (totally unnecessary purchase)!

So to help you avoid too many T.U.Ps, here’s my list! I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have got a couple kids and as consequence have tried and tested a lot of baby paraphernalia! So let me at least save you from the mistakes I made…

Baby clothes

You don’t need much. Firstly because you don’t really know how big (or small) your baby will be – they come in all sizes and scans aren’t reliable (I was told to expect a 4lb babe and I got an 8lb-er. I’m not alone). Secondly because you’ve got your whole maternity leave to go shopping and it’s kind of fun buying things for baby once they have actually arrived. So don’t deprive yourself by buying it all in advance! Thirdly you cannot over-estimate how much you will be given – either new gifts or secondhand stuff from friends, family, neighbours, colleagues etc.

So with that in mind, I suggest buying in newborn size (because although you will want stuff for them to grow into, you will also need some stuff that fits when they’re born and there is a surprisingly big difference between ‘newborn’ and ‘0-3months’!):

* six cotton sleepsuits (all-in-ones)

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* six cotton vests

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* two cardigans (you do not want to be pulling jumpers over baby’s floppy head)

* two hats (they have a tendency to go missing)

* blanket to wrap baby in / lie baby on

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* baby socks (can double as scratch mitts/be used to keep hands warm – they get so cold when baby is sleeping!!)

* sock-ons (an amazing invention that do exactly as they say)

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* snowsuit for the winter babes

* ecover or similar gentle non-bio detergent to wash baby clothes (which should be done before baby arrives and wears them).

Baby bedtime

* Moses basket – a really simple one will do because they really don’t stay in them long – definitely buy new – this one from John Lewis is perfect:

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* Moses basket stand – useful, also easily foldable for transportation/storage. Can be bought secondhand for approx £5.

* 4 x fitted sheets to fit the crib/moses basket – you’ll find yourself changing them frequently – 4 times in one night is not unheard of.

* At least 2 or 3 grobags for aged 0-6 months – you need a few because newborns are prone to explosive poos that escape their clothes (sorry), and they can sick up quite a bit (they may be small but they are very, very, messy). Make sure you get the right tog for the season your baby is due.

* Swaddle wraps/blankets are good but they have such a short life so maybe get some second hand if you can or given as gifts.

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*Dummies – trust me on this one. If your baby takes it(and some don’t) and it offers them some level of comfort, then you’re going to want to have them.

* Gro-egg – useful for knowing the room temp and therefore what bedding and clothing layers you should be using. Can’t really put a value on something that reduces the anxiety new Mums experience. Also works as a nightlight.

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* You might be tempted (or rather your other half might be (forgive my gender stereotyping)) to buy an expensive, state-of-the-art, tech-lover’s dream of a baby monitor. In my experience when baby is really new you’re unlikely to be leaving them out of your sight for very long, so it’s definitely not necessary to have one at the start. And later on, a regular one will do just fine and you’ll be glad you didn’t purchase the one with a TV screen, light show, lullabies and two-way walkie talkie function.

Leaving the house (!!!)

* You might want to get a sling but again in my experience when baby is brand new, they are too tiny for most baby carriers and sort of sink down and crumple, leaving you worrying whether they can breathe! So wait until they are a little more robust and have some head control before strapping them to your front. There are loads of options when the time comes so try and test out a few and see what works for you. I can recommend the ergo baby carrier and I would say avoid the baby bjorn original because it’s a back killer!

* Pram-wise, I basically tried everything with my first son until I got a Bugaboo. Second-time round I knew to get one straightaway! Our Bugaboo Cameleon 3 has been our best purchase and I would recommend everyone get one if they can! Bugaboo are like the Rolls Royce of buggies but when you think how much you’re going to use it, it becomes worth every penny. It can be false economy buying cheaper prams because they break or are difficult to use. We got ours secondhand, which I would definitely recommend doing if you’re on a budget. Not only can you get a nearly-new one in immaculate condition for half the price, they also have a really good resale value, so even after a couple years of use, you can sell it on again for not much less than you paid for it originally! A Bugaboo is a sound investment, even if your other half cannot get over the RRP.

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* Car seat – it’s a good idea to get a Maxi-Cosi car seat because they are compatible with so many prams including the Bugaboo. Also try and get an isofix base (or easybase if you don’t have isofix points in your car). Not only are the bases meant to make the seat safer as they ensure they are correctly fitted, but they also make your life tons easier as you can simply clip the seat in and out without having to faff around with the belt. Also having recently survived a pretty horrific crash, I can hand-on-heart vouch for the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix as despite a 70mph motorway crash which involved flipping our car (!!!) after a lorry went into us, our baby (who was in a Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix) escaped without a mark on him or a single injury.

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* Change bag – I’ll tell you a little secret: you don’t actually need a designated change bag. You can just use a regular bag! Who knew?! But if you want to use the baby’s arrival as an opportunity to buy yourself a new bag (and why not?!) go for a Tiba & Marl one. Tiba & Marl design the best change bags out there, without a cupcake in sight, and you’ll happily use it when nappy changes are a distant (bad) memory.

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* A small portable change mat with space for nappies/wipes is super useful for when not taking a big bag out. One like this does the job:

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* Other useful items for leaving the house include a dummy clip and a portable Milton mini steriliser like this:

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(otherwise dummy ends up being thrown overboard, resulting in you having to suck it clean and subsequently spend the day worrying if the residual germs will kill the baby…or you, leaving the baby orphaned. Save yourself the trauma and buy the dummy clip and steriliser pot).

Washing and changing baby

* Changing table – Get a basic one, better still a secondhand one, as again you don’t tend to use them for long and they take up valuable space.

* Changing mat – this wedge one from John Lewis is good and stops baby rolling over to a degree – NOT failsafe, I repeat NOT failsafe.

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* Nappies – LOADS of them – buy in bulk for best value. We use Pampers because despite trying to be more eco-friendly and getting real nappies and biodegradable ones, we found Pampers to be the best in terms of absorbency (and therefore less bum soreness) and they also win hands down with the least amount of leakages.

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* Cotton wool balls – you will use these with water at first until you tire of the faff

* Water Wipes – for when you tire of the hassle of cotton wool balls and water. Water Wipes are more expensive but they are also the best (causing no bum soreness). First time our baby got a sore bum was after we started using a different brand. Buy in bulk and look out for offers in Boots etc.

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* Nappy bags – SCENTED ones! Breastfed babies’ poo looks gross but the smelly is relatively inoffensive. However once you start weaning… *GAG ALERT* Scented nappy bags are a MUST.

* Nappy bin with cartridges – we don’t actually have one of these and just take the nappies straight to the main bin because we don’t want them sat in the house but you might feel differently and want one for ease.

* Baby bath – don’t buy one! They take up loads of space and are unnecessary.

* Baby bath support – Buy one! Takes up so much less space! Get this fabric covered one from John Lewis because plastic is hard, cold and uncomfortable.

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* Natural sponge

* Organic baby wash products

* Baby towel x2 – could just use a hand towel to be honest and I would put money on you being giving a ton of these for presents once baby arrives!

Feeding Baby

No need to purchase a highchair or stock up on bibs yet!

* Medela swing electric breast pump – The best pump out there. Also gives you the opportunity to have a night off and let your other half do the feeding. Can’t put a price on that.

medela swing pump

* Medela bottles with a teat that works like a nipple (yes, really), looks like this. You’ll only need 1 teat but maybe 2 or 3 bottles.

* Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream – as mentioned before, magic stuff, 100% natural. Saved my life first time round.

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* Muslin clothes – really useful for just about everything.

* Steriliser machine – get one for the microwave (if you have a microwave) – you can throw bottles in, dummies, plastic baby toys.

* Nursing bras – don’t bothing buying non-nursing maternity bras, which are rendered useless as soon as baby arrives due to the lack of easy boob access, go straight for the nursing bra option when pregnant. You will get a lot more wear out of them. Also they don’t have to be ugly: Google ‘Elle Macpherson Intimates Nursing Bra’.

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* Nursing sleep bra (like a crop top but with easy access – offers support and holds breast pads in place at night – definitely recommend buying. They changed my night life).

* Washable breast pads – softer than disposable ones (less chaffing), cheaper (in the long run) and greener (got to try and offset the nappies)

* Nursing chair – waste of money! Do not buy! You will end up feeding in bed or on the sofa not on some ugly monstrosity that you’ve had installed in the baby nursery but looks like it belongs in a retirement home! If you really want to buy a new chair then get a lovely armchair that you actually like the look of and will want to keep beyond the nursing years.

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* Nursing cushion – don’t even bother. Treat yourself to a lovely cushion that you actually like instead. Your elbow doesn’t need an odd banana-shaped cushion covered in stars to support it, anything will do.

Baby Health & Safety

* Digital ear thermometer – get an in-ear one rather than one of those forehead scanner types because they’re more reliable.

* Calpol – good idea to have in the house at all times. Solves almost every ailment.

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* Baby snot sucker or nasal aspirator, as they’re more formally known, (yes these things exist and yes you will want one as the alternative option is much worse – sucking it out yourself!)

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* Try and go on a pediatric first aid course, where you will learn what to do in an emergency and also how rare really serious emergencies actually are (which is kind of reassuring for an anxious new parent).

* All the other stuff like baby prisons, sorry baby pens, stairgates, plug socket covers etc. will be needed once baby is on the move, but not for a number of months, so just don’t worry yourself with that at the minute!

At home with baby

* Baby Bjorn bouncer – I don’t know about you but brightly coloured, noisy bouncers with flashing lights aren’t on my wish list. Nor a new baby’s. You can’t go wrong with the simple yet stylish Baby Bjorn bouncer which folds flat for storage/transport. The fabric seat is also really easy to remove and machine washable which is a BIG bonus as you’re going to need to wash it a LOT.

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* Baby play gym – whereas the above is really useful, the play gym is less so. Once babies can move they don’t lie under them and beforehand, well, they would be just as happy on your lap, studying your face. This is once they can actually focus! So you could go without or get one secondhand.

* Rattles and soft toys – you will be given loads. They also aren’t needed straightaway so no need to buy as part of your pre-baby prep.

* Door bouncers – not needed for a while but great fun for baby, don’t take up lots of space and are relatively inexpensive. I mention this now in case somebody suggests you need a Fisher Price Jumperoo! Yes lots of babies love Jumperoos, but lots of adults like fair ground rides but that doesn’t mean we get one installed in our house. Jumperoos cost over £100 and proudly boast ‘lights, sounds and music’. Door bouncers are the way forward and if the baby wants music, pop the radio on and choose to stay sane instead.

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This list may seem long but it’s intended to be fully comprehensive, all-inclusive. You can get a LOT of this stuff secondhand on eBay, gumtree or at NCT nearly-new sales which are brilliant! Find out where your nearest one is here. There is also freecycle and charity shops dedicated to children’s clothes, toys and equipment, such as Fara. You’ll also find people are happy to give you stuff when they’ve finished using it such as friends, family and neighbours. You should be able to get the above lot without breaking the bank.

The really great thing about buying baby stuff secondhand is because any given item is used for such a short period of time, it tends to all be in really condition and can be bought for a fraction of the price new. However there are a few things I would buy new and these include: car seat (unless you know where its come from), mattress, dummies and bottle teats. Everything else should be fine secondhand after having been given a wash.

If you think I’ve missed anything off the list, please email and let me know: thedoublemama@gmail.com xxx