Note: Since this is a post with recommendations for pregnancy care,
there will be the occasional usage of anatomical terms referring to areas involved in pregnancy.
Dear Wondering What to Buy When She’s Expecting,
We’re joyfully expecting our second child, and while having two children by birth does not by any means make me an expert on childbirth, I am also privileged to be a doula and prenatal yoga teacher with a thick network of birth professionals and mamas that I communicate with constantly. Sometimes, the same issues come up over and over again in conversation, and the same favorite products win the prize every time … There are a few things that every mom deserves to have when she’s pregnant or newly delivered, and they aren’t the usual gadgets you might be thinking of (note that the hallowed boppy, treasured as those funnily-shaped pillows are, didn’t even make this list – we’re talking crucial crucial things here, the stuff that never makes the registry list!).
These are some hardcore “thank-you-thank-you-forever-how-did-you-know” gifts that will really make the transition into I Just Had a Baby-hood so much easier, gracefuler (??) and more pleasant. I’ve sorted them by price, so if you’re stuffing a stocking for the little one or mama, putting together a basket of sweet treasures, or going all out and blowing the big Gs on somebody special, you can find something that fits your budget!
Under $10 – little things can make a big difference, dontcha know!
After birth, everything downstairs needs to heal and stay clean and fresh. For the first few weeks, a mister bottle with witch hazel and purified water (see below), spritzed on the areas in question after every restroom use, will do the trick of keeping the area so fresh and so clean clean. For on-the-go convenience, after maybe the first week (because really, who is going anywhere that first week, anyway?), the towelettes are very handy.
Unscented Witch Hazel $7.25
(See above) Witch hazel is an astringent, a toner (it tightens and shrinks pores!), and great for wound care (or stretched and sore tissue care!). It may or may not sting with stitches (I didn’t experience any stinging), and is recommended by birth professionals for after-birth lower-area care.
Candlelight Yoga $7.62 Favorite-Favorite
This yoga DVD isn’t prenatal or post-natal, it’s just a soothing and restorative class that can easily be done by mama, whether it be in the first trimester to combat morning sickness, or in the month after baby is born when she’s moving back into physical fitness. There’s a 15-minute class that is more energizing and active and might need to wait until a while after birth, and the main class is 45-minutes long (she can do that during the baby’s nap!), that is relaxing and rejuvenating. Sarah Ivanhoe, the featured talent and instructor, is a renowned yoga master now (this is one of her early works!). Her style is calming and easeful, with no “yoga weirdness”.
Multi-Use Spray Bottle $9.19
(See above) I really like this mister bottle for the witch-hazel and water, because instead of a finger pump it has a trigger pump, so I can hook it on the toilet paper dispenser in my bathroom. It makes it pretty hard to forget to use it during those first, fragile restroom visits! I continued to use the witch hazel and mister for several weeks, in tandem with the bottom balm (keep reading!).
Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm $8.71 Ultra-Favorite
I wouldn’t dare go past the 37th week without having this stashed in my top drawer, and even that’s pushing it (that pun was totally unplanned!). After having a baby vaginally, some things can sort of, well, be a little itchy for a while. It’s really nice, and really refreshing, and a real hair-pulling teeth-gnashing life-saver, to have something that can immediately, I say immediately soothe and appease the inflamed or angry areas of your body that so recently went through the greatest transformation of their life! I swear by this balm, and I buy it for every pregnant woman I know – it’s a gift that is always gratefully received. Yes, it is also safe for baby’s bottom, even with cloth diapers. Note that mama cannot use it until a few days or a week after birth, so if you have it on order, you have time to go drop it off after the baby is born!
Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter $8.99 Ultra-Favorite
Let’s get real for a minute here. All that new-baby suckling, or pump-machine-pumping, can leave our poor breasts a little chafed. This butter is another one of those gotta-have-it life savers that she’ll silently thank you for at three A.M., when she’s burning, sore and chapped, and this butter is the only thing that heals and soothes! Paired with some chilly ice packs and the coolness of fresh air (yes, leave those knockers out in the air for maximum healing effect!), the experience of nursing a newborn can be so much more pleasant and enjoyable.
Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience $9.99 Ultra-Favorite
So much better than the What to Expect-type books that leave many moms fearful and heading to the pharmacy with every sneeze! Rather than victimizing and terrifying the new mom, this book empowers, uplifts, makes her chuckle and inspires. It addresses – in non-judgmental or snotty terms – c-section, vaginal birth, epidurals, drugs, hospital protocol and home birth. No matter what kind of birth mama may be planning – or not planning, since sometimes nature takes things on a new course! – this book will gently and reassuringly provide factual information. So many chunks of the book made me laugh out loud, and I had to read passages to my husband and sisters or anybody who happened to be nearby – you have questions, this book has answers! A fun, enjoyable read that leaves mama feeling refreshed, informed and happy.
$10 – 25 – for all you big spenders out there
Especially useful for the mama who wants to produce more milk, these relaxing and milk-encouraging teas are a delight. Note that in the links I’ve provided, the Traditional Medicinals has twice as many tea bags. I consider both to be equally good, and leave it up to your preference!
Morton Epsom Salt, Plain $11.99
After baby is born (as far as concerns vaginal births – I am not sure with c-sections), a sitz bath is a strong recommendation or even requirement for the new mama. Fill the tub with warm water about up to the hips (when sitting!), and dissolve a few cups of Epsom salts into the water. When mama is more stable (blood levels returning to normal!), she can take a deeper Epsom salt bath and this will help detox out any chemicals left from birth, if drugs were used, retained water, reduce her stress, and it will certainly help with muscle soreness. If the bath is any deeper than just the hips within the first month or two, or if mama is having any trouble whatsoever after birth, I would recommend a friend or partner sitting in the bathroom to keep her company. You can find Epsom salts in most grocery or drug stores, and I would suggest unscented (plain) for the beginning.
Those same milk-maid jugs can get hot and sore as new milk ducts are forced full of milk for the first time, and the situation can be a little painful at moments! Cool ice packs help soothe, but sometimes their poky plastic edges are just torture. These booby tubes (ain’t that name the cutest?), are soft, cloth-covered and shaped like little Cs, so they can rest oh-so-comfortably right there.
American Health Original Papaya Enzyme $12.58 Favorite-Favorite
When you’re pregnant, organs get a little smooshed and pushed out of the way like the arbitrary blobs of cells that they are – but wait, hey, that stomach? I was using that! I was planning on using those digestive tube thingies, too – urggh – now I can’t breathe, or digest my food, and it seems like I’m hiccuping, burping and, well, belching … Spare mama the pain of all that internal pressure with these relief-bearing, yummy chewables. Hey, I eat them for a snack, when nobody is looking, if you really want to know the truth.
This delightful, nasty-ingredient-free lotion has a gentle fresh scent and is so soothing to the belly, butt and everywhere else that feels a little squooshy during and after pregnancy. I use it during pregnancy as well as after, because sometimes you just need to hear the word “firming” in your life at that time!
$25 – 50 – A gift basket of edible goodies
Make mama a big basket for post-partum! Sometimes, preparing food can just be too much of an effort. A few ideas of things you can include are: pre-sliced cheeses (Trader Joe’s has a great cheese tray for only $5), and a variety of healthful crackers. Canned tuna (our favorite is the Tuna Guys, hands down, nets up!), fresh fruit and vegetables or even organic bagged salads, canned healthy soups, sparkling drink snacks such as Izze that don’t have corn syrup or sugar, and bottled kombucha (home-made, if you make it yourself!). Fermented foods such as jars of raw, refrigerated kimchi or kraut, kefir or yogurt will help her recovering gut bacteria (especially if she had a hospital birth and experienced any use of antibiotics or medication, or exposure to hospital equipment!), as well as help her milk to boost baby’s system. Some rich, organic chocolate will never be remiss, I am sure. Gift cards to grocery stores near to her such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that have healthy deli options will probably be joyfully received.
$400 and up – the big dollars for all that extra money burning a hole in your pocket
Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer $429.99 Ultra-Favorite
What’s the most important thing for a succesful, balanced pregnancy and the whole, natural recovery of mom after the birth? What is going to play a huge role in her risk of post-partum depression? What will be the number one factor in losing the baby weight and nursing with super-powered milk? Nutrition, of course. And juicing is an easy, one-handed way to accomplish that during pregnancy or during the hectic time after birth. You can drop whole pieces of fruit in this juicer, and it slow-masticates them – the way to get the most nutrition out of each piece of produce! Leaves, stems, kale and herbs can all go in. Add some ginger if her tummy is upset … throw in some cilantro and celery for detoxing after the epidural, and boost the oranges and lamb’s quarters to fend off illness, gain some Vitamin K for wound healing, and bolster the immune system.
Vitamix 5200 Series Blender $459.95 Ultra-Favorite
And what would this list be without a Vitamix on it? Honestly, you can make an entire dinner with one hand using the Vitamix – trust me, I’ve done it. I compiled a list of 70 awesome things you can do with your Vitamix because I am so in love with mine. I love making smoothies in it, grinding coffee, blending soup for dinner, and churning up cold, healthy ice cream (especially when I’m saying bye-bye to baby fat!). Any mama would be lucky to receive this as a gift. I recommend the 5200 Series Blender (see link above) because I find it the easiest to use; I’ve used most of the models of Vitamix (even the old, 1980s ones!), and this one is a snap. The only thing the modern blender cups are missing are the old spigots the blenders used to have – do you think they’ll ever bring those back?
Cute Ideas for the Baby Book (and other recording-type books)
I’ve kept journals and diaries for just about my entire life, since I learned how to write. I have a box of them in the shed at Mom’s house – they’re a chuckle to go through! At first, I tried to keep my diaries secret and wrote them in a code I developed for just that purpose, but they were eventually discovered and decoded by my merciless siblings. I switched to a new tactic, where I wrote detailed accounts of everyday life and left the journals out for anyone to read, and everybody enjoyed seeing themselves in the stories I captured. These fun and unique books are some of the ways I like to continue that journal-keeping tradition – even though my time is significantly more limited now!
These three adorable books are by a Seattle artist, Nikki McClure.
Embrace: A Pregnancy Journal $13.43
Even more fun reading and writing …
And for all you Moleskine addicts, yes, there’s even one for you!
Whatever you choose for the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life, your gestures of kindness and love will be deeply appreciated by the whole family – even if you don’t get a thank you card for a long time, or ever! I hope this list has proved useful to you – and if you have additional ideas, let me know in the comments section!