Modern Gender Neutral Nursery - On a Budget

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

We decided to keep the gender of our baby a surprise so needed a nursery that would work for either a little boy or a girl who would be coming home. When I started looking for ideas online, I quickly realised that decorating a baby’s nursery could become a very costly project so I set out to create a space that would be cute, practical and most importantly wouldn’t break the bank.
   
I am not a huge fan of “baby” prints or typical “baby” colours so instead I aimed to create a space that was centred around being neutral, light and calming. Here is how I created this space on a budget. And it’s turned out to be a space I love spending time in.



Ideally, I would’ve loved to put down wooden floors in this room but decided to leave the original jute carpeting. I love the warm tone and texture it brings to the room so for now it works. The walls were painted white as it made this room feel bigger than it is while also brightening up the space.

You really don’t have to spend a fortune on nursery furniture and décor. You just have to get creative and shop around. Don’t be afraid to buy second hand or upscale pieces you already have in your home. I found this rocking moose on eBay for example when I was in London for 99p, the cane chair is from the 1900s and I picked it up at a second hand store on our road trip to Cape Town and the changing table was an old dressing table we painted in sage green. I bought the gold knobs years earlier at an antique market and finally put them to use on this changing table. I did splurge on the brass hand curtain hooks though. I couldn’t resist these from Anthropologie.  

I didn’t want a rocking chair as I wanted something more stable and comfier where I could curl up and feed in the middle of the night or read bed time stories, so we borrowed this from my mother in law. I love mixing old and new pieces in a room. Even the mirror was an old bathroom mirror I had reframed with this simple gold frame. I also decorated the shelves above the changing table with a sketch my best friend gave us as a wedding present and a used biscuit tin from another sweet friend which I loved the colour and detail of. You could even frame family pictures, images from magazines or sentimental post cards to add to shelves or the wall of your nursery. This is a great way to add artwork and personalise a space without investing in wallpaper or expensive prints. I always have a few staples on this shelf and then use this as a space for baby products I am using and want to be in easy reach.



My best friend bought the baby cot for our baby shower which was the most incredible gift. If you are on a budget, there are some beautiful cots and moses baskets on places like Gumtree or Market Place on Facebook. You just have to keep looking. I also ended up only paying R30 for this mosquito net as I used the R100 Babies R Us voucher that comes in the Discovery gift box (read this blog post if you haven't already about all the maternity benefits you get with Discovery medical aid)



We gave the cupboards a fresh coat of paint instead of installing new cupboards which bought them back to life. It’s amazing what paint can do! To organise the baby clothes inside the cupboard I bought these perspex containers from Mr Price Home as baby clothes are so small and I wanted to keep arranged by sizes. This also makes them easily accessible as I can pull them all out and put them on the changing table. I would love to buy a labeling machine but for now I used masking tap and a permanent marker to create makeshift labels. I also found slightly smaller perspex trays from @Home which I used for socks, bibs, hats and other bits and bobs. If you are looking for perspex storage try Mr Price Home, @Home and Just Plastics as they often have stock in store that isn't online. 

When I was little I loved reading, I always chose having a bed time story over watching TV so I wanted to create a little reading nook that our little one could spend hours sitting in. We purposely made the shelves low so when we had a toddler they were able to pick out their own book.  If you are in the US or UK, Amazon sell books for a fraction of the price that are used but in excellent condition. Or alternatively ask for a used or new book for your baby shower and guests can write a message in this instead of in cards which are so often just thrown away.



Other products featured. *Those that are not linked were bought in store and are not online:
  • Block out curtains - Mr Price Home
  • Bookshelves - Kids Living
  • Changing mat - Bumbo
  • Cot - Kids Living
  • Cot matress - Kids Living
  • Display shelves - Custom made pine shelves as we needed a certain length but available from Builders Warehourse, Mr Price Home, Game and a number of other affordable stores
  • Dog light - @Home
  • Moon night light - Takealot
  • Mosquito net - Babies R Us
  • Palm tree print - Desenio
  • Toy Basket - H&M Home
  • Wooden pull along dog - John Lewis
  • Vase - H&M Home


Minimalist Newborn Must Haves

Sunday, 29 March 2020

It’s easy to get caught up in buying every baby product, especially as a first time mom. Everything is adorable and cute, so it is hard not to! But perhaps if this COVID-19 outbreak has taught us anything, it is not to panic buy. And I feel the same applies to shopping for a newborn. You could spend a small fortune on newborn items that would only last you a few weeks or wouldn’t end up being used at all. So, I have made a minimal list of the essentials I recommend having. These are products that were worth every penny and got me through the first few weeks as a first time mama! This is not to say you won’t need other products further down the line, these are just items for the first few weeks which I found made life easier so you know what to buy and where to possibly save your pennies.

  • Hakkaa -  I bought the double Medela electric swing pump for a few thousand rands which I have only just started using  but for those first few weeks after giving birth (especially if you are a first time mom) you are still trying to get used to breast feeding and the pain of it all. An electric pump, even on the gentlest setting was too sore and uncomfortable. It is also awkward to use as it needs to be plugged in (or have batteries), has a lot of attachments to assemble and constantly sterilise, and it is noisy. After I gave birth I realised I needed a much simpler solution and bought the Hakkaa. I am actually tempted to buy another one so I can use two at the same time if I am not feeding but need to express. The Hakkaa is a fraction of the price and I wish someone had told me to save my money and start off with a Hakkaa first. You can pop it on anywhere, the suction is really good so your new born cannot easily kick it off and once your milk supply comes in you can catch your let down while your baby feeds on the other breast and either freeze your extra milk or feed it to your baby as a top up (which I did to get her back to her birth weight). This has been so handy to reach for at 2am. I also measured my output and using the Medela electric swing pump and Hakkaa I got the same amount of milk, this morning was about 40ml.

  • Breast Milk Storage Bags - I use the Medela milk storage bags as these came with my pump. Ideally, I would have liked to have found a glass storage solution instead of plastic bags but I haven’t yet, so these are what I have been using. What I love about them is that you can store them flat in your freezer so they don’t take up much space, they have a great leak-proof double zipper and you can write the date and ml on them.

  • Bottle – You might want to exclusively breast feed or exclusively formula feed. See what works for you and your baby. I liked using a small bottle like the Pigeon or Medela bottles and the NUK premature teet (Chloé was 3.24kgs at birth but a normal size teat made her gag). There are so many different types of bottles and teats so buy one and see what your baby likes before buying a whole bunch. I learnt this the hard way after buying four of the same brand only to discover they let in too much air while she drank which resulted in hours of tears and no sleep, for both of us. I also wish I had bought a wide neck bottle and slow flow teat to have on hand as this is what I ended up needing in the end.

  • Nipple Cream – Pack this in your hospital bag and start using it from day one. Don’t wait for your nipples to become roasties like I did. It took me 5 weeks before breastfeeding was no longer painful and it was a loooong 5 weeks with sore nips! This Aloe Vera Gel is a great alternative if you want something more natural but it is a dark colour so keep this in mind (it doesn’t stain though!) otherwise Lansinoh nipple cream works wonders too and doesn’t need to be wiped off when breastfeeding.

  • Small Dummy – I assumed all dummies were the same. They aren’t. And that goes for sizing too. Size 0-2 months or 0-6 months will most likely be too big for your teeny newborn. Buy and take a Snookums Cherry dummy with you to hospital. They are about R15 (the cheapest dummy out there) and if your baby takes it this will be your saving grace. Pack it in your hospital bag. Chloé didn’t settle in the hospital nursery and always wanted to comfort feed so if I had found these dummies earlier in my mom life, I would have been able to get 40 winks which were so vital yet scarce in those early days.

  • Comfy safe mirror for your carthis mirror is so nice and big and being able to see your baby while driving gives you peace of mind when they need to be rear facing for the first few months. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to pull over because her head had fallen forward or to the side and I thought she couldn’t breathe! Having this mirror lets you keep an eye on them.

  • Gentle baby products – Your newborn baby is so delicate and little so it’s really important to choose gentle products to use on their skin. My favourite products at the moment are:
    • Pure Beginnings bum cream
    • Pure Beginnings or Oh Lief baby wash
    • Water Wipes (these are available at Baby City)


  • A few small newborn / prem clothes for the first four weeks - Chloé was a very average weight and height, born at 3.24 kgs and 51cm long and hardly any clothes I bought fit her. the sizing of baby clothes is very odd. These are the brands I found fit well for newborns: Ackermans, Country Road, H&M. What is great about H&M is they do in between sizes as well 

  • Baby grows with attached, fold down mittens. The best ones I have found are from Cotton On and the have a zip! This is so handy for night time nappy changes when you are doing everything with one eye open.  

  • White noise machine or white noise soundtrack on your phone - If you use your phone, just remember to download the track / playlist and put your phone on airplane mode before putting it near your baby.

  • Muslins – Get three or four soft muslins that are large enough to use for swaddling. This would be my minimum amount as you end up using these as burp cloths, swaddles, blankets and covers over your pram on a sunny day, so they get dirty quickly.

  • A nappy bag – this is something that is worth the splurge, as it is not just for your baby, it is something you will end up using every day. My K’LEA bag honestly makes me feel like I have my sh*t together on days when I look and feel a mess. It goes with every outfit, holds everything I and my baby need for the day and the best part - it t can be attached to your pram with the stroller straps so you don’t even have to carry it if you don’t want to. Make sure you get a baby bag that can attach to your pram as you really won’t want to be carrying anything but your baby. So treat yourself, invest in a baby bag that makes you feel good about yourself.


  • A pram with a basinet – Ok don’t hate me for what I am about to say here… I know everyone is all about convenience these days so prams like the Doona are very popular but babies under 6 months should ideally lie flat in their pram instead of being “scrunched” up like they are in their car seat. If they lie flat is allows for optimal breathing and encourages their spine and hips to develop properly.


  • Moses basket - having your baby sleep right next to your bed for the first few weeks is convenient because you will be up feeding them every hour or two. You don't have to spend a fortune on one either. There are some gorgeous second hand raftan baskets for example on places like Gumtree and Market Place which would only have been used for a few weeks or months. We have actually used Brett’s old moses basket from when he was a baby which his mom made up for Chloé! If you do buy a second hand moses basket you will need to get a new mattress. dont buy this second hand.

  • Reusable breast pads - Not only are these more sustainable and budget friendly but they are also more comfortable to wear. My go to have been these from Olive and you can also buy these from Dischem. I suggest getting about 10 pairs as you go through about three to four pairs a day. 

  • *Cloth nappies* - If you are going to use cloth nappies don’t be afraid to start using them from birth. I loved the Bumgenius Littles Newborn V2 nappies for the first month as they have space for the umbilical cord and are not bulky but still contain that newborn poop. Another firm favourite of mine are the Tot Bots TeenyFit Star which I always reached for once her umbilical cord had fallen off. If you are going to use disposable nappies just get one pack of the newborn size nappies as they grow out of these so fast,.


Pre-Baby Checklist

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Having a baby is a life changing event, whether it be your first or your third baby, your world is about to change. Leading up to the birth you will feel a a range of different emotions: nervous, excited, overwhelmed, panicked, all of which are normal and sometimes you might even feel these all at once. One thing that I found helped me feel more in control and less stressed was to get organised in the weeks leading up to my due date. Below is my Pre-Baby Checklist. I found spreading out my to do list over a few weeks leading up to the birth was more manageable and it also ensured I got around to doing everything I had thought of, rather than forgetting everything at the last minute. I hope this helps you if you are pregnant. Keep in mind these guidelines are estimates as your baby might arrive early or late so you can adjust these as needed. If you have anything to add to this list, please comment below so other mamas can see your tips.

Picture - Simone Sian Photography

SIX WEEKS BEFORE

  • Have your baby’s room set up and as close to finished as possible. Some women go past their due date but a lot of women also go into labour early, so it is best to have this all set up so whenever your little one decides to arrive, you are ready.

FIVE WEEKS BEFORE

  • Wash all baby’s clothes, linen, blankets and pack them away.
  • Ensure you and your partner have a will and / or update your will.

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE

  • Pack your hospital bag. If you need help with what to pack see my detailed list here.
  • Learn how to use your pram and practice putting it in and out of your car.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE

  • If you have signed up with Netcells to store your baby’s stem cells, sign and complete the paperwork now. There is quite a bit to complete and trust me, you won’t want to be doing this in the first few hours of your baby being born.
  • Prepare and freeze meals, or stock up on We Are Food meals which I did as well. The first two weeks are a blur, literally you are that exhausted and sleep deprived. Having meals that just need to be warmed up are the best thing you can do for yourselves as new parents.
  • Also stock up on cereals and canned / dry goods like chickpeas, cous cous etc. which you can easily have on hand to make quick meals.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Make sure your dog / cat are all up to date with their injections, deworming, tick and flea treatments and teeth cleaning.
  • Certify both parents’ South African IDs and unabridged marriage certificate as you will need these to register your baby’s birth.

ONE WEEK BEFORE

  • Get your car washed, a full interior and exterior clean
  • Install your baby’s car seat
  • Get a mani / pedi / wax if this is something you are wanting to do.


What’s in My Hospital Bag? Summer Baby Edition, 2020

Thursday, 20 February 2020
I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy compiling my maternity bag checklist and then refining it and changing it again. Now that our baby girl has arrived I have also added a section of things I wish I had packed in my hospital bag and my most used items which I am so glad I had on hand. Packing my hospital bag was both so exciting and surreal, it felt like I was packing for the best holiday of my life (except I was taking maternity pads rather than bikinis!). If you are a mama or packing your bags, you will know what I mean.

This hospital bag checklist can be used by anyone but has been specifically tweaked for having a baby in the summer, as well as having a baby at Parklands Hospital, South Africa where I gave birth as I couldn’t find a list online outlining what was provided in the South African private hospitals and what wasn’t. I have made notes where applicable so you can either ignore these or use them as needed. My hospital said for a natural birth I could expect to spend two nights in hospital and for a c-section, three nights. So, although I was hoping for a natural birth, I packed for an extra day in case of unforeseen circumstances.  

I ended up packing a total of four bags. It sounds excessive but hear me out! These are the four bags I packed: A small cabin size suitcase for myself that can be locked and kept in the ward while I am in the labour suite, a tote bag with items I might need / want to reach for during labour and that I can easily access, a bag for the baby and a bag for my husband. 




NETCELLS

If this is something you have signed up for, make sure you notify your Dr beforehand.
  • Netcells Box


DOCUMENTS

Take the below if your baby’s birth can be registered in hospital.
  • Both parent’s ID books
  • Medical aid card
  • Black pen


FOR BABY

BABY - GEAR

  • Car seat installed and ready in your car. You cannot leave the hospital without a car seat so fit this a few days before. 


BABY - CLOTHES

I packed a few different sizes of baby clothes between newborn and 0-3 months as I wasn’t sure how big this baby would be on their arrival. This is an area I thought it better to have too much than too little being a first time mom.

  • 2x Baby beanie (Provided by Parklands Hospital)
  • 3x Baby grow long sleeve - better if wrap style and not over head
  • 3x Baby grow short sleeve - better if wrap style and not over head
  • 1x Baby mittens
  • 2x Blanket - light muslin / receiving blanket (Provided by Parklands Hospital)
  • 1x Blanket - warm (Provided by Parklands Hospital)
  • 1x Going home outfit
  • 3x Sleepsuits (with feet preferably)
  • 2x Socks

BABY - TOILETRIES

Your hospital might supply some of these products, so it is always best to ask them what they provide first. Although I am planning on using cloth nappies, I thought the logistics of trying to figure out how to store dirty nappies to be washed later was too much for me as a first time mom so I plan on using disposables in the hospital. I also wanted to use the water wipes and a natural nipple balm so opted to bring my own rather than use a brand I didn’t want on my baby’s skin or in their mouth.

  • A natural / organic nipple balm, even coconut oil
  • Cotton wool to clean umbilical cord area (Provided by Parklands)
  • Gentle baby wash, I used Pure Beginnings, this gift set was really nice to take
  • Nail file / baby nail clippers
  • Small bag of newborn / Size 0 nappies (Provided by Parklands)
  • Wetwipes (Provided by Parklands)
  • NOTE - Surgical spirits are no longer recommended to clean the umbilical cord area so you will use water and cotton wool only


FOR MOM

Comfort is key. You will be in a lot of pain and discomfort regardless of how you give birth, you won’t want anything tight fitting. I found I couldn't even put on undies after my c-section, never mind high waist leggings. Instead I opted for easy access breastfeeding clothes and soft fabrics. As my baby is being born in peak summer, loose dresses were the most comfortable and they also made me feel put together with minimum effort when we had visitors pop around. The maternity ward is quite hot as they seem to keep it warm for the babies so make sure you don’t only pack longs, regardless of the season. 

MOM - CLOTHES


  • 1x Going home outfit / lose fitting dress easy to breastfeed in
  • 2x Light comfy dress for during day/ lose fitting dress easy to breastfeed in
  • 1x Light weight gown (although I preferred using the hospital gowns as there was blood that leaked and they were baggy and comfy)
  • 3x Nursing bras
  • 1x Nightie (you can just use the hospital gowns too if you need to save space)
  • 1x Pair of sandals / slip on shoes
  • 1x Pair of slops for shared shower areas
  • 1x Pair of slippers
  • 3x High waist undies (Parklands give you really comfy disposable undies, I only ended up using these)
*in winter you can swap the dresses for comfy joggers and loose tops.


MOM - TOILETRIES

  • 1x Dark face cloth (towels are provided by the hospital, but you might want your own face cloth).
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume
  • Ear plugs (if you have a shared room these will help block out extra noise)
  • Eye mask for sleeping (I didn't end up using one but if I had a shared room I might  have)
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair dryer (I didn't end up using this but if I had had a natural birth and sweated a lot during labour I would have wanted to wash and dry my hair)
  • Hair band
  • Lip balm
  • Make up – I kept it simple with BB cream, blush, eyebrow gel & lip tint
  • 6x Maternity disposable hospital panties (Provided by Parklands)
  • 1x pack Maternity pads (with wings so they stay in place) (Provided by Parklands)
  • Reusable breast pads 
  • Shampoo and Conditioner (in small bottles)
  • Shower gel / soap
  • Skincare - face wash, eye cream, moisturiser and face spray
  • Small hand / body lotion
  • Spay/ Squirt bottle to help wee if you have natural birth
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Witch hazel & Aloe gel to put on maternity pads if you have a natural birth


MOM - EXTRAS

  • Bag for dirty clothes
  • Book
  • Cash – R100
  • Gum or mints
  • Healthy snacks (Mrs Milk bars, nuts, dried fruit, Arbonne energy fizz stix)
  • Towel to sit on in the car (in case water breaks)
  • A large bottle with a straw. I didn’t have space for one but I heard a lot of mamas liked having this to easily sip on in between contractions. Kauai and Woolworths both have really nice bottle options with a straw.

ELECTRONICS

  • Battery fairy lights OR touch night light (hospital room can be too bright in middle of the night for feeds)
  • Camera
  • Camera batteries
  • Camera charger
  • Cell phone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Double Adaptor
  • Downloaded hypnobirthing / calm music playlists for labour
  • Headphones
  • Power bank – fully charged

*A breast pump is something you might want to take as well. Mine is too bulky and I don’t plan on pumping straight away. However if I do have issues breastfeeding I can always send a family member home to bring it to the hospital.


FOR DAD

Your husband / partner may be able to stay with you in hospital depending on the country / what type of room you get. At Parklands Hospital dads cannot stay over, even if you have a private room so we didn't end up using the bag I had packed for Brett. However this is what was in his bag:


DAD - CLOTHES

  • 1x pair of shoes
  • 1x jersey
  • 1x joggers / comfy lounge pants
  • 3x shirts
  • 2x shorts
  • 3x undies

DAD - TOILETRIES

  • Cologne
  • Deodorant
  • Hair gel
  • Toothbrush

DAD - EXTRAS

  • Blanket - leave in the car but take in case hospital’s is thin and cold
  • Pillow - leave in car but just in case hospital’s is thin and horrible
  • Book - there is a lot of time to kill in hospital 

MOST USED ITEMS

  • The battery powered, plastic fairy lights I had bought from Woolworths. These were so nice to have on hand. I wrapped them around the rail of the hospital bed so I could easily turn them on and off and these made night time feeds so calming without a bright, glaring hospital light being switched on
  • Mrs Milk Bars
  • Book - you have so much time in between feeds and even during feeds that it was nice to have something to do. The TV in my room was small, blurry and at an awkward angle so I didn't end up watching this and read instead
  • Baby's own blankets. Although the hospital provides baby blankets, I like having her own so she could get used to these 
  • Power bank. There were no spare plug points close to the bed and as you cannot move, being bale to charge your phone without getting up was so handy
  • Baby grows with mittens. A new born baby has such sharp nails and tend to scratch their face all the time. loose mittens seem too big and don't stay on

WHAT I WISHED I HAD PACKED

  • A Hakka. When your milk starts to comes in on the 3rd / 4th day your breasts can feel so full and I had a lot of leaking. I wish I had had a Hakka to help with the let down and engorgement
  • A teeny newborn dummy. Our baby girl battled to settle in hospital and I had only packed a 0-6 months BIBS dummy. It turns out these are huge for a newborn so she couldn't suck on it
  • Another two or three sets of reusable breast pads as I had a lot of milk come in and was going through these quickly