Written by Courtney, Contributing Writer
The birth of a new baby brings an abundance of joy and excitement...and lots of rest, for both mom and baby. Frequent nursing keeps a new mother from extending herself too much, forcing her to sit down and relax often. In those first weeks, it's important for a new mother to keep her focus on recovering from birth and nurturing her new baby, but eventually a more normal schedule will resume and the demands of the household will return.
I'm anticipating the arrival of my sixth baby in April, and nesting is in full swing! One of the things I'm planning for is the frequent nursing that allows me to sit back and fully soak in the abundance of the blessings before me. Sometimes it feels like I'm glued to the couch for the majority of the day in those first few weeks, though!
I always get a lot of reading and writing done in those newborn days. Homeschooling thrives as well, as we get a lot of reading aloud in as we sit together in the living room. Since I am nursing so much throughout the day, I'm usually always available to go over lessons or help with explanations.
The "nursing basket" has revolutionized my life in those early days with a new baby. It has really simplified my days and relieved a lot of stress. Just knowing I have essentials close at hand helps me to manage my home even though I can't always get up and do things.
The nursing basket is basically a basket (tote, bin, bag, or crate) that holds mama and baby essentials. It keeps everything in one place and can be moved easily from one spot to another. I find that I tend to favor one spot for feedings, but it's nice to be able to move everything from one spot to another when needed.
It can be completely customizable to meet any mom's needs, from the container you use to the things you put in it. My basket changes as my needs or baby's needs change over the course of the nursing years, taking away or adding to what I start out with in the newborn days.
My Nursing Basket:
Bible: My number one parenting tool! Instruction manual, guide, and encouragement all wrapped into one. With the amount of time spent nursing in those first months, there's no excuse for a new mom to fall behind in her personal Bible reading/study.
Home Management Notebook: Keeping this at hand helps me to maintain some control of my home even when I'm occupied with a new baby. It contains the daily master schedule, homeschooling schedule. cleaning routines/chores, menu plans, budgeting forms, business/blogging planning, family health information, and anything I need to keep track of.
Notepad/Sticky Notes: A simple notepad is useful for so many things.
Books: Either non-fiction or fiction, keeping a book or two at hand gives me something to reach for when I sit down for a 30 minute feeding. I also tend to keep our current read aloud handy, as well as any books I'm using with my preschoolers.
Journal: I journal frequently. I start keepsake journals for my children before they are born and continue to write from my heart throughout the years. I record special stories and milestones as well as my thoughts and prayers for them. I also keep my own journal where I can organize my thoughts as a mother,writing down blessings, praises, and prayer requests.
Clipboard: This is an "inbox" of sorts. It's where I keep papers that need my immediate attention, like important documents or bills, homeschool papers to correct, or important notes or plans for projects.
Whiteboard: For homeschooling, I like to keep a small 8x10 sized whiteboard on hand for lesson explanations and illustrations, working through math problems, diagramming sentences, etc.
Pens/Pencils/Markers: I do have a zipped bag in my home management notebook that hold pens, pencils, and markers (highlighters and dry erase), but it's nice to keep a few in a little cup for easy access.
Laptop: My laptop is typically open nearby on a table or desk, but at times, it's nice to tuck it away in the basket.
Phone: I never keep my phone on me, for health reasons and to avoid that "always reachable" feeling. To fully embrace motherhood, I need to be "unconnected from the world" and available to my family. I do like to keep my phone in one place so I know where it is at all times and can check it periodically. It's usually in a basket in my kitchen, but there are days during the nursing stage when I like to keep it close by in the basket if I know I will be expecting calls or texts from my husband or others.
Yarn and needle/hook: Whether you're a seasoned knitter or expert at crocheting or just learning one of these skills, keeping your tools and materials close by let you pick up and set down your project as needed. My goal was to learn to knit (better) during the first half of this pregnancy and then learn to crochet (beyond the basics) during the second. I now have nine weeks to go and still no blanket to hold my sweet baby when she arrives. Good intentions aren't any good if you don't follow through! All hope is not lost, though, as I am encouraged by this crochet series for beginners and plan to whip up something simple in the next couple months!
Baby Carrier: I keep my baby carrier nearby since I use it frequently throughout the day. It's not always folded neatly and in my basket, but I try to keep it there!
Nursing Cover: I don't use a nursing cover for every feeding at home, but I have learned that making a habit of covering baby during the feedings that lead to naps is helpful with encouraging sleep. It also gets them used to being covered so they don't pull the cover off when it must be used in public. I also like to use a nursing cover when I have company because it stays on and covers so much better than a blanket. For these reasons, it's useful to store one in the basket.
Blanket: Keeping an extra blanket or two at hand is helpful. Even though my babies don't usually spit up and diaper leaks are not an issue since I use cloth, blankets laying around and not in use do get taken around here. Little boys tend to seize the opportunity to grab them for making forts or capes. Keeping one or two tucked neatly away in the basket gives me a back up.
Burp Cloths: Some of my babies don't spit and I have no use for burp rags, but for those that do, I like to keep a good stash of them close by.
Clothing: Keeping an extra shirt or outfit nearby can come in handy.
Diaper/Wipes: I like to keep a few diapers and a small wet bag of wipes close by for quick changes. We do have a changing table, but it's used for storing diapers and blankets and we rarely actually do diaper changes there. Most diaper changes are one in our room, but I like to keep a diaper or two handy for those times when I can't easily leave the room.
Pacifiers: My babies hardly every take binkies, but I'm going to encourage the use of them this time. I think they can be a useful soothing aid once breastfeeding is well-established and if not used as the sole method of soothing. A nursing baby will (and should) be soothed at the breast beyond nourishment alone, but there should be other methods of soothing as well. I've heard about the idea of encouraging thumb sucking, and I will try this, but having a pacifier will be helpful, too.
Rattle/Toy: There always tends to be one special toy that is chosen and preferred by each baby pretty early on. It's nice to keep that rattle or stuffed animal separate and in safe keeping.
Lullaby CD: I have several different lullaby CD's, but I tend to favor one or two of them. It's nice to keep one in the basket so it's readily available when needed.
Other things as baby grows: I find that other things are added to the basket.
I love to just to sit back and completely soak in the wonder and awe of motherhood, cherishing the simple small moments with baby, and nursing brings plenty of these beautiful moments. Breastfeeding gives me a lot of downtime to sit back and rest. It's also nice to be able to get a lot done! Multitasking is very easy with a nursing baby. Sometimes it seems I get more done during this season of life as a breastfeeding mom.
So, what can I do with the nursing basket?
Start my day right and replenish my soul: Motherhood is no doubt a truly rewarding experience beyond words, but it's no easy task and we can become worn out and weary if we try to do it all on our own. Keeping my Bible at hand helps me to stay in the Word and maintain the right perspective. It's where I gain my strength for what the day brings. Other books and devotionals are also nice to keep at hand.
Plan and manage my day: I find joy (exhillaration, really) in planning and list making. With my home management notebook and a simple lined notebook, I can schedule our days (homeschooling, chores, appointments, etc.), write up lesson plans and evaluate school progress, write up menu plans and grocery lists, plan for my weekly "kitchen day", work on the budget and bill schedule, edit my writing/blogging calendar and plan/outline posts, business plans, plan household projects, and so much more. I'm always planning something. Having everything in one place keeps it all simplified and organized. And even though I don't strive to ultimately be in control of my household (striving to be led by the Spirit), this helps me to not feel so out of control!
Homeschool: We do a lot of our lessons in the living room anyway, so being "glued" to the couch makes me more available as a teacher. I can read books (read alouds with older children and story books to younger ones), work through lessons with older children, work on phonics skills and writing with younger ones, help explain concepts, help work through lessons, grade papers/tests, and watch videos. My big, black clipboard holds papers to go over and grade and also doubles as a writing surface. My miniature white board makes it easy for me to help with explain and illustrate concepts, too. The only downfall is having my writing utensils sitting "vulnerably" in my basket. Ticonderaga's have a special way of "vanishing" into thin air in my house.
Write letters or thank you notes: Keeping stationary and thank you notes in my home management binder gives me no excuse for not sending Thank You's for those much appreciated gifts and meals! I also keep stamps in a pouch in the binder. I just recently added notes an stationary to my HMN. I've always struggled with getting thank you notes and cards out in a timely manner, so I've decided to be more strategic in my efforts.
Blog/business: As mentioned previously, I can set my writing schedule, plan posts, and even type them up. I can respond to customer inquiries and correspond with my wholesale accounts.
Read: From enjoying a novel to researching something, I enjoy being able to get so much reading time in. I can also read with and to the children.
Hobbies and projects: There are so many projects, such as knitting and crocheting, that can be accomplished while nursing a baby. It's easy to make excuses for not taking the time to learn some of the skills I want to become better at, but sitting down for 20-40 minute stretches gives me ample opportunity to focus on these skills.
The better question might be, "What can't I do?" Okay, there are many things that will be neglected during this season of motherhood, but by organizing the most essential items and keeping them close by, I can still manage my home to some degree. When I multitask during feedings, I can focus on other thing that are more difficult to accomplish with a new baby, like working out, cooking, or doing laundry, during nap times or when baby is secure and content in a Moby Wrap!
I realize a first time mom might be overwhelmed with the concept of keeping such a stash of supplies nearby. It can't be that hard to go to the next room to gather the things you need as you need them, right? Well, sometimes it's not. But in the reality of life with a growing family, running across the house to gather a diaper might look something like this:
I notice baby needs a change and set her down on a blanket on the floor so I can run to our room and grab a diaper and wipes. On the way there, I hear my 10 year old daughter in a struggle against my 3 year old and 5 year old boys, who (after realizing Mommy left the room) decided to start gluing letters to the dining room table, where they're supposed to be working on their "alphabet pages". I come back to assist her in her efforts and get the boys back on task. The baby is starting to cry at this point, so I have my oldest son hold her while I make the second attempt to grab a diaper and wipes from my room. On the way there, I find my 2 year old starting to fill up the bathroom sink so he can make his wooden trains float. I drain the sink, dry him off, and walk to his room to get him a dry shirt. At this point, my daughter needs help with a grammar concept, so I give her a little hint and take the shirt back to the baby. No wait, that was the 2 year old that needed the shirt. I put the shirt on the 2 year old and then come back to the living room because the baby is crying. Oh yeah, diaper change. It's been five minutes, but the baby still needs to be changed and I still have no diaper.
Okay, this is a made up scenario, pieced together by incidents that either have happened or could easily happen in my home on any given day. And while my boys certainly don't always take the first opportunity without supervision to make trouble, there are those moments where everything seems to happen at once. Most of the day is peaceful and runs smoothly, but these little "glitches", if you will, where everything seems to come unraveled at once, last only a few minutes but can really throw me off!
With a diaper nearby, I could have changed the baby without leaving the room and before she got upset. Nobody would have decided to take advantage of that unsuperivised time by making trouble. And I could have given my daughter a better example of the correct usage of nominative case vs. objective case pronouns.
I'm always looking for ways to make my home run more smoothly, and I've found the nursing basket to be a great help.
Do you like to gather your essentials and keep them close by in some sort of basket or other container? I'd love to hear about your creative solutions.