A few months before Kate was born I sat at my laptop pouring over blogs, listicles and Pinterest boards, browsing Amazon wish-lists and scratching my head. I was having my first baby and there was SO MUCH info out there telling expectant mothers that they need ALL the baby gear to survive motherhood. It was a confusing minefield of expensive and cunningly cute stuff, and everyone wants the best for baby, right? The truth is that ‘best’ is relative and babies really don’t need much to thrive. Whilst I subscribe to the philosophy of ‘what they don’t know, they won’t miss’, over the course of this year we’ve accumulated a few items that I must admit were actually really useful. So I thought I’d change it up a little and feature these items once in a while here on the blog in a new series, ‘Kate Recommends’.
The unsung hero of all our purchases is first on this list:
The Muslin Cloth
Am I seriously starting this series with a piece of cotton? Why, yes. Yes I am.
What might seem to the uninitiated folk (i.e. people without kids) as a square of cotton cloth has become an indispensable part of our household. Every ‘baby shopping list’ I browsed during my pregnancy featured this unassuming contender and I now understand why. Here are 10 uses I got out of these guys over the past year:
1. Burping cloth: The most well-known use for a muslin cloth is for burping a baby. All parents – especially those with a baby who suffers from acid reflux – know what I’m talking about. If you want to prevent a waterfall of milk from staining your – let’s be honest – maternity bra or tent-like sweatshirt…every time you pick your child up, you’re going to want to drape one of these bad boys over your shoulder.
2. Breastfeeding cover: I’m not here to debate whether mums should cover up when breastfeeding in public, because I’m more of the opinion that it’s entirely the mum’s choice. But for the mums who want to cover up, muslins are perfect! They’re lightweight so they don’t add to the I-think-I’m-actually-melting postpartum sweating (can I get an Amen!?) and come in various sizes.
3. Wiping cloths: Let’s face it, the world could use a little less disposable wipes in landfills. If you’re trying to be more careful to reduce your environmental impact, muslin cloths are a perfect alternative when wiping dirty faces or hands (just wet them before because I’m pretty sure all babies aren’t so keen on getting their faces wiped…even more so with a dry cloth).
4. Swaddle: If your baby is into being swaddled (Kate loathed it), large muslins will do the trick.
5. Changing mat cover: When out and about, ditch the disposable changing mat covers and slap on a muslin cloth to make the world (and your baby’s bum) a happier place.
6. A make-shift bib: Yes, I know there are adorable bibs that come in all shapes and colours but the mighty muslin does it again in this category! The mental load of remembering to pack a thousand things before I leave the house is somewhat lightened knowing that if the bib doesn’t make it into one of the seven bags I’m carrying, I’m still covered.
7. A light blanket: In the spring/late summer, muslin cloths are the perfect lightweight material to provide just enough coverage for any baby sleeping in their buggy outdoors. (If you’re a cool parent who picnics and doesn’t rush home as nap-time draws near because your baby won’t sleep anywhere except in their own bed #imnotcryingyouare).
8. Headscarfs: OK, so I don’t actually recommend this use. BUT the mental load I mentioned in number 6 is deep and real. So sometimes you spend 30 minutes packing your bags before you leave the house but still manage to arrive at the beach without your baby’s sunhat. The muslin saves the day again and you’re slightly less judged by the mums of the sunhat-wearing-babies around you.
9. Toy: This might not work with older babies, but we peek-a-booed the heck out of our muslin cloths over here when Kate a few months old.
10. Comforter*: Finally, we have the greatest contribution the muslin has given the parenting world (in my humble opinion). Here’s the backstory: When the 3 month sleep regression hit us HARD and Kate would not sleep for longer than 10 minutes, a relative of mine suggested draping a muslin cloth by her face for ‘comfort’. Without being overly dramatic, I truly believe that this small suggestion changed my life #allthedrama. From that moment onwards, I placed a muslin cloth by her face every time I wanted her to sleep…and it worked! Some babies take to little comforters or soft-toys in the same way, but I have found that using an easily-replaced item like a muslin cloth means you never risk losing a precious toy that the baby has become attached to. (Please don’t frown at my use of a sleep association – I am well-rested and a better mother because of it).
So, there you have it. The first in our ‘Kate Recommends’ series. An entire blog post about small squares of cotton. You’re welcome.
*Disclaimer: I am fully aware that it is not advised that any baby should have anything inside their bed with them whilst they sleep, as these can become suffocation hazards. In the early stages when Kate couldn’t do much on her own, I was careful to make sure the cloth never draped over her face at any point during her sleep.