Belfast Telegraph journalist and mum-of-two Catriona Doherty shares her thoughts on the top 10 things every new mother needs in her life. Catriona (39) lives in Donegal with her husband Kenny (41) and daughters Zoey (14 months) and Eva (two months).
1. Bath support
As a new mother, I wasn't aware of bath seats until I was given one by a friend when my first little one was a month old. Suddenly bath time became a whole lot easier as I had two hands free to wash my baby, while she lay fully supported in the tub.
I used the Angelcare Aqua Soft Touch Mini Bath Baby Support (£25.99) to begin with. When my daughter could sit up, I switched to the Dreambaby Fold Away Bath Seat (£19.95). I highly recommend this seat as it has an open function at the front so your child can easily be lifted out of it after bathing. It's suitable for use with tots aged from six months up to two years.
2. The Wallaboo footmuff
Cosy car seat footmuffs are ideal for keeping your baby warm and snug while on the move. The Wallaboo can be used in all car seats, prams and carrycots, although I kept mine in the car seat permanently for handiness.
Wallaboo footmuffs come in a range of colours, materials and are all fully teddy borj lined. You can buy them direct from Wallaboo (www.wallaboo.com), however there is a €15 delivery fee to Northern Ireland. They can also be purchased on Amazon for £49.95.
When you get home from hospital, having new clothes to wear is a lovely little pick-me-up and there's a wealth of cosy co-ords to choose from at the moment. Joggers with a matching sweatshirt are a stylish step up from pyjamas that retain that sense of comfort.
Everyone's body is different, but from my own experience choosing loose-fitting clothing, in one dress size up from my pre-pregnancy weight, worked for me.
My top picks include this Ribbed V-Neck Lounge Top (£12) and bottoms (£12, Dunnes Stores).
I ordered this set to wear post-labour, but when it arrived, I discovered the drawstring waistband of the trousers is elasticated, so they can actually be worn as under-the-bump maternity trousers too.
I also bought this Crinkle Smock Dress (£25.99, New Look) and a few cosy cardigans from ASOS.
4. Baby bag
I bought a standard baby changing rucksack on Amazon - practical and functional with lots of different compartments, easy-access side pockets and a detachable bottle pouch.
If you would prefer something more stylish, check out Gigil (gigil.com). Their bags are made from sustainably sourced organic fabrics, come in a range of colours, and start from £50.
5. Sophie la girafe
I bought the multi award-winning Sophie la girafe teething toy based on the recommendations of numerous other mums who swore by it.
The teether which has been bought by more than 50 million people worldwide, is made from 100% natural rubber from the sap of the Hevea tree. Sophie's flexible, natural material means she is a safe, natural teething toy.
Personally, I can't say the toy was a noticeable source of pain relief for my baby, however I included it on this list anyway because as every mum knows, when a child is teething - anything is worth a try!
6. Newborn photos
After researching baby photographers I decided to book in with Elena Mason (www.elenamasonphotography.co.uk) because I loved the style of her images, and she is based in Lisburn which was not far where I was living at the time. Choosing the right photographer comes down to personal preference and I couldn't be happier with my choice.
Newborn sessions are usually done in the first two weeks after birth, while the baby is still in that sleepy stage and can be moved around and positioned more naturally.
It might seem like a bit of on adventure to take your baby out of the house for a photoshoot, particularly as you recover from labour, however in my experience the effort was well worth it. Babies change and lose that newborn look so quickly, and professional photographs are the perfect memento of that special time.
It is best to book your photographer in advance of your due date. The photographer will then schedule in a studio time once your baby is born (Covid-19 guidelines permitting).
7. Milestone cards
Pick up a packet of milestone cards before your baby arrives so that you have them to hand for recording all those firsts.
With cute messages such as 'Today I am one week old' or 'I rolled over for the first time', the cards can be positioned next to your tot for a photo, or else you can make a note of the date on the back of them to be stored away as a keepsake.
In addition to cards such as the Baby's First Moment Cards (£5, Next), you can also get milestone blankets and mats.
8. Personalised jewellery
A thoughtful gift for a new mother is a necklace or bracelet customised with their child's name. After all those months mulling over different names, she will be proud to display her choice via a piece of jewellery such as this necklace (£62.10, Abbott Lyon).
9. A hamper
If you are looking for gift inspiration for a first-time parent, a hamper filled with an array of baby care goodies is a winner.
Before I went off on maternity leave, my work colleagues presented me with one filled with water wipes, dummies, teething toys, socks, size one nappies, bath lotion, sponges, a blanket, hooded towel, rubber ducks… and numerous other bits and bobs. I thought it was the perfect present because when it's your first pregnancy there is a sense of, 'Where do I start?' when it comes to shopping for baby.
If you want to make life easier for yourself, you can buy a pre-filled basket such as the Hunny Bunny Vintage Unisex Hamper (£49.99, from babyhampergift.co.uk).
Monitors are my couldn't-do-without gadget as I live in a two-storey house and may not necessarily hear my child from her bedroom without one.
I use the Motorola MBP 161 Digital Audio Baby Monitor (£48.99, Amazon) and it has been ideal. I bought an audio-only monitor as I didn't feel the need to have a video monitor. The Motorola unit has a lullabies function, and a two-way communication feature that allows you to speak to your little one, neither of which I used, but the in-built night light came in very handy.