Lists! Lists! At the start of this I wanted to think of the maternity leave as a kind of “artist residency in motherhood”. Indeed it has sharpened the focus of time, eking out minutes between feeds to finish a task. I decided to not pressurise myself to do something too intensive, and instead to try out new crafty mediums that I’ve not used before. So… here was my list of things I wanted to do on my maternity leave (and what I actually did in the end…)
1. Finish renovations, unpack boxes, and move into new house
We finished up everything and moved in the first week of June. See House Reno posts here:
Part 1 – Flat Viewings, Online Research, HDB Resale Flat Purchase Process, & HIP Options
Part 2 – Budgeting, Appointing Renovation Contractor, House Design Layout, Painting Scheme, Laminate and Tiling Selection
Part 3 – Hacking Works, Aircon Installation, Flooring, Electricals, Lighting, Carpentry, Hinges, Doors, Windows, and Blinds
2. Research the baby gear
A reconnaissance mission to two large brick and mortar baby stores in Kaki Bukit – BABY KINGDOM and BABY HYPERSTORE – were made, as well as other trips to Mothercare. Mothercare is quite expensive and only great when there’s a sale on (eg. GSS). Baby Kingdom has one floor of cots and walkers and strollers, and another floor of small consumables and clothing. As for Baby Hyperstore, it has many floors of strollers if you want to look at them all. After that I still did a lot of internet researching to figure out what I had to buy in order to be all ready for baby. I didnt buy anything from the brick and mortar stores – just their online incarnations instead! But it does put a face to all these baby shoppes…
3. Buy the baby gear
After doing a price comparison, I made a massive spreadsheet and then bought it one by one from various e-retailers such as Pupsik Studio (who has a very excellent next day delivery if you make a purchase over $60), Mothercare online, Lazada, and Qoo10.
4. Sort out finances
In progress. Also, I switched to a cashback credit card that was more suited for internet purchases. My FirST CrEdIt CaRd in my life??? At the grand old age of 35…
DBS Livefresh: the credit card product seemingly targeted at university students and millenials doing all their purchasing online.
Wah! Also Got complimentary entry to Phuture & Zouk before 12am…. but zzzzz I already fell asleep
5. Assemble bassinet
I figured there was no point buying a forevercrib made out of wood or something solid because babyhood is so fleetingly short. So I chose a playpen which also doubles as a playpen when baby is older (just drop the base down!). We’ve got a Lucky Baby travel bassinet with a changing table and even a little mobile which I thought was pretty shitty but then BEANO LOVES THE SHIT OUT OF IT! Her favourite animal on the mobile is the stripey horse which I think is meant to be some kind of discount zebra, she talks to it all the time. (But what does the stripey horse say?)
There are lots of Fisher Price playpens, Chicco Playards, and Graco Pack and plays on the market which cost lots more (S$200-500!) but the Lucky Baby range which is designed in Singapore is cheaper (about 180sgd) and does the job. I was telling George that now I can recognise discarded bassinets on the side of the road when previously I didn’t know what manner of a bizarre contraption had been abandoned. OUR BASSINET IS ACTUALLY SOME SORT OF WEIRD FOLDABLE UMBRELLA. Also, babies do generate so much waste in a way. How can we reuse this item beyond Beano’s babyhood? I still don’t know…
6. Learn how to use stretchy wrap
After looking around online, I bought a Keababies sling wrap from Amazon because it seemed a far sight cheaper than the other popular ones (before shipping and taxes, Ergobaby is about 30usd, Boba and Weesprout is about 40usd, Moby is about 45 usd, K’tan is about 50usd, etc) – the Keababies wrap cost about 24usd for the wrap + 8usd for the shipping/taxes coming to about 45usd/60sgd total.
When it comes and you take it out for a prewash, you might be horrified that it is basically all just one long 4m long strip of cloth. “HOW COULD THIS STRIP OF CLOTH COST SO MUCH!” you might be railing, and well the answer is that it is in the weave and elasticity of the cloth, which most other cloths just do not have. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn how to tie the wrap but the stretchy wrap I have works perfectly for having a bit of give but also a lot of support for baby. I liked it so much that I got a second piece!
Tips for the stretchy wrap: don’t bunch it up at the back or overtighten it on yourself or else it is hard to sit down. Wrap it up with the fabric as straight as possible! And it kinda works with friction and will magically stay up with baby anyway without you having to tie it to the point of suffocating yourself.
7. Learn how to use structured carrier
We have a pre-loved Ergobaby carrier that was handed down from my colleagues Mei Leng and Soren and this proved to be even easier to put on than the stretchy wrap… although less snug – with the stretchy wrap you really feel like one with your baby, whilst with the Ergobaby carrer you feel like you’ve put on a tactical babywearing vest and now you are going out for a mission….
(speaking of tactical, I became addicted to looking up “tactical gear” on internet shopping sites. There is just so much of it. Yes, tactical as a keyword is a thing. TACTICAL!!!! What does it even mean. And who is buying these “tactical” MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) bullet rounds wallets online anyway? DO NATO ARMED FORCES GO ON LAZADA/QOO10/TAOBAO TO BUY EXTRA MOLLE EQUIPMENT? WHO IS THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE?? HUHH??)
8. Learn how to use breastpump
I plan on returning to full-time work by December so that means that I will need to set up a pumping routine and Beano would be fed my expressed breastmilk during the daytime when I am at work. From Week 3 onwards I started pumping and trying to steal a bit of milk from present-day Beano to feed future Beano and personally speaking I don’t think I’d be considered an oversupply mom despite starting early. It was hard at first because the amount I pumped was a measly 5ml at the start but now it has gone up to 50-190ml per session (even whilst exclusively breastfeeding).
The powerpumping really works (20 min pumping, 10 min rest, 10 minute pumping, 10 min rest, 10 minute pumping) but I’ve found that it consumes so much time that it becomes stressful and I lose out on sleep as a result. So I only do it when I really need to.
Currently I have 2 breastpumps – one is the Cimilre F1 Double Electric Breast Pump (S$159 from Pupsik Studios) and the other is the Real Bubee (S$25.50 from Lazada). It seems that a lot of people go for the Spectra or the Medela pumps which go for an eye-watering 300-400 SGD, but having used the Cimilre I don’t think you need to get a more expensive one to get results though. Obviously it needs to be a proper pump, but after that it is also diet, relaxation, and scheduling that determines the milk output.
Cimilre F1 – hospital grade, portable, very light, lighted timer, 2 distinct modes
The Cimilre is a lightweight portable hospital grade pump which seems to be very similar to the Spectra ones and has all the features – closed system, a timer, medela compatible parts. I use it together with the Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra (S$44.90 from Pupsik Studios). The Cimilre’s pumping action is quite solid and can be quite strong so for me I rather use about power 4 instead of the default 5 which can feel like it is about to crush your poor nipples.
Real Bubee – USB powered, portable, no timer, basically only one mode
The Real Bubee is an even more lightweight pump that must be charged by USB when in use (it can plug into your computer or a power bank) and its sucking action is a bit more frenetic. Despite costing a fraction of what the Cimilre and the other branded pumps cost, I think it does a great job and I’m hoping to use the lightweight Bubee at work… We’ll see how that goes!….
Naturebond – Milkcatcher. A cheaper alternative to the Haakaa.
Another essential is the Haakaa (S$29.90 on Pupsik) or one of the cheaper versions of it such as Naturebond (S$11.90 on Qoo10). I have 2 Naturebond ones. This is a milk catcher which saves drops of milk from your other boob during the letdown.
NEXT UP: I’m also going to try out the korean handsfree Imani pump… waiting for that to come. It might be extravagant to have so many of these pumps about – but I feel that anything that will help me in the breastfeeding journey when I go back to work is worth it for Beano!
It also became necessary to set up a kind of pumping station where the bottles, pump parts, and other valves could live (and dry off when not in use) so here is what it looks like:
Hegen bottles (for the slow teat), Philip Avent Storage Bottles (cheap and plentiful and has adaptor to use straight with breastpump flanges), and Tommee Tippee steam sterilizer with two bread bins (Redmart) that have been repurposed as bottle storage.
Mother’s Milk: Last but not least, a galactagogue tea which helps in milk production!
9. Learn how to use car seat
We got the Cybex Aton 5 Infant Car Seat (S$239), to be used with the carseat attachment (S$49) to add on to the GB Pockit+ (S$269) – all from Mothercare during the Great Singapore Sale. Yes, these cost quite a bit and these were some of the largest purchases we made for baby. We used it for carrying baby home, especially because I had been told that you wouldn’t be allowed to take a Grab without one, but the setup is almost too heavy for me and my bad wrists to handle. Weirdly, I learnt 2 months later that the requirement of car seat for baby does not extend to standard taxis… ¯_(ツ)_/¯
10. Learn how to use stroller
We have a GB Pockit+ Plus which was $269 from Mothercare. We don’t really use this much after all, as I prefer using the carriers and keeping baby close. Perhaps we will get more use out of this when Beano gets too heavy to carry. We only did one major outing to Newton Food Centre with it…
11. Figure out how to breastfeed baby and still do some other stuff simultaneously
Now this one seems too easy at this point (10 weeks in) but in the first few days it was quite hard. All I can say is that you have to accept that baby will want to nurse basically ALL DAY LONG and if you haven’t got a system for letting baby feed on you whilst your hands are free then you will feel trapped. For the first few weeks I struggled with the breastfeeding but over time we made a few adaptations that made life better.
A good nursing pillow such as the MY BREST FRIEND is essential, and if you are planning on sitting on the sofa or some other armchair, get a rolling laptop table!!!
Then when you are familiarised with the setup, you can do anything from eat food and even do blockprinting.
12. Figure out a Cloth Diaper Routine
Speaking to others, I know some felt that doing cloth diapers would be a lot of work and adding complexity to the first few months of motherhood, but I was very pleased that my mother was very supportive of cloth diapers as she had done the old fashioned cloth diapers when I was a baby and she was very keen on helping me with the modern pocket diapers I planned to get.
Beano has worn cloth diapers pretty much since she returned from the hospital. I started with a set of 24 Moo Moo Kow diapers which came with 2 inserts each (S$390 for 24 / S$16.25 per diaper). The inserts are placed inside the pocket diaper (not outside because they are so absorbent that they might dehydrate baby’s bottom too much). We wash them every other day and we use a diaper sprayer (the “bidet” in the HDB toilet) to spray off the large gunk and then the rest goes into the machine. We use the “babycare” setting on the washing machine but often turn it down to 40 degrees as the washing instructions on MMK diapers is for it to be colder not hotter. Sunning the diapers and inserts also help remove any yellow staining on the diapers. She began with one insert but by about 2 months 20 days she had upgraded to two inserts, and I’m also using more charcoal inserts (as they seem more resistant to staining) and hemp inserts (which are more absorbent at nights).
The average disposable diaper costs about S$0.25 – S$0.30 per unit. If baby uses about 6-7 a day, that’s approximately S$50-60 a month, plus the environmental cost of disposables. On the other hand, good cloth diapers do cost quite a lot, and the market is flooded with a lot of cheap china made ones that are very thin and basically have no form and weak gussets. So I decided the only way was to buy something with a proper name to it. In Singapore, the popular brands seem to be Moo Moo Kow, Charlie Banana, Bambino Mio, and Bumwear and these are all usually about $30 or more. The only way I got the MMK diapers at a lower price was to buy them in bulk of 24. Willow & Sage is about $16. Happy Flute appears to have shut down. I think the price point that I can accept is $16ish, so this reflects what I’ve purchased.
[Tip: It also seems that if you are not too picky about colours and prints and will accept solid colours regardless of ‘gendered colours’ then this is the most cost efficient way to get your pocket diapers! Although on hindsight the many shades of blue diapers may be why everyone keeps congratulating me on my baby boy… EVEN THE GYNAE WHO DELIVERED THE BABY ADDRESSED HER AS A HIM AT THE FIRST CHECKUP]
Over time I realised that I’d like to wash it every 2 days rather than every other day, so I tried some more cheaper diaper covers to bring my total stash to 45. I tried a Willow & Sage charcoal bamboo with double gussets and 1 charcoal insert for S$16.90 (from the willow & sage store on lazada) which I think is very value for money but not as soft on baby’s bum as Moo Moo Kow. Then I also tried alvababy (via alvababy.com), simfamily (via lazada), and elinfant (via lazada). Alvababy came with inserts which seem decent enough, and the Elinfant ones are charcoal but the charcoal is kinda a weird shade of warn brown. These seem pretty similar and seem to do the job but I don’t think they will hold up to repeated washing as the MMK ones will, so we’ll be washing it only once a week at 40 deg C and more often at 30 deg C, lest all of the elastic disintegrates on these new china cheapies.
13. Binge watch Netflix
Since my maternity leave started, I have watched the following non-exhaustive list of series in their entirety, frequently in one sitting: Steven Universe, Tuca & Bertie, Orange is the New Black, Working Moms, The Letdown, Derry Girls, Marcella, Dead to me, Hyperhardboiled Gourmet Report, Happy Jail, Pinky Malinky, Naked Director, Diagnosis, Tiny House Nation, Grand Designs, The Great Interior Design Challenge, Cabins in the wild, etc……..
14. Write out Birth Story
Forced myself to write out Beano’s Birth Story within 2 weeks of her birth.
15. Take photos of baby
Private google photos album set up for the grandparents!
16. Make baby handprints and footprints
There are kits online for cheap such as this one on Lazada (S$4.82) which consist of a thin inky film that you can push baby’s hand or foot through and press onto a paper without ever getting baby’s hand dirty.
17. Take baby to the park on a walk
Did you know that Fort Canning has escalators now??? Well we went on the escalators to the top… which wasn’t that far anyway, so I must confess it was easier to go to the park than expected….
Fort Canning by day, fort canning by NIGHT
18. Find and use a nursing room in the nearest mall
City Square Mall has the nursing room on the 2nd floor next to Decathalon. One day Beano wailed when I was out and about and I made a beeline for this room which I had scoped out on a previous visit. On arrival I realised the door was locked with a message outside saying I had to call in to request for it to be opened. There was an intercom button to press but Beano was just wailing and I couldn’t hear what the person was saying. Nevertheless I guess the person on the other side of the line totally understood (or must be fielding a ton of people with crying babies trying to get in) and the door to the nursing room popped open magically. After she had calmed down from her feed, I was able to arrange myself and Beano so I could continue to breastfeed her WHILST WALKING.
19. Make an effort to get dressed properly
Getting dressed properly? I snort. It turned out that what I needed was to have a nursing top that would give Beano quick access to the boob without all that excess fabric flapping about. This meant that…. all of my clothing didn’t work. This was when a bunch of tops that a colleague had passed to me suddenly made sense. Previously I was confused about the flappy holes in them but now these made a lot more sense. I also tried buying a few cheap nursing tops from lazada and I tried both a horizontal slit and vertical slit. I found that I really liked the horizontal slits whereas the vertical slits did not seem to account for the fact that women’s boobs are all spaced differently. I decided to buy about 5 of these tops which were about 9-10SGD each and that’s all I’ve been wearing during my maternity leave! Ah… I like a good uniform….
20. Get out of the house everyday
Was too difficult to get out in the first month. Then my wrist flexion improved enough for me to handle things on my own and I got better with the carriers! Now leaving the house is no problem!
21. Organise a baby full moon
DID IT AT 6 WEEKS. CLOSE ENOUGH.
22. Go to a baby and mommy activity
I HAVEN’T DONE THIS YET. I DON’T HAVE ANY MOMMY GROUPS TO FRATERNISE WITH!!!
23. Breastfeed in public
Done it during our first outings to hospital and polyclinic and to ICA because I didn’t know to feed baby in advance before leaving. And now I’ve done it so many times its not stressful anymore, and the other day I even breastfed the baby in a TAXI. The only funny thing was that Beano was so noisy (not a perfect latch) so it was like SLURP SLURP SLURP SLURP. I wasn’t embarrassed about public breastfeeding or accidental boobslips, to be honest I was only a little chagrined that my baby was just so loud when eating.
24. Eat with baby in public
Done many many times now because obviously I wanna eat out like a normal human too. Just put a burp cloth over her head and eat, whilst trying not to spill HOT SOUP on your baby.
25. Change diaper in public
Done it several times now (even with my cloth diaper setup). EVEN AT A HAWKER CENTRE. Here’s a pic of a big poo. Look at that! I fed that baby entirely with my boob! And now she made a massive poo. I’m proud.
26. Visit Dingparents with baby
Beano got to meet my childhood toy, squirrel with rashes on his face. They got along splendidly.
27. Mail Southparents a card
I made little blockprinting stamps and used them for the envelope. AND I MADE THEM WHILST BREASTFEEDING. I did make an accidental gouge into my table though…
28. Write a baby blog
It’s been 5 weeks 1 day since I landed on Earth. Since my arrival, my mission has been mainly to feed for survival, and I am very very hungry indeed. I am fortunate to have acquired two humans who seem bound in servitude to me, although I confess that I don’t really know who they are.
Today, I awakened on my own in my darkened chamber just after midnight and decided that I fancied a midnight snack….
29. Make a baby scrapbook
I bought one of those self-adhesive albums from Lazada and a totally generic set of scrapbooking papers and BOOM! A day’s work (whilst breastfeeding!!!) and I had done a dozen pages.
30. Learn how to oil paint
31. Learn how to block print with linoleum
32. Make a resin casted ornament
Waiting for my resin kit to arrive in the post from China via slowpost…
33. Make cards for people
Did it using blockprinting!
34. Read or listen to a book every week
I got Audible, Blinkist and Headspace to listen to, but I don’t really seem to listen to any of them consistently. BAH HUMBUG. I did get a cheap pair of bluetooth earphones for $16.90 which were LIFECHANGING. Goodbye cables! (but not goodbye to the very essential cable connecting the two – I’m pretty sure if it did not have any cable connecting the two that I would instantly lose one of the earphones!
35. Knit/crochet a baby
I crocheted one baby sock. Stay tuned for the SECOND SOCK lol.
36. Do some embroidery and make an iron-on patch
Still in progress…
37. Update my website with 2019 works
I finally did it!
38. Make at least one new work
I’m working on a new piece which is the result of a conversation with a neuroscientist, tracing the path of fishes which have been alarmed by schreckstoff or “scary stuff”. Been experimenting with some very bendy EL wire and PMMA optical fiber… I’m using American spelling because all the shops which sell it spell it as FIBER and sometimes these sites aren’t so smart so if you type FIBRE they won’t come up in the search…
39. Update Family Website
Still in progress but started by scanning old photos each time I visit the Dinghaus.
Debbie as a baby!
40. Get a jamu massage
10 relaxing days with Mdm Zita from Traditional & Holistic Post-Natal Centre who helped soothe my aches and forced me to carve out some me-time in a day of non-stop breastfeeding.
41. Eat lots of deliveroo
I got Deliveroo Plus and I did use it a hella lot. There wasn’t an easy way to export the data but I found out that since 2 June 2019 (Start of maternity leave) to 29 Sept 2019 (last day of maternity leave) I’ve done a scandalous grand total of…
42. Drink a beer
My first beer in more than 9 months was a bottle of Little Creatures. I waited over 2 hours after that before I pumped milk and fed Beano again. I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! But unfortunately I also could not help worrying it would hurt my milk supply so I don’t think I’ll be doing it again any time soon until my breastfeeding stabilises!
43. Make awesome compilation video of Beano’s first few months
There’s a 50 min version of the Beano “FROM BIRTH TO 3 MONTHS” video but I won’t bore you all with it unless YOU WISH TO SEE IT.
44. Bring Baby to a swimming lesson
I found out that most places are for 4-6 month old babies. Beano is still too small to go for swim class. Check back in a few months!
Jalan Besar Swimming Pool – one day we’ll go there!
45. Label Beano’s things for daycare
I ordered labels from Brightstarkids so I could label all of Beano’s stuff once she starts going to infantcare at 6 months. I looked at a few other places but I wasn’t big on them so I went with the slightly more expensive Brightstarkids.
46. Figure out how to use less disposables and more reusables
Since I got cloth diapers for Beano, it figures that I should do the same for myself. So I got organic cotton handkerchiefs, reusable cotton pads for cleaning face, and reusable pads.
47. Pack diaper bag and make checklist for returning to work
Diaper bag and Packit for cold transfer of milk!! The Packit is a bag you put into the freezer in its entirety and it stays cold for the whole day if you minimise the number of times you open it.
48. Freezer Stash
I have stored 10 full feeds (10x150ml) at this point, which was quite hard to do and mainly done through waking up in the middle of night to pump for hours. It was hard. Now i have dropped the middle of the night pumping and my sleep deprivation has reduced tenfold!!!! I’ve also got a small fridge which I verified was able to keep a temp that is 20 deg C lower than ambient – to keep the milk cool in the office as I pump it…
49. Write epic blog post(s) about my 50 things to do on maternity leave
50. Enjoy my time with baby
I’m still getting to know Beano!