A baby in the house

When a woman becomes pregnant in our culture, she's soon told of all the "stuff" that is required to buy for her baby-to-be.  It's inevitable, we're told, that our home will become a mess, cluttered with baby gear, toys, and all the necessities our new tiny human must need.  Swings, pack-and-plays, and wipes warmers are all seen as "musts" for this coming babe.

But I live in Uganda and although I certainly could have all that "stuff" if I wanted it, I have learned from Ugandan mothers that babies actually need very little and the "musts" are much fewer than my American consumer culture insists upon.  After all, raising a baby is a practice that is literally as old as humankind and most of these gadgets have only be introduced in our generation.  Raising a baby in Uganda has given me the gift of insight into the beauty of simplicity, but even I feel like I've overdone it sometimes.  In one example, we transformed our guest room into a room for the coming baby months before his arrival, complete with a crib (you must have a crib, right?).  But a separate room for a baby is nearly unheard of in Uganda and now I know why.  It truly is not a "must." Our crib remains practically untouched, since Leo continues to sleep between the two of us, so we mainly use his room for diaper changes and storing his clothes and toys, which still feels excessive sometimes.  Even so, I had fun decorating it!

I chose carefully what I would bring into our lives when Leo arrived.  I didn't want much, and what we did choose to add, I wanted to be beautiful and practical.  I dread clutter and love my home's aesthetic, so I wanted products that would add to the decor in my home.  I couldn't always find what I wanted, which is one reason I started my own small business called Baby Lionheart, which sources beautiful handmade baby products from Uganda, all made from natural and locally-sourced materials.  Like other products in my life, I also wanted to know where they came from, what they are made from, and who made them.

Below are photos of the products I have carefully chosen to have in Leo's life and in our home.

Bassinet stand made by a local carpenter and Moses basket woven in western Uganda.  Both are available at Baby Lionheart.
Sheepskin rug from Ecowool.

Moses basket woven in western Uganda and swaddle blanket handwoven from Ugandan cotton.  Both are available at Baby Lionheart.
Sheepskin rug from Ecowool.

Toy baskets bought locally. Wooden blocks from Baby Lionheart.  Wooden puzzle from Manzanita Kids.

Activity gym handmade in Uganda, available at Baby Lionheart.  Sheepskin from Ecowool.

Crib, changing table, and rocking chair all made locally and bought second-hand.  Mudcloth wall hanging from  Mazmoon's Treasures.   Rug bought on a  trip to Jordan.

Crib, changing table, and rocking chair all made locally and bought second-hand.  Mudcloth wall hanging from Mazmoon's Treasures.  Rug bought on a trip to Jordan.

Diaper basket woven in Uganda from palm leaves.  Pure shea butter made in Uganda and available at Baby Lionheart.

Mudcloth wall hanging imported from West Africa by Mazmoon's Treasures.

Lion photo from Sherry McKelvie Wildlife Photography.  Stool hand-carved in DR Congo.

Mobile made in Uganda, bought at Banana Boat.

Quilt made by my second cousin.  Stuffed animals gifts from Leo's 2 aunts.

Photo by Sherry McKelvie Wildlife Photography.  Caricature drawing by local artist Johnmary Mukisa.  Basket from Rwanda.

Geometric toy cars and stuffed bunny from Baby Lionheart.  Bird stacking blocks from Manzanita Kids.  Other toy cars handmade and bought on my trip to Vermont.

Beads given to me by women at my birthing blessingway. Basket made locally.  Stuffed monkey was Eric's when he was a baby.

Carved pregnant belly handmade in DR Congo.

My very favorite baby products

Entering parenthood can be overwhelming on its own, but now new parents are bombarded with trying to figure out which gadgets to buy and what baby gear they need.  I've tried to stick with a minimalist approach to parenting, acquiring only things I absolutely love or know I truly need.  Here are a few of those baby items I adore and couldn't have done without these last 5 months.

Books: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

This book was my bible during the first month of breastfeeding and has continued to be useful up to today.  Published by the worldwide organization, La Leche League, it's a god-send to new mothers, helping to normalize different breastfeeding struggles, encouraging you to trust your intuition, and gently guide you in bonding with your baby.  Even beyond this book, La Leche League is an invaluable resource to help with breastfeeding.  They have volunteers around the world to help guide you with any troubles or concerns you might have and I found they are so happy to help in any way they can!


The Tao of Motherhood

I keep this small book by my bedside and read a small excerpt from it a few times each week.  Every short chapter brings parenthood back to the essentials, back to simple guiding values on the days when I might worry I'm doing something wrong or when I become overwhelmed by it all.  It taps into deeper truths that I might tend to forget and it has helped me to trust myself and the unique relationship with my child.

Diaper bag: Moop waxed canvas bag

A diaper bag is one of those musts and for something you carry around all day, every day, you want something of beauty and high-quality.  For a bonus, support a small business selling handmade bags - Moop is a Pittsburgh business selling waxed canvas bags.  I received The Porter as a gift from my registry.

Song: Lullaby by The Dixie Chicks

You think the Dixie Chicks are so '90s?  Check out their beautiful Lullaby and think again.  I am in love with this sweet song and I sing it to Leo weekly.  It's our song. Try singing it to your child without crying.  Try.

How long do you want to be loved?
Is forever enough? Is forever enough?

How long do you want to be loved?
Is forever enough ‘cause I’m never ever giving you up.
— Lullaby, The Dixie Chicks

Blankets: Embroidered knit cotton blanket

We were gifted this blanket by a friend when Leo was born.  As someone whose love language is gifts, this one touched me.  Embroidered with "lionheart," it's simple, beautiful, and meaningful, and the perfect blanket to wrap my little guy in.  I secretly hope it will become his attachment object.

Handwoven cotton swaddle blanket

It seems every mommy blog insisted that the swaddle blanket from Aden and Anais was a must.  I bought a pack for myself, but then I came across a group of weavers in Uganda and had them make me my own swaddle blanket.  It's the same lightweight cotton and the design is stunning.  It's handwoven from Ugandan cotton and can be used to swaddle your baby, as a burp cloth, a sun cover, or to put under their bum during an on-the-go change.


Bottles: Pura stainless steel bottles

These Pura bottles are the only bottles we have used.  They are stainless steel and BPA free, but the best part is they grow with your child.  Switch out the nipple with a sippy top when they become old enough and then switch it out again with a straw.  Or even put a top on it and use it for snacks.  Versatile, safe, and eco-friendly.  This product checks so many boxes on what is important to me and Leo seems to like them, too.

Bassinet: Mugavu wood base with Moses basket and sheepskin

I found this Moses basket in a craft market in Uganda, which is hand-woven from palm leaves.  Later, I came across this design for a bassinet and we had a local carpenter make it from Uganda's mugavu wood.  It's been the perfect place to put Leo down for a nap so I can keep an eye on him while I do work at home.  I love how it adds to our home decor rather than contrast with our aesthetic.  I completed the set with a sheepskin, which we use all the time.  I can take it out of the bassinet and place on the floor wherever I am, providing Leo a comfy, soft place to practice tummy time and providing my home with another piece of beauty.