Here is some unsolicited advice that I have regarding being pregnant, having a baby and some other miscellaneous thoughts. These are some of the things I wish I would have known and prepared for, as well as some advice on products. Don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you disagree or choose to disregard any of these pieces of advice. There are enough judgmental people out there with their staunch opinions regarding being pregnant, labor, delivery and child rearing (be prepared for this and don’t be afraid to stand up to these people and defend your choices). I won’t add to their insanity!
BEFORE BABY (Pregnancy and Labor/Delivery)
- Read books and prepare for a baby just as often as you are reading about your pregnancy. You will definitely be following apps that track your pregnancy and you’ll read some books on this, but there are also some really good books to read about once that little person arrives. I wish I would have done more reading up on basic parenting and infant care. I’ve had lots of experience with babies, but that was in an auntie and babysitting capacity and that is much different than being squarely in the drivers seat. The Babywise book has a great first few chapters that give lots of advice simply on being a parent and good habits that set a foundation for the theories they lay out in the subsequent chapters. I read the book when Hugo was 5 weeks, I wish I would have read it when I was pregnant. It was such good information. I also liked Baby 411 which is also an excellent resource when you are wondering ANYTHING about your baby. Likely the Baby 411 book has the answer so it is a good resource to have handy for a long time.
- Exercise your shoulders and back if you don’t already work out. Holding a baby is a new position using all new back muscles for me. I had a giant uncomfortable knot in my back when I would hold them in those first few months. The majority of the problem is that you are hunching over looking at the baby when you are feeding, especially breast feeding. Once baby comes, watch your posture and use as many support items like nursing pillows and regular pillows to prevent bad positions for you when trying to make baby comfortable.In my first two pregnancies, I walked, did yoga and did lots of at home stretching and I think it had a lot of benefits for me. However, I did have a serious amount of pelvic pain with my second and third and realized that lots of stretching and walking were actually causing more pain in the pelvic area. For my third, I took things much easier and had a lot less pain. Listen to your body. Things that were relieving and helpful before pregnancy may not provide the same benefits to your body as you expect.
- Splurge on these two things for yourself: maternity wear and pedicures. I know, many women refuse to buy maternity clothing, and many are lucky enough to have figures that allow their regular clothing to fit all 9 months. This wasn’t the case for me and the 8 tops and 3 bottoms I purchased were well worth it…plus now my sister is wearing them during her pregnancy so they will get use if you pay them forward. By my third pregnancy, I had many of the clothes I had given to friends and family returned, plus I bought a few more things and lets just say, I have a large pile that I am wondering what to do with-but I never had to squeeze uncomfortably into clothes that don’t fit and it made things much easier.And pedis, because eventually reaching your feet isn’t comfortable and it is a nice treat for yourself.
- Regarding labor. My take aways:
- Wait as long as you can on the IV because being in labor and hooked up to a machine isn’t fun. I didn’t have a choice because my water broke so I was induced. The 15 or so hours I was in labor was somewhat manageable but was a major pain because I was hooked up to an IV meaning I had to pee every hour so I had to disconnect all these wires that were attached to me. I was also hooked up to monitors to watch my contractions and Hugo’s heart plus my blood pressure. It didn’t make it easy to get up and move around and change positions to ease the labor pains. Even with these I bounced on the ball, sat on the couch and tried to be up and about. Once they inserted a catheter into my vagina to monitor the contractions internally, I stopped bouncing on the ball or moving around. I felt so stuck. It was one of 5 contraptions strapped somewhere on my body that tethered me to a machine. If you are in labor but not in need of drugs, don’t let them give you the IV until you are ready for drugs. This way you will be more free to move around your room until that time comes. Hopefully that early part of labor for you will be at home and you won’t be at the hospital hooked up to machines until your active labor begins.
- Water breaking isn’t a short one time thing. My water, or goopy yucky juice, continued to come out of me for several hours after getting to the hospital. Every time I moved, more would come out. I felt so gross! Nothing to do here, just be aware. It came as a surprise to me.
- If you live within 15 minutes or so from your hospital, don’t stress about forgetting something in your hospital bag, someone can go pick stuff up for you. Less is more. I made sure to have PJ’s, my phone charger, a water bottle with straw, an outfit to wear home for myself and Hugo, and a bag with my toiletries. I also threw stuff in there for Kris, some clothes and such. I had brought face wash and lotion plus toothpaste and toothbrush but didn’t bring shampoo, conditioner or body soap because I didn’t think that I’d be in the hospital long enough to need a shower. So I guess if you do want to be prepared, bring these things in case you end up with a C Section and are in the hospital a few days.
- Take pictures of you and your belly. I am glad I did! Even if they aren’t something you want to share on social (I didn’t), you may like seeing them later. I did it with Hugo but not with Cora and Esme. Once was enough for me 😉
If breastfeeding is a priority, get educated about it and make a plan. I didn’t. I never knew anyone who had issues with it so having trouble myself came as a surprise but it turns out, there are a lot of things that you can do wrong so knowing some basics at the start is good. There is so much emphasis on making a birth plan and that only lasts for a teeny amount of time relative to the time that follows once baby arrives. There are good Facebook groups out there that you could join and see what others are dealing with and what the community support is like. I am sure there are books out there too, I just didn’t read any so I don’t have advice there.
First, find out what the procedure is for supplemental nutrition your hospital. I was clueless about this even though I took all of the courses offered from the hospital (don’t worry, I wrote a letter after the fact saying that their curriculum needs to include this information). I didn’t know it was even an option. If supplementation is something that could possibly be offered to you by nursing staff, make a plan with your pediatrician. It is my understanding that some hospitals require approval from the pediatrician to give a baby a bottle of formula or breastmilk so if that is the case, that is great. That wasn’t the case for me. You may also get some good advice from your OB as well. My hospital had formula as well as donor breast milk available to supplement babies . When nursing staff offered it to me less than 24 hours after I delivered and before Hugo had made a good latch with my breast, I said yes when I should have said no. After discussing with my pediatrician and OB later on, they would have advised me to do the same (decline the bottle). Mother nature has made the odd decision for milk to come in a few days after delivery, not at delivery. However babies thrive all the time without donor milk and simply work at latching which stimulates production and within a few days, baby is getting excellent nutrition directly from mom. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me. I said yes. Hospitals have protocols they must follow. All of my kids did not latch at hospital, and their blood sugars were a little (not a lot, like…a TINY bit) low which meant they needed to get the baby fed or they could be at risk for seizure.
At my 6 week appointment when I was sharing with my OB that I decided to stop trying to make my milk come in by pumping all the time, she had a pretty real conversation with me. She said that back before the donor breast milk, the nurses were all avid supporters of breastfeeding and would literally shame mothers who wanted to either supplement with formula or not breastfeed entirely. While it bothers me that the nurses were judging decisions of mothers, at least in this scenario there was more focus on working with moms and babies and the latching as a priority instead of leaning on the option of the donor milk in the interim like they are now. In those early stages there is no difference between giving a baby a bottle of formula or a bottle of breast milk…a bottle is a bottle and it lets in tons of milk to the mouth without a lot of sucking. Once the baby has it this easy, they don’t want to work hard to get it off the breast and this causes delays in the latch, thus causing delays in milk arriving.
I had a few things working against me, but a bottle in Hugo’s mouth was the biggie. What were my other set backs? Having a C-section means that you are on the table for another half hour or so after the baby comes out, then you sit in recovery for another hour or so. They say that getting baby to latch within the first two hours is key and I missed out on this. Hugo had been taken to the nursery to be cleaned and also to sit under the warming light since his body temp was out of whack so I didn’t get him until about 4 hours after delivery (if memory serves). In our first hours together we didn’t have much luck in my first attempt to get him to latch. It was 3am on Monday morning and I had been awake since early Saturday morning. I am sad to say, breastfeeding wasn’t my high priority in this exhausted state. But maybe if I knew all of this, I would have made a bigger effort. I guess I thought that since the nurses weren’t concerned that a latch hadn’t come yet, I wasn’t concerned. I was following their lead as a first timer. Also, Hugo was tiny and moderately responsive at birth (Apgar score of 5–google if you don’t know what that is) so they were giving him all sorts of excuses for not latching and this is why they suggested the donor milk instead of really making him work for his first meal. If you do have a C section, you can ask for your baby to be brought to you while in the recovery room, but they wont offer so be sure to ask. I know I will, should I get the opportunity to again.
Without ragging on and on about my experience with breastfeeding, I just wanted to share my story because I think that the fact that I am not breastfeeding today was preventable. In fact, my doctor, who knew I had some pregnant friends said, “your job now is to be the advocate for others” so I am! I thought I was prepared for breastfeeding because I took the breastfeeding class at my hospital, but I wasn’t. Who knows, perhaps my body simply wasn’t going to produce whether we got a good latch established early or not, but honestly, I’ll never know until I try again. Chances are that if I had declined the donor milk, Hugo would have latched because he would have been hungry enough to do so, but the hospital never let him get hungry so it was a vicious downward spiral.
Last note on this topic I promise. My milk came in on day 7 so I stopped the bottles and switched completely to the breast using a nipple shield which he latched onto perfectly. Because he latched and stayed on for a while, I thought I was feeding him. By day 12, he wasn’t wetting diapers and wasn’t growing so I took him to the hospital’s lactation department and it turned out I was hardly producing any milk and was literally starving him. This was even more devastating than the decision I made two weeks later to stop milking myself with a pump on top of nursing him before bottle feeding him–essentially, giving up on breastfeeding because my milk supply never really fully established it self. Don’t let this happen to you.
THOSE FIRST DAYS AT HOME
1. Get some PJs that open in the front to lounge in at home when you are going to be breastfeeding or letting him enjoy your skin for the majority of the day. I got big so I didn’t have any size extra large jammies around so I ordered a few sets on Amazon.
2. Get some large panties. If you mostly wear thongs, you’ll need these because no matter how you deliver, you will have several weeks of bleeding and tampons are not allowed. For the first week I wore the disposable giant undies from the hospital (be sure to ask for a bunch before you go!!!) but after that I was a little stranded with the 3 or so pairs that I already had in my drawer. Plus, your regular size undies may not fit you depending on how much weight you gain. You also need giant maxi pads. I hate them.
3. Pain meds make you constipated. Ok, I am about to get graphic here. The morphine that I received after the C sec was a dose that lasted 24 hours. After that, I took oxycodone. Both are not easy on the bowel. I was taking stool softeners starting the day after I delivered and it took about 4 weeks for my poops to not be extremely large, painful and bloody. I was screaming out when on the toilet, it hurt so bad. I figure it is the closest thing I have to actually pushing a child out a small hole between my legs. I am not saying don’t take the pain meds, but I am saying do more than I did. The Colace is not enough, eat prunes, cherries, beet juice, anything to help your stools soften up so you aren’t having bowel movements that look like a large apple (not kidding!) causing you likely damage to your ole poop chute.
4. I sacrificed my recovery for visitors. I doubt there is much you can do here, because I couldn’t have either. I was excited for friends and family to meet Hugo, I wanted to see everyone I knew, but I also needed rest and needed to be working hard on skin to skin time along with breast feeding which is hard when someone is visiting your hospital room. This wont be as big of a deal if you do not have a c sec because you will be home sooner but I suppose the same is true while you are home those first few days. But for 3 days in the hospital, we had a parade of visitors which was exciting but also not the best for our progress.
In general, I’d say less is more. Only go for what you absolutely think you’ll need and let some stuff wait until after baby comes where you can decide if you need it and can go get it yourself or send a relative. Our registry was pretty small, about 30 items, and really only about 15 were really critical.
1. The swaddle blankets are totally worth it. I know they are like $40 for a pack of 3 or something like that, but do it! Hugo has a big startle reflex that causes his arms to fly up in the air that will literally wake him from a deep sleep or prevent him from getting to sleep. The swaddle sleep sacks are awesome too, especially for dad who might not have the baby burrito mastered.
- Have some sort of baby holder in each area you plan to spend significant time. For us that was the Kitchen, living room and our bedroom. In the kitchen we had a bouncy seat on the table, in our room we had a rock n play and in the living room we had another rock n play. This way, you can always lay the babe down for some sleep or a place to play while you are doing something.
- Rock N Play is apparently now a banned baby product so I don’t have something else to suggest except that it helps to have a little vessel to hold them in each area of the house. For us this was helpful because our house has a lot of stairs and moving things around isn’t that fun but maybe one bouncer chair or rolling bassinet would be good for you.
- BOB stroller is where it’s at if you plan to go for walks. It is easy to steer and to use, it’s just BIG!! If you don’t want to splurge for the BOB, still try to go for a 3-wheeled jogging stroller with inflated tires. I don’t jog (at least not now) but it is still worth it because it is a much smoother ride with those type of tires.
- Activity mat (the soft blanket with the arches above that have toys that dangle down for baby to look at and touch) is a lifesaver. Using the babywise sleep method requires something to keep baby awake and alert after feeding and this works every time. He loves to lay down and look at the stuff above him. This also is a good way for him to move around and get some exercise making him good and sleepy for his nap after his playtime. Holding him and walking him around is also a nice way to keep him happy and awake but it doesn’t get him his exercise.
- I have burp rags everywhere, all I use are those cloth diapers that nobody actually uses as diapers anymore. They are soft, rectangular and flat and are perfect to use for dabbing his mouth or soaking up a pile of spit up.
- I have NOT needed my wipe warmer, but we also aren’t in the cold months. If you are having a fall or winter baby, it could be worth it. We didn’t need it like I thought we would. Ask me again this winter, but something tells me he will be fine with a cold wipe by then.
- I don’t think I need to tell you to get blankets, they will come whether you ask for them or not. We use blankets all the time. It is 100 degrees outside and we still are using blankets inside because we keep the air conditioning on. We have small, large, think, thin and all are useful at home and on the go.
- A bathtub for the kitchen sink is helpful because you don’t have to bend over into the bathtub (remember what I said about an achy back?). I hate that we have this giant tub that doesn’t store well, but it is really a great alternative to using the real bathtub.
- Cloth diapers are great. We used Koala brand and found some great wet bags and installed sprayers on the toilets for easy clean up. The best soap is Tide Original Powder. None of that natural stuff if you want to get the poop and pee smell out! That’s what worked for us and we did it until they were about 2 or so. After that, their pees got too big for the cloth to hold and we figured we had paid our dues and switched over to disposable. And, baby #3 was entirely disposable because with 3 kids, somethings just had to give.
- Sleep and Play outfits are my favorite. They are the long sleeved, footie outfits that zip or snap. In fact, we didn’t start putting him in regular onesies until after he was about a month old because he always seemed so cold so these were a great alternative. The zip ones are fast and easy to put on and take off. Have plenty of those in each size.
- Don’t let getting your baby on a schedule take away from what is most important during your time at home. Enjoy the time with the baby, let him sleep on your chest, rock him, snuggle him, etc. You won’t have it like this again till the next one comes along. I almost let this happen and am glad I checked myself!! I realize there is a balance of both.
- Break some of those pregnancy eating habits.
- Take pics. Take videos. Spam your friends who have kids with them. We LOVE to see pics of your babies because we miss this time. I know not all mamas have a great maternity leave experience, but I loved every minute of mine. Such sweet, tender moments. Yes, I had some rough times, but I’ve literally blocked out the bad and revel in my memories of all the good parts whenever I see a new mama posting pics of her new babe.
- I love this stuff. Call me anytime when you’re having a moment. I’m here, we need community!