1. Look into cord blood donation. The blood in the umbilical cord contains stem cells, which can be used to treat many conditions, including cancer. You can bank your cord blood privately, so that only someone in your family can use it, but I decided to donate cord blood to a public bank. I’d rather be sure that someone somewhere gets to use it and has a new chance at life, rather than pay for it to sit unused, possibly (hopefully) forever. It’s free, but in some states, you need to pass a screening before 36 weeks, so as I discovered, you do have to plan ahead!
2. Book your newborn photographer during your 2nd trimester. Somehow, the fact that I would want newborn photos completely slipped my mind until a few weeks before my due date. Guess what – it’s really hard to get the photographer you want on short notice! Thankfully, it worked out, although we ended up taking pictures on the hottest day of the year!
3. Get a free breast pump. Because of the Affordable Care Act, your insurance might provide you with a hospital grade breast pump for free. So don’t worry about adding one to your baby registry right away – call your insurance company first and find out what they offer. It’s worth the 40 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back while you’re on hold. Maybe.
4. Take a breastfeeding class. I actually registered for a class at the hospital, and then wrote the date down wrong, and missed it by a month. #PregnancyBrain. I highly recommend you look into it, because as I learned, it’s not always as “natural” as you might expect.
5. Open your product boxes. Insider tip: Open the boppy pillow, and any breastfeeding product packages once you get them from your baby shower. I didn’t open things until I needed them, and when I did, I found lots of coupons inside that I wished I’d had earlier.
6. It’s really hard to trust your intuition as a new mom. Especially when experienced moms, nurses, and even doctors are telling you everything is fine, you’ll get used to it, or he’ll grow out if it in two months. But listen – your mom-tuition doesn’t lie! You’re the one who’s with your baby 24/7, so if something is bugging you and just doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. You have to be your baby’s advocate, so even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it’s worth looking like that typical new mom, if there’s a chance you’re right.
7. After two weeks, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Even if someone told you it’s normal, or it’s just because you’re fair-skinned – DON’T BELIEVE THEM. Google a lactation consultant near you, they know their stuff and even if they can’t fix the problem, they can at least put your mind at ease.
And listen, it’s probably not you. I know right now, if feels like it’s all your fault and you’re just a failure as a mother, but trust me, that’s just the postpartum hormones talking. Tongue-ties and lip-ties are common, and even more commonly missed by doctors and nurses, so get a second opinion.
8. Know your after-hour pediatrician and OB phone numbers. Hopefully, you won’t need them.
9. Get a good nipple cream. I didn’t know, but women who use only lanolin have triple the number of infections, per my lactation consultant. Use a cream with some natural antibiotics in it, like Motherlove, or my favorite, Earth Mama Angel Baby. This tiny tub lasts forevvvvver, and it smells good enough to eat. Makes great chapstick too.
10. Doing nothing and letting people take care of you is really hard. But healing from giving birth is hard too, and you really do need to just sit and do nothing. I had a difficult time with that, because I knew other people couldn’t do things the way I would (#ControlIssues?). And it was hard to ask someone to get something for me that was just a few steps away…but when you get it for yourself eight times a day, those few steps add up. Those of you who have experienced bedrest – I salute you. But guess what happens when you give in to your control freak nature and you overdo it: you get mastitis. Twice.
11. Postpartum feelings are REAL. Do your research so when you start thinking you’re going crazy, you’ll remember that actually, it’s just your hormones talking. I was surprised by the anxiety, how sucky the blues felt, and how struggling with breastfeeding really messed with my head. Feel all the feelings, cry it out in the shower, and then talk to someone else about it. You will feel better, one day at a time.
13. Sleep deprivation is REAL. And it will make you do funny things. Like the time I sent a text message to Brian: “My nipple cracked open and is bleeding again… it just never gets better,” except it wasn’t to Brian… it was to the photographer. Awkward.
Or the time you put all the return address labels where the stamps go on the birth announcements. That might have happened.
14. Read everything twice, maybe three times. Even then, you’ll still forget what you just read.
15. Gift-giving is apparently the love language of my friends and family. Everything from homemade quilts to baby clothes and gear galore has been lavished on us. I don’t even send birthday cards. If Facebook didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t know when anyone’s birthday was. I feel very undeserving, and in awe of everyone’s generosity, and it truly motivates me to do better.
16. Postpartum wardrobe: the struggle is real. Just like in the first trimester, there’s another awkward stage when you’re too big to fit in your regular clothes, too small to fit in your maternity clothes. The hair-tie through the jeans button-hole trick is your best friend again.
17. I completely understand yoga pants. I never got it before, but now I see the light. Your jeans are too tight, you’re having hot flashes from those pesky hormones, and you just want to get out of your pajamas, but into something stretchy and supportive. Yoga pants are the answer.
18. Always plan to leave an hour before you need to. Because here’s how it goes: by the time you feed them, change their diaper, change their onesie because they just spit up all over it, then get yourself dressed, do your make-up and hair, pack the diaper bag, and strap the baby into the car seat, they will be hungry again. So then you can take them back out of the car seat, feed him, change him again, strap him back in the seat, and finally arrive at your destination, you’ll only be a fashionable fifteen minutes late.
19. There’s only one rule when it comes to taking care of your baby. Seriously. No matter what advice you follow, someone will tell you the exact opposite. For example, don’t give your baby a pacifier until after four weeks because you’ll cause nipple confusion, but you have to give them one before four weeks, or they’ll never take one (real conversation with a nurse). Put your baby on a schedule so they feel secure, even if they have to cry it out when they’re hungry too early. Don’t let your baby cry it out, because if you don’t respond right away to their needs, then they’ll be insecure for life. This article on baby advice makes me laugh so hard I cry.
There are some rules, like don’t shake the baby, and don’t leave the baby in the car, but they really boil down to one: Keep the baby alive. By whatever means possible.
20. Finally, you’re doing it right. However you’re doing it – you’re doing it right, because it’s right for you and your baby and you know it. And even it feels like you’re blundering your way through every day figuring things out as you go, you’re doing a great job.