Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unsolicited Advice for New Moms

An acquaintance I know from work is about to have her first baby. I sat down to email her a couple bits of advice and ending up saying quite a bit. I thought I might post it here for anyone else who's about embark on this adventure.

• If you're planning to breastfeed and you have any problems at all, run do not walk to your nearest Pump Station (one on Wilshire in SM and one in Hollywood on Vine). They are superheroes and they will save you if you need saving.

• If you have any real questions about the baby's health, well-being or medical anything, almost every answer you could possibly hope for is in Dr. Sears' Baby Book. It was of great comfort to me in the early weeks, and still is, and I got rid of virtually every other baby guide, just because they got ignored in favor of Sears! I also like his breastfeeding book, but really, if you have any breastfeeding problems at all, go to one of the new mom breastfeeding support groups at the Pump Station. The first one is free and they rock.

• For the first few weeks, write down every pee, poo and feed. If you are like most new moms, you will not be able to remember anything for more than 20 seconds, much less 20 minutes. Having it all written down is a tremendous help.

• If you don't have one already, consider getting a sling, even just one of the really simple New Natives ones, which are great for newborns. Being able to have your hands free and/or go to the bathroom while keeping the baby calm and hopefully asleep is a tremendous relief.

• When the baby is ready to start "playing" in a couple weeks, the Winkel and the O-Ball are great for tiny little hands.

• Watch a swaddling video online now, because it's harder than you'd think, and newborns love it, so you will love it. YouTube has lots of good ones. Experiment with different blankets. The Swaddle Designs flannel blanket was our favorite, but every family and baby is different.

• If you're planning to breastfeed, set up your "nursing station" before the baby comes home. You'd think the nursery would be the priority, but most of your first weeks are consumed with feeding that kid and he won't be on his own in the nursery that often (sadly for your and your sleep schedule), so it's great if you have it all set up with a comfy chair, blanket, nursing pillow, shelf for snacks and water and the remote control or a book.

• If you're bottle feeding (either formula or expressed breastmilk), don't buy 100 of one kind of bottle right away. Buy one at a time, make sure baby likes and isn't choking on too-fast-flowing a nipple, and then if you find one you like, then invest in multiple bottles.

• Take a bunch of different outfits to the hospital. You never know how big or small the kid is going to turn out, and different clothes size in different ways.

• Take a baby nail clipper to the hospital in case he already has long nails when he's born. They scratch themselves and you just feel so bad.

• Regarding labor, I don't know what your birth plan is, but if I ever have a second kid, I'm going to take an electric heating pad with me to the hospital. They brought me disposable heat packs and did this microwaved blanket thing, but the heat always dissipated eventually and I wanted it back, because heat was the best thing (except for running water or a bathtub) for pain relief.

• You will know contractions when you feel them. You'll have little menstrual cramps in the days leading up to your due date, but when you feel your first real contraction, you'll go, "Oh. So that's what they were talking about." I can't quite explain the difference, but they are different. (IMHO.)

• Our birthing class lady said to bring little gifts for the nurses, just to butter them up, and I didn't do it to save money, but after having been through labor, I really wish I had. A good labor and delivery nurse is one of the greatest blessings you will ever have. Flip side: If you don't like your nurse, send your husband to the desk, and ask for her to be switched out for someone else. Do not worry about hurting her feelings or not being nice. You are about to go through the craziest thing a woman will ever go through, and you deserve to feel comfortable and supported.

• When you're at the hospital, don't be afraid to ask people to come back later. There's a constant revolving door of people coming to check on you, and you are entitled to some alone time with your new family, and with the exception of maybe the blood pressure checks or whatever, everything can wait a couple of hours!

• Take a million pictures and videos. It goes by in a flash. As they say, the days are long but the years are short. (I can't believe mine is already six months old and ready to crawl. He was just born!)

But mostly, good luck and HAVE FUN. It's the coolest thing you will ever do.

Now, fellow mamas (and papas!), what's your best piece of advice and/or default baby-shower present for new parents? Would love to hear from you!

RELATED POST: "Paper Versus Plastic," or Pre-Motherhood Presumptions Versus Motherhood Reality, Infant Toy Edition

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