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Advice for Expectant Parents

Ok, listen up parents-to-be. Here’s the blog you will want to print out and put up on your refrigerator.

I’m not going to tell you all the stuff to buy for baby, or how to pick an OB, or epidural vs. natural childbirth. There are tons of books already written about that stuff, and frankly, it’s not as important as what we’re going to talk about today. Well, ok, so it is, but this is important too.

I’m going to give you a list to get you started on After Baby Comes. Yep, these fun nine months of pregnancy, preparation, and progesterone-induced puking will come to an end and when they do, you’ll be too sleep-deprived to get cracking on staying ahead of the Parent Curve. So read on, and get going.

When I was still in my first trimester I asked my OB if there were any particular books she’d recommend on childbirth; I told her I wanted to read up and be prepared. She snorted and replied, “There are lots of books about childbirth out there; pick one that sounds good to you. But if you’re really wise, you’ll leave the studying up on childbirth to me and you’ll use your reading time for parenting books. Why is it so many moms devour all these pregnancy books, then have no clue what to do when the baby’s here?”

Which made me realize that, for as much as I was immersing myself in the pregnancy and birth, the whole parenting afterwards thing deserved a little time as well. So here’s what I found to be useful “advance work”.

Study up on nursing The vast majority of women go into childbirth planning on nursing their babies, at least for a while. There’s nothing you can do to really prepare for those first frenzied few feedings when you’re both trying to get to know each other and you have no idea if you’re doing it right. But 2 a.m. on Day 3 of baby’s life is not the time to try to read up on nursing positions and proper latch technique. Save yourself a lot of strain, and at least skim the nursing sections of your pregnancy books. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a great book by the La Leche League; it can feel a bit too pressuring on the whole breastfeeding issue, but it's got great practical advice and pictures as well. Study the pictures and try to absorb the latching tips so it won’t be so scary in the beginning. Try to practice a few different nursing holds with a doll or even a pillow. You’ll feel stupid, but not as stupid as a nurse may make you feel, sighing impatiently as you fumble with your newborn. There’s a lot to juggle – the whole floppy head thing, the boppy, the umbilical cord, etc. Ask your OB or future pediatrician for a lactation consultant reference so you’ve got the number handy if you ever need it.

Pick a pediatrician Yes, now. Read my two blogs (first  and second) on that topic for more info.

Discuss birth control Yep, it seems a bit like shutting the barn door now, but you know what I mean. The famous six-week post-partum checkup will be upon you before you know it, and you’ll be too tired to remember to ask your OB about going on the pill and your husband will be too busy checking off dates on the calendar to remember to buy protection, and . . . suddenly you’ve got two kids ten months apart. You can get pregnant even while breastfeeding and people often do. You can also be on the pill while breastfeeding, so talk to your spouse about your preferences and then talk to your OB.

Do some financial and legal housekeeping By this, I mean make a will naming a legal guardian. Get the paperwork for a college fund done now, so all you have to do after the birth is send in the social security number. Family members will give you money and it’s a good place to put it. If you don’t do it now, you won’t have time again until he’s in college. Also, review your finances and talk about what changes will need to be made to accommodate any permanent or temporary income changes.

Get a haircut A couple weeks before your due date, get a hair cut. And if you’re that kind of girl, get the eyebrow wax, the nails done, whatever. Lord knows you won’t have time or energy to see the inside of a salon for quite some time afterwards.

Sort out your birth announcements If you’re going to do birth announcements, try to get them ready before you lose all sense of night and day. Ideally, you’ll find a friend or family member (my dad and his wife did this chore for me) willing to head the project up. Pick out the announcement you’d like; we used Naptime Announcements and loved them; excellent service and great prices. Put together your mailing address database and turn it over with all the ordering info to your willing volunteer. The company I ordered from will even pre-address the envelopes if you’d like (for an extra fee, of course). Then after the baby’s born, simply email the vital stats and photo to your helper and forget about it.

Do some relationship investing Sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying: you’re not going to have as much time for each other after the baby comes. A new baby is a huge strain on a marriage and is a risk factor for divorce; 50% of marriages without kids end in divorce versus 70% of marriages with kids. So enjoy your time together now and wallow in your quiet time. You’ll also want to take advantage of friendships now, too, and not just because you want people to give you a hand when the baby’s born.

Decide on your nesting parameters Along the lines of working on your friendships, talk with your spouse about how you want to handle the first days and weeks after the baby comes. Brian and I decided we wanted a week of “just family”, and put a message on our machine to the effect of, “Please don’t feel hurt if we don’t call you back right away.” We also let people know we’d welcome visitors after that week, but needed a few days of not caring if we were in our pajamas 24/7.

Stock up the pantry If you’ve got a deep freezer, now’s the time to fill it. I cooked a bunch of casseroles and stocked up our dry pantry as well with easy-to-prepare meals like those “just add water” things. If friends have offered to help out with meals, find someone to organize that schedule for you so three friends don’t show up the same night.

Practice with the baby gear Give yourself a few tries at opening and closing the stroller. And most important, install the car seat within a couple weeks of your due date. Then practice taking the seat on and off the base. Remember, the hospital won’t let you go home without a car seat for your baby.

Read your parenting books Gotta do it. I’d encourage you to get a good all-around baby reference book like The Baby Book and try to read up on at least the first couple of months. I tried to read a month ahead during her first year, just so I’d know what to expect. The Baby Book is an excellent all-round reference book, whatever your position on attachment parenting may be. Baby 411 and Touchpoints  rounded out my general reference books, which I’d skim as needed while nursing. Earmark the passages in your parenting books about colic or infant fussiness, since you’ll probably be frantically looking for it at 2 a.m. Read through The Happiest Baby On The Block before the baby comes, so you’ve got a fighting chance at calming a newborn. Ask friends whose parenting styles you admire which books were most helpful and see what you’d be comfortable with.

You’ve got a lot of decisions to make about what sort of parents you’ll be, and tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of getting ready for baby – fighting with your spouse.

I mean, discussing parenting issues with your spouse.


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