With my first baby, I did everything I was “supposed to” do before she arrived. I spent hours in her room admiring her nursery that was completed and ready to go before thirty weeks. I had researched every breast pump, every swing, every bouncer, everything. I owned four different types of carriers before she was even born so I could have a backup for my backup, for my backup. I told myself that I was ready to have my baby because there is not one single thing that I would need when she came home.
Six beautiful years later, my perspective has changed about what a baby really needs and how you can prepare for bringing your baby home. Check out these 5 tips:
Set up your support network
We hear all the time that we need to engage in self-care as a mom, but its important to realize that self-care is not always day trips to the spa or luxurious vacations. Self-care can be going for a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, or having someone cuddle with your baby for an hour so you can rest by yourself in a room. I don’t know very many mothers who don’t remember the exhaustion of being a brand new mom, and most will happily offer to help in any way they can when a new baby comes home. Allow them to help you. Women are not meant to do this on their own. One suggestion that I talk to all prenatal moms about is having your support lined up for when you come home. Ask a few different friends to come for an hour, every day for a few weeks. If you don’t need them, let them know the day before. But if you need them it will be really helpful to have someone booked in to visit you already.
With my first baby, I had 3 baby showers. It was excessive but she was the first baby and so many people wanted to celebrate. What I learned from this was that you are given so many clothes, tiny little shoes, sweet headbands and bows— all of which are beautiful and useful for the few times they are work (newborns grow fast….). If you have specific items that you want, but maybe can’t spend the money on, ask your family is they could buy it together as a gift. Otherwise, buy used! Like mentioned above, newborns grow fast! This means that you can get great deals on so many used baby items and most of the time they’re barely used. If you’re worried that other people’s kids have pooped on that clothing, wash it in hot water with a disinfectant cleaner before your baby also poops on that piece of clothing. Babies don’t mind that someone else has been in the ergonomic bath tub before them. Save money when you can, mamas!
Take a prenatal class
I am the first person to admit that I thought I knew everything. My husband and I didn’t want to spend our evenings at a prenatal class playing games with other couples, so we decided not to take this. Six years later, I truly regret not taking a formal class to prepare me for motherhood.
Prenatal classes are about so much more than the games and interactions with other parents. They help you understand what is physically happening to your body and mind when you are delivering a baby. The class will also prepare your partner for this, which even if he says he “is totally down with”, allowing him to be an involved participant in the birth of your baby is worth the time in a class. Pain is scary and having knowledge about how to control your pain during labour can prevent birth trauma and anxiety after birth. Most importantly, a good prenatal class will talk about what to do when your baby comes home. How often to feed baby, how to change a diaper, how to swaddle, when to take baby to a doctor and what kind of feelings are normal for you to experience after birth are all part of The Mama Coach curriculum in our prenatal classes.
Take more pictures of yourself with your baby
Dads, you get a lot of airtime. Every time a dad cuddles with his newborn mom grabs the camera and naps a shot because we want to remember all of those good feelings. I can’t even remember how many times I told my husband not to take photos of me because I looked tired, or my hair was messy, or I wasn’t wearing makeup. There were so many great photos that I wish I had now, because six years later it is less important to me that I looked tired, and more important that I remember the baby snuggles. Ask family members to take photos when you are doing ordinary activities, like burping baby or feeding baby. Ask dad to take a photo when he looks over and smiles because he loves his family. You can always delete the photo in 20 years if you still think the shot was unflattering, but you are more likely to be thankful for the memories.
Don’t put yourself in nap jail
When baby arrives, it is very common to feel like you need to stay home for all naps during the day. While it is true that consistency is important, so is your mental health. Staying home by yourself can increase isolation and feelings of loneliness for a new mom (and let’s face it, these days can be lonely enough). Getting out of the house is essential for some moms, so be mindful of this for naps. The Mama Coach recommends trying for one nap per day when baby is starting to be on a three-nap schedule, around 12 weeks old. Try for the morning nap at home in baby’s crib or bassinet, and then the rest of the naps can be on the go. The trick is to avoid 10-minute cat naps because baby will not be getting deep stages of sleep and will become overtired later in the afternoon. If you nap on the go, try to get a full 45-minute sleep cycle in.
There are endless blogs and Facebook groups, well meaning relatives and oversharing acquaintances in the mom-world who will try to tell you what’s best for your baby. As a general rule, it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you. If what you’re doing is working well, keep doing it. Babies need 1) love and 2) food. So as long as those two tasks are being completed every day, everything else can be catered by you, mama. You got this.