Baby steps to Motherhood
Expecting a baby is such an exciting, yet life changing time and, especially if it’s your first child, things can become a bit overwhelming at some point. Internet is full of information, there are plenty of books & workshops on the subject, friends giving you advice after advice. And all this can make you feel more stressed than actually enjoying this time of your life.
So here I am, trying to make your life just a bit easier, sharing my personal experience as a new mom (who happened to have had her first born shortly after the pandemic hit).
Do not buy everything you think you might need, before your little one is in your arms. Just the essencial.
This is my number one advice. And not because of any superstitious believing, yet where I come from people use to say that nothing should be bought before the baby has arrived. Of course we all know it’s impossible nowadays, and each new mom wants to feel calm, knowing she has at home everything she might need, once she leaves the hospital with her new bundle of joy. But what exactly are you going to need and how much enough is actually enough?
Let’s start with clothes. Wait until your third-trimester ultrasound to buy clothes, as by then you will know approximately how your baby is developing in terms of size. Also, you will know if there is some kind of complication that might bring your baby to this world earlier than expected. For example, my baby girl Elana always appeared as a low percentile at the ultrasound and in the third trimester I had low levels of amniotic fluid. If things have continued this way, most likely I would have had a c-section earlier than planned. In this case scenario I might have needed a few smaller pairs of clothes at least for the first weeks. Thankfully, amniotic fluid levels went up and baby girl was born with a planned c-section and 38 weeks (she remain pelvic and didn’t turn around). Even though all clothes I’ve bought for her were huge at first, she outgrew them very quickly. Which leads me to another thing - babies grow up very very fast, so don’t buy too many clothes. Yes, there will be days you might have to change 3 or 4, or even more, pairs of clothes. But you can always buy more once you establish your daily routine. The worse part of the pandemic when it comes to online shopping is behind us, and currently all online shops are much more prepared then they were a year ago, so you can easily buy what you need during nap time without even leaving your house and have it delivered to your door a few days later. Last year, when I was first shopping baby stuff, I had to wait in some cases for a full month for the clothes to be delivered. And there were not many size options. I basically had to buy the sizes available at the moment.
Also, have in mind that many of your family members & friends might also choose clothes as a gift to your newborn.
Here are a few tips when shopping baby clothes:
check outlets and discount stores - apparently prices of baby clothes are not directly related to the amount of tissue used to make them, so they are not cheap. But sometimes discount stores and outlets offer brand new baby clothes, just from passed collections at very affordable prices
If possible, opt for kimono-style bodysuit/blouse. Babies hate when clothes pass through their head, specially newborns. So when possible, I highly recommend you to choose the kimono-style bodysuits. Plus, they are much more practical in case of poop blowout. You can find some affordable options at HM and Zara for example.
Always check the composition and opt for cotton
When it comes to shopping another goods related to the baby, my recommendation is to wait until you have at least a glimpse of a routine at home. I’ll give you a few examples:
A breastfeeding pillow. There are many options on the market, I personally bought the one from Ikea (fastest delivery at the time, plus was the most affordable). It's a great pillow and would have done a great job, but:
1. Baby girl was born in mid-June. Summer months in Portugal are very hot and heat makes babies sleepy. As a result she was constantly falling asleep while nursing. The pillow was making her even more comfortable to fall asleep, so I decided to not use it.
2. In order to keep baby awake, I had to try several nursing positions, and the one that worked best for us didn’t even allow the use of a pillow. So it stayed in a corner at home for several months (and it’s quite a big pillow). We only used it for less than a month, when Elana was around 5 months old and started attempting to seat. Then it was really helpful, though a few regular pillows would have done the job anyway.
So if it was me all over again, I would buy only if necessary after establishing breastfeeding and finding the best position for baby and myself.
Burping clothes. All babies need to be burped after eating. We all know that. And the image we all have in mind is baby burping on our shoulder. But this is not the only way you can burp a baby. We found it easier and more comfortable for us to burp her seated on our knees. And practically never used any of the dozens burping clothes I’ve bought.
Baby camera. For the first couple of weeks Elana slept her naps in the living room in a baby cot on the sofa to help her separate day and night. Also, let’s be honest, she was so tiny and cute, we wanted to check on her and watch her all the time. So at that time we didn’t need the baby camera and there were even times I was asking myself why did we even bought it. I mean, I have friends who never had a baby camera and happily raised their child without it. But, when Elana was 3-weeks old, we changed a bit her daily routine and she started napping in her bed in the bedroom as well. And at that time we finally started using the baby camera. At 6-month of age we moved her to her own bedroom, so this is an item I personally as a mom swear by. But this is us. You might want to do things your own way, and realize you don’t really it. So wait until you see what makes you more comfortable, as this is not a cheap item to just stay in the box.
I think you’ve got the idea, so I’m not going to continue with the list, even though I could, believe me. Soon, I will write a blog post with purchases I recommend from personal experience, based on the baby's age, so stay tuned.
Now, let’s move on to the next thing:
Something so natural, but so complicated at the same time. Breastfeeding was a challenge I wasn’t prepared for. I mean, I’ve heard it’s not the easiest thing, but honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so hard. After all, it all resumes to one simple thing - a good latch. But external factors as heat (as mentioned above) for example can make it even more tricky. And hormones doesn't come to help and you may feel so disappointed in yourself by not being able to feed your own child... I've been there. So the best advice I can give you, when it comes to breastfeeding, is prepare with a lot patience and ask for help. You may read a lot on the subject, but there’s nothing like a practical session with a breastfeeding specialist to help you on this. And show you some different techniques and positions to try. After many different acrobatic experiments, baby Elana was breastfed seated on my lap until she was 4 months old. Only then she was able to nurse laying on my lap without falling asleep. Yet, the position itself is not enough to keep baby awake. So you might need to constantly change sides and even positions to keep baby awake. At least during the first few months. Once breastfeeding is established you will easily recognise if baby is eating well by her breathing.
While we are here, let me go back to the shopping for just a second and talk a bit about nursing bras. Most likely during the first one or two months of your baby’s life you will not be leaving your house much. Yet, one or two nursing bras are always useful to have. Just have in mind that the size you will be needing once you give birth is not going to remain the same you will be needing 3 months later for instance. So once again, don’t buy too many.
*Tip: if you’re going to have a baby in the summer, use a bikini top instead of a bra. It’s elastic and not tight at all, and is very practical to just slide aside and baby’s food is served. Also, have in mind that with hormones and with your baby in your lap, you might be hot all the time, so as less clothes you have on, the more comfortable you will feel.
Last but not least, let’s talk about baby sleep.
This is what I felt the best prepared for when baby girl arrived, yet I was nowhere near a clear ideia what it takes for a baby to sleep well. I mean, I read some things about independent sleeping, but never really realized how hard it can be at times to make a baby to fall asleep. We are used to assume we all know how to sleep. But apparently, babies don’t. We were lucky I guess, as Elana has always been kind of a good sleeper. At 2 months of age she was already sleeping for around 6 hours straight at night. But things were not that easy at nap time. Around that same age (8-9 weeks) she started to nap for only around 15-20 minutes and waking up after that. This is also the time when babies start to discover their hands so it’s naturally to put their fingers into the mouth. Yet, I got “scared” she might suck her thumb and decided to start putting her to sleep while breastfeeding. Thankfully, it didn’t negatively affect the night time sleep. But it took away the independent sleeping I was so hoping to establish. I stick to this for around two months when I decided that it’s enough and exchanged the breast for the soother. I’ve secretly (or not so secretly) hoped that she would not use a soother, yet I gave in. The transition was soft and easy - for a couple of days only dad would put her to sleep giving her the soother and leaving the room. Now, we’ll see how we will deal with taking the soother in the future, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Currently, Elana falls asleep alone in the room, with just a lovey and a soother.
Going back for a second, only months later I found out the reason for those short naps that cost me so many nerves and tears - it’s at that time (around 8-9 weeks old) when babies start to loose the melatonin they’ve received from the mom and start produce their own. It’s a tricky phase but hopefully passes quickly. So, don’t repeat my mistake by giving in, and stick to your routine instead.
Here are some advices on nurturing your baby’s sleep:
Read a lot on the subject, as your baby’s sleep and awake needs will be constantly changing. Respecting awake time windows is key when it comes to good sleep (as a little help on that I recommend you to download the app Huckleberry and use their SweetSpot - it basically advices you when to put your baby to sleep depending on their age. Yet, don’t forget each baby is unique, so use this tool only as a guideline)
Make a plan and try your best to stick to it whenever possible. Good sleeping habits are gold.
Find a sleeping specialist in your area and follow them on social media. Check the advices they give, if they have a blog and follow along. Once you feel comfortable with their approach you will more easily trust them for a paid advice if needed with your child
Sign up for some free newsletters to receive on baby sleep sites (like littleones for example). This way you will be receiving emails that might prepare for you for what’s coming or even help you with an issue you never even thought you had. Once again - information is key.
I really hope I’ve been able to help you to prepare yourself for the arrival of your most precious bundle of joy. Enjoy every step of the way before meeting the most important person in your life and relax. Take time for yourself and go on date nights with your spouse, because during the first couple of months this will be a hard task to achieve. Despite of that, amazing times are ahead, and soon your arms and heart will be filled with unconditional love. Sound banal, I know. But is really true 🤍