1. Use a nurse midwife if you can. They tend to be in less of a rush to intervene with Pitocin (a drug that is intended to make labor progress faster but sometimes only makes the contractions stronger and hurt more) or to suggest a C-section. Because there are usually fewer of them, you can do prenatal care with all of them, making it likely one of them will actually be the one delivering your baby.
2. Get a recent copy of Baby Bargains. This lists great suggestions for what gear you really need to get, what stuff you really need to buy new, and where to get great deals.
3. Consider hiring a birth doula. My friend assumed the nurses would take care of her while she labored, but they have multiple patients to check on, and they’re out of the room most of the time. Birth doulas assist the birth parents before, during, and just after birth. They can liaison with hospital staff to stay as close as possible to your birth plan.
4. If you’re thinking of breastfeeding, check out your local La Leche League group before you give birth. I started attending group meetings when I was about five months pregnant. I met other mothers who shared their experience and were a great resource after my son was born. Breastfeeding is not natural, in my experience, it’s a skill like any other, except that both mother and baby need to learn. This can also be a good place to meet other moms you can stay in touch with after your baby is born.
5. Or schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant after your baby is born. My second pregnancy was very complicated, so I didn’t go to La Leche League. I was having trouble breastfeeding though, and had a great experience with the lactation consultant who explained why my daughter couldn’t nurse from me. She noticed when no one else had, that my daughter was tongue-tied. She also explained that my daughter and I had a “fit problem”: basically that her mouth was too small and my nipples were too big. It was disappointing, but ultimately I did manage to breastfeed after most of my milk went away, and I breastfed Kaylee until she weaned herself at 10 months old.
6. Use a playpen instead of a crib. Zach’s crib was recalled, so we just used a Graco Playard for Kaylee. It didn’t have any rails for her to get her arms or legs stuck through so we didn’t need crib bumpers. You can also use it as a playpen during the day, moving it from room to room so you can get stuff done while keeping your baby close and contained.
7. Consider letting your baby sleep on his tummy. I know everyone says to make them sleep on their back, and that’s great advice when they’re newborns, but after a few months, it can be worth trying to have them sleep on their tummies. You’re probably going to be checking on them every few minutes anyway. Once babies can roll over on their own, they’ll usually roll onto their tummies. It’s more comfortable, can help ease gas pain, and they can suck on their fingers more easily. NOTE: I would only suggest this for babies who have no health risks. I would never do this with a baby who was born premature or a baby with breathing problems.
8. Keep the wet wipe dispenser upside-down when not in use. I don’t remember where I read this, but it’s great advice. The moisture drains downward so that when you flip the container upright, the top wipe is still moist. If you don’t do this, the top wipe may be dry, making it useless for cleaning your baby.
9. Get a few baby carriers. Babies love to be held, and if you wear them, you can still have your hands free. We had three baby carriers: a ring sling for me when the kids were less than six months old, a Baby Bjorn for my husband to wear the kids, and an Ergo which I used to carry the kids on my back from when they were six months old until three years old.
10. Find other moms who live near you and have babies around the same age. When Zach was only six weeks old, I joined a mommy group, and they were incredibly helpful as support, as teachers, and have become really close friends. It helps to talk to other moms who have kids going through the same stages of development as your baby. Many hospitals have new mommy groups. There are groups on Meetup.com. A few of the best places to meet local moms are the local parks and coffee shops.
What suggestions do you have for new parents?