Here's a list of all the stuff pregnancy books probably won't tell you

August 5 | Guest post by Emily
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
By: 世書 名付CC BY 2.0
Recently several newly pregnant friends have asked me if I had any advice for them, which has given me occasion to think over all the things that have kept my partner and me going throughout my pregnancy and our first nine months of parenting. While pregnant, I read as many pregnancy and parenting books as I could get my hands on, and learned a lot, both about what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do.

But a lot of the most helpful ideas weren't in the books at all. They were things we figured out by trial and error (often weeks after they would first have been helpful), things we learned from other parents, or things we learned from frantic e-mails or phone calls to midwives, doulas, and doctors! As I was writing this advice up for my friends, I thought it would be fun to share it with the Offbeat Families community, and ask you to share what tips you think are most essential for new parents!

Of course the first, most important advice, is do what works for you. So if any of my thoughts seem helpful, great! If not, disregard them. We're in parenting for the long haul, so we all have to find ways of doing it that we enjoy and find sustainable, and that make sense to us.

Before getting pregnant

Take a photo: I didn't do this, but I wish I had. Take a photo of yourself naked before you get pregnant. Your body will change so much, that you won't even be able to remember what it was like before. I really have no idea what I used to look like, and I wish I did!

Dealing with uncertainty: I kept hearing from people that you shouldn't have a kid unless you're absolutely certain that that's what you want to do. I was never certain. I loved my pre-child life, and had very mixed feelings about the idea of changing that. Now of course I'm super glad I have a child, and so glad I didn't let my lack of certainty prevent me from taking this leap.

Pregnancy

Early weeks: The first weeks of pregnancy aren't a reflection of what the rest of your pregnancy, or the rest of your life will be like. It's such a major life change that it's very disorienting, and on top of that, your hormones are completely different than you've ever experienced before. For many people, these first few weeks are really rocky — I know several couples that almost broke up then – but hang there and it will get better! (And if it doesn't get better, see a doctor for help — it is possible for the hormonal changes to really throw people off-balance.)

Bras: Don't rush out and buy four new bras (like I did) the minute your breasts get a bit larger. I did that, and the next month my breasts grew even more and I had to buy more bras! Just buy one at a time.

Maternity clothes: A lot of my best maternity clothing was just stretchy regular clothing and long shirts. (Maternity jeans were helpful though). You can buy nursing/pregnancy tank tops which you will be able to wear during pregnancy and after. In retrospect I should have just bought just those, rather than maternity tanks, and then nursing bras (which I almost never wear). Black is the most helpful colour for the pregnancy/nursing tanks, since they won't show so much if you leak milk (which you will, at some point!) And high-waisted, v-neck crossover dresses made out of stretchy fabric are your friend before, during, and after pregnancy!

Body changes: Books don't seem to mention all of the changes that take place — and some of these are things you really might want to know about! Two things that caught me by surprise (but that my midwife reassured me were normal) were that my vulva changed shape and my body odor changed during pregnancy, and again during lactation.

Teeth: The books do say to take care of your teeth during pregnancy, but they don't emphasize this enough, or explain why this is so important. During pregnancy, you may find it hard to brush and/or floss because of morning sickness, but it's super important to find a way to do so anyway, because you are more prone to tooth decay because of increased stomach acid and changed hormones. Also, you will probably end up snacking during the night while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. It turns out that it is even more important to brush (or at least rinse) after night-time snacks than during the day, because you salivate less and food sits on your teeth and causes decay. (I was a little lax about dental care, because of morning sickness and exhaustion, and ended up with 8 cavities!)

Food: Late pregnancy is a good time to buy a chest freezer, and fill it full of meals you would like to eat in the weeks/months after the baby is born. (And it's a good time to get an ice cream maker, if you haven't already!) Also, stock up on nourishing, high protein snacks to stash around the house, because breastfeeding makes you really hungry!

Birth

Birth: Don't get too wedded to any one vision of how the birth will go. While avoiding unnecessary medical procedures appeals to me, I feel like a lot of the natural birth oriented books gloss over the fact that a significant number of births do have complications that require interventions. I ended up needing several unexpected interventions, and I feel like I was more scared about them than I needed to be, just because of how the books I had read talked about them.

Baby

Breastfeeding: I feel like the message I got was that "all women are able to breastfeed", but in reality, there are a few people who aren't able to produce enough milk. If you know something is wrong, trust your gut, and keep searching until you find someone who can help you.

When I started using a bit of formula to supplement, books and people made me feel like my milk would surely begin to diminish, and I'd end up not able to breastfeed at all. But it really wasn't like that. I just make sure to breastfeed my son as frequently as he would take, to pump when I'm away from him for more than a couple of hours, and to only give him formula after he has breastfed. I wish that earlier on in this process, people had simply told me how to keep my milk supply as high has possible (by frequent feeding and pumping) rather than scaring me about how I would end up not breastfeeding!

The books all tell you that breastfed babies will need to feed every 1-3 hours around the clock for the first few months. In my experience, this actually continues for the first nine months, and counting!

Sleep: We spent the first few weeks trying to get our son to sleep the way we wanted him to — on a separate mattress, on his back, the way they tell you babies should. He hated it, and woke up every time we put him down! After a while we figured out that it goes a lot better if you figure out how the baby wants to sleep, and then help them sleep that way. And of course what our baby really wanted was to sleep on or touching us. So we figured out ways that my partner or I could sleep with the baby on us (usually in the middle of a queen mattress, on the floor, so if he rolled off — though he never did — it would just be on to the mattress). As he got bigger, I switched to sleeping next to him holding his hand, and that worked really well too.

At the beginning I was worried that I might roll on the baby, so I slept on a futon on the floor, next to the queen mattress. After a while I figured out how to position us so I knew I wouldn't roll on him. Then when our son started rolling around in his sleep, I got some pool noodles to put under the sheets so he won't roll off the sides or top of the mattress, or roll into the area where I'm sleeping.

The safe co-sleeping guidelines tell you not to use any blankets or pillows if you are sleeping with a baby, but we found that a bit unrealistic. We got some loosely knit cotton and wool blankets with lots of holes in them, so that if one accidentally got on top of our son, he'd still be able to breath through it, and a couple of fairly rigid, small pillows (that would just fall off him if they got on his face). At first I dressed quite warmly, especially on top, and just had the blankets around my waist and legs (tucked underneath me) so they were nowhere near the baby. Now that he's older, I do pull the blankets up around my shoulders (but I always check that they're easy to breath through, just in case!)

First weeks: Take it easy for the first two or three weeks after giving birth. (The advice I was given was to stay in bed for the first week, around the bed for the second week, and in the house for the third week). I was feeling a bit stir-crazy, and wanting to get up and do more stuff, but my doula told me that there are a lot of hormones at the beginning that make women feel energetic, but actually the body needs to take time to recover and if you don't rest enough at the beginning, recovery will be much slower in the long run. I don't know if it's because I followed her advice or not, but I did recover pretty quickly.

Make sure you take enough time away from work and other responsibilities at the very beginning that you can really settle into being a parent, and not be trying to keep the rest of your life chugging along at the same time — you eventually get back to the other things you were doing too, but it comes gradually and trying to rush it only makes you frustrated.

Equipment: You don't need to worry too much about getting stuff before the baby is born. All you really need are diapers, blankets, and a safe place for the baby to sleep! Everything else can be gotten afterwards, as you see what you need. (And you do not need to baby-proof until the baby is approaching crawling age.)

That said, there are a few things that we wouldn't have wanted to do without. We found the automatic rocking swing really helpful. Babies often only want to nap in someone's arms or while being rocked, and it is really great to be able to put the baby down! And baby legwarmers are also really helpful. They're easier to put on than sweaters or pants. We used them a lot as arm warmers when our son was sleeping in the first few months when he liked his lower half swaddled but wanted his arms out.

Babysitters: We started having a babysitter come and spend some time with our son starting at about two months because we wanted him to already be familiar with his babysitter before he got to the age where he was suspicious of strangers. So far it's been going great. Now we have two babysitters who he sees regularly, and he loves them both. At first we always stayed home while a babysitter was here, so he'd know we were around too and I could feed him (and it's easier to find babysitters who you feel comfortable watching a young baby when you're home too than babysitters you would leave a newborn alone with), but now we spend lots of time out too.

Gorillas:
Finally, I'd suggest watching this nice mother and baby gorilla:

I feel like I learned most of what I really needed to know about being a mother from these gorillas!

I'd love to hear the advice that all of you found most helpful!

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  1. I love the suggestion of getting a large freezer! My mother-in-law wanted to get us a crib for a baby shower gift. We bought one second hand and asked for a freezer instead. She gave us a few goofy looks but we do love being practical. The freezer is coming home tomorrow! I'm more excited over that than I am about any other shower gift.

    1 agrees
    • Another use of the chest freezer: freezer stash!

      The chest freezer has been my best friend with baby #3. We have a really small chest freezer and it is full to the top with breast milk. It can be set colder then my regular freezer so the frozen milk will keep longer.

      8 agree
    • We got a 2nd hand chest freezer and then my friend threw us a frozen food shower, since I had already gotten the baby essentials from freecycle, Craigslist, and kijiji. We still have meals in there 8 weeks post partum, and it has been a total life saver. Just make sure everything is well labelled, including cooking instructions.

  2. Good article! Writer Boy and I will probably stop trying to not get pregnant within the next year or so, advice like this will be helpful! I LOVE maxi dresses, and have a several that I knew will fit well once I am pregnant. They should work well for nursing too, so yay!

    My bestie had a baby last year, and in the first month or two she got bra hook extenders (they have them at my local fabric store and other places). They cost about $7, and let you wear your bras for a few months before you need to get new ones.

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    • I've worn maxi dresses and tunics throughout this summer (due in Sept) and it's been great! Most of them I got from non-maternity stores. I also second the bra extenders – I used a 3 pack of bra extenders and a few XXL sports bras for 8 months before I finally bought a few nursing bras – I think it saved a lot of money.

      4 agree
    • Bra extenders worked for a few of my friends, but they only worked for me for about a week. My body was changing shape (more-so than size, if that makes any sense) so much that the bras I had been wearing just didn't cut it. I bought a couple of cheap nursing sports-bras specifically because I knew they'd be really forgiving no matter what size/shape I ended up at. They aren't the most supportive bras around, but they did the job until I was able to figure out what size I had settled into and could buy another long-term bra.

      So, yes! Try the extenders because they are cheap and will probably work! But don't let yourself feel defeated if they don't. It's all OK.

      1 agrees
      • Love the gorilla video 🙂
        For those who grow in boob size but not band size: crossover tops are amazing, for pregnancy and nursing, including crossover bras. Bravado makes one (though it isn't great with certain tank tops because it comes up very high in the back) and a pea in the pod (I know, I know) makes another that is best under v-necked/crossover tops or something with more coverage. Both super comfortable, so far wearing very well, and both have space to grow BUT also have adequate support in the bands (I have largish boobs and smallish ribs, and never wear underwire–so some might prefer more support than I do, but these are both millions of times better than most non-wire bras.) I bought them when I grew out of my biggest non-nursing sports bras in order to save $ by having something that would accommodate pregnancy changes and be nursing-friendly later. Not crossover, but Cake lingerie makes a great nursing "sports bra" (low impact would be the only use for this for any actual "sport, but it's nice for an everyday bra) the band sizes run large, though, so whatever size fits your ribs might be pretty cleavage-y. Also, moving comfort makes an extremely supportive running bra for large-busted women called "Fiona" that (last I checked) has adjustable straps that just so happen to provide nursing functionality. It's burly enough to run in, so not an everyday bra.

    • Yeah, I love the dresses too – so comfy!

      My advice regarding clothes is to not go nuts buying things right away. Partly this is because you will continue to grow, but I've also found that what worked for me at the beginning didn't later on. For example, a lot of maternity bottoms come in "under belly" and "over the bump" styles, and at the beginning I just _hated_ the ones that came up high, because they irritated my ribs. Now I am starting to like them, because they cover my belly button, which has started to stick out and doesn't like being rubbed.

      So I've found it better to make do with what I have until I hit a point where I have a need for something – like a cool summer skirt – and then buy it, instead of trying to anticipate in advance what I'll need.

      Also: maternity underwear are a waste of money. Just go up a size or two in your usual kind, and you'll be fine.

      4 agree
      • I second the underwear comment–I didn't even have to go up any sizes, just bought extra low-rise ones (which I still wear now). Super comfy & you don't have to feel like a grandma in those giant granny panties 🙂

        1 agrees
    • Yes to bra extenders! I had to buy mine online- I couldn't find any of the narrow 2-hook band extenders that I needed for my regular bras at any local store. Everything was too wide. I went from bra extenders to a larger sized "regular" bra (I got measured at a fancy bra shop, then went to Ross…) to sports bras and now (I'm 39 weeks) nursing tanks. I got the tanks a size too big in hopes they will fit when my milk comes in.

      I don't like spending money on clothes, especially ones I won't wear for very long. I hit up all the non-boutique consignment shops and thrift stores – Goodwill in my area was a goldmine! Outside of a couple pairs of new jeans I bought in the beginning, I don't think I've paid more than $8 for any piece of clothing. In this last trimester, I always do a pull-down test on shirts before I buy them to see if they would be suitable for breastfeeding.

      I think my biggest tip is not buying a lot of anything at once. I have a few things that I've been able to wear since my 2nd trimester, but overall, I found myself buying a few shirts every month to accommodate my growing belly and boobs- the skirts I've been able to wear throughout my 2nd trimester up until now (with only a couple of not-so-stretchy exceptions.) But, I also don't care that I wore the same things to work every week.

      2 agree
  3. Also that it takes months for your body to get back to normal. I'm 6 months out and still dealing with my post partum body, hormones, emotions etc.

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    • Yes! I think it took about 10 months for my body to get back to mostly normal. I realized that not only had things been distributed differently, but my bone structure was actually wider, especially in my hips and ribcage, making it difficult to button my pants or wear many if my old shirts.
      Mentally, it was also about 9 months before I started to feel like myself again. The majority of the eternal brain fog lifted, and I stopped feeling like I was just one crisis away from a complete meltdown.
      Only in retrospect am I able to understand exactly how life-altering pregnancy, sleep deprivation, and parenthood can be.

      1 agrees
      • This is the kind of stuff I've been looking for. Nobody wants to talk about how long it takes to feel like yourself again. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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      • I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels "just one crisis away from a complete meltdown!"

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      • Your rib cage can expand?!?!? For the love of puppies I already have a swimmer's rib cage and broad shoulders! Maybe I don't want to sign up for this pregnancy crap and just go adopt so I have a chance of wearing a blouse that fits me without being a XXXL just so my boobs don't pop a button in post partum life.

        3 agree
        • But it can shrink too! Bodies do some weird things when pregnant. I think everything just gets redistributed. I've somehow gone down a back size in bras over the course of two pregnancies – was a 34, now a 32. Also, my waist and hips, while roughly the same size, now sit at different points, meaning some of my clothes just don't quite fit the same.
          Another tip is to not be tempted to wear your favorite jeans too far into bump growth – they will stretch, and after the baby's born, you may find your tummy has shrunk, and your jeans haven't.

    • TOTALLY. I didn't expect my size/shape to go back to normal right away, or ever, but having morning sickness for two months post-partum was very surprising.

  4. I'm only at the end of my first trimester, so I don't have much advice to give, but I do have 2 things:

    1. Prepare beforehand (if you can!). I researched, interviewed, and chose my midwife before I got pregnant and I'm SO glad I did. It was a really stressful process due to the laws/social politics where I live, so I'm glad I did it before I was pregnant and full of hormones!

    2. Don't *just* try advice you've been given – try the opposite too. I had always been told to eat as early as possible during the day to avoid nausea/vomiting. So I tried eating something early in the morning, just after I got up. I kept getting sick, and more and more frustrated. I realized later that, for me, the earlier I ate the sicker I felt. And if I ate and then tried to brush my teeth – forget it, it's all coming back up. I found that waiting to eat breakfast until around 10 or so helped me a lot. I didn't *want* to eat anything still (the no appetite thing has been killing me) but when I forced myself to eat, I didn't feel sick. So I was the complete opposite from everyone else. If the advice isn't working for you, try something different! Your body knows what it needs most of the time – just listen.

    12 agree
    • Your #2 was me exactly! I found that if I had a high-protein snack right before I went to bed (or sometimes in the middle of the night) this also helped my morning sickness/appetite issues. I found some protein bars that I liked, and also some milk with extra protein (because sometimes it was just easier to drink food than eat it, and you know, that was OK). Also, I stopped using my electric toothbrush. It was so much easier to hold it together without the vibrate-yness accidentally triggering a gag-reflex.

      1 agrees
    • Great to hear this. Not that I'll be looking to have kids soon, but someday! Back when I was a teenager I had a hormone imbalance such that every time I got my period I'd also get what seemed like morning sickness. The timing was almost clockwork: if it was going to happen, it happened by 10am and whether or not I puked I was totally fine by 11 or noon at the latest.

      Because of that, however, I'm really nervous about morning sickness when I eventually do decide to get pregnant. I'm sure I'll be able to deal with it, but back when my hormone imbalance would flare I was totally incapacitated for the better part of a morning and I do not look forward to that happening possibly for days on end =/

      1 agrees
  5. Also to add to the dental hygiene tip – your gums may go crazy! Horomones can really do a number on them. I've added an extra annual cleaning since I was pregnant with my first, so that I go 3 times per year instead of just 2. My hygienist told me to expect my mouth to be crazy until I'm done breastfeeding.

    And LOCHIA! Yes, I knew that it was a thing, but I didn't really have a good idea of the volume or the normal clotting that is involved. Really, periods in general. Even with breastfeeding you may start menstrating in 2 months or 12 months. You just don't know…

    10 agree
    • The sheer volume of blood that comes out when I floss (or, lately, even brush) has been surprising. Had my platelets checked during my initial midwife visit and then again at 28 weeks, and everything is fine–just a normal pregnancy thing apparently. I don't remember "vampire-mouth-s0-bad-your-partner-will-be-unable-to-floss-in-the-same-bathroom-anymore" being in any pregnancy book…and I'm a midwife, so I've read a few!

      1 agrees
  6. I second most of that, but a special shout out goes for the tip on maternity clothes. Seriously, I made it through most of my pregnancy with sundresses I got on clearance at Old Navy and some leggings folded down to make room for my stomach.

    3 agree
    • Yes! And Old Navy tees in Tall sizes provided extra stretch & length for a big belly. (I'm already kind of tall-ish, so in my very last weeks of pregnancy, some of those shirts were getting slightly short, but man did they do awesome!)

      2 agree
    • Also, if your local Old Navy doesn't have a maternity section in store, then make sure you check the clearance section because any maternity returns that were purchased online, but returned in store will automatically go straight to clearance (at least that's what my local Old Navy does).

      Also, most brands advise you to buy the same size you wore before pregnancy when shopping their maternity section. That is mostly a huge lie and varies widely by store and brand (though I will say Target has been pretty accurate with that recommendation!)

  7. One thing I would add is this: Don't. Google. ANYTHING. I'm just about 33 weeks pregnant and I learned very quickly that I should never, ever do a Google search on any symptoms/ issues/ "is it safe" etc. You'll read page after page of "the baby (fetus) didn't move for 4 hours?? Go to the Emergency room!!!!", and that your fetus could have Literiosis without you ever even knowing it (all because you wanted soft-serve ice cream, you awful selfish thing), and on and on and on.
    It's terrible, and really plays on this idea that Moms should be fearful and constantly worried about their children (instead of enjoying them). I don't even enjoy talking to my sister about pregnancy now, even though our pregnancies are exactly a year apart (and she's my bff), because she Googled too much during pregnancy and wants nothing more than to spread the paranoia.

    34 agree
    • I also stopped reading things on the internet. It was absolutely terrifying and completely unnecessary. I went with my gut and called the midwife answering service when I needed a real answer.

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      • I cannot second the Google thing enough. You would think that, after years of working in and around the health world, I would know better, but the minute I had some spotting early on in pregnancy I was obsessing over Google searched about implantation bleeding vs. miscarriage and working myself into a rich lather.

        I wish I would have taken the advice I have long given my patients: Even if whatever is happening is the worst case scenario, do you really want to hear it from CuddleBear778 on a message board? Wait until you can sit face to face with someone that can try to answer your questions and provide you with options.

        21 agree
    • What's funny is that I've found just the opposite to be true. I find it oddly reassuring to type in some strange symptom and then to learn that all these other women are out there saying "Yeah, I've had that too! It's so weird, isn't it?" And it allows me to feel better about the times I do ask the midwife something, because I get embarrassed asking about things that are new and uncomfortable only to be told, well, that's pregnancy for you. I'd rather not call her unless there's good reason for it.

      This mostly just works for small, quirky things – that odd little pang, that annoying side effect of using the neti pot – and not things that you really should ask a doctor or midwife about, like cramps or bleeding. And I can totally understand how it might not be helpful – my first pregnancy (which I miscarried) I was a complete ball of anxiety and stress the entire time it lasted. This one, though, I've been remarkably serene, even more than my normal mellow self. I feel very lucky in this.

      1 agrees
      • Ha–this just proves the point that someone mentioned earlier: listen to advice & consider it, but if it doesn't help, try the opposite. One woman's paranoia generator can put another woman's mind at ease. Just do what works for you!

        1 agrees
    • Personally, I have found Googling things to be really helpful. Doing so has put my mind at ease about several things (Sleeping on your stomach? It's fine as long as it's still comfortable) and I find a get more detailed information on the safety of medications from drugs.com than I do from asking my doctors. My doctors will just tell me "It's fine" a Google search will give me the pregnancy category and sometimes a description of what, exactly the concerned about using that medication during pregnancy are, which means I feel better able to make and informed decision

      1 agrees
  8. The best advice was given to me by someone (and for the life of me I cannot remember who), which was:

    Everything involving a child lasts for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. If you break down any phase, ailment, or stage you can get through any of it if you just remember that it will all be over in a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.

    It is also a reminder that along with dealing with trying phases the good stuff will all be over that quickly too. So embrace it all because your child will be grownup before you know it.

    Also, the most expensive part to having my children was my dental bill. Going for my second root canal/crown next week…boo!

    7 agree
  9. Before the pregnancy advice: learn what your insurance does, and does not cover, particularly if you are self-insured. We learned that our insurance only covers the very bare basics (well-woman visits, one or two blood tests) thanks to ACA, unless you purchase a "maternity rider" – and that won't cover anything until you've paid them a year of premiums. So if you're already pregnant, you can't get that coverage if you're self-insuring. Knowing your insurance situation helps when it comes to budgeting for things, deciding whether or not to have that extra ultrasound "just to make sure", whether you're going to try for an unmedicated birth, and so on.

    8 agree
    • Definitely agree on checking up on insurance! In addition to checking on my coverage (which they explained to me in pretty good detail), I called the hospital I plan to deliver at and asked them about average costs for both vaginal and C-section births. While these are just estimates, it can give you a ballpark figure of what you will be responsible for beyond what insurance covers (and give you a few months to save up).

      4 agree
  10. Everyone's body responds to pregnancy differently. I was a little unnerved by it but googling helped me by finding out I wasn't the only one who was different. I am tall to start out with, and normal sized shirts already show my belly. There really isn't tall maternity size so that when I got pretty far in my twin pregnancy my belly was huge and it was impossible to find anything big and long enough to cover it. My feet swelled so much at the end of pregnancy all I could wear were size larger crocs. After the pregnancy my feet had changed size so that my feet are now 1/2-1 size larger and my previously narrow feet are now on the wide side. I couldn't fit into my shoes anymore so I had to buy new ones. I still have a belly pooch and I now have to buy "slender secret" type pants or my pooch becomes even more obvious. I was fit a few months into the pregnancy but I had to leave work (standing squatting and lifting) and my hips felt disjointed through nursing. My core muscles are shot still, I've been working on it a little but sleep is currently my priority and returning to work nights has left me massively sleep deprived, more so than even right after birth. My breasts never grew in size, I lost the baby weight and then gained some right back the next month (I blame the exhaustion and nursing hunger). Breastfeeding books exist in a fantasy world where just trying hard enough will make it work. Plus the exceptions to make it work are completely unreasonable for someone trying to recover from major abdominal surgery. Nurse for an hour every 2/3 hours (for whatever reason my babies would nurse for an hour or more-probably not enough milk) then I was supposed to pump every 2 hours on top of that yeah, and I'm supposed to sleep/visit the restroom/eat when? I tried my hardest but I'm pretty sure supplementing and bottle usage didn't cause my breastfeeding problems. I was surprised by how strongly my babies cries affected me. It feels like my brain is on fire and I can't think much about anything but helping them. I can't carry on a conversation, thankfully I can drive but that's all mostly automatic anyway. If my husband is watching them during my nap time I can't sleep if I can hear them crying.

    1 agrees
  11. Re: breastfeeding every 1-3 hours.

    Yup, also my experience that this continues well beyond the early days. Now at 6 months in, it's more of a 2-3 hour thing, day AND night (well, maybe 4 hours at night, but that's a maybe!). I've gotten a lot of "You must be doing it wrongs" from both breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms, which has knocked my confidence (already a bit low, given a tough birth and a rocky start to breastfeeding). So, thanks for sharing!

    1 agrees
    • Definitely not doing it wrong! My son was, let's face it, still eating every hour or two at 6 months.

      Don't believe that "make sure your newborn breastfeeds every 4 hours" bullshit you read. Every four hours, HA HA AHAHAHA I WISH.

      Anyway, he's 20 months now and can easily go about 8 hours without breastfeeding, but if I'm home with him he'll still happily nurse every two hours just for funsies.

      4 agree
  12. A couple of things that were helpful to me

    1. My birth class teacher told us to go over the c-section chapter of the birthing book NO MATTER HOW SURE you are that you're having a natural birth. I was sooooo glad I took her advice! I ended up with an emergency c-section after 15 hours of labor. It was scary, but at least I knew what to expect in the OR, after the birth, etc. It made the whole thing not so traumatic.

    2. As a counterpoint to many opinions here, I was SO GLAD I bought maternity clothes. when I went to try on regular clothes that were stretchy or empire-waisted, they just wouldn't work for me. My ginormous boobs popped out. They strained across my hips. I felt ugly and stuffed into them and miserable. When I hit 20 weeks I went to a maternity clothes shop, and everything actually fit! And the clothes were flattering and I felt adorable. My maternity clothes helped me feel cute and attractive during my pregnancy. It was actually bittersweet to pack them away afterwards.

    5 agree
    • I couldn't agree with you more about point 2. I bought 2 pairs of maternity jeans at 15 weeks and immediately I was more comfortable and therefore much happier! It can give you a huge confidence boost to feel comfortable and be dressed well when your body is changing every day. But it is of course different for everyone 🙂

      2 agree
    • I also found that non-maternity clothes needed some maternity-specific help to keep working. I made do with mostly stretchy, below-the-belly wide waistband things and empire-waist tops, but I also bought 4 pair of actual maternity leggings, since the bands on my existing leggings/yoga pants were just too tight (the baby has been super low in my pelvis since about 14 weeks). And bought a couple of maternity/nursing camisoles to wear under the tops that failed to contain my breasts. At first I was all "I don't need no stinkin maternity clothes" but now I am a proselytizer for maternity leggings.

      2 agree
  13. Oh thank you so much!
    I am nearing the end of my first trimester and I sometimes I'm like "Dude I am jazzed. I have basically be waiting/prepping my whole life for this. I got it!" and sometimes I am in full on panic freak out mode.
    It is SO nice to get some reasonable, straight-forward, practical information.
    I have stopped the googling/blog reading/forum reading basically because I get nothing but constant streams of negativity. Either people who are the epitome of helicopter parents, hypochondriacs by proxy or people who seem to genuinely hate their children. I am sick of the fear mongering and the mombie talk.
    Once more, in my life, the Empire provides. When making a semi-crack house in the ghetto feel homey instead of scary was mystifying, there you were. When wedding planning started annoying the crap outta me and I wanted to punch all of the people trying to sell me expensive and useless shit, there you were. Now the babies are coming and once again, reasonable people on the internet prevail and comfort the frustrated and afraid!

    2 agree
    • Yay for the Empire! I have to say, cruising Offbeat Home (and a few other home/decor blogs, too) was actually really awesome for me during pregnancy. It helped me think about and invest time and energy into something that wasn't just all baby, all the time, and our apartment was waaaay closer to what I wanted it to be by the time our son arrived. I definitely recommend doing those little projects, or big projects, that you want to do before baby shows up. I was ill-prepared for how much I would treasure a coffee table right next to our couch instead of across the room, or how much I would HATE the dining room table being so close to our shoe rack. Think hard about your space, and get the projects done, be they small like reorganizing a bookshelf or big like swapping around rooms…or have good friends on retainer to change it up after the fact if you change your mind!

      3 agree
      • That is what I have been doing too!
        Plus home decor is something I can handle. I am used to it. I love doing something that feels worthwhile and productive and reminds me that my only role is not incubation.
        I have had some pretty exciting brain waves about our second bedroom (still not used to calling it baby room yet) and am jazzed to get all of the stuff I have prepared executed. I've also been crafting up a storm!
        I think I just like the comfort of something that I can just confidently do instead of something that I am new to and scared of.

        1 agrees
  14. My gums bled like CRAZY when I was pregnant. I talked to my mom about it and yep, she had that issue too. I hated brushing my teeth because it seriously got gruesome.

    I wish I had stayed up on my yoga when pregnant. I've always been fairly flexible but I lost it during my pregnancy and now 15 months later I'm just starting to get it back.

    Also if you're fat, it's okay. So many books/articles I read acted like I'd have the most high risk pregnancy ever. Guess what I didn't. Didn't stop every single ultrasound/lab tech from asking me if I had gestational diabetes (nope, and not even close you dolts). One thing that was a pain was that the monitoring straps were pretty tight/uncomfortable. One of my favorite things my doula did was hold it up to me during labor when I was on my hands and knees because being on my back was hell and the nurses wouldn't give me a break. Also if you're fat and staying in the hospital you should bring your own underwear in a larger size than normal because those mesh ones would not stay on my butt at all.

    7 agree
  15. If you don't already have a VERY comfortable, high-backed armchair or glider, go get one. Seriously. Like most things pregnancy and baby-related, the retail price for these things at first seems truly, offensively outrageous but I cannot overemphasize the value you'll get here. If you can afford to purchase something really posh, more power to you. Buy the best and prettiest you can. If not, bargain hunt online (like we did), stalk craigslist and freecycle, beg family and/or friends to go in on one together as a gift, borrow, or score one curbside the night before the garbage truck comes…I don't care where you get it or how ugly it is, this one item will save your back and neck and sanity a hundred times over.

    In the first 4-6 weeks postpartum I scoffed at the idea of a glider. Like a hormone-crazed, sleep-deprived Goldie Locks I nursed our little one in every chair in the house in search of the position that was just right. I sat on the couch or propped upright in bed. I rolled up blankets and wedged them behind my neck and stuffed bed pillows, couch cushions, sweaters, stuffed animals, anything I could find around me to support my arms and lower back. I kept thinking that I'd found the right arrangement, but it never lasted. I was in crazy pain. I visited the chiropractor twice a week and my acupuncturist felt so bad for me she started coming by for home visits. Nothing helped until we got a glider. There's enough to adjust to right after having a baby. You don't need excruciating neck/shoulder/back/wrist pain getting in the way of establishing a solid feeding relationship or of the heart-splitting-open love and bonding, or adding to the other, less avoidable challenges.

    Almost six months in now, we rarely nurse in the glider anymore because the little one prefers to dine upright in her carrier during the day and side-lying in bed at night. We still use it for reading and snuggles, though, and I expect to do so for years to come. I've come to accept that the tacky-looking thing has earned a place of privilege in our home. In fact, it may have been the best purchase we've ever made.

    2 agree
  16. I'm only 18 weeks into my first pregnancy but already I have come to realise a few things:
    1) Ask your midwife if you have questions. Google/Internet is ok to a certain point but when I couldn't find a solid answer to 'can I eat feta cheese once it has been cooked' I realised some things aren't best found on the internet.
    2) Wear what makes you feel comfortable and happy. If that is maternity clothes at 14 weeks, do it. If its leggings and baggy shirts, do it. I have found that if I'm comfortable, I'm happy.
    3) Try not to worry. Even though this is my first pregnancy, having people around me who have done it all before and lived to tell the tale has given me huge piece of mind. Once I ate some hollandaise sauce at breakfast, and I didn't freak out. I still lift stuff if it's not too heavy. But I'm also getting used to having a nap during the day if I'm too tired or still feeling a bit nauseous. It certainly helps that I don't have people around me going 'omg- you can't eat that/do that etc.' Also New Zealand is pretty relaxed about pregnancy and childbirth and for that I'm thankful.
    4) Get into some simple exercise and stretching as soon as you can. Morning sickness meant I was pretty much on bed/couch rest for 6 weeks. But once that was over I started going for short 15 min walks around the block and got back into lifting lighter weights at the gym. It's helping me stay some-what fit and keeping some strength.
    5) You don't HAVE to go to antenatal classes. And I won't be. The whole concept is weird to me, plus I have heard from a lot of friends it's just someone reading stuff out of a book (maybe that's just in NZ). I do enough reading of my own and ask enough of my own questions at my midwife appointments to be content going into labour and feeling prepared. I have a lot of other support as well.

    I still have 1/2 of this pregnancy left but I am a firm believer on just being sensible, using your common sense and not stressing. If your happy, chances are your little one is happy too 🙂

    2 agree
    • Re: Your #5 — I don't know anything about prenatal care in NZ compared to the US, but I would encourage every US Momma-to-be to take a really good birth/ prenatal class.
      NOTHING has been more valuable to me over the past 7 months than my 12-week birth class. I've learned not only about what I can expect during labor, but also about 12 different positions for laboring, extremely useful tips for breastfeeding, coping with complications raging from emergency C-sections to jaundice, proactive measures to ensure the baby is in a good position late in pregnancy, methods of dealing with the emotional roller coasters of pregnancy/ postpartum… it goes on and on.
      Most women I've talked to about pregnancy/mommahood have been (at least somewhat) left in the dark by their physicians when it came to what to expect during birth, how to take care of their health before needing a medical intervention, dealing with emotions, etc. Most women I know went into their birth feeling a lot of anxiety, if not flat-out fear. I'm literally the only person I've ever met who is EXCITED to give birth. I definitely owe that to my birth class.

      Again, maybe prenatal care in NZ is just way more comprehensive than the care that my friends/relatives/ and I have gotten, but… even seeing a homebirth midwife hasn't given me all the tools that I got in my class.

      1 agrees
      • Hi Madeleine,

        Can you tell me what type of birthing class you took? I'm in the first trimester and starting to look into the various classes.

        Thanks,
        Beth

        • Husby and I went to Bradley Method classes. Their ultimate goal is to give birth without pain medications or unnecessary interventions. The sub-title is "Husband coached childbirth," which is obnoxiously heteronormative, but really it's all about having a trusted partner in your birth who will help you stay comfortable and in control during labor. Most instructors are great about having non-traditional families come in (heck, my instructor once had a pregnant teen in class whose coach was her mom), and the couples in the workbook are multi-racial, so that's nice. They don't shy away from squeamish topics either (such as having kids attend your birth).

          Go to http://www.bradleybirth.com/ and you can do a search for an instructor in your area. I think we paid 300-ish for our class.

          2 agree
        • Hi Beth, just adding my 2 cents here. We did Birthing from Within and it was amazing. In addition to really solid education on the processes of birth and the postpartum period, the class also gave us great pain coping techniques and, of greatest value, required us to really explore our emotional and psychological stuff around the birth and becoming parents, including what that meant for us each as individuals and planning ahead for how to work through relational challenges once the baby was born. I can't recommend Birthing from Within highly enough. At the very least, I'd suggest you read the book if there isn't a class in your area.

      • I agree that a GOOD prenatal class can be very helpful. We took Bradley Method and loved it. However, we also took a free course offered by our health insurance that was condescending and dull and totally not worth our time; it would have been a good course only for expectant parents who know nothing about birth and have done no research at all.

    • I'm in NZ as well and have found ante natal classes so brilliant. Certainly no reading out of a book, and the group leaders are excellent about answering the weird and wonderful questions about birth and newborns. I've been going to the paid classes though, rather than the free hospital ones, so maybe there is a difference between the different types of classes.

  17. Thank you so much for this article! We're considering having kids pretty soon with my husband and I love your pre-pregnancy advices 🙂

  18. I love that you included the gorilla video here. When my little one was born (8 months ago today!), I was blown away at how mothering in the early days made me feel like such an animal. In a good way! I nursed her, I groomed her, I held her, we slept… it was as though I was recreating all those NatGeo shows I had watched my whole life. Definitely puts things in perspective and helped me to develop respect for my own instincts.

    1 agrees
  19. I LOVE the part about getting the baby to sleep. I feel like I've been doing it all wrong this whole time and like I'm somehow failing as a mother because the only way he will sleep right now is next to either my husband or I, on his stomach. I try the crib, he wakes up. I try putting him on his back, he wakes up or flips right back over. He just will not sleep unless he's on his side or stomach, and next to us. I never thought we'd someday become a co-sleeping family (we even spent $1000 on a new king bed just for this).

  20. Okay, so another weird one that may or may not happen to you – animals started acting crazy around me when I was pregnant. Not all of them, and in different ways, but there was definitely different behavior there. My cat started peeing on things as soon as I got pregnant (before I even knew.) He stopped once the baby was born. My in-laws' dog jumped all over me all the time, my parents' cat that normally attacked me didn't do it anymore, etc. I don't know if they can just smell the different hormones or what, but it was definitely weird and nothing I ever read mentioned it!

    2 agree
    • YES! My dog would hide under the bed or behind the couch the first 8-10 weeks of my pregnancy! Our doctor said that animals can sense the extra person/difference in your hormones or scent or whatever, but it totally blew my mind. It also kind of hurt my feelings because I was super emotional and just wanted dog cuddle, but we're good now. 😉

      1 agrees
    • Yes, I noticed that too! When I was about 10 weeks pregnant I was visiting friends with kittens, and one crawled up my chest and started trying to nurse from me!

    • Ha! I'm 11 weeks today, and I've noticed that our dog who usually pretends we don't really exist (unless there's food) has been following me around, snuggling up on my feet when I'm reading, and laying under my desk while I work. I think he's being protective. 🙂

      The corgi doesn't care.

  21. Excellent points re: dental care during pregnancy and breastfeeding! Apparently it's really common to have extremely sensitive teeth during both phases because of all the crazy hormone changes. I experienced this, and my dentist and OB confirmed it. But why isn't this in any pregnancy book?

    Also, I second your recommendation for baby legwarmers. They are especially useful if you cloth diaper since a cloth diaper can make a HUGE baby butt and make it hard to fit certain outfits or pants over. Our son lived in legwarmers, sock and onsies for three months until his body proportions and cloth diaper butt balanced out. 🙂

    1 agrees
  22. Regarding baby gear, I highly recommend a couple packages of gerber or babies r us prefold diapers, the really cheap ones. They're not particularly useful as diapers, but they make the BEST burp rags. We also keep a couple on top of the changing pad, so when she'd pee as soon as her diaper was off, the burp rag would catch it and we wouldn't be forever washing the changing pad cover.

    3 agree
  23. I love these tips! I'm entering my second trimester, and now that you say it, I wish I would have taken a pre-pregnant naked pic. My body has changed so much already!

    1 agrees
  24. One thing I wish I'd realised sooner is that "it gets better" doesn't apply to everyone, and it's better to accept that you need help early than to wait for a "better" that might not come on its own. I'd recommend making use of the various pregnancy complication charities if you have any concerns, quite often they're run by people who have a lot more experience with obscure conditions than your GP or consultant might have had. It may be the case that they just reassure you that you're within the bounds of "normality", but if not they can be invaluable in providing support and advice for getting further treatment. Here in the UK Pregnancy Sickness Support and The Pelvic Partnership helped me a great deal with a very difficult pregnancy, both with practical advice and things as simple as not feeling totally alone.

    2 agree
  25. POOL NOODLES. Ah ha! I've been trying to figure out the best way to adjust our cosleeping now that the twins are more mobile. This might be perfect. Thanks!

    2 agree
  26. Pregnancy: Body – gas! Oh the gas you will have!

    Baby: Breastfeeding – milk supply might be low or non-existent and it is entirely possible that nothing you do will increase it. that is OKAY! also, you may choose not to breastfeed at all for whatever reason, and that is OKAY, too! don't let books, the internet, or people around you ever make you feel guilty for how you care for your baby. Caring for them, period, is what's important!

    Baby: Health – when people used to tell me that i would know my baby best and i would know if something was wrong, and that if i felt something was wrong i should make sure the doctor looked into it, i thought, "how would i know?? i have NO experience with babies! how will i know?!" but i did. very, very, early on i could just tell that something was "off" with my baby's digestion. turns out she had a protein allergy that made her constipated AND bad reflux. but the doctors, though attentive and kind, kind of blew off her symptoms saying they would pass if i just stuck with the present formula or changed her eating position. they were wrong. she needed a special formula and prevacid. she also had a flat spot on her head that developed from not turning her head for months. at first they suggested it would correct itself. i had to keep pushing and finally got a prescription for a Doc Band corrective helmet. they weren't bad pediatricians, they just thought i was being a worrisome new parent, which a lot of parents are! but be an advocate and if you think something is wrong, push to have it thoroughly examined!

    Baby: Sleeping – Swaddleme or Miracle Blankets can be your best friends! my 9 month old would still be swaddled if I could keep her arms in. she had started sleeping 9+ hrs straight before learning how to pop her arms out around 6 months. that moro reflex can be a bitch for both yours and the baby's sleep at first!

    1 agrees
  27. Food & snacks you can eat one-handed are a life savers in the early weeks!

    Also that whole "sleep when baby sleeps" thing? Took me a while to come to grips with that… to take those sleeps, even if it might only be for half an hour. I cracked the sh*ts at one point, refusing to even attempt to sleep, & I realised my main challenge wasn't so much the total amount of sleep, but the not knowing when I was going to next sleep, or for how long. Once I came to terms with that, I coped better.

    Second the zip up angel wing swaddles too: mine always pulled the wraps over her face, or cracked it that she couldn't bring her hands to het face, & oh god, that damned Moro reflex! Cute as hell, until it wakes her up for the fifth time!

    I been living in tank tops with built in shelf bras, & cardigans/shrugs for warmth & easy breastfeeding. Works a treat.

    Last thing (while it's still fresh!), oh those sensitive post partum nipples!! I hated disposable pads, they really irritated. Thick, soft fabric pads are the best (eg. bamboobies). Also lots & lots of purified, edible lanolin, like Lansinoh, slathered after every breastfeed + then some. Great for sore baby bottoms, & chapped lips too.

  28. Thank you for the breastfeeding advice! I had a bad start at breastfeeding and started giving a supplement the same way you did and I was so afraid that this will end my breastfeeding. It works for 4 months now and I hope it works for at least a year, and I get happier and happier with every month that he still wants breast and I have milk for him <3

    1 agrees
    • Good luck with continued breastfeeding! I've been combination feeding my little one for 10 months now (I'm the original poster of this article), and he's as excited about breastfeeding as ever. My supply was never quite enough to feed him fully, but it didn't diminish either. It actually got a bit easier once he started eating solid food, because now there are many days that he gets enough to eat between breastmilk and food, without having to use formula as well.

  29. The most important thing that nobody told me–even though I read several entire books about pregnancy and birth–is that if you have Type O blood and your baby's father has a different type, your baby is likely to get a severe case of jaundice. If I'd known, I would have read up on jaundice so I could make informed decisions about my baby's treatment; as it was, I just had to trust that the hospital was doing the right thing, although it seemed very extreme. He turned out fine, but it would have been much less stressful to be prepared. Here's my article on the subject:
    http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2012/03/28/blood-types-of-parents-and-children/

    1 agrees

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