The Offbeat Mama's pregnancy and birthin' checklist

June 29 2011 | offbeatbride
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.
Birth Unit plan
To-do: learn where your birthing room is before you waltz in to drop a baby. Photo by Sarah Stewart, used with Creative Commons license.
I am currently crossing my fingers to figure out if this oddly late period is a fluke or a little stranger, and as much as I have enjoyed this site, I'll make bold to tell you what it needs to make it perfect. On Offbeat Bride, Ariel compiled a magnificent, life-and-sanity-saving CHECKLIST for all brides to be. Birth plans aside, I am 'umbly requesting a (at least six month out) checklist of things for us Offbeat Mamas. More of a "Have you thought of this yet?" Finding out the gender or not? Disposable or reusable on diapers? Homebirth or hospital, with what options?" — Sarah Katz


No two pregnancies and deliveries are the same, which means no two experiences will be. For everything I've listed there are probably going to be two or three other things I didn't — that's the nature of the maternity game.

The first trimester

checkbox.gifAfter sharing the news with your partner/friend/confidant, now's the time to go ahead and connect with a medical official — be it an OB/GYN, midwife, or something in-between.

checkbox.gifIf you don't have health insurance and want it, look into your state's version of Medicaid (income contingent). If you exceed income restrictions, look into your local Department of Health or Catholic Charities and/or Lutheran Social Services — if that's your bag. Many hospitals and birth centers also offer payment plans.

checkbox.gifGet your vitamin situation sorted out: do you want to use over-the-counter or skip vitamins altogether and get the necessary nutrients from your diet? Talk over all of your options with someone you trust.

checkbox.gifMake your first prenatal appointment! Whether you're going hospital, birthing center, or birthing at home, you'll want to meet with the person or people who will be assisting you in your birth.

checkbox.gifGet your reading on. The world is filled with websites and books all about being pregnant — we've even got a list of 'em.

checkbox.gifIf you're into it, figure out an exercise plan. Setting dietary goals early is essential to following through with them.

The second trimester

checkbox.gif If you haven't already, you'll probably "pop" soon — now's the time to scope out thrift stores, vintage sales, or wherever you shop for clothing you can rock while pregnant.

checkbox.gif The medical professional in your life will probably mention pregnancy and baby classes around now. There are all kinds — ask about water birthing if it's something you're curious about, breastfeeding, and more. These obviously aren't necessary, as people have birthed and raised children without classes for thousands of years, but they might be something you're into.

checkbox.gif Are you working out of the home? It's time to find out your employer's maternity leave policy and determine when and how you want to implement it.

checkbox.gif Unless you already have everything picked out, it's time to start playing the name game. If you're going to be co-parenting this might be harder than you think.

checkbox.gif Thinking of using cloth diapers? If so — start buying now! You can peruse your options on sites like Amazon and Etsy to get an idea of what's available, or check out this guide to cloth diapering.

The third trimester

checkbox.gif Now's the time to end your search for a doula, if that's something you're doing in the first place. You may also want to begin finalizing the details of your birth plan.

checkbox.gif It's a touchy topic, but if you haven't thought about circumcision yet, the last few months of your pregnancy are definitely the time to figure out what you want to do.

checkbox.gif Now for something fun: it's baby shower time! We have tons of inspiration: there's everything from a rainbow-themed shower to a punk-inspired shower in the archives.

checkbox.gif Some people buy baby stuff before the birth and some don't: if you plan to, go ahead and pick out your stroller, nursery decor, and other items. If anything, they make easy shower gifts! You can also consider creating a baby registry.

checkbox.gif Planning on listening to music during delivery? Get started on your birth playlist!

checkbox.gif You've probably been doing this all along, but nothing tops off the last month of your pregnancy like over-dosing on birth stories.

Tell me, tell me: what's missing from this list? Let's make this the most gigantic birthing checklist anyone's ever seen.

  1. hmm… decorating a nursery?
    Finishing up on projects that you wont have time to work on for a while… : )

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    • HA! The first one is hilarious. It didn't even occur to me..mostly because my kid still doesn't have his own room. Oh me.

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      • That's so good to hear! Mostly because we have a very small city apartment and our kid won't have its own bedroom either, not until it's strictly necessary.

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      • Our daughter's 6mo & though there's a designated nursery room, she still sleeps with us & we still don't have a crib.

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    • Our baby is 5+ months old and our nursery still isn't done. We co-sleep.. so it's not entirely necessarily 🙂 Though it would be nice to get it done to have a place to store her crap.

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    • Before our son was born, we spent way too much time and money putting together a (pretty damn amazing) Star Trek nursery for him. He's nearly 8 months now and still hasn't slept in it or used it at all. He's got a very nice crib and a Star Trek mobile over it that I handmade for him, but it's never been used, and that's kind of sad. We love co-sleeping and plan to let him go to his bed when he's ready. By that point though, he won't be in a crib and we might not even live in this same apartment!

      I think another point somewhere in there should be to decide on and prepare for your chosen sleeping arrangements.

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      • Even those plans can go awry, though. I was certain we'd co-sleep for a good long time, but we didn't last more than 8 weeks. Luckily we were able to use the co-sleeper for a crib for awhile.
        One thing I wish I had been told before giving birth is that while it's more difficult to get things for your baby after they're born, it's not that impossible, especially if you have a partner.

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  2. I personally would not wait until the third trimester to pick a doula. You want time to talk to or meet with a few until you find the perfect one and you don't want to feel like you have to settle. We hired ours around 12 weeks, which I admit is a little early, but I would go for the second trimester sometime.

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    • I agree to get a doula a bit sooner – depending on the demand where you live, you might have to start the search in your first trimester. I started looking at 14 weeks and talked to about 12 doulas before I found one that was even available for my due date, much less compatible with us. The rest were ALL booked or going on vacation (I'm due in August) – so plan ahead if you're expecting a summer or holiday baby!

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    • Or take a breastfeeding class! The Nursing Mothers' Counsel of Oregon offers free ones; I'm sure other places do, too.

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      • I went to a LaLeche League group before I had my baby. Wish I'd been able to attend a couple more; it was really helpful–got a contact list & met some new moms.

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  3. Definately put the car seat in before you give birth. I can't describe how much stress it added to my day when I had to leave for a lactation appt 3 days postpartum, had to drive myself, and didn't have the car seat out of the box yet. Just because you don't plan on going somewhere doesn't mean you won't need to!

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    • Our midwife insisted we have the car seat installed when I was at 36 weeks. Partly because of superstition-if it's there, we won't need it (we were birthing at home), but partly because the hospital won't let you leave without the baby strapped in.

      As it turned out, we did have to go to the hospital to have me stitched up. My midwife defers to the OB's that do it all the time for 3rd and 4th degree tears. It was a good thing the car seat was ready.

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      • I agree, we had our car seat installed early as well. My daughter came 9 days early from her expected due date. It was really nice to be able to bring the seat up to the hospital then into the car.

        But I will add, research and look up HOW to put said baby into the seat itself. We were doing it wrong for days until the Ped showed how to put our daughter in the car.

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  4. For the third trimester: fill the freezer. when you are cooking just make another couple serving to save for when cooking feels like just too much.

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    • This is something I wish I would've done with my son – he came into the world via C-section. Right afterward was the most difficult time to even THINK about preparing a meal. Unfortunately, I didn't have any help!

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      • This was the best thing we did before our son was born! We have no family or friends here (they're all halfway across the country and halfway across the world), so we were all on our own for everything. We actually went out and bought an upright freezer to keep in our garage and stored up 6 weeks worth of meals in it. I don't know what we would have done without them!

        For about 3-4 months before he was born, when cooking a meal that would freeze well, I just made a double or triple batch and put them in disposable aluminum pans lined with parchment paper (to prevent aluminum from leeching into the food) and then after he was born we could just pop one straight into the oven! I can't stress enough how helpful this was!

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    • Yes! Cook a weeks (or month) worth of meals so your partner or doula or other help can just throw something in the oven. Fill your freezer full of options!

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    • Have a friend have folks sign up for a meal tree! Everyone signs up for a day (day 1 postpartum, day 2, etc.) and the day 1 person can call the day 2 person, and so on. Have folks sign up, one per day, to bring food for at least a week, preferably two! This can also be their golden opportunity to meet the new baby 🙂

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    • Especially if you have no friends or family in the area! We froze lots of quiches, hearty stews, some light soups, and strips of meat. Breakfast was quiche, lunch was soup & salad (we chopped up lettuce and cheese while I was in labor, then we added the meat strips and nuts), dinner was a hearty stew with rice from the rice cooker. We did this for at least a week, and then as needed on particularly exhausting days, which were often.

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      • One of the women at work recently gave birth and we all signed up for a food train for her. It is soooo convenient for us all–the mealtrain.com website lets us see her address, food restrictions and allergies, and what everyone else has brought in so far for the happy couple to eat. It's nice knowing that they aren't eating casserole every night, or day after day of salad for that matter. 🙂 I don't work for mealtrain or anything, but the website has really helped us help out the new family, as well as another family we know going through an illness.

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  5. Pack the birth bag for the hospital! There are tons of existing checklists about what to put in it

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    • Or, if you are planning a homebirth, put everything you need for it (the midwife will give you a list) in a box so it will be ready to go. You won't want to be telling your doula which drawer in the bathroom cabinet the hand mirror is in during labor!

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    • Oh my god yes! And do it early! My water broke at 30 weeks and I ended at the hospital with not even a toothbrush. I had to make a list and have my sister try to search my house for "must-haves".

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    • Pack a bag, even if you're planning a homebirth. First time mamas have about a 25% transfer rate.

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  6. Absolutely put together ALL baby items *before* the birth. Everything, even if you're not going to need it right away. Nothing worse than trying to get that thing you all of a sudden need RIGHT NOW put together when the baby's crying.

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  7. Make plans for some extra help from trusted friends or family post partum. Depending on your situation, that might mean restricting the hoard of well-meaning but ultimately stress-producing people who want to help with the new baby down to a manageable number, OR it may mean reaching out and asking for help from people who might not otherwise have offered. Either way, you need to have a few good people you can call on for support.

    Also, the baby shower is a great time to set up a "meal train" where people pick dates/set appointments (usually every other day) to come and meet the new baby and bring you dinner. In my experience it not only helps regulate the stream of visitors, it will fill your tummy and your freezer for several blissful weeks.

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  8. I would like a similar list for birth options. Our hospital has a checklist to fill out with stuff "do you or don't you want the eye medicine?." There are choices that I didn't even realize needed to be made, and it'd be helpful to understand why some people choose one or the other. Pros and cons of rooming in, vaccines, being cleaned right away, etc.

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    • This is what a childbirth class can really be helpful for– not necessarily to tell you how to have a baby, but to help you see what all of the options are!

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    • They discuss a lot of this in Your Best Birth and the book offers a lot of checklists (things to ask an OB/midwife, doula, things to pack, etc.). I did a weekend "intensive" childbirth class, which I'm glad we did, even though I didn't feel I'd learned much more than I'd learned from my selected reading.

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  9. along the lines of maternity leave, for those working out of the home, figure out your childcare situation. not just your regular care, but backup. what happens when your nanny has the flu or the center is closed for bad weather? if the baby is sick, who will stay home with her? who will do drop offs and pickups? speaking from personal experience, it is VERY stressful to figure out these things last minute.

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    • This is not a direct reply, but also concerning maternity leave. I am not pregnant, but I would like to be in the next few years. I work in a laboratory setting (chemicals, animals, instruments), and there is no good leave policy from my current employer (or any prospective job). In my home country (EU) it would be illegal for me to work in a lab during pregnancy or a risk assessment is given in writing, in the US no-one seems to care.Isn't maternity leave be something to consider waaaay before getting pregnant, the second trimester seems terribly late for me. (I assume that more women work outside of the home than not, but do not see pre-birth maternity leave being addressed very often, since it gets overshadowed by the sucky leave policies after)

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      • Unfortunately in the US, all an employer is required to give is 12 weeks of leave-that's it. I know that when I get pregnant, I will BEG my ob/gyn to allow me to continue to work until I go into labor so I can have those 12 short and precious weeks after the birth of the baby (rather than 4 weeks before and 8 weeks after) to get the best start to breast feeding. Our country's maternity policies suck.

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        • I should have added, that I live and work happily in the US (much better job prospects here) and kind of got used to the different policies here, but it is still weird to change one's expectations, even though I have been here long enough. Believe me, not all European countries have great benefits, in some it is still expected that you stay at home once you are a mother. Maternity leave is an important subject, but to me much more public emphasis is given on no alcohol, no coffee, no biking etc, which basically puts all responsibilities on the expectant mother.

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          • Also bear in mind that if you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees you have no FMLA protection whatsoever and you do not have to receive any maternity leave, paid or otherwise. So that may be something to consider if you work for a small business.

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  10. I love the find a lactation consultant but also see if your hospital (or one around you) has a breastfeeding support group or check out LLL. Hearing stories from other moms is the only thing that got my family through reflux and BFing.

    What about maternity photos or looking for a new born photographer or even a birth photographer if that is what you are into.

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  11. I wish I would have known to start thinking about what prenatal tests/procedures I did/didn't want…ultrasounds, genetic testing, amniocentesis, glucose tolerance, etc. Instead I was caught like a deer in the headlights! I ended up going home after virtually every single doctor's appointment and having to research each and every thing they asked me if I wanted to do, then calling them back and telling them yes or no.

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  12. For the third trimester: what about talking with your partner (or whoever will be with you through the labor and birth) about what kind of support you think you will want in labor? In our natural childbirth class we learned lots of ways partners can support a mama in labor, and it was a great way for my husband and I to talk about what he thinks his strengths will be, and what I think I am going to want. For example, when you are in pain, do you want to be distracted or do you want to focus, do you want lots of physical touch, verbal support etc…

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  13. Breastfeeding! Do your research during pregnancy and make an informed decision about whether you do or don't want to. And if you do want to, especially if you haven't closely watched someone breastfeed before, get an idea of common potential issues. So many women who want to breastfeed stop within a few weeks because they've never done it before and don't have a support network to ask about problems–find yourself the support network (whether it's midwives, other mamas, lactation consultants, or trusted sources online) before it becomes an issue.

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    • Totally agree. The first six weeks are often the toughest – and all of the literature tends to just say 'it's not supposed to hurt', it's a breath of fresh air to find someone saying – 'yes, that's true, but until your nipples toughen up there will be a serious settling in period'. Also – good lord, get either lanolin, the hardcore nipple cream, cooling pads and what are they called nipple pads (?) for leaks.

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  14. Even if you already know a lot about giving birth (I read "Spiritual Midwifery" for the first time at the age of seven, literally, so I'd known a lot for twenty years by the time I had my first), a childbirth class can be very useful for getting to know the hospital or place where you'll be giving birth. It can also be very useful for your male partner, should you have one, who may not have read as much as you. It's a good way to get the basics familliar.
    On a totally different note, I highly recommend all pregnant Mums to go swimming as frquently as possible, because it just feels SO GOOD to have the weight taken off. I am not a sporty person at all and just went slowly along with all the little old grandmas, but it was a relief and felt like a treat even when I had to go through the snow to get there!
    Another thing I recommend very highly (if you can afford it – I got one as a gift from a number of women together) is an epi-no (http://www.epino.de/index.php?id=9&L=1) – to prevent tearing.

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  15. This is very specific and probably not applicable for 100% of women – but during your pregnancy (the whole thing) STAY HYDRATED. Consider upping your fibre intake or drinking prune juice or some sort of probiotic regularly. You can guess why, right? This is also applicable for all breastfeeding mamas.

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  16. Long time lurker & first time commenter! Weee! I'm not pregnant, never had any children, but I remember how easy it was for my little sister and I when our brother was born.

    My mom made arrangements for a family member to care for us when was ready to push out our baby brother. (Which was 20 years ago today! Yay!) She had to rely on her parents to get her to the hospital for delivery, who we would have stayed with if our dad was there. Finding a support system within family/friends (who will drop everything and be ready to pitch in at a moment's notice) was really helpful for us as a 1 parent/3 kid household.

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  17. Third tri, find a pediatrician or general practioner. We chose a GP so we could all see the same doc (makes scheduling so much easier) and she agreed to do home visits for his newborn exam, which I highly highly reccomend!

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  18. You need this note at the top: Don't ever be afraid to make changes with midwives, doulas, OBs, consultants, classes, facilities, or anyone else involved in your pregnancy. If, for example, three visits later you realize it's not a good match for reasons that speak to you, make a change.

    Dealing with a bit of minor stress about changing (even if it might be close to labor) is better than taxing yourself and baby emotionally down the line when you aren't completely comfortable. NO ONE can listen to/hear your heart but you!

    This also includes friends, family, acquaintances – surround yourself with positive people! You may not have a choice on the type of relationship you have had in the past, but there is no time like pregnancy to tell someone you want a better relationship with them. I hadn't spoken to my father in three years, but I called him and told him I was tired of living in the past and wanted to celebrate the amazing blessings I had today. It removed the pain that hung over me and is allowing me to enjoy the pregnancy even more knowing I no longer have to worry about it.

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    • This is making me so teary. We have a horrid relationship with my IL's and have basically cut them out. I'm now pregnant with our 2nd child and don't know how to tell them. I wish things could be so easy as just requesting a better relationship.

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      • That's the thing though – you can either dread, worry, and create anxiety over something, or you can just say what needs to be said, i.e. calling them up and telling them the news, then specifically stating that whatever happened in the past is the past and you want to move on. My father had only heard a rumor that I was pregnant, and I didn't end up calling him until I was around 6 months or later. It doesn't mean everything is perfect after the conversation happens – we still don't talk consistently or share our personal lives, and have only seen each other once, but he has made the comment he would like to see the baby, which is totally new. As my loving husband put it best, "There is NOTHING in this world worth holding on to, worrying, or stressing out about compared to keeping you and the baby happy and healthy." It became my mantra.

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        • See no…it's really not that easy. We cut them out so we wouldn't have worry or stress, and because they're toxic to our relationship. We didn't want out first daughter to be effected negatively. We've begged them on a few different occasions to stop creating more issues (it's not just the past, but how they act in the present).

          I really do wish things were different and they could be human to us. We will be telling them about the pregnancy (along with my family, everyone at the same time) but I have no real ideas on what the future will hold. Honestly, it's just easier to tell them now than deal with the repercussions of having them find out from a third party.

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  19. a lot of women in my life have created a menu list (usually about a week long) that friends and family members prepare and deliver to you after the child is born. This can be set up at the baby shower or anywhere close to delivery date. This way you know you and your family will be fed 🙂

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  20. In the third trimester, if you haven't already, you should consider touring the facility where you're planning to have your birth (or the facility you'd use if your homebirth doesn't quite work out as planned). I've read of some women who didn't like the attitude of the hospital staff and changed their plans.

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  21. I went to a la leche league meeting quite a few times while pregnant. I wanted to, but didn't really mesh with most of the women there, but it was great to know *lots of people breastfeed successfully, even people who irk me! I can do this* I think that really helped!

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  22. If you sleep upstairs, have a back up plan for downstairs. Nothing sucks like recovering from a c-section and trekking up and down stairs. You may not need a c-section, but then, you may. Also if you plan to use formula or pumped breastmilk have some sort of set up near your bed where you can serve the milk. You may think you have lovely visions of feeding the baby in the nursery rocking chair, but that gets old every 2 hours.

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  23. First trimester: at your first prenatal checkup, make sure you get your TSH levels checked: that indicates whether your thyroid functions normally. If it doesn't, it's very important for your baby that you get thyroid hormones right away. And many doctors do not know this. Consider not telling every single person you know about your pregnancy just yet, not only because "something might go wrong", but because they might desperately look for something pregnancy-related to talk about and end up focusing on all the things that might go wrong and that are forbidden for you, and thus drive you nuts, especially if this is your first time around. Note: you can still eat and act like a normal human being.
    Second trimester: get exercise, avoid letting your growing bump tempt you into overeating, and try to take a vacation, even if it's a tiny one – you're unlikely to have another one for a long time.
    Third trimester: along with stocking the freezer with meals, keep handy, non-perishable snacks around the house, preferably ones that can be eaten with one hand when you're breastfeeding. Also make sure you have a collection of stuff you like to watch, because breastfeeding works best when you're relaxed and that works best when you're watching something you love (whether it's old movies or reality shows or whatever). For the same reason,also keep batteries for remotes (and, if applicable, the breast pump) around.

    1 agrees

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