When I was pregnant with my son I was big. I started showing early and, by 28 weeks, people were asking how far past my due date I was. Despite not being able to see my feet or shave my legs, I loved being big. I’d looked forward to experiencing pregnancy since I was a little girl and, after the loss of my first pregnancy at nearly 10 weeks, my round belly and the constant kicks my little one gifted me with felt very reassuring. The only downside to being so obviously pregnant for so much of my pregnancy was that it left me absolutely inundated with advice. Reminiscent grandmas told me to “savor every second” and haggard moms in the grocery store shouted over their own fighting kids that I better “sleep now because you won’t for the next 10 years.” Strangers on the street stopped me to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be eating and the best positions to labor in. Though trying to process all the advice coming my way was tiring, a big part me was listening, desperately, for anything that I thought might help ease into the biggest transition of my life. Though I didn’t know exactly what parenthood was going to be like, I did know that life was going to change in a big way and, every day of my pregnancy that passed, I got a little more nervous about what was ahead.
Throughout my pregnancy I mostly heard the same advice over and over.
While “sleep while the baby sleeps” actually turned out to be a pretty good tip, there were several gems, uttered by family and friends and strangers, that came to be far more important in my sons first few months. To help out all the soon-to-be-mamas out there, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite, never-before-heard newborn survival tips.
1 | Buy a mattress pad, not for the crib, but for your bed
This one came from my aunt. Though I’d always heard mom’s talking about the importance of the little plastic under sheets that keep the baby’s crib mattress clean and dry in the case of a diaper incident, I’d never thought of getting one for my bed until my aunt told me it was an absolute necessity. The thing is, the baby won’t just be having blowouts in its own bed – it will also, definitely, be pooping and spitting up and peeing all over yours too. During the newborn period you will also be exhausted and, while it may be hard to imagine now, I promise that there will be a night (or a lot of nights) when your baby does one of these things and you, in your utter desperation for sleep, just throw a towel over the spot and scoot over. It’s times like these you’ll be particularly grateful that you have a mattress pad under your own sheets.
2 | Don’t even bother with a baby bathtub
As I browsed the bathing section of Babies-r-Us, my husband pushing the cart and me massaging my growing bump, I imagined the not-to-far-off day I would be giving my own child their very first bath. As I tried to imagine which tub my son would like best, a toddler mom zipped past and shouted, over her shoulder “skip the tub, they’re never going to use it!” On that day I didn’t believe her and, as I bought the fancy tub, I wondered why other people always seemed to think they had a right to give advice. And then my son was born and, indeed, he never ever used his fancy little tub. I tried to set it up once, but, before I could get it out of the box, my son spit up on me and, as I stripped off my own shirt, I decided a co-shower would be pleasant. I was surprised at how much my boy seemed to love snuggling up to me under the warm water and, from that night forward, I didn’t even try to get the tub from it’s box.
3 | It’s cool to keep wearing your maternity clothes
… and I don’t mean for just a few weeks. Once, when my son was about a year and a half old a co-worker complimented my sweater and asked where I got it – I sheepishly replied that it was a maternity sweater. Almost immediately all other moms in the group, even those with kids well into elementary school shouted out that they were still wearing a few maternity favorites. No, you might not want to keep wearing the shirt that says “baby on board,” but if something fits well and looks good don’t ditch it just because it says maternity on the label.
4 | Stock up on restaurant gift cards while your pregnant
After you have a baby people are nice to you. For a little while at least, they cook you meals and shovel your driveway and ask if you need a sitter. All too soon, though, they totally forget about you and you’re stuck with a cluster-feeding one-month old, a bank account running on empty due to unexpected baby expenses and absolutely nothing for dinner. A friend suggested I splurge on a few restaurant gift cards with money people give me at my shower and, a few months later, I was deeply grateful she had suggested it.
5 | Get some kind of stretchy, wrappy thing for your jiggly-wiggly post-birth belly
I’m sure it’s possible for your belly to shrink back to it’s normal size without being held together in a compression tank top, but I’m not sure that it would have been possible for me to walk out of the hospital without one. In the hours, days and weeks after giving birth, it felt like my organs were bouncing around falling back into place every time I took a step – that’s because my organs were bouncing around and falling back into place every time I took a step. I got a cheapo post-natal wrap off Amazon, but I’m sure that just about any tight tank top or wrap marketed for this purpose will do. This piece of advice came from the woman checking me out at the maternity store and, in those first few weeks, I was immensely grateful that I had listened.
6 | Pick a pediatrician whose office is near good restaurants
There are a lot of articles on picking a pediatrician – these articles suggest you find someone who shares your parenting philosophy, who is a good listener and who will work with you to meet your parenting goals. These things are important, but what really matters, is what restaurants are next door to their office. In your baby’s first year of life you’re going to take a ridiculous number of trips to the doctor – it’s also likely going to be one of the only places you’re able to get yourself out the door to in the early weeks, so make each visit count by rounding it into a lunch or dinner outing somewhere good. This parenting tip is all my own and, as I chow down after every doctor’s appointment, I give myself a hearty pat on the back for choosing my pediatrician so wisely.
7 | Just go ahead and buy the bulk pack
Before I had my son I didn’t think I would allow him to use a pacifier. I worried they would destroy my sons nursing latch or mess up his future teeth, but five days in, when I realized that he needed to be sucking something LITERALLY 24/7, I broke down, bought a pack of pacifiers and regained a tiny piece of the sanity I’d lost over the past few days. My son was soothed by a pacifier, but also had a tendency to spit them so quietly and surreptitiously that we often found ourselves tearing the house apart to try to locate one as he fussed on the verge of waking up in his crib. A turning point in my life came when, on another mad dash to the store for more pacifiers, my mom suggested I just but five packs. A light bulb went on, and I thanked her for her genius. That afternoon I distributed the 15 new pacifiers among the rooms of my home and my little one was rarely out of reach of one for long. Whether your kid’s thing is pacifiers or a specific type of blanket or swaddle, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and buy the big pack – they’ll use it, I promise. So, soon-to-be parents and already-parents out there: What's the most useful parenting advice you've ever received?