It's hard to believe that my little Jack Mason is almost 11 weeks old, and I have been a mommy for two and a half months. Am I an absolute pro? Haha, no, of course not, but I am slowly learning. Everyday, I feel more confident in what I'm doing, which really makes a world of a difference. I used to go out with Jack in constant fear that he'd bust out crying in the middle of the produce section, and now, while I still have a little bit of that anxiety, I feel much more ready to handle it when it occurs. I have been pooped on, peed on, thrown up on and pretty much anything else you could think of, and I've survived! It is the most challenging and definitely the most rewarding thing I have ever done with my life, and it's hard to imagine how I lived so long without my little stinker around :)
As I slowly gain my confidence with Jack, I started thinking more about what kind of advice I would offer other brand new or soon-to-be moms out there reading my blog. I have been working on this blog post for awhile now, and I've put together a list of things that I learned having just gone through 9 months and pregnancy and successfully come out the other side with the CUTEST baby boy :)
My Advice for Expecting and New Mommies
Finding clothes that fit well after pregnancy is harder than finding ones that fit during.
Believe it. When you're pregnant, especially toward the end, you can get away with wearing fitted tops and dresses because you're rocking an obvious baby bump. After you have the baby though, all you want to wear is loose, baggy stuff that's going to camouflage that belly flab. And believe me, it is FLAB. It's almost gone now, but I can definitely remember the feeling of my belly moving independently from my body for awhile there after having Jack. Really. SO not cute. After I had Jack, my mom went out to Old Navy and bought me XL pajama pants and very loose tops to wear for the first few weeks after, and it saved me. The lesson here is to pay attention to what clothing you have that fits you near the end of your pregnancy, and make sure it's not all fitted. Believe it or not, you'll want even larger, looser clothing to wear after you have the baby.
Buy two nursing bras before you have the baby.
I'm sure you've heard the advice that you shouldn't go out and buy all of your nursing bras before you have the baby because your breasts are going to change size again once your milk comes in. This is true. Ohhh, how it's true. However, I would say that you should still have one or two nursing bras to start off with right away. Trust me, you will live in them, and wearing a regular bra just becomes a pain in the butt when you're nursing all the time. If you happen to be well endowed like I am, plan on wearing a bra day and night to protect your ladies from sagging as much as possible. I suggest getting at least one that is wireless so you can sleep in it. My favorite is the wireless nursing bra by Bravado. Their sizing is more flexible, too, in small, medium, large, etc., so you have more growing room when you need it.
Don't make any promises to visitors.
I'll be honest. When I had Jack, I didn't want any visitors around; I was even a little crazy about anyone taking photos (you could take them, but I really didn't want anyone seeing any photos of me). I still cringe when I look at them! The only people who saw me before/during/after I had the baby was my own mom, brother, and my husband. Now, I know that all moms are different in this situation and it really is dependent on what kind of labor experience you have. I had a longer labor, a c-section and then I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding afterward, so I really wasn't in the mood to put on my makeup and smile pretty for visitors. So my advice is to wait before you start making promises to your friends and family about visiting the baby. Hopefully, you'll have a great child birth experience and you'll be ready to show your baby off to the world right away. But I'm here to tell you that there's a chance it won't work out the way you expect it to, and you don't want to have to make a ton of phone calls telling people they can't visit at the time that you originally promised. You can always invite friends and family later on, so take it one step at a time, and just see how it goes!
Cool it on the bottles, diapers and pacifiers.
When I was pregnant, I was told that all babies tend to be picky about the kind of bottles and pacifiers they prefer, and they obviously fit into diapers differently. For that reason, I bought a variety of brands and styles ahead of time thinking that we would try them all out and see what he liked best. Turns out, my Jack ended up liking the first bottle and pacifier that he was offered in the hospital, and completely refused anything else thereafter. I think babies are kind of simple like that, haha. For the record, he loves Dr. Brown's bottles with the standard level 1 nipple, the Avent Soothie pacifiers and Pampers Baby Dry diapers. For that reason, all of the other bottles, pacifiers and diapers that I purchased went to waste. I obviously couldn't return anything that I had opened, but I wised up midway through the whole trial-and-error process and stopped opening the packages so I could return them.
FYI - Babies 'R Us will let you return anything that isn't opened already for store credit, even if you don't have the receipt. Over the past couple of months, I've exchanged diapers that don't fit Jack correctly, as well as bottles and pacifiers that he doesn't like, with no problem. However, I wished that I hadn't gone crazy and bought so many different kinds of bottles, pacifiers and diapers and just gotten a couple of options of each to start with. You can, however, go crazy with the baby wipes. You can never have too many of those, trust me, so buy them whenever you see them on sale! Oh, and don't cheap out on the wipes (Target brand, for instance, sucks. I think Pampers are good!). It's your baby's cute little tushy at stake!
Get a Boppy!
The Boppy is seriously God's gift to all breastfeeding mama's. I started out with just one, and quickly bought another one so I can keep one on the first and second floors of my house. Not only will you use it for breastfeeding, but you will also use it when bottlefeeding and holding your baby. When your baby is little, you will be holding him/her constantly, and the pillow really helps support your elbows and forarms so they don't get tired. Haha, my husband even uses it sometimes when holding Jack for a while! Now that Jack is a little older, I can also prop him up in his Boppy to sit. It's probably the item from my baby registry that I use the most (with burp cloths coming in a close second). In addition to the pillow itself, I also recommend getting the waterproof cover and at least one extra pillow cover for it so you can alternate when it gets dirty and spit up on.
Get a swing and a bouncer.
You can get all of the cute toys and stuffed animals in the world at your baby shower, but the truth is, your baby won't even start focusing his or her attention on them until he or she is at least a few months old. Take it from me, when you have a young baby, your saving grace will be the swing and the bouncer. Forget about all of the other fun development toys for now, and just get the swing and the bouncer, and you'll be set for awhile. When you have such a young baby, you'll notice that you can only hold them for so long, and then there's only so many places you can safely set them down. And we all have to stop and shower every once in a while, right? It's quite the conundrum for most new moms, including myself, and that's why I rely on those two items so very much. I have the Fisher Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing and the Fisher-Price Deluxe Bouncer, and they both work very well. I keep one on the second floor of my house and one on the first, and I like that we can move the bouncer around the house whenever we need to. One additional toy that my son gets quite a bit of use out of at a young age is the Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies & Lights Deluxe Gym. I lay him down under that thing, and he's good for at least 20 minutes just staring at the glowing lights, alone.
Get more burp cloths than bibs.
We all know that babies spit up, so be prepared! I recommend buying more of the burp cloths than the bibs for the first several months because more often than not, you will need to be protected from spitup more than your baby will. When he or she is really little, you'll be holding your baby all the time, so rarely does the spitup just fall down onto the bib that's around the baby's neck. I have a ton of bibs, but I've found that they aren't really helpful at this point. I don't think they'll really come in handy until Jack is a little older, sitting up on his own and eating more solid foods. So stock up on those burp cloths so you aren't forced to do laundry all the time! Oh, and P.S...I have used the more expensive burp cloths and the cheaper ones, and it really doesn't seem to make a difference. Maybe the cheaper ones will wear out faster, but they all seem catch the spitup just fine!
Swaddle, swaddle, swaddle!
Now, I realize that there are babies out there that hate to be swaddled, but my Jack definitely wasn't one of them. It's funny, because we didn't swaddle him at first because we thought that he hated it. From his first day in the hospital, he was quite the little squirmer; he was even rolling on his side in his little hospital cart! He seemed to always be fighting to get out of the blankets when we tried swaddling him, so we assumed that he was one of those babies that didn't like to be swaddled. Big mistake. About a week after bringing him home and several sleepless nights, my husband finally grabbed one of the HALO Sleepsacks that I had gotten as a gift and tried wrapping our Jack up tight in it before bed. Cue the light from above and the angels singing, because it was the first night we got to sleep more than one or two hours at a time!
So my advice? Even if it seems like your baby is trying to wiggle his way out of his swaddle, give it a fighting chance. My Jack manages to gets his arms out of his swaddle on a regular basis (my little Houdini!), but we still swaddle him up tight every night because he ultimately sleeps better that way. I highly recommend the HALO Sleepsacks, although I haven't tried any of the other kinds out there. If your baby doesn't like being swaddled in a traditional blanket, try the Sleepsack. Jack doesn't seem to like being swaddled in a blanket as much as he does the Sleepsack; probably because we're not as good at the traditional swaddling and he would always get out of it too easily. I would get at least two of the Sleepsacks in the Newborn size to start with so you don't have to wash the same one multiple times during the week. I also noticed that the micro-fleece sleepsacks are a little bit better than the cotton ones. I think the cotton material is a little too stretchy and Jack can wiggle his way out of it easier.
Breastfeeding is hard work.
Honestly, I think I'm going to write a seperate blog post on my experience breastfeeding because it has been such a rollercoaster of emotions for me. However, I figured I would mention it here, as well. Let me preface this by saying that I am so glad that I am able to breastfeed my child. I consider it the first and greatest gift that I am able to give my baby as a new mother, and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, it has not been easy. I had planned on solely breastfeeding my baby all along, and honestly didn't anticipate having any problems. My breasts grew at least two cup sizes while I was pregnant, and I was well endowed to begin with! My mom and all of the women in my family had no problems breastfeeding, so I figured I would follow in their footsteps. Well, needless to say, things didn't turn out quite like I expected. I have been fighting a low milk supply since Jack was born three weeks early via C-section, and it has taken so much more time and work on my part than I ever expected.
Within days of being born, my Jack was losing too much weight, and we had to start supplementing with formula because I couldn't produce enough milk to feed him. At first, I felt like such a failure. Keeping Jack well fed was my first big job as his mother, and I couldn't do it on my own. We were hoping that my low milk supply was because I had Jack a few weeks early, but unfortunately, I'm still not where I wish I could be. Jack now drinks about 65 percent breastmilk and 35 percent formula, but I have since come to terms with my feelings of guilt. Now, I am SO grateful to have the formula, as well, because sometimes I just can't keep up with Jack's HUGE appetite - especially during his growth spurts! I feel the need to mention my experience breastfeeding not to scare any of you new and prospective moms out there, but because it took me a while to realize that my struggles with breastfeeding are normal, and it doesn't make me a bad mom. Before I had Jack, all I heard was how it would come naturally; that if I just stuck with it and tried really hard, that it would all work out the way it was supposed to. Well, I am here to tell you that sometimes breastfeeding doesn't just come naturally, and sometimes it doesn't come no matter how hard you try. But that doesn't mean that you're any less of a mom! Go into breastfeeding remembering that while it is a great gift to give your child, it is just the first of many gifts you'll give him or her. Hopefully, you won't have any of the issues that I did, but if you do, know that it's normal and it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong as a woman or a mom.
Get a good breastpump.
Make sure you get an electronic breast pump! Regardless of whether you'll be a stay-at-home or a working mom, you will use it, trust me! That, and many insurance companies are now covering the cost for one electronic breast pump per child under Obamacare. We called our insurance company to ask about getting one, and we were directed to a medical supplier where we ordered the one we wanted (I love my Medela pump). The medical supplier then reached out to my OBGYN directly to make sure that I was, indeed, pregnant and in need of a breast pump, and then we received our pump in the mail a couple of weeks later! Every insurance company does it a little bit differently, so definitely call yours to see how to go about it. I would just recommend doing it sooner rather than later since it will take at least a couple of weeks to complete the process. These electronic breast pumps can run between $250 and $300 though, so it's definitely worth the extra effort! I received a couple of Medela breastpump accessory sets for free while I was still in the hospital, so I didn't have to buy those separately afterward.
I share all of my maternity photos documenting my growing belly for the past nine months.
I share some more details from my blue and gray nautical baby shower in California, including the stationery, favors and sweets table.