Pregnancy and Motherhood for Dummies

(I'm not calling anyone a dummy! That was just a catchy title. Although before I became pregnant with Wilder I did feel like a dummy when it came to all things baby and if you're newly pregnant or a first-time mom you might too, hence this post.)
 
Recently a younger cousin of mine who is pregnant messaged me on Facebook asking for tips and advice on pregnancy and being a mother. I was pretty shocked because I'm certainly no expert but I was honored that she would think to ask me. I also have a few friends who are pregnant for the first time and therefore I'm in full-on advice-giving mode right now so I thought for today's post I'd share some of the things I've learned about pregnancy and new motherhood through reading and simple trial and error. Again, I'm no expert. This advice is just what has worked for me. You should read and research to figure out what you believe is best for you and your baby. 
 
Also, a disclaimer: I will admit, I'm a total breastfeeding snob because it worked for me and Wilder has not been sick once. He has had only one runny nose (from Tennessee pollen) and one fever (from teething) all year. BUT I fully know and understand that not everyone is physically able to breastfeed. So my advice there is, breastfeed if you are able (it may not be easy, but it will be worth it) BUT if you aren't able to for some reason, don't beat yourself up about it! Stay positive so you can pass those positive feelings on to your baby. As myWhat to Expect the First Year book says, Filled with the right formula and given the right way, a bottle can be used to pass along good nutrition and lots of love. 

So, anyway, as if all you expectant mothers weren't receiving enough unsolicited advice, here you go ;)
 
 

 
Pregnancy:
1. Exercise! Yoga is great for keeping your mind right and in a positive place and it also helps build up flexibility and muscle strength for labor. If nothing else, try to walk 30 min. every day. You'll need to build up strength and endurance for labor and for the exhausting days after you have the baby. Trust me. You'll be glad you did.
 
2. Eat healthily (obviously) -- Read about what not to eat (for example, deli meat and unpasteurized cheeses (i.e. queso dip) are to be avoided -- I never would have known that if I hadn't read about it). Remember, everything you eat you're feeding to your baby. Vary your diet so your baby is introduced to lots of different flavors.
 
3. Take care of yourself in general and get as much rest as you can now. Floss your teeth -- I know that sounds weird but it's important! 
 
4. Take your prenatal vitamins and also Fish Oil (Omega-3) supplements -- studies show that moms who take fish oil while pregnant have babies with fewer colds and shorter illnesses. This is important because nothing is more stressful and heartbreaking than having a sick or sickly baby.
 
5. Read and research -- It's up to you to know what decisions you want to make for your baby and how you want to parent, etc. Sooo many people will try to tell you what to do and how to do things, but remember you are the mom and it's your responsibility to know what's best for your baby. Everyone does things differently. Try to just nod and smile when people give you unsolicited advice. The two books that have helped me the most are What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Expect the First Year. These answer questions you didn't even know you had! Also, TheBump.com is a popular pregnancy/parenting website but I've found it to be not so helpful. A GREAT website is BabyCenter.com -- this is a wonderful resource for all things pregnancy and baby.
 
Motherhood:
1. The most important thing I can tell you about this is -- BREASTFEED (if you can)! You'll probably feel weird about it at first and it may not be easy right away but it is the best thing you can do for your baby and it is sooo worth it! There are so many benefits to it -- a) it's cheap, you don't have to buy formula; b) it builds an AMAZING bond between you and your baby; c) it helps you lose the pregnancy weight a lot faster; and d) it passes on antibodies to your baby to help keep him/her healthy and it builds brainpower in your baby.
 
2. This goes along with the point about breastfeeding -- If you choose to breastfeed, tell your significant other, parents, and other important people in your life that you have decided to do this and that you'll need their support and encouragement if you're going to stick with it. If the going gets tough (i.e. you have problems with latching, milk supply, sore nipples, etc.), you'll need them to be there to tell you you're doing a great job and that you're doing the right thing. Nothing is more discouraging than having someone you trust say Just give him/her a bottle. Do your research on breastfeeding so you'll know what to expect. A great book is The Nursing Mother's Companion. Also, look up La Leche League in your area. You can call any of their leaders with questions.
 
3. If you thought people gave you a lot of unsolicited while you were pregnant, get ready for all the comments about how you should raise your child! Again, just know they're trying to help but also feel free to take the advice you agree with and ignore the rest. I can't emphasize it enough -- read and do your research. If you have a question, look it up (or ask someone you trust). Just remember, recommendations change all the time so even the way our parents did things can be different than what is recommended these days. Again,BabyCenter.com is a great resource.
 
4. People will tell you this over and over but it's SO true -- sleep when the baby sleeps. You will be up so many times every night right at first and it gets exhausting so when the baby takes a nap or sleeps at all, you go take a nap too. Your baby's newborn days will be so much more enjoyable if you get as much sleep as possible.
 
5. Every baby is different but the best piece of baby equipment we had was the Fisher Price Calming Vibrations bouncer seat. The swing works for a lot of babies, but Wilder would go straight to sleep in this seat. Plus, it's cheap -- I think it's like $30 compared to a super-expensive swing. Also, it's fine for baby to have a few nice clothes for special occasions (or for all the time if you can afford it), but don't be afraid to shop Craigslist and consignment stores for quality, used clothes and gear -- your baby will outgrow clothes (and spit up all over them) and toys within a couple of months so there's no reason to break the bank to buy super-expensive stuff. Plus, as far as toys go, babies much prefer cardboard boxes and other household items (see a list compiled by my friend Annalee here) to actual toys anyway. 
 
6. Establish routines -- When you're trying to get the baby to sleep in his/her own crib it helps so much to have a bedtime routine. For example, we do a bath, then nurse, then bed every night. It helps the baby wind down and signals to them that it's time for bed. It also helps you and the baby to have a routine during the day. It may not be feasible to do this at first because a newborn will sleep off and on all day and eat whenever it wants, but after a month or two, you can begin to establish a daily routine. Like a nap in the morning, then a couple of hours later another nap, then another nap 2-3 hours later and feeding them at around the same times during the day. It makes for a happy, secure baby when they have a schedule they can count on and know what's going on and when.
 
7. Swaddling Wilder made all the difference in the world when we were trying to get him to sleep at night. Also, a sound machine helped (he listens to ocean noises). We also watched The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and that helped us learn how to soothe a crying baby.
 
8. You don't have to get expensive diapers! We use Target brand diapers and LOVE them.
 
9. One of the best pieces of advice I read was that you may not feel motherly at first. Nurturing doesn't necessarily come naturally to everyone BUT, if you act nurturing or how you think a loving mother would act, then soon you will become that.
 
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you live close to family who can watch the baby for you if you just need to get out of the house for a little while take advantage of that. Take time for yourself.
 
11. Remember you are your baby's advocate at doctor appointments. If you're not sure why something is being done, ask. If you have a concern, don't be afraid to speak up. You know your baby best. Also, make a list of questions between appointments to ask the doctor and take notes at your appointments on vaccines given, suggestions from the doctor, etc. 
 
12. Know that it will be hard at first but you CAN do it! Also, they don't stay tiny and sweet forever -- in fact it goes by faster than you could ever imagine -- so try to enjoy every minute, even the middle-of-the-night minutes. And take LOTS of pictures!
 
Resources:

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