Unsolicited New-Mom Advice, Part Two

Welcome to Part Two in my series of Unsolicited New-Mom Advice! As I said in Part One:

I’ve had more than one occasion where a friend or acquaintance has announced her mom-to-be status, and has welcomed any advice I might have. When I was a new mom-to-be, I found a lot of that sort of advice that was given to me to be invaluable — especially the things that might have taken me a while to work out for myself.

In the first installment, I talked about having a (flexible) birth plan, packing your hospital bag waaaay early, taking home everything from the hospital room that isn’t tied down, making sure Baby has a place to hang out in your — ahem — crib, swaddling and swinging and bathing and zippered crib sheets. In this installment, I recap a bit, sing the praises of second-hand baby clothes, and kind of go on a tangent about breastfeeding.

 

Sleep Tidbits

First, a couple of sleep-related follow-up links from Part One:

The QuickZip Crib Sheet Set is a huge timesaver for those times when the sheets need changed in the middle of the night. Zip nasty sheet out, zip clean sheet in, and everyone gets back to bed with as little rigamarole as necessary. This is handy in the early months of spit-up and blow-outs, but also in months to come, after the crib mattress has been lowered to a point where removing and replacing a normal fitted would be a giant pain in the tuckus.

I also mentioned Dr. Harvey Karp and his Happiest Baby on the Block book and video. There’s also a Happiest Baby on the Block soundtrack, which we found invaluable in the first few months. Whenever our son would get fussy, we’d play the Hair Dryer track and he’d calm right down — especially if we combined that with swaddling him and jiggling him back and forth on our legs.

We also set up my old iPhone 3G with an acoustic (non-powered) speaker and played the Rain track on repeat at night. Even after the Hair Dryer trick stopped working, we still kept the Rain track going at night, right up until he could walk up to the dresser and pull the iPhone off of its speaker.

 

Baby clothes

Even if you can afford all new stuff, there is nothing shameful or weird about buying second-hand clothes for Baby (IMO). That doesn’t mean you have to hit up Goodwill or the Salvation Army, either (although if you like that sort of thing like we do, it’s awesome). Garage sales are totally different when you’re actually looking for baby stuff: instead of being all disappointed that it’s another baby sale, you’re totally stoked. Or, if you’d rather have your used clothes properly vetted before you buy, there’s Once Upon A Child (or other second-hand/consignment shops) or thredUP. Point being, your kid is only going to spend a couple months in these clothes. Don’t overpay for clothes that Junior could conceivably wear just once. (It happened to us. Multiple times.)

The baby portion of one day's garage sale haul

Along those same lines, get extra stuff in the next few sizes up, and hang onto it. One day, Junior will suddenly no longer fit in that favorite waffle-knit sleeper, and you’ll need to open up the next drawer, where you’ve been keeping the sleepers that were still too big. It seriously seems to happen overnight sometimes.

 

Breastfeeding

I chose to breastfeed. Truth be told, I was determined to breastfeed. If you would care to go the same route, know this: there is a learning curve for both Baby and Mommy. It’s not all love and joy and bonding from the first moment. During the few days we were in the hospital, I asked every different nurse how I should hold my baby, how to get him to latch on, how to let him know where the Good Stuff was. Eventually, one nurse had me drip some premixed formula on my nipple so my son would figure out where to go, and showed me the football hold that would work the best for the two of us.

Your mileage may vary, but do be prepared. Breastfeeding is like karate — you either breastfeeding do yes, or breastfeeding do no. You breastfeeding do maybe so… well, no one will be squish just like grape, but why even bother to half-heartedly “see if it works out,” when it actually does take effort to succeed? Again, my opinion. If you plan to do it, plan to try hard, and accept the consequences (good or bad) as they come. On the flip side, there’s also no shame in finding that you need to supplement with formula for one reason or another, or even in realizing that formula feeding exclusively will work best for you and your baby and your co-parent.

Pros to breastfeeding:

  • It’s free (except for that whole pumping and storage thing later on).
  • There’s a neat feeling knowing that you’re creating your child’s food, too — kind of like while you’re pregnant and you know that you are your child’s home. I hesitate to call that part “bonding,” since I know formula-fed babies bond with their mothers just fine, but there’s a sense of pride there — at least, there was for me.
  • There’s no mixing of bottles, no making sure you have a cooler in the diaper bag; your boobs are always attached.
  • There’s other scientific stuff, too, but I’ll leave that to the experts, since it seems to be up in the air whether all the perceived benefits of breastfeeding are actually causal or merely correlated.

Cons to breastfeeding:

  • You are your infant’s sole source of food. That means that Daddy (or another caregiver) can’t take over for you until and unless you pump and store milk (or once you introduce solid foods). That means you get up every two or three hours to feed Baby, no matter what. It contributes to that certain special feeling of extreme sleep deprivation that I now associate with my son’s infancy.
  • You may end up needing to whip out a boob in public, if your child gets hungry on the go. I didn’t do this often, and was not comfortable nursing in public, especially since my son didn’t care for nursing covers.
  • Taking a mini-vacation from nursing (say, six hours or so) results in Very Painful Boobs. Engorgement is not a good time for anyone (despite that glorious five or six hours of sleep you may have just gotten), and poor Junior may end up drinking from the fire hose if you’re not careful.
  • Your boobs are no longer sexy; I, at least, had to turn off that part of my brain for the duration. It was too weird.

There are a few things you already know you’ll need, and some that might not have come onto your radar yet:

  • Disposable Nursing Pads — because, if you’re breastfeeding, you will leak. Weird but true. Some moms leak more than others, so your mileage may vary. I combined these with a Sleep Maternity & Nursing Bra every night for those first several months when I nursed my son.
  • A double-electric breast pump. I used the Ameda Purely Yours, but there are others that are also highly rated. The AC adapter on mine gave out just as I was winding down on production and pumping, but it still worked just fine on battery power. Up until that point, though, the double-sided double-pumping action was helpful for making short work out of pumping sessions.
  • Breastmilk Storage Bags and Breastmilk Storage Bottles both have their uses, whether for transport, feeding, or storage.

 

Again, there’s still plenty more oh-shit-I’m-a-new-Mom-now-what knowledge to be shared, but that should suffice for Part Two. I’m sure that there are other places online that will tell you these things, too — but chances are that I would gladly have sat down with you over some Starbucks and attempted a two-hour brain dump of this exact same stuff (and forgotten to tell you half of it, anyway).

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