Monday, December 21, 2009

Letter to New Mamas

We interrupt our regularly scheduled frivolous programming for something a bit more serious and sentimental...

I couldn't sleep this morning. I woke up thinking about my friend Kat who is due to have her first baby in less than a month...was she sleeping okay?...feeling anxious, tired, heavy??  Did she have any idea what she was getting her self into?? She's one of my first pre-baby friends to get pregnant and since she lives in Brooklyn I haven't been able to bombard her with lots of well meaning, unsolicited advice.  I thought back to those first few hours, days, weeks and the flood of emotions is still pretty fresh two plus years later...having a child has been more magical, more fullfilling, more everything than I could have imagined...I think the sun, moon, and starts revolve around Lila and I'm so thankful that she's mine.  It's been strangely freeing - freedom from worrying about the small stuff, freedom to feel love that intensely... but it's also been the most challenging thing that I've undertaken.  Was there any small piece of advice I could pass on...mother to mother, that would make the transition easier...less fraught with uncertainty?  Would telling her that the first 3 months are ridiculously hard help or worry her?  Would she take comfort in knowing that everyone's hormones are crazy postbaby?  that breastfeeding is really difficult at first but that it gets easier so she should persevere?  that her take home from the hospital kit will include maxi-pads size super enormous?  So here's a few pratical things I can remember and I'd love to hear your thoughts...what do wish other parents had told you, what do you remember about those first months?

1) Two things really helped me have a postive birthing experience...prenatal yoga and my doula. Yoga provided me with so many moments of calm during pregnancy and really helped me to connect to what was going on...learning to breathe was so important too...and I think having a doula is almost a necessity especially if you are planning a drug free delivery. I was able to labor at home for a long time, arrived at the hospital fullý dialated and then pushed like a mother (pardon the expression) for 3 hours...whew! But it was all worth it and if I can do it naturally (I'm a huge wuss) so can anyone with a little prep work...a doula also takes a lot of the pressure of your hubby so he can focus on you and not feel stressed about everything else...if you are on a tight budget you can always look for doulas in training who need experience.

2) You will need decidedly unglamorous items when you get home - giant maxi pads, tucks and a sitz'll feel a little silly sitting in the sitz but it really makes things so much better!
stock up on nice pjs too because you'll have lots of visitors but don't really feel like getting dressed either...

3)Take a breastfeeding class - just because it's natural doesn't mean it's easy...a book is great too - I like Dr Sears...and if you plan on doing it don't let any of the nurses or mil's pop a bottle or paci in that newborn's's hard to go back! Also, breast pads are essential because you leak like crazy for the first month or so...yes, I know - glamorous right? Printed tops are helpful for hiding leaks and I lived in nursing tanks (I loved these Glamourmom ones but Target sells them as well) for at least a year...I liked them much better than bras...who wants to show off a cold tummy? Henleys are also a good nursing top as are scarves for covering up in public (maybe this subject needs a whole post?). It definitely gets easier so don't get discouraged...
Also, if you are feeling a little worn out a clean pinky is a good paci alternative til they are 6 weeks...

4) You will be starving when you are nursing!! Much more so than beforehand...stock up your freezer with food and get your friends to sign up to bring you meals...friends of new parents - no visitor should arrive without food! Leave the onesies in the store and pick up some take out instead...

5) Your hormones will be on a huge rollercoaster - it is not inappropriate to cry a lot (I remember blubbering " but I love her so much I don't think I can handle it!!") obviously there is a line between normal and depression so please seek help if you're feeling the latter...

6) Seek out other new doesn't matter if they are complete strangers - I promise you can talk for hours about naps, diapers, nursing, one understands you better right now. If you are in Mpls, Blooma is a godsend - sign up for their mommy and me yoga - but all cities have new moms groups...just google! I was lucky enough to have my next door neighbor, who I adore, have a baby 6 weeks before and she was the lovely person who brought me Tucks and yummy baked goods...a true friend!

7)Babies get really overstimulated and need to sleep every few hours...I found it really helpful to just go lay in a dark room with Lila when she couldn't settle down...just because newborns seem to sleep anywhere doesn't mean they don't need some peace and quiet.

8) Plan a set date night and line up babysitters beforehand...we still struggle with this and it's important to have alone time...I'll just be honest - having a baby is hard on your relationship and it will be a bit of work to keep it healthy those first few years...delegate responsibilities like baths to dad so he doesn't feel left out and you don't feel worn out.

9) Pumping milk sucks! Get a nice pump and start doing it right away when you have lots of milk as opposed to later when your supply is matched up to your babe's appetite. Also make sure your hand pump works if you go away for a day so you aren't sitting in a bathroom stall at Jazz Fest self pumping so your boobs aren't aching - very very glamorous!!

10) A lot of gear is unnecessary and can wait til after the baby arrives...things we hardly ever used: nice Oeuf Crib - never, lovely svan highchair - a few months?, spendy Bugaboo stroller - rarely...every babe is different but we used a sling and bjorn a lot and ended up cosleeping so I wish we had just invested in a bigger bed...

I'm sure I'm forgetting so much more!!! I'd love to hear everyone's comments!

It really is the best thing ever - I can't imagine my life without my Lila so enjoy the ride and just let go of all the small stuff! These first years go by so fast...

Great Gifts for New Parents:
pjs, food, a cleaning service, spa day, babysitting

Update:  Make sure to read the comments!!! So many wise gems from other moms...


  1. you're such a good friend to write all this out. may i add and elaborate.

    1. a comfortable nursing bra like the ones bravado sells are worth their weight in gold. i'm all about saving money when it comes to baby and parenting stuff, but THIS is not the place to do it.

    2. online shopping is your friend! and don't forget to check for online coupon codes. they almost always have one, even to obscure places. oh, and don't forget that things like your AAA membership gets you discounts at places like for online shopping. you can still return to the store if you need to.

    3. instead of spending a boat load of money on professional photos, consider investing in super nice camera instead. really, the difference between us and them (pro photogs) is usually just a camera and some practice. your baby will give you plenty of time for the latter. i wish i had realized this one sooner!

    4. don't wait to buy the hands free pumping bra thing until 8 months of obstinately thinking you can just hold them up yourself. really, what's 30 bucks or so for something adds so much convenience to your already hectic life.

    5. sit down with your partner BEFORE the baby comes and discuss how you want to share responsibilities. it may only be theoretical and it may all look different when the baby comes, but it's a lot, LOT easier to strive for equity before you've assumed full responsibility for everything.

    6. get some cheapo baskets from ikea or joann's and put them around the house with all your favorite snacks, bottles of water, a pen and paper for your neverending mental to do list, and some light reading. little nursing stations per se.

    7. don't underestimate the power of secondhand. craigslist and consignment shops don't just sell grubby used kids clothes and items. i've found SO many items new with tags this way. people sometimes just don't have a chance to get to things before the baby arrives.

    8. put a little lanolin on after every feed and pump session in those first few weeks. your girls will thank you.

    9. you might be using those post partum pads for awhile. it may sound "weird," but reusable cloth pads are INFINITELY more comfortable than the disposable ones. the difference in comfort is not even comparable. and really, it's not nearly as gross as one might think or assume. really.

    10. don't pre-wash everything before the baby comes. you might want to return things. clothes can always be washed (by someone other than you) as you need them. you'll be amazed by how much you'll get from friends and fam that duplicates all your best laid plans and efforts.

    11. switch the camera to video mode every once in awhile. i wish i'd done this more often when she was an iddy biddy newborn. still photos are great, but little videos are magical too.

    okay...that's all. thanks for giving me a venue to get this all out, Michelle! you're such a great mama.

  2. I have totally felt the same way about what you should and shouldn't tell a soon to be mama!

    Seriously, how have people been having babies for SO LONG and not once, in all of my mama discussions, did anyone ever say how much you cry in the beginning? And feel crazy? And, just like you said, blubber on about how much you love the baby! And then your husband says, "Are you happy or sad right now?"

    My list is random since you guys nailed everything so nicely:

    1. Babies' personalities dictate their sleep habits, it is not a reflection of your parenting skills.

    2. One of the hardest things about motherhood is marriage. You're trying to figure the baby out, you hover around your husband who has also not figured the baby out, you can get resentful about the nonstop baby care. You have to ask for specific help from your husband, I was bad at delegating but that is what is needed.

    3. As soon as you can, get out of the house, with and without the baby. You will feel empowered. Try going to yoga without the baby (we are fortunate to have Blooma childcare, but seriously, the point is a break and there is nothing more of a buzzkill than hearing your baby cry during savasana!) It's also a good chance for dad to be on his own with baby!

    4. Rose mentioned being hungry all the time from nursing, that is true, but I am also SO thirsty. I crave orange juice like a mutha. Have since the moment I started nursing. My husband would set up water bottles next to the glider for me before bed so I had something to drink in the wee hours.

    5. Nooky. I will try to keep this family friendly. I don't know who came up with this 6 wks nonsense but to me, it is straight up crazy talk. I had the 'roids and stitches for 5 wks. What about that makes me want nooky? Or even makes me eligible for nooky? Let's tell the husbands ahead of time to take 6 wks off their calendar. We tried at 6 wks and regularly thereafter. I was not having pain free nooky until 6 months. I have heard sooner and later than that. So let's stop "feeling bad" for our husbands and maybe take care of ourselves first. Well, after the baby that is. :P

    6. The sling was the only silver bullet for making baby happy after boob. Worked for dad too. Instant happy. It took a number of times for us to get used to wearing it and feel confident putting him in. But it was a miracle.

    7. Get a doula, get a doula, get a doula. Repeat. My husband didn't understand what the point of a doula was. Until our labor. There is no way for a husband to have any idea what kinds of positions to suggest to you or ways to hold your hips or do any of the wonderful things doulas do. I have never felt more connected to him than I did during that labor because of the way our doula helped him help me.

    8. This is my just-happened-yesterday revelation. Take time off work before the baby is due. I saved my vacation so I could have more paid time off during FMLA. I worked literally until I went into labor. A 14 hour workday. Labor can be a marathon, mine was, and it sure would have been better to have been rested ahead of time. I thought if I took time off before my due date I was cutting into time with the baby. It just occurred to me yesterday that if I took the week before my due date as vacation (I went into labor on my due date), I still could have taken my full FMLA but just not been paid for that one week. That would have been so worth it! Of course that is a personal, financial decision. But I was not looking at it the right way, I thought it would cut into my FMLA. FMLA does not start until the baby is born!

    I instantly loved my baby beyond reason. I did not instantly love motherhood and I think that is fair to acknowledge. It is so hard for the first 3 months. But at some point I fell in love with motherhood. It is joyful, magical, challenging, empowering, the most amazing journey of my life.

  3. Looove these comments!! So wise...and so many things I didn't think of...
    Rose - yes online shopping is the best and I totally forgot to mention my obsession with (you can get anything and free shipping - oh, and it arrives in ONE day), nursing stations - how could I forget...and a nice camera - still need that

    Heo - 1. Thank you - my 2 yr old still doesn't sleep very well - whew!
    2. & 5. - we need a whole weeks worth of posts on this - why is navigating your marriage post baby sometimes trickier than motherhood itself!!

    Everything else - BrillianT!!

  4. Wonderful, wonderful comments! Love them all. My baby is 7 now so I don't remember all the details quite as well, but there are a several points that are still quite vivid.

    1- One thing that always hits me when I see people wilth little babies, is that they often complain when the little one cries. I realized so strongly that Aurora (my daughter) was simply trying to communicate with the world when doing so. I believe that no tear or scream is ever random. I think we would do all we could too to get attention or help if we were hungry in pain or wet... can you imagine sitting in a full diaper and not being able to do anything about it? I would personally not be very happy about either!

    2- I breastfed for 22 months. I had the luxury to do so because I was working from home and I could pace myself as I wished. I think that giving her breastmilk saved her a lot of tummy aches. I don't care what the companies say about how close to authentic the powdered stuff is, it is just not the same... not to metion the boost to the immune system we are giving them though the mother's milk. Nature has things figured out pretty well I believe. Regarding the breasts - I just figured that I have this ONE chance with my baby, and if my breasts were not 'pretty' anymore aftwrwards I could always fall back on a mammoplasty if really necessary... I never had to.

    3- Another point regarding breast feeding is your diet. I tasted my milk several times, and it tasted like what I had eaten recently. Eg. carrots. Aurora never had trouble passing from liquids to a solid diet, and I believe that my own varied diet strongly contributed to that. She was just used to the flavors already.

    4- Sleep. I found a system that worked wonders for me. I would put Aurora to bed in her crib at first, and when she woke up at night because she was hungy, I would just put her into my bed and sleep turned towards her with an open shirt. She would just use my breast as a self-service (babies do that anyway), and I would be able to sleep without the hasstle of getting up and giving her the bottle. It worked like a beauty for me. Obviously when they are tiny you have to be very careful of not covering them or hurting them - everyone gets accustomed to the rhythm though after a bit.

    I wish you all many gorgeous moments with your little ones. Every moment is precious! xx And Happy Holidays to you all! Jelena

  5. Thanks very wise!! Happy Holidays...

  6. Do any of you have advice for dads? It seems like everything I have found is either common sense or extremely dumbed down. Every once in a while you get a little nugget from reading a long article or entire book but you really need to search. I really want to be as helpful as possible and get prepared super early. It seems like there is tons of literature and one-to-one advice for moms but not much for fathers to be.

  7. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  8. There are some good tips here but definitely lacking in the way of father tips or couple tips, mothering is a single journey but more than not having a baby is a couple's journey. Here are a few things along those lines:
    1. My husband signed up for weekly pregnancy alerts per email using - I am sure there are other ones but he signed up for the email that I was reading that told me about the changes in my body and how the baby was developing, so it gave him a bit of insight and more tolerance toward the mood swings.
    2. Map out the pregnancy together: we made our own 9 month calendar and put it up on the wall including both the developmental stages in the womb as well as fun moments we shared like feeling the first kick. We also wrote potential names on it and had friends do the same when they were over. It was fun and we still have that calendar, a great gift for our son Tristan some day!
    3. I thought that the class we took together with other couples from the hospital was great since we met some great friends there and the teacher was able to tell us some of the nitty gritty stuff about crying a lot, feeling overwhelmed, the first 2 weeks and not having time to brush teeth or take showers. That way, our friends and family could just be positive and encouraging like we needed them to be but we had an idea of some of the harder parts to come. That said, nothing will prepare you but that's life and you will adjust and be stronger than before.
    4. Something to look forward to! The first few months were hard for us but also a big bonding experience, we both took on the roles that fit best and this has evolved in the two years since. At the beginning when I was on maternity, I always got up in the night and early in the morning since my husband worked, I slept with the baby to get rest. Now, my husband gets up in the morning to get a jump start on his day and plays with our son while I sleep in. We saved up for a summer house rental near the beach starting after our son was 4 months old. In the first few months when I was having a tough day, I just dreamed about summer at the beach, running in the sea and sand with my baby boy, and relaxing in a house (we live in a small New York apartment so a house was a big treat for us!) It was a lifesaver for us to have that something to look forward to.
    5. Go to the pediatrician together in the first few weeks - we found a great doctor in advance after attending three interviews/open houses together and discussing what we were looking for. Our pediatrician was very helpful in the first weeks in terms of helping us through feeding and sleeping issues. If you don't use a traditional doctor or don't have health care, you might opt for a doula for a longer period of time but either way, work with them together so you are both on the same page.

    Ok, I hope those are some new ones and helpful - I must say that I cherished our doula and got lots of massage both pre and post natal. My husband loved the sling for getting the baby to sleep without having breasts and he was in charge of photos and videos and sending on to family and friends which he continues to be the master of. Enjoy your journey!

  9. Thanks Mabel and Emmi...I'm soliciting more advice for dads and will post it all later this week :)

  10. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  11. The post and the comments are spot on and beautiful. I have three kids. I breast fed the first two - for forty months and forty-six. And yes, there was a year of overlap. Nothing heroic about what I did. As anyone who breast feeds beyond the first couple months knows, it gets easier and then plain old easy. It was no harder than mixing up foods, spoon feeding, cleaning the highchair. Also, after the first couple years it was just a session before sleep. My third child is adopted, and it proved difficult to nurse her as she was a toddler. I bottle fed her till four which was crucial to re-babying her for all the years she missed being a baby and had to be alone in the world. I think having lived through both experiences I understand better than ever that nurturing is what this is about. And nothing is more fulfilling to a mother than to be able to nurture and see what a difference her presence in the world makes to her little ones.


I'm hanging on your every word...let me know what you think!