An Informal Guide to Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery in NYC, 2010: Part II

Update from last post! I haven’t tried it, but word on the street is that Babies ‘R’ Us takes BuyBuyBaby coupons if they’re not expired.

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New and veteran moms alike love sharing advice on all things baby.  Here’s the second installment of what I’ve learned from fellow moms as well as my own experience over the past year.

Nursing essentials
I knew I wanted to at least giving nursing a try, but I didn’t have any idea where to begin.  Thankfully, our childbirth instructor recommended The Nursing Mother’s Companion, which was indispensable in getting me started.  Once I got home, I was  grateful to have these things on hand:

Lansinoh cream:  The hospital gave me some of this, but I was grateful to have another, bigger tube waiting at home.  It seems pricey, but don’t fret, hopefully you won’t use it for long.  I went through one tube in the first two weeks, when I was using it after every feeding. (They say your nipples will toughen up, and trust me, even when you don’t believe it, they will.)  After that, I used it before (and occasionally after) showers to protect from pain with the water falling on me for another few weeks, but I haven’t needed it since.  Watch out, though, because while this stuff is wonderful, it leaves a bit of a greasy mark on some clothing.

Nursing pads: I use disposables. . . . and I apologize to the environment each time I do.  I like the ones by Avent, Johnson & Johnson, and Nuk.  I buy whatever I can get the best deal on at the time.  I don’t like the ones by Lansinoh; they didn’t breathe enough and caused unnecessary soreness.   A friend said the reusables leak, and having another thing to wash seemed like more trouble than it was worth to me.  Again, environment, I’m sorry.

Nursing bras:  You’ll want a couple of these for day and night, as you probably won’t be wearing your regular bras for a while.  The question is, when to buy? I was told to shop for these after 36 weeks.  I went at 37, but kept getting bigger after that, so mine were a bit small for a while.  I should have bought one more size up to be more comfortable later.  If you grew a lot up to 36 weeks, you may want to buy big.  Don’t wait too long though, because you don’t want to have to shop for these with a newborn!

Some folks say you shouldn’t get bras with an underwire, because it can cause obstructions and infections, like mastitis.  However, a lady at a specialty mommy shop told me that as long as the underwire hits the right spot on you, you should be fine.  If you want bras with an underwire, it may be best to wait until you’ve been nursing two or three months and your size is more stable.

I like Medela, because they’re easy to open and you can always use coupons to buy them at Babies ‘R’ Us or BuyBuyBaby.  A friend recommended Bravado, but I have the tank top, and it’s cut too low to wear even under a cardigan in public.

Nursing cover: Whether you’re out and about or just having visitors over in your home, a nursing cover can be a great thing to make feeding more comfortable for everyone.  At first I thought paying thirty-five dollars for a rectangle of fabric on a string was ridiculous, but I finally gave it a shot.  Hooter Hiders and Bebe au Lait are essentially the same company, and their covers are great.  The boning at the top lets you see in to your baby, and the generous size covers well.  It is still nice to use nursing as an excuse for some alone time with the little one when there are lots of folks around, but the option to stay in the mix is welcome, too.

Night light: A night light in the room you nurse in and one in the room you change baby in (should these be different places) will help keep you both from waking up too much, and may make getting back to sleep easier for the little one.

Breast pump: A breast pump is great to have for a variety of scenarios, although it’s not entirely necessary.  If you will always be with your little one, and you are willing to simply keep trying if things don’t get off to a perfect start, you really don’t need one.  I’m glad we have one because we needed just a touch of help the first few days, and being able to pump helped ease us into nursing (again, I don’t think we really needed it, but it helped).  I also like that I can leave the baby with John for a couple of hours, or even go out for dinner with him, and know that baby will have milk and not need formula.

I opted for a Medela Swing single pump because it was cheaper than a double, and I don’t need the efficiency and speed of a double pump since I am with Jacob all day.  For the record, this decision and all of its implications caused a near breakdown in Babies ‘R’ Us.  But that’s hormones for you!

The only thing I wish were different about my pump is that it must be plugged into an outlet and cannot operate on batteries.  This makes it a more powerful pump, but sometimes slightly less convenient.

Other moms (ones who did go back to work) recommend the Medela Pump in Style in the backpack and the Avent handpump.

As for accessories, I’d recommend having some storage bags on hand to freeze milk once it’s pumped (this way it will last the longest).  I like the Lansinoh storage bags because they are easy to pour into a bottle and have a built-in labeling system.

Bottles: I have only used the bottles that came with the breast pump, and they have worked just fine.  We use them so rarely, having a full set seemed a waste.  Other moms recommend:

– Dr. Brown’s for colic babies.

– Breastflow because they flow similar to nursing.

– Playtex BPA Free Ventaire Advanced Wide Nursers

– Born Free because they have a wide mouth and are easier to clean.

One mom dissuades us from getting the Evenflo Purely Comfi Nursers because they leak. Consider yourself warned.

Getting around
Car seat
: Most recommendations are for the Graco SnugRide. There are a couple of different weight limits and a bunch of different fabrics, but they’re all really the same seat.  It’s best to buy a car seat new, but if you get one used, just make sure it was never in an accident and check the expiration date on it.  Yes, car seats have expiration dates.  Some car seats can adapt to older children, but it’s best to get an infant car seat first and a big kid one later.  Plus, if you intend to have more than one child, it may not be necessary for the seat to adapt with the child.

Stroller: A couple of moms liked the Graco Snap ‘N Go when baby was very young, so that they could figure out what they needed in a stroller and buy one they really liked once baby was bigger.

One mom said if she could do it again, she’d go for the Combi Flare because it’s light, it stands on its own when folded, it reclines, and it’s not so pricey.  She also likes the Maclaren Spitfire, because it’s lightweight and claims to be good for a broad weight range—although your needs for a stroller may change over time, so this isn’t always the best criteria to base a decision on.

We love the City Mini by Baby Jogger!  It’s good for city because it handles sidewalks well and folds up in a single motion.  Plus most car seats fit in so you can see baby.  The only drawbacks are: no cup holder, but you can get an attachment; the car seat adapter is $60; and you can never use a coupon on the stroller–like Apples or Uggs.  However, the stroller isn’t so expensive, relative to what else is out there. And again, we LOVE it.

Head and body support: A couple of us agree on the Summer Infant Velboa Snuzzler – Head & Body Support.  It’s helpful right away, in getting baby home from the hospital—even a big kid like Jacob benefited from this.  It’s also good for swings, strollers, and car seats in the weeks ahead, and very easy to move from one seat to another.  The head and body supports are separate pieces that Velcro together, so you can use whatever fits in your seat with your child.

Carriers and slings:  Oh, dear.  Where to begin?  There are lots of options out there and every mom and dad likes something different. Watch YouTube videos on how to use them to see which you feel is best for you.  I found it was helpful to see them in action when making my decision.

Some stores recommend waiting until baby is born and then bringing baby in to try out different styles.  This seems wise to me, as we didn’t use one with Jacob until he was a few weeks old, anyway.

Still, here are some recommendations . . .

One mom loved her Hotsling and Maya Wrap with a D-ring, but she would also have liked to try the ERGObaby.  Another friend has a carrier by Jeep that she likes.  Another uses a Moby Wrap and ERGObaby.  Another uses one by Maclaren and a Mei Tai.  Yup, that basically covers everything, and without any overlap.  The choice is really yours, and there are some great sites out there that chart what each carriers does and doesn’t do, so you can fit one (or two) to your lifestyle.

We have a Maya Wrap to get things and an Infantino Front-to-Back carrier—the former we bought for half-price on Craigslist, the latter was given to us.  Jacob has taken well to both.  While he’s a really easygoing baby, I haven’t heard any mom say that there was one that her baby didn’t take to at some point, if not right away.  As for me, I like having options.  The Infantino is good because it balances baby on both of my shoulders.  The Maya Wrap is good around the house because it’s a little quicker to get him in and out.  I like that it keeps his feet wrapped up on colder days, so that space between pant legs and socks is not exposed.  It’s also good when I have a heavy diaper bag; carrying the bag on one shoulder and baby on the other evens me out.

It may seem overwhelming to choose which carrier is right for you, but it’s worth it.  I use one carrier or the other literally every day, whether it’s to calm Jacob down or to continue to interact with him while I do things around the house or run errands.  When he’s not sleeping, he gets to see and experience so much, before he can move around on his own.

What to give at a baby shower
At one point in my pregnancy, I was approached at Babies ‘R’ Us by a woman buying a gift for her pregnant sister-in-law.  She wanted some advice as to which of the items from the expectant woman’s registry she would really use.  I hope my list thus far has been helpful for those in a similar situation, but beyond that, here are a few things I’d recommend as baby shower gifts:

–       Frozen food.  Both our moms gave us food just before or after Jacob was born, and it was nice to have home-cooked meals prepared for us in those first weeks.  Staying well-fed really helped me to get to feeling normal again as quickly as possible.  Happy mom, happy baby, right?  (And happy dad!)  If the shower is too early in the pregnancy for this to be feasible, perhaps give a note saying you’ll be dropping something off closer to the due date.

–       Clothes for children older than three months.  The expectant mother may end up with too many clothes for a time when children grow very quickly.  Having some items on hand for later months (or bigger children) will be much appreciated.  If you are buying young and you don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, try to stay away from white clothing.  I know this is tough, but cleaning stains on those clothes is even tougher!

–       If you’re given a coupon with your purchase and don’t have another baby shower to attend in the near future, pass the coupon on to the new mom.  It’s like the gift that keeps on giving!

–       Gift certificate to Shutterfly or some other online photo service.  We moms take lots of photos of our little ones, and family always appreciate when we share prints.

–       Diapers, size 1 or 1-2 (some babies never fit in the newborn size . . . ahem).  Save mom and dad from a late night run. . . . or save baby from increasingly infrequent changes when mom’s waiting for the delivery she placed a day too late from Diapers.com.  You can’t go wrong with Pampers Swaddlers; they’re what our hospital used.  I also hear Costco Kirkland wipes and diapers are good—they’re the same product as one of the brand names, but I can’t remember which now.

Lotions and potions
Johnson & Johnson baby wash:  Time-tested and gentle enough for brand new babies.  The pump bottle is easy to use, especially if you transition to showering with your little one.  (We found a baby bathtub wasn’t necessary; one of those blue dishpans you find in the drug store sufficed for his bath.)

Unscented lotion: Jacob’s skin is rather dry and I found out too late that the scented J&J lotion I was using was only making it worse. Aveeno’s baby lotion is twice as pricey, but works three times as well to soothe dry skin.  Aquaphor also soothed nicely, but it stays a bit slick on the skin, so unless you’re putting long sleeves and long pants on, this may make things a bit icky.

Diaper rash cream: John’s a big fan of Balmex, from his babysitting days, and we haven’t had a problem with it.

Clothes detergent:  Don’t bother with the pricey Dreft.  You can wash the whole family’s clothes in a less expensive detergent that is simply fragrance- and dye-free, like All Free Clear.

Packing for the hospital
Pregnancy books will often have lists of what to bring to the hospital.  Our childbirth instructor also provided us with a  good list, and we used both as a guide.  Try not to freak out over this.  The hospital has everything you really need, and hopefully there will be friends and family nearby who are willing to help with anything else.  That said, a couple other things to consider:

– A laptop. Our hospital didn’t have internet access, but another mom’s did.  She was happy to be able to email friends and family from her hospital bed.  Plus she said it was nice to have it as entertainment (and an aide in staying awake) during long middle of the night feedings.

– Food.  Either bring food for your husband, or be sure there are places nearby that he can run to.  Because I was induced and most of my labor plodded along, John just went out when he needed food.  Our hospital had ice-pops for me (the kind with the jokes on the stick—just like when I was a kid!).  As for postpartum, John went out to get me a sandwich earlier in the evening, before the doctor came to check on me, so I’d have something for later.  The nice nurses let us keep it in their fridge.  Welcome back to my life, cold cuts!

– Toiletries. I brought shampoo, conditioner, tooth stuff, contact lens stuff, deodorant, hair brush, etc.  Being able to clean up and feel fresh-ish makes a huge difference each day postpartum.

– A baby book. We didn’t do this, but another mom says they’ll footprint your baby for your book if you’ve got it available in the delivery room.

– Clothes for you and baby.  I brought way too much clothing for myself.  Near the end of my stay it was nice to be in my own clothes.  But things are, let’s say, messy the first day or so after delivering, and I didn’t want to dirty my things.  I stayed in the hospital gown for a while, and ended up using the disposable underwear from the hospital the whole time (oh, and grab a couple more of these before you leave the hospital, too).  You’ll need something to bring baby home in—the hospital will give you a few diapers, but probably want their shirt back.  I tried not to get too attached to this outfit in case the baby soiled it, but we made it home just fine.

– A blanket for baby.  There was a third party photographer at our hospital, and it was nice that we had our own receiving blanket for her to use when taking photos of less-than-one-day-old Jacob.  It made things a little sweeter, not using the hospital blanket.  Plus, it was helpful to have this in the car with him to keep bundled and snuggled.  Another mom said her hospital gave her some blankets to take home, so be sure to ask what you can take before you leave!

– Car seat and snuzzler.  Make sure you know how to get the car seat in the car and the baby in the car seat before you even go to the hospital.  Two days postpartum is not the time to start figuring this out.

 

Well, if you’ve made it through to the end, thank you for reading!  This should take a new mom through the last weeks of pregnancy and into the first few weeks of caring for a newborn.  I hope it’s been helpful!  All the best to new and expectant moms out there.  What an exciting time of life to share!

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