This is a guest post written by one of our Bees, Brenda Astins
Are you pregnant? Congrats!
Excited? That’s great!
Nervous? That’s okay too!
Becoming a mom is the biggest change you’ll ever make to your life. And if you’re becoming a mom for the second time around—yep, you guessed it—make that the second biggest change. But don’t worry, I’ve been there. Twice! And I’m here to share with you my top five pieces of advice to help you on your new journey.
No. 1: Say Yes to Skin-to-Skin Contact
As Nike, in all its wisdom says—just do it. As often as you can, from birth all the way through young babyhood. How? Step 1: Strip baby down to their diaper. Step 2: Remove your own shirt. Step 3: Snuggle. So easy! Add a blanket around the both of you for extra warmth.
Skin-to-skin (or Kangaroo Mother Care) was discovered in the ‘70s in Columbia, during a time when there was a high death rate of preemies. The babies were dying from both respiratory problems and infections. Researchers discovered that babies thrived if the mothers spent time every day holding their naked babies to their bare chests.
Much research has been done since then and the list of benefits has grown. First and foremost, for a newborn, skin-to-skin tells their brain they’re safe. This makes way for the desire to breastfeed, and other brain development. Skin-to-skin helps baby learn how to regulate their body temperature, stabilizes their breathing, boosts baby’s immune system and increases their mom’s milk production. It also helps both mom and baby feel calmer and more relaxed, and can even help stave off post-partum depression for mom.
Sadly, hospitals often don’t make skin-to-skin a priority when baby is born. (The effect of skin-to-skin on a fresh newborn is huge.) They clean baby and then wrap them up in blankets before handing them back to mom. You can request skin-to-skin instead! It is your baby’s birth after all, and you have the final say.
Finally, skin-to-skin promotes bonding that will last forever. And don’t leave dad out! He should be spending shirtless time with baby too. The hormonal reactions that create many of the benefits with mom happen with dad too.
Anyway, do you even need more reasons to cuddle a baby beyond getting to cuddle a baby?
No. 2: Trim Baby’s Nails While Breastfeeding
I forget who shared this gem with me. But it’s brilliant. Now I’m not advocating for a particular device for nail-trimming, as I think this is a very personal choice and all depends on what you’re comfortable with. Some may prefer those little electric filers; some choose to actually bite their baby’s nails. Others, like myself, go with good old-fashioned baby nail-clippers. Once you’ve chosen your method, you have to figure out how to prop yourself up just right with some pillows so you can free up your hands to execute your method of choice while breastfeeding.
If you’re pregnant with your first, this tip may sound strange to you. But as soon as you have a squirmy, wiggly baby on your hands, you’ll get it. When they’re nursing, they’re relaxed and still. (And if you’re lucky like I was with my first, your little one may even fall asleep while nursing.) And then you can do what you need to without fighting your tiny human while they do their darndest to pull their adorable little hands away from you. Voila. You’re welcome.
No. 3: Buy a Portable Nursing Light
I managed to keep the shopping pretty trim for my firstborn. I was determined to not get suckered into buying an excessive amount of stuff. If I’d have heard of a “portable nursing light” at that time, I would’ve laughed at what a silly unnecessary item it sounded like. But one night, while pregnant with my second, I found myself tumbling down a rabbit-hole of baby items on Amazon, which led me to stumbling upon this light. I sat there reading glowing review after glowing review (see what I did there) and my desire for this cute little egg-shaped light was born. I put it in my wish list and after a few weeks of trying to tell myself I didn’t need it, I finally caved and made the purchase.
I was somewhat stunned to discover what an absolute blessing this light is. It’s one of those things that you have no idea you need until you have it. I quickly learned how to operate it: tap the top twice to turn it on or off, tap and hold at the top to make it brighter or dimmer, tap the logo at the front to change from warm light to cool.
I remember thinking buttons would’ve sufficed and that they’d gone overboard with trying to make everything so fancy. Man was I wrong. They were actually geniuses for making this light function the way it does. Because it’s totally silent to operate. And when it’s the middle of the night and you’ve just nursed your little bub back to sleep, the last thing you want to do is make any sort of clicking noises from having to press buttons.
Not to mention, this light is just the perfect little amount of soft glow you need. Much less light than any lamp. Prior to this purchase I’d been using my iPhone flashlight, like a ruffian. It was like going from wearing a brown paper bag to cashmere. The iPhone was way too bright and also difficult to place in the right position. Ooh, and did I mention the nursing light comes with a charging stand and holds a charge forever?
Long story short: just buy the light. Here’s a link: Portable Nursing Light
No. 4: You Will Probably Have to Help Your Newborn Pass Gas
Yep. You read that right. If you haven’t heard of this before, surprise! Yes, you will most likely be pumping those teensy tiny legs to help squeeze farts out of your little bundle of joy. Newborns’ digestive systems are immature and take time to develop and get better at their job. One thing that is often very difficult for young babies to do is pass gas. In fact, it can have them crying in pain when they need to and can’t get it out. This is where you come in. A quick search on YouTube will bring up a variety of techniques for you to try (although they’re all very similar). And while you’re there check out some burping techniques also as you’ll need those too. Smiley face.
No. 5: Brace Yourself for Mom-Shaming
Everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks they know best. This does not stop being true in the parenting world. And it seems no one feels they should hold back on telling moms that they’re doing something wrong. Especially other moms. And Grandmas.
While at a grocery store with my two-and-a-half-year-old son in his stroller, an elderly woman felt the need to say to me, “Isn’t he a bit old to be in a stroller still?” I was so shocked I had no reply, so I just stood there gaping while she continued on her way. Of course, I spent the next hour or so at home thinking up the perfect response, “Well, not that it’s any of your business, but we had a lot of errands to run and he’s the world’s slowest walker, so rather than spending literally two whole days getting everything done I put him in his stroller.” I may not have been able to say it to that woman, but I considered myself armed and ready for the next rude stranger.
One time, I was rushing with my firstborn in his stroller to an appointment. I made it to a traffic light just as the countdown started for the impending end of the walk signal. I trotted swiftly across (as any Torontonian would do, without hesitation) to find myself being shouted at by an old lady on the other side. “RUNNING?! Across the street?! WITH A BABY?!” Again, I was stunned into silence.
If this sounds shocking to you, prepare yourself. Oh, and it’s no better online. There are many wonderful, helpful, supportive, mommy groups on Facebook . . . where arguments abound. Try to keep your cool and not waste your time getting into it with anyone in your groups. You’re most likely not going to change anyone’s mind about anything anyway. Save your energy for that beautiful baby of yours. And the dishes. And the laundry. Because, you know, there’s always dishes and laundry.
Before I go, let me say one more thing: this too shall pass. When you inevitably find yourself knee-deep in some trying phase with your little angel, keep reminding yourself that it won’t last forever. Babies change in the blink of an eye. Enjoy all the cuteness and try not to stress too much.
Brenda Astins is a freelance copyeditor and writer and is the proud mom of two boys and one dog. You can find her working out of her midtown Toronto home, sipping bubble tea daily, and always using an Oxford comma.