Since having our first child, I’ve had a number of people ask me if I’m going to start blogging all things babies. I’ve answered “no!” for a few reasons:
a) I’m not an expert,
b) I’ve never done this mum thing before, and
c) I want to keep this blog sans cutesy baby pictures (click here for baby pinspiration).
Saying that, I appreciate there are a number of my friends and potential readers who may be soon embarking on their own pregnancy journey. I know how tough it is when you want to start trying but also want to keep it under wraps. So for that reason, consider this a practical gift from me to you in this one-off “best bits I’ve learned” pregnancy post.
WARNING: This is a novel.
- First, if you are wanting to conceive, then I highly recommend working out your cycle. And I don’t mean assuming that Day 14 is when you ovulate, because this hasn’t been the case for most people I’ve spoken to. You can chart your temperature or check your cervical mucous but by far the easiest way is to get your hands on some of these Ovulation Test Strips and use (at least) every second day to determine time of fertility. Turns out we were spicing things up a week too early for months, until a friend gifted me these strips… then voilà, the next month it was all systems go.
- Second, have realistic expectations of how long it can take to conceive (good article here). This will help with feeling disappointed or frustrated as time rolls around, as well as taking the pressure off both you and your partner. On a side note, I much preferred to wait and see if I would get my period rather than be slapped in the face with a negative pregnancy test result… but each to their own.
- Third, communicate with your partner – maybe not whilst you’re in the throws of intimacy, but find out prior if he wants to know when you’re ovulating or if that’s a mood killer for him. Make sure you’re giving him some loving the rest of the month too – a healthy relationship goes beyond the few days of potential baby making!
- Lastly, try to put yourself in the best possible position to conceive by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption. You’ll be glad you did.
Once you find out you’re pregnant, your world turns upside down. I was incredibly distracted for at least 48 hours after getting that positive result and was bursting to spill the beans… BUT thankfully I didn’t.
- Prepare yourself with some answers should people make off-hand comments or be bold enough to ask – it’s a lot easier to roll off a response when you have one ready rather than look like a deer in headlights bumbling your way through an excuse as to why you won’t have that glass of red.
- Decide together when, how, and who you will tell. For fairness sake we told our parents at the same time (first grandchild for both sides). We also announced quite early as I happened to be exactly 8 weeks on my 28th birthday and 8th wedding anniversary. This was risky sure, but felt right for us.
- When the time is appropriate, be respectful and tell your boss in person. This timing is different for everyone depending on your relationship with your boss – I told mine around 7.5 weeks as my work game was way off and felt I owed him an explanation when he opened my office door to see my head resting on my desk. Plus he’s a good guy.
It may get you. It may not. My experience saw me needing to nibble every hour all day to stave away the creeping feeling of spew before getting home and collapsing on the couch whilst hubby made dinner and kept house for 6 very long weeks (what a champ!). I shouldn’t complain as some people experience this their entire pregnancy. But still, regardless of the length of sickness, it’s not nice to have no energy and feel like utter crap. I found these things helped:
- Keep a stash on your bedside. Mine consisted of dried apricots, gingernut/marie biscuits and a banana. I would eat immediately after waking and lay in bed for a bit before getting up gradually.
- Listen to your body. I ate every hour for a few weeks which helped and then one day I felt the complete opposite way and ate as minimally as possible, ensuring I was keeping fluids up and that the foods I ate weren’t rubbish.
- Rest. Rest. Rest. Just give in to the sleep. I know there’s dirty laundry. I know the floors need a vacuum. But without proper rest or sleep then you simply won’t have the energy to do these things anyway. Your health is more important. This is the time in your life to give yourself a break. Sleepless nights are coming…
I didn’t really have particular food cravings (nothing more than usual anyway) however I definitely had foods I wanted, no needed, to avoid. The pantry suddenly smelt like an Indian spice market and I couldn’t stomach anything with spices, seasoning, or too much salt/pepper. This lasted the whole nine months. I was also completely off chicken and vegies for about 6 weeks (I even did the KFC test just to make sure it wasn’t in my head!)
I had a preference for plainer colder foods like green grapes, and cruskits with philly and tomato, leaving my slow cooker unused for the winter. I say go with the flow on cravings as long as you aren’t having an unhealthy diet for too long… remember you are nourishing your baby too!
“Eating for two”
I was determined not to “eat for two” as I had heard the weight is a lot harder to lose post-baby. But I also read that you do need to up your intake a little with nutritious foods (about 300cal/1400kj in the second trimester and 500cal/1900kj in the third). So whilst I gave in to mashed potato with my red meat and salad, I tried not to overeat on the bad stuff – overeat being the operative word – there was definitely chicos, and musk sticks, and red frogs, but in moderation. It was a balancing act between nourishing my body and baby, and not being too hard on myself during that crazy time. Now that bub is here, I’m glad I didn’t binge!
Size Doesn’t Matter
This point needs to preface the underwear and clothing sections below. Whatever hang-ups you have about being a certain size, throw them out the window. I refused to go up more than a size in anything I purchased for pregnancy in the first two trimesters which was just ridiculous. Your body will change and everyone carries during pregnancy differently. Accept that and embrace your preggo booty!
Now here are some super practical tips and tricks:
- I bit the bullet and half-way through I got big comfy knickers. In the end, you just want to be comfortable. Trust me on this. Bonds do some great maternity bikini briefs that have a clever v-shape to sit nicely under your belly.
- Unless you particularly like shapeless underwire-free bras, then I recommend purchasing bras that are simply bigger in size for your pregnancy. I wanted to save money so once my lady lumps went on a growth spurt in the first trimester, I purchased a few maternity bras (because I thought I had to). In hindsight, I should have just got bigger bras because once my milk came in (after birth), those maternity bras couldn’t contain my Pam Anderson boosies and it was back to Myer for another fitting.
- I read on countless blogs about these maternity crops from Target and they really are good. I wore them after delivery in hospital and for the first few days prior to getting refitted for bras, and 7 months on I still wear them to bed at night as they are super comfy and provide enough support to keep your breasts (and breast pads) in place. Sizing is ridiculously small though so try before you buy (my size 12 equated to an 18 in these crops).
- A little life-saver for me was purchasing a bra hook extender. Seriously it was $5 from Cotton On Body and I used it to prolong the life of my current bras. In terms of cost per wear, it was hands down the best buy of all!
If anyone wants to go into business and develop a maternity line then I’m in. We’d be tossing notes like confetti. The offering of maternity clothing is minimal and for the most part, painfully expensive. Especially if you’re needing to look professional whilst pregnant. But I did discover a few gems and they’ll be my go to for next time…
- Skirts/Dresses/Tops – anything stretchy is best here and I found Cotton On fit this brief amazingly. I enjoyed showing off my bump in their nautical striped kellie muscle midi dress (up until the day before I delivered!), and I paired black tops with their stretchy patterned skirts for work.
- Dresses/Tops – I particularly loved the dresses I bought from ASOS Maternity. They have a range of price points and variety which is a big plus, and their returns policy is easy (important when you may not be sure what size you are).
- Tops/Tanks/Shorts/Jeans – great basics from Jeans West who won Maternity Fashion Brand of the Year 2014. Their ruched Jenni tanks were perfect for growing with you, I wore my white one to death and would buy multiples next time in both black and white. I also got a pair of Bambi Bermuda denim shorts albeit I found the inbuilt belly band too hot and restrictive in summer. I did however get a lot of use out of them in the couple of months post-birth when I wanted my belly to feel firm and secure.
- Jeans/Pants – I was only in my first trimester during winter so used the hair tie trick to tide me over, but if I need to purchase pants or jeans next time I’ll look at Target’s maternity range or a pair of skinnies from Just Jeans or Jeans West.
- Maternity or Nursing Singlets – if you are planning to breastfeed/express, then make sure you get the ones that have the addition of nursing clips. Trust me, you will live in these, especially at home where you’re getting your boobies out every couple of hours and don’t want to bother with a bra. Bonds is well known for their maternity singlets but at ~$40 each I suggest you buy in bulk during their online sales or become a member for discounts. Alternatively, Target stocks similar maternity cami’s for $30. Lastly, a friend told me about these discreet Bub2B feeding tanks from select Kmart stores which have a clever split under the bust so you don’t need to expose your belly – a dream when you need to feed in public.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to buy a whole closet full of maternity-specific clothing. I found pairing normal stretchy/looser fitting clothing with a few key maternity pieces worked well for me.
There are a million to-do lists out there for expectant mums, but it really is up to you how much you want to do prior to baby arriving. I love being organised and having everything clean so I wrote a task list and tackled them one at a time – anything from cleaning the bottom of the dishwasher, to reorganising my closet, to setting up an account for online groceries. You do need to be wary of overdoing it though, so always put rest above non-essential to-do’s.
As for the essentials, it comes down to these three for me:
1. Prepare the nursery… at minimum wash all of baby’s clothing for the first couple of months (from sizes 00000-000) and ensure baby has somewhere safe to sleep, as well as a stock of essentials like nappies and wipes.
2. Pack your bags… have these ready at least 2 weeks before your due date – one for baby and one for mum/dad. There is no way I could have possibly packed properly after going into labour.
3. Enjoy time out… “me or we” time is rare once your little bubba has come, so take the chance to go on a date, paint your nails, watch movies, and do anything else you fancy.
Yet again there a million lists out there outlining what to buy for your nursery. The following are (in my experience) minimum necessities as well as items that make life more convenient (who doesn’t want that?!):
- Cot – as long as it adheres to safety standards then it doesn’t really matter whether its new or second hand. We bought an Oeuf Sparrow Cot from My First Room which converts to a toddler bed. IKEA have very reasonably priced cots which I may just buy when we consider expanding our family. Second hand cots are fine too, however I would recommend purchasing a new mattress.
- Chair – we bought a Poang rocking chair from IKEA which I loved for its modern design and the way it provides support to your back. However, it’s not great on carpet in bedrooms, requiring effort on your part to actually rock. After the kind ladies at Bubs let me feed in one of their gliders one day, I actually wish I had gone for one of these instead as it was ridiculously comfortable and glided so effortlessly.
- Change table – this is one item where it’s worth saving your pennies instead of splashing out for a designer. We bought the Gulliver changing table from IKEA (yes I should buy shares in this company), simply because it matched our birch colourings and had 2 shelves.
- Pram + Bassinet – I wanted something that was light-weight, could fold in one, and could face me. We decided to get a Bugaboo Bee with the additional Bassinet. The Bassinet doubled as his bed for the first 8 weeks which was so easy to wheel from our bedroom to the nursery for night feeds and back again. It was nice to not bother about harnesses/clips in the bassinet too. Now that he’s in the normal pram seat, I like that it collapses all in one, has 3 different seat angles, and can face me or face out.
- Carseat – I heard arguments for/against a standalone carseat, but we decided on a convertible Maxi-Cosi Euro ISOGO that is rear-ward facing initially and then forward-facing till about 4 years old.
- Baby Carrier – we were group gifted the Ergobaby Carrier and it has been a dream. I did love the look of the soft/stretchy wraps, but my back is thankful to the support of the Ergobaby plus my husband feels it’s manly enough to wear too.
- Cot mattress protector – saves their mattress from spew, sweat, and accidents. Make sure you get the right size for your mattress.
- Fitted sheets – minimum 2 required so one can be in the wash whilst the other is on the mattress. I have 3 sheets on rotation which is plenty.
- Flat sheet / Pillow case – whilst I haven’t used these yet in the cot, I did use them in the pram bassinet where he slept for the first 8 weeks.
- Muslin Wraps – these are multi-purpose angels used for swaddles, pram covers, play mats, and substitute spew cloths. I was gifted 12 and honestly used 1-2/day in the first few months. I love the soft thin feel of the bamboo kind, but the thicker versions were also good when the weather got cooler.
- Sleep sacks/bags and blankets – this whole area confused me a lot when I was planning. However I now rely on a sleep sack/bag which is great for ensuring bub stays covered. They come in different sizes according to age/weight as well as thickness: summer/0.5-1.0 tog or winter/2.5-3.5 togs. This winter I have also layered a cellular blanket and thicker blanket on top of his sleep sack. If your bub is born in summer then you can forego all of these and simply swaddle them.
- Change mat – these are found in many stores but differ in sizing so get the right size to fit your change table. Mine is plastic (as opposed to latex/foam) which is good for wiping down if needed.
- Change mat protector – similar to a mattress protector. Mine is soft and white and predominantly used to cover the ugly plastic change mat.
- TUTIG babycare mat – yes this could be used instead of the change mat protector, but I argue that using it in addition saves you washing time… plus it’s cheap and dryer friendly.
- Nappies – I went through about 8-10/day in the first couple of months whilst I still changed him at every feed during the night. Once that stopped then it reduced to about 5-6/day. Babies go through 2-3 sizes in the first 6 months so don’t overstock – I bought a 108 pack of Huggies Newborn nappies (up to 5kg) which was a good start.
- Wipes – I bought a Huggies Pop-Up Tub of wipes for the change station and a Huggies Clutch’n’Go for the nappy bag, replenishing both when needed with Huggies bulk fragrance free refills.
- Nappy bin – do yourself a favour and get a Closer to Nature Sangenic Nappy Disposal System. It sausages dirty nappies to cut off the smell – genius. I found the cassette refills cheapest at Target or Big W.
- Washers – I have a container of about 20 washers which are used for spew, for bath time, and I have even frozen them to place on my boobs after feeding to slow my milk flow when overfull. It’s handy to keep a few throughout the house as well as in the nappy bag.
- Baby Moisturiser – nice to include in their bedtime routine after a bath.
- Baby powder – good to use a little after bath time to ensure their creases are well dry and to avoid the next point.
- Nappy rash cream – I was gifted about 5 tubes of different sorts of nappy rash cream however am still only part way through my first tube 6 months on. I never let him sit in a dirty nappy for more than 5 minutes though and change wet nappies every 2-3 hours, so perhaps this is why he rarely has had nappy rash.
- Bath – you can spend close to $100 on a tub or you can buy this $10 Lattsam Baby Bath from IKEA which is all you need.
- Towels – have at least 2 as accidents can happen. The hooded ones are cute and useful for drying hair whilst baby is snuggly wrapped.
- Baby wash – I recommend going for an all-in-one wash that is friendly for face, body, and hair. You can get specific shampoo and conditioner later down the track when it’s warranted.
Accessories / Other:
- Nail clippers – I clip his nails almost weekly they grow so fast.
- Hairbrush/comb – especially useful for stimulating hair growth during the monk phase.
- Sunscreen – keep your bubba safe.
- Night light – get a cheapie to plug into the wall so that you can get through a feed and nappy change without turning on the light.
- Teether – keep the free Panadol ring you may be gifted at some point during pregnancy or birth! It freezes and bends which bub loves.
- Dummy – I debated including this… but admittedly there were a few occasions where it tied him over till a feed in the early days.
Here is what I don’t leave the house without:
- Change of clothes (at least a onesie)
- 2-3 nappies
- Change mat
- Small bin bags for dirty nappies (also good for containing soiled clothes/washers to take home)
- Hand sanitiser
- Teether/Toy (something to entertain them whilst you’re out and about)
The easiest way to mentally prepare for a lack of sleep is to expect it. I’m a little OCD at best and a control freak at worst but relinquishing expectation for good sleep was the greatest thing I did. In the first few months, they’re so little, they aren’t supposed to regularly sleep “through the night“. If someone else’s bub is then that’s great for them. Each baby is different though and it’s ok to go with the flow, especially at the beginning when you’ll need to feed them on demand. There will be times of growth spurts and teething and moments they just want to feel close to mummy.
I have no way of sugar coating it: you will be ridiculously tired. More tired than you have ever been in your life. And then when you are awake, you have a little one that needs you to feed, to rock, to change, to love. So you just plough on, doing the best you can. But, I do encourage you to accept help whenever possible. I tried to be superwoman for too long and ended up seeking a sleep specialist after a very rough few months sleep (or lack thereof). Sleep deprivation is a serious thing, and it is more than ok to seek help if you feel you aren’t coping.
Reading a bunch will only confuse the heck out of you – seriously I don’t understand how there can be experts with opinions on polar opposite sides of the spectrum. However, I did find these resources very valuable:
- The Discontented Little Baby Book (a great read pre-baby and in the early days that covers all the must-knows)
- Dunstan Baby Language (differentiating between your baby’s cries will help you understand their needs and respond accordingly)
- The Wonder Weeks App (helps you understand when your baby may be experiencing a developmental leap)
- My Pregnancy Today (an app for daily updates which you can follow through to My Baby Today after bub is born)
- The Bump (I mostly used the app but the website is good too for weekly updates)
So now that this has turned into a novel (well, you asked!) I hope it helps you in some way. Please feel free to post any other questions or comments and just remember this is solely based on personal experience!