So my friends are starting to get knocked-up, and I've been thinking a lot about what I would love to pass along to them. The first thought is how incredibly excited I am for them; I know what they're going to be experiencing, and it's better than anything.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the more important things I've been taught / experienced / figured out.
* Generic diapers are wonderful. Try them. Generic wipes, and generic forumla, are also great.
* Breastfeeding is really, really, really hard and often really, really, REALLY painful. Line up a Lactation Consultant before you go into labor. Line up a few. Everyone thought that Nate was latching beautifully, but it was so horribly painful that I knew something was wrong. The 4th L.C. that I saw adjusted his latch just a smidge, and the pain was gone that very day. Surround yourself with supportive people. If someone had said "Oh, just give him a bottle" I might have killed them, and then I would have had to deal with too many things at the same time.
* Do not stress about how often to change baby's diaper. If it's stinky, change it quickly. If they have diaper rash, change it often. Otherwise, change it when you get around to it. Trust me, they don't care either way. And at night, don't bother at all (unless you want to wake them up even more and hear more screaming). Again, change if they're stinky or rashy; otherwise, lube 'em up good with A&D or Desitin, and don't worry about it too much.
* Every baby is born with days and nights mixed up until they're about 6 weeks. To help the reversal along, try these ideas: During the day, lights are on, shades are open (even while they're napping), voices are at normal range. Around evening time, lights & voices dim. During nighttime feedings, keep the lights as low as possible, no talking or singing or playing, and no eye contact.
* If you want to co-sleep, there are other blogs with great advice. If you don't want to co-sleep, try to set ideas in place at the beginning to help get the baby into their own crib/room. When they fall asleep during the day, put them down in their crib (on their backs, of course, with no blanket) to sleep. If they wake up, just pick them back up until they fall asleep again. Then put them back down. It's not a hard and fast rule: sometimes you both will just need them to sleep, so let them sleep a while in your arms or in the swing. But try to put them down to sleep more often than not. A white-noise machine will help them feel more cozy, since it's such an odd feeling for them to be flat on their backs on an un-moving surface. Swadding is a great help in this; they'll feel so cozy and tucked-in.
* In all things, try to be mindful of the future. The same way that you don't want to let a Rottweiler puppy sit on your lap all the time (because soon it'll be 150 pounds and too damn heavy), try to think about the future implications of your actions. If baby sleeps in your arms all the time (which is tempting, because it feels so good and you need the sleep), baby will sleep best in your arms. If you tiptoe around and keep your voices low while baby sleeps, baby will not learn to sleep through noise. What you're doing now affects the future.
* On that note, read The Happiest Baby on the Block. Loved everything about that book. If you're tired and busy, rent the DVD.
* Also read The No Cry Sleep Solution. I don't agree with everything she says, but there is a lot of great advice there. I used a lot of it in sleep-training Nate.
* Don't sweat things too much. Yes, you need to be mindful. But you can fail to be perfect and everything will still be okay. Nate sometimes slept in his swing, but he turned into a wonderful sleeper anyway. You're all going to be fine.
* I promise you this: if you let your dogs bark and leave the radio on, your baby will learn to sleep through it. She'll learn almost immediately. Don't get stuck in the trap of tiptoe & whisper; it doesn't do any of you any good.
* Don't use fabric bibs; they need to be run through the laundry. Get some good wipe-off bibs like these ones which are also nice and wide. You just use the sponge on them and they're ready to go again. Fantastico.
* I washed all of Nate's clothing with ours, with regular-old detergent (dye-free, fragrance-free). No Dreft, and no separating his clothing. He's still alive.
* Your wife/husband/partner/significant other is going to do things differently. It's going to be really, really hard, but let them be. They'll forge their own way, and sometimes it'll even be better than your way. Give them a chance.
* If you're breastfeeding, you're going to spend the first two weeks petrified that they're not eating enough, since there's no way to tell how much they're eating. Also, they always fall asleep while they're eating so how can you tell? Here's how: if they're peeing a bunch and pooping some, they're fine. The hospital will tell you how many wet and how many dirty diapers you want to see in a day. They'll probably even give you a check-list so you can keep track. Use it to set your mind at ease.
* Also if you're breastfeeding: sometimes they're going to go 6 hours between feedings and get you all excited, and then they're going to spend 2 weeks eating every hour. They have very frequent growth-spurts, so just go with the flow. Frequent nursing is a way of increasing your supply; do not supplement with formula or your supply will never get to where it needs to be. Let your baby guide you in this area. Do as she says and nobody will get hurt. Much, anyway.
* If you have any worries at all, call the pediatrician. It doesn't matter if it's 2 a.m. Just call them. A good pediatrician is used to it, and won't resent it at all. If they're rude to you, find a new pediatrician.
* Have a stockpile of medications on-hand before baby comes home. You don't want to be running to the store at 3 am. Google will surely show you 100 articles on "things to have ready when baby comes home" so I won't waste time with my list. Except to say that it was especially nice to have the tummy-treatment stuff (gripe water and Mylecon).
* On that note, have a stockpile of EVERYTHING on-hand before baby comes home. Blankets, burp cloths, onesies / sleepers / baggies, swaddling blankets, etc. You just want to be able to focus on your baby; you don't want to be running around trying to find everything. Get it all washed and organized ahead of time. If you're Jewish, just wash and organize everything in big rubbermaid containers and store them at someone else's house. They can bring them over as soon as baby arrives safely.
* Set up a changing station wherever you're likely to spend the most time.
* Pretzel rods are an amazing finger-food around 8 or 9 months. It takes them forever to eat their way through one!
* I intentionally got Nate hooked on a "woobie." I held it between us when he nursed, and kept in the crib with him (once he could safely turn himself over, of course). I ONLY give it to him during sleepy times, so he's completely Pavloved to it. Now if I hand it to him in the middle of the day, he sticks his thumb in his mouth and puts his head on my shoulder. Sucker.
* I've never heard of a baby who actually got nipple confusion. If you think they need a pacifier, try one! In that vein, if you're breastfeeding but want them to be able to take a bottle with EBM (expressed breast milk) try giving them a bottle very early. I waited until the prescribed 5th week, and he was already very wedded to the boobies. Also make sure to heat up the EBM pretty warm - remember that it comes out of your body at 98.6 degrees. If you don't heat it up quite a bit, it'll be too cold for baby's tates.
* If you're storing breastmilk in the freezer, lay the bags flat to freeze. They'll defrost much more quickly (because of the extensive surface area) than if you stand them upright and it freezes in a big clump at the bottom of the bag.
* Trust yourself and your gut. Have some plans in mind, but remember to go with the flow. I remember one night Nate was about a week and a half old, and he was up in the middle of the night. I'll never forget being all alone with him while Stewart and my Mom slept. I watched a little TV (on mute to help with the whole "THIS IS NIGHTTIME" thing), cuddled him, and just relaxed with him. Your baby will be a baby for such a short time. Enjoy every second that you can.
Readers, chime in!