As a first time mom I had no idea what to expect during my pregnancy. Of course I had no idea what things were needed when the baby arrived either. I asked family and friends for their advice since there’s no better way to learn but from those who have gone through it themselves. I’ve been collecting their advice in many forms (emails, google docs, notes, etc). Now that our baby is 5 weeks old and we have a good rhythm at home, I decided it’d be nice to share the love with all the pregnant ladies out there. Here’s a summary of all the advice I collected plus my own experience so far:
During your pregnancy
I’m sure you will hear all sorts of things about what to expect during your pregnancy. Everything from what the shape of your belly means to the best way to deliver, or things you should and shouldn't eat, etc. All I know is that every pregnancy is different and we all feel different throughout our pregnancies.
I only want to recommend 2 things that made me feel much better and think it could apply to most pregnant women:
Use a stretch mark cream from the beginning of your pregnancy until a few weeks after you deliver. There are tons and tons of types out there. To be honest, after all the different suggestions people sent me I think it’s all about personal taste. I ended up using Mama Mio because I love the smell, it’s not too strong which was perfect because my sense of smell was heightened during my pregnancy. I used 2 products:
Once your belly grows and it starts to get a bit uncomfortable to sleep, get a body pillow. I thought it wouldn’t make a difference and wouldn’t need it but oh my god, when I got it I just fell in love with it! Once your belly is bigger you won’t be able to sleep on your back and having something to “hug” while you sleep on your side makes a world of difference. I got this one from amazon, but I’m sure there are plenty others you can buy. Pick the one you like!
My friend Bea recommended taking some classes to be prepared before the baby arrives. If you’re not planning on delivering all natural (no epidural) there’s no need to take Lamaze classes. I wasn’t planning on skipping the epidural so I didn’t take it. These are the classes we took:
- How to take care of a newborn
- Infant CPR
These classes gave us a good overview of what to do as new parents and god forbid be prepared in case we need to do CPR. Most of these classes are offered at hospitals or pediatrician's offices.
We also took a "Preparation for childbirth" class which gave us a very detailed overview of the different signs of labor, showed us all the different scenarios of things that could happen and even videos of different labors. It was too much information for my taste, I ended up thinking all the possible bad scenarios would happen to me. I would've much rather not know all of these. So it’s up to you, take it if you are the type of person who wants to be super well informed.
She also recommended getting the “Happiest baby on the block” DVD. The DVD is better than the book because it is fastest and you can see the techniques on video. It will teach you how to soothe a newborn, the techniques are great and work like magic!
The “Pregnancy Today” app from Baby Center gives you a great day by day, week by week overview of your pregnancy. I learned a lot about the baby’s development as well as symptoms I may have. My pregnancy was by the book, I really got a lot of the symptoms exactly when the app said I would.
I ended up having tons of pregnancy and how-to-raise-a-child books from friends and family. In all honesty, I haven’t read them all because I didn’t want to be too biased on certain methods. More than pregnancy books I will recommend a few books for when the baby arrives. The book I use a lot is "The new basics" by Michel Cohen. I like his philosophy and we go to his practice. What I like about this book is that its like an encyclopedia, you look for the topic you're interested about and go read about it. No need to read it chapter by chapter.
Once the baby arrives
Sleeping during the first few months
We heard many suggestions and thoughts on the best thing to use for the first few months, whether it should be a mini crib, bassinet, co-sleeper, etc. We ended up getting this amazing rocker/sleeper form Fisher-price which we absolutely LOVE.
Our baby has been sleeping on it since she was born. It’s perfect because it fits anywhere and it’s easy to move around the house. I have her next to my side of the bed at night, she’s snug and because the rocker is slightly slanted I have peace of mind that if she spits there’s no risk of choking. We also got a regular crib which we’ll use once she is a bit bigger.
We wanted to make sure we got a safe crib for our baby so we did a lot of research online and with friends. In turns out there are government safety standards for cribs which all companies in the US have to follow. So, no matter what crib you buy, it has to comply with these standards. That said, it’s up to you how much you want to spend on material, color, style, etc. After talking to many friends and looking in stores, we decided to buy the Ikea crib. It’s cheaper, well made and meets all the safety standards. This is the one we got:
Everybody suggested getting a foam, firm, organic mattress. Here are the top 3 mattresses mostly recommended from cheaper to expensive:
Sealy Soybean foam mattress Size: 51.6 x 27.2 x 5in
Moonlight Slumber Little Dreamer Dual Firmness All Foam Crib Mattress Size: 52 x 27.5 x 5in
Naturepedic organic cotton no compromise Size: 52 x 27.8 x 6in
You should also get a waterproof fitted crib pad to protect the mattress from getting wet. This is the one we got from Naturpedic.
You are going to need blankets to swaddle the baby and cover her/him while sleeping and nursing. We found the Aden and Anais swaddles are the best for swaddling the baby. We especially love the Bamboo swaddles because they’re much softer, light and breathable.
We also have the regular swaddles as well as wash cloths and bibs from Aden and Anais. You won’t go wrong with this brand, it is really nice. In general I’m using their blankets as nursing cover, stroller blanket, swaddle blanket, etc.
There is a big market around ready-to-swaddle sacks/blankets. We got many of them but haven’t used them yet. For some reason we found that swaddling our baby with a regular blanket worked better than with sacks.
It is up to you if you want to use them or not. We totally did, it helps sooth her when she’s tired and fall asleep. We got MAM pacifiers and are working well. I’m pretty sure any brand will work well.
I would recommend breastfeeding if you can. I was worried I wouldn’t have milk because my mom told me she never had any therefore I shouldn’t have it either. But thankfully I do, and it’s been the most amazing experience ever. It’s fascinating how the human body works. I’ve been lucky I haven’t had much pain and it’s been working really well. The best part is the bonding experience with our baby.
During the second and third day of breastfeeding your baby will start getting hungrier and you may not have enough milk yet. To avoid having a crying baby (which we experienced) and not knowing what to do in the middle of the night, I’d suggest getting a box of formula ready bottles just in case. It saved our lives a couple of times after breastfeeding for 2 hours and our baby was still hungry. These were also used at the hospital, they’re great because they don’t have to be heated, just open and serve. There are two types you can use:
I also recommend getting a boppy pillow. It’s is super super useful when breastfeeding. It will let you have your hands free while the baby feeds. And your arms won’t be sore either. I think the size is a standard one so you can get nice covers anywhere. I bought a couple of chamois covers at Pottery Barn Kids, they’re super soft and cozy for the winter.
With regards to breast pumps, everyone recommended Medela pump double and electric. I got it and so far it’s been working well. It’s easy to use and pumps fast!
When you pump you’ll need to have bottles to store milk in the fridge/freezer. Medela's pump comes with a few of them but I recommend buying extra storage bottles because you’ll need some to store milk and for pumping.
With regards to bottles, you’ll only need 5 oz bottles at the beginning. We got Dr Brown bottles. They’re great because they’re designed to not let so much air in when drinking. That said, my friends say babies will get used to any bottle you give them unless the baby is colicky so get whichever you think it’s best for you.
Get a bottle warmer, this will become quite handy to warm up bottles in the middle of the night or even baby food jars. We got Dr. Brown's bottle warmer, so far we’re using to thaw breast milk.
Do not get a bottle sterilizer, a dishwasher does the same job. That said, if you breastfeed you’ll need to sterilize all the pumping parts after each usage. Right now we’re boiling them since I’m not pumping everyday, but we might get one if I have to pump more often.
My friend Addy got us this super cute drying rack that looks like a square patch of grass with flowers. We use it to dry pumping bottles, accessories, baby bottles, pacifiers, etc The flowers are great to hold smaller parts.The whole thing looks so pretty on the countertop!
Get plenty of burp clothes, you can never have enough of these!! We’re using them for burping and cleaning her while giving her either a sponge or tub bath. You can use them for anything you can think of. These type are great, small or large towel like burp cloths (any brand works):
We only gave our baby sponge baths during the first 2-3 weeks because we needed to wait for her umbilical cord to fall off. We were also a bit nervous of bathing her when she was so tiny. Plus the Dr said it’s not necessary to bathe her that often. We started bathing her in a baby tub a couple of weeks ago, we do it twice a week. My sister recommended this tub which has a sling to hold the baby. This tub is great because I can place her on the sling while washing her and don’t need to hold her all the time. The sitting up design will be very helpful when she can sit on her own.
Our baby loves the water (like her mom!) and is enjoying her baths every time!
We are not using any soap yet. Just water. Again, get plenty of wash clothes (or burp clothes, they’re pretty much the same) to clean her. My cousin told me about this trick to keep her warm: Place one wet washcloth on her belly while you bathe her to keep her warm because the tub should only be filled with enough water to cover her bottoms (watch video below). Make sure you constantly refresh it with warm water so she’s always warm. In terms of towels, one or two will do the job. You won’t need to buy that many towels. Use your elbow to test how hot the water is, I learned that from my BabyCenter app. Here’s the video I watched:
A friend of ours gave us a Mustela kit with baby shampoo, wash and diaper cream. We tried their shampoo a couple of times when giving her sponge baths, it felt nice and mild.
We also use Mustela’s Physio bebe lotion to clean her diaper area when she has a major poop incident. It’s nice, you don’t need to rinse it and it’s very mild.
It’s up to you whether to go disposable or cloth diapering, we are as most of my friends and family; a disposable family. We live in NYC and don’t have a laundry unit in our apartment, plus to be honest the last thing I want to do is wash poopy diapers every day considering we change diapers between 8-10 times a day!
Everyone recommended using Pampers swaddlers. Only buy one newborn size package, it will last for one week approximately. By then the baby will outgrow them and you’ll need size 1.
In terms of diaper creams, everyone recommended Densitin (blue box). Addy recommended Triple Paste Diaper cream. Both look very thick and white. I assume these will be good once the baby is a bit older because so far we’ve been using A&D ointment, same as the one they used at the hospital. We really like it, it’s smooth and not too thick for the baby’s skin.
A few friends recommended getting a diaper pail to keep all the dirty diapers contained and not have a stinky room. We didn't buy one because we have a chute right outside our apartment. We take our trash every day and so far it hasn’t been stinky! You may need a diaper pail depending on how often you can get rid of trash.
We thought a lot about how to accommodate a changing table in a small NYC apartment. In the end, what you need is a flat surface where you can place a changing pad and have room to store diapers, wipes and diaper cream within reach. We ended up placing the changing pad on top of a regular dresser. We have a diaper caddy hanging off from the side to store diapers, wipes and diaper cream. This diaper caddy is super useful:
Get at least 2 or 3 changing pad covers. You’ll be surprised how many times your baby will spit or pee/poo while you’re changing her/him!
We got Pampers sensitive wipes. I don't know what's in it but so far we haven't had the need for a wipe warmer (and it’s getting pretty cold in NYC). Buy them in bulk to save some money. We subscribed to a monthly delivery of a 7 set pack on Amazon. We’re saving lots of money since 1 of them at the drugstore is aprox $6 or $7!!
You will definitely need a good portable changing pad. Skip Hop makes the best ones.
I think we all get so excited about our baby’s arrival we tend to buy tons of cute but not practical clothes. During the first couple of weeks at home you’ll need something easy to put on and that won’t brush against the umbilical cord, which falls off aprox within 2 weeks. The best outfit is the kimono fold top (side snap shirt) because you won’t need to change the shirt by going over the baby’s head.
I’d put this on with pants and a one piece outfit on top (this would vary depending on the weather of course). Get a few of them, you’ll be changing them constantly since there will be tons of spitting and pooping.
Onsies are good too but I started using them after her umbilical cord fell off.
Side snap tops (Gerber) (any brand works)
Strollers, car seats
No matter where you live, you’ll need to have a car seat to leave the hospital. Lots of people recommended Graco's car seat which has great reviews. We ended up getting Per Perego's Primo Viaggio Sip 30/30. I went to the store to compare them and really notice the difference in material, sturdiness and safety. To me, the Per Perego felt like a Mercedes next to a Honda. Both work but one felt safer, sturdier and better looking :)
Living in NYC, having a good stroller is everything. We don’t have a car, so we walk and need a great stroller that can handle all sorts of “terrain” (cobble streets, patchy sidewalks, etc). For us, sturdiness and good storage room were our must haves. Easy to fold was important but not as it is when having a car because we really don’t fold it often. With that in mind, our top choice was the Uppababy Vista. We absolutely love it. It comes with a seat and a bassinet. As of now we’ve only used the bassinet so our baby can sleep comfortably. She loves the stroller, she falls asleep as soon as we lay her on it.
Make sure the stroller you buy is compatible with the car seat you get. Uppababy has adaptors for multiple car seat brands which was great because we got to pick the our top choices for both.
Get a sling or baby carrier to carry your baby from birth. We use ours all the time. We tried Bjorn's Miracle carrier and though it works well, it’s a bit bulky and takes a lot of room to store. It also has all these straps hanging and doesn’t look very good. We now have the Ergo baby carrier which is soft, has a pocket in front where you can put keys, your wallet or a burpy cloth (believe me, the pocket comes in very handy!) and it’s not bulky so you can fold it and take it with you if you travel.
I just got a wrap/sling from Baby K'tan. It's perfect to hold the baby close to you, all snug. I was mainly concerned with figuring out how to carry our daughter on the plane since we'llbe traveling soon. This wrap is awesome. I already tried it with her at home and she loves it! She falls asleep immediately. I can easily move around with her. Unlike a regular carrier, this wrap lets me carry her in the kangaroo position, perfect for sleeping.
Safety 1st nail clippers
My friend Addy sent us a “baby survival kit box" which included many of the things listed above. One of the items were this nail clippers which are fantastic! I don’t have the nerves to trim her nails yet so my husband has to do it. This clippers have little lights that shine onto the nail to make sure you're not getting any skin.
As you know, there’s an app for everything. The one thing you want help with is keeping track of feeding times, especially if you’re nursing because it’s easy to forget which side you nurse last. I tried a few apps and ended up using “Total Baby”, which I have to say that as a Designer I’m not too happy with its visuals..but it has all the features I want. I especially love the timeline view, which visualizes the baby’s feeding, diapering and sleeping times helping me find a pattern of her schedule.
Note: I’d like to create a better looking app for this as a side project. Anyone interested let me know! :)
I think that's all I have for now, hope this helps you with your pregnancy and baby once he or she arrives!!
Having a baby is the best thing in the world, it truly is a miracle. Enjoy every second of it!!!