When a new baby arrives, the universe inexplicably shifts in a way that’s impossible to understand before you’re actually there. How do you anticipate the needs of a small person you’ve never met? Despite what you’ve heard, there’s not much you must do before your baby arrives. Set up the baby-care basics, write a few thank-you notes, stock the freezer with some simple meals (better yet, let someone else stock it), then enjoy the remainder of your child-free life.
#1 Expand the waistband of your prepregnancy jeans with a ponytail holder.
Skip the maternity waistband extenders— a ponytail holder does the job just as well. Thread a small elastic band through the buttonhole of your pants and then back through itself, creating a slipknot loop. Then stretch it over the button closure. If the zipper won’t stay up, thread a second band through the hole in the zipper pull and loop it over the button.
#2 Wear a men’s undershirt to add belly coverage to your tops.
Near the end of my pregnancy, I was constantly tugging my maternity T-shirts down in a futile attempt to keep the underside of my belly covered. The fix: a package of men’s tank undershirts. They’re cut longer than women’s tanks and can be a helpful base layer, providing coverage without feeling bulky or fussy.
#3 If your bra no longer fits, wear a bikini top.
Keeping up with the epic body changes of pregnancy can get expensive. Take bras: Your breasts change size and shape more than once during pregnancy and postpartum. Bra extenders work for a while (buy them at a maternity store), but are sometimes outgrown. Sports bras are more forgiving, but are difficult to get on and off. For some, a string-tie bikini top provides all the necessary coverage, support, and comfort during one or more of these stages.
#4 Take pictures of gifts with their givers as a thank-you note reminder.
Parenting truth: Your organizational skills are most needed at the very moment when your brain has the lowest capacity for them. To keep track of gifts and their givers: Write the giver’s name in big letters on the back of the card or packing slip. Then place it next to the opened gift and snap a picture. If you’re doing this at the baby shower, have a friend snap a picture of you, the gift giver, and the opened gift. The photos serve as a digital inventory as well as a lovely memento of the occasion.
10 baby gear items you don’t need (with smarter alternatives)
When people ask if you’re “ready for the baby,” they usually mean, “Do you have all the stuff?” People assume that babies require a mountain of specialized gear, but in the beginning, all you need are a few basic care and clothing items, a sturdy car seat and stroller frame, a carrier, a breast pump and/or bottles, and a safe, comfortable place for your baby to sleep. As your baby gets older, you’ll naturally become more adept at figuring out what you need, what to buy, and what to borrow. In the meantime, here are 10 common registry items that you can do without.
1 Diaper pail. You’ll dispose of many, many dirty diapers in the first few years. Do you need a specialized receptacle? No. If you’re using a cloth diaper service, they’ll provide a pail. If not, a lined garbage can (preferably with a foot pedal) will do fine. With disposables, get rid of them as you go. Flush what solids you can, seal the diaper in a used plastic bag, and toss it in your outside garbage.
2 Changing table. Place a changing pad on top of a dresser, or spread a waterproof mat on the bed, clothes dryer, or floor. Or choose furniture you can repurpose, such as a rolling kitchen cart (with locking wheels) or a small computer desk.
3 Wipe warmer. Just no.
4 Fancy crib bedding. All you need for your baby’s crib is a fitted sheet and a waterproof mattress protector. That said, if you’re excited about decorating the crib, don’t let practicality get in the way of a lovely experience.
5 Special laundry detergent. Any mild, fragrance-free detergent will do the job.
6 Baby toiletries. Mild soap, shampoo, and moisturizer work for everyone in the family.
7 Diaper stacker. Keep a small basket of diapers near the changing area and hang the diaper stacker that came with the crib bedding set in the closet to hold sheets, blankets, or stuffed animals.
8 Baby bathtub. Bathe your baby in the sink. As your baby gets bigger and can sit up, she can graduate to a plastic laundry basket in the regular bathtub.
9 Nursing clothing. After a few weeks of breast-feeding, everything is nursing clothing. Stretchy knit tops and button-front cardigans are especially forgiving.
10 Nursing cover-ups. Within a relatively short time, you’ll figure out how to discreetly nurse your baby. Till then, if you’re feeling exposed, toss a light receiving blanket over your shoulder (or knot two corners together and drape it around your neck).
#5 Sleep more comfortably with a DIY pregnancy pillow.
Can’t sleep with what feels like a bowling ball attached to your abdomen? Hugging a body pillow while lying on your side helps. Before you invest in a special pregnancy support pillow ($$$), why not make your own? Stuff two soft standard-size bed pillows into a single king-size pillow sham. Rearrange the pillows inside so that you (and your belly) feel comfortable while lying on your side.
#6 Carry an adult diaper in case your water breaks before labor.
“Your water breaking” sounds far more dramatic than it actually is. There’s no pain, but, should it happen, you’ve got an awkward mess on your hands (actually, your legs). No big deal. Tuck an adult diaper into your bag (if you’re really worried, wear it instead of regular underwear). You probably won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you thought ahead. How to use up the rest of the adult diapers in the package? They’ll come in handy during postpartum recovery
9 nonessential items you’ll be glad you packed in your hospital bag :
There’s not much you need that the hospital won’t provide or someone can’t fetch for you. Even so, consider packing some familiar comforts that aren’t strictly necessary. When you’re stuck in the hospital in the midst of hormonal bliss/chaos, having a few luxuries goes a long way.
1 A light, inexpensive bathrobe. It will feel like heaven after hours in a hospital gown. It may get messed up (one word: FLUIDS), but your comfort is worth it.
2 Ponytail holders or a headband. If you have long hair, you’ll want to keep it out of your face. Or this might be the moment for that short haircut you’ve been thinking about.
3 Cozy footwear you don’t mind throwing away. Fuzzy socks and comfy slippers are warm hugs for your feet.
4 Favorite toiletries and cosmetics. This is less about vanity and more about physical and psychological comfort. The smell of your favorite conditioner may add a whiff of normalcy to the postpartum whirlwind.
5 Dry shampoo. You may have to wait a day or two till you can take a shower. Dry shampoo does a remarkable job of refreshing your hair and scalp.
6 A towel. Hospital towels are notoriously thin and scratchy. Once you’re able to shower, you’ll want a soft, full-size towel. Bring one you won’t mind leaving behind.
7 Nursing pillow. It takes a while to get the hang of breast-feeding. You can prop yourself (and your baby) up with a hospital pillow, but you’ll probably prefer the comfort and shape of a nursing pillow.
8 An adult diaper. As if childbirth weren’t dramatic enough, you also get to experience postpartum flow that rivals the heaviest, longest period you’ve ever had. Oh, joy. Many moms who’ve gone before you swear that an adult diaper is the best tool during this . . . period.
9 Stretch pants and a roomy top for going home. Anything stretchy, washable, and comfortable will do.
#7 Cabbage leaf compresses help relieve swollen breasts and feet.
When nursing, it takes time for milk production to regulate, and for some, engorgement (painfully full breasts) complicates the early weeks. An age-old remedy is in the produce section: cabbage leaves. To make a compress, remove a few leaves from a cabbage. Crush the veins with a rolling pin and then drape the leaves over your breasts for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they wilt. Repeat three to four times each day until swelling subsides (a day or two).
#8 Freeze a sanitary pad to help heal after childbirth.
After a vaginal childbirth, the delicate tissues down there need time to heal. For a cool compress that stays put, dampen (don’t soak) a sanitary pad and freeze it.
#9 Wear a maternity jacket over the front carrier.
The easiest way to transport and/or calm a newborn is to “wear” him in a carrier. In chilly weather, keep warm by zipping your maternity jacket around you both.
#10 Use toothpaste to mark the spot for picture frame nail holes.
Here’s a trick for quickly and accurately hanging art in the baby’s nursery (or any room, really!). Dab a spot of toothpaste on the serrated hanger on the back of the frame, then press the picture to the wall. You’ll leave a little spot of white paste showing you where to place the nail. If the frame uses hanging wire, hold the wire taut and place the toothpaste at the center point, hold the picture up to the wall, and gently press.
For more than just dirty bottoms, baby wipes are the perfect answer to so much of everyday life’s grit and grime.
5 alternatives to a traditional baby book
Despite our best intentions to jot down all those milestones and firsts, baby arrives, life happens, and it all goes south. Don’t let baby-book guilt stop you from making a record. It will be treasured, no matter what. Here are a few tips for taking notes as life flies by. Use them to fill a baby book later on, or replace the book altogether.
1 A calendar. Keep a datebook by the changing table and jot a few notes and observations into it every day.
2 Index cards. Keep a box of index cards nearby. Whenever you feel inspired, write a sentence or two on a card and date it.
3 A notebook. Keep a small journal with you for quick notes. Later you can tape drawings and pictures into the notebook, too.
4 A box. Throw notes, pictures, and keepsakes into a box. Date everything.
5 Your phone. The pictures, videos, and notes on your phone will be automatically dated, and you can download and print (or post) the highlights later on. (Be sure to back up your data.)