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Beyond “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps” – 7 Tips For New Parents That Are Actually Useful

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When I was pregnant with my son I was big. I started showing early and, by 28 weeks, people were asking how far past my due date I was.


Despite not being able to see my feet or shave my legs, I loved being big. I’d looked forward to experiencing pregnancy since I was a little girl and, after the loss of my first pregnancy at nearly 10 weeks, my round belly and the constant kicks my little one gifted me with felt very reassuring.

The only downside to being so obviously pregnant for so much of my pregnancy was that it left me absolutely inundated with advice.

Reminiscent grandmas told me to “savor every second” and haggard moms in the grocery store shouted over their own fighting kids that I better “sleep now because you won’t for the next 10 years.”

Strangers on the street stopped me to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be eating and the best positions to labor in. Though trying to process all the advice coming my way was tiring, a big part me was listening, desperately, for anything that I thought might help ease into the biggest transition of my life.

Though I didn’t know exactly what parenthood was going to be like, I did know that life was going to change in a big way and, every day of my pregnancy that passed, I got a little more nervous about what was ahead.

Throughout my pregnancy I mostly heard the same advice over and over.

While “sleep while the baby sleeps” actually turned out to be a pretty good tip, there were several gems, uttered by family and friends and strangers, that came to be far more important in my sons first few months.

To help out all the soon-to-be-mamas out there, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite, never-before-heard newborn survival tips.

1 | Buy a mattress pad, not for the crib, but for your bed

This one came from my aunt. Though I’d always heard mom’s talking about the importance of the little plastic under sheets that keep the baby’s crib mattress clean and dry in the case of a diaper incident, I’d never thought of getting one for my bed until my aunt told me it was an absolute necessity.

The thing is, the baby won’t just be having blowouts in its own bed – it will also, definitely, be pooping and spitting up and peeing all over yours too.

During the newborn period you will also be exhausted and, while it may be hard to imagine now, I promise that there will be a night (or a lot of nights) when your baby does one of these things and you, in your utter desperation for sleep, just throw a towel over the spot and scoot over.

It’s times like these you’ll be particularly grateful that you have a mattress pad under your own sheets.

2 | Don’t even bother with a baby bathtub

As I browsed the bathing section of Babies-r-Us, my husband pushing the cart and me massaging my growing bump, I imagined the not-to-far-off day I would be giving my own child their very first bath.

As I tried to imagine which tub my son would like best, a toddler mom zipped past and shouted, over her shoulder “skip the tub, they’re never going to use it!”

On that day I didn’t believe her and, as I bought the fancy tub, I wondered why other people always seemed to think they had a right to give advice. And then my son was born and, indeed, he never ever used his fancy little tub.

I tried to set it up once, but, before I could get it out of the box, my son spit up on me and, as I stripped off my own shirt, I decided a co-shower would be pleasant.

I was surprised at how much my boy seemed to love snuggling up to me under the warm water and, from that night forward, I didn’t even try to get the tub from it’s box.

3 | It’s cool to keep wearing your maternity clothes

… and I don’t mean for just a few weeks. Once, when my son was about a year and a half old a co-worker complimented my sweater and asked where I got it – I sheepishly replied that it was a maternity sweater. Almost immediately all other moms in the group, even those with kids well into elementary school shouted out that they were still wearing a few maternity favorites.

No, you might not want to keep wearing the shirt that says “baby on board,” but if something fits well and looks good don’t ditch it just because it says maternity on the label.

4 | Stock up on restaurant gift cards while your pregnant

After you have a baby people are nice to you. For a little while at least, they cook you meals and shovel your driveway and ask if you need a sitter.

All too soon, though, they totally forget about you and you’re stuck with a cluster-feeding one-month old, a bank account running on empty due to unexpected baby expenses and absolutely nothing for dinner.

A friend suggested I splurge on a few restaurant gift cards with money people give me at my shower and, a few months later, I was deeply grateful she had suggested it.

5 | Get some kind of stretchy, wrappy thing for your jiggly-wiggly post-birth belly

I’m sure it’s possible for your belly to shrink back to it’s normal size without being held together in a compression tank top, but I’m not sure that it would have been possible for me to walk out of the hospital without one.

In the hours, days and weeks after giving birth, it felt like my organs were bouncing around falling back into place every time I took a step – that’s because my organs were bouncing around and falling back into place every time I took a step. I got a cheapo post-natal wrap off Amazon, but I’m sure that just about any tight tank top or wrap marketed for this purpose will do.

This piece of advice came from the woman checking me out at the maternity store and, in those first few weeks, I was immensely grateful that I had listened.

6 | Pick a pediatrician whose office is near good restaurants

There are a lot of articles on picking a pediatrician – these articles suggest you find someone who shares your parenting philosophy, who is a good listener and who will work with you to meet your parenting goals.

These things are important, but what really matters, is what restaurants are next door to their office. In your baby’s first year of life you’re going to take a ridiculous number of trips to the doctor – it’s also likely going to be one of the only places you’re able to get yourself out the door to in the early weeks, so make each visit count by rounding it into a lunch or dinner outing somewhere good.

This parenting tip is all my own and, as I chow down after every doctor’s appointment, I give myself a hearty pat on the back for choosing my pediatrician so wisely.

7 | Just go ahead and buy the bulk pack

Before I had my son I didn’t think I would allow him to use a pacifier. I worried they would destroy my sons nursing latch or mess up his future teeth, but five days in, when I realized that he needed to be sucking something LITERALLY 24/7, I broke down, bought a pack of pacifiers and regained a tiny piece of the sanity I’d lost over the past few days.

My son was soothed by a pacifier, but also had a tendency to spit them so quietly and surreptitiously that we often found ourselves tearing the house apart to try to locate one as he fussed on the verge of waking up in his crib.

A turning point in my life came when, on another mad dash to the store for more pacifiers, my mom suggested I just but five packs. A light bulb went on, and I thanked her for her genius. That afternoon I distributed the 15 new pacifiers among the rooms of my home and my little one was rarely out of reach of one for long.

Whether your kid’s thing is pacifiers or a specific type of blanket or swaddle, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and buy the big pack – they’ll use it, I promise.

So, soon-to-be parents and already-parents out there: What’s the most useful parenting advice you’ve ever received?

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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