Creating a family – Preparing for a baby
Becoming a parent can, for some, be a big change in their life. It does not matter if you are a single mother, lesbian couple or in a heterosexual relationship, having a baby is a wonderful but hard time to experience. There are some things that can be good to prepare before your baby comes - both mentally and physically. Preparing for a baby is a good thing, because you will not want to do anything else but spend time with your baby and sleep when you can.
Preparing for a baby
Before you know it, your baby will be here, and it can be exciting and numbing at the same time. That is why, it is a good idea to investigate how to prepare for a baby, before the baby arrives. Because there are several things that are good to prepare for before the baby arrives.
This can for example be:
- Prepare a sleeping area for your baby. For the first few weeks you probably use a lot of time skin to skin, where the baby sleeps on the chest of either you or your partner. The Danish Health Ministry recommends that you never fall asleep with a baby lying on top of you, which is why a sleeping area is important when preparing for a baby. The baby should preferably be placed in a cradle when you go to sleep or just closes your eyes. It can get really hot when you are lying skin to skin, as the heat from your body helps keep your baby's temperature stable. You need to be awake to assess whether your baby is getting too hot when you are lying together. In addition to keeping the baby's temperature stable, lying skin to skin has other benefits including keeping the blood sugar stable, helping to increase milk production, increasing attachment, less crying and releasing oxytocin which is a pleasure hormone in both baby and mother.
- Food. There is no doubt that cooking is not a priority once the baby is born. Most of the day is spent being with your baby, breastfeeding, changing diapers and sleeping. Therefore, it may be a good idea to prepare food for the freezer that is ready to take out and get ready once the baby has arrived. It is easy and quick. Do not hesitate to ask for help from family or friends for both cooking and practical things at home, especially if you are a Single Mother by Choice, it is important to receive help from friends and family. They would love to help, and most people know that the time with a newborn baby can be both amazing and hard.
- Nesting. This is actually a thing. Getting the house ready and cozy for baby’s arrival so you do not have to clean and tidy up when you come home. It can be nice to come home to a house that is clean and nice so that you can just relax and sleep without any stress.
- Get the baby things ready. This is perhaps one of the most exciting tasks when you are preparing for a baby. It is a good idea to make sure that all baby clothes are washed and ready. Small diapers need to be purchased and you need to prepare for a changing table. Some have a strong desire to make the baby's room ready before arrival. My opinion is, that this is not the most important part, as the baby will probably sleep with you during the first time, preferably in a cradle next to the bed. That way, it is easy to pick up the baby at night to breastfeed and change diaper, without having to wake up too much during the night. In addition, the baby does not use his/her room for the first many months as very small babies primarily spend their time sleeping and eating.
- Install car seat in the car. It is important to have the car seat in place, as it is illegal and dangerous to drive with a baby who is not securely fastened. It is a good idea to get the car seat ready a few weeks before your due date, so that this part is taken care of, if the birth should take place earlier than expected.
Breestfeeding – a full time job?
As mentioned before, the baby primarily spends its time sleeping and eating and is rarely awake in the beginning. The baby should have free access to the breast and should be offered to breastfeed when hungry. A few years ago, there was a rule, that the baby should only eat every 3-4 hours - but it is simply wrong!
A baby should have free access to the breast and milk, as breastfeeding is not only to make the baby full. Breastfeeding contains many other benefits and can, among other things, act as a comfort if the baby is restless, upset or just needs to be close you. It is important never to deprive the baby of the opportunity to breastfeed. Every hour or more is not abnormal at all. This is because, firstly, the newborn's stomach cannot contain large amounts of food. Therefore, frequent breastfeeding is actually necessary.
Secondly, breast milk is digested quickly, so to keep the baby’s blood sugar stable, he/she often craves the breast. You should not be afraid that your baby will take on too much weight or become too big too fast. They will be able to regulate their hunger and blood sugar levels themselves.
Frequent breastfeeding is therefore NOT a sign of too little milk or too little nutrition in the milk, but just a sign of a healthy baby who knows exactly what it needs. Breastfeeding also means that you must be fully available when your baby needs you. You will generally spend a lot of hours breastfeeding your baby and maybe your baby will also fall asleep during or after breastfeeding. It is okay. You can try to put the baby away from you in its cradle, or just sit and enjoy the time and the closeness. It is an absolutely wonderful time you get together with your baby. Feel free to accept practical help from family and friends, as breastfeeding IS a full-time job and time for anything else is almost non existing in the beginning.
It is also important to mention that there is often just as much "work" in bottle feeding. It requires the same amount of presence and time with your baby and can contribute to all the good things that breastfeeding can. It is neither shameful nor wrong to give bottle and you are an equally good mother no matter how you choose to feed your baby.
There is a lot of myths about pregnancy and breastfeeding, which we have tried to answer in this blog post.
How about being intimate with my partner?
During the first time after birth, it can be difficult to find the desire and energy to be intimate with your partner. Maybe you ruptured during the birth and got stitches, are in pain or just do not feel like it - this is perfectly normal. After the birth, you can, as a woman, feel completely engrossed in the baby and all the new changes and intimacy with your partner can therefore seem like an unmanageable requirement.
For your partner, becoming a parent can be just as difficult. Emotions such as jealousy, powerlessness, and envy can arise. It may be difficult to reconcile your new role as a breastfeeding mother with having to be a sexual partner. If you breastfeed, it can feel like your need for togetherness is being fulfilled because your body will be filled with oxytocin - the pleasure hormone. Oxytocin is the same hormone that is present when you have sex. Therefore, some women feel that they get their need for touch and togetherness met when they breastfeed or lie skin to skin with the newborn baby.
Your partner does not necessarily get the same needs met - as it is not him/her who is breastfeeding and has the primary contact with the child. It is important to see and feel each other's needs even though it can be difficult. Your partner may have a great need to feel you and be intimate with you, whereas your needs will be fully met by just being with your baby. If this is the case for you, it may be a good idea to try to give your partner some of your energy and time as well. It does not have to be sex, it can also be from kisses, hugs or cuddling.
How can the partner help?
Your partner has an important role, when preparing for a baby. Despite the important role, it is easy for the partner of the newly mother, to feel left our or neglected. All energy is spent on the newborn baby, and it can feel as if you are not good enough. It can be a good idea to find some tasks that you can share between the two of you. For example, after the mother has been breastfeeding the baby, the partner can be the one who lies skin to skin with the baby. It can also be more practical things, such as bringing a glass of water or arranging the laundry. It is all about still being able to make the other party feel seen, heard and recognized. It is important that the partner is aware of being active in getting to know the child, both alone and together with you. Just as it is important that you, as a newly mother, give your partner space for this. Being a parent is all about togetherness. The more you share, the more you get the feeling of togetherness which can benefit your relationship.
If there are bigger siblings in the family, the partner can be their primary “go to” person while the newborn is still quite small. They also need to feel seen, heard and recognized - especially when a little brother or little sister has come into the house. It is important to include the older siblings in the tasks that needs to be done with the newborn baby. It can be diaper change, getting the cradle ready, finding a pacifier or things like that. I can assure you that they will love to be involved!
It can also be a good idea to "swap" so that the mother can have some time alone with the older sibling(s) and the partner takes over with the newborn. As a new mother, you can easily feel that you are letting the older children down because the newborn takes up so much of your time. It is perfectly normal to feel this way and it will get better when the baby gets older and requires less of you. The most important is that you try to do what works best in your family.
Preparing for a baby – just relax
All of these examples above, on preparing for a baby, are important, but the best way to prepare is to relax and use the last time you have for yourself to listen to your own needs and your body. You often hear people say that you should get some rest while you can because you will need it. It is not possible to sleep in advance, but when heavily pregnant you are often very tired and exhausted. Therefore, you should try to relax and enjoy the time you have for yourself or together with your partner. Spend time with each other, go out for dinner, watch a movie or things that you know you won’t to be able to do for a while.
Just relax, and enjoy this journey, and know that you are not alone.
My name is Julie, and I am a trained midwife working at Cryos Customer Care. I have been a midwife for 6 years and have experience from many different maternity wards, including a stay in Uganda. I provide Cryos’ blog with expert knowledge about fertility, pregnancy and birth. I hope to bring you a step closer to make your dream of having a baby come true.Julie