Whether you’re newly pregnant or trying to conceive, the next nine months are going to be a whirlwind ride! Along with heightened emotions, physical exhaustion and an ever-expanding baby bump, you can expect a rush of unsolicited comments, opinions and advice on everything from pelvic floor exercises and pain relief to breastfeeding and baby names. Better buckle up!
Don’t get us wrong: pregnancy is, without doubt, one of the most miraculous things you’ll ever experience. But with your body — and your life! — changing rapidly before your eyes, the jumble of information suddenly flying at you from every angle can quickly seem overwhelming.
With this in mind, we’ve put together this super easy-to-digest guide to having a happy and healthy pregnancy, plus (of course) a top tip or two from the experts on choosing the perfect name for your little one at the end of it all. Pregnancy does have its perks, too!
According to the experts, yes! The term was coined by American pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp, to refer to a baby’s first few months of life: a time when they’re still adjusting to life outside of the womb, while continuing to develop at a rapid rate.
Many new parents find that the first weeks and months with their newborn pass by in a haze of feeds, diaper changes and sleepless nights — and that’s OK. Don’t feel pressured to throw yourself back into your regular routine, unless that’s what you want. If you don’t manage a shower until 11pm or eat grilled cheese every night for a week, don’t sweat it. This time is all about getting to know each other.
Need To Know
Soon after your baby is born, he or she will probably undergo a number of newborn screening tests, designed to pick up rare conditions which could cause problems if left untreated. The exact tests vary from state to state, but generally include a hearing test and a combined blood test for a variety of congenital disorders, taken from a quick prick to your baby’s heel. Some states also perform non-invasive heart defect screening as standard.
Do you know the warning signs of postpartum depression (PPD)? It’s very common to experience the “baby blues” in the week or two following the birth of your little one, but for around 10% of new mothers, the emotional upheaval of childbirth and new parenthood goes much deeper than that. If you’re experiencing consistently low mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt or anxiety, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, extreme exhaustion or insomnia, it’s time to seek support.
Sleep safety is a really important subject for all new parents to learn about. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress with no soft toys, pillows or duvets, for at least the first year of life. You can find out more about baby sleep safety on this site.
Breast, bottle, or both? It’s best to read up on the various ways to feed your baby before giving birth, so that you can come to an informed decision and stock up on necessities like bottles or breast pads. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, you will still feel your milk come in around two to four days after delivery.
Your breasts can get uncomfortably full during the early weeks as your milk supply is adjusting to demand, but in most cases nursing your baby or expressing a little milk will help to alleviate this. If you notice any localized pain, swelling or redness, especially accompanied by a fever or flu-like symptoms, see a doctor: these could be signs of mastitis, a painful inflammation of the breast which can progress into a serious infection if not treated quickly.
Sex may be the last thing on your mind right now, but it’s important to think about contraception if you want to avoid becoming pregnant again for a while. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible for some women to conceive as early as two to four weeks after giving birth, even if they haven’t had a period yet or are breastfeeding.
Good To Have
When we polled our members for their favorite new baby products, some items came up time and time again. Among the Berries’ most-recommended products were: a sling or baby carrier, burp cloths or muslin squares, sleep sacks, a nursing pillow, and baby toiletries like nail clippers, sensitive bath wash, and a baby thermometer. You can find a full catalogue of Nameberry’s best-loved baby gear
A swaddle blanket can be a really useful thing to have in the fourth trimester, especially if you have a colicky baby or one who refuses to sleep anywhere but on you! Safe, secure swaddling mimics the cramped conditions of the womb and can help to soothe a fractious baby to sleep.
If you plan on combination-feeding your little one, or introducing a bottle for expressed milk so that your partner can participate too, it’s recommended that you wait at least six weeks to avoid “nipple confusion” and to allow breastfeeding to get established. After that, a good-quality breast pump and bottles with soft, skin-like silicone teats will make the transition as smooth as possible.
Time To Do
Keep your baby close. Skin-to-skin contact is really valuable for your little one’s early development, bonding and emotional wellbeing, and the benefits last for many weeks and months after birth. Bathtime, nursing sessions and diaper changes all make for ideal opportunities to share some skin-to-skin time with your baby every day.
Once you’ve taken a little time as a family to get to know each other, you’ll be keen to introduce your baby to family and friends. Everyone loves snuggling with a newborn, but medical professionals recommend that all visitors wash their hands before handling a new baby, especially if they were born prematurely.
Try to get out of the house if you can, even if it’s just to walk down to the store for some milk. Not only will you benefit physically from the fresh air and exercise, but the psychological benefit of adult interaction is not to be underestimated — especially during the whirlwind early weeks of new parenthood! Just remember that your baby will be easily over-stimulated at this age, so a parent-facing baby carrier or stroller might be a sensible idea.
The Lowdown On Namer’s Remorse
Baby name remorse: it seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon these days. We’re certainly seeing more and more discussions of the subject on the Nameberry Forums. So: what is it, what causes it, and what (if anything) should you do about it if you find yourself regretting the name you chose?
Depending on where you live, you may have had anything from several hours, days, or even weeks to officially register your baby’s name. In some states, you won’t actually be allowed to leave the hospital until you’ve supplied a name for the birth certificate.
This time pressure — coupled with the inevitable postpartum exhaustion and hormones — can lead to some hasty decision-making which you may well find yourself regretting with the benefit of hindsight. However, it’s also important to note that, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or obsessed by your baby name remorse, it could be an early warning sign of postpartum depression. Before you take any concrete action, it’s a good idea to take some time to talk your concerns through with your partner, friends and family, to work out where these feelings are coming from.
If you do decide that a name change is the right course of action, it may be as simple and inexpensive as amending your baby’s birth certificate, which in some states can be done free of charge up until their first birthday. In other states, a full name change by deed poll may be necessary. But, if you’re sure of your decision, the payoff in peace of mind will likely be well worth any effort, expense and potential embarrassment you may face. Here you can find our nine top tips on making the name transition easier.
Congratulations! You have officially reached full term, and your baby could arrive any day now.
It’s an exciting — and scary! — thought, but after nearly nine months of waiting, you’re finally getting close to meeting that little person and taking your first steps into the wild and wonderful world of parenthood. Here’s everything you need to know about labor, birth, and those precious first moments with your new family member.
Need To Know
Health professionals often refer to the three stages of labor. The first stage begins when your contractions start to come in regular intervals and your cervix starts to progressively thin and dilate, and ends when you are fully dilated at 10cm. The second stage is the “pushing stage”, during which your baby descends down the birth canal to be born. And the third stage is the delivery of the placenta, which usually happens more or less spontaneously within 5 to 10 minutes of your baby’s birth.
How long the labor process takes varies widely from woman to woman. On average, you can expect your labor to last between 10 and 20 hours in total if this is your first baby, and less if it’s your second or subsequent birth. Generally speaking, delivery times tend to get quicker with each baby you have.
It can be difficult to judge when to head to the hospital during the first stage of labor, especially if this is your first time. The general guidance is that when you’ve been having contractions that last for a minute each, coming every five minutes for about an hour, it’s time to head in. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, if you’ve had a previous fast labor, or if you live a long way from the hospital or birthing centre, you may need to err on the side of caution and set off sooner. If in doubt, call your doctor, midwife or delivery unit reception.
Most labors start spontaneously between 37 and 42 weeks, but in some cases you may need an induction to get things going. This might be the case if you go more than two weeks past your due date, if your waters break but labor doesn’t start within 24 hours, or if you develop preeclampsia or another condition that means you need to deliver urgently. Induction techniques range from a membrane sweep, which can be done at a routine prenatal checkup, to medical methods like prostaglandins or IV oxytocin, which will need to be administered at a hospital. The method used will depend on how urgent your induction is, as well as how “ripe” your cervix is for labor.
Around one third of births in the US now happen by cesarian section. The process of delivering your baby by c-section depends on whether you are having elective or emergency surgery. In most cases, you’ll be given an epidural or spinal block so that you can remain awake throughout the procedure, and once it has taken effect the surgeon will swab your abdomen with an antiseptic before making a small horizontal incision just above your pubic bone in order to extract your baby. Once delivered, your partner should be able to hold your newborn next to you, so that you can meet and greet while you’re being stitched back up, which usually takes around 30 minutes.
Good To Have
A birthing ball is a great tool to have in the final weeks of pregnancy, as well as during labor itself. It’s not just a super-comfortable place to sit as your bump gets bigger and heavier: using a birthing ball regularly also strengthens your back and core muscles, improves your posture, and can even help your baby to get into the best position for delivery.
Make sure you take plenty of photos! You may not feel at your most attractive right now, but in years to come you (and your children) will love looking back at pictures of this time — and, of course, of the first moments with your newborn. And make sure you pack a charger in your hospital bag if you’re relying on your cameraphone to capture those precious first snaps.
If you have older children, they’re probably feeling a whole range of emotions around the arrival of their new brother or sister: excitement, pride, curiosity, jealousy, anxiety, anger… Giving big siblings a smallpresent “from the baby” can help to foster a positive bond from the outset.
Time To Do
Getas much rest as you can! Even if you’re finding it difficult to sleep at the moment, taking a short nap in the day or a relaxing bath in the evening will help you to keep your energy levels up for the birth and beyond.
Some working moms choose to start maternity leave a few weeks before their due date; others work right up until they give birth in order to maximize the time they can spend with their newborn. Either approach is fine if you can manage it, but beware of burning out before your baby even arrives!
If your due date has come and gone and you’re getting seriously impatient, you might be tempted to try some of the time-honored “natural” labor induction techniques out there. Some — like eating curry or going for a brisk walk — certainly can’t hurt, but medical experts recommend steering clear of castor oil and herbal remedies, which may have unpleasant side effects and haven’t been proven to work.
The Big Baby Name Reveal
Everyone loves a good baby name announcement!
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been sitting on The Name for nine months, or whether you’ve only just settled on that perfect moniker, revealing your little one’s name is one of the most exciting parts of new parenthood — for friends and family too!
So how and when should you make the big announcement? There seem to be more and more unconventional options out there, from personalized clothes, blankets or nursery art for your baby, to custom-made jewelry for mom… we’ve even seen name announcement candy bars! If the creative route appeals to you, try searching Pinterest for inspiration. Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to tradition with a simple card or phone call to announce your happy news.
The amount of time you have to register your baby’s name varies from state to state, so check with your local Vital Records department. Some states require you to enter a name on the birth certificate before you can leave the hospital; others allow this section to be left blank and completed within a specified time period. There may be a separate deadline for amendments, if you change your mind.
And please don’t forget to come back and tell us the name you picked! We especially love hearing the stories behind our members’ fantastic final choices.
When you can count the weeks left until your due date on the fingers of one hand, but your “To Do” list just gets longer and longer…
Sound familiar? Don’t worry: it’s not unusual to feel unprepared — or, let’s face it, downright stressed out — in the last weeks leading up to your due date. There’s even a term for the mad rush that many women feel in the final stages of pregnancy to get everything set up for their newborn’s arrival: the nesting instinct.
And as long as you’re not overdoing things, embrace it! This could be your last chance to get things done in (relative) calm, before the chaos of life with a newborn descends!
Need To Know
Between 35-37 weeks, it’s recommended that all pregnant women are screened for group B streptococcus (GBS): a type of bacteria that many people carry in their gut, which in rare cases can cause serious problems for newborn babies if they come into contact with it during birth. If your results come back positive for GBS, you’ll be given antibiotics during your labor, which drastically reduces the risk of your baby becoming ill.
As your due date gets nearer, you may notice that your baby has dropped lower into your pelvis, in preparation for delivery. Some babies (especially first babies) drop, or engage, a month or more before birth; others don’t engage until you’re already in labor.
Do you know the early signs of labor? In addition to your baby dropping, you may notice stronger, more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions in the weeks leading up to your baby’s birth. Some women also pass a jelly-like or slightly bloody mucus plug up to a week or two before labor begins, which is a sign that your cervix is starting to soften and widen in preparation for delivery.
Good To Have
Even before you pass your mucus plug, it’s normal to notice increased vaginal discharge in the final weeks and months of pregnancy. If it’s bothering you, try using pads or panty-liners: unscented, organic cotton ones are best to avoid irritation, and you can even buy washable reusable liners if you’re worried about the environmental impact of disposables.
Here’s one must-have that you’ll almost certainly already own: a cell phone. You’ll want to keep yours charged and with you at all times now that you’re nearing your due date, just in case of an emergency.
At around six pounds in weight and 18 inches long, your baby is rapidly running out of room in there! And you might be feeling a little tight on space, too. If you’re finding that you’re filling up quickly at mealtimes, eating healthy snacks, like yogurt and muesli or apples and PB, little and often might be a better way to keep your body fueled in the final weeks of your pregnancy.
Time To Do
It’s a good idea to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go by the time you hit 36 weeks. Try searching online for a printable checklist of things to include, and make sure to check out this blog post on 7 Hospital Bag Essentials: from maternity pads to granny panties!
Preparing for the big day isn’t just about what you pack: you’ll also need to make sure that you have all the necessary arrangements in place for when you go into labor. Keep the car fueled up and ready to go, make sure that you have childcare in place for any older children, and have important contact numbers like that of your birth partner, midwife and delivery unit to hand.
Even if you’ve bought all new, washing your baby’s clothes before they wear them is a must. Store-bought clothes have often been treated with chemicals to keep them looking and smelling fresh during storage and shipping, and even hand-me-downs may have been sitting in an attic or a garage for several years. Use unscented detergent and include an extra rinse cycle to avoid irritating delicate newborn skin.
One of our members’ top tips for the final weeks before your baby’s birth is to stock up on food and essentials like diapers, wipes and toiletries, so that you don’t need to keep running to the store with your newborn. You can make healthy, hearty meals like chili, curries, soups, stews and sauces in big batches, and then freeze in individual portions to have once your baby arrives.
How Many Names To Take To The Hospital?
Your bag’s packed. Your car’s fueled up and ready to go. You’ve got the delivery suite on speed-dial. But have you decided on a final baby name — or names — to take to the hospital yet?
Some people settle on a full name for their little one weeks, or even months, in advance; others prefer to wait until the baby is born before making the final decision. There’s no right or wrong approach, but here’s our advice: know thyself.
Are you easily flustered or unflappable? Impulsive or intuitive? Head or heart? If the former words best describe you (or your partner), you might find it less stressful to make a decision in advance, or at least narrow it down significantly to two or three top contenders. If the latter applies, you might enjoy the element of mystery in keeping a longlist of favorites in mind, and going with what feels “right” on the day. Your call!
In just two or three short months, you’ll finally be meeting your little bundle of joy! Find out what you can expect in the final trimester of pregnancy, and what you (and your partner) can do to prepare yourselves for labor, birth and beyond…
Need To Know
Up until now, you’ve probably been having prenatal checkups with your healthcare provider every four weeks or so. Now that you’re in the third trimester, you can expect that to increase to every two weeks at first, and then every week for the last month of your pregnancy.
Your fundal height (the distance from the top to the bottom of your bump) will continue to be monitored, and should be roughly the same number as your current week of pregnancy, give or take 3cm. If yours is measuring larger or smaller than this, you may be referred for an additional ultrasound to check baby’s growth and position.
Although around 90% of babies in the US are born at term (between 37 and 42 weeks gestation), there are still nearly 400,000 premature births each year. Most of the time, preterm labor is unexpected and unexplained; signs to look out for include pain or pressure in your lower back, regular contractions or more than four contractions in an hour (even if they’re painless), and watery or bloody discharge. Don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you notice any of these.
Good To Have
Here’s a little-known side effect of pregnancy: did you know that your feet can grow a full size or even two? The changes are due to a combination of pregnancy weight gain, ligaments stretching, and feet swelling during pregnancy. New shoes could be in order: look for comfortable ones that give good support to your arches, and remember that slip-on styles may turn out to be particularly useful as your due date gets nearer and your toes further away!
Time To Do
Now’s the time to focus on getting your baby’s nursery finished, before you get any bigger (and more exhausted!) Creating a space that’s just for you and your child can really help with the bonding process, too; try spending a little bit of time in there every day, just sitting quietly and connecting with your baby-to-be.
The most common time to hold a baby shower is in the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy, but you might prefer to plan it for slightly earlier, especially if you’re expecting multiples or experiencing any complications that could lead to early delivery. And if you want to set up a gift registry, you’ll need to make sure you do it at least a few weeks in advance to give your guests time to prepare. Our guide to the best baby gear — all recommended by our seasoned Momberries — is chock-full of tips and product recommendations to make the process easier.
Have you thought about writing a birth plan? It’s not a requirement, but it can be a great way to learn more about labor and birth, and to think clearly about your preferences for things like pain relief, labor interventions, cord clamping and cord blood banking, and support with feeding your newborn. Just be aware that your plans might go out of the window once labor actually begins!
It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research about your options for pain relief during labor. From epidurals to IV painkillers to non-invasive methods for controlling pain like breathing exercises and hypnotherapy, there are lots of options to explore. Even if you think you want a totally natural, drug-free delivery, it’s worth looking into pain relief just in case things don’t go entirely to plan in the delivery room.
Test-Driving Your Top Name Contenders
Whether or not you’ve decided to share your baby name shortlist, it can be difficult to get feedback on how your chosen names might actually work for your child throughout their life. It’s one thing liking Adalynn or Arlo in theory, but can you picture a real baby with the name? What about a teenager, adult or senior citizen? Could they be teased about their name in school? Will it be frequently misheard, misspelled or mispronounced? What kind of reaction, if any, might they get from others?
Here are five real-life scenarios you can use to put your top baby names to the test — from ordering a coffee in Starbucks to reserving an item in a store. How do your favorites fare?