Pre-Delivery Preparations

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It has now been almost 9 months of this parenting adventure and I have to say it has been full of surprises. One of the most welcomed surprises is to witness on a daily basis how my husband Clayton is such an amazing father to Leah. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since he has been a loving and supporting husband these past 5 years, but seeing him as a father has really opened my eyes to how truly incredible he is. Here are my Top 5 Tips for Daddies in honour of our first Father’s Day!

1) Ensure You’re Ready

I remember one key conversation that started my husband and I on this journey of having a baby. We were sitting around with friends chatting about the next step in our marriage, and when they asked if we were ready to start having kids, Clayton surprised me when he promptly replied that he was! Though I never doubted my desire to be a mom, I felt that I still needed to methodically analyze the pros and cons for having children, before actually starting on that path. Clayton on the other hand, knew he wanted to be a dad, and was ready to become one. Even so, he waited patiently as I examined all the arguments for and against, and interviewed our friends and family who had kids. When we were both ready, we embarked on the journey together, ready and excited.

TIP: Regardless of who is ready to have a child first, it is incredibly important to have both husband and wife completely on board before starting a family. Having a child is not a small decision and should not be entered into lightly.

2) Start Out Strong

The labour and delivery of baby Leah went better than I could have hoped for and with the help of Clayton (and our doula), our baby was born naturally, according to our birth plan. It helped that my husband and I attended great prenatal classes, spent time discussing our hopes and fears for the labour, and practiced relaxation exercises and labour positions beforehand. He respected and responded to my needs throughout the labour (no talking or noise during contractions) and helped to keep me relaxed (amazing hand massages) the whole time. After Leah was born, we spent the first night in awe of our new baby, taking turns holding her skin-to-skin and sleeping in the hospital bed (me) or in a chair (him). The next four days in the hospital proved very difficult as Leah was diagnosed with jaundice and had to spend the majority of her time under UV lamps in an isolette. She was inconsolable and it pained us to hear her cry, to be separated from her, and unable to hold her or breastfeed on demand like we had planned. To make matters worse, we were incredibly sleep deprived from taking turns monitoring, feeding and changing her (with attempts to nap in between). Despite all this, Clayton refused to leave our side until we left the hospital together as a family, showing from the start the kind of commitment and sacrifice that Leah would always have in her father.

TIP: Spend time skin-to-skin with your baby in the first few weeks of his/her life (and onwards) for quality bonding time and numerous health benefits to the baby. The bonding time between baby and dad helps the baby to become familiar with daddy’s scent and helps the daddy to form a connection with the baby early on. This bond is so essential when he’s struggling to soothe or care for the baby, and can help him to gain confidence in his role as a father.

3) Work as a Team

For the first few weeks of Leah’s life, Clayton and I worked as a team to take care of her every need. From joint diaper changes to taking turns rocking her to sleep, we did everything together. Though I was breastfeeding and thus couldn’t share the load of feeding her like we would have otherwise been able to do with a bottle, Clayton still supported me every step of the way, playing his own role. While I was feeding Leah, he would sit next to me, checking the latch, reminding me to finish the feed, and bringing me ice cream in the wee hours of the morning. He also took on the role of burping Leah after I fed her so that he was involved in the feeding process. Even when Clayton returned to work, he continued to participate in the night feeds, which I will always remember as being one of the most loving and meaningful ways he supported me in my first few months as a mom.

TIP: Each couple is different in how they work as a team, but ensure the dad has his own role to play in the parenting process so he doesn’t feel left out and so he has a chance to build his confidence in caring for the baby. Though it may sometimes be easier for the mom to soothe, feed or care for the baby, give him a chance and he’ll surprise you, and possibly himself, with how great of a father he is.

4) Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Having a child catapults a marriage into uncharted territory and even the most prepared couples may find that their lives are quickly turned upside down. Clayton and I had over 10 years of friendship as a foundation for our marriage, and supported each other through a number of difficult circumstances throughout our dating relationship but still, having Leah pushed us to a new place in our relationship. Talking to each other through it all has helped a great deal. Sharing our fears and worries has helped us to manage them, and expressing our needs to each other has helped us to meet them. Clayton is not the most talkative or outgoing person, (especially in comparison to me!) but having Leah has really helped him to come out of his shell. I have witnessed him asserting himself in decision-making and really stepping up to the plate to take care of the both of us. Of course it took some time for us to get to this point, with some tough conversations between the two of us at times, but we got there. And we’re still growing as a couple through this experience.

TIP: The best way to navigate the world of parenting is to have open lines of communication with your partner. Talk about things beforehand, as it happens, after each experience and every moment in between. You’ll learn a great deal about yourself, about each other, and if you stick with it, having children will strengthen your marriage instead of weakening it.

5) Be Patient

Even though you may follow tips 1 to 4, sometimes things take time. Patience for yourself, for your child and for your spouse is key. The good (bad?) news is that change is the only constant, so when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, things will improve and when you feel like you’ve finally got the hang of it, things will change again. That’s the adventure of parenting and though it can be tough and full of surprises, it’ll be the the greatest ride of your life!

TIP: Have patience for yourself, your child and your spouse. Learning and growing as a parent takes time, and is a lifelong journey.

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I’m all about being prepared and having the necessary supplies on hand. These are the items I would suggest purchasing in advance, to stock up your medicine cabinet and to avoid last minute runs to the pharmacy.

Please Note:

1) Consult your pediatrician or health care provider before giving medications to your child.

2) Recent recall on a number of infant and children’s medications including Tylenol, Motrin and Benedryl.

1) Baby Pain and Fever Medication (Tempra/Tylenol/Motrin) - These medications are really good to have on hand in the case of a fever (on that note, make sure you have a thermometer) for when teething pain starts to become a problem.

2) Calamine Lotion/0.5% Hydrocortisone Ointment - Some kind of anti-itch cream is useful for rashes or eczema. 0.5% Hydrocortisone is available over the counter and useful for treating eczema. The SpectroKids Eczema Care cream is very effective as well if you want to avoid steroid creams.

3) Saline Drops (and a nasal aspirator) - Saline drops used with a nasal aspirator address the problem of nasal congestion, particularly in the early stages when even a little bit of baby snot causes frustration for them during breastfeeding or for colds.

4) Children’s Benadryl - An anti-histamine mediation is very useful in case your child experiences an allergic reaction such as hives. Our First Aid instructor recommended that we have this on hand in your home, to buy you some extra time in the case of a severe allergic reaction.

5) Gripe Water/Ovol - Having something on hand to address colic (or just gas in general), is convenient. Gripe water, which is all natural is also good for hiccups, so we used it a few times when Leah’s hiccups were persistent. Make sure you buy an alcohol-free version such as the Kolik brand.

6) Vitamin D Drops – For exclusively breastfed babies, your physician will likely instruct you to give your baby a daily dose of Vitamin D.

7) Children’s Polysporin – For minor cuts and scrapes, this antibiotic cream comes in handy. We used it a few times when Leah’s ears got cracked and a bit bloody from her tugging on her ears.

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I confess, I’m not the most disciplined when it comes to flossing my teeth and during my pregnancy, I was so tired that my poor flossing habits continued. But when I went to the dentist in my third trimester, I got a good scolding from the hygienist for not keeping my dental hygiene in check. Apparently, though practicing good dental hygiene is always important, it is particularly important to take good care of your teeth during pregnancy. The reasons are as follows:

1) Hormonal changes can intensify dental problems – During pregnancy, a woman’s increased hormone levels exaggerate the body’s normal response to dental plaque, increasing the likelihood that a pregnant women will develop gum disease if her daily plaque control is not adequate. Pregnancy gingivitis is the most common dental concern during pregnancy, affecting almost 50% of all pregnant women. It causes your gums to become red, puffy, and inflamed. It can also trigger bleeding gums when you are brushing and flossing.

2) Poor dental health in moms can affect the fetus – Pregnancy gingivitis can lead to the serious stage of gum disease, periodontitis. Pregnant mothers with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to go into preterm labor. The explanation: Prostaglandin, a chemical found in oral bacteria, may induce labor (high levels of prostaglandin has been found in the mouths of women with severe cases of periodontal disease).

3) No x-rays during pregnancy – Since x-rays are not safe during pregnancy, your dentist will not be able to monitor your dental health as closely. Problems such as cavities may go undetected for 9 months or more, and in that time, they may worsen. Consider also that many pregnant women (like me) develop a sweet tooth and eat all those foods that can cause and worsen cavities. Furthermore, all those late evening and midnight snacks can worsen the problem further.

Believe me, the last thing you want to have to worry about is extra visits to the dentist with a newborn in tow, all because you didn’t practice good dental hygiene while you were pregnant. So make sure you take good care of those chompers especially if you’re snacking on all those sweets.

More information on oral health before, during and after pregnancy here.

Sources:

http://www.pregnancy-info.net/dental_care.html

http://dentistry.about.com/od/basicdentalcare/qt/perinatalguidelines.htm

http://www.wellwomanblog.com/50226711/dental_hygiene_during_pregnancy.php

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Leah rolled over for the first time when she was 4 months old but it wasn’t until she was 6 months old that she was able to roll more easily, particularly from her back to her front. It was amazing to see her reach this milestone but unfortunately it started to disturb her sleep. When she was flailing around trying to fall asleep, she would roll over and get stuck on her stomach. This would cause her to cry harder and it would take her much longer to fall asleep. At first we would go back into flip her back to her back but our little baby hated having us come in just to leave a few moments afterwards.

We tried purchasing a Sleep Positioner to keep her on her back but she conquered that too! She managed to escape it and flip onto her stomach, getting stuck there and crying in frustration. We were just as frustrated, since her good sleep habits were being turned upside down (get it???). We did some research and learned that the SIDS risk is much lower at the 6 month mark which eased our worry. Furthermore, her head control was much better so she was able to move her head to the side without any problem. We decided to let her continue sleeping on her stomach, hoping she would adjust to it eventually.

Thankfully, one week later she was well accustomed to sleeping on her tummy (with her bum in the air no less) and could fall asleep even after she flipped herself over. We still use the sleep positioner when we put her down to bed, to minimize the rolling around but most mornings we find the sleep positioner in one corner, and Leah in the other.  Lesson learned: Once your baby reaches the age where the SIDS risk is less and is able to roll his/her head easily from side to side, don’t worry about the back-to-sleep rule or else you’ll end up running in and out of the room a lot and disturbing their sleep. Just let them learn how to sleep on their stomach and you’ll have a happy, sleeping baby in no time.

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Kegel exercises help to strengthen pelvic muscles and are important in preparation for your labour and post-delivery. Strong pelvic muscles help with the delivery of the baby and also help to prevent urinary incontinence. I know it seems weird to be talking about peeing yourself when we’re hardly the target market for Depends adult diapers but believe me, at some points in my pregnancy I seriously considered investing in some because I kept having accidents (so embarrassing). These incidents would often happen when I heard the sound of trickling water (e.g. when washing the dishes, washing my hands, near a fountain, etc.). I started to mitigate the problem by emptying my bladder often and also by doing my Kegals.

During my pregnancy I practiced Kegel exercises during my prenatal exercise classes and at home when I remembered (which wasn’t too often). One of the women in my prenatal class shared how her husband left sticky notes around the house and in her car with the letter “k” written on it to remind her to do her Kegels! Kegel exercises can be as simple as tightening and relaxing your pelvic muscles, and can progress to the Kegel Elevator (Visualize an elevator. Slow down the exercises, gradually contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles one at a time. As you contract, visualize an elevator traveling up four floors. At each floor, contract your muscles a little more until you reach maximum contraction at the fourth floor. Hold the contraction and then slowly release the tension as you visualize the elevator returning to the ground floor.)

Even after the baby is delivered, the urinary incontinence continues as I mentioned in my post on Bowel and Bladder Maintenance. A friend of mine mentioned that exercise (playing ultimate frisbee) would cause her to pee herself a little, another friend would pee herself when she sneezed, and I still struggle when I hear the sound of running water (lol!). Lesson learned: do your Kegals and strengthen those pelvic muscles!

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There are a number of different physical exercises you can do to prepare your body for labour and delivery. As much as possible, I tried to continue life as usual despite protests from the people around me. My dad insisted that I don’t lift my arms above my head. Others seem quite concerned when they saw me in jumping poses from the Carribean cruise we took in my second trimester. To keep my body in shape, I walked a lot, took prenatal yoga classes and tried out other prenatal classes such as aquafit, pilates and cardiofit. Of course you have to listen to your body but I feel that staying active really helped me to have a good labour and delivery.

I also practiced various relaxation exercises that we read about in the book Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way in order to prepare for the big day. When watching TV, I would “tailor sit” (basically sitting on the floor with your soles together instead of sinking into the couch) in order to stretch and strengthen my pelvis and inner thighs. Clayton and I practiced head-to-toe relaxation exercises together: I would like on the floor on in bed on my side, while he talked me through relaxing every part of my body from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. The second time we practiced this exercise I fell asleep! I tried to do kegel exercises on a regular basis and my doula showed me various labour positions on the ball, on the couch and supported by a partner.

Although I can’t be sure how much these activities helped me to have a great first birth experience, I am glad that I invested the time to practice them. I encourage you to do the same!

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It’s probably pretty obvious but when the baby arrives, the time you’ll have to prepare meals dramatically decreases… to practically zero! For the full first month of Leah’s life, I don’t think I cooked a single full meal. I relied on meals that my family and friends brought me, supplemented with canned, packaged and frozen foods.

I suggest you accept all offers for people to bring over food! If friends and family come to visit during the day, suggest a meal time such as lunch or dinner so you can have some help holding the baby while you eat (and of course, let them bring the meal!). It’ll help you to take care of the baby (and especially with breastfeeding) if you stay nourished and healthy.

Stock up on some easy meal options beforehand. If you’re the main person in charge of cooking in your household, make sure you get your hubby to familiarize himself with some easy recipes in advance. Stock up your freezer and pantry. Some suggestions for frozen foods are lasagnas, casseroles, meatballs, dumplings, pizzas, Chinese stick rice bundles (‘joong’) and M&M foods. Consider also stocking up on canned soup, instant noodles, and canned tuna or fish for protein. Also having quick snacks around was really helpful to have since breastfeeding made me ravenous! Having granola bars, fresh fruit (bananas!), cheese, bagels, yogurt and granola within reach helped to keep my hunger at bay without sacrificing a lot of time.

A favourite easy recipe:

Apricot Glazed Chicken

250 ml zesty Italian dressing
250 ml apricot jam
One pack of onion soup mix
6 chicken breasts

1) mix and spread over chicken
2) bake at 425 F for 25-30 minutes

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Make sure you have a baby thermometer and baby Tylenol/Tempra on hand in case your child develops a cold and/or fever. When you suspect your child might have a cold or fever, you’ll want to be able to check and monitor his/her temperature. Of course you should see your pediatrician about a high fever but in the case of a low-grade fever you may be able to just administer some baby Tylenol/Tempra and it’ll be helpful to have this on hand. Some babies may develop a low-grade fever after a vaccination.

In terms of the type of thermometer, I learned in my prenatal class that you’re supposed to use a rectal thermometer but we bought a baby ear thermometer which is so much easier to use and easy to check the temperature quickly.

Take the time to discuss your rules for visitors with your partner before the baby arrives. It is inevitable that friends and family will be clamoring to visit you and the new baby and trust me, entertaining guests will be the last thing on your mind. When the time comes, you’ll want to have already discussed this with your partner so that you can avoid disagreements and unwanted visitors at your door. Besides, those early days are incredibly important for you both to bond with the baby, uninterrupted, and of course, to rest and recuperate.

The guidelines that Clayton and I decided on were as follows.

1st week: Immediate family only
2nd week: Extended family
3rd week: Very close friends
4th week: Close friends

We made a few exceptions… my best friend is practically family so I invited her to visit me at the hospital. Make sure you accept all offers for visitors to bring food. In all instances, whenever visitors ask if there’s anything they can bring… tell them! We had a few friends help us with diaper runs since we didn’t have any idea how many diapers we would be going through (8 to 10 a day) until the time came.

More articles on visitors in the postpartum period:

1) After the Birth, what a family needs – By Gloria Lemay
2) Lemon Clot Essay and Who Can Even be on the List to be Considered to Stay at Your Home After Childbirth -  By Sharon1964

I packed a lot for the hospital and barely used any of it. I changed into a hospital gown when I got to the hospital and laboured in that the whole time so that when the baby arrived I could easily put it skin-to-skin and start breastfeeding easily. I also wore the hospital gown the whole time that I was there (5 days) and my own underwear. My nipples were sore from breastfeeding so some of the time I didn’t even wear the gown when I was in the room! :P I ended up wearing home the same outfit that I wore to the hospital so all the “outfits” that i packed to wear at the hospital were not used at all! I didn’t wear pants at all or the robe that I brought. Keep in mind that after labour your body will not immediately shrink back to its normal size yet so wearing your maternity clothes will work out fine.

I did use a LOT of pairs of underwear because I kept soiling them (eek) so make sure you bring lots of those as well as lots of large pads. I brought nursing bras but at the beginning there is little milk (just colostrum) so I didn’t have to worry about leaking or using breast pads, and didn’t even wear them! Bring some nipple ointment though, your nipples will be sore at the start as you adjust to breastfeeding. And slippers for walking around in.. my feet were really swollen before and after my labour so I was happy that I brought oversized slippers.

I had all my usual toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, facecloth, hairbrush etc.). I used my hairband and my hairties. I used my nursing pillow that I brought and an inflatable donut to sit on (to aid in perineum healing). what I wish I brought was my cell phone charger since my cell phone was being used so often to call all my friends!!! I didn’t shower at the hospital so I didn’t use my shower supplies but if you plan on taking a shower right away you may want to bring a hairdryer in addition to your shower supplies.

For the baby I would bring a few sleepers and onesies*** to go underneath (like an undershirt). If you have a wraparound onesie with ties, bring that because putting a onesie over the baby’s head is not easy! We didn’t actually dress the baby until we went home. While she was in the hospital she was always skin-to-skin with either Clayton or I. They also recommend breastfeeding skin-to-skin so there was really no point in putting clothes on her. Bring a few receiving blankets in case the baby is sensitive to the hospital sheets and also to pack around the baby in the car seat (when they go home they are so small you don’t want them bouncing around the car seat). Plus a nice warm blanket to tuck over top when transferring the baby to the car and a hat (we didn’t get one from the hospital!). If you want you could bring a snowsuit kind of thing but we usually just tuck a warm blanket over Leah and that works fine especially if you’re going to pull the car up to the entrance of the hospital.  Of course make sure your car seat is installed and in the car! Also make sure you bring a good stash of diapers and wipes since the hospital only provides a few for you to use. Since you may have to stay a few days, have enough on hand or you’ll need to make a few trips to the pharmacy!

I had a big jug of apple juice in the car that Clayton brought in once we were settled in our room. I was glad to have it because it helped to keep me hydrated during the labour and also I was so thirsty from breastfeeding. You may want to bring some snacks too since you’ll be hungry from all the hard work! Plus the hospital will only provide food for you, so some munchies will help to sustain your husband between meal runs. And a camera to document every moment.

Important tip: Remember that you’ll have to get all the stuff you bring to the hospital back home, plus a baby in a carseat and you’ll probably be sore and walking carefully so the less stuff the better! When we were leaving our room we had to make 2 trips to get it all out of the room and loaded into the car!

**Baby clothes explained: In case you don’t know (I didn’t before someone explained it to me), a sleeper is a one-piece with sleeves and legs all attached. A onesie doesn’t have pants (it’s just like a shirt with a crotch) so if you usually need to have pants to go with a onesie (which makes them not-so-practical actually). Sleepers are the easiest to put on a baby because you don’t have to slip anything over the head, you can usually unbutton it all along one side and plop the baby into it. Onesies are more tricky so in the early days those kimono wrap around tie shirts are the best!

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