You’re about to meet your baby! Congratulations! But before you do, you have to get through the hard part: labor and delivery. Here are ten tips that either helped me, or I wish I had known when I had my little one.
1. Get as much rest as you can before going to the hospital.
It isn’t always the case, but most likely, the time between your first contraction and having a baby will be quite a while (it was 24 hours for me). Rest, relax, and enjoy yourself as much as you can. Watch a movie. Take a bath. Sleep as much as you can!!! You will be so grateful you did.
2. Have a bag packed and ready to go.
The less you have to do on delivery day, the better. Have a bag packed and ready to go for you, baby, and hubby. Your baby won’t need much because the hospital provides pretty much everything you need. A few blankets and an outfit to wear home should suffice. You, however, will need quite a bit in your bag:
- Two nightgowns: It’s best if they open in the front, providing easy access for breastfeeding. A robe works well, too.
- Comfy slippers: You won’t be walking a ton, but you will at least be making trips to the restroom. Bring a pair of slippers or flip flops that you can keep by your bed.
- Granny panties: Get a size bigger than you normally wear. Trust me.
- Toiletries: All the stuff you need to feel refreshed: shampoo/conditioner, toothbrush/toothpaste, face wash, moisturizer, lotion, deodorant, makeup.
- Organic coconut oil: I could write an entire blog post on why it’s so wonderful… Especially if you’re breastfeeding. Suffice it to say, it is antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, which will do wonders for your likely sore, dry, cracked, and possibly bleeding nipples (it doesn’t last forever – I promise!). It’s safe for baby, so you don’t have to wipe your nipples off before nursing, or worry that your baby is ingesting the unpronounceable ingredients in synthetic nipple creams. Also, you can really use it all over your body as a moisturizer, and leave the lotion in your toiletry bag at home. The coconut oil I use is pure, unrefined, cold pressed, 100% organic extra virgin.
- Breastfeeding pillow: I didn’t bring mine, and that was a mistake. Get used to what you’ll be using from the beginning so you can learn the holding positions that are comfortable for you and baby.
- Snacks you enjoy: Just a few special treats that you likely won’t be able to find in the hospital cafeteria
- Cell phone charger
- Outfit to wear home: Go for a maxi dress or loose yoga pants and a comfy maternity shirt.
3. Eat something delicious.
Once you’re in the hospital, you may not be able to eat anything for a while – and when you do, chances are it won’t be delicious. So, while you’re still at home, eat something you really enjoy. On the way to the hospital, eat something you really enjoy. Just eat eat eat. It will give you energy while you’re in labor, which you’ll need.
4. Be prepared for pictures – Lots of pictures.
Smiling for the camera may be the last thing you feel like doing, but you and your baby will appreciate the pictures one day. So, look pretty. Fix up your hair and put on your makeup (I highly recommend waterproof mascara). And, put your hair up in a ponytail during labor so it doesn’t get messed up (like mine did).
5. Know that the birth plan you spent hours working on will probably not go as planned – and it’s okay.
So, you did your research. You spent hours planning what would happen when, and where it will be, and why that is the best plan, and blah blah blah. Yes, it’s a good thing to know what you’d like to have happen. But chances are, some or all of it will not go as planned. And that’s okay. If you can go with the flow, and trust in the professionals who are trained to do what they do, everything will ultimately work out just fine.
6. Decide who you want in the room during labor – and don’t feel guilty about it!
This is such an important decision. Labor is tough. You want the people in the room with you to be positive, loving, supportive, and encouraging. And it helps if they get along with each other.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Don’t feel pressured to include people just because they want to be in there. Repeat after me: My Baby, My Decision. And, by the way, that should never change.
Another recommendation: unless you feel otherwise, make it clear to your nurse that you do not want any unnecessary medical staff in the room. No students, residents or interns allowed!
7. Listen to your favorite music.
Most hospitals allow you to play music in your room. I made a great playlist on my iPhone that we played once active labor started. I loved it. It helped me relax, and made me feel a little more at home. The staff enjoyed it too. My Jamaican doctor especially loved it when Bob came on!
Here are a few songs for inspiration:
- Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
- Turn Your Lights Down Low – Bob Marley
- Satisfy My Soul – Bob Marley
- My Sweet, My Lovely – Plumb
- Crash Into Me – Dave Matthews Band
- I Love, You Love – John Legend
- Honey and the Moon – Joseph Arthur
- And I Love Her – The Beatles
- Crazy Love – Van Morrison
- By Your Side – Sade
- I Love You – Sarah McLachlan
- Magic – Colbie Caillat
- Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
8. Bring a battery operated fan.
The labor and delivery room is super hot. Bring a little battery operated fan (or two) that your partner can hold for you while you’re pushing.
9. Enjoy Skin to Skin with your baby.
The best part of labor is when it’s over! Not only are you done with all the hard work, but you get to hold your beautiful baby and nurse her for the first time. In addition to bonding, there are so many benefits of being skin to skin for mom and baby. Once Madeline was born, I held her on my bare chest for one uninterrupted hour. It was magical.
10. Limit your hospital visitors.
So, this advice isn’t specifically for labor; rather, it’s a pearl of wisdom (I think) for a more enjoyable hospital stay. Everyone loves a new baby. Before having Madeline, I always thought it was the right thing to do to visit family and friends once their bundle of joy arrived. Now that I have been through it, I won’t ever ask to do visit someone in the hospital again. Here’s why.
This is your time with your baby. You and your husband want to hold her. And you should! You’ve waited a long time to meet her.
Also, you’re hooked up to a catheter, which is gross. You’re exhausted. If you’re breastfeeding, you need to be able to whip out your milk-makers on demand. There are doctors, nurses, technicians, lactation consultants, and Lord knows who else coming in and out of the room to check on baby, check on you, and do all the things they have to do. It’s just easier if you don’t have a bunch of visitors stopping by.
Finally, and reason enough for me, More People, More Germs! Enough said.
Next time around, I’m limiting it to parents only. For everyone else, Facebook updates and maybe an occasional text will have to suffice until we’re ready for visitors. Unless you bring food… Then you can totally come over!
It doesn’t matter how much it hurts. Every bit of pain is worth it for that sweet little baby. Life will never be the same… It will be so much better!
A few additional tips…
- Have the car seat properly installed ahead of time. Read the manual from front to back and watch a few videos on YouTube to make sure you’re installing it correctly. Rear-facing in the center position is by far the safest for your baby. Car seat safety is so so so important! Proper installation can save your baby’s life.
- Program all the important phone numbers you’ll need in your phone. If you’re a working mama, you’ll need to notify work, your short term disability group, and the insurance company that you had your baby. You’ll also need to set up the first appointment with your pediatrician.
- Know anyone who can clean your house? There is nothing better than walking into a clean house, especially when you’re bringing home your brand new, perfect, pristine baby. Our house was spotless and beautiful when we got home thanks to my mom. If you don’t have anyone to help, consider paying for it. You can even find housekeeping deals on Groupon for a very reasonable fee, and your husband can coordinate everything. Hello push present!
Most importantly, savor the time with your baby. If you’re going back to work, the time goes by quickly. And if you aren’t going back to work, the time still goes by quickly. Enjoy every second, and be present with your baby. Talk to her. Sing to her. Read to her. Play with her. Teach her. Love her. Babies are little sponges from the very beginning, and it’s never too early to start shaping their minds, bodies, and souls.