In Life, Parenting

Secret, Practical First Time Mother and Pregnancy Notes From Real Mothers

This is going to get a little graphic so please stop reading if you are uncomfortable and/or disinterested.

This is really just a post for mothers based on all the advice I have been collecting in the past few months that I think is relevant and helpful.

I did not find a lot of this information in the books I read, and I read all the ones recommended by folks.

This is folksy advice!

If you (like me) had very little experience in general with babies and your friends don’t really have babies, this is my (candid) and friendly gift to you to pass on what I have learned.

HUGE thanks to everyone who has given me advice.

You know who you are, and I am so appreciative for all of your help!

<3

YOU WILL NEED PADS / PANTYLINERS EARLY ON

Starting my third trimester, I needed a lot more pads and pantyliners.

I was *ahem* soaking through them, so stock up and change often to stay clean.

I changed about 3 times a day if that gives you any idea.

YOUR WATER MIGHT BREAK AT ANY TIME AND RUIN YOUR BED

If you are sleeping and your water breaks, you will ruin your bed / mattress and have to buy a new one. Seeing as those suckers can run up to $1200 each (unless you sleep on a Japanese futon for $300 like I do), it is not chump change.

Cheap version: Sleep on a garbage bag with a towel over top of it until you give birth.

Less-Cheap version: Buy those incontinence (pee pads) for seniors and sleep with it on your bed


Also, avoid sitting on nice furniture.

My mother banned me from her nice couches early on in the third trimester when I told her about this water breaking scenario.

FIRST-TIME BABIES ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE BORN LATE

This is a tip I heard from a mother.

First-time babies usually come late, and while this was not my mother’s case, it is still something to keep in mind.

My first child came pretty much on time. Punctual, just the way I like it.

TAKE THE AMOUNT OF LABOUR TIME YOU HAD FOR YOUR FIRST CHILD AND DIVIDE BY TWO

However long it took for you to push out baby #1, divide that time by half and that’s a good indication of how long your labour will be for baby #2 and later.

stock-baby-photo-child

TAKE THE DAMN EPIDURAL, DON’T BE A HEROINE

Take the epidural the minute they offer it to you.

As someone who is a hippie and is all into natural everything as much as possible, this has not stopped me from NOT wanting to give birth naturally.

I am told by 99.99999% of all mothers that the #1 piece of advice is to take the epidural, even the ones who thought they would give birth naturally, regretted not getting drugged up.

It is the first piece of advice every mother offers me.

Then they follow up with: Don’t feel guilty about taking it. You don’t need to medically have ANY REASON to feel the pain of childbirth.

Roger that!

TAKE THE EPIDURAL WHEN IT IS OFFERED, NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL

When they offer you the epidural but you are not in major pain, DO NOT REFUSE IT.

It may take about 20 – 40 minutes for it to work in your system, and the anesthesiologist who is administering these wonderful pain numbing drugs may not be available when you are finally ready for the drug because they might be busy with someone else.

..then you might even miss the window completely and not be allowed to take the epidural if your baby ends up SLEEPING (yes.. SLEEPING!) before coming out and they are too scared to give you the drug in fear of hurting the baby.

BE PREPARED FOR THE EPIDURAL TO NOT WORK

Read up and locate alternative methods of pain management just in case.

You may be on board with drugs, but your body might not take to it easily, or you may not be able to take it for any other reason.

There are plenty of other options like deep breathing, gas masks and .. well, screaming your head off because you are going to be forced to give birth naturally when you did not plan on doing so.

Or like me, you can read about how I didn’t get that sweet sweet drug until about 30 seconds away from my C-section and screamed like a stuck pig until I was drugged.


EPIDURALS WILL AFFECT EACH MOTHER IN A DIFFERENT WAY

Some are super numb and can’t feel anything from their waist down (even to pee!).

Others felt ALL the pain as if they had no drugs in them at all, and still others said they felt like there was no pain, but they did feel something enough to push the baby.

Each childbirth varied by each woman. It did not matter how the first childbirth went, the second one could have been totally different.

The aftermath of the epidural for me was I couldn’t move or feel my legs for a good 2-4 hours, and then I started feeling tingling about 10-12 hours later.

Also, as the epidural was wearing off in the operating room, I was shaking like crazy. I couldn’t stop shaking and it wasn’t from being cold, it was just the drug wearing off.

DO NOT PUSH WHEN THEY TELL YOU TO STOP PUSHING

Great piece of advice even if it sounds stupid — do not push when they tell you to stop pushing.

Control yourself or you might end up tearing a lot more than you had expected.

As it was explained to me, there comes a critical point where the baby’s head starts to crown and if you push, you WILL tear a lot more than if you had stopped pushing and kind of let gravity ease the baby out slowly rather than forcing the baby out.

C-SECTIONS SEEM TO BE THE DELIVERY METHOD OF CHOICE

A lot of women choose to have scheduled C-Sections so that they know when the baby is coming out, and so on. This is also the only option it seems if your baby is far too large (think 10 – 14 pounders).

My sister-in-law and another friend loved their C-sections and said it was the only humane way to go. They both have a light scar but don’t care because the cute baby came out and they had fast recoveries.

She VERY MUCH preferred it over the vaginal birth she had before.

I too, couldn’t really take the pain of the contractions sans epidural, and had a C-section which I found relatively painless. The recovery took much longer to be sure (6 weeks with the first 2 being the worst), but when you are on your back screaming from pain, wishing you were dead, it sounds like a good alternative.

PUSH WITH YOUR UPPER DIAPHRAGM/LUNGS (YOUR TORSO) NOT YOUR BUTT

Do not push as if you are trying to do the #2 on the toilet.

Push with your breath. If you practice this, you can feel the difference between using your sphincter muscles to push the baby out, versus your breath and you upper half.

Try this to feel the difference:

Squeeze your butt muscles as if you are going #2, you will feel your bottom half (around your uterus section) kind of squeeze in tight as a result and your bottom half of your body will tighten up.

Now for the way you’re supposed to push, take in a deep breath and sigh really fast and hard while trying to keep your butt relaxed, you should feel your upper half contract, not your bottom half.

That’s the difference between pushing with your torso / diaphragm versus using your butt.

YOU MAY WANT TO WATCH YOURSELF GIVING BIRTH

They’ll put a mirror there if you want to watch yourself give birth and see the baby come out.

Up to you.

BRING BABY FORMULA TO THE HOSPITAL JUST IN CASE

Your milk may not start flowing until later in the week and/or you will have problems feeding or with the baby latching on.

It isn’t as if you start producing milk on demand the minute the baby starts coming out.

Pre-milk or colostrum appears, and it is enough to sustain your baby for the first while (baby isn’t hungry for the first two days), but you may have problems producing milk or whatever the case may be, so BRING FORMULA to the hospital just in case you need to feed the baby while you wait for your milk to come in.

The recommendation I got was to bring PREMIXED formula so that you don’t have to find water and mix it. You just shake the bottle and feed.

C-section mothers in particular have a delay in getting milk to come in. Believe it or not, my milk started coming in very small quantities the day I was discharged (day 2). I did not have a delay, but I did (and still do) have a lot of problems getting Baby Bun to latch on and suck, so I have been pumping breastmilk to feed him via bottle.

BRING AN ENERGY DRINK LIKE GATORADE TO THE DELIVERY ROOM

You can’t eat while in labour (this is to avoid you passing a bowel movement or doing the #2 while delivering), so bring an energy drink to keep your energy up.

BRING BABY CHANGING PADS FOR THE HOSPITAL

You will be changing the baby there. Bring changing pads, otherwise the baby might poo or pee on the bed as you are changing them.

ASK AROUND FOR USED, ELECTRIC BREAST PUMPS

I am skeptical that you cannot borrow breast pumps or reuse them.

Frankly, if they have a lending / loan system where they rent out breast pumps to women in the hospital, why can’t mothers share breast pumps among friends? It makes no sense.

All this talk about having to buy your own personal breast pump is just a way to get women to shell out big bucks for something and then be unable to pass it on to others so that this business of capitalism keeps going.

Just clean it well with hot water and soap, and be done with it.

I am also of the belief that you CAN share breast milk with others. If I was producing breast milk, and a woman beside her can’t seem to produce any, I’d gladly give my milk to her baby (assuming we’re both healthy of course).

We’re all humans after all. Sharing breast milk is not a weird thing, and some women even sell their breast milk to desperate mothers who cannot feed their babies naturally. There’s a whole business based on this.

/rant over

Now for recommendations:

90% of women I have talked to, have said that manual breast pumps suck and don’t work. Only the rare woman has said the manual breast pump worked better than the electric one.

They all love the double-pump electric breast pump device, and I am apt to believe them especially since Sonia was so very kind enough to give me hers from Ameda.

I bought the Philips Avent Manual Breast Pump and then returned it because it’s $50+ back into my pocket.

Other mothers pretty much swear by the Medela Double Electric Breast Pump:

I got the Ameda Purely Yours double electric pump and it has been a lifesaver since Baby Bun won’t drink from the tap but wants my milk to go (in a bottle), since he gums me too hard and won’t latch on comfortably.

Anyway I highly recommend having a breast pump.

BRING YOUR BREAST PUMP TO THE HOSPITAL

Try using it in the hospital and getting used to pumping out the milk even if you aren’t feeding the baby with it.

They may also have classes to teach you how to breastfeed and use your breast pump effectively.

CREATE AND BRING A TEMPLATE BABY LOG TO THE HOSPITAL

Nurses will want to check on you and the baby almost every hour or so.

Since your baby is sleeping about 3 hours, and you are not sleeping or trying to pump breast milk in between those short sleeping periods, you will be very grateful to get any kind of sleep when you can and however you can.

Therefore, when you FINALLY fall asleep and are about to get some rest, you do not want a nurse poking you and asking you: When did you change the baby’s diaper? When did you last feed the baby? From which breast? For how long?

Hence, the baby log, your columns could look like this:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Feeding or Diaper
  • Feed (Left)
  • Feed (Right)
  • Change (Pee)
  • Change (Poo)
  • Notes

Something like this:

If you are feeding formula and not yet on breastmilk (or decide not to do it), you will note how many mLs you fed the baby as well.

That way, if there’s a nurse that is curious or you have a new nurse assigned to you, you can just ask them to refer to the chart rather than waking you up.


I am also told I have to keep this log even after you leave the hospital, as you will want to show this to your doctor and record down everything that happens in the first month or two.

YOU WILL BE SERIOUSLY THIRSTY AND HUNGRY AFTER GIVING BIRTH

Every mother has told me that you will be drinking a LOT of water while breast feeding and you will be SO HUNGRY after giving birth (imagine not having eaten for however long you went into labour!)

Therefore, bring a water bottle and drink from it, and be prepared to ask someone, anyone to help feed you and shovel food into your mouth while you lie there in your hospital bed (you might be that exhausted).

They’re cute.. but they’re work:

baby-swimming-child-parent

BREAST FEEDING FOR THE FIRST TIME WILL BE TRYING FOR ANY BABY

2 weeks I hear, is the adjustment period for every baby. Some will latch on fine, others will not.

Babies are kind of learning as well, how to feed from you, just as you are learning how to feed them.

They only need an ounce or so, so don’t imagine them to really drink a whole bottle of milk either.

WAYS TO GENERATE MORE BREAST MILK

Some babies don’t like this taste because it is like licorice (yuck.. even I hate licorice), but it helps stimulate breast milk production.

You can also eat oats apparently.

WHEN YOUR MILK COMES IN REGULARLY, REGULARLY PUMP IT OUT

Demand = Supply

Once you start breastfeeding and pumping out milk, you need to continue on that schedule so that you continue producing milk. So if you breast feed every 3 hours, pump every 3 hours.

If you want to stop breastfeeding, GRADUALLY wean off pumping milk (pump less and less), do NOT go cold turkey.

Otherwise you will end up like my poor aunt who had no idea she had to pump out the milk and get rid of it, or end up with mastitis which is where your breasts get super hard and your milk ducts get stopped up.

She had to go to the hospital to release the pent-up milk in her breasts, and it hurt like a mofo she said.

BREAST MILK IS WAXY AND HARD TO CLEAN

A simple rinse won’t do it.

You can try buying those little bags that you put into the bottles so that it doesn’t have excess air (gives the baby less gas as well when they’re nursing from a bottle), and it also helps with the cleanup because you just toss the little plastic bag.

Otherwise, you will have to buy a bottle brush like I did, and scrub the bottle clean each time to get rid of the waxy residue.

DO NOT BE SHY IN THE POST-PARTUM WARD, THEY WILL BE CHECKING YOU A LOT

Since you will probably have torn down there during delivery, you will be asked to sleep on a disposable liner, lift up your robe, pull down your hospital mesh panties and your pad, and show them your private parts every half hour after delivery so that they can see how you are healing.

Do not be shy about this, they have seen so many they’re probably jaded by now.

With that in mind, don’t wear pants or anything constricting (not that you were going to anyway).

You will also have a huge ice pack against your nether regions and they will be checking to see if you pass any blood clots.

As a C-section mother I did not have an ice pack anywhere near me, but they did check on my scar and how it was healing as I was in the hospital, and asked me to walk around the hospital a lot to avoid blood clots and to heal faster.

I was walking as much as possible, hobbling up and down the hall with my IV drip, and even at home, I tried to be as active as possible without overdoing it.

THERE MIGHT BE A NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER ON SITE

stock-medical-baby-newborn-child-doctor-ob

Therefore, bring a nice little outfit if you want to dress them up for newborn first-day photos when they’re just out and super, super tiny.

There’s a window of about 10 days of “newborn-ness”, and you might want to capture these memories before they grow out of their ugly wrinkled raisin phase.

I did not get a newborn photographer offered to me, but I did have a lot of photos taken of Baby Bun when he first came out, so I feel good!


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on February 13, 2012

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10 Comments

  1. MelD

    I continue to read with interest, and often amusement…! 🙂
    I was offered painkillers towards the end of my first two births but never offered an epidural for a natural birth, though I suppose it must exist even here (we have some of the best hospitals in the world). Though the attitude here in central Europe seems to be that giving birth is something normal and you just get on with it, and of course some have C-sections and in some cases, that’s the only way to help mom and baby. Many things that are considered a bit new age or exotic elsewhere have long been well-integrated here (like water birth or very cosy, homelike hospital environment) and the hospital is well equipped – you wouldn’t need any pads, formula, tea, food, baby nappies or clothing etc. because they are supplied by the hospital for as long as you are there, only an outfit to bring baby home and personal items like music or essential oils.
    Interestingly, my general impression is that a lot of Swiss women are slim and have narrow hips and I am constantly amazed that most seem to give birth naturally and I don’t know anyone who had a C-section because they were too narrow, to my surprise! So it’s not just down to my “good childbearing hips”, then… (I do know women who had C-sections for other reasons.)
    However, I’ve noticed a lot more young women bottlefeeding than I used to see (I can’t know if it is pumped milk or formula, of course!). When I had my kids we all seemed to breastfeed and the prudery that has come over from North America didn’t exist, we were just “normally” discreet, i.e. didn’t just bare all but no extra covers etc. Hey people, it’s a natural thing!! It amuses me that those from over the pond often don’t seem to be able to decide if Europe is wonderful or wildly backward LOL

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      TO be fair, the hospital supplied a BIT of that — we got a day’s worth of pads, formula, diapers and so on but we had to provide our own after that.

      I think Europe is both — wonderful AND wildly backward. Giving birth is normal but maybe we North Americans are just a bunch of babies 😉

      I find that in France, breastfeeding is never really seen. I think women only do it for the first month then stop. Bottle feeding is more their thing..

      Reply
  2. Morgaine

    Again, thank you for these posts! This is info that I really need to know, not just the stuff that doesn’t scare people 😉

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’ll probably continue updating it as I remember things.

      Reply
  3. S.R.

    I use to sell and rent breast pumps. The reason they discourage women from sharing is because there are certain illnesses that can get passes through breast milk. The super fancy rental breast pumps (which cost about $3K to buy if you really want one) have a separate tubing system you always have to buy if you want to use/rent it. The breast milk never comes into contact with the motor unless someone is really messy (and I’ve seen it when I’ve had to clean and disinfect the units that came back). The off-the-shelf ones are all connected so there is a higher chance of transferring bugs/bacteria/whatever between people. This being said, people have shared breast pumps without a problem. It’s just a precaution companies what to take if they don’t want to be sued.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you for clarifying!!

      I’ve been using a shared (given) breast pump from a friend and after sterilizing it at least twice (I’m sure she sterilized / cleaned it before giving it to me), I feel safe using it.

      Reply
  4. jane savers @ solving the money puzzle

    There is a prescription medication called domperidone that will help increase milk production if needed.

    Nursing is not a good form of birth control. You need to take precautions.

    Those are not my mom notes but my health care worker observations.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I JUST read Debbie Travis’ book (Not Guilty) that says she was breastfeeding and became pregnant with her second almost immediately after giving birth to her first. It was definitely NOT planned to have kids so close together in age!! 🙂

      I am going to have to consider this medication if I can’t pump enough each time. It’s not that I can’t get enough milk in general but pumping every 2 hours is not sustainable … I’m going to go crazy.

      Reply
  5. NZ Muse

    WHO on earth would want to watch themselves giving birth? (And wouldn’t you be too caught up in actually pushing and stuff?)

    This was super interesting. Sounds like I will have to prepare to spend a fortune on pads. And practice using my disphragm (like how we learned to breathe from the stomach and not the lungs in vocal classes).

    Is a breast pump a must-have?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Some people are really into the entire birth experience. *shrug* It’s not for me, I get a bit queasy.. but I can see how it’s something people who don’t get queasy about would find interesting.

      THe breast pump is not a must-have but I have to tell you that since the baby can’t really latch to take my milk, the breast pump I was given has really saved my life. I am able to pump and feed him via bottle as much as I can and supplement when I am unable to make enough milk for him via pumping.

      Breastfeeding directly is the most effective but if your baby won’t latch on properly (it hurts because his mouth is too small and he seems to gum right at my nipple), and if you REALLY want to feed with breast milk as exclusively as possible, the pump is a mandatory item to buy.

      It’s expensive though. Around $300 CAD here, I was lucky to have been given one by a friend, it has saved me.

      Otherwise, a lot of mothers just feed with formula.

      Reply

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