Thanks to Kidsguide UK for the photo.
Disclaimer: I have no babies, and I've never registered for baby goodies. I have, however, taught lots of classes with women who have both registered and received/not received things they needed... and I've heard enough to share their wisdom with you.
Think Local: If you register with a big box store and have any issues with your gifts, returns, broken items, and more, you are sent through a tireless loop of FAQs, menus, and hold songs. If you register with a smaller store in your home town and get to know the people who work there, they will offer you free advice, work with you for exchanges, and recommend products that you and your baby will actually need and use (rather than issuing you a generic list and a scan-gun). When I ask women what they would have done differently, they all say they wouldn't register with one particular big box store because it was impossible to get what they wanted, return what they didn't, and even have items shipped as expected.
Less is More (space, money, time): You might be the kind of family that thinks you'd like a pacifier on every end table, but your baby might not take a pacifier. If you register for fifteen of them at the suggestion of a valued friend and you baby never uses them, that's quite a bit of wasted plastic, time, and gift-wrap. Crib skirts are super cute, but are crib legs really that ugly? Think about what you might actually use in the first few weeks and then head out once baby arrives and buy whatever you're missing.
Think Quality (of life, that is): Unless you are tickled to have your mother, sister, mother in law, or BFF move in with you, consider asking your friends to contribute towards hiring a postpartum doula. The $500 you spend is worth all the cheap onesies, receiving blankets, toys, and wipe warmers in the world.
Follow your Values: If you recycle your cans and jars and consolidate car trips to save a little wear and tear on the Ol' Mother Earth, consider what you can reuse. Cloth diapering a baby costs several thousand dollars less per year than using disposables. It also doesn't smell nearly as bad and you never have to do a midnight run to the drug store through a snow storm to buy replacements. Cribs and high chairs are more likely to be improved from year to year, but if you have a friend whose child is soon moving out of theirs, you can check model numbers online and confirm that no recalls have been issued for the product.
Keep It Simple, Sally: Here is the short list of things you actually need before the baby arrives:
My guess is that if you're pregnant, you're halfway done. If you're pinching your pennies, get a carseat as soon as you can and get it installed (they don't let you leave the hospital without one).
What, you wanted a real list? My basic list is here, free for you to download. Enjoy!
Postpartum doulas from Birthing From Within
My friends call me frugal, and boy are they right. I love a good “double ad day” sale and Craigslist as much as anyone can. So it might surprise you to know that I never take the 6am flight.
When planning a trip, I used to be persuaded by price. I cleverly locked in the least expensive flight home for the holidays or the least expensive flight to Hawaii, changing my dates and times until I got right down to the cheapest flight possible. Then, the night before the flight I would go into a cold sweat. Knowing that I had to wake up at 3:00 am to drive to the airport and be there two hours early for my 6:00 am departure, I feared I would sleep through my alarm and have to pay a ticket change fee. My sleep was always full of nightmares ranging from packing to missed flights to peeing my pants on the plane because I didn't have enough time beforehand.
Driving to the airport, I was always foggy-minded, frustrated, and usually cold. Security was a mess, too. Three hundred people who, just like me, have rarely seen this side of 7 am trying not to appear stoned or start fights in line when they realize they wore their chain mail undies in their rush out the door. I remember thinking: I would totally pay $50 to skip all of this crap and take a 10 am flight like a regular human.
And so I do. Each time I pay a little more for my ticket, I know exactly what I'm getting for that $50: a better night of sleep, a reasonable commute, and companionship of humans rather than zombies in the security line.
So what does this have to do with a postpartum doula? Were you thinking I posted on the wrong blog?
A postpartum doula can change your early parenthood from a string of six am flights to a string of ten am flights for $50 per night or less.
Now you may not know what you would be like if you routinely got up at 3:00 am and had to get to the airport early with other zombies. I can assure you that after my thorough travel experiences, it will not do great things to the condition of your personal hygiene, relationships, or sense of humor. I believe that adjusting to your baby routine has the potential to be a little nuts, too.
What Postpartum Doulas Do:
Help with Breastfeeding. If the last time you experienced breastfeeding was on the other end of the nipple, you likely have some questions about how to latch, how often to feed, how to sleep, and when to enlist the support of a physician and IBCLC. The postpartum doula is like a breastfeeding tour guide with helpful tips and tricks.
Infant Care Tips and Support. A lot changes in the first few weeks of a newborn's life! Skin, poop, hair, clothing, bathing, all of those tidbits you didn't know to ask during your childbirth education class are old hat to a postpartum doula.
Light Housekeeping. Not all postpartum doulas will do housework, but many will load and unload the dishwasher or washing machine. They will certainly help you understand how to wash baby's laundry and any pumping supplies or supplemental breastfeeding supplies you use.
Mama Support. If mom needs a nap or an extended bath, the postpartum doula can offer to sit with the baby and only rouse you if needed. She can also offer information about normal changes your body is experiencing as hormones do a square dance in your bloodstream. Postpartum mood swings are normal, but postpartum mood disorders are something that can be aided dramatically by the right support from a doula or healthcare provider. She will know when you need a good cry and who to refer you to if things get a little darker.
Mary Poppins. Some postpartum doulas will offer additional services, like sibling care, light errand running and meal preparation. If you don't have reliable friends and family in town (or if you'd prefer the help without the "additional help" your mother-in-law can offer) find a postpartum doula who will happily step in.
Is it worth the money? You should decide what is right for your family. Consider registering for postpartum support rather than crib skirts and decorative borders. Postpartum doulas offer their services in a variety of formats, from daily services to scheduled weekly services, to on-call for middle of the night meltdowns. The nice thing about postpartum doulas is that you don't need to decide in advance of baby being born, but if it sounds like a good option, I recommend retaining their services in advance so you can have the smoothest flight possible.
I offer some postpartum services
Interested in a Labor Doula?
Pregnant mama: "Going to a wedding next week... have to buy a dress."
"Oh, where are you shopping?"
If visions of tablecloths and tents dance in your mind when considering formal wear, let me help to allay your fears. Find gratitude that you are pregnant now rather than in the hideous 1980's, when maternity fashion involved oodles of pleats,
<--- "Pay no attention to the belly behind the curtain!"
While I fully believe that the sari is the best fashion choice of all time because it easily adapts from day to day and a muumuu might be the most comfortable choice, I rarely see women wearing either of these frocks at prenatal yoga (nor do I see them out and about). What I have seen and heard about are some great ideas and resources that will help you avoid the camping section and keep a few extra dollars in your pocket.
The hairband button hole trick: early on in pregnancy (and longer for low-rise pants) most women find an easy way to extend their favorite jeans and other pants with a button closure involves a sturdy hair tie. Simply loop the hair tie through the hole, then through itself, and hook it over the button. Sturdy is the key word here.
The big event: (not that big event). If you have a wedding, baby shower, movie premier, or cocktail party to attend, you may not want to purchase a dress you'll wear only once, particularly at maternity prices. There are a few places where you can borrow maternity wear for a month (or many) and pay much less than the cost of the item. Borrow for your Bump is one place you can find some good options. They also offer some other pieces for rental and offer a range of sizes. When your body changes daily, you don't want to buy a new outfit for only two weeks.
Foldover skirt or pant: particularly useful for prenatal yoga, many pants and some skirts come with a little extra band of fabric on top that folds over. I'm not sure what the original purpose is for these features, but they come in handy as the lycra stays up around any territory it needs. Borrow this from your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, or head to your favorite big box store to buy one or two pairs.
Belly band: many stores offer this quasi-tube top designed to be worn under your shirt and over your pants. It creates a layering look that covers your skin and can help hold up pants that are a little beyond the hair tie trick. These are also useful after baby is born if you are breastfeeding in public and you need to lift your shirt. You can keep your tummy covered and warm while feeding.
Nursing bra top: the belly isn't the only thing taking up more real estate, and purchasing new bras might seem like a ridiculous additional expense when you'll just have to buy more later! Nursing bras and tops are designed for a larger bust and will also come in handy after baby is born. If you're feeling uncomfortable, especially if your middle and upper back are bothering you, The Ladies might need a little more support.
Let me be clear: this post will not address paternity woes, suggestions for "keeping things fresh," or sutras of any kind. This post is an introduction to life once baby arrives and your current household transforms from a twofer into a threefer.
Think back to the time that you and your partner began to co-habitate. It probably started off all nachos and dance parties and then evolved slowly into dish disputes, towel arguments, and misplaced mail warfare. Then (as you are now expecting a baby) something probably took a turn for the better again. You devised some sort of system, whether it involves pre-printed lists on the fridge or not. Knowing that Thursday night is poker night for your partner, you take the opportunity to paint your toenails in your dainties and rock out to Stevie Nicks. And every other Saturday you hike into the wilderness together to talk about the Big Dreams you have for the future and other relevant relational business. Three kinds of time: mine, yours and ours.
With the impending growth of your family unit, you will begin to experience the same sorts of growing pains as you figure out your time alone, partner's time alone, the two of you together, you and the baby together, and your partner and the baby together. You've just doubled the flavors of time that are essential to a balanced and healthy home, and you have few positive examples of how this works successfully. In fact, most sit-coms and romantic comedies are based on the principle that when three people try to be in a relationship together it is both epically hilarious and desperately tragic all at once.
Tips for Doubling Your Fun
Define your six flavors of time. Before baby arrives, decide what time you need that is sacred, what time your partner needs, and what time your relationship needs in order for it to thrive. What are the activities that you do that fill in these three flavors? Write them down in a list so that you may refer to it after baby arrives (color coding is optional).
Recall your weak spots. Remember what you used to (or still) fight over? These may be the areas that crop up again. If they are simple, make a concerted effort to meet your partner half way by emptying the garbage occasionally or not returning empty packaging to the refrigerator. If the issues are more complex, like say sex or money, this might be an excellent time to enlist the help of a good financial planner or therapist.
Dream BIG. Start brainstorming the things you've always wanted to do with your child, both as a couple and individually. These are great lists to make, too. Once baby arrives you can start to try on or craft new traditions.
Give baby time to grow into. There is a magical seventh flavor that won't develop for awhile, but it is important to parent as though it already exists: baby's time alone. It is critical for the emotional health of your family that your baby learn to spend time alone. Now, I'm not recommending that your infant be left unattended, but I am suggesting that baby learn to entertain her as she grows without the constant feedback of an adult. This is where your child will explore and develop her personality. If you know how important your alone time is to you, you'll respect the necessary alone time of your child as well.
And that's the recipe for a successful threesome.
A little-known fact about me? I'm not a huge fan of baby showers. I know, I teach prenatal yoga. Yes, I get invited to a lot of baby showers. And yes, I go. But while everyone else is cooing over the frilly clothes or decorative wall hangings, I'm thinking about baby's future.
You see, in a previous life I worked in college admissions. I've spoken with thousands of families who wondered where they would get the money to send their teenager to college. Some opted to take out a plus loan, or a second mortgage on their house. Others hoped that athletic talents would win their student a free or discounted education. A handful (truly, a small handful) knew with great confidence that their student would have access to whichever education they wanted because they had been saving for it from the beginning. I'm not talking about the independently wealthy, but families with modest incomes, like teachers, nurses, and public servants, who had socked money away starting when their child was born.
Maybe you're not a saver, or don't know much about how money works in this world. But this is an amazing opportunity to learn and to take advantage of the many different ways you can start funding your baby's education starting now. For some people, a 529 plan is the right choice. For others, a Coverdell Education Savings Plan. There are many options you should discuss with your partner and possibly a financial advisor. Even a simple savings account in your child's name is better than nothing, because it will get you saving.
Tips for Saving for Baby
1. Include a college fund on your registry. Let shower attendees know that you'll have a container to receive cash gifts that will go towards baby's future education costs. Let attendees know that they will have the opportunity to take pride when baby goes to school, rather than just when they see the crib skirt they purchased.
2. Commit to an annual contribution to baby's account as a gift from you or you and your partner. Invite grandparents and others to contribute as well. A smaller toy/book gift will be just as meaningful (kids usually prefer playing with the box anyway).
3. Learn more about how money works. It's a shame so many Americans graduate from high school with almost no understanding of how to save, spend, invest, and how to manage debt. Make sure YOU teach your baby the ways of the financial world.
4. Avoid the Curse of the Trustafarian. A lot of children who enter college with a savings account feel entitled to spend it however they choose (usually on beer). Regardless of the size of the account, strongly consider having the child take out a student loan in her name. This will keep her accountable for her own education, encourage her to pursue her passions (rather than taking the classes she thinks you want her to take), and encourage her to use all of those financial lessons you taught her over the years.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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