When I was pregnant with my first child, like most moms I read everything I could get my hands on: parenting books, articles, magazines and every brochure offered at my doctor’s office.
I took a Hypnobirthing class and a meditation class, created a registry, set up the nursery, washed and folded onesies and stocked up on diapers. I read ratings and reviews to find a safe car seat, the best bathtub and an organic mattress.
Although all of the clothing, gear and products are important, there actually are other things you’ll want to consider that you probably haven’t thought about. Things that will help you, your spouse and your baby be healthy and happy.
So go ahead, schedule the childbirth class, create your birth plan and pack a bag for the hospital, then think about these 10 healthy (and surprising) things to do before your baby is born.
1. Purge Your Pantry
If you indulge in cookies, candy and chips, it can be a tough habit to break. After you give birth however, you’ll want to eat foods that will give you energy, not zap it. Also, the way you eat will help set the stage for your baby’s diet when he starts solids and throughout his life.
Adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and purge your pantry of processed, packaged snacks so they won’t be a temptation. Then fill it with healthy, whole foods like nuts and seeds, quinoa, oatmeal, nut butter and canned salmon and sardines.
2. Make Small Tweaks To Your Diet
A healthy diet after you give birth is just as important as it is during pregnancy. Eating mostly whole-foods, including plenty of vegetables and some fruit, will give you the energy you need to care for your newborn and the calories to support your body while you’re breastfeeding.
If your diet could use some improvement, think about making one small changes every week instead of overhauling your entire diet at once.
These might include:
- Make a salad everyday for lunch.
- Use the slow cooker to make a healthy meal.
- Go out to dinner one less day.
- Chop and sort fruits and vegetables for green juices or smoothies.
- Make Meatless Mondays a habit.
- Swap refined carbohydrates for whole grains.
- Add an extra vegetable to your plate.
- Plan your meals for the week.
- Create a shopping list and stick with it.
3. Know The Signs Of Postpartum Depression
After I had both of my children, I struggled to adapt to my new role. It seemed to me that every other mom knew what she was doing, she had it all together and she couldn’t be happier. For some reason, I didn’t feel the same.
It wasn’t until my second child was walking that I finally decided to seek help and I was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression affects as many as 1 in 7 women, according to a 2013 study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, and experts say many more women are likely suffering in silence.
Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. Before you give birth, read an article or two about postpartum depression so you’ll know the signs to look for and where to turn for help.
4. Get Moving
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise most or all days of the week. If you didn’t exercise much throughout your pregnancy, it’s never too late to start.
Exercise during pregnancy can give you an energy boost, keep your weight under control, help you sleep better, improve your mood and lower your risk for pregnancy complications. Creating the habit now will also make you more likely to stick with it after you give birth.
5. Stock Your Freezer
When you have a newborn at home, there’s little time to cook healthy meals, much less find the time to eat. When I had my first child, I used to balance my lunch on a plate over her as she breastfed.
Before you give birth, spend a few hours on the weekends to make meals you can freeze and re-heat later so you won’t have to resort to fast food or take-out. Keep a few healthy frozen foods on hand too so you’ll always be able to quickly pull something healthy together.
6. Put A Lactation Consultant on Speed Dial
Within minutes of giving birth, my daughter immediately latched on but I didn’t quite understand how to position her and I never could tell if I was doing it right.
It wasn’t until I had a private session with the lactation consultants at the hospital a few days later that it all came together for us.
Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things you can do, it doesn’t always come naturally so if you decide to breastfeed, chances are you’ll need help.
Before you give birth, find out if the hospital or birth center you’ll be delivering at has lactation consultants on staff or ask your doctor or midwife for a few recommendations.
7. Stock Up On Natural Products
In the U.S. so many of the products for moms and babies contain harmful, toxic chemicals like parabens, phthalates and fragrance that you don’t want near you or your baby.
Before your baby is born, clean out your home and stock up on natural, green cleaning products and personal care products. Or consider making your own cleaning products with simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and castile soap.
8. Find (Good) Friends
One of the best groups I joined when my daughters were babies was MOPS International. It was the first time since becoming a mom that I felt there were other moms who got it. I found friends and a community of real, down-to-earth, supportive moms.
So many of us don’t have a village around us that we so often read about but having a few good friends is necessary. Having friends who are in the same stage of life and can offer support can make motherhood a bit easier.
9. Ask For and Accept Help
When I became a new mom, my mother offered several times to help. Yet since I was breastfeeding, I didn’t know what to ask her for help with.
Plus, I wanted to be able to handle new motherhood on my own. I’m Ms. Independent and rarely ask anyone for help.
Now that my kids are older however, I see the error of my ways I could have asked her to rock the baby or play with her so I could take a catnap or go out for a coffee.
No matter how much you think you can—or should—do everything alone, ask for help. And if a family member or friend offers help, say yes. The slightest amount of support can spell the difference between an exhausted, stressed out mama and a healthy, happy one.
10. Let It Go
Having a birth plan is a good idea but the truth is bringing new life into the world is unpredictable so your baby’s birth may not go as you hope.
Perhaps you’ve already made up your mind about co-sleeping, breastfeeding and going back to work, but one of the best pieces of advice you can have as a new mom is to let it go. The truth is you won’t know what your baby will be like or what kind of mom you’ll be until you actually become one. If you’re flexible and open to the roller coaster ride of being a mom, it can be a smoother journey.