17th November, 2021

Hey lovely Mama!

Here is a great big pile of information that I wish I had in one place when heading into motherhood! There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t tend to talk about, so I hope this is helpful for you. Most of it is from my experience, but I’ve also added in some things that other friends have found really useful (these points have an * next to them so you know they’re not from my experience). Please don’t feel overwhelmed reading through it- just take what you like out of it and leave the rest. I’ve tried to keep it practical, but there’s still a lot of info! I’m always happy to answer questions (nothing is off limits) if you want to send me a message over on Facebook or Instagram. Feel free to pass this on to other mamas if you find it helpful, too. You’re on an incredible journey!

Photos taken by Lavara Photography of my own bump, edited by me. 

Pregnancy:

Antenatal classes: Parents Centre. Something like $295 for 7 pre-baby classes and 6 post-baby classes. Find the closest centre to your home and book early. We got the best coffee group out of these classes (these relationships are invaluable for comparing baby notes and growing as mamas together), so this was undoubtedly the best money we spent when it comes to parenthood! 

Maternity/breastfeeding bras: the most comfy ones I have are these cheap ones from kmart. They’re comfortable to sleep in too which is really important when you’re breastfeeding! 

For exercising I like Cadenshae bras (I got two second hand).

Maternity undies: I found these Modibodi ones really comfy as my bump got bigger. They were great for having a reusable option to manage the extra discharge that comes with being pregnant. 

Kmart also has comfy maternity undies that I’m still wearing now haha 

My most valuable piece of loose maternity clothing: A sarong/lavalava – I wore them as a skirt or dress at home. They’re also great for taking to birthcare, ’cause you do so much skin to skin time and they’re easy to quickly pull up to cover as nurses and midwives come in and out for checks.

Prenatal supplement- I used Elevit on the recommendation of our obstetrician. 

Pelvic Floor Exercises- I reckon it’s worth seeing a Pelvic Health Physio before getting pregnant (if possible) to learn how to do pelvic floor exercises and keep your body functioning well through pregnancy. At the very least look up pelvic floor exercises so you can do them through pregnancy. If you’re on the North Shore in Auckland, I saw Sara at Femme Physiotherapy.    
For pelvic pain- some places have hydrotherapy classes available with a pelvic health physio (midwife referral). Stretching and/or an elastic belt around your waist when walking (from pelvic health physio) is useful too. *

Set up expectations with your family and friends around visiting once baby arrives. We told our family they could visit once per week and anything more than that would need to be negotiated so that we didn’t have to navigate these expectations after Ari arrived.

Midwife: they book out FAST! Book in with one as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. I used Lizzie Pike at Kate Sheppard Midwifery in Rosedale and she was absolutely phenomenal. I really value evidence based practice, and Kate Sheppard midwives were the only ones I came across that highlighted that as a focus for them in their write ups. 

Obstetrician (privately): Don’t bother unless you want an Elective Caesarean. Ours was a terrible experience and we would have been better going through the public system.

Massage- I had two absolutely blissful massages in my final weeks of pregnancy at Bella Mama (North Shore, Auckland).

One thing that I wish I knew: You can have bleeding in early pregnancy and everything be ok with your baby. I had two sets of bleeding at 8 and 10 weeks pregnant and it freaked me out, as I had only heard that bleeding fresh blood = miscarriage. Although you do want to get it checked out ASAP, please know that it can happen while your baby remains safe and healthy.

Daycare- You’ll be wondering why this is in the pregnancy section BUT they book up really quickly, so do your research and put baby on the wait list while you’re pregnant.

Photos taken by Tash Clark (Ari’s Godmother) & edited by Tay McGregor Photography

Birth:

Go into birth with an open mind and don’t pin all your hopes on things ‘going to plan’. There’s so much out of your control, so I feel like holding things loosely helped to make it an easier experience. 

TENS machine- I found it was a good distraction in early labour until we were ready to go to the hospital (then I just kept sweating it off and it frustrated me more than helped). You can hire them- mine was from Nest

Hospital bag essentials (I didn’t use much and we weren’t there long, but things that most generic lists don’t specify):

– Adult Nappies: Lots of lists say to buy big black undies, but nappies are way better (see if you can spy a little photo of me in them below with my postpartum belly haha). Nappies sound terrible prior to giving birth, then afterwards they’re God’s gift to the world. They’re stretchy and way more comfy than undies and pads. I placed a maternity pad inside the nappy and would change that out each time I went to the toilet (you bleed a lot initially as your wound from the placenta detaching heals).  

– Water bottle with a straw (so you can drink easily in whatever position you find yourself in).

– Comfy clothes for after birth that would fit your approx. 25week pregnant bump (similar size to what my belly was straight after birth). I wore a hospital gown for during birth (then they have to wash it hahaha).

– Baby outfit in NB + 0-3mth size. (Ari was 9lb and 52cm long and was in NB clothes for at least a month, but they’re all different fits for clothes so take a 0-3m just in case.)

Birth photography: We had a dear friend photograph our birth for us and I am SO glad she did. It’s such a blur and it’s amazing to look back on. My gorgeous friend Tay McGregor Photography has started her journey as a birth photographer- you should message her to ask any questions and tell her I sent you.

If your birth feels traumatic, please talk to your midwife and other trusted people about it. I struggled with how brutal my ‘repair’ felt and it’s taken time to process that. Also, I ‘zoned out’ for the 20 mins I had from transition through to birthing Ari and felt like I was just ‘listening in’ rather than actually experiencing it… apparently this is quite common! It took me a while to come-to enough to actually look at Ari and feel the relief that he was here, but after seeing photos of that first moment of mamas meeting their babies I’d expected I’d be more with it in those first moments… again apparently quite common! (I had a natural birth, with gas, big tear and episiotomy for context.)

First days:

Register for whatever Birthcare Facility is available to you! You will not regret it. You can go and visit most of them while you’re pregnant if you want to as well. 

If you’re in Waitematā DHB register for Warkworth Birthcare. It’s free and you can stay up to 4 days. Their form is on their website; you register your interest and then your midwife refers you when you’ve delivered your baby. Honestly, this is the most incredible resource. They have midwives and nurses 24/7 to help with absolutely anything you need, they provide pain relief + frozen pads + sanitary pads and baby’s nappies and wipes. They give you (mum) all your meals and the food is INCREDIBLE (you can even order 2 desserts with dinner, which I did every time haha). 

Breastfeeding: you and your baby are learning this brand new skill, so don’t be hard on yourself if it ‘doesn’t come naturally’.

Hydrogel Breast Disks in the fridge are sooo soothing for sore nipples. I used them for the first 2 weeks (one pair lasts one day).  

Reusable Breast Pads- for when your milk comes in and you start leaking! Get comfy flexible ones that you won’t mind sleeping in and wearing for months. I’m 7 months postpartum at the time of writing and still use them 24/7. 

Lansinoh nipple cream – lather it on after each feed to prevent cracks. Be fussy with latching. Get the nurses/midwives to do lots of feeds with you to make sure your baby is latching correctly as this prevents nipple damage.

Generic water bottle to put by the toilet so you can spray water at your vulva when you’re peeing – it reduces the stinging and helps to keep everything clean if you’ve had stitches. (If you’re going to birthcare take it in your bag with you, otherwise have one ready at home.)

If you get stitches then sitting with a rolled up towel under each thigh so your bum is off the bed/chair makes things much more comfy.

The first post-birth poo (yours, not baby’s)- take all the laxatives they give you to make it an easier experience. I showered each time after doing a poo for the first few days to keep everything clean too (I had stitches).

Padsicles- freeze pads with a bit of water in them and use them for 10mins to soothe any pain and swelling. (You can even look up recipes with essential oils for them if you want to get fancy.)

Cluster feeding- your baby will want to feed constantly through many of the early days (especially on the second night) to bring your milk in. I found it useful to give Ari to Tim during the day between feeds so I could sleep, especially in those first few days.

A good water bottle that you can easily use with one hand whilst breastfeeding, and a good coffee cup that keeps your drink warm and is spill proof.

Buy a box of electrolyte powder and get hubby/partner to make you one on demand when breastfeeding as it’s thirsty work. *

PJs that have easy boob access (buttons down the front are ideal) and nice comfy stretchy pants.

Night sweats- I had serious night sweats for weeks as my hormones shifted. Sleeping on a big towel saves you having to change sheets if you sweat a lot. It’s yuck… showers are life. 

Clothes sizes and how many sets- Ari was born 9lb (4kg) and 52cm and was in newborn clothes for at least a month. I reckon we only used a maximum of 15 outfits in total within one size. Rule of thumb is that baby needs to be in one more layer than you (particularly in the cooler months) so we had Ari (born April 13th) in a merino onesie under his clothes for inside and then added a jumper for outside.

Heat pack to warm up baby’s bed before transferring them can help the transfer go smoothly – remove the heat pack before putting baby in!

Trust your mother’s instinct. If something doesn’t seem right, ask for help. If that help doesn’t seem right, find a second opinion. You know your baby best. 

Photos by Renaye McLachlan Photography (Ari was 10 days old)

First Weeks/months:

Things I found helpful:
 – limit visitors to 1-2 groups per day initially (we had at least 2 sets most days for the first month and it was exhausting… it’s ok to say no and safeguard time to yourselves).
– Say ‘yes please’ to any and all offers of help – let friends clean your house, drop off shopping, drop off meals, mow your lawns, walk your dog, take your bins out for rubbish day… etc etc. We asked each set of people that came to visit to bring us whatever meal they were closest to hahah so “yes, we’d love you to meet Ari, could you please come at midday and bring us lunch?”. People are more than happy to help you out and it takes such a massive load off not having to think about what to do for that meal. We didn’t cook for ourselves for an entire month thanks to our incredible support system. You could even make a list of jobs that need to be done around the house so if visitors ask to help they can choose from that.

– I gave myself permission to ‘achieve nothing’ other than enjoy Ari and learn him for the first 3 months. I held him for 99% of his daytime naps as that gave me so much joy. I didn’t have expectations of myself to do anything other than love him and it made those first 3 months feel like pure bliss. Don’t listen to the noise of what you ‘should’ be doing… just do what works for you. 
– Get trusted people to sit with baby (or even take them for a walk) so you can have a decent shower or a nap.

Best snacks – things you can eat with one hand while you feed baby! I had nuts, fruit, muesli bars and biltong next to me as I fed in the early days. I also baked and froze a HEAP of muffins (some savoury, some sweet) before Ari arrived which were great for pulling out when I was home alone and couldn’t be bothered making anything for lunch.

See a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at 6+ weeks for a check up. They’ll give you exercises to make sure you recover well and can help you avoid things like incontinence. Don’t wait until you have problems, just see them as a routine check and clearance to return to exercise. 

Make sure your midwife checks your healing (scars etc) before discharging you 6 weeks postpartum. It seems not all midwives do this. Also, ask them to prescribe you more iodine (important to keep taking if breastfeeding) and vitamin D drops for baby.

Baby blues: Most mamas will experience the baby blues in the first couple of weeks postpartum. This is absolutely normal, as your hormones are changing rapidly. Please keep talking to your midwife and people close to you about how you’re feeling. A friend of ours suggested doing 6 weekly postnatal depression screening checks for both myself and my husband for the first year of babe’s life… it’s a great idea and opportunity to check in with eachother.

Free 3-6month swimming lessons at Hilton Brown. Register early (call them and they’ll put you on the waitlist) when baby is born so you’re high up the waiting list.  

Parents Centre courses are great-  3-6 month moving and munching course & then 6-9 month Crawling and crunching course = so good for knowing how to encourage physical development and introducing solids. (You get a discount on these if you did their antenatal classes.)

Newborn Photos- we had ours taken by Renaye McLachlan and I love them so much. Her posed style is very baby focused, rather than prop focused, which I much prefer. (See the strip of photos directly above this section for her images.) If you want more relaxed, lifestyle images then I love taking newborn photos too! I’ve put some examples at the bottom of this post, or you can see more of my family work over on facebook. You will be amazed at how quickly your baby changes, so please don’t skip having photos taken! They’ll never be this little again and you’ll cherish these images for the rest of your life. 

Nappies /changing:
Ari was 9lb (4kg) and we had him in newborn size nappies for 4 weeks (went through about 10 nappies a day in that time). We preferred Huggies nappies cause they have a wetness indicator on them which is helpful when they’re only peeing such a small amount early on.

Puppy training pads from Kmart are so good for the early days if you have a boy (it feels like they pee and poo every time you take their nappy off, and having the pee pads under them saves LOTS of washing initially). Getting puppy pads is way cheaper than the ‘human labelled’ equivalent. 

Nappies Direct for cheaper nappies and wipes. *

Reusable Nappies- we started from 3 months (there’s enough to get your head around in the first 3 months without adding nappies to the list in my opinion!).
Our favourite brand is Fudgey Pants– they’re a NZ brand, have a double gusset and inbuilt absorbency (as well as inserts) which makes them the most leak proof of any of the brands we’ve tried!  

You can get reusable swim nappies too which are amazing. We got ours from Tuti

 Sleep:
Sleep Store Newborn Sleep Support Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1443928642578569 
and 4-12 month Sleep Support Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/148396685495754 – has so much good info in there and you can ask your own questions. They have sleep consultants that work in the group answering things too.

This is a helpful guide for what to dress baby in at night for different temperatures: https://www.thesleepstore.co.nz/content/woolbabe/what-to-dress-baby

 Teething:
Mombella mushroom– baby can hold it much easier than anything else as soon as they can bring hands to mouth.

Weleda teething powder was the most recommended thing to use when we asked friends.

Frozen milk in a latex food feeder thing is teething gold! (the mesh ones get food stuck in them and are really hard to clean, so I’d recommend latex over mesh) 

Feeding:
Bottle: Dr Brown wide teat bottle was the only bottle Ari would take, and I’ve heard the same from others. They’re anti-colic too!

Natural milk supply boosters: Blessed Thistle & fenugreek*. I found eating high protein snacks worked a treat for boosting supply too – especially biltong haha!

Windy baby solution: Our midwife suggested Rhuger as the most natural option for helping if baby has an upset tummy or trouble with wind. (Talk to your own midwife/GP about this too though.)

 

Photos taken by the wonderful Lavara Photography and edited by me. 
Other good purchases:

The only big things we bought new were a carseat and pram – we waited for the baby show (they have them so often you’re guaranteed to have one during your pregnancy) and saved loads of money with the show discount.

Car seat- we went straight for a carseat rather than a capsule and it was a great decision. Most of our friends’ babies hated their capsules, plus they aren’t a safe sleep space so you can’t leave your baby asleep in them once it’s taken out of the car, AND they’re heavy and bulky to lift. We got a Britax One4Life which goes from newborn to 54kgs. It’s super easy to change between cars and adjust as babe grows, plus the covers are machine washable and can go in the dryer. 

Pram- we got an Edwards & Co Oscar Mx. Light, easy to put up and down, forward or parent facing seat (good for communication development), NZ made (useful in these COVID days for getting parts etc). We got the carrycot attachment to go with it which was probably our best purchase. It’s a safe sleep space, so we’d just take the carrycot with us wherever we were in the house, and it became his bed when we were away from home. 

Haakaa breast pumps (can use these to help with blocked ducts too).*

Moonie Bear– plays pink noise and has lights – turns on when it detects crying.*

Arms up swaddle- love to dream or dimples sleep pod. * (From our experience, we took Ari out of a swaddle at 4 weeks old and it made no difference so never went back. Also worth noting that the recommendations have changed and swaddling is no longer recommended for safe sleep.)

Purflo sleep tight baby bed – the only sleep pod approved for safe sleep. * 

Colour change LED bulbs dim red light at night to help everyone get back to sleep.* (This is genius- wish I’d known about it!!!)

Useful Resources

Instagram and facebook accounts:

@zaziplays = Speech & Language Therapist with awesome speech and language tips and really fun creative play ideas.

@wordsof_emmaheaphy = writer for all the motherhood feels. Honestly I love every single thing she posts. So relatable and really good reminders of the beauty of motherhood, particularly on hard days.

@natural_born_parenting  = some useful info on how to encourage physical development

@babysleepconsultant– does free question box every Sunday which is really good to read through and also ask your own questions and has some useful reels /IGTVs.

@lilahbysleep – If you don’t want to sleep train. *

@mommy.labornurse – for preparing for birth. *

@morgancedwards – has a good co-sleeping highlight *

https://www.facebook.com/groups/themumhub Good place to ask general questions where you want a wide audience – good to search if you’re looking for specific recommendations for things too. 

Books:

You Simply Can’t Spoil a Newborn– Dorothy Waide
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – La Leche League *
Safe Infant Sleep – Dr James McKenna (For if you decide to bed share.) *
Baby Whispering – Sharlene Poole. (For routines and awake/sleep times.) *

Other things and advice that some of my friends found useful:

Daktozin ointment to treat thrush nappy rash (better than anything prescribed).

Old towel nappies are the best burp cloths.

Take a course of probiotics if you have to go on antibiotics to pass through breastmilk.

Make night feeds fun – snack packs and Gilmore Girls.

Don’t feel like you have to try every bit of advice you get- listen to what they say and then forget about it to stop you from feeling overwhelmed.

Just remember it’s always a phase.

 Doula- if you have limited support around, you can get a doula for birth and also for postpartum.

Plan your budget ahead of baby’s arrival and aim to live on that budget for a couple months ahead of going on parental leave to ensure it’s feasible.

 Cause it fits nowhere else… Something I’ve been asked a number of times: 
Tips for dealing with a changing body- I think just acknowledging and accepting that your body is going to change a lot over pregnancy and then the year following having your baby, all because your body is serving you well by growing and birthing your child! Some stretch marks will fade over time and your shape and size will change after baby arrives for a long while. I have put absolutely no thought into exercising or eating ‘to lose weight’ and I’ve gradually been able to fit into some of my pre-baby clothes over time. I’m not particularly image focussed though so maybe others find it more difficult? One thing I definitely did struggle with was people commenting on my size in pregnancy (which is infuriating cause I actually felt happy with my bump and size in myself). I came close to slapping a number of people with the “are you sure there’s not twins in there” and “oh wow you’re huge” comments. Tell people to piss off if they say these things to you.

 

Here’s some newborn goodness from sessions I’ve had recently. It’s such a whirlwind of a time learning your new little person, and I absolutely love capturing these little moments. Get in photos with your baby. You absolutely will not regret it when you see how fast they change and grow!
I hope this has been helpful, friend! I’m cheering you on from this side of the motherhood fence. I have loved this journey more than anything, and I hope you do too.
Love, Anna
Ps. If you have anything you think MUST be added in to this post, feel free to send me an email: hello@annahart.co.nz