Monday, 11 February 2013

Preparing for a newborns arrival-what you can do in advance

Advance preparation for a newborn

The amount of parents I see in the Magazine isle looking at parenting publications highlights the demand in this era for essential information on the subject. Parents want to read about the latest research on illnesses, the reviews on latest gadgets and they also want to know how others deal with parenting-it’s human nature to be curious about how others do things. Although I’ll be the first to say it can become an unhealthy obsession for some who end up becoming their own worse critic and worst still they constantly compare their child to another. Reading is research but it should be approached with caution when it comes to parenting. Anyhow, lecture over for today. I want to talk to you today about advance preparation for when your little bundle does arrive into the big world.

If you google the advance preparation you will come across hundreds of links to parenting forums where Mothers before you have leapt into the unknown. Most offer the same advice thus as a parent with previous experience I am writing this long yet useful article on the matter-enjoy.

What can I do to make life easier in the first few weeks of baby’s arrival?

That’s the golden question. When you have your first baby (or second/third/fifth...) the first few weeks can become a blur between nappy changes, feeds and cleaning up baby sick (sorry but it’s true). You struggle to dress yourself and the amount of visitors who want to see the baby quickly escalates to epic proportions. But all it not lost; you can do lots in advance to calm the situation.

Firstly, look at how you wish to announce the birth of your baby. Do you want to send out formal announcement cards with a small photo to your loved ones? Or will you do it via Social Media? Decide on your method and stick to it. Now here’s the key: write on the card something like "Hanna and Ryan look forward to you meeting baby X soon. We’re currently adjusting to the change so please give us a few weeks to settle and then pop in for a cup of tea". There you’ve done it. You’ve basically invited them around but when you are going to be a bit more alert than the first two weeks. If you decide to use Social Media by suggestion is you or your partner put something like ‘Mother and baby are doing superbly. We look forward to having guests in a few weeks time. Please call before you visit us-thank you!’. It’s short and sweet and gets the message across. If you want to get out of the house and have older children you may wish to visit a soft play centre and let others know you will be going so they can meet baby. It’s about going at a pace that suits you and your family. Don’t over stretch yourself. If you are too tired to make them a drink you could ask them if they wish to make their own hot drink-explain you are not feeling too perky. Most people will say yes and offer to make you a drink too. If you want to go down this route I suggest you label your drink containers and make life easier for your friends and family.

Make a list of all the items you wish to purchase-now. If friends and family have offered to purchase an item for you pass them the list and let them choose the item they wish to purchase. If friends and family have offered you their hand me downs ask to see them beforehand and see if they are in good enough condition to be used. Do that now-you don’t want to do that at the last minute.

If you are going down the pre-loved items route start looking around at nearly new sales and on notice boards as soon as you can. Again these type of activities cannot be left to the last minute.

If you purchase pre-loved clothing or blankets launder them and put them away as soon as you can .Organise them by age/weight so it’s easier to pull them out when time comes to use them.

If you buy new clothing or blankets and so on it’s advisable to launder them before using them too. You would be amazed at how much dust circulates around the factories where the clothes are prepared.

When it comes to food we all have to eat-FACT. Here are my top tips for how to feed yourself by advance prep. I’m afraid you need a freezer:

If you like pasta make up a large batch of sauce and freeze them into portions. That way you only need to boil pasta. Keep a couple of precooked pasta pouches at home too for those nights where you cannot face even boiling water

Curries freeze well and make a good meal. All you need to prepare on the day is either boiled rice or naans-which can be picked up at your local supermarket or Naan Shop.

If you have freezer capacity consider freezing complete meals that just need to be put in the oven-e.g. lasagne, enchiladas and even biryani. Prepare the dish up until the point you need to put it in the oven. Use foil dishes which means no washing. Double wrap the item with a sheet of foil-this should stop freezer burns. Label the item and write on the foil how the item needs to be cooked e.g. ‘remove on the day from freezer, leave to defrost for x hours, cook on gas mark 5 for 30 minutes"-done.

If you enjoy items such as tandoori chicken you are in luck. You can cook the chicken in advance and freeze it cooked. Then you take it out defrost and heat. Serve with naan and salad. It should in essence take less than 30 minutes to prepare a meal if you defrost the cooked chicken in a microwave.

It’s worth looking at what you like eating and having ea look online at cheats recipes that take less time to cook and also at recipes that freeze well.

If you like using your slow cooker (crock pot) then you could prepare the vegetables and meats for dishes and freeze them. Then on the day you take them out, place them in the slow cooker with the sauce (jars work fine) and basically you are done. Check online for more recipe inspiration.

If family or friends ask if they can help out and they can cook why not ask if they can batch cook you some meals? There’s no shame in taking up help. Every parent has been there; it can get too much and often offers of help in my experience have been sincere.

If you are a part of a playgroup why not set up a ‘meal support group’? Basically you need ideally 7 or more mums for it to work. You all cook a meal a day for a new Mother thus giving her a week off cooking to adjust to baby. You continue helping others in the group too. It’s a great idea which should be practiced more in the UK.


Older children:

If you already have children then organisation is going to be your best friend.

You need to be on the ball-fact. So here are a few tips to get you going:

If you take your child to Nursery, School or Playgroup organise for a friend or family member your child likes being around to step in your shoes for a week whilst you adjust to the new kid on the block. If your children are older (say 8 years plus) and a parent near you walks their child to School you could ask if they would be willing to take your child with them-as long as you understand your child needs to understand the whole ‘stop look listen’ concept as people will be doing you a favour; they don’t owe you anything.

If your baby is due around September time (new School year) order their School uniforms in advance. This will save you last minute tears and tantrums and hopefully reduce your stress too.

If your bundle of joy is due around a Festivity period try and organise as much as you can beforehand. This includes outfits and presents and if possible meal arrangements. If you live in the Manchester area of England Nawaab actually do an Eid dinner (or so I am informed). You may per person, and eat as much as you like from the delicious buffet (I’ve reviewed it previously). They take care of the washing up. A great option for a family who are expecting a baby around Eid and the Mother is the main chef. Many restaurants do similar meals for Christmas so everyone has an option to dine out on their special occasion.

If you have wardrobe capacity organise two weeks of children’s outfits. Clip on tights, vests etc to the hanger along with the dress/trouser/top etc so it’s a complete outfit. That will help other family members dress your children. This is especially helps Fathers who have no concept of putting together an outfit (my husband is guilty of this).

Try and delegate after School activity pick ups and drop offs. Same goes for Birthday parties, plays, matches and Discos that are scheduled around your due date.

If you have smaller children, say toddler age you may wish to buy them a few small gifts for when baby arrives. Often toddlers can feel left out with all the attention and gift giving that happens with a newborn. If they are given small wrapped up gifts it will make them feel special too.

The Hospital bag:

Aim to have this packaged by around 30 weeks-earlier if you are having twins. If you are having a complicated pregnancy I suggest you back an overnight bag with a nightie and toiletries in in case you get kept overnight at the Hospital before baby arrives.

I shall be posting a detailed blog entry on what you need in your Hospital bag-so keep an eye out for it.

Preparing your home for the new arrival:

Now is the time to complete all those half done tasks including any decorating that needs doing.

If you allow people to smoke in your home now is the time to stub it out and let them know if they wish to smoke they need to do so outside your home.

Baby proofing your home can be done when your baby is able to get about. But just as a note it’s worth understanding that any figurines or similar items will need to be re-homed if they are at low level. Cables should be secured and other electric appliances should be kept out of reach. Items such as fish tanks should be placed on a secure surface.

Furniture should ideally be kept away from windows to reduce accidents

Blind cords must be kept completely out of reach of children-I think it’s pretty much self explanatory to why this needs to be done.

Look into safety gates. You will need two for each set of stairs in your home and ideally one to block off access to the kitchen. Safety gates are often featured in the Asda Baby event.

Household tasks:

If you can budget for it there are plenty of ironing services that charge a reasonable amount to collect your ironing and they even drop it off for you once they are finished. Prices vary from area to area-look at services in your area via Netmums website and look for recommendations on there too.

If you plan to use reusable nappies contact your council about grants that maybe available and to find out if there are services that will collect soiled nappies and drop them of nice and clean. Again it’s about budget-so look at costs and factor those into your baby and household budget.

You can even buy reusable baby wipes-have a look online and see if they are suitable for your needs.

If you think you will be relying on fast food when baby arrives look up your favourite place online and find out if there are any vouchers or offers you could have to save a bit of money. Larger chains such as Pizza Hut often send out 50% off vouchers so it maybe worth signing up to their newsletter for offers.

Budgeting for baby essentials:

Look at your budget and set aside an allocated amount to baby stuff (if you are able to do that of course) which you can use to purchase items as you go along. Stocking up on enough baby grows, fabric softener etc is a good idea if you you have the budget and space for the extra items.

Babies cost a fair bit. If you plan to use disposable nappies and wipes you may wish to buy a packet of nappies and wipes her shopping trip to build up a supply before baby arrives. The cost of a pack of store own brand nappies and wipes will cost you approximately £5.00 and will be less missed on a weekly basis whereas bulk buying will be more noticeable to your budget.

Boots, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys ALL host baby events during which baby essential items go on offer. I’ve picked up a box of six packs of Huggies baby wipes for £3.00 at the clearance before. I’ve also picked up six tommee tippee bottles for £5.00 at the end of the event. It’s worth you signing up to these stores newsletters and mailings so you know what’s on offer and when. Tesco offer a 1/3 off their newborn and two sizes up nappies during their baby event. That’s a big saving when you add things up.

The items worth stocking up on are:

Wipes (babies get through loads of these)

Nappies in Newborn size. Don’t buy lots in a small size. Babies get through anywhere between 8-12 nappies (and sometimes more) a day. Calculate how many you may need over a month. The blessing of buying store own brand nappies is you will be to exchange unopened bags of any nappies that you don’t use for a size up. So it’s worth thinking about that

Baby grows and body suits-ideally you could do with having enough for three/four days without having to rely on putting on your washer/dryer. Ideally stick to neutral colours and whites as you can wash them together

You will notice you do a lot of washing-if you see a non-biological washing powder in a bulk size box at a great price snap it up. Same goes for the fabric softener (if you use it) for delicate skins. I bought about six boxes of Fairy detergent. Each box did 80 washes and we got the boxes for £10.00 each from Sainsbury’s. They were an absolute bargain. We are still using them to wash our little girls clothes in.

What not to stock up on:

Baby formula-simply because you cannot tell if your child will be able to drink cows milk (Lactose Intolerance)

Food items and snacks-again you don’t know what your child’s tastes will be like and whether or not they will be able to eat said products

Gadget and gizmos-the ones you think you will need but never get round to using. Things like plastic mashers made by certain celebrities to mash bananas with work the same as a standard masher that costs a fraction of the price!

Parenting books-your local library should be well equipped to help you out. If that fails contact your local Children’s Centre and ask them if they have a parents book library.

Newborn developmental toys-really a newborn isn’t interested

Clothes in newborn sizes such as dresses, suits etc-people tend to give these as gifts and you end up with clothes you were unable to use. My advice is that you ask family and friends to give you vouchers not clothes for the stores you shop in-that way you can put them to better use afterwards when baby needs clothes.

Try not to become label obsessed. Own brand items are just as good quality as larger brands. Do a bit of research online to find out which own brand items are current parent favourites. Personally I like Tescos own brand nappies and switched to these when I found out Huggies would no longer be selling their nappies in the UK/Ireland.


Preparing mentally and physically

Now I would be the dumbest blogger around if I told you being a newborn’s parent was a brisk walk in the park. I think I’m best off describing it as a climb up Ben Nevis. It’s hard, testing but the reward from the achievement of reaching the top is amazing.

I didn’t know much about being a parent first time round so read every parenting book available to me at the Library. As readers of my blog will know I have read in detail books on baby sleep. I read and read and read. I attempted to prepare to the best of my capability.

I tried to rest as much as possible. Although I prepared I wasn’t prepared for a emergency C-section with a blood transfusion on top. Sometimes we prepare we are still tested;don’t be disheartened if this happens to you.

As long as you understand each child is different and they don’t all develop at the same speed or do the same things as their siblings/cousins you should be a happy parent. If you find you are worried about something speak out don’t let it stew.

An important note: if you feel down past the first few weeks of your baby’s life (e.g. past the Baby blues stage) PLEASE speak to your Doctor or Health Visitor and don’t be ashamed of the way you feel. It’s not a pleasant experience and Mothers often feel sad and alone and ashamed that they are struggling and cannot feel a strong bond with their child. Post Natal Depression needs to be sorted by a professional; it doesn’t just disappear. It must be dealt with efficiently so you can life a happy life with your family. I am talking from painful experience. I cheated on the ‘test’ the Health Visitors use to determine if you are indeed at risk of PND. I knew the test as I had previously worked alongside Health Visitors and other professionals. My PND effected my whole life; it brought me down and I felt at times I wasn’t coping and yes admittedly I had dark thoughts. I didn’t see the importance of my life.

It’s quite natural for a pregnant woman or a new parent to feel down; however there’s a thin line between the feelings that can go away without medical treatment and what needs to be seen and treated by a Medical Professional. What I can tell you from experience is that babies that are born during winter (when the clocks go back) are born at a time when a lot of people are generally feeling down due to the lack of sunlight. If this happens to you please speak to a Medical professional and explain your feelings. There is seriously nothing to be embarrassed about. Please for the sake of your child seek medical advice.

It’s going to be a bumpy, tiring and testing journey but it’s worth. I look at my little girl and look back on the two years and there have been moments of joy and moments I wish to forget. But the most important thing is my toddler is a happy toddler-and that’s the goal of parenting.

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