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My big, but partial, list of pregnancy and baby musings

1. The Coming Home Outfit: Your baby does not need to be dressed in stiff formal wear for the journey from hospital to home. This seems to be a regional/cultural tradition and I readily admit I do not grasp why it exists.

Put yourself in a newborn’s booties: You are brand new. Your skin is tender and sensitive. You’ve been naked for 9 months, immersed in gorgeous, perfect warmth. The only texture you’ve felt? Smooth, soft, liquid. Suddenly, someone is jamming your body into a crisp powder blue sailor suit or an itchy lace-strewn dress and bonnet? Ouch! Ick! Mercy!

My philosophy: Dress baby in the simplest, softest clean cotton sleeper. It’s okay if it has ducks and junk. The baby won’t be lost in yards of fabric and big bows, and I PROMISE the pictures will still be adorable.


This is Archie when he was dressed and ready to go home.

2. Nursery Decor: It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s harmless. With our first, I commissioned my mom to make a quilt, bumper, and crib skirt in the cutest pastels of 1997. Our little daughter’s little bedroom was a source of pride. Before she was born, I’d visit often and play with her stuff. I’d fold and refold, arrange and rearrange. It was a nest for my bay-bee.

But she didn’t sleep in her room until she was six months old. By then, I had removed the bumper, lowered the mattress, and ditched the quilt because of suffocation hazards. The modern nursery is simply a showcase for style and decorating prowess. I promise babies do not care if the crib sheet is rose or blush. If you have the money and time, go for the splashy nursery—but don’t be surprised or disappointed if it’s rarely used.

90% of unplanned co-sleepers out there have a nursery down the hall. A dusty nursery.

3. Pacifiers: Use silicone rather than rubber. It’s easier to tell when they are dirty, they smell better, and you don’t risk introducing an allergen into your baby’s system.

Also? They are not evil. Some babies simply need to suck and it’s okay to indulge that instinct. I never believed in nipple confusion because babies are smart. My kiddos managed to swap pacifier for me with ease from their first days of life. I don’t think it’s just them.

4. “If It Hurts, You’re Doing it Wrong:” This is the biggest of the bad nursing advice out there. Lactation consultants love to tell you if it hurts, you are doing it wrong. If it doesn’t hurt, you are doing it right. BUT THINK ABOUT IT. A strong little mouth is sucking with all its might on tender, thin skin for hours and hours and hours a day. It will hurt, at first. It’s okay to admit it hurts. You build up a tolerance, baby improves, you improve.

Maybe more women would stick with it longer if they didn’t feel like failures for experiencing very natural pain? To be told pain is a sign of being a nursing doofus is not helpful or encouraging.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore a wonky or unproductive latch. It just means it’s okay to be honest and realistic about the mechanics of pressure, chafing, and gnawing. Those things don’t collide without a bit of the ouchy sometimes. It doesn’t last forever.

5. Stretch Marks Can’t Be Prevented: Unless a cream dives into the very core of your DNA structure and rearranges the strands that control your skin’s elasticity, you are out of luck. Genes are destiny. Stretch marks occur in the deepest layers of skin.

You might be able to minimize the amount of stretch marks you get by not drinking a big bottle of sugary Sunny D every morning at work or gobbling a chili cheese dog every night. Cough. Rapid weight gain is the worst enemy of skin, but even a sensible, slow weight gain can mean looking like a wolf attacked you.

I was initiated into Team Wolf with our first. It came back for a few more swipes the second time around, but it has left me alone ever since.

6. Breast Size as Indication of Nursing Prowess: I worried about this with my first pregnancy, as I was not visited by that particular Good Fairy at birth. In fact, Flora, Fauna, Merriweather, and Dolly all fluttered past my cradle. Naturally, I wondered if my milk supply would reflect what wasn’t nestled in my shirt. But it didn’t matter.

Somehow, they pulled through and were able to feed seven hungry babies for varying lengths of time. I always root for the underdog. If you have underdogs, you can nurse too.

7. Graciously Accept All Offers of Casseroles and Help: Many first-time moms are reluctant to accept visitors in the name of having time and room to bond with the baby. It’s much easier to bond with a baby when you have a tuna casserole on board and a shower taken. Other people can hold your baby for 10 minutes.

I promise the baby won’t fall deeply in love with your neighbor while you are soaping up for the first time in 3 days. If you don’t believe me and think you will handle first-time parenthood with energy and grace, think of this photo. You are about to be scared straight:


I can’t believe it’s been almost 13 years. To be fair to my husband, I looked 1,000% worse. But I had the camera.

8. Get the Belly Cast, but Know Your Grandchildren Will Try to Sell it at a Garage Sale After You Die: I’ve seen some artistically impressive belly casts. The height of the craze was around my 4th pregnancy when it seemed all my fellow pregnant moms were offering up their bellies for plaster posterity. I didn’t get it and still don’t, mostly because I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

It might be kind of fun to pop up a big batch of popcorn for movie night and serve it in mommy’s special bowl.

9. If Your Hospital Bag Has Wheels, You are Taking Too Much: You need clothes to wear home, something soft and cotton for the baby to wear home, a blankie, socks, grooming stuff, a camera. Have someone bring the carseat later. That’s it. All of the above will fit in a backpack. A pillow from home is always nice to have, too.

You do not need a deck of cards, thank you notes, tennis balls, hair dryers, diapers, a big fluffy robe, good pajamas, a DVD player, books, magazines, hand-held games, your own undies, candles, or non-maternity clothes.

You will leave the hospital almost as rotund as you entered the hospital. You’ll be far more tired than you’ve ever been before in your life and you’ll be leaking. Make it easy on yourself by streamlining the stuff. Remember you’ll have to pack it all to take home, plus flowers, balloons, gifts, and hospital freebies.

10. Other Women’s Pregnancies Go By So Quickly. Yours Will Not: Sigh.

29 comments to My big, but partial, list of pregnancy and baby musings

  • OH I could not agree MORE with your whole list! Awesome! And #1? Yeah…the baby will look far MORE adorable without the lace and crispy cotton. Oy.
    .-= jenni´s last blog ..Everything That Happened =-.

  • I’m currently being used as a pillow for my fifth little bundle, and I have to say that this may be the BEST LIST EVER. And no, I am never given to hormonal hyperbole. 🙂

    Seriously – ditch the “expert” books and print out this list.
    .-= Aimww´s last blog ..A Note from the Boss =-.

  • And I am so tired that I typed my name with two w’s instead of two e’s. Sigh.
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..A Note from the Boss =-.

  • Now I look like a complete moron because I don’t know if I sent my first comment through correctly.

    In case I managed to destroy it, here’s my original comment, in a nutshell:

    1. 4 weeks post partum with my 5th baby and I could not agree with this list more.

    2. I’m so tired I spelled my own name wrong the first time around. It happens.

    Must sleep someday . . .
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..A Note from the Boss =-.

  • Gretchen von Lifenut

    Oh, Aimee/Aimww…can I leave your THREE comments just the way they appear here? Normally, I’d be totally willing to edit/delete if you asked, but I think you exemplify the life of a mom with a newborn far better than I expressed in my post. It’s making me giggle, but not at you. With you.

  • Living it all vicariously through you.

    Laughed about the belly cast 🙂
    .-= Lori Lavender luz´s last blog ..Perfect Moment Monday: Jai Ho =-.

  • edj

    Lace and stiff suits? Oh my! We had cotton outfits. For the twins we bought pre-mie ones and they were still too big!
    And I agree with your list too. I suspect all mothers will. I only wish I’d gotten more casseroles on offer. Twins and a 20 month old? It was months before we ate a hot meal.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..More Meknes =-.

  • “90% of unplanned co-sleepers out there have a nursery down the hall. A dusty nursery.”

    Laughed quite a bit at this. SO TRUE.

    I love this list. Such wonderful wisdom. We brought the babes home in soft cotton, too. They are pretty precious and snuggly no matter what.

    And THANK YOU for #4!
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..On Make Week, TV-Free, and Other List-Loving Thoughts =-.

  • Shelley

    As usual Gretchen you are awesome! Oh how true this is!! I have a pair of underdogs that have done well too. ROFL! Thank you for the laughs and the wisdom! Every new mom needs to read this!

  • JoAnn

    Great list. I won’t be needing to go thru it again, but you are spot on my friend.

    I am envious you are experiencing it all over again. Although, I have no idea how you do it. LOL!

    Love yoU!

  • I too loved the list. I was just thinking about what to bring our little girl home in. On one hand, she’s our first girl so I want her to look girly. Thinking dress. And on the other hand, I’ve done this before and know that soft, cotton, comfy is the best way to go. But, she’s my first girl. I think I might compromise with myself and get a really cute zutano (soft, cottony, cute) outfit. That is an outfit I wouldn’t normally buy.

    And the nursery. We just decided not to move Levi out of his room or crib yet and just see what happens with this babe. And I have to admit to being a little disappointed that I’m not going to pick out girly bedding. But, I know that I will get to do it someday.

    Also, do you have your baby sleep in your bed or do you use some sort of bassinet? If you do, which one or what features do you recommend? I know I want a bassinet. I tried co-sleeping with Levi and I just didn’t sleep.

    I didn’t even know I had stretch marks until a couple of months after Sage (our first) was born! I couldn’t see them.
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..Weekend Wrap =-.

  • Love all of these!! Especially #4.

    Oh and now I have a new use for my belly cast!! 😉

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..It’s my life. =-.

  • Awww a picture of a little Archie, how darling is that … aaawwww!!! Oh and I love the list!!! I have no idea why folks put their babies in outfits like big people – only smaller, with little arms and legs exposed. Wrap them up and may them snug. SNUG already!!! I would hate to have a belly cast – like 8 of them!!! – Do I want to remember how enormous my stomach can actually be – I don’t think so!!! We also went through the total shock of a first born in 1997… As for how long a pregnancy takes, well its madness but each one gets soooooo much longer and then those little critters grow soooooo much quicker!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..Saturday Spot: A Celebratory Dinner and a Snippet on Knysna… =-.

  • Great list! I love it! 🙂
    .-= The Casual Perfectionist´s last blog ..Could I have a claim ticket for the other things I’ve lost? =-.

  • Team Wolf. That might be the best thing I ever heard. This list is perfect.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Huntress =-.

  • Loved #4! The best nursing advice I got was “give it six weeks before you decide you hate it.” It stopped hurting right at six weeks.

    Oh, and #1, when I was pregnant with my first, my MIL gave me a hand-me-down crib, and i was DEVASTATED. I wanted something new and… and… new! Having watched three beautiful babies sleep (and poop, and barf and tantrum) in it, it’s hard to remember why it was so important to have something new!

    Great post!
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..My Son, the Author =-.

  • amy

    One of the most reasonable lists I’ve seen on this topic.
    I am so glad you are also against all this “special pajama” insanity! I cannot believe how many times I have seen people recommend buying special pajamas, wearing special pajamas, birthing in special pajamas. Um. I don’t get it. I also don’t get the craze of laying around in pajamas after giving birth. Comfortable clothes, yes, pajamas? No. It makes me feel like I never got a chance at the day.

  • amy

    And, as to the belly cast, I couldn’t agree more. When I was still secretly pregnant with Josie we were at a friend’s house and she was showing us her belly cast and I thought MY GOD what have we gotten ourselves into here.

  • Amen sister, Amen.
    .-= Sarah@ Life in the Parsonage´s last blog ..They Think I’m Stupid… =-.

  • I have never even thought to put a baby in something other than a sleeper or onesie. #6 is going to wear a custom onesie home, with his initials on it, when he is born next week! I love your list–telling it like it is. I will say that some of us do need a lot of the stuff in #9, only because we know we are having a c-section and will be there for a few days. Still, I would point all first-time moms to your list and tell them to skip reading all the magazines and books. Experience is the best teacher.
    .-= nicole´s last blog ..On Anxiety =-.

  • Amy

    Great list! I too became a proud member of Team Wolf while pregnant with my first and only child. I only gained 20 pounds, but feel confident that I could be captain of the team.
    .-= Amy´s last blog .. =-.

  • Amy

    Amen. What a great post. Wish I’d thought to write it myself! Now after having 3 kids, I have to check my tongue around first-time moms so that I stay encouraging; otherwise all I want to tell them is their dreamed of perfectly primped children in pristine outfits with giant matching hairbows is a bunch of hooey. 🙂

  • Wonderful. I couldn’t agree more with each one of these. But our kids did sleep in their own cribs quite easily, so the nursery was used.

    The stretch marks really get me down. I too got them at 5 months with our first and they were terrible right away.

    Does it drive you nuts when people don’t dress their newborns comfy and warm? On Sunday a friends brand new baby was in a little sleeveless dress with no tights or anything and people were walking around in sweaters and pants. It was a rainy, cool spring day in Ontario, not a hot July day! I couldn’t stand it–I always had one extra layer on our babies. I took the tiny receiving blanket and wrapped her in it while I held her, poor little thing!

    Thanks for sharing!
    .-= sonja´s last blog ..Ten on Tuesday =-.

  • Love it, love it, love it.
    And I’m taking your advice to heart. 🙂
    .-= Sara Joy´s last blog ..Just Two =-.

  • Love this list! I only wish it was around when DS was born 3.5 years ago. Well, it will come in handy next time. ;D
    .-= Misti´s last blog ..kickin’ it old school =-.

  • What a great list!!

    i thought I’d add a doctor’s perspective – Pacifiers help prevent SIDS. So I’m also definitely pro-paci – plus I think Judah would suck for as long as I’d let him, and all I’m saying is, as much as I love nursing him, he’s not going to suck on ME the whole day. And he also has no problem going from paci to breast – we’ve even given him some bottles of pumped breast milk. Jeff (my husband) loves having the chance to feed him, too, and it gives me a little break.

    I LOVED having all the food – and I still have a freezer full of stuff that will be especially great once I go back to work.

    Since we didn’t know what we were having, we did our nursery gender neutral, and hopefully we’ll be able to use it for several kids. But at 1 month old, I think Judah’s taken maybe two naps there….

    And seriously, I think the last few weeks of my pregnancy were some of the slowest in my life.

    The only other thing I’d add is that although a “birth plan” is great, it’s also good to remember that the most important thing about the birth is having a healthy baby. And things often happen that aren’t according to plan, but enable you to have that healthy baby. So don’t lose sight of that.
    .-= Aubrey´s last blog ..Just Jeff Here… =-.

  • It’s so funny…with Lucy, we half expected her to die, so we had NOTHING ready. It’s amazing how much you can get by without, you know?
    .-= Rach´s last blog ..cry your eyes out here =-.

  • Love it! If only someone had been there to tell me all of this before my first baby! also, that buying an expensive hospital gown thinking it will stay pretty is a waste of money. it WILL get bodily fluids on it.
    .-= lindsey @ the nosh pit´s last blog ..White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies =-.

  • Sarah P.

    My AAs nursed my baby for 2 years. (She was 20 pounds at six months, being exclusively breastfed for a year.) They did just fine. 😉

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