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Our End-of-Pregnancy Countdown

As 2017 winds down and we countdown the days and hours until 2018 arrives, to-do lists spring to mind. What better time to consider another important countdown: the end of pregnancy?  If you’re in the pre-baby homestretch, there’s something about those last several weeks that kick you into high gear, as your body preps for birth and your mind and heart prepare for parenthood.


As you count down to your own personal new year, here’s what you need to know to get as ready as you reasonably can be.


Visit the doctor (often). In most cases, you’ll be hitting the OB’s office weekly once you’re past 36 weeks. Aside from the usual assessments, your healthcare provider may recommend “kick counting,” which is a way to keep track of the baby’s movements throughout the day. Given the tight quarters, your baby’s moving less now then he was in your second trimester, but noting what’s normal now and keeping tabs on movement is still a good idea. Here’s how. As for when labor might start, your guess is as good as anyone else’s! A normal term is anything between 38 and 42 weeks, but talk to your healthcare provider to be sure. Signs that labor is imminent include the baby “dropping” lower in your uterus; an increase in Braxton-Hicks contractions; lower back pain and cramping; and what’s called “bloody show,” or the loss of the mucus plug from your cervix.  

Feather the nest: We likely don’t have to tell you to tackle this task, since it’s nearly a universal urge for women in the final stretch of pregnancy to get her surroundings prepped and ready to welcome her new baby. This can include setting up a crib or other sleeping space; buying and washing bedding and clothing; sorting through gifts; decorating, and lots more. Not every pregnant woman will “feather” in the same way. Your friend may have dropped enormous sums on a state-of-the art nursery; you may be content washing some crib sheets and clearing a drawer in your dresser for stacks of onesies and cloth diapers. But whatever form it takes for you, embrace nesting. It obviously serves a practical purpose as you literally create space for a new addition. But these ritualistic and homey tasks also fulfill an emotional need to prepare you for impending parenthood.

Cook and freeze meals: If you’re a home chef, now’s a good time to get busy making food you or someone else can quickly heat and serve in the hectic vortex of the first several weeks at home with a newborn. Soups, stews, casseroles: all can be made and frozen in small batches. If you’re not that much of a cook, enlist loved ones to do the work for you; chances are you have people clamoring to help.

Wash baby clothes and gear: If you received gifts of toys, clothes, blankets, towels, sheets and other gear, now’s the time to unpack them, wash clothes for immediate use, and put away things you won’t need in the immediate term. If you plan to use bottles (either for pumped breastmilk or formula), wash and sterilize some now to be ready.

Get ready for the big reveal: Want to get a jump on announcing your new arrival? If you’re planning to snail-mail cute baby announcements, get your mailing list ready and address and stamp envelopes. You may also want to ready an email address list for immediate-term “Baby’s Here!” sharing. (Spare some time now, too, to send out thank-you notes for gifts received so far.)

Get birth gear ready: Whether you’re giving birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, be sure everything you need is close at hand. If you’re heading to the hospital, double check with them for what you should and should not bring, but tried and true items include any paperwork you need (ID, insurance card); a birth plan if you have one; nightgown/nursing gown, robe and slippers; clothes to wear home (something comfy!); personal toiletries; a pillow; your cellphone charger; and whatever you need to relax, such as music.  

Make a birth plan: Creating a plan for how you envision your labor and birth to play out is not an exact blueprint, but it is a way to help you make decisions and share them with those around you, including your partner, birth coach, and doctor or midwife. Though what you plan may be upended by actual events, knowing what you want is empowering. And just the act of creating a plan requires you research options and weigh possibilities. A plan can include things like what kind of pain relief you want (or if you want to avoid medication); if you want to have the option to stand or walk during labor, or use a birthing chair or stool; if you want to avoid an episiotomy or forceps; if you want to breastfeed immediately (or not).  

Give yourself a break: No to-do list is an absolute, and no one’s judging you if your bag is not packed, your freezer is not stocked, or you haven’t created mailing labels for birth announcements. Because here’s the thing about preparing for parenthood: No one really has a handle on it anyway. Happy New Year and happy soon-to-be new life!

Tips for Traveling

 

If your holidays plans are taking you over the river and through the woods—or clear across the country—you may be thinking your baby’s sleep schedule (and your sanity) are just going to be part of the scenery. But take heart and grab your suitcase: You can hit the road or take to the air without losing (too much) sleep. Here’s how:

 

Traveling by Car

Got a road trip ahead? If you’re lucky your baby may spend the majority of your trip sacked out in her car seat. If you have a baby who reliably conks out the minute you put the key in the ignition, plug your destination address into the GPS and go.

 

However, if your baby only sleeps in the car when it’s night or naptime, take that timing into consideration and perhaps set off after her regular sleepy-time routine. If your trip is shorter, or can be broken into segments, schedule your departure(s) for naptime. Just bear in mind that if she gets a good amount of sleep while you’re driving through the night, you’ll end up with a wakeful baby and some tired adults when you arrive!

 

Other road-trip tips:

  • Be careful of your baby’s positioning in her car seat and check her often if she’s sleeping. Though it’s extremely rare, sleeping in a semi-upright position can cause positional asphyxiation, which is when a slumped-forward head restricts a baby’s breathing. A 2015 retrospective study of 47 infant deaths found that 31 of them occurred in car seats.
  • If you can, share the driving between two adults, and don’t press on past the point where either of you is too sleepy to continue, even if you thought you could. That’s what motels are for.
  • Monitor traffic reports and consider changing your departure day. In many cases, hitting the road the day of the holiday (rather than a day or two before) may reward you with emptier roads.

 

Taking to the Air

As with any mode of transportation, timing of air travel can be your best friend—or your worst enemy. Try as best you can to schedule your flights around your baby’s sleep times or—if you know from instinct or experience that he’s likely to skip sleep while in transit—schedule during his most reliable awake and alert time.


Given the haphazard, often weather-dependent nature of most domestic air travel, it can be tough to rely on scheduled departure times. You can cut down on sleep-disruptive delays and cancellations by booking nonstop flights when feasible. And remember that if you’re jumping ahead or behind a time zone or two, give yourself a few days before you leave to shift nap- and bedtimes 10 minutes or so in the new zone’s direction each day.


Other air-travel tips:

  • If you aren’t buying your baby a seat on the plane (which you don’t have to do if he’s under age 2), do yourself a favor and bring a front carrier or a sling to give your arms a break. And if you do have a seat for your baby or toddler, make sure the car seat is properly installed. Some parents prefer bulkhead seats for the extra room, particularly helpful with toddlers.
  • If you have a mobile baby or an active toddler, consider not taking advantage of the pre-boarding often offered to families traveling with youngsters. Why? You may be trapped in your seats for longer. It’s potentially smarter (depending on your tolerance and your child’s personality) to let your little one toddle or crawl around the boarding area until your row or section is called.
  • Chaos is inevitable around the holidays, but you can avoid some of it by traveling early in most cases. The statistics website FiveThirtyEight.com reported that early-morning flights tend to be the closest to on-time. Before you book, plug your route into the calculator at FlyOnTime, a site that uses data from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and other sources to give real-time info on the best routes for on-time performance.

 

Once you’ve arrived at your holiday destination, there are a few tried-and-true rules to follow that will help your baby stick to her at-home sleep routine. Making any accommodations to a new time zone, try to keep nap and bedtimes the same as those at home. Bring with you a few sleep-associated toys, books, and comfort objects. Include plenty of daytime activity so that you have a better shot at decent nighttime slumber.

 

Then do it all again for the trip home! Wherever you roam this holiday season, we wish you all a good night!

No Sleep for Christmas? Surviving the Holiday Hoopla with Your Toddler

 

Toddlers and excitement go hand in hand, and this year may be the first time your child is actually in on the holiday hoopla. A lot depends on her age, but even the youngest toddler (18 months to about 3 years) can sense the charge in the air, knows presents and cookies may be in the mix, knows there may be a trip or visits from friends and family on the horizon.

But what she doesn’t know is that you still want (and need!) her to get a good amount of sleep, including naps.

It can be a tricky prospect. On the one hand, you don’t want to be so strict about nap and bedtimes that no one’s having any fun. But on the other, well, who wants a cranky, overstimulated, under-rested toddler? Exactly no one.

Here’s our sound advice for getting some sound sleep, for everyone, this holiday season.

Allow for flexibility. If you’ve just reached a hard-won milestone, like your child sleeping all night on his own, be aware that a little bit of backsliding might happen. If you’re messing with the usual schedule, or sleeping in an unfamiliar spot, like a hotel or a relative’s home, be patient with middle of the night wakings and requests for extra soothing. Just keep things as low-key as possible. He’ll re-adapt when you return home.

Keep sleep/wake times mostly normal: Flexibility is also the name of the game when it comes to bedtimes and wake times. If you’re up late at a holiday celebration, bear in mind that your little one may not do you the favor of a longer lie-in the next morning, so you may want to enforce her regular bedtime or not push it too much later than normal. You also have to gauge what you do based on what you know about your own child. Some toddlers drop off to sleep on Grandma’s couch and can be transferred to bed, no problem. Tip for extricating an excited toddler from the fun: Make a game of saying goodnight to everyone at the party, and then don’t rush through your regular routine (PJs, tooth-brushing, books and kisses).

Don’t nix naptime: Even if you do end up playing fast and loose with your typical bedtime rules, it’s smart to try your best to keep naptimes in place, even when traveling or when it may feel inconvenient for your own plans (cookies in the oven, friends on their way over, shopping to do…). Why? A lack of daytime sleep makes it far harder for most toddlers to settle down at night, leaving her crankier than usual. Remember that even with a lot going on, toddlers still need at least TK hours of sleep over a 24 hour period, making naps essential.

Prep well for travel: Going over the river and through the woods this holiday season? Depending on how far you have to travel, a dose of careful advance planning can go a long way to everyone arriving in more or less rested shape. Schedule flights and car trips at optimal sleep times if possible. If you’re crossing time zones, the best advice is to get onto your destination’s time zone as soon as you get there. Give yourself a leg up by moving your child’s sleep and nap times a few minutes a day in the direction of the new time zone (forward or back, depending on if you’re flying east or west) for a week or so before you go. More smart travel tips: bring comfort items from home: as you see fit: a blankie, a nightlight, even unwashed sheets from your child’s crib or bed (don’t underestimate the power of smell).

Give in to the joy: Okay, don’t be a total Grinch; you don’t want to be so strict that you avoid what is best about the holiday parties, religious services, cultural events, and—most important—time with loved ones you perhaps don’t see quite so often. (In the scheme of things, while your toddler’s sleep is important, it’s not more important than time with the grandparents). Plus, you don’t want to miss your favorite parts of celebrations to usher a reluctant kiddo into bed just when the fun’s getting started. There’s nothing quite like the wonder of watching a toddler experience his first “conscious” holiday. So give everyone an extra cookie and vow to catch up on sleep in the New Year.

 

 

 

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