10 things you really need to do once you’re on maternity leave, but before giving birth

Congratulations mum-to-be! You look great, really. Are you enjoying maternity leave? Not long until the baby arrives now, right? Well, maybe. He might come early, you might be hanging around for three weeks more than you thought. Whichever it is would you allow me to offer a little advice? These are things I want to say to every first-time mum when she announces she’s off on mat leave or approaching her due date, but often can’t because, you know, people don’t like being given advice out of the blue. But you’re looking for suggestions, aren’t you? Looking for what to do while you wait? That’s why you’re here. That makes you a captive audience so allow me to get this off my chest! Hurrah!maternityleave2

1 – line up breastfeeding support
Ok, maybe you’re not planning on breastfeeding, or there are medical contraindications in which case skip this one and go right to number 2. The majority of mums, however, are probably planning to breastfeed so do yourself a favour – get the information lined up now. Read up on it  for a start – ‘The Food of Love‘ is a fab book – lighthearted, funny, very very informative.

Research some support groups you can go to – the last thing you want to do is try to find out about these at three in the morning when you’ve been struggling all night and want to go talk to somebody. Try the La Leche League, Baby Cafe, your local maternity unit. Whatever is available. You can even go before you have the baby, that way it’s already a familiar environment that you’ve experienced before you’re sleep deprived, hormone-riddled and lugging a new baby and all their crap around with you.

And make a note of this: The national breastfeeding support helpline. Open between 9.30am and 9.30pm it is a fabulous resource.

2 – read up on the fourth trimester 
This is the period of time right after a baby is born when, in all other mammals, they should still really be in your womb, but have had to be evicted before their head got so big they wouldn;t fit through your pelvis. If you know all about it then you’ll be more inclined to accept some of the newbrn behaviour and just roll with the punches, rather than trying to get a totally dependent newborn to fit to a ‘routine’ just because your mother has been guilting you about what they did ‘when you were a baby’.

Here’s one as a start, and another, but just google ‘fourth trimester’ and you’ll be able to read up to your heart’s content.
3 – read up on ‘going overdue’
There’s a lot of pressure put on women to seek medical assistance when they go ‘overdue’ – but do you know when that is (42 weeks, by the way. NOT simply after your due date), what the risks and benefits are of doing something versus doing nothing, or how you’d feel about undergoing some of those procedures? I highly recommend making sure you’re fully informed of all the ins and outs so that whatever decision you make is an educated one and not a reaction to undue pressure being put on you by someone in a position of authority.
this article is quite helpful

4 – line up a load of DVD boxsets (I’ve made some recommendations in the past)
You spend a lot of time curled up on the sofa when you have your first baby (not so much with subsequent kids but oh well). Do yourself a favour and buy in some boxsets, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Fire or NowTV. You’ll thank me later.
5 – join an online ante-natal group
Go to Mumsnet, Netmums, wherever. Find other mums due the same month. Talk anonymously, migrate to Facebook. Whatever you do you will be so grateful to have all these other women to go through it with you – the late pregnancy insomnia, the birth, the feeding issues, the late night/midnight/early morning feeds, the weaning, the walking, the potty training…
I’m still in my group from The Boy, it’s been more than four years now and we’ve seen each other through so much. Second and third babies, divorces, mental health issues, cancer, fertility issues, terrible twos, threenagers – I can’t tell you.  This is solid gold, diamond encrusted advice. Take it.
6 – book lots of exciting activities to do
Nothing worse than waiting around for that baby to arrive. Book things to do every day so you’re not just twiddling your thumbs and waiting. Far better to have to cancel stuff.
7 – get a massage or some chiropractor/osteo treatments.
This is not just in the name of self-indulgence, although this might be your last chance for a while. No. A good osteo-type treatment will help open up your sacroiliac joints helping prepare your body for labour and improving the likelihood of a straightforward birth.
8 – take some photos of yourself
I was inspired to take some photos of my mega bump one morning, not knowing I’d go into labour that night. I love being able to put the photos of my bump and my baby together knowing there was only 24 hours between them.
9 – find/go to baby groups
As with the online groups – friends in similar situations are what will get you through those early days and, as with the breastfeeding support groups, it’s much easier to go into those situations as a sleep-deprived, vulnerable new mum if you’ve been before and sussed out the parking, the location, the cost, the tea/coffee etiquette etc
10 – learn how to use all the stuff!
Do you know how to fold and unfold the buggy? Fix the car seat into the car? Run the steriliser? Swaddle a baby? Change a nappy? Do NOT let your first try at these complicated skills be when you have a newborn SCREAMING at you. I speak from bitter experience.
Also – find places for all the stuff to live, otherwise you’ll suddenly have to frind home for baby bouncers, moses baskets and god knows what else all in one hit.

Bonus tip! – read all the stuff! Here are some of my suggestions/recommendations for really useful reading while you still have the time and brainspace to do so – enjoy! I may do a whole post on this if my list gets any longer, but for now…

http://www.positivebirthmovement.org/

The thinking womans’ guide to a better birth,

Gentle birth, gentle mothering,

Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby

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