Welcome to the first stage of parenting: Growing your baby! Nine months may seem like a long time, but it flies by — and you have important work to do during those months. This trimester, you have five primary goals:
1) Fix up your baby’s first room: Your body!
Your baby will spend the months until birth in the perfect room — as long as you send the right room service deliveries. It’s not just nutrients, although nutrition is critical because your body can only use what you feed it to grow your baby. Hormones, neurotransmitters, and the rest of your body chemistry matter too. When mothers feel emotions – positive and negative – their body chemistry changes accordingly. Babies experience all of these changes.
Female bodies are miraculous in their ability to nurture new life, from a tiny seed to the infant who will soon be in your arms. Amazingly, your body knows exactly how to do this. All you have to do is support it.
How to provide the best growth environment for your baby?
- Eat well and often. You’re growing your baby, right now. Are you building her out of yogurt and sweet potatoes or coffee and danish?
- Make sure you get your vitamins, particularly folic acid and Omega 3 oil (from fish or plankton), which are essential for brain development.
- Eliminate toxins (alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, food additives). They’re not good for you, but they’re dangerous to your baby.
- Reduce your stress and increase your joy quotient. Your baby will feel it!
- Meditate and/or do relaxation exercises to keep yourself and baby healthy. This creates the best climate for your baby to grow, because it reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and creates love hormones like oxytocin. It also teaches you to relax on cue — a very good thing to practice before the birth.
- Sleep as requested by your body. You need it.
- Exercise appropriately. Sedentary women are 4x as likely to deliver via Caesarean section as women who did aerobics during the first or second trimester.
2) Choose the best way for your baby to enter the world, and who will support you through the pregnancy and birth process:
What kind of birth do you want? It’s worth some serious thinking and research, even this early on. That will help you choose the doctor or midwife — as well as the hospital or birthing center — who can give your baby the best start in life.
3) Start Educating Yourself:
You’re embarking on a grand and sacred journey, as old as human beings. There was a time when you would have learned a lot about this process just by growing up in a village, where women accumulated experience and wisdom and used it to help each other. While we miss that today, you have at your fingertips a global village. The resources online and in books could keep you busy 24/7, so don’t obsess. Just focus on the basics, and let the rest go (which is also great practice for parenting.) Here are some of the very best resources to get you started.
4) Start Preparing Yourself to Become a Mother:
The focus right now is all on the physical, but now’s the time to start the psychological work of becoming a mother. That means asking yourself some questions: How do I feel about becoming a mother? Am I excited? Scared? Nervous about how I’ll balance work, relationship and baby? All of the above? Whatever comes up for you, explore the answers. Remember that whatever you feel is normal, and worth reflecting on.
If you find yourself worrying, re-frame your worry as an opportunity to listen to your intuition and make appropriate changes. Re-frame fear as excitement about the future, even though you don’t know exactly how things will unfold. Worries are a signal to us that we need to pay attention to something; pushing them away just raises your stress level. If you find yourself worrying about how to make a decision (Keep working outside the home? Breast or bottle? Home or hospital birth?) go back to your basic values and make your decisions from the clarity of what priorities matter most to you. Talk with your friends, your partner, even a counselor, if you find yourself worrying excessively, or just to work through your emerging feelings and concerns. Don’t forget to reassure yourself by reviewing your many blessings and reminding yourself that things have a way of working out.
5) Commit to De-Stressing:
Hundreds of reliable studies show that everything you feel, your baby feels. Major stress in pregnant women is linked to some serious effects you just don’t want in your baby, like more irritability, lower IQ, and attention/concentration problems. What about minor stress? Temporary, short-term stressors are fine; your baby is resilient. But if you are juggling chronic stress, such as a demanding job, that definitely affects your baby. Does that mean you have to quit your job? Not necessarily. Remember that stress is not what happens to us, it is how we respond to what happens to us. A regular mindfulness practice will definitely reduce the negative biological impact that your getting stressed out has on your baby. So will regular exercise. And maybe there is a way you can relate differently to your work?
6) Start Connecting With Your Baby:
Your baby can’t hear you quite yet, but many people think there is soul communication between mother and child that begins at conception. You don’t have to believe that to begin connecting emotionally with your baby, though. Now is the perfect time to begin what will be one of the most important relationships of your life, by consciously embracing and nurturing your baby, emotionally and physically. Talk, sing, wonder aloud, visualize your happy, healthy baby as he or she grows inside you, is easily birthed, and flourishes through each stage of childhood. Make promises to love, protect, nurture, and accept your child for exactly who he or she turns out to be. And make promises to yourself, too, that you will never stop being there for your own self as you become a mother. After all, you can only give your baby what you have inside.
You’re showing! You’ve gone public with the great news. Hopefully your body has adjusted and stopped feeling so queasy. You’re no longer falling into bed each night at 7pm. You’re exercising, eating right, and you’ve gotten used to doing without that glass of wine at parties. And, finally, you’ve made a decision you feel good about regarding your birth venue and caretaker. What’s next? Moving and Bonding.
Maybe you were too nauseous to exercise in the first trimester, or too tired, but now is definitely the time to get going. Why is this so critical? Because moving is essential to your baby’s healthy development. Humans evolved during a time when pregnant women routine walked ten miles a day. Moderate exercise makes your baby healthier and smarter. It protects him from whatever stress hormones you’re sending his way in the course of daily modern life. It dramatically reduces the time you’ll spend in the pushing phase when you’re in labor, and makes that phase less painful. Sedentary women are 4x as likely to deliver via caesarean section as women who did aerobics during the first or second trimester. How much is enough? 3o minutes per day of MODERATE exercise.
2) Bond with Your Baby:
When your baby is born, she’ll recognize your voice and find it calming. He’ll be reassured by music heard in utero. She’ll be calmer and less colicky if you’ve been calmer during pregnancy. And, whether or not you know your baby’s gender, you’ll feel closer to the baby if you’ve taken time to make peace with it, giving your child permission to be exactly the boy or girl it is.
Your bond with your baby starts as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, even before you feel him move. Go ahead. Connect. Your baby is listening.
3) Bond with Your Partner:
When the baby comes, you and your partner will have to renegotiate much of your lives. It helps if you’ve learned how to do that already. It a lot easier if your relationship has a strong foundation of trust, affection and nurturing. And it’s invaluable if your partner approaches parenting from the same general philosophy as you do.
You should know that in the first year after the birth of a baby, the happiness of a couple declines from 40 to 90%. Yes, you can bring that back up, since much of it is related to sleep deprivation. But it’s also related to unequal workload (women shoulder 3x as much of the increase in household chores as men do), depression, and social isolation. Knowing this in advance can help you have the hard discussions and make the clear choices that will protect your marriage.
Use the nine months of pregnancy to let your partner connect with your baby; their bond should start now.
And make sure to use this time also for as much juicy sex and intimacy between the two of you as you can get. You’ll need that relationship glue once Baby comes.
4) Pamper Yourself:
Use your nine months of pregnancy to bond with your baby and your partner, by all means. But be sure also to nurture yourself as much as possible, so you don’t go into motherhood with a nurturing deficit. You’ll need to draw on your deepest resources and put your own needs second too often after the birth, so make sure you’re securely anchored to whatever well replenishes your body, mind and soul. Keep going to bed early. And don’t stop exercising! Women who exercise throughout pregnancy dramatically decrease the risk of C-sections and other less than desirable birth interventions.
5) Prepare Siblings:
If you have other children, help them prepare for the birth of a sibling by referring to “Our baby” or “Your sister” or even “Your baby.” The more ownership they feel — and of course, the less they feel displaced — the less jealousy they’ll exhibit.
Congratulations, you’re on the home stretch of your pregnancy! Only a few months till you hold your baby in your arms.
This will be a busy trimester. Not only will you keep on doing what you’ve been doing — eating healthfully, sleeping lots and exercising moderately as well as pampering yourself and bonding with your partner. You’ll be continuing to educate yourself and planning for the birth and beyond.
1) Enroll in Birth Education Classes:
Knowledge is Power. The goal of a childbirth education class is to prepare you to confidently make the best informed decision possible, regardless of the circumstances. Avoid hospital–based classes, which generally emphasize their routines rather than your options.
Talk to other women about the class they attended. Was it helpful to them? Why? The class should help you to clarify your desires for the birth process and to prepare yourself. Lamaze, which teaches patterned breathing, is often criticized as not really helping during the actual delivery. My own view is that the inadequacy of Lamaze is one reason many women ask for pain-killers during labor. Luckily, it’s only one option. The Bradley Method is loved by many because it gives you practice in relaxing your body in advance, so that you’re more likely to be able to do it during labor. I would also recommend Birthing from Within, the prep approach designed by Pam England. There may not be classes near you, but her book is fantastic and you may be able to find a birth practioner who uses her approach.
Be sure your classes end a couple of weeks before your due date, on the off chance that Junior decides to come early.
2) Make a Birth Plan:
Of course you can’t predict how that day will go. And the odds are that it won’t unfold according to plan, because life doesn’t, and your baby has her own plan. But on the theory that if you don’t know where you’re headed you’ll end up somewhere else, and that your intention counts for at least something in the way things manifest, I still think Birth Plans are a good idea. At least you get clarity on the ideal situation and more chance of welcoming your baby as you’d like to. Great resources for creating a birth plan: Pregnancy.org and Childbirth Connection.
3) Start Talking With Your Partner:
Start talking with your partner, if you haven’t already, about your ideas on child-raising. If you intend to co-sleep or breastfeed on demand, your partner needs to understand why you’re making those choices, because you’ll need his (or her) support. You might check out the Newborns & Infants section of this website, to help you think through what to expect with a new baby.
4) Start Thinking About What Kind of Support you’ll Need After the Birth:
Assume that you’ll be in bed nursing or sleeping 24/7 for the first week. You need that time to bond with your baby and learn how to feed and comfort him. A reassuring grandma is fine to soothe a crying baby when you’re at your wit’s end, but you don’t need a baby nurse. You need someone who can nurture and feed you, do your dishes and run to the store, while you nurture and feed your baby.
You also don’t want to be deluged with visitors. There will be plenty of time for them to come view and coo over the baby after the first month, once you and the baby have gotten breastfeeding well-launched, you’re more secure in your ability to comfort your little one when he cries, and you aren’t crying yourself from wildly swinging postpartum hormones. Talk with your partner about how you both envision the first couple of weeks of your new family life. You may want to consider the fact that fathers who take a couple of weeks off when their kids are born are closer to them at every stage of life, including adolescence.
5) Pack for The Hospital:
You probably want two bags: one for after the birth and one for during labor. The first gets the diapers, a few baby gowns and hats to keep that tiny head warm, as well as your things (sanitary napkins, nursing bra, nursing nightgown). The other get your insurance card, any hospital paperwork, your birth plan, a camera/video camera, snacks, and anything that will reassure and relax you during labor, like massage oil, a tiny Buddha, relaxing music, a tennis ball (for back labor.) You might also consider buying some Starbucks gift cards to sweeten up the nurses. If your partner makes friends with them right away, they’re more likely to take it in stride when you want to walk up and down the halls, or otherwise buck their usual policies.
6) Shop for The Essentials:
You can find long lists of things to buy for baby, but the truth is you don’t need most of them. And many things you won’t need for awhile, like a stroller, or a CD with a remote for rocking baby to sleep. But since you won’t be shopping with a newborn, you do want the necessities in advance. Here’s my short list:
- A bassinet or sidecar – a necessity if you feel uncomfortable having your newborn in bed with you.
- A baby hammock. I never used a crib for either child. But baby hammocks are invaluable to help infants sleep.
- A glider (or other comfortable rockers)– not a necessity but oh so comfortable and smooth for the nursing baby.
- Nursing pillow (makes nursing much easier)
- Sling (essential)
- Diapers- a case or two of newborn diapers. The rule of thumb is ten diapers/day.
- Changing pad. Either washcloths or newborn wipes.
- Undershirts or onesies, gowns, sleepers, socks, hats
- Several receiving blankets & a warmer one
- Baby bag (instead of snowsuit/coat)
- Diaper bag
- Infant car seat (you might consider one that converts to a stroller)
- Breast pump and bottles to express milk
- Baby monitor
- Infant “bouncy” seat (a place to put the baby down so she can watch safely while you cook or whatever.)
- Salve to prevent cracked nipples.
- Nursing bras and nursing clothes/nightgown so that you can nurse easily.
7) Plan to Breastfeed:
No mincing words here: Research shows unequivocally that breastfed babies are healthier and smarter, and that the longer babies are nursed, the healthier and smarter they are.
While few studies have been done on the emotional effects of breastfeeding on either the mother or child, we know that the nursing mother experiences hormonal changes that influence how she perceives her infant. Many experts feel that the mother who nurses bonds more strongly with her infant, resulting in a better relationship over time.
Are you a failure if for some reason you can’t breastfeed if for instance, you end up on some medication that the baby can’t have? Of course not. But you’ve missed a wonderful opportunity for infinite benefits to you and your child. If you plan to breastfeed and give yourself the appropriate resources, you’ll almost certainly be able to.
We don’t grow up watching moms and aunts nurse their babies, and it isn’t second nature to us, so sometimes it isn’t as easy to get started nursing as we expect. It’s easy to get unbearably sore nipples in the very beginning, or for the baby to have a hard time latching on. These pitfalls can easily detour your intention to nurse. And very occasionally, babies are born with a challenge, such as being tongue-tied, which requires a quick snip under their tongue by a doctor. So set yourself up for success in this important endeavor, just as you set your birth up for success. While you’re pregnant:
- Read a good book or two on breastfeeding to educate yourself.
- Buy a nursing pillow (they’re invaluable.)
- Arrange lactation support for that first week. It’s a good idea to call your local La Leche chapter in advance just to have a couple of breastfeeding consultants’ names handy. Such an expert often makes all the difference in the world, and it is absolutely not worth the anxiety of muddling through when one session with an expert can put you and your baby on track.