Third Trimester

Congratulations, you're on the home stretch of your pregnancy! Only a few months till you hold your baby in your arms.

Photo: Susan Collins

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.

Your priorities:

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 gets 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 rocker)-- not a necessity but oh so comfortable and smooth for 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.

Breast or Bottle? »
Parenting Your Newborn »
Breastfeeding 101 »
Best Breastfeeding Books »
Best Baby Books »


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