There’s one thing for sure about homeschooling: it encompasses all of life. And all of life is fair game for homeschooling! So, when mama is expecting, you can bet that pregnancy and postpartum issues are on the list of homeschool management concerns!
I’m going to be really honest with you. I’m not a nutrition or fitness guru. Sure, I want to take good care of myself, but you know, life. So this isn’t a post about “living your best pregnancy now”. Rather, this is a post about making it work in the trenches. If you’re running marathons in your third trimester, well, this post probably isn’t for you.
Otherwise, read on!
5 Clothing Tips
- Maternity clothes often seem to be designed to be disposable. But they definitely don’t seem to be priced as such. For this reason, I like to make use of regular clothes as much as possible.
- Maxi skirts. I wear them in “normal” life, through pregnancy and on into breastfeeding. The stretchy kind with the fold-over panel are the best!
- Camisoles. A few neutral-colored ones come in handy to go under maternity tops. They cover the curves at the top and bottom of your torso that like to peek out unbidden. Also, if you need to wear some type of abdominal support, camisoles can provide a soft barrier to prevent irritated skin.
- Flip flops. I almost don’t need to explain. I wear flip flops as early in spring and as late into fall as I can. They are easier on swollen feet and I don’t have to worry about stretching out my good shoes. (See, I’m not always barefoot, pregnant in the kitchen. Sometimes I’m flip-flopped, pregnant, and driving a 15 passenger van! Haha.)
- Big sweater. I have a big bulky sweater I absolutely adore. It’s long and wrap-around style and goes great over almost everything – including a giant pregnant belly or a lumpy postpartum one!
5 Ways to Use Technology to Your Advantage
Pregnancy, postpartum, and technology? You betcha!
- Screen Time. Remember, this is a temporary season in life. It’s OK to use screens for your kids so that you can rest your swollen ankles or nurse the baby. You don’t have to fear screen time.
- Audiobooks or Audible. If you uterus is encroaching on lung space or you are nursing a new baby, it can be such a blessing to let someone else read aloud to your kids.
- Ordering groceries. Grocery pickup from Wal-Mart is free. Kroger Click-List has a small fee. Ordering from Amazon Prime Pantry includes a shipping cost. But even so, you’ll spend less than you would to pay a babysitter so you can go shopping solo!
- For community and support. Yes, face-to-face is usually better. But if the choice is social media or being lonely, go for social media (or texting or email or Voxer) or whatever your style!
- Fun apps. I use apps to track my cycle, tell the kids what size the baby is each week, and time contractions!
5 Benefits to a Birth Ball
What our family calls a “birth ball” most of the rest of the world calls an exercise ball.
- Sit on it and rock or sway to provide relief to achy hips and back at the end of pregnancy. I’ve taught homeschool and played board games seated on a birth ball many times!
- During early labor, rest on the birth ball and, during a contraction, roll waaay forward until the small of your back is on the front of the ball, creating a supported squat.
- If you labor in a birth tub, your husband or doula can let about half of the air out of the birth ball and place it behind you as a waterproof pillow.
- After the baby arrives, bounce or rock on the birth ball to calm a crying baby. The softness is gentle on tender “sitting parts”. The option of using the birth ball also acts as a great enticement to get the older kids to sooth the baby!
- And yea, you can even use it for its intended purpose – exercise! It’s great for rebuilding core strength, which is exactly what you need! There are tons of videos you can watch on YouTube.
4 Core Strength Building Moves
Speaking of exercise, take it easy and go slow those first few weeks after baby is born. Here are some ideas to get you started.
(Note: I am not a health care professional. Ideas listed here are simply suggestions from my own personal experience and not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please consult your doctor or midwife about the appropriateness of any of these activities as a part of your personal care.)
- Pelvic lifts. It takes 10-14 days after birth for the uterus to become a pelvic organ again (i.e. to reduce in size and fit into the space between the pelvic bones). In that time period, limit time standing, time sitting upright, and trips up and down the stairs. If you feel heaviness in your pelvic region, lay on your back, curve your fingers like a rake, place your finger tips at the top of your pelvic bone and gentle pull up, pulling your uterus up and out of the pelvic area.
- Abdominal press. Lay on the bed, flat, no pillow. Knees bent, feet flat on the bed. Cross your arms over your midsection, hands on opposite sides of your natural waste, and pull gently inward towards your belly button. Contract your abdominal muscles, imagining that you are pressing your belly button down towards the bed. Do these once in the morning and once in the evening. First week: 5x for a count of five. Second week: 7x for a count of 7. Third week: 10x for a count of 10.
- Mini-crunches. Lay on the bed, flat, no pillow. Knees bent, feet flat on the bed. Cross your arms over your midsection, hands on opposite sides of your natural waste, and pull gently inward towards your belly button. Contract your abdominal muscles and lift your head and shoulders just slightly off the bed. Do these once in the morning and once in the evening. First week: 5x for a count of five. Second week: 7x for a count of 7. Third week: 10x for a count of 10.
- When you’re ready to go further, check out Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best. The exercise descriptions are very clear and easy to understand. And all of the models are real-life postpartum moms!
5 Core Support Strategies
- Chiropractic Care. I highly recommend finding a chiropractor in your are who is a certified prenatal specialist. Chiropractic care has been a great blessing in reducing back pain and also helping me to be well prepared for birth. Check this website and choose the option to search for a practitioner who is certified in the Webster Technique. (And if you’re anywhere close to central Virginia, I highly recommend Dr. Anna Bender of Atlee Chiropractic Center.)
- Baby Belly Bands. These bands are super simple, smooth neoprene. They are breathable and work both prenatally and postpartum.
- Kinesiology Tape. This stretchy tape is super lightweight, but also stretchy. Surprisingly, it was what worked the very best for my at the end of my eighth pregnancy with my largest baby yet. It needs to be re-applied about once a week. Thankfully, my chiropractor did this for me, but you can find videos about how to apply it on YouTube. (Bonus: The KT tape also acts as kind of a non-slip surface for camisoles and keeps them from riding north!)
- Abdominal Binder. If you need something a little more heavy-duty to support separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) after pregnancy, you’ll want an abdominal binder. There are lots of variations. The Better Binder is one of the most flexible and actually has two separate straps for individualized adjustment.
- Physical therapy. Did you know that in countries like Germany and France, body re-training is a part of the standard care for the first year postpartum? Here in the US, we’re pretty much on our own. But, as mama’s strength and health are essential to the family, I encourage you to take advantage of this if you are able. I’m enrolled in a program called Postpartum Strong here in central Virginia. You can see some videos here about what the program does. You can also search this site to find a provider in your area.
9 Tips on Transitions from The World’s Best Doula
Donna Westcott is a wife, homeschooling mom to two, and a birth doula at A Sweet New Life Doula Services, LLC who loves working with, educating, and supporting families at such a special time in their lives. (She is also my sister-in-love and that’s how I know she’s the world’s best!)
Older siblings …
- For older siblings that are very close in age to the new baby, it will just take a lot of patience from everyone. When they are that young, it can be hard for them to understand what is going on, but making sure to take special time with them alone, and with the new baby can go a long way for them to begin to understand their new role.
- For siblings who are school-aged, start trying to get them used to any change in their roles well before baby is due to arrive so that they will be ready to jump up to the plate once baby comes home. It’s important to try to carve out time with your older children, too, to keep working on your one on one relationships with them.
- Keep in mind that the birth of a new baby can also bring up a lot of questions that you may or may not be ready to answer! Have in mind how you plan to handle answering these questions about how baby came to be before they come up. Being honest and using proper terms can go a long way and it’s okay to say that some things need to wait to be answered when the asking child is older.
- If you have pets that have been in the family for a while, then you probably know what is best for them for introducing them to your new baby, but if you have pets that have joined your family since a previous baby has come home, it can be helpful to have something with new baby’s smell on it to bring home and give to the pet (this works well with dogs especially). This way the pet can learn your baby’s smell. Having Dad, who is also the dog’s alpha male, bring the blanket is an added help if at all possible.
- When you come home with baby, it’s important to assert to the pet that baby comes before them.
- Many areas have specialist who can come help with this, as well, so you can make sure that your furry family members are adjusting to the new baby the same way you’re helping your older children adjust.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! More importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help in specific ways. Need someone to bring you a meal, but not come in for a visit? Let them know that there is a cooler on the porch for a meal to be left in.
- Need someone to come look after baby so you can get a much-needed nap or shower? Be specific with what you need. Typically, your friends and family really do want to help, but don’t always know what will be helpful to you. Be kind and honest with them and you’ll all feel better about it!
- Also, this is a role that a postpartum doula can fill as well as light housework, some cooking, and just being there for the new parents and older siblings, too – www.doulamatch.net is a website that can help you to locate postpartum doulas available in your area, as well as birth doulas and childbirth education class, too!
For more birth and parenting tips and articles, follow A Sweet New Life on Facebook!
8 Baby Items that You Don’t Need
With my first baby, we got all.the.things. With each following baby, instead of acquiring more gear, we actually reduced our inventory. Here are the things that (for us, at least) didn’t make the cut.
- Baby bouncers, play mats, swings, etc. They take up a lot of floor space and we didn’t need a whole arsenal – just one or two carefully chosen items (see below).
- Changing table. We have a lovely one in the family that my grandfather made. For the first baby, it was all decked out with pretty bins and changing pad covers. But by the second baby, I realized I hardly every used it. Floor, bed, lap, sofa, but not changing table. Plus, it was in the children’s room where inevitable a little person was always sleeping when a diaper change was needed. Plus, I wanted to reclaim the floor space for other things. (Hint: If you think you really might want a changing table, maybe use the top of a dresser so it’s still useful beyond diaper changing.)
- Wipes warmers. See above. They aren’t really portable and if you change diapers at random places all over the house, they never get used. Plus, babies who are calm don’t care if the wipes are a little cool and babies who are ticked off won’t care that the wipes are warm.
- Hooded towels. Sure, they’re cute. But regular towels work just fine. You’ll use them for about 30 seconds max (unless you’re trying to get a picture) because, hey, that kid is screaming and isn’t wearing a diaper! (Also robes. We have one and it’s only every appeared for photo shoots.)
- Baby bath tubs. We had one for the first few babies. I find it much easier to put a towel in the bottom of the kitchen sink and fill it with a couple of inches of warm water and bathe baby there. Easier on the back, too! (Also, just between us, I don’t bathe my babies much that first year. It really isn’t necessary. The stinky parts get wiped multiple times a day.)
- A Boppy pillow. I liked the Bobby. In theory. And I DO think it’s very important to be well supported when you nurse to avoid back pain (ask me how I know). However, when you nurse in all rooms of the house, all throughout the day, the Boppy is never where you are. So I usually just grab a bunch of pillows from the sofa, the nearest bed or whatever. Plus, those other pillows have a regular home, so I don’t have to find a storage place for a new baby device.
- The Bumbo chair. OK, I actually still own one of these. And we always wait with great anticipation until the baby is ready to use it. But here’s the problem. The window between when baby can hold up his torso well enough for it to not be a torture device and when he can sit up well enough on his own to make it unnecessary is pretty small. For us, the Bumbo was more of a novelty device to make baby a centerpiece on the lunch table!
- A diaper bag. From about the third baby on, I’ve just used a standard backpack. If you want to hold the hand of one child on each side, it’s nearly impossible to keep a shoulder strap on one shoulder! I have a regular wallet that I stick in one pouch. That way, if I do ever leave home sans-bebe, I can just grab my wallet and be ready to go.
8 Baby Items I Actually Use
- Mini Co-sleeper. This is one one of those items that I held off on purchasing because it seemed kind of frivolous. But it turned out to be the perfect fit for us. (See below for more thoughts on sleep arrangements.)
- A car seat. It’s the law. I like the ones that snap into a base. It can easily be moved to another car. It also doubles as a little rocking seat (move the handle all the way back and rock it with your foot!) Many restaurants actually have wooden frames made for holding car seats and some stores have shopping carts that are designed to hold them. Want to know how to carry one without breaking your back? Here you go. You’re welcome.
- Bouncy chair. A simple, inexpensive low-to-the-floor seat to hold baby gently. It is much easier for big siblings to get a baby in and out of a bouncy chair than a swing, bouncer, etc. I usually ditch the little mobiles and don’t add batteries for the noise and vibration. I just need a little seat for baby.
- All.The.Onsies. I always have huge piles of onsies, layettes, and one-piece sleepers – more than I can ever imagine using. And I always get close to the bottom of the pile before I can get more washed! I prefer these kinds of simple, soft outfits to the super-cute-but-never-stay-tucked-and-aren’t-comfortable-to-squeeze-against-your-bare-tummy-when-you-are-nursing outfits. My babies don’t have “pajamas”. They just have sleep-able clothing.
- Sleep sacks. Especially if you have winter babies. Or if you have a wiggly baby. You don’t have to worry about covers getting tangled, off of baby or – worst of all – over baby’s head. Pro tip: If you have an escape artist, putting him to bed in a sleep sack can hamper his efforts. But only very temporarily.
- A baby carrier (or a few options). I’ve tried a lot of variations. My absolute to-die-for favorite is the Ergo. I didn’t find the “newborn insert” needed because when they are tiny, you can tuck their little feet into the carrier with them and this brings their heads above the edge of the pouch. (Of course, my smallest babies were 8 pounders, so this might not apply to tinier ones.) If you’d like to use a baby carrier but don’t know what’s right for you, see if there is a chapter of Babywearing International near you. You can usually try out different carry styles for free at a meeting!
- A super simple umbrella stroller. You can usually find them for about $20-30. They fold really flat and – bonus! – they fit under the seat of a 15-passenger van! (My husband also likes to use a jogging stroller to take the toddler for a run and give me a little break.)
- A nursing blanket. There are a lot of nursing covers on the market. Eventually, I switched to one I made myself out of a twin bed sheet. It’s soft, breatheable, and huge. It folds and washes easily. It also doubles as a burp cloth, changing pad, and tummy-time mat. See below for instructions on making your own.
8 Steps to Making a Nursing Blanket
I know there are a wide range of opinions about breastfeeding in public. It is my own personal preference to be comfortably covered. Aside from the “modesty” issue, my love handles and stretch-marked skin aren’t something I’d like to put on display.
For me, the simplest way has been to make an ample “nursing blanket”. To each her own. But if this sounds like something you’d like to have, here’s a simple DIY!
- Purchase an inexpensive twin bed flat sheet. Some folks prefer patterns. I prefer solid colors like khaki or a pale blue that won’t clash with whatever I’m wearing. (Note: Although you only need a flat sheet, interestingly, it’s sometimes actually cheaper in a set than purchased separately.)
- Cut off the seams and selvage all around the four edges (this includes removing the large hem at the top of the sheet.
- Fold the blanket top to bottom (“hamburger style” as I say to the kids for paper folding) right sides facing in, and pin for stability.
- Sew a half-inch seam on the three other sides (not the folded side) leaving about 5-6 inches open on one corner.
- Using the 5-6 inch gap you left, turn the sheet right-side-out. Fold in the raw edges and sew the opening shut.
- Iron the seams and the folded side to make sure it lays flat. Pin for stability.
- Beginning at one corner, stitch diagonally in towards the center of the sheet about one inch and then turn and sew parallel to one side. Each time you reach a corner, sew diagonally down to the corner and then back up. Your seams will look something like this …
- I usually keep one in the diaper bag and one as a back-up. Wash as you would any other sheet!
5 Sleeping Arrangement Ideas
There are few things more important to surviving the postpartum months than getting as much good sleep as possible. A well rested mama is a calmer, happier mama. And a calmer, happier mama is an important homeschool ingredient!
I know folks have lots of different and very strong opinions on babies and sleeping. Of course, doing what makes you comfortable and being on the same page with your spouse are crucial. But if you’re looking for options, here are some.
- A crib, pack n’ play, or bassinet in another room. Some folks find it hard to sleep with baby in the same room because they are hyper-alert and roused by every sigh or wiggle. Nighttime feedings happen in a rocking chair or other seat in a sitting up position.
- Co-sleeping. Yes, I know it’s controversial. And there are definitely things you can do to make it more risky (like co-sleeping while high, intoxicated, or in a smoking household). But let’s face it – for most all of human history and still today for most places in the world, in the bed with mama is where baby sleeps. (See Luke 11:7, for example.)
- Compromises. If neither of those are your style, however, there are lots of in-between options. For the last six pregnancies, I’ve used our mini-co-sleeper and it’s been a God-send. I don’t have to get up and walk anywhere to get the baby. But after he nurses, I can put him back in his own space so that I can sleep more restfully. Another mom once shared with me that their bed was simply a mattress on the floor, so she placed a crib or twin mattress on the floor next to her bed. She could slide over to the baby to nurse and then leave him there sleeping and return to her own bed.
- Sleep strategies. Take advantage of a sound sleeper or an easily-falls-asleep-er. When my niece and nephew were born, they slept in a pack n’ play in my brother and sister-in-law’s room…on Daddy’s side of the bed. He slept through the little noises. And when the baby woke to eat, he’d be the one to get up and bring her to mama and put her back to bed. He was more easily able to fall back to sleep and she was able to stay in a more restful mode.
- Room arrangements. In our home, however, Daddy can’t sleep well with nightly interruptions. We’ve found that it works best for him to sleep in the guest bedroom for the first few months. I am also able to rest and sleep better with more room to myself. And, when he wakes up early to go to work, he wont’t disturb mama and baby. (Note: I don’t recommend kicking Dad out against his will. This is not a time when you want to make him feel like he’s been replace by the baby. But if this is an option that feels helpful to both of you, go for it!)
2 Helpful Postpartum Supplies
Did you know that in the early days postpartum days, it’s best to avoid stars if possible? I usually try to stay in bed (or at least upstairs) for the first ten days. Here are some items to keep you comfortable and make life a little smoother during those in-bed days.
- Bed table. I got one for use with my laptop (because I spent most of my in-bed days doing things like editing and sharing photos and putting together videos!). It also works as a mealtime table if you add a silicone or other non-slip-type placemat.
- Chux pads. I know you don’t want to think about this, but those first few days postpartum can be, well … messy. So much easier to throw away a disposable pad than change your sheets. Pro tip: these also make great baby-changing pads!
8 Stain Treatment Tips
When you have a baby, stains happen. And if you’re in the middle of homeschooling – or sleeping! – you don’t necessarily want to stop what you’re doing to hand-wash baby clothes. Instead, use these tips.
- Get a 5-gallon bucket. (You can also find them at your hardware store in the paint department.) Sprinkle the bottom with a couple of tablespoons of Oxiclean. Fill it about half full with the hottest water you can get from your tap. Drop in stained clothes and let them soak to wash later!
- Keep the bucket in your laundry room, bathtub, or bathroom. If you’ve got pets or toddlers who might decide to go for a swim, get one that comes with a lid (it does NOT need to be “food grade”). Keep a plastic cooking spoon handy for pushing items down into the water.
- Stained clothes should soak at least overnight. Longer is fine. When you are ready to wash them, empty most of the water into the tub or sink and then run the stained clothes on the spin cycle. Wash as usual on their own or with other clothes.
- As soon as you empty out the bucket to wash the clothes, immediately sprinkle in more Oxiclean and fill again. Because laundry is never really “done” is it?!?
- Hang-dry stain-treated clothing. The high heat of a dryer can “bake in” stains that haven’t been fully removed and you won’t have a second chance to treat them. Also, it can be difficult to determine if stains have been fully removed (especially oily stains such as those from baby poo and spit-up) when clothes are wet. We use a portable clip hanger for drying little items.
- If you want to wash the stain-treated items with other clothes, toss them into a mesh laundry bag. That way you can keep track of which items need to be pulled out separately for hang-drying. And (if you’re like me) it will be the only thing that keeps you from forgetting that there actually were stained clothes in the load!
- For those clothes that don’t get clean in the first go-around, either drop them back in the Oxiclean mix or set them aside for the “secret weapon”.
- Secret Weapon: Into your 5 gallon bucket, sprinkle 1/2 Cup Cascade Powder + 1/2 Cup Clorox 2. Add hottest tap water. Soak overnight, rinse and wash. (This is more expensive and harsher on clothes, so use it as a last resort. Save up problem-stained clothes for a big batch.)
15 of the Best Books for the Childbearing Years
For perspective and encouragement …
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic
Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem and the Joys of Motherhood by Rachel Jankovic
Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Terri Maxwell
Your birth and your body …
Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
For talking with the kids … (preview first)
Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler (my favorite resource for telling the kids what’s happening with baby throughout the pregnancy)
A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson
The Berenstain Bears New Baby by Jan and Stan Barenstain
13 More Sources of Help and Encouragement for Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Life with Littles
One of my favorite parts of blogging is the community of homeschool mom bloggers. Maybe I’m biased, but I think this is the best corner of the blogging world! Here are some other wonderful posts about life with littles, overcoming exhaustion, and general mom encouragement.
Because homeschooling with a baby is a challenge …
Homeschooling While Expanding Your Family by Kaylene at This Outnumbered Mama
How I Survived Homeschooling and a Newborn … or Two by Courtney at Grace Grow Edify
Homeschooling with a Newborn by Karen at Teach Beside Me
The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Postpartum Days by Diana at The Kennedy Adventures
Because juggling all the things (and kids) can be so overwhelming …
Overwhelmed? Ask Yourself This One Question by Mary at Not Before 7
The Invisible Mom by Lara at Everyday Graces
Dear Mom Who Just Wants to Be a Good Mother by Lara at Everyday Graces
Moving from Exhaustion to Rhythms of Rest in Your Homeschool Life by Gina at Sonlight.com
Because we all need community …
Finding Community: Building a Support System Online and In-Person by Colleen at Raising Lifelong Learners
A Secret about Community: Finding Worship and Purpose in the Mundane by Gina at Oxacaborn
Chose Your Five People Carefully by Sallie at SallieBorrink.com
Because sometimes the other kids require a lot of energy, too …
Encouraging Bible Verses for Special Needs Moms by Kaylene at This Outnumbered Mama
Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids … by Colleen at Raising Lifelong Learners
Did you enjoy this 100 Things post? Check out a huge collection of 100 Things posts on many topics at the iHomeschool Network blog!