The Best Ways to Prepare for Life with a Baby

The other evening I had the pleasure of attending a Better Beginnings Night at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. This was an event that reached out to any person looking for more information about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum resources here in Ottawa. We saw women very close to their due dates, as well as women and their partners planning for pregnancy. There were birth doulas, postpartum doulas, chiropractors, and various businesses offering information and free samples. This got me thinking - what are the best ways to prepare for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum? I think we all know the more obvious ways to get ready: prep the baby's room, attend regular prenatal appointments with your healthcare provider, and purchase baby supplies. But research has shown that women and partners who are well prepared for the reality of postpartum life tend to fare better in terms of adjustment issues and perinatal mood disorders.

So as your "in-house" doula, I present to you the top tips for preparing for life with a baby (hint....this involves a lot of classes!):

1. Take a prenatal class - one with an actual live teacher. The City of Ottawa now offers a free online course, but research has shown that your interaction with a teacher and/or classmates will enhance your learning. You also want to make sure that the class you choose focuses primarily on labour and birth - stages/phases, physiology, comfort measures for pain and  unexpected outcomes.

2. Take a yoga class - start in early pregnancy, and continue practicing as much as possible throughout each trimester. You not only prepare your body for the physical rigor of labour, but you teach yourself relaxation skills (the KEY to having a healthy birth)

3. Take a baby/newborn preparation class - most of us have absolutely no experience with newborns before we decide to get pregnant. In order to be comfortable with all the challenges you will face as a new parent, you need to understand newborn behaviours, sleep patterns (no, newborn babies do not sleep through the night!), and diaper, feed and carry your child.

4. Make a postpartum plan - it sounds silly, I know. "I need a PLAN to parent my child?" Yes, you least in the beginning. You will be shocked at all the little details you hadn't thought of once baby arrives. Who is nearby to give you support? How will you get breaks? Who will cook and clean the house? Walk the dog? If you take time to think about these things before you enter the postpartum phase, you'll feel less overwhelmed.

5. Take time to hang with your friends who have become parents. Ask them questions. Hold a baby, and offer to babysit several times.

The clients I work with who adjust the easiest to postpartum life are the ones who have:

- a lot of family nearby - husbands/partners that can stay home on paternal leave (if this isn't possible due to financial reasons, plan who else you can call on for assistance) - lots of experience with newborns - taken prenatal classes - lower anxiety due to proper physical activity, meditation or relaxation skills, and yoga

Did you adjust well to the postpartum phase? What made it easier on you?

Meeting Baby

by Misty Many parents are anxious when introducing their older child to the newest addition of the family. Although you have been preparing your child for their new role as big brother/sister, many younger children do not grasp the understanding that a baby will be joining the household. Their first meeting with the baby, if handled correctly, can be a positive stepping stone from which to build a healthy relationship between siblings.

  • Consider the appropriateness of having your child at the birth. Some children enjoy participating in the birth, while others become upset at the sights/sounds/smells. Never force a child to stay at the birth if they are not comfortable, and have a trusted family member around to babysit.
  • If your child has not attended the birth, have your partner prepare them well for what they will see. Explain that Mommy will be in bed, resting, and that a new baby will be with her.
  • If you are planning a hospital birth, consider bringing your child in to see the hospital before the birth, so that they are familiar with the space.
  • Have your child participate in picking out a special gift for the baby, and have a gift ready (from the baby) that is to be given to the older sibling. Handmade gifts are always special.
  • When your older child is about to enter the room, put your newborn on the bed, in a neutral position. That way, everyone “meets” the new baby together, without Mommy cuddling or breastfeeding the baby when the older sibling walks in.
  • If your older child has no interest in meeting the baby, don’t force the issue. He/she will become interested in the baby at some point, and will begin to ask questions.

Remember that patience and understanding are key. If your older child becomes upset, consider handing the baby off for a few minutes and cuddling with your child. Explain that you will need to do a lot of caring for the baby in the next little while, but that big brother/sister will have very important jobs to do to assist mommy. Kids like to feel important, and giving them small jobs to do is a great way to integrate them into baby care. Enjoy your “new” family, and remember that this stage of adjustment will only last a little while!

Misty Pratt is a doula in Ottawa, and supports families through birth and postpartum. You can find out more about doula services here (  In her spare time, Misty blogs at The Chickadee Tweet (

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How safe is your car seat?

In the Spring my husband was in a collision with two of our kids. I had no idea that car seats that didn't seem damaged in a collision needed to be replaced, especially not the one that sat empty. Rae gave me some great advice and I asked her to share some car seat safety tips with us here. Thanks Rae! ~Lara by Rae

You know, I've worked in the baby industry for almost a decade, though babies have always made my brain go a little silly and squishy.

I became a car seat technician in 2004 - more about that later. Let's go back to 2002:  We were 20, in university and didn't have a car. We were really mad that you had to leave the hospital via car with a car seat! We had no local family, and just took the bus everywhere.  Thus it became that we had a car seat for L (a bucket seat) that we used for other people's cars.  I had read the manual, but I was never quite sure I was doing it right.

When we got our first car, L was 14 months old. We got a new seat for the new car as she was forward facing (according to the 2002 standard). It was an all black Alpha Omega 3 in 1. It was the best bang for our buck.  I stored the bucket seat in the basement because I knew that we wanted a second baby.

Because having a car seat is mandated by law, I thought for sure there would be a place to have our installation checked.  At that time, the city of Ottawa ran inspections by appointment with a couple of firehalls. The list was always months long. I called A channel and complained loudly.

Sandra Blakie came to see us and did a lovely story. Alas less than 6 months later the city stopped doing it. I have heard many a tale of fire fighters that still do it, though their certifications are long out of date.

I was friends in University with the now Executive Director of Seats for Kids. We talked at length about my complaints and she convinced me to become a technician with her group.  I didn't even know such a position existed, but wanted to learn more! The night after my course, I went home and fixed my car seat.

Since then I have become an instructor in my own right, and now teach other people what I know.

I could tell you a lot of funny or horrible things I've seen since 2003, but instead I'll tell you the most important things you NEED to know about car seats:

1. The best car seat on the market is the one that fits your child and your car appropriately, and that you can use correctly.  What fit in your sisters 2002 car, may not fit in your 2003, or your respective children!

2. Snug is safe! Your car seat should not move more than an inch side to side at the belt path. Don't just jiggle the seat. Try to push or pull it firmly side to side to check.  Your child should also be snug.  This means no bulky coats, bunting bags or swaddling between them and the harness. Dress your child comfortably, buckle the harness and then put blankets or their coat over them.  You want the harness to always be one finger tight at the collar bone, and for the chest clip to be level with the armpits!

3. Projectiles. Look around your car. In a collision what is going to fly around? Everything. Purse, coffee cup, snow brush, lap dog (get a harness for your friend! Seat belts save!), toys, and everything else that isn't secured is going to hit things and people. Keep it in the trunk/get a cargo cover/minimize what you keep in the car!

4. Used Car Seats: please don't buy or use a car seat you are not intimately familiar with the history of even if there is a yellow sheet with a legal blurb and a signature saying it's fine or even if it came from your sister's husbands aunt. You can never guarantee it hasn't been dropped, or in a collision. It's also possible the seat could be expired or have a public notice.

5. Car seats are single user and single collision item. If there is damage to your vehicle you need a new car seat. If you drop a seat from 3' you need a new one - that's a collision. Your insurance will likely cover car seats. Confirm with your broker! If you settle outside of insurance, ask that the seat(s) be replaced.

6. Last but not least. Car seats are for cars and babies are for arms. Car seats have evolved, but they still keep newborns at 40-45 degrees so that they can both breathe and sleep in cars.  45 degrees for long periods is hard on little bodies and studies are starting to show flat head syndrome and SIDS on the rise as we carry our babies more in car seats than caresses. Use a sling, snuggly, Bjorn, wrap, whatever - just leave the car seat in the car!

I bet most that read this are checking their car seats shortly after. If you are not sure about your install or the age of your seat, Ottawa has some great resources:

Seats for Kids ( - a not for-profit, volunteer group that hosts 1-2 clinic per month. They ask for a donation of $20 for paper printing and water costs. Their clinics fill very quickly. They also teach courses once a month!

Ottawa public health runs a phone line and can help you find resources for a car seat if you need financial help. The city of Ottawa no longer offers inspection services in any form.

And then there's me! I'm kind of a Jill of all trades. When I left the insurance world in 2010 I decided to throw all the skills I had on to the table and start Chartreuse Industries.  To promote our Car Seat Inspection services, I'll be giving away 5 free inspections* valued at $30 each. Leave a comment to qualify. Extra entries for following @chartreuseindus on Twitter or liking their Facebook page.  Contest closes Wednesday October 12 at 5 pm.

85-90% of people have their seat installed or use it incorrectly. I hope we can correct yours!

*the fine print:

All winners must have their seat inspection performed by appointment at the Chartreuse Offices (Fisher/Meadowlands). One seat inspection per family. Additional seats will be charged at regular $30 rate.

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