Random Observation/Comment #597: I’m either sleep deprived or time has sped up.
The “fourth trimester” is a term that refers to the first three months of a baby’s life. It’s during this time where your baby still needs an environment like the womb and is most vulnerable as they can’t do things like pick up their head yet or play on their own. We strongly recommend reading the “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp, who coined this term, where he dives into this concept. While going through this phase, we discovered some important must-haves and routines.
At least for the first week, your baby isn’t really going anywhere or seeing anyone. While you may be tempted to run out and buy cute outfits, prioritize practical over fashionable. We are fans of sleep-n-play bodysuits. By the 3-week mark, Evie had already outgrown the newborn bodysuits, so it’s probably a good idea to stick to 0-3 months depending on your baby’s size.
While bodysuits are the primary outfit, it’s also important to incorporate other clothing. This ensures your child’s feet are being exposed to different kinds of materials.
- Sleep-N-Play Bodysuits – We have both snaps and zipper ones. The zipper ones are just so much faster. Snaps are super annoying especially if there’s a lot of them. We are huge fans of Target’s Cloud Nine brand as they have reverse zippers. They also run on the long side which worked for Evie.
- Kimono-style Onesies – As she got older we wanted to be sure to expose her feet to different textures. After her first nap of the day, we changed her into a onesie with leggings and socks. We’ve found these much easier to dress than anything else. It was especially useful when we needed to give her new belly button some air.
- Cute Outfits – Have a couple of outfits handy for family and friend time.
- Spare Outfits in the Diaper Bag – Just in case you get any unexpected blow-outs while out of the house, it’s always good to be prepared.
- Dressing on the Changing Station – It’s just easier to change clothes and dress after changing the diaper.
- Bodysuit Technique – We’ve found success with one side of arms and legs first and then picking up and wrapping the other side underneath. Note: If you’re changing the baby, you only have to take off the bottom half of the onesie!
- Dress appropriately – The formula is what you’re wearing +1 layer. For example, if you’re wearing t-shirt and pants then your baby should be wearing long sleeve and long pants. Invariably, your Chinese parents will tell you she’s cold and needs to wear another layer.
- Hats – Newborns should not use sunscreen so they will need to wear hats outdoors to not just keep their head warm but also to protect from them sunlight. If you find a hat that stays on their head, consider yourself lucky. Some people use bonnets because hats don’t like to stay on.
Newborns will need to be put into a car seat in order to leave the hospital. They will also need to see their pediatrician within the first few days of birth. This can be especially stressful traveling for those in cities.
- Car seat + attachment – Practice. You will want to know how to install this quickly. It’s recommended to install it in the center of the back seat facing backwards.
- Stroller – We chose the Uppababy Cruz for the city wheels and tons of features. As we are in an apartment, we picked up a mat for stroller parking when it’s not being used to avoid tracking dirt inside. Even though this stroller can fold up, we kept it open with the bassinet in there. After a few winter weeks in NYC, we partially wish we went with the Uppababy Vista for the extra rugged build and stronger wheels.
- Bassinet – Super useful attachment if you plan on walking the baby anywhere for the first 1-3 months. We’ve put this to good use in the first week for the baby visits. After about 2 1/2 months we switched to the regular seat with the infant insert. Bassinets are much more convenient for picnics and for when baby is already asleep. We we ended up switching to the regular seat because we like the incline for her digestion and it was also much easier to maneuver around.
- Carrier – This was life changing. For certain trips, it is so much easier to wear her in a carrier. It is also perfect for inside the house when she is acting fussy and you need to get stuff done.
- Diaper bag/backpack – Find a bag that has a large compartment and hopefully looks stylish. A regular bag, hiking/camping backpack, or pocketbook also works, but there are some nice baby-friendly features, like lined pockets and extra compartments in diaper bags.
- Car Services – If you live in NYC without a car you will need to use a car service. Kid Car was highly recommended to us for newborns, but we didn’t have the best experience.
- There isn’t immediate pick-up/drop-off. We found it easier to do an uberSUV or uberX and do the installment ourselves. It’s pretty much just buckling in the attachment, which should take less than 30 seconds.
- The car seat and attachment with baby can be about 30 lbs, which is a great workout for even the buffest of parents. Clemens has claimed that he doesn’t need to look sexy, but as long as he can keep up with the one-handed car seat carry, then he’ll be happy.
- Travel station – Our stroller stays parked by the front part of the apartment on top of a mat (the same type we use for the cat’s litter box). We also put the diaper backpack there as well so we don’t have to scramble when leaving.
- Pack your diaper bag appropriately – Your diaper bag should have all your diaper changing station essentials (e.g. wipes, diapers, coconut oil, pads, plastic bags, etc) and a few extra changes of clothes. Most diaper bags also come with a changing mat. Make it a habit to replace items when you get home.
- Traveling to the pediatrician (via walking) – Our pediatrician is within walking distance (1-2 miles away). Because Vinessa was still recovering and couldn’t walk more than a mile at a time, Clemens wound up doing the walk with the bassinet and stroller while Vinessa took a cab. As she recovered, the carrier was the way to go.
- Traveling to the pediatrician (via Kid Car) – We actually first tried Kid Car because we thought it’d be convenient (even though expensive). It turned out to be a generic car seat more for toddlers than for newborns. There also aren’t a lot of cars out there so scheduling ahead of time is crucial. We like the first method of walking and cabbing separately better for now.
- Traveling via subway – If your baby is too small for an umbrella stroller, a carrier is much easier. If you really need to use your stroller, then learn which stations are accessible on the MTA. You can also check the accessibility feature on MTA’s TripPlanner.
Babies are always soaking up information and mimicking new facial expressions or movements. There are studies that say they’re learning while still in the womb! Even if they’re not the most active conversationalists, keep reading and talking with them. They’ll start to pick up patterns.
- Visual patterns – Newborns can usually only see 1-2 feet in front of them in black and white for the first few weeks. We printed out these black and white contrast patterns and taped them throughout the walls of her changing station and play area to give her proper visual stimulation. These change quickly every month, but it’s a simple and drew her attention.
- Sensory toys – We love the little plastic Oball that’s dishwasher safe and easy to grasp onto. This is good to develop hand-eye coordination and helped with her holding the bottle for feeding earlier. Sensory play can also be as simple as finding clean items in your house and holding them in front of the baby to touch.
- Activity Mat – We use the rings to attach different toys so Evie is always interested. Get a foldable one so it’s easy to store away when not in use.
- Research ideas – Our favorite resource is BabyCenter, which posts different activities each week.
- Regularly expose your baby’s hands and feet so they can touch different surfaces
- Focus – Limit TV and phone time around the baby. Narrating what you’re doing helps keep focus and gives the parents a break from devices.
- Playtime soundtrack – If lullabies make great sleep cues, then why not play upbeat songs for playtime and other developmental activities? A tummy time favorite was, “Eye of the Tiger” (Let’s be honest, who isn’t motivated by this song?) This also helps keep track of time. Having an Amazon Echo helped a lot here.
There have been books written about this, so these are just summaries of what we found most important first-hand. The second part of this series is more about self-care, visits, and soothing.
~See Lemons and Vnessa with an Eye for Naps