From the moment one conceives until … well, forever, a parent gets advice. Incessant, unsolicited advice. Some of it is insane, some of it is infuriating, and some of it — a tiny percentage — is actually worth listening to. That tiny percentage? The good stuff? That’s what we have here … a round-up of the best, most helpful, most spot-on advice we got as new moms in Philly … and now give to new moms in Philly. Advice like:
Take the undies.
Every hospital gives new mom a small pile of stretchy, white (deeply unattractive) underwear to wear post-birth. Our advice? Ask for a big pile, and then ask for extras on top of that. Whether it’s a C-birth or V-birth, you will appreciate how soft and gentle and, well, disposable they are at a moment when the last thing you want to be thinking about (or being irritated by) is your undies. You’ll wear ’em for weeks.
Join the list serves.
Pennsymoms, Fairmount Parents, Clark Park Tot Lot, Kids South of Washington, and etc.: Wherever you find yourself, find the neighborhood list serve, join it, and check it regularly. (Tip: Anyone in the city can join the Google group Pennsymoms … you need only apply.) You’ll hear about everything from lice outbreaks to pediatric dentists; you’ll get good deals on your neighbors’ hand-me-downs; you’ll be able to get rid of hand-me-downs of your own. The local list serve is a Philly parent tool everybody should use.
Beg, steal and borrow.
Speaking of free stuff: This is where that list serve really comes in handy. Friends and neighbors supplied (on loan, or as gently used gifts, or for very low prices) our baby carriers (both Ergo and Bjorn), our swing, our Bumbo, about half our baby clothes, most of our baby shoes, our bassinet, our tricycle, our Maclaren umbrella stroller, our extra car seat toys out the yang. It’s saved a ton of money, made us greener, and kept the unnecessary unused crap from piling up in our (typically Philly, short-on-storage-space) home. The consignment spots — like Greene Street Kids and Nesting House, as well as the bi-annual City Kids Consignment sale — are clutch. Another helpful resource for free stuff: your local buy-nothing groups. There’s free baby and kids’ stuff galore on these neighborhood Facebook groups … all you have to is search and join.
Skip the pee-pee teepees and wipe warmers.
Okay, this isn’t actually specific to city parents. But it IS good advice, because Pee-pee teepees don’t really work that well, and wipe warmers just get that kid used to the feeling of warmed wipes, which is an issue when you’re out and about and he’s shocked and angered by a cold wipe.
Consider two strollers.
Get whatever stroller you want for your city strolling (something with sturdy wheels) … but by the time the kid is a year old (maybe sooner!), you’ll be glad to also have a light, tiny, foldable little stroller that’s easy to take on Septa or stash under the table at whatever tiny Philly restaurant/cafe/pub you find yourself.
The stroller and car seat people at Buy Buy Baby in Cherry Hill are the best.
They just are. The salespeople really know their stuff, and they’ll take however much time it takes to teach you how to fold up that stroller, or install that car seat.
Take advantage of the baby-wearing tutorials.
The Nesting House in South Philly (formerly Cloth) and Minnow Lane in Fishtown both offer classes on how to actually use the baby carrier of your choice, and they also let you try on their models so you can see which you like best before you buy. (And yes, baby carriers come especially in handy for city-dwellers: On Septa, walking to the store, carting back and forth to daycare, etc, etc.)
Join a new moms group or breastfeeding group or take classes — or all of the above.
It’s about getting out of the house and making some new friends who share your newly wacky schedule. There are literally dozens of groups and classes all over the city catering to new parents. (Hall-Mercer and Mama’s Wellness Joint in Wash West, Ali’s Wagon in Fairmount, Lilypad in South Philly, HUP in West Philly, Center City Pediatrics in Grad Ho, City Sprouts in Fishtown… the list goes on. You can check out our guide to a bunch of great city parenting centers as a starting point.)
Nursing? Schedule a lactation consultant to come to your house the day you get home from the hospital, or the day after, latest.
My pediatrician recommended this, and it was so helpful. It cost us $150 for a couple hours, so it’s definitely not nothing (although some insurance plans cover a visit), but if things are going well, then it’s peace of mind and reassurance that all is well and the baby is gaining weight properly. (The consultant has a scale!) If you hit a bump once you get home from the hospital, then it’s basically priceless to have help on hand before things get really stressful. Your pediatrician should be able to recommend someone — there are dozens to choose from in the city, and most make house calls — or you can call one of the aforementioned parenting centers, who usually have relationships with one or more consultants.
Register for (or buy) the rain cover for the stroller, the stroller hooks for grocery bags, and a diaper bag with a fold-out changing pad for public places.
These things are helpful for almost all parents, but they’re necessities for city life.
This might seem obvious, but the benefits of connecting to other parents can’t be overstated, and we’re lucky in Philly that there are so many natural gathering spots: the playground, daycare drop-off, preschool, those list serves, etc, etc. I was surprised and delighted at the natural community of moms and dads that form basically everywhere there are kids, how everyone seems to have the same questions, and almost everyone has an experience to share. There are so many choices for parents to make (daycare, sitters, preschool, pediatricians, neighborhoods, classes …), and about those hearing stories and experiences (as you undoubtedly will) makes you feel less alone and less clueless.
Buy the hand sanitizer in bulk.
Yes, yes, you’re supposed to use soap and water, but this stuff in your bag, in your stroller, in your diaper bag is a city requisite for in between washings. It’s dirty here, yo.
Be Well Family is a collaboration with Wee Wander, a site dedicated to helping Philadelphia parents navigate their city. See more in this series here, or keep up with all of Wee Wander’s tips, guides and Philly related parenting help on Facebook.
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