May Photography Contest

We love to show off the work of our amazingly talented photographers. Take a minute to enjoy the slideshow below. Check back each month to see more unique and beautiful photos. Congratulations to all winners and honorable mentions!

To get your own Bella Life or Bella Baby photos, contact us to see if we are in your area!

The Go Bag: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

Everyone tells expectant mothers to have their hospital bags, or go bags, packed well before the baby is expected to arrive. There are cautionary tales of mothers who went into labor at 36 weeks and had to throw together a go bag as they wrestled with contractions. In those tales, the expectant mother inevitably leaves something important at home. Then there are joyous stories of mothers whose pre-packed hospital bags were their saving grace. And though advice-givers are quick to tell expectant mothers to pack the go bag, they aren’t always as quick to detail what all should be included.

As with many things in pregnancy, some items are necessary for every mother while other items are up to the discretion of the individual. We’ve compiled a comprehensive go bag packing list so that you can focus on other facets of birth preparation rather than worrying about what to bring to the hospital

Here are our suggestions for packing the ultimate hospital bag

When packing your go bag, it helps to think about the birthing process chronologically. What items will you need at each stage? Some items are non-negotiable, no matter your birth preferences. Start your packing with those must-haves. Then customize from there.

Stage One: Hospital Arrival

Upon hospital arrival, you may need to provide insurance and medical information, even if you’ve pre-registered.  Gather your documents in a folder or binder.

Make sure you have the following:

  • Your health insurance card – Labor is not the time to be searching for the card at the bottom of your purse
  • Medical records – You want to be sure the hospital has the full context of your health and your pregnancy
  • Your birth plan – If you took the time to create a birth plan, you’ll want to have it on hand during childbirth
  • Pediatrician contact information – Your baby will be the pediatrician’s newest patient! The hospital will want to notify the pediatrician when your newborn arrives

Stage Two: Labor and Delivery

The length of labor varies greatly among women and is generally longer for new mothers. The goal here is to make sure you’ve packed everything required to make labor as comfortable as possible. Remember that having a baby is messy. Anything you pack has a high likelihood of coming home in less than perfect condition.

Add these items to your go bag:

  • Toiletries – Pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, and deodorant. Moisturizing toiletries like lotion and chapstick are particularly important in a hospital environment. Fill your toiletry bag with whatever else you need to freshen up during a long labor or wash up after deliver
  • A robe or nightgown – Hospital gowns don’t provide much warmth or comfort. Include an outfit that will make you feel at home
  • Socks and underwear – Over prepare. Pack more than you think you will need because there’s no telling where the journey of childbirth will take you. Many moms prefer non-skid socks for labor so they are free to walk around without fear of slipping
  • Hair ties – Hair ties have a habit of going missing when they’re most needed. Pack extra hair ties to ensure you’ll have something to keep your hair out of your face
  • Tech necessities – Your phone charger. Ear buds. They’re both so small, but forgetting them or their counterparts adds a lot of unnecessary stress. Consider buying backups that live in your hospital bag
  • Distractions – What will make labor more enjoyable for you? A beach read? A celebrity gossip magazine? Your favorite podcast or album? Whatever distraction works for you, add it to your go bag

Stage Three: Headed Home

It bears repeating: every pregnancy, delivery, and recovery is different. Some parents bring their child home the next day while others spend several days in the hospital. Eventually, you will go home.

And when you do, you’ll be glad you packed these items in your hospital bag:

  • A change of clothes – Set aside a particularly comfortable outfit to come home in. Your body will still be recovering from the delivery, so avoid anything too restrictive
  • Maternity bras – Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the arrival of your newborn sparks physiological changes.Your body will thank you for packing a maternity bra
  • Baby’s first outfit – Choose a special outfit to bring your little one home in. Pay attention to the weather. Depending on the season, the outfit might need to include a hat, a coat, and extra warm socks
  • Car seat – A car seat won’t fit into your go bag, but it is a necessity. If space allows, install the car seat well before your due date to avoid extra stress later
  • Baby blanket – The weather plays a role in this item as well. Pack an appropriately weighted blanket that can provide relief from the sun and protect your newborn from the cold

By now, your go bag is well equipped with the basics. Add special touches that tailor the hospital bag to your own needs. Do you think there’s an item that belongs in everyone’s go bag? Share with us in the comments below.

So Your Wife is Expecting: A Guide for Expectant Fathers

What was your gut reaction the moment your wife found out she was pregnant? A huge smile. Anxious butterflies. Or maybe a mix of both. Whether your new baby is your first child or your fifth, preparing for your newest family member takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll.

There are thousands of resources for expectant mothers, but resources for expectant fathers are few and far between. Dads need advice, too. You have to navigate your own issues while also trying to support and encourage your pregnant wife or life partner. We don’t want you to go it alone.

So Your Wife is Expecting: A Guide for Expectant Fathers

Here are seven things that every expectant father should know

Your hormones are changing, too

The media makes it exceedingly clear that expectant mothers have changing hormones that cause mood swings, strange cravings, and physical changes. People don’t talk about the fact that expectant fathers experience changes in their hormones as well. A University of Michigan study observed a decrease in the testosterone levels of expectant fathers. This hormone change works in your favor, helping you better care for your wife and newborn.

Your support matters

It’s true that your body is not the one growing and sustaining a new life, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a role in the pregnancy process. Use these nine months to practice supporting your pregnant wife. Having a baby, or adding another child to your family, will change your partnership. Lay the groundwork for a strong support system now. Be ready with crackers and seltzer when morning sickness turns into all-day sickness.  Change your schedule to accommodate your wife’s needs. Offer a shoulder to cry on and a huge hug when pregnancy just feels too overwhelming. Stock the fridge with your wife’s latest cravings.  Preparing for a successful partnership starts today.

It’s okay to feel nervous

Being a supportive partner does not mean that you have to have it all together. It’s normal for expectant fathers to feel anxiety throughout the pregnancy. From concerns about being able to afford a child to worries about the health of your pregnant wife, there are many topics that can be a cause for concern. That’s okay. Acknowledge those anxieties and address them as needed. Whatever you do, don’t ignore them. Pent up anxiety is not productive for you, your wife, or your new baby.

Be in the know

Your pregnant wife’s body is changing on a daily basis. You’ll be a better partner if you have a general idea of what’s going on. Download an app or subscribe to an email newsletter that sends regular updates. They will provide you with the insights that you need to be empathetic towards your partner. These resources are a great starting point:

  • Pregnancy+ – Serves as your guide through pregnancy with daily updates and advice
  • Glow Nurture – This one allows you to receive updates based on the data your wife inputs, making it even easier to anticipate her needs
  • Baby Center –  Get weekly pregnancy updates delivered to your inbox each week

Take care of yourself

The health of your wife feels like it take priority now, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. It seems easier in the moment to skip the gym or to order greasy takeout three nights a week. In the long run, healthier choices pay off. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits will help you combat anxiety, boost your mood, and give you the energy to love your growing family well. Build positive lifestyle practices now so that you can be around for the births of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Find your community

There are some questions that only people who have been there can answer. Find the people whose answers you trust. This can be internet experts, friends, relatives, online communities or a mix of all four. For questions such as Did your wife do this when she was pregnant? or Which crib is the easiest to put together?, knowing where to go is half the battle. These resources can guide you as you continue in your parenting journey. Here are a few online resources that expectant fathers will appreciate:

  • What to Expect – You’ll find resources for expectant mothers and expectant fathers alike
  • Mr. Dad – Mr. Dad feels like getting advice from your older, wiser friend
  • Parenting.com – Parenting has a section just for fathers that will offer advice for years to come

So Your Wife is Expecting: A Guide for Expectant Fathers

Reflect

Take time to think about what fatherhood means to you. If you already have children, reflect on any changes you would like to make to improve the experience of your newest addition. Start the process on your own, and then have open and honest conversations with your wife. These nine months give you time to align your thoughts as a team so there are fewer ideological surprises when the new baby arrives.

Hopefully you feel more equipped for your journey as an expectant father. Is there a piece of advice that has helped you? Share it in the comments below.

The Big Reveal: Eight of Our Favorite Gender Reveals

Baby bump painting. Labor pain simulation for dads-to-be. Eating your placenta. Pregnancy trends come and go, but the gender reveal looks like it’s here to stay! Gender reveals from both friends and celebrities are filling up our social media feeds. They range from sweet to hilarious to over-the-top to completely cringeworthy.

Gender reveals offer another opportunity to pause and celebrate the fact that you are bringing a new life into the world. The idea of sharing that joy with others is appealing to some and a little off-putting to others. Thankfully, you can structure a gender reveal so that it suits you and your partner’s preferences. We don’t have all the answers, but these questions will help spark a conversation between you and your partner.

The Big Reveal: Eight of Our Favorite Gender Reveals

Is this a trend you want to participate in?

There are enough hard and fast rules when it comes to pregnancy. Don’t subject yourself to a gender reveal just because it’s trending. You lose the joy of the moment when it’s forced. It’s okay to opt out.

Do you want a public or a private moment?

Not everyone likes surprises. While the gender reveal will always have an element of surprise, you can decide whether to share that initial moment with others. Some couples choose to view the results first rather than learn the news with their loved ones during the public gender reveal. Other choose to do a festive reveal just for the two of them.

How do you want to share the news?

It’s never been easier to spread the word to loved ones near and far. Consider your options. Will you host a gender reveal party? Will you share a video or post a photo? Maybe you’ll do a combination of all three. It helps to think about the medium as you plan your ideal gender reveal.

We’ve gathered our favorite gender reveal ideas for expectant parents

The ideas are divided into engaging in-person activities and eye-catching photo ops. See the ideas below and take your pick.

In-person activities:

Cake

The cake is the classic gender reveal instrument. It’s perfect for parents who want to be surprised along with family and friends. Give the envelope to a trusted bakery, and you’re ready for a sweet surprise. There are variations of the cake reveal ranging from dyeing the inside of the cake blue or pink to having colored candy pour out of the cake when cut.

The Big Reveal: Eight of Our Favorite Gender Reveals

Piñata

Get all of your guests excited with a gender reveal piñata. The suspense builds as each person takes a turn. Fill the piñata with candy, confetti, or a mix of both to create a festive celebration when the piñata finally bursts.

Scratch off

The gender of your little one is really up to chance. Why not play with that idea? Take bets from family and friends on whether your new baby will be a boy or a girl. Then hand out scratch offs and let everyone discover the news together.

Silly string

This one is for families who aren’t afraid to get a little messy. Buy cans of blue or pink silly string. Then cover up the label. Crank up some celebratory tunes, and have all your loved ones shoot the strings at the same time. Nothing highlights good news like a burst of silly string!

Photo Opportunities:

Gum

Nothing brings out your inner child like blowing a gigantic bubble. Buy a pack of gum in the right color, and snap a photo of you and your partner blowing the biggest bubble possible. (You might want to use a few pieces of gum for maximum wow factor.) Then share the shot, and the news, with your favorite people!

Powder or smoke

There’s a reason why colored powders and smoke bombs are so trendy. The hues look amazing on camera, and the process of getting the photo is an all around good time. Take this opportunity to share a carefree bonding moment with your partner in the midst of the busyness of pregnancy.

Sign or banner

This classic gender reveal will never go out of style. It’s easy to make a sign or banner that fits your family’s style. Whether you write a punny note, a heartfelt message, or a simple “coming soon”, your loved ones will get the message as if they were hearing it directly from you.

Holding baby shoes

The baby shoe photo is a visual representation of the new family. Buy an adorable pair of shoes, and have the members of your family hold them together. Include your other children, and even your pets, to create a true keepsake.

The gender reveal is an opportunity  to celebrate your new baby with the people you love most. Be sure to make it your own! Share your gender reveal stories, ideas, and advice in the comments below.

What are the Best Foods for New Moms and Newborns?

The days and weeks after coming home with your newborn are a blur filled with early mornings, sleepless nights, and a never-ending flow of new experiences. Energy is hard to come by. Sometimes it feels like you’re just running on fumes. Add in the pressure to return to your pre-baby weight, and you have a recipe for making counterproductive food choices.

It’s easy to lean on quick energy sources like sugar or caffeine to get you through the day or to restrict food intake in attempts to lose weight. Neither option is a long-term solution. As a new mother, fueling your body with nourishing foods should be a top priority. You’ll be better equipped to care for your newborn when you’re eating well. And, truth be told, you might lose a couple of pounds in the process.

Incorporate these foods into your post-pregnancy diet

Any food a new mom eats should always be two things: convenient and energy boosting. In the short-term, you don’t have time to make an elaborate meal. In the long term, you don’t have time for the crash that comes after using quick fix energy sources. These foods should be staples for every new mother.

Share this list with any friends and family members who would like to show love by bringing a dish to your home. You’ll receive fewer casseroles and more foods that will help you thrive with your newborn.

Whole Grains

New moms need a slow-burning energy source, folic acid, and fiber. Whole grains provide all of that and then some. There’s a common misconception that new moms don’t need to worry about folic acid intake once the baby is born. That’s not the case! Stock your fridge with whole grains fortified with folic acid and fiber. For a satisfying and energizing snack, pair your grains with a protein. Toast and almond butter. Ancient grain granola and nuts. There are possibilities to fit every taste preference.

What are the Best Foods for New Moms and Newborns?

Beans

Post-partum constipation is a common occurrence. Help regulate your digestive system by eating legumes and other fiber-filled foods, like fruits and vegetables. In the colder months, whip up a one-pot bean soup. Try a cold bean salad for the warmer months.

Salmon

Salmon is the superhero of the post-pregnancy diet, especially if you’re choosing to breastfeed. It advances the health of both new moms and newborns alike. It’s high omega-3 fatty acid content promotes brain development in the baby while promoting heart health in the mother. It is important to note that salmon intake should be limited to 12 ounces per week in order to manage mercury levels. There are plenty of salmon recipes that take less than 15 minutes of preparation, so you can enjoy the health benefits without sacrificing precious time.

What are the Best Foods for New Moms and Newborns?

Oranges

Oranges are packed with Vitamin C, a vitamin that is especially important for moms who nurse. Vitamin C should be part of your post-pregnancy diet, regardless of your feeding preferences. It counteracts the negative effects of stress on the immune system, promotes heart health, and even keeps your skin looking young. Eat an orange by itself or add it chopped to your favorite salad.

Lean beef

Low energy levels are often related iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies. The good news is that lean beef will give you a boost in both while also satisfying your appetite. You can incorporate lean beef into any meal. Add it to a breakfast skillet. Top a salad with it, or treat yourself to a juicy burger.

Greek Yogurt

Calcium intake is important at all ages and stages of life, and new moms should make sure they’re getting the recommended daily intake. Greek yogurt has plenty of calcium to strengthen both your bones and the bones of your new baby. As a bonus, it has very low lactose content, so it should not agitate any sensitivities your newborn may be developing. Opt for a Greek yogurt bowl for breakfast, or use it as a replacement for sour cream at lunch and dinner.

Water

While water isn’t technically a food, it’s critically important that you stay hydrated. Water aids in digestion, provides energy, and even aids in weight loss. Try to always have glass of water on hand. If plain water starts to bore you, infuse it with fruits and vegetables. You’ll enjoy new flavor combinations while still enjoying the benefits of drinking water.

What are the Best Foods for New Moms and Newborns?

Be really aware of how foods affect you post-pregnancy as well as how they affect your newborn. Some of these superfoods might not work for your body. If you’re breastfeeding, you may find that your baby reacts poorly after you eat certain foods. Stay observant, and build a post-pregnancy diet that benefits both you and your new baby.

What convenient and energy boosting foods are staples of your post-pregnancy diet? How do you eat well as a new mom? Share your tips in the comments below.