In With the New: Kick Off 2017 With These Fresh Starts
Even if you don’t fall into the “resolutions-making” camp, the fact is baby’s coming, and that means major changes are headed your way. Making a few thoughtful choices now will lead to way less worry down the road.
Ditch these bad habits
Indulging in late-night screen time
Step away from that episode of Stranger Things! Whether it’s binge streaming your favorite new series or getting caught in a loop of cat videos on YouTube, screen time before bedtime can make it harder for you to get to sleep. And since baby will be waking you up every couple of hours for a feeding pretty soon, now’s the time to get the best rest you can, so make going screen free an hour or two before shut-eye a habit.
Blowing off exercise
Of course you want to shed those maternity pounds once baby arrives, but the real benefits of exercise far outweigh losing the baby weight. The serotonin boost that comes from working out can help you fight postpartum depression, which sets in for around 14 percent of new moms each year. Regular workouts can also boost lagging energy, improve your sex drive and help you make healthier food choices. Find something you enjoy doing and you’ll be more likely to stick with it — even a 20-minute walk with a fellow mom can make you feel refreshed.
Keeping toxic friendships
News flash: Your precious time to socialize is going to slip well below any prebaby level. And what you’ll need right after baby arrives is support and love, not endless sessions of negativity, complaining or being let down. You know whom we’re talking about! Save your limited social time and energy for the true friends who make you feel happy about life, and start shedding the toxic relationships bringing you down.
Put safety first
Purge plastics with BPA
Research over the years has raised concerns over the harmful effects of continued exposure to BPA (bisphenol A), an industrial chemical found in things like plastic water bottles or the coating on the inside of cans. According to the Mayo Clinic, BPA can impact the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, and can even dictate behavior in infants and children. To reduce exposure, limit the amount of canned foods you ingest (since most cans are lined with a resin containing BPA), seek out BPA-free plastics and use glass food storage containers.
Exposure to other harmful chemicals such as di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), which are in common household products, have been shown to reduce IQ points in infants. Researchers recommend that pregnant women limit exposure by not microwaving food in plastics, avoiding scented products like air fresheners, ditching dryer sheets and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6 or 7.
Get rid of expired medication
Most medications, believe it or not, can be taken for years beyond their expiration date. But it’s important to rotate out lifesaving meds like EpiPens, insulin and other chronic health medications, which can lose their potency. Check here for a list of meds that need to be absolutely up to the minute, then schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to review and renew prescriptions that you take regularly.
Toss those toxic cleaning supplies
Don’t forget that cabinet under the kitchen sink! According to the American Lung Association, dangerous toxins can be found lurking in everything from common dishwashing liquids to furniture polish, and they can lead to chronic health problems such as respiratory issues, headaches and allergic reactions. The good news? All you need to clean most of your house are two inexpensive kitchen “cleaners.” Distilled white vinegar can make chrome shine and clean windows, while baking soda, a gentle abrasive, can lift grime from showers and deodorize everything from shoes to cat litter. Put the two together and you can even unclog sinks in place of highly toxic clog removers.
Make a family fire-safety plan
Odds are you’ve never conducted a fire drill in your own home, but it’s a smart idea, especially with a new little family member to protect. Visit the National Fire Protection Association’s site to find up-to-date info on fire safety, map out escape routes for your home’s layout and get talking points for young children. Check that your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are working and up to code, or buy them if you don’t already have them. Finally, change your alarm batteries twice a year (a great way to remember is to do it when you change your clocks).
Prep the nest
Before you know it, baby’s going to be creeping and crawling around your home. It’s definitely not too early to consider removing or altering pieces that could present a hazard, such as sharp-edged or glass-topped tables. Make sure large and heavy items, like television sets or freestanding bookshelves, are secure and can’t be tipped over. Cover electrical outlets, attach closures to kitchen cabinets and put padding on sharp corners where needed, like on wooden furniture. In addition to protecting baby from furniture, you may want to protect your furniture from baby…and his or her pee, poop and spit-up. Slipcovers to the rescue!
Improve the air quality
Before bringing baby—and his or her tiny lungs—into your home, clean up the air. Deep cleaning (or even replacing, if necessary) old rugs, carpets and drapes will give you a head start on removing particles and dust mites that can be irritating to infants. You may also want to consider investing in a good HEPA filter vacuum and air filter (especially if baby turns out to have allergies) as well as a simple humidifier for the nursery.
Upgrade your laundry appliances
Another line of defense against allergies and dust? Newer washers, certified by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation, are recommended for their allergiene settings. It might be worth the investment if your current machines don’t have them. Bonus: Since they’re more energy efficient, they can help reduce the utility bill too. You should also switch to a non-scented detergent that’s better for baby’s sensitive skin, and get rid of those harmful dryer sheets we mentioned.
Fix your finances
Save for college while you spend for baby
There are lots of purchases in your future—from diapers to car seats—but you can put that spending to good use when you sign up for Upromise by Sallie Mae. This popular savings tool allows you to earn cash back for college. Just shop for everyday items at more than 850 retailers and restaurants and a percentage of your purchase will funnel into your Upromise account. Even better, you can invite baby’s grandparents or aunts and uncles to link to your account and double or triple your earnings. Download Sallie Mae’s app, College Ahead, to access other tools too, like college planning calculators and loan planners.
Another way to save while you spend? Make sure your credit cards are working as hard as they can for you. Check out NerdWallet.com’s list of the best cash back cards, so every baby board book you buy now is one step closer to funding those textbooks later.
Take control of your portfolio
With baby on the way, now’s the time to get your finances in check. Figure out the areas you need to focus on most, whether it’s opening a savings account or whittling down debt, and make a plan. LearnVest, a financial planning company, is a fantastic starting point. Its helpful app lets you build a custom budget, set financial goals to work toward and securely link your accounts. They also have a one-on-one paid service that can match you with a certified financial planner whom you’ll work with month by month. DailyWorth.com and GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds.com are also great resources with lots of informative and fun stories to empower your financial progress.
Manage mindless spending
From grabbing that $2 cookie at the register to popping into the local coffee shop for a $4 morning latte we’re all guilty of these habits. But those small purchases here and there add up over a year a lot faster than you think. Curb that behavior with a little advanced planning (yes, you can get up 10 minutes earlier to make your coffee at home) and some mindful management. LearnVest’s app also has a great tool for keeping track of daily purchases, so you can see where you’re spending the most and then cut back accordingly.