I like to think that experience counts for something. What? I don't know. But in any case, here's some things I've learned over the years:
About New Babies:
* They don't tell you this, but you don't have to wear those awful hospital-issued nightgowns while you're recovering in the hospital (while you're in labor, probably). I bring my own pajamas and feel like a member of the human race instead of a lab rat.
* Ditto on the hospital-issued T-shirt for your baby -- you know, the ones that fold over your baby's hands so they don't scratch themselves but also can't find their fingers to suck either (My third child Michael was born a thumb-sucker. I knew this and kept uncovering his fingers. As soon as I was out of the way, the nurses would cover his fingers back up again. I think it's a compulsion.). I've learned to bring my own adorable outfits and dress my babies.
* You don't need a baby bath. The kitchen sink is just fine. Have you ever seen the nurses at the hospital bathe a baby? After the initial scrubdown, they just hold them under a faucet in what looks like a kitchen sink. The regular shower works just as good and a lot faster for cleaning a baby. Once that cord falls off, it's a simple thing to bring the baby into the shower and then hand her off to your husband when she's clean.
* Pacifiers are not the devil. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. Nipple confusion is a myth! Your baby will still nurse just fine even if she is given a pacifier, and you'll be thanking yourself over and over again the next two years. It's magic, I tell you. She'll be screaming in the car and happy one moment later, all because of a small piece of plastic.
* "Sleeping through the night" is actually a fluid term. Sometimes people are LYING when they say the baby sleeps through the night. When pressed, they'll admit that their baby wakes up once or twice "just to eat" then goes back to sleep. Well, as the mother of 6 children who woke up once or twice "just to eat" until they were at least 9 months old, I can tell you that is NOT sleeping through the night. I did have one friend whose seventh child came home from the hospital sleeping all the way through the night. When I asked in wonder how that happened, she said simply, "I think God just knew I had seven kids and decided to send me one that slept." I had 3 kids at the time. I just had my seventh. I waited in anticipation for that same blessing. I think I'm out of luck.
* The book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth is a must-read. Even if you don't follow his methods exactly (I use a pacifier with my children against his advice), the knowledge of how important sleep is to a happy infant is critical.
* Hooded Towels are awesome. I got some at my baby shower when I was 8 months pregnant with #1. I had never seen them before and managed a "thank you, what a useful gift" without having any clue how I'd possibly use such a thing. One month later, I found out. They're just the right size. In fact, my neighbor Meradith just brought us two more, and I'm so glad.
* Burp cloths are overrated. They aren't big enough for the real messes, they're never positioned right, and they're a pain. Since the baby spits up on her blanket and you have to wash it just as often as the burp cloth anyway, save yourself some grief and just use the blanket to wipe up spit-up.
* Take lots of pictures and write down everything you can. Your baby will grow up way too fast and you will forget things you thought you'd never forget.