Twelve Tips to Make Pregnancy and Baby’s First Year a Fairy Tale (Well…Sort Of!)

Princess Ivana (yes, she married an actual prince!) offers insights and advice to help expectant and new mothers give themselves and their babies the royal treatment. (Don’t worry…she may be royalty but she’s also a working mom who keeps it real!)

As soon as that plus sign first appears, your life is changed forever. The next twenty-one months (nine for pregnancy, twelve for the baby chaos that follows) are a whirlwind of adjustments, uncertainties, and expectations…with a really steep learning curve. You’re sure to get advice—on everything from birth plans to breastfeeding (or not) to baby gear—from everyone. (Grandma, the grocery clerk, and even that grumpy neighbor lady with the fifteen cats will weigh in!)

But what if you could get no-punches-pulled advice on what you really need to know from someone who’s not only done this a couple of times, but has done it in style? And what if that “someone” were a modern-day princess?

Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes says figuring out what you actually need to know during pregnancy and baby’s first year doesn’t have to be a royal pain. Her new book, A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, cuts through the noise and provides expectant and new moms with the essential information they need.

“Soon-to-be-moms don’t have to wade through heaps of info—much of it contradictory—to make the ‘right’ choices,” confirms Ivana, a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (Don’t Sweat It Media, Inc., April 2013, ISBN: 978-0-9888712-0-5, $15.95, “Get the epidural or go natural? Use the pacifier or not? Do homemade baby food or opt for jars?

“Enough already!” she adds. “What these moms want—and desperately need—is reliable information to help them make good choices for themselves and their babies. Take it from a real-life princess—no pregnancy is going to be storybook perfect and neither is that first crazy year. But if you’re armed with good, practical information, you can weave your own sweet, messy, chaotic but still wonderful fairy tale!” To view Ivana’s latest vlog on practical pearls of wisdom, click here.

Ivana comes from modest means and met her Prince Charming while on scholarship at Pepperdine. What’s more, she has worked with children for over twenty years, has a master’s degree in education, and is a digital strategy consultant. (She may be royalty but she’s also a busy working mom!) But Ivana’s most valuable source of education by far, she says, is her experience as a mother of two.

“During my first pregnancy, I felt overwhelmed by the tidal wave of education, baby products, medical research, and dos and don’ts that seemed to change from article to article, book to book,” she recalls. “I was skeptical, but I still worried I’d be a bad mother if I didn’t eat a certain food that was supposed to make my baby healthier, use a particular birth plan, or buy a product guaranteed to give my baby a higher IQ. And that’s when the idea for this book was born.”

Smart and funny, Ivana’s unique book shares clear answers and proven solutions that are compatible with busy modern lifestyles (including the aptly named Quick & Easy Tips). Drawing on the author’s personal experience; best practices from friends, family, and national mothers’ groups; and extensive research on parenting, health, and child development, A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year provides information on unpredictable hormones, cravings, nutrition, weight gain, nesting, baby food, breastfeeding, developmental milestones, and much more.

Here, Ivana shares twelve “pearls of wisdom” to keep in mind during your pregnancy and after your baby is born:

Treat nausea “gingerly.” For many women, nausea is a regular pregnancy companion—even beyond the first trimester. Keep nausea-relieving ginger snaps, ginger candy, low-sugar ginger ale, or ginger tea on hand. (Yogurt and carb-and-protein combos like cheese and crackers also fight morning sickness.)

To soothe pregnancy stress, go for a nature walk. Whether you’re stressing over your nursery set-up, in the throes of nesting, or being hijacked by hormones, getting in touch with nature can help. Cedars and pines as well as soil release compounds that act as calming agents and antidepressants. Plus, the exercise keeps you in shape and prepares you for labor.

You have cleavage. Use it. Your body is changing rapidly, and it’s easy to get hung up on new features you don’t like. Instead, focus on playing up pregnancy assets like your voluptuous new figure, your thicker hair, and your radiant skin.

Don’t skip the babymoon. Your life will probably begin to revolve around your baby even before he or she is born. By the third trimester, you’ll need to relax and reconnect with your partner. Even if it’s just a weekend away or a playful staycation, you’ll both welcome the respite from “all baby, all the time.”

Start a caffeine savings account. Put the money you would have spent at a coffee shop in savings. (This is just one of many creative ways to boost your budget before the big day.)

Nature is a genius. What we see as imperfections are perfect in their own way. There are a million and one things you can (and probably will) worry about as an expectant and new mother. For example, Ivana worried about her baby’s “lack of chin” until she learned that this feature allows better suction for breastfeeding. Stay informed and try not to jump to the worst possible conclusion.

No one talks about it, but expect relationship dysfunction. No matter how close and in sync you and your partner might be, you WILL experience muddled conversations, loss of intimacy/identity, miscommunication, and even deliberate withdrawal. This is normal and it will pass. Make time to reconnect (and get some sleep!).

Don’t fret if you don’t get the famous “bonding rush.” You may not fall completely in love with your baby the first moment you lay eyes on him or her. That’s okay—and more common than you might think. For some moms it takes a while. Be gentle. Give yourself time to adjust to all the changes. Cuddle skin-to-skin. It releases the bonding hormone oxytocin.

Your baby should sleep in your bedroom for the first six months. This is when the risk for SIDS is highest. Studies show that when babies hear the motions and breathing of the parents, it keeps them from falling into too deep a sleep and forgetting to breathe.

When babyproofing, use the toilet roll rule. By the time your baby becomes mobile, you’ll want to thoroughly check your home for choking hazards. A good way to measure: If an object is small enough to fit into an empty toilet roll, it’s small enough for a child’s windpipe.

Going back to work is HARD. It’s okay to feel upset. Even if you love your job, leaving your baby with someone else for the first time (whether that’s a daycare center, a relative, or a nanny) is an emotional experience. Make the transition easier wherever you can. A bit of planning and preparation will lead to smoother evenings after a long day at work, so that your time with baby can be focused and relaxed. A simple tip: Create a weekly meal plan and make some freezer meals ahead of time.

Embrace vulnerability—spitty work blouse and all. Most new moms wonder, “Will I be a good mom?” Too often we believe we are supposed to be marathon multitaskers—perfect Super Moms able to juggle home, family, and work, and all with a smile. Yes, the learning curve is steep and can sometimes feel overwhelming. Don’t stress when things don’t get done. Accept yourself and your badges of honor, burp rags and all. Dr. Brené Brown says vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear, and struggle for worthiness, but it’s also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. “What makes you vulnerable also makes you beautiful,” she says.

“Having an accessible go-to guide is a great way to give yourself the royal treatment during pregnancy and beyond,” Ivana concludes. “Remember, the most important choices you will make as a parent have little to do with money, and everything to do with educating yourself, trusting your instincts, and paying attention to your child’s signals.”


Ivana is the author of A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess , is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.