You are 34 Weeks and 4 Days 38 days to go…

Inside the uterus your baby is already practicing the suckling reflex, which will enable him to feed when he’s born.

Your baby today

This 2D ultrasound has captured the moment that the baby is sucking his thumb. Your baby is gradually learning to coordinate this complex activity with breathing movements even though surrounded not by air but by the amniotic fluid.

The suckling reflex is present earlier in pregnancy but it is known from assessing premature babies that it’s usually not until around this time that the baby is strong and coordinated enough to suckle with ease. Your baby regularly practices suckling and this, in combination with the rooting reflex, will enable your baby to feed.

After birth you will see the rooting reflex as your baby turns toward anything that strokes his cheek. The head will turn, and your baby will move his mouth in a series of gradually diminishing circles until the object is found. Once feeding is well established, at about four months, the rooting reflex disappears. From this point on, your baby has much more control over the process, able to turn and directly latch on to the nipple.

While in the uterus, there is no chance of your baby accidentally swallowing amniotic fluid into the lungs. The lungs are already filled with fluid and the high pressure of this, together with your baby’s larynx, keeps out amniotic fluid. After birth, babies have a series of reflexes designed to keep breathing and drinking separate. To help with feeding, babies always breathe through their nose.

… Doctor
Q: My mom has offered to stay with us after the birth. Is this a good idea?
A: Some couples prefer to get to know their baby on their own, taking the first few days to settle in and get used to the idea of being new parents. It’s also good to try to do things your own way when it comes to caring for your newborn. Having said that, you’ll find an extra pair of hands invaluable.

It really depends on your relationship with your mom: if it’s good and you feel she’ll be supportive, then it’s more likely to help than hinder. However, gently establish some guidelines—namely that while you welcome her help, you’d like to do things your way and have space to bond with your baby. Encourage your mom toward helping around the house, rather than just with the baby, not least so that your partner doesn’t feel excluded at this important time.

Are you ready for the baby?

You may find that you soon become too tired to shop. Try to buy items gradually, but there are certain things that it’s worthwhile purchasing by around 37 weeks, just in case you go into labor. First, buy those small baby-care items you’ll need right after the birth (see Buying for your baby) plus a car seat and a Moses basket or crib. You won’t need a carriage immediately after the birth.

If going out shopping becomes difficult in late pregnancy, consider buying some items online.

By this stage of pregnancy you may not feel up to spending hours shopping for equipment and clothes for the baby. You can save a lot of time by getting catalogues from the major stores and making some preliminary decisions from the comfort of your armchair.

You are 34 Weeks and 5 Days 37 days to go…

You’ll probably find yourself analyzing every ache and pain in these final weeks of your pregnancy.

Your baby today

This is an MRI image showing a cross section of the entire pregnancy. The mother’s spine is on the left of the image, and the baby is lying head down within the pelvis. An MRI is rarely needed during pregnancy, but if recommended, it is entirely safe.

By this stage of pregnancy every time you get a twinge you may worry that it’s the onset of labor. This is a normal concern, but try to remember that, even though you’re heavily pregnant, most aches and pains are still likely to be due to constipation, or stretching ligaments, rather than labor.

You may begin to have Braxton Hicks’ contractions; these practice contractions occur as the uterus tightens as a warm up for labor. They also help direct more blood to the placenta in the final weeks of pregnancy. Some women are unaware of them, while for others they can be quite uncomfortable. Relaxing the uterine muscles by changing your position, walking around, or taking a warm bath can help.

If you’re unsure whether the pains you’re having are Braxton Hicks’, always consult your doctor.

… Mom
Q: What will I need if I’m planning to breast-feed?
A: I found all the following items really useful when I was breast-feeding my baby:
  • Nursing bras that can be unclipped at the front (see image) or have zip-open cups. Get properly fitted (bearing in mind that your breasts will be bigger once your milk comes in). You’ll need at least two nursing bras and, thankfully, it’s possible to get some attractive styles.

  • Nipple cream: this is soothing if you have cracked nipples.

  • Breast pads (disposable or washable). Slip them inside your bra to absorb any leaks between feedings. Alternatively, breast shells slot inside your bra to catch any excess milk.

  • Breast-feeding pillow: a V-shaped pillow isn’t essential, but it will help you and your baby to get comfortable.

  • Burp cloths to catch dribbles.

  • Breast pump and bottles or bags for storing expressed milk.


If you’ve decided to breast-feed, it’s the best choice for you and your baby . However, it doesn’t always come naturally so make it easier by being prepared:

  • Read all about it. If you’re expecting some of the discomforts, they won’t come as such a shock and you may be able to take measures to prevent them. It can help, for example, to know how to latch on your baby correctly .

  • Address any concerns before your baby is born: ask your doctor, or friends who’ve breast-fed.

  • See how it’s done by visiting a breast-feeding group (ask your doctor to recommend one). You may have been concerned about breast-feeding in public, so it can help to see how discreetly it can be done. You could also ask a friend to let you watch her position and breast-feed her baby.

  • Look for a lactation consultant—available from your doctor, or maybe a friend can recommend one, or contact the La Leche League for a list of counselors.

Your Rights and Benefits

Having a baby is a huge life change and many new parents find time and money are in short supply. Maternity and paternity leave and pay can help ease the transition, so it’s worth finding out what you’re entitled to.

Finding out about your maternity benefits can give you peace of mind that you will have some security during your maternity leave.

Your rights

When you have a baby, you can take up to 12 weeks off work during a 12-month period and retain your right to return to the same, or an equivalent, position, including equivalent pay and benefits, if you are eligible to be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees eligible for FMLA have worked for their employers for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. Additionally, the employee must work within 75 miles of where 50 or more employees work. FMLA leave is guaranteed unpaid, but employers or employees can opt to use paid vacation or sick time, when this is allowed by an employer. Both men and women are eligible for FMLA leave, which applies to private employees, all state and local government employees, and some federal employees. Your employer is required to continue your health insurance coverage during your FMLA leave. If you’ve been paying a portion of your health insurance premiums, you’ll have to continue doing so during your FMLA leave. If you don’t want to take all 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a row, you may be able to break it down into shorter blocks of time, or even a shorter work week or work day. When possible, employees who are planning to use FMLA leave are required to tell their employers 30 days before the leave would begin. But if you have pregnancy complications that require you to stop working before the baby is born, the 12 weeks of FMLA leave would begin then.

Maternity pay

According to 2008 data from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 9 percent of all workers were eligible for paid family leave. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which analyzed 2006 rankings for America’s 100 most family-friendly employers, 93 percent of those best-ranked companies provide at least one week of paid maternity leave, but 52 percent of the companies pay for six weeks or less. Every company has its own policies for maternity leave. If an employer does provide compensation, the amount you’ll receive may depend on what you earn and how long you’ve been working for the company. The best way to find out what you may be eligible for is to meet with a human resources representative or read the employee handbook. You may be allowed to use paid sick time, vacation days, or the company’s short-term disability coverage, in addition to paid leave.

Dads at home

Far fewer employers offer paid paternity leave to new dads than paid maternity leave to new moms. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, only 50 percent of 2006’s 100 most family-friendly companies offered paid paternity leave. Of them 35 percent paid for one to two weeks leave, and no companies paid for more than six weeks of paternity leave. Dads who want to be home for a newborn’s earliest days may be able to use paid vacation or sick leave, or they can take FMLA leave.

Going back to work

Before returning to work, consider the following:

  • Will life as a working mom be easier if you switch to a flexible working arrangement, such as a job share or part-time work? Give your employer ample time to consider any request.

  • If you’re breast-feeding, will your employer provide a private, clean, and safe room for you to express milk? If not, would it be possible for you to pump inside a bathroom stall?

  • You’re entitled to time off (which may be unpaid) for family emergencies.

  • You may be eligible for working and child tax credits, which can help with child-care costs.


Most states (47 of them) have laws that protect a mother’s basic right to breast-feed her child. But women still experience negative reactions when they nurse in public. Nearly half of the states (21 of them) have laws that protect women’s rights related to lactation and employment. Being able to pump at work prolongs the amount of time that you can breast-feed your baby, so these protections are important to breast-feeding moms. According to La Leche league, during an 8-hour workday, many moms find time to pump three times a day: during morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks. Since time is a premium at work, many moms get by double-pumping with electric pumps, which should supply enough milk for the following day. La Leche League recommends that working moms should breast-feed their babies when they are at home mornings, evenings, and weekends.

Child care

If you will be returning to work, you will likely need child care for your baby. It is wise to look into your child care options while you are still pregnant, because it may take time to make a decision and some programs may have long waiting lists. Contact a local child-care resource and referral center for recommendations.

Some employers offer flexible spending accounts to employees that reduce salary by a set amount to pay for tax-preferred expenditures like day care. You won’t pay taxes on the set-aside funds. Check with your human resources department to see if a flexible spending account is available to you.

Maternity leave extras
Paid leave: the facts

Some states have passed laws that offer new parents paid maternity leave and, in many cases, paternity leave. California was the first state to pass such legislation. Through its Paid Family Leave Program, employees who participate in the State Disability Insurance Program can receive up to six weeks of partial pay for time off within the first year of their baby’s birth. Two other states, Washington and New Jersey, have passed similar legislation, and other states may follow suit. Find out about the laws in your state.

Paid leave: the facts
Better breaks for parents abroad

A recent report from researchers at Harvard University and McGill University found the US lags behind most other countries when it comes to paid maternity and paternity leave. Out of 173 countries studied, 168 offered working women guaranteed paid maternity leave. The US was one of only five countries that did not, along with Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. Sixty-six countries offered men paid paternity leave; the US did not.

Work absences
Q: If I have to take a pregnancy-related absence, will my employer hold my job for me or will I be left without my job when I’m ready to return to work?
A: According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence for the same length of time that jobs are held open for employees on sick leave or on disability leave.
Q: What happens to my eligibility for a bonus if I go on FMLA leave?
A: You’ll still be eligible. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires an employee to be given her same, or an equivalent, position, and that would include eligibility for bonuses, including perfect attendance bonuses. If you don’t miss days before or after your FMLA leave, you will still be eligible for that bonus.
Q: I’ve just been offered my dream job, but I’m eight weeks’ pregnant. Should I keep mum or should I say something to my new employer?
A: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that employers cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy or a because of a pregnancy-related condition.
What you’re entitled to
Baby and child benefits

Your baby will need health insurance coverage just like you do. When your baby is born, you’ll need to add him to your health insurance plan so he can get the coverage he will need. Most health insurance companies make the process easy. Typically you’ll just need to call your health plan and tell them your baby’s name and the date of your baby’s birth, and your baby be automatically added to your plan. For most insurance plans, you will have 30 days to give notice of the birth. From then on, your baby will be covered for doctor appointments in the same way that you are.

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