Once the indicator on that pregnancy test is positive, your life will never be the same. After the initial excitement, you may find that your head is spinning as you think of all you must do to prepare — everything from scheduling medical tests to signing up for childbirth classes and picking out a car seat. But getting ready doesn’t need to be overwhelming. With a little organization and advance planning, you’ll be equipped to handle it all — and able to enjoy this special time.
Learn about the birth process
The prospect of giving birth can be daunting, and you may be tempted to put it all out of your mind until it happens. But Glade Curtis, obstetrician and coauthor of Your Pregnancy Week by Week, advises against this strategy. “In my experience, women who learn about birth ahead of time are more active participants in their own birth process, which leads to better outcomes,” he says.
Consider taking a birth class to learn about the stages of labor, options for pain management, breathing techniques, and medical equipment that may be used during your delivery. It’s a good idea to start looking into classes midway through your pregnancy to make sure you can get into one you like – and have time to take it!
You can also learn about different ways of giving birth by watching videos of actual deliveries, including natural birth, water birth, birth with an epidural, delivery by c-section, and more.
Finding a Pediatrician
As a new parent, it’s important to find a pediatrician with whom you feel comfortable. If your child becomes ill, you want to have a good working relationship with a doctor you trust and respect, and who will be there to support you.
Begin by evaluating the pediatrician practices in your local area. Determine whether it matters to you if you have a male or female pediatrician. Be aware that while it’s all the same to infants, some children as they get older feel more at ease working with a doctor of the same sex. If possible, visit the offices and meet the physicians in person. Or find out if your hospital has a “Meet the Doctors” night attended by area pediatricians.
Since you’ll be visiting a pediatrician shortly after bringing your child home, don’t leave this task until the last minute. “You have nine months to plan. You should always choose your pediatrician beforehand,” says Dr. Bhutani.
Choosing a Pediatrician
The following are a few questions from the AAP to help you select a pediatrician:
- What are the office hours? Is emergency coverage available 24/7?
- Which hospital does the pediatrician use?
- Do they accept your insurance plan and how does the office process billing and claims?
- What are the qualifications of the pediatrician? Is he or she an AAP member (i.e., “FAAP,” a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics)?
Get on the same page as your partner
Just as it’s important talk about how your partner can help you during labor, be sure to discuss what you’ll need from each other during the newborn period. Differing expectations can create big conflicts, so try to work this out ahead of time as best you can.
Don’t assume that your partner knows how much your new baby will turn your lives upside down. Talk about how you’ll divide baby and household duties. And educate your partner about less obvious things, like how to support you in breastfeeding.
You can also make life easier by hashing out some big decisions now, like what to name your baby, whether to circumcise, how you’ll feed your baby, and whether to have a religious ceremony (such as a baptism or baby naming).
Talk to veteran moms
There are all kinds of things about new motherhood that, for whatever reason, sometimes remain taboo subjects – leaking pee, the baby blues, and diminished sex drive, just to name a few.
You won’t have the same experience as your friends, but finding out about certain things ahead of time can reduce the shock factor. So ask your mom friends for the real deal.
Prepare older siblings – and pets
The new baby may rock your older children’s world even more than yours. Fortunately, your family has several months to get used to the idea, and there are things you can do to set the stage for a new brother or sister.
Many parents use a baby doll to help their child understand what’s coming. Older toddlers or preschoolers enjoy the pretend play, and when they see you diapering or feeding the new baby later, it will seem familiar.
Some hospitals have sibling classes, where older kids can learn about babies – why they cry, how to keep them safe, and why they sleep so much. “Kids really love this. It makes them feel part of the family,” says childbirth educator Randall.
As your due date approaches, make sure you’ve lined up someone to care for your children during the birth and afterward.
Pets also benefit from special pre-baby preparation. Local trainers may offer classes, or you can turn to books, articles, or videos for tips on getting your pet used to the new baby. And consider whether you’ll need to make arrangements with a pet sitter or dog walker for when you’re away from home.
Line up help for after the birth
In those first postpartum weeks, extra help is essential. “Moms who get help will be better equipped to help their babies, which is infinitely more valuable than trying to be some superhero mom who does it all herself,” says O’Laughlin.
If you’re lucky enough to have a relative who can help you, consider having a sit-down before the baby arrives to discuss specifics. “Talking about it ahead of time can save a lot of headaches,” says Randall. Grandma may to want swoop in and take care of that cute bundle of joy, but Randall says it’s more important for the parents to figure out baby care together.
Know what to do when labor starts
Long before the first contractions hit, you’ll want a firm plan in place about who to call, where to go, and when to leave.
Your healthcare provider should give you a clear set of guidelines on what to do when you go into labor, like when to call and when to head for the hospital or birth center (or when to call the midwife if you’re planning a home birth). Decide who will accompany you, and have a few back-ups just in case.
Plan the route you’ll take ahead of time, including where to park and which entrance to use when it’s time to check yourself in. You can get a handle on these logistics by taking a tour of your hospital or birth center. On the tour, you’ll also learn about basic policies and see the labor rooms and nursery.
If you can, register ahead of time to get the paperwork out of the way. That way when labor rolls around, you’ll be able to bypass the bureaucracy and breeze right in.
Decide who will attend the birth
This is a very personal decision. Some moms like a full room, including their partner, a doula, a friend or two, their mom, and their mother-in-law present to witness the miracle of birth and provide support. (If you fall into this category, check with the hospital or birthing center to see how many people are allowed.)
Pack your bag
The last thing you’ll want to worry about when labor starts is whether you have a toothbrush packed. Ease your mind by getting your bag together a few weeks before your due date. Make a comprehensive packing list for the hospital or birth center or, if you know you’re having a c-section, a more specific c-section list.
Stock up on the essentials (but don’t go overboard)
A new baby requires an installed car seat, diapers, wipes, some clothing, and a safe place to sleep. Add bottles if you’re bottle feeding, formula if you’re formula feeding, and nursing bras and pads if you’re breastfeeding (though some nursing moms do just fine without them).
Don’t feel pressured to have every baby product you’ll ever need ready to go. You can wait on some items, and getting preoccupied with having all the right stuff can detract from more important emotional preparation. Talk to mom friends or other BabyCenter moms about which items they really found useful, and don’t worry about the rest.