Becoming a parent for the first time is exciting, but it can also seem a little overwhelming. There are quite a few things you need to know about how to prepare for a baby and a million different resources on what you should or shouldn’t do. We can help guide you through the process to make the transition a little smoother for your baby’s arrival.
If only times were as simple as they were in the ‘good old days’. Maybe our grandparents didn’t have the to-do list new moms have now, but there are a lot of pros to being well-prepared. Advance planning and taking necessary measures help to ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and safety for your new bundle of joy. There are many ways to help make your pregnancy a little more comfortable too.
How to Prepare for A Baby
Preparing Your Body
You already have a general idea that your body will be going through a lot of changes. There are many things you may experience, both pre-and post-natal, that others probably haven’t told you about. Here are just a few things you can expect and how to take care of your body’s growing needs.
Your feet may swell – It is very common for women to experience swelling in their ankles and feet as a result of the extra fluid that is carried in the body during pregnancy. Your doctor will likely begin monitoring this as well to ensure it isn’t related to any other health concerns. Keep your feet elevated whenever you can to help alleviate some of the swelling and take lie down breaks when you can. Wear comfortable shoes that allow for a little wiggle room.
Your breasts will enlarge – Due to hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy, you will probably go up a cup size or two. You might also experience tenderness as a result of these hormonal changes. By the third trimester they will likely get larger and may begin to leak colostrum, a pre-milk substance that might appear yellow and watery. Invest in at least one or two good comfortable bras that are
VIDEO | Real-Life Preparations for Baby | Aspyn Ovard
Stretch marks – These are streaks that appear on the skin as a result of stretching and are no cause for alarm. Stretch marks are common during pregnancy and usually appear around the abdomen, but can also appear on hips, buttocks, arms, and breasts. Not all stretch marks appear the same and they can be darker or bright in color ranging from pink, red, blue, or purple. Some tips that may help with stretch marks include:
- A nutrient-rich diet- Foods containing nutrients that are beneficial to skin health may help to reduce the severity of stretch marks. Choose foods high in Vitamin C, D, E, zinc, and protein
- Moisturizer – some products claim to prevent the occurrence of stretch marks, however there is none proven to completely prevent stretch marks. Daily moisturizing your skin will help improve skin health, especially the areas that are prone to stretching. It also helps retain moisture as pregnancy often causes dry skin.
Take prenatal vitamins – Your doctor will most likely prescribe prenatal vitamins or provide samples in their office for you to start taking right away. These are formulated with the sufficient amount of key nutrients your growing body needs. Supplements like folic acid and iron are really important for your baby’s healthy development. Some women do not tolerate prenatal vitamins very well due to nausea that can worsen from the iron in supplements. Eating a light snack before taking them can help. It might also help if you try taking them at night. If you still have difficulty taking prenatal vitamins, talk to your health care provider about alternative options like gummy vitamins or nutritional shakes, especially if you are battling nausea and morning sickness.
Blood tests and screenings – During the first trimester and throughout your pregnancy you will likely undergo numerous screenings that check for a number of things. Blood tests are necessary to check for things like iron deficiency and gestational diabetes, just to name a few. If you have a deficiency or abnormal results your doctor can advise on steps to take next to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you’re unsure about a test or screening, or you start to feel differently or have health concerns let your doctor know right away.
Tips for nausea: It’s called morning sickness, but any pregnant woman who has experienced it can tell you it doesn’t occur just in the morning. Nausea can make it really difficult or even impossible to eat anything. It’s really important that your body gets the nutrition it needs during pregnancy for the healthy growth and development of your baby.
Try these methods for combating nausea:
An empty stomach or being too full from a big meal can initiate nausea. Frequent light snacking, especially first thing in the morning can help to keep nausea and morning sickness at bay. It’s also good to keep your meals on the lighter side and smaller portions for heartburn prevention as well. Keep saltine crackers or dry cereal close at hand to munch on. Products like PregEase and Preggie Pops contain ingredients like natural herbal ingredients, vitamins and minerals, or natural flavors that reduce the onset of nausea.
- Resource for reference: American Pregnancy Association
Preparing for Labor
An important factor on how to prepare for a baby is by making preparations leading up to your baby’s arrival. Now, preparing for labor isn’t only about what to pack and what you will need at the hospital. There are numerous things you can and probably should do that will help for delivery day.
You might want to opt into a childbirth class. These are designed to help prepare expecting parents mentally and physically for childbirth. Childbirth classes help teach soon-to-be moms techniques and methods to use throughout the phases of labor and delivery. Learning the various stages of labor will also help you mentally prepare for what’s to come. You can consult with your doctor or midwife for recommendations on classes near you or ask for information on different childbirth techniques. If you have a birth plan be sure to have your health provider and team on board with your plan so there are no issues when it comes to delivery. Have a copy to bring with you to the hospital or birth clinic.
Prenatal Yoga – Exercising and staying fit during pregnancy can help make your delivery and recovery a little easier. The main focus in yoga is to concentrate on your breathing in order to center your focus on one thing and clear your mind. Prenatal yoga is an excellent way for expecting moms to make time to relax, de-stress, and prepare you mentally for labor. Independent studies have shown evidence of practicing prenatal yoga regularly in the months leading up to delivery to help with smoother deliveries and pain perception.
Perineal Massage– This is one of those things few women talk about who have gone through childbirth. Perineum damage can occur during labor from tearing or surgical cuts which may require stitching and lengthens the duration of recovery. Perineal massage is an ancient technique that has been shown to help when delivering vaginally to prevent tearing from occurring. The importance of preparing this area allows for better flexibility during childbirth for the baby to move through the birth canal without causing damage. It’s beneficial to do perineal massages in the last 3-4 weeks before birth. These can be done at home yourself or by your partner. Talk to your doctor or midwife on how to perform these massages correctly and safely and when is the best time you should start your routine.
If you are choosing an at-home birth – Discuss a birthing plan with your midwife and/or doula about your wishes. For instance- if you are wanting to do a water-birth, find out what is needed to prepare your home for when the time comes. Plan on having some type of plan or action if an emergency arises.
If you will be having a scheduled C-section your doctor will go over the procedure with you and what can be expected. Be sure to go over any questions or concerns you may think of. It might help to write them down as they come to you. Regardless of how you choose or plan to deliver your baby, ask the professionals! Your friends and family are great for support but your healthcare professional can offer more sound advice or give you reassurance on things you’re unsure on.
Prepare your bag for the hospital and take care of pets while you are gone. Make a list of the items you know you need such as gowns, change of clothes to come home and baby’s coming home outfit. List any additional items you want to have and pack your bag at least 4 weeks before your expected due date. Cross out items you have packed ahead of time so you can see what items needed are left that will be packed last such as personal and oral hygiene items. If you have pets or older children make arrangements to have them cared for or someone to stay with them while you are at the hospital or birth center.
Preparing Your Home
Knowing how to prepare for a baby means your home will have to undergo some changes. You don’t have to get everything done before your baby’s arrival, but there are a few things that should be at the top of your list.
You have probably envisioned how and what the nursery will look like from the moment you discovered you were going to be a parent. Any major projects such as painting or hanging up shelves should be done early on so the room will be ready to stock items well-before the baby arrives. Decorating the nursery isn’t a top priority before your baby comes home but it’s probably one of those things you will want to do early on anyway. Many pregnant women go through a nesting phase prior to delivery in which they get a sudden burst of energy. Most use this time to prepare the nursery like they want to welcome home baby.
If you are having a baby shower prepare a registry of the items you will need. Plan ahead in terms of dates for your baby shower so you have time to prepare everything or to pick up and stock up on new baby essentials you don’t receive. Here is a checklist of the items you are going to need.
What You Need:
- Crib and bedding
- Baby blankets, swaddlers
- Car seat
- Feeding supplies
- Nursing pillow
- Bibs and burp cloths
- Diapering supplies
- Safety/health care items
- Bathing supplies
- Baby monitor
You obviously need a safe place for the baby to sleep in. You may want something small such as a bassinet at first to keep your baby close-by in your room during those first few weeks. The safest and healthiest place for babies that promotes quality sleep is in an approved crib. Be careful with second-hand cribs and ensure there have been no recalls on them before taking one from a friend or family member. Inspect carefully for damage or signs of wear as these factors can affect the safety of the crib.
There should be no gaps between the mattress and crib sides when assembled. Bassinets are fine but eventually they will outgrow them, so a crib is a must-have. You will also need a firm mattress, crib bedding such as fitted sheets and waterproof mattress covers, and baby blankets that will fit inside the crib to be tucked in at the sides. Any loose bedding or additional items like crib bumpers pose a risk of suffocation to babies so be sure bedding is well-fitted and leave out any items in the crib.
Once your baby arrives you will need to have an approved car seat to bring them home if you will be delivering in a hospital or birth center. This is a must before you can leave with your baby. It is not advised to use second-hand car seats due to safety recalls and uncertainty of previous use if it was in a car accident. Overtime car seats do expire as factors such as UV rays from sitting in a car eventually degrade the integrity of the plastic. For optimal safety and best use go with a brand new car seat and keep information on warranty and registration in the instance that safety recalls are issued. Choose an infant seat that reclines, has a five-point harness system and suited for a newborn up to 4-pounds and up.
You will go through many, many blankets during the early stages of parenthood. Newborns are not great at regulating their body temperature so swaddling is suggested. You will encounter spit-ups, blowouts, among other things that will warrant having extra blankets on hand. Likewise, bibs and an ample amount of burp cloths are good to have beforehand.
Stock up on feeding supplies like bottles and a bottle brush. If you plan on breastfeeding you will need breast pads, comfortable nursing bras, cream for sore or cracked nipples and a nursing pillow. You may want to opt for a breast pump and milk storage containers. Even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, there may be times when you will be away from your baby during a feeding or challenges like getting your baby to latch on properly.
If you plan to breastfeed exclusively, a manual breast pump will suffice. Electric breast pumps are more ideal if you plan to do a combination of breast and bottle feeding or exclusively bottle feed as they are more efficient. A manual pump is less expensive than electric pumps and practical to use anywhere for times when you can’t nurse your baby. Ask your healthcare provider for information on lactation consultants. Oftentimes the hospital can provide one for you after your delivery or your midwife to ensure everything goes well from the start. It’s good to have a number for a professional you can refer to for questions or problems you might encounter once you are home.
If you will be formula feeding or bottle feeding stock up on a few different varieties of bottles. Babies can be picky when it comes to their preference and may refuse certain types of nipples. Have a few cans of the desired formula you plan on using on hand ensuring they will not expire before they get used. I wouldn’t recommend buying formula in bulk beforehand in case your baby has a reaction or encounters digestive issues. Some stores may not accept returns even if the formula is unopened so check the store’s policy prior to purchasing. Once you know your baby tolerates the formula you can set up a subscription service such as Amazon’s subscribe and save to order in bulk and have it delivered to your home. Ask your doctor about formula samples or you can request samples from many popular formula brands to have on hand.
Stock up on baby clothes accordingly for the season. You will need at least 8 bodysuits such as onesies or undershirts. Have a combination of short sleeve and long-sleeve. Nightgowns are strongly recommended! They’re practical and easy to use for changes as well as zippered baby sleepers. Caps, socks, baby booties and mittens are must-have clothing items to wear with nightgowns or sleepers. These will also help in keeping body temperature regulated and a couple of pairs of scratch mittens to protect your baby from scratching their face. If your baby will be born during the winter you will need a few additional clothing items such as winter bunting. You may also want to get a warm car seat cover to keep them comfortable in the car or outings when temperatures are really cold.
You are going to need a few health and safety care items on hand before your baby arrives including:
- Baby nail clippers or scissors to keep nails trimmed
- bulb syringe and nasal saline drops for clearing mucus
- Gentle baby wash or soap for bathing
- Infant tub
- Gentle baby lotion
- Baby thermometer
- Medicine dropper or syringe
Bathing supplies you will need in addition to a tub and soap include baby washcloths, hooded bath towels, cotton balls, and a soft-bristle baby brush. Use a mild baby wash, tear-free shampoo, and a baby moisturizing lotion. Babies’ skin loses moisture quickly so gentle massages with lotion after bathing is recommended. This also provides a great bonding experience with your baby.
It’s good to have certain medications on hand such as infant fever reducer, gas drops, and colic medicine. Be sure to check with your baby’s pediatrician before giving your baby anything for dosage recommendations or guidance. Have numbers stored or listed somewhere that is easy to refer to for your pediatrician, on-call doctors or clinic number, after-hours nurse hotline, hospital and emergency room numbers, and poison control center for emergencies.
Preparations Before Your Baby Arrives
Put the crib or bassinet together and any baby gear that requires assembly such as changing tables, drawers, swings or bouncers, etc. Refer to instructions to ensure it’s assembled correctly, works, and check them out for safety to ensure nothing comes loose. Test out gear so you will know how to use them. You don’t want to be fighting with a stroller trying to figure out how to open it with your baby for an outing.
The car seat should be installed before your baby’s expected arrival as well. Be sure your seat is properly installed in a rear-facing position. Refer to the instructions on proper installation; don’t try to guess. Newer vehicles usually have lower anchors for car seats but if they don’t refer to the car seat’s user instructions for proper location of the seat belt and ensure it’s locked by doing a quick tug once the seat is in place. If your car seat uses a base that stays in the vehicle, always be sure to check that the seat is secure once it is in place. Do a test by wiggling the seat side to side and back and forth after securing it. When the car seat is properly installed it shouldn’t move more than an inch on either side. You can visit a police or fire station or search for an infant car seat check-spot near you to test and inspect that the seat is installed properly.
Wash clothing, bedding, and feeding supplies. Use a mild detergent that is great for sensitive skin. Wash and sanitize baby bottles, nipples, pacifiers, and breast pump parts.
Stock up on the essentials. Those first few weeks home with your baby might be a little hazy as you’re going to lose some sleep. Be prepared by stocking up on household essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. For your baby, stock up on diapering supplies including diapers, baby wipes, diaper rash cream, a diaper bag for outings, skin care and bathing supplies.
You are going to need personal care items for postpartum as well such as postpartum pads, a peri bottle, witch hazel or a perineal healing spray. You might want to have a donut or use a pillow when sitting for long periods of time. If you plan on breastfeeding, stock up on supplies like: breast pads, a cream for sore or cracked nipples, breast pump, breast-milk storage bottles or bags and nursing bras.
Prepare and freeze meals ahead. Before your baby arrives it’s a good idea to prepare meals you can freeze and quickly take out to heat up or bake. You’re going to need all the rest you can get while recovering and a healthy diet is a plus. After delivery you probably won’t feel like preparing and cooking a well-balanced meal so it’s good to plan ahead so your needs are met.
Preparations That Can Wait
It’s a good idea to have everything prepared beforehand because life can get a little hectic with a brand new baby. However, don’t stress about it if you can’t get it all done before your little one arrives. There are some things that you aren’t going to need or use right away until your baby is a little bigger. Baby gear such as high chairs, walkers, and exersaucers can wait if you have the storage. Your baby won’t be using these right away so if it’s still in the box or you haven’t got one yet you have time.
Baby Proofing – In the first few weeks of your baby’s homecoming they will be spending much of their time eating and sleeping. Baby proofing measures like covering up outlets, door knobs, cabinet locks, and securing access from potential dangers, etc. apply for keeping your baby safe from hazards once they start crawling and walking. These safety measures are important so the sooner it’s done the better to ensure you don’t forget. Baby proofing your home should be done before your baby becomes mobile. Keep anything hazardous such as cleaning supplies, chemicals, medicines, etc. stored high out of reach.
Your friends and family are a great support system to have. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it or let them know when you are feeling overwhelmed. Taking on the responsibilities and learning how to prepare for a baby can be a lot on a new mom. Accept help when it is given and take time to care for your needs. Don’t refer to Google or the Internet as your resource guide for questions or concerns when it comes to your health or your baby’s. Keep in mind that not all babies are alike and not all parenting styles are the same. When in doubt, call your doctor or baby’s pediatrician if you have any concerns or health care questions.