12 Things to Do Before You Have Your First Baby
If you’re expecting — or trying to conceive — you’re likely to become accustomed to the not-so-subtle hint that your life is going to change. Like, really change. Drastically and unmistakably.
And they’ll be no going back. In an instant, it will be all diapers, sleepless nights and being so exhausted from feeding the baby all day that you forget to feed yourself.
Oh yeah, and it’s the death of romance. Don’t forget about that one!
You’ve already heard it all, and honestly, it’s enough to make any parent-to-be start wondering, “Was this really the best idea to begin with? Can I even handle this at all?”
Instead of telling parents how much their lives are going to change, shouldn’t we be telling them how to prepare for those changes? While it’s true that there’s a lot you can neither anticipate or prepare for parenthood, there are plenty of practical things you should absolutely do before that little screaming banshee angel comes bursting into your life.
Here’s a few things you should do before having your first baby:
Prepare Your Body (and Mind)
You might think there isn’t much you can do to prepare for your baby’s big entrance. Birth is unpredictable, right? While it’s true that you can’t control all the aspects of just how your delivery goes, there is plenty you can do to feel strong, powerful and body confident before the big day.
Maintaining a moderate level of exercise, eating well to nurture both your body and your growing baby, and staying in a positive mental state about the birth are all helpful ways of getting ready for your new addition.
Meditation, listening to positive birth affirmations, or even watching videos of peaceful birth experiences (rather than immersing yourself in horror stories) can all ease your mind and help you feel more calm, capable and prepared to give birth.
Plan How You Want to Deliver
Again, you can’t control all aspects of your birth. But having an outline of the kind of birth you want to have is a very good idea.
Women with greater knowledge surrounding childbirth tend to have better outcomes, too. So, having some idea about practices that aid in healthy delivery is a very good idea.
Things like allowing labor to start on its own, walking or moving during labor, and avoiding unnecessary interventions can go a long way to making your birth a more pleasant experience.
Visit a Couples' Therapist
Think couples therapy is just for couples who are having trouble? Think again. Part of planning for a baby is making sure your relationship is in top-notch form so that you feel ready for the challenges that may come at your in the coming months and years.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that both you and your partner share expectations and goals about what will happen afterwards, like who is going to be the baby’s primary caretaker, and what thoughts you have about how you want to raise your child.
A therapist can help you to talk through those expectations, or any fears you may have about adjusting, as a couple, to your new arrival.
Plan for Postpartum Help and Support
While planning for your birth is a great idea, what about what happens afterwards?
Most women don’t have much support during postpartum. They're often expected to be back on their feet relatively quickly and appear put back together, as if they hadn't just lugged around and pushed out something the size of a watermelon a few weeks prior.
More often than not, help is available but many don’t know how to ask for it. While having a spouse or a partner who contributes is fantastic, chances are, someone has to go back to work sooner or later (if you’re in the U.S., most likely sooner).
Starting a MealTrain to have a few dinners dropped on your doorstep, enlisting the help of neighbors, family, friends, or hiring a postpartum doula (if it’s in your budget) to help when you’re weary can all be great options.
Even if it’s someone coming over to hold the baby for a half hour so you can grab a nap, those small favors can go a long way in early postpartum.
Plan for Childcare
If you’re headed back to work a few months post-delivery, making a childcare plan is absolutely essential. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to who’s going to be caring for your newborn.
You’ll likely want to conduct interviews, visit daycare centers, and basically, plan like you’ve never planned before.
Pro-tip: Don’t just expect to find out all you need to know from the providers themselves. Ask other parents about their experience, read reviews, ask for references and more, because there are few things more important than who you entrust with the responsibility of caring for your new baby.
If you’re planning to stay home with baby make sure you have realistic expectations about what that will look like. Often, new parents underestimate how time consuming baby-care can be, so give some thought to how you will manage to take care of yourself, as well.
If you’re planning to work from home, an option more and more families are using, think about what kind of help you may need to manage your workload.
One of the most fun and exciting part of preparing for a baby is nesting.
Sometime during pregnancy (typically in the latter months), women (and often, their partners!) feel an overwhelming urge to prepare a space for baby.
This means everything from cleaning, putting together the crib, painting the walls, and shelving little books and toys. It’s in every way a totally natural instinct — just about every animal nests in some form or another.
So don’t fight the urge, go with it, and enjoy the color-choosing, home makeover event that is preparing your home for your baby.
Attend a Newborn Care Class
There may be a lot that comes naturally in those early days with a newborn. There also may be a lot that, well, doesn’t.
Taking an infant care class, preferably with your partner, can help alleviate some stress about those situations that might be just a touch outside of your comfort zone.
It’s also a good way to stay up on the latest doctor-approved advice about infant care, which changes over the years. For example, belly-sleeping used to be touted as the best way for babies to sleep. But nowadays, back-sleeping is considered the safest position for newborns, drastically decreasing the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Have a Babymoon
Being on the precipice of parenthood is stressful. That’s why it’s also the perfect time to attend to your relationship. You know, the one that got you into this whole thing in the first place.
You already know that you and your partner are going to have less time to spend with one another after you baby arrives (yes, I know, you’re sick of hearing it). But the fact remains, and so making sure you’re in excellent standing before the baby comes is vital.
Make sure you feel connected now so that when those sleepless nights kick in, you remember why you started this family to begin with — because you had so much love you wanted to create a whole new person to share it with.
Educate Yourself About Where to Deliver
Statistics show that one of the biggest predictors of how women give birth (vaginally or by cesarean, natural or medicated) is where they give birth. So if you have any preferences at all regarding your delivery, dig deep and find out what your birth places' stats are.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about policies that may alter the outcome of your delivery. Also, you should have a good idea what the cesarean rate is, especially if you’re planning for a vaginal delivery.
Look into all your options — hospital, birth center, or even homebirth —to find what feels right for you. The choice is an important one and it’s one only you can make.
Carefully Choose Your Care Provider
Likewise, there are few more important choices when it comes to having a baby, then deciding on a care provider.
These days, most women in the U.S. are attended to by obstetricians. But a growing number of women are choosing midwives, which has long been the more popular route in Europe (Princess Kate has had all three of her babies with midwives).
Examine both options, meet with care providers, and choose the one who makes you feel comfortable, safe, and most of all, heard. Because when it comes to delivery day, you want to be cared for by someone you trust.
It should also be noted, that if any point in your care, you feel your treatment isn’t good enough, that you aren’t being listened to, or you don’t feel your wishes will be respected, it is completely in your power to change care providers. Remember, your doctor or midwife works for you. You hire them and you can definitely fire them.
Talk to Other Parents
If you’re having your first baby, chances are, you might not have a huge circle of parent friends yet.
The first year or so of having a baby is all kinds of demanding. It can be challenging to make new friends when you’re feeling tired, vulnerable or nervous about putting yourself out there.
Start talking to other parents now and that way, once baby comes, you’ll already have a few connections to pull from. More than likely, you’ll be so glad you put in the effort when you had the extra time and energy.
Rest, rest, and rest!
There is all kinds of advice about how to get rest when your baby comes. Sleep when baby sleeps. Sleep-train or don’t.
The best advice? Sleep now. For the love of God, sleep.
The truth is, while having a newborn is demanding, so is pregnancy. Your body is going through a ton of changes, hormonal and otherwise. Don’t be ashamed to conk out at 8 p.m. In a few months, you’ll look back longingly on those days.
Sleep gets tougher as your body changes shape. Dips in blood-sugar in the middle of the night and those constant baby kicks can keep you up. But buy a body-pillow, drink a glass of warm milk and rest just about any time you can. I promise, you won’t regret it.