You are going to have a baby, how exciting! Whether or not this is your first pregnancy, it can be a bit nerve-racking. How can you best prepare for baby's arrival? Are there things that can be done to minimize fears and frustrations of being ready? As a parent you want the best for your child, the following list, though not comprehensive, is a good start when trying to figure out how to get ready for your unique baby girl or boy.
- DON'T PANIC: First and foremost, DON'T PANIC! Having a baby can be stressful, but does not need to be such. Whether your pregnancy was planned or not, the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to NOT PANIC. After the discovering your pregnancy, you can make the rest of the pregnancy and the beginning stages of parenthood a low-stress and exciting experience. As you learn to control your life, in areas you can control, you will be better able to stay calm and relaxed. The less stressed you are, the better it will be for your baby and your family.
- PACK A BAG: Generally this is a well-known to-do item, but it is still worth mentioning. Usually you do not have to stay in a hospital gown after delivering your child. You may find it much more comfortable to be in your own pajamas or other 'comfy' clothes. Make sure you have all the toiletries you would need for an overnight stay (or two) at a hotel. Though the hospital may have what you need, the costs are usually much more than you bringing them on your own.
- TRANSPORTATION: Do you want to have your baby borne in a taxi or on a city bus? Probably not. Transporting yourself to the birthing location is one thing to think about. Will your spouse be able to take you? What about a backup plan for transportation in the event your spouse is unavailable? Preparing for the homeward bound trip with your precious newborn is something you need to prepare for.
Make sure the car seat is not expired (yes car seats have an expiration date). Make sure it is secured properly and that if it has an arm to carry the car seat that the arm is secured properly in the position specified by the manufacturer (most, if not all, car seat carriers should be fully down and below/behind the head of the car seat). If the vehicle roles, a carrier arm could collapse on your child and cause severe damage.
Many hospitals, birthing centers, and even fire stations offer car-seat inspections and hold training to help teach expectant parents how to properly secure a car seat.
- ANIMALS: Do you have animals at home that typically live indoors? The most common are dogs and cats. You may want to consider investigating the breed of animal and how it typically responds to newborn children. Dogs may be aggressive, until they have been taught that even the baby is master of the domain/household. A cat may turn and spray your child if not properly introduced. Our dogs were introduced one at a time to our newborn children. Both dogs wanted to sniff and then lick the heads of the baby. After that, our babies were old news. Your animals are not the same as ours. Plan according to the temperament and breed of your pets.
- PEDIATRICIAN: Having a pediatrician already selected will make things much easier for you and your child. After the delivery, your child's pediatrician will visit your newborn a couple times to make sure he/she is in optimum health. Follow-up visits can also be scheduled with your pediatrician's office. Though you do not necessarily need to select a pediatrician (the hospital will usually provide one that is one call for the hospital stay), it will make future visits with a familiar face and practice easier for you and your child. Also, by choosing a pediatrician before your child's birth will ensure a less stressful experience afterwards when your child needs to go to regularly scheduled checkups and for less-common emergency checkups.
- CHILDCARE: If you will be going back to work after a maternity break, having pre-selected day-care is another way to reduce the stress of raising a child. Selecting day care earlier will allow you to better screen and interview candidate individuals and/or centers. It will better allow you to do first-hand observations in how the center takes care of newborn infants. You can interact with other parents who leave their children at the same location.
- FEEDING OPTIONS: Decide, before-hand, on whether you will be nursing or bottle-feeding your child. Both have their individual benefits. As for nutritional needs, both are similarly comparative, though there are skeptics and many homeopaths that purport nursing is better, it really is more of a personal decision as the nutritional benefits are virtually the same and perhaps even better with formula. There is some belief that the skin-to-skin contact associated with nursing is good stimulation for your child, but skin-on-skin does not needs to be only through nursing. Generally there is cost savings with nursing, and it is easier to carry around as you generally have ample supply wherever you are.
We used formula for both our children; both are very intelligent and have a wonderful relationship with both daddy and mommy. A benefit to formula is that feeding is not just a motherly task. The father can take the opportunity to bond with the child as he feeds baby. Some of the fondest memories of our children's daddy is of him singing and rocking them to sleep while they feed on formula.
Again, whether you nurse or bottle feed your child is a completely personal decision and you should not feel bad choosing one over the other. On a similar note, if you choose to nurse, it may not come as easy as you would like. Understand that it will take practice by both mother and baby to master the art of nursing.
- BORROW OR BUY: The first year of your baby's life will be expensive. Generally, going from a household of two to a household of three does not just require a lifestyle change, but also a financial lifestyle change and obligation. Speak with friends, relatives, church associates, or community forums to determine what items you should really purchase for the first year of baby's life as opposed to things that could simply be borrowed. For example, a baby stroller, or cradle may be something that could be borrowed. A crib that can convert to a toddler bed or adult bed may be something worth purchasing. Some baby clothes also may be able to be borrowed rather than purchased. Baby will be a shock on the pocketbook, minimizing wherever possible can help.
- CLASSES: Many birthing centers and hospitals offer free or low-cost classes to help new-expectant parents learn how to best prepare for your newborn child. Make use of these services. At minimum they can help put your mind at ease in what you can expect and what you can do to do to prepare. They often provide information about birthing options and your right to have a plan followed by nurses, doctors, and/or other medical staff.
- MAKE A DECISION LIST: To help you stay calm throughout the pregnancy and afterwards, make a list of the things that can be decided prior to baby's arrival and taking him or her home. Some things to consider when making this list include (not an exhaustive list, just a sample):
- Will you find out the gender?
- Name ideas for both genders. Ultra sound gender determination is not 100% accurate. If you would like help finding unique names for girls and boys do a search on Google or other reputable search engine. There are ample websites dedicated to baby names.
- Birthing location: Birthing center, hospital, home, etc.
- If a boy, will you want him circumcised?
- Cloth diapers or disposable diapers (not much cost savings in cloth as a result of how much cloth diapers cost and the associated maintenance of the diapers)
Though the list is not comprehensive, it should give expectant parents ideas how to prepare for the arrival of their newborn baby. Remember the most important thing, DON'T PANIC! Using lists, and being prepared in the things you can prepare will help you overcome many fears and frustrations sometimes associated with first-time pregnancies.