15 things to do when preparing for your baby’s arrival

Keep reading to learn the best ways to prepare for baby: from baby-proofing your home to considering postpartum care and more.

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Becoming a parent is an exciting and life-altering event, and getting ready for your baby’s arrival comes with a lengthy checklist of preparations and decisions to make ahead of time.

“As new parents, it is crucial to be prepared and ready to welcome your baby. Not only is it more comfortable for your infant — it also helps you ensure a smoother transition into parenthood,” said Sara G. Diebold, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group.

To help you navigate this exciting time, we offer a checklist of important tasks — from creating a birth plan to baby-proofing your home and considering postpartum care and more. This comprehensive guide will walk you through 15 essential steps to help you prepare for your baby’s birth. Whether you are a new parent or adding to your existing family, the following list will help you feel more confident and prepared for the wonderful adventure ahead.

1) Create a birth plan

One of the first steps in preparing for your baby’s arrival involves creating a birth plan. A birth plan outlines your preferences for labor, delivery and postpartum care. Work with your OB/GYN or midwife to create this birth plan, which should include birthing options, such as a natural birth, medicated birth or C-section; medication preferences, such as use of an epidural; and possible backup options to consider. Being open to adaptability is important, as circumstances can quickly change during labor and delivery.

You also should select the hospital where you plan to give birth. Choosing a delivery location is important, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. You will want to ensure your choice of delivery locations has adequate resources, including a team of specialists for specific conditions of concern.

Having your wants and needs defined in a list and readily available to all members of your care team can help everyone with a smoother process during childbirth. This is especially true if your baby arrives earlier than expected or your usual provider is not available — because the timing of childbirth can be unpredictable.

Additionally, if you are welcoming a new baby with a partner, you should discuss birth expectations with them ahead of time, including what they should be prepared for and how you want to be supported during the process. We offer free childbirth classes and new parent classes to help you prepare for a positive birthing and parenting experience.

2) Consider using a doula

Doulas provide emotional, physical and informational support, which can help make your childbirth experience more comfortable and empowering. The presence of a doula can also help ease anxiety during labor and delivery, and ensure that you have an advocate who understands your wants and needs, right by your side.

3) Enroll in childbirth education and new parent classes

Enrolling in childbirth education classes is a wonderful way to prepare for your baby’s arrival. These classes can provide you with valuable information about labor, delivery, pain management options and what to expect during childbirth. They also can help ease anxiety and help you learn the latest techniques to help you feel prepared for your baby’s birth.

4) Babyproof your home

Safety is crucial when preparing for your baby’s arrival. Ensure you have taken steps to baby-proof your home. This involves creating a safe crib, securing furniture, covering electrical outlets and sharp corners or edges, and reducing or eliminating potential hazards throughout the house. This will help create a safer environment for your baby as they grow. It will help prevent common injuries, both mild injuries and those that could be more serious or require emergency medical care.

5) Prepare the nursery

Nursery preparation can be a fun and exciting task! Make sure your baby has a crib, changing table and ample storage for baby clothes and supplies. Ensure the room is clean and baby-proofed. Creating a safe and comfortable environment will help everyone transition into the early days at home. It also can be fun to choose a theme and decorate your baby’s room. This can be an exciting or creative element of the nesting phase of pregnancy.

6) Gather essential baby gear

Rounding up the necessary baby gear is essential before your baby arrives. Invest in a reliable car seat, stroller, diapers, wipes, baby clothes, blankets, bottles, a breast pump (if you plan to breastfeed) and other feeding supplies. Don’t delay in purchasing these items, and don’t wait to buy them all at once. Having the essential baby gear on hand ahead of time will take a lot of stress out of returning home and finding new routines with your baby.

7) Plan your postpartum care

It’s easy to focus on your baby’s arrival and needs, but don’t forget about yourself and your own postpartum care. While caring for your baby is a priority, you must prioritize yourself as well, including your physical health and emotional well-being. Consider your own postpartum care and needs. Ask for support from friends and family. Consider hiring a postpartum doula to assist you during this delicate period, or at minimum, have conversations with your provider about recognizing and managing signs of postpartum depression.

8) Stock up on essentials

In the early days after childbirth, your time and energy likely will be limited. Preparing for your baby also involves stocking up on household items, including cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels, bathroom and shower toiletries, plus groceries. Ensuring you have everything you need at home reduces the need for last-minute shopping and unnecessary time away from home. You’ll be able to focus more on what’s important: taking care of your baby and yourself.

9) Check maternity and paternity leave policies

Review workplace policies regarding parental leave for yourself and your partner. Ensure you can take the time needed to bond with and care for your new baby. While federal law requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employers with 50 or more people, policies can vary by state and by workplace. Keep in mind that this time is usually unpaid, so you will need to plan for any impact on your household budget.

10) Review legal and financial matters

It’s not easy or comfortable to talk about, but it’s important to take into account your family’s financial security if something should happen to you. Your baby is dependent on you to take care of them, and that includes financial expenses. Take time to review and update your will, if necessary, and assess your health insurance coverage to accommodate additional baby-related expenses.

11) Reach out to your support system

Although becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest gifts, the reality is that parenting also can be hard, and sometimes lonely. Building a support network of friends, family, fellow parents, and possibly a therapist, is crucial for your mental and emotional well-being. Having close and trusted people to offer advice, assistance and emotional support will be invaluable during this transformational time. Ask for support ahead of time, including check-ins or someone to come over so you can take a shower or have some time to yourself. Don’t hesitate to lean on your support system during this time. Take time to laugh — or vent, when needed.

12) Pack a hospital bag

During the third trimester, you should have a hospital bag ready. Well in advance of your due date, prepare a well-packed hospital bag, which should include comfortable clothing, toiletries, snacks, and all necessary health care documents, including insurance cards and a copy of your birth plan. Although it’s nice to have plans or expectations when it comes to a due date, those plans can change in an instant, and it’s a good idea to be ready to go at any moment’s notice. Remember to bring your ID when the time comes to grab the bag and head to the hospital. [AG1] 

13) Prepare meals ahead of time

Meal preparation will help take a major task off your plate when you arrive home with your baby. Consider prepping or freezing meals in advance, so you have easy and nutritious options available at home. It’s likely you’ll be tired during this time, so it is important to give your body the fuel it needs to manage the stress of new routines and fewer hours of sleep. This will not only save you time, it will ensure you are getting the nourishment you need after delivery.

14) Find a pediatrician who will care for your baby throughout childhood

Research pediatricians in your area and meet the pediatrician ahead of time to ensure it’s a good fit. Familiarize yourself with common infant health concerns. Check with the pediatrician’s office to complete any health insurance requirements and view registration paperwork ahead of time.

15) Create a breastfeeding/feeding plan

Work with your provider and also educate yourself about breastfeeding techniques, including free breastfeeding classes, if you plan to breastfeed, or ensure you have the necessary supplies if you’re planning to formula-feed. Being informed and prepared will make feeding your baby a smoother process. There are many health benefits to breastfeeding your baby.

Additional considerations to prepare for baby’s birth

  1. Get adequate rest and take time for yourself
    • Parenthood will change your life forever, and the arrival of a new baby means you will likely not have much time to yourself for a while. Savor these quiet moments of alone time, soak up any time to rest, and invest time in activities you enjoy.
  2. Engage in gentle exercise
    • Low-impact exercise, such as walking, prenatal yoga or relaxation classes can be a great way to move and release stress. However, be sure to check with your health care provider before participating in any physical activities while pregnant.
  3. Account for older siblings
    • If you already have children, discuss the new arrival of your baby with older siblings. Help them understand what to expect, encourage excitement and discuss changes they should expect in the household. Additionally, arrange child care ahead of time for siblings during your hospital stay.
  4. Introducing pets to baby items and new routines
    • Pets are part of the family, too, and they will need to adjust to life with a new baby. Gradually introduce your pet to baby items, such as the crib, bassinet and stroller. You also may consider “practicing” walking around the home pretending to hold a blanket-swaddled baby and talking to it, so the pet has an idea of behavior changes to expect.

Next steps

Preparing for your baby’s arrival is a time filled with excitement, anticipation, and maybe some anxiousness. However, these 15 essential steps will help you feel more confident and ready for the journey ahead. In the months before your baby’s arrival, as you complete items from this to-do list, don’t forget to find a pediatrician for your baby. Whether you attend a Newbie Night to meet the staff ahead of time, schedule with a pediatrician online, or choose the pediatrician office nearest you, taking this step will help ensure your baby’s health from the beginning. Parenthood comes with a lot of joy and responsibility, and with adequate preparation, you’ll be better off when welcoming your little one’s arrival.