I can still remember the moment I found out I was pregnant with our first daughter. It was pure bliss, excitement, and a belly full of joyous butterflies. Then came an overwhelming sense of not knowing what the heck I was supposed to do next. Getting ready for a baby is exciting and overwhelming, but the overwhelming part is key. Where’s the preparing for baby checklist when you need one?
Getting ready for baby
When I was pregnant, I found myself scouring the internet looking for the ultimate ‘to-do list before baby.’ My brain was riddled with thoughts of cute baby clothes, ideas about choosing a baby name, and I imagined meeting our little one for the first time.
The actual logistics of getting from A-to-B, however, were a bit fuzzy.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’d spent my fair share of time with babies and had a good handle on the whole diaper changing and cuddling aspect of being a parent.
I quickly learned, however, that there was more to getting ready for baby than just preparing to change poopy diapers and getting excited to cuddle.
If you’re currently expecting and aren’t sure what should be on your ‘checklist before baby,’ here are ten great suggestions that will help you feel prepared for the experience!
1. Put Together a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a written outline of your preferences during and after delivery.
When you’re putting together your birth plan, there are six main sections you should consider:
- General Information: Start your birth plan with general information, such as name, birthdate, doctor, hospital, or birthing center preference. This section can also include who you would like in the room with you.
- Atmosphere During Labor & Delivery: Whether you want peace and quiet with dim lighting for your hospital room, or something entirely different, think about what type of environment will be beneficial to you throughout labor and delivery.
- Labor Options: Consider which types of labor methods or tools you might want to use. Popular options are freely walking around, labor tubs, or birthing balls.
- Pain Management Preferences: The most common pain management choice to make is whether you’d like an epidural during labor. While there are other options, such as Lamaze techniques, the Bradley method, or nitrous oxide, epidurals are the most common.
- Delivery Preferences: During delivery, the main objective is to bring your baby into the world safely. If you have strong preferences about things like episiotomies or skin-to-skin after birth, however, this is the section to list them in.
- Feeding Preferences: Are you hoping to try breastfeeding, or will you use formula for your baby?
Take your birth plan to your doctor’s visits to discuss with your care provider and also put a copy in your hospital bag.
Things don’t always go according to plan, but having your care providers know your goals can really help improve your birth experience!
2. Decide if you want a photographer
This refers both to your birth and for when your newborn comes home. Are you interested in having someone come into your home and take newborn photos? If so, finding a photographer needs to be on your “getting ready for baby” checklist!
When choosing a photographer, consider things like:
- Style/aesthetic: What types of photos do you want, and how well do different photographers’ styles match your desires?
- Availability: Check with photographers a few months in advance, as many book up.
- Shoot location: Do you go to them or do they come to you? Do you have a strong preference?
- Cost: Is having newborn photography in your budget, and will it be worth the memories longterm? Some photographers cost more than others, so pay attention both to their portfolio (you don’t want to pay and then be unhappy!) and how much you’ll pay.
Okay, so hiring a photographer is out right now. Or is it?
Porch photography is on the rise, and we’re seeing some gorgeous distanced maternity shots.
Or, have a nice camera? Or an iphone with portrait mode? I won’t pretend these things will give you the quality of a professional photographer, but they will help you take good pictures both of your bump and your little one.
3. Prepare Your Pets for the Baby
Something we often don’t consider when thinking about how to get ready for a baby is our pets. But trust me, bringing a new baby home is not just a significant change for you and your partner. Your pets will be affected, too!
To best prepare your pets for the baby’s arrival, it’s important to put some rules in place. This includes teaching your animals about the baby’s areas, correcting misbehaviors you think might be a problem, and implementing new schedules and routines, if necessary.
Some soon-to-be parents even do things like playing crying baby sounds to try and prepare their pets for what’s to come.
When your baby is born, many doctors also suggest taking something your baby has worn home before you leave the hospital. Allow your pet to smell the item as a way of introducing their new brother or sister.
4. Fill Out Your Baby Registry
When you’re getting ready for a baby, one of the first things you’ll probably realize is that babies come with a lot of stuff.
Diapers, nursery furnishings, and clothes are just a start. One of the best things you can do is put together a well thought out list of baby registry must haves, in case your friends and family want to buy you a gift for your little bundle of joy.
Trust us–you want them buying baby items from the registry because it means you have to buy less, plus you have less excess!
Overwhelmed to create a registry? We get it. Download our printable baby registry checklist PDF!
5. Attend All Prenatal Appointments
Every week during pregnancy comes with a variety of milestones that are vital to your baby’s development.
To make sure your little one is growing the way that he or she should be, it’s crucial to attend all of your prenatal appointments.
At each visit with your healthcare provider, you’ll receive a wealth of information about what you should be expecting and what you need to do while getting ready for baby.
This suggestion doesn’t just apply to regular appointments, though.
You should also make sure to keep up on any necessary bloodwork or ultrasounds your provider requests.
If your OB chooses to skip appointments, don’t freak. If you’ve chosen a care provider your trust, then continue to trust that they’re making the best decisions for you and your baby.
Ask lots of questions on telehealth appointments, like how much water you should be drinking to avoid early contractions and how to do kick counts. Use their advice to monitor yourself when you can’t see your practitioner.
6. Schedule Your Birth Classes and Hospital Tour
Let’s face it; most first-time parents are clueless about what having a baby really entails. Unless you’ve been around other babies throughout your life, you might not even know how to change a diaper!
This is where baby and birth classes come in handy!
No matter what type of class you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find a facility that’s teaching it. Many hospitals even offer prenatal education courses. Some of the different topics covered in these classes include:
- Baby Safety
- General Baby Care
- Labor Preparation
It’s also a good idea to schedule a hospital tour. After all, when push comes to shove (no pun intended), and it’s time to bring your baby into the world, the last thing you want to do is be aimlessly strolling around a hospital trying to figure out where you need to go.
Ugh. This is a tough one. Here are a few things you can do:
- See if your hospital offers virtual tours. Some are putting those online now.
- Google “Labor and delivery tour, +X hospital.” You just might get lucky and find a YouTube video.
- Find a contact for your hospital. How would you normally schedule a tour? Who hosts it? Call the front desk of your Labor & Delivery (L&D) unit and ask for that person’s email address. Then, send them your specific questions about things like whether you’re allowed to eat during labor, whether they offer lactation consultants during the postpartum stay, etc.
- Do a test drive! You may not be going into the hospital right now, but you can certainly drive to where you’ll be dropped off and know you’re prepared for that one step.
- ASK YOUR OB OR MIDWIFE! They should be able to tell you the best practices for your hospital and hopefully put you in contact with someone who can talk to you about specific questions.
7. Plan a Babymoon
Having a baby and starting a family is a thrilling experience. That being said, however, it’s also important to realize that it will flip your world upside down.
Your primary focus will be on the new baby, and your free time will be slim. Why not take advantage of the time you have now and plan a relaxing babymoon with your partner?
A babymoon is an ideal way to take a break from all things baby and put a little focus on your relationship before the big day arrives. Even if you just slip away for a weekend, it can be a great way to get some R & R.
And if you don’t have the funds to go on a babymoon, consider just taking a day with your partner to relax: go for a picnic in the park; eat out at your favorite restaurant; give each other pedis and manis if you’re into that sort of thing.
A babymoon doesn’t have to be extravagant–it’s simply a way to prioritize time together and relaxation before baby arrives.
If you have older children, it’s also a good idea to consider planning special outings or trips with them before the new baby makes his or her debut.
Don’t have extra time or money for a babymoon? You can pamper yourself other ways! Consider things like:
- Reading a fun book
- Taking a prenatal yoga class
- Getting a prenatal massage
- Going with a friend for a manicure
Babymoon within driving distance, and stay in a house instead of a hotel.
Don’t have the budget, or the childcare for older kids? Why not Netflix and . . . well, just Netflix? You’re super pregnant and that’s probably all you’re up for right now. It’s cool.
If this is your first birth, plan a couple of days with your partner binge watching something you’ve really wanted to see.
8. Take Advantage of the Nesting Stage
It’s time for a reality check. Once your new baby arrives, doing things around the house will be the last thing on your mind for a little while.
You’ll see piles of stuff develop, but you likely won’t have the energy to do much about them.
Instead of getting stressed about all the things you didn’t do before delivery, why not take advantage of the nesting phase many soon-to-be-moms find themselves experiencing?
The phrase ‘nesting’ refers to a period before delivery when you get a sudden burst of energy and desire to clean and organize every inch of your house from top-to-bottom.
Whether you’re officially ‘nesting’ or not, however, it’s always smart to plan ahead and think about things you might not want to do after delivery.
For instance, I knew that I would have little desire to cook after my second child was born. So, in the months leading up to her delivery, I made massive amounts of food for dinner and stockpiled a collection of frozen dinners I could quickly heat up.
So, whether you’re cleaning the house or preparing the nursery, just make sure to consider any projects you want finished before your little one enters the world.
Great things to do to prepare for baby:
- Make freezer meals
- Clean your house
- Organize the nursery
- Create diaper stations (include small lights for middle of the night changes and feedings)
- Create nursing stations (if you hope to breastfeed) full of nonperishable snacks you can eat with one hand
- Mark items off your pregnancy checklist
- Pack your hospital bag
9. Choose a breast pump
Most insurance companies cover breast pumps now, and if you plan to try to breastfeed, you’ll likely need one.
We have a full article coming on this soon, but we highly recommend the Spectra S1 for its portability, ease of use, and how well it works for helping milk production.
10. Read baby books . . . if you want to
Baby books are so helpful for many moms, and terribly overwhelming for others. Whether you choose to read them is up to you.
But they will help you better know what to expect, and we have a specific tip for reading them: read all baby books with the idea that they’re recommendations, not plans.
Not all parents are the same, nor are all babies, so having ideas from baby books can help a lot, while taking them as “gospel” can be very overwhelming.
We loved the idea of “the pause,” from Bringing Up Bebe. This is a five minute pause that the French take when their babies start crying in the middle of the night in order to see if the parent is really needed for getting the child back to sleep, or if the baby will take care of it on their own. This idea is great, but I found plenty of parts of the book to be unhelpful.
My point is: take what you will and leave the rest! Do what works for you.
A few baby books we found helpful:
Reminder, though. We recommend using books as guides, not gospel.
11. Plan for maternity leave
Do you have HR paperwork to fill out? Know how to get your new baby on your family’s insurance, and what the window is?
This type of planning tends to slip our minds, and it’s easy to let the windows to do things like put baby on insurance roll on by when you’re exhausted and have no idea you have a deadline.
Check into all the logistics you’ll need to know to make sure you don’t forget anything essential.
12. Find mom friends
This is especially important for first-time moms, as you may have lots of friends who don’t have children. And that’s cool. Those friends will remain important parts of your life.
But here’s the thing about having mom friends–they get it. They’ve been where you are, and they can support you in ways that people without children simply don’t know to support you.
Also, having a new baby is lonely, so having a support network you can text with questions is worth SO much!
Even if you just find a group online you can talk to, it will make a world of difference.
Online groups! Also, texts and Zoom calls with mom friends. Honestly, you likely wouldn’t have left the house much during the postpartum period anyway, so you’re just preparing for that now.
13. Choose your baby’s pediatrician
It’s crucial to find a pediatrician you can trust with your new bundle of joy.
While the doctor you choose might not have privileges at the hospital where you deliver, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with them as soon as possible after your baby’s arrival.
14. Install baby’s car seat
You can’t leave the hospital without a properly installed car seat, so as you approach your due date, check that one off the list!
Also, did you know that the vast majority of carseats are not properly installed? It’s super scary, but true.
Read all the manufacturer’s instructions for installing your carseat, and check to see if you have carseat safety places that can check your installation for you.
15. Get infant CPR certified
We know you don’t want to think about the possibility of ever needing to perform CPR on your child, and the chance that you’ll have to is slim.
But if you do, you’ll be SO thankful you have this skill. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends certification, and we suggest the one through the American Heart Association.
Read our very personal story about the benefits of being CPR certified.
We won’t pretend it’ll be as good as in-person, but it might. Either way, we recommend taking a class, which you can do online through the American Red Cross. Click here to sign up today!
What Else is On Your Preparing for Baby Checklist?
It’s hard to come up with a definitive checklist before baby. After all, every family and every individual has their own specific set of needs.
A drive-by baby shower is a popular option these days, plus try to find time to rest and start to feel ready.
If you follow the suggestions laid out in this article, however, you can rest assured that you’ll be ready once your baby is here.
Just remember, though, try not to get completely wrapped up in checking things off a ‘to-do list before baby.’
Take some time to relish in the experience, and to be grateful for the family you’ve been lucky enough to create.
Are there any other things you’re concerned about when it comes to figuring out how to get ready for a baby?
Other Pregnancy Articles
- Unusual early pregnancy signs
- When to announce a pregnancy on social media, to family/friends, & at work
- Pregnancy care package
- Hospital bag checklist printable
- Birthing checklist (how to write a birth plan)
- Baby registry must haves
- How to prepare for labor induction
- Inexpensive maternity clothes
Trying to Conceive Articles
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.