How to Prepare for a New Baby

Three Parts:Addressing Fears and ConcernsGetting Your Home ReadyPreparing for Baby as a Couple or Family

Congratulations! You’re expecting a new baby and whether or not this is your first or fourth child, you may be unsure of how to best prepare for your new family member.[1] It’s common for parents to be scared before and in the weeks after baby’s birth.[2] But by getting your home ready and working on your relationship with your partner, you can successfully prepare for a new baby.

Part 1
Addressing Fears and Concerns

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    Recognize that fear is normal. A new baby can bring a lot of fear and uncertainty because they are so small and appear fragile. You may ask yourself questions like “Am I up to this?” or “Will I hurt my baby?” and it’s important to realize that these are very normal feelings.[3]
    • Remember that there is no instruction manual for parenting and you’ll figure things out as you go.[4]
    • Ask your family members, friends, and doctor any questions you have about preparing for your baby.
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    Take a newborn care class. If you are expecting your first baby or just want a refresher on how to care for a new baby, sign up for a class at your local hospital or healthcare facility.[5] A class can answer questions you have and reassure you on things like:
    • holding a new baby
    • bathing your baby
    • putting clothes on your baby
    • swaddling your baby
    • feeding and burping
    • cleaning the umbilical cord
    • caring for a circumcision
    • clearing nasal passages with a bulb syringe
    • recognizing health concerns including taking a newborn’s temperature
    • soothing your baby.[6]
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    Find a pediatrician. Your obstetrician will check your baby’s health following her birth, but your child will also need a pediatrician to observe her health and well-being as she grows.[7] You can find a pediatrician by asking your doctor, family, or friends for recommendations.[8] Other questions you may want to ask potential pediatrician’s offices are:
    • Are you accepting new patients?
    • Do you accept my insurance?
    • What are your office hours?
    • May I call with routine questions?
    • How does your office handle billing and insurance?[9]
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    Inform family members. Remember that a new baby is joining a family, which can cause the dynamic in your home to change considerably.[10] Let the baby’s siblings, your family, and friends know that you are expecting a new baby. This can help them prepare mentally for changes and offer you assistance during your pregnancy and after delivery.[11]
    • Send out pregnancy announcements if you like.
    • Tell the baby’s siblings in person. If your other children are small, explain what having a new baby means. For example, “there is a baby growing in my belly that will be here with us soon. It’ll be exciting because you’ll be a big sister and can help me out and love your new baby.”
    • Explain that a baby sleeps, eats, and cries a lot and won’t be able to play right away.[12]

Part 2
Getting Your Home Ready

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    Set up a room or space for baby. No matter the size of your home—an apartment or house—your baby will need a place to sleep. You’ll also need a place to store baby supplies such as diapers and clothes.[13]
    • Avoid worrying about the size of the space. Babies don’t take up a huge amount of space their first few months of life.
    • Paint a separate room as a nursery or put up wall decals in the room or a space in an apartment.[14] You can decorate with a gender-specific theme if you want, too.
    • Remember to use non-toxic paint if you decide to use color in the room.
    • Make sure the space is the size of what bed you plan to use such as a bassinet, crib, or basket.
    • Set aside some space in your kitchen or pantry for bottles and formula if you are using it.
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    Buy essential items. There are certain items you will definitely need in order to welcome your new baby home. You can purchase most items new or even at second hand stores. Having these ready before you give birth can help ensure that you have an easier and more relaxed transition to parenthood.[15] Some of the items that you should definitely have are:
    • A federally-approved car seat
    • Crib, bassinet, or cradle with slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart
    • Bedding such as a mattress and fitted sheets
    • Bottles, nipples, and bottle cleaners
    • Changing table or non-slip pad
    • Diapers
    • Diaper pail for soiled diapers
    • Receiving blanket(s)
    • Changes of clothes including onesies
    • Washcloths and baby wipes.[16]
    • Baby wash and shampoo.
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    Consider non-essential items. Different people and sources may suggest that you need all kinds of items for a baby. After buying essential items like a car seat and diapers, consider what other items you think you may need. Ask your doctor, friends and family if they have any suggestions. Some possible non-essential items are:
    • Support pillow for your baby
    • Nursing supplies such as a nursing bra or nipple cream
    • Baby lotion
    • Toys to distract your baby
    • Separate diaper bag
    • Audio or video monitors
    • White noise machines
    • Rocker and ottoman.
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    Practice installing the car seat. Most states will not let you leave the hospital with your newborn if you do not know how to use a federally-approved car seat.[17] Before your baby’s birth, get used to placing the removing the seat from your car so that you can go home without any delay and be assured your baby is safe in her seat.[18]
    • Follow LATCH when installing the seat. LATCH stands for “lower anchors and tethers for children.” It means attaching the seat’s anchors and tethers to the metal latches or hooks in the back of your car.[19]
    • Read the instruction manual of your car seat before you start installing it. This can help ensure proper installation.[20]
    • Make sure the car seat is in the back seat facing backwards.[21]
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    Wash bedding and clothes. Before you bring your baby home, you’ll want to make sure her space and anything that touches her delicate skin is clean. In the weeks before your due date and/ or as you set up her room, wash anything that may come in contact with baby’s skin.[22]
    • Use a gentle, baby-friendly detergent that is free of dyes and scents that may irritate skin.[23]
    • Avoid fabric softener and dryer sheets as these can also irritate her skin.[24]
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    Pack your hospital bag. In the weeks before your due date, put together a bag of what items you may need in the hospital for yourself and your baby. Some things to include are:
    • A copy of your birth plan
    • Entertainment or soothing music
    • Comfortable clothing and footwear
    • Personal items such as pillows and bathing articles.[25]
    • Diapers
    • Clothing for your baby.
    • Camera
    • Important documents such as insurance cards and driver’s licenses.[26]
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    Babyproof your home. Although this may not be immediately necessary, your baby will grow quickly and get increasingly curious. Secure areas of your home that could potentially harm your baby, such as sharp corners or electrical outlets, before she becomes mobile to avoid possible accidents.
    • Remember that no device is completely babyproof.[27]
    • Install safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and any other areas in your home. This can keep babies from gaining access to harmful items such as poisons, medications, and sharp objects.[28]
    • Use safety gates in areas where your child could encounter dangers, such as the stairs.[29]
    • Place doorknob covers and locks on entrances to rooms you don’t want your baby to enter.[30]
    • Install anti-scalding devices on faucets and shower heads and set the water temperature to 120 degrees to prevent burns.[31]
    • Use window guards and safety netting to minimize the risk of falls from windows or balconies.[32]
    • Make sure each floor of your home has smoke detectors.[33]

Part 3
Preparing for Baby as a Couple or Family

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    Recognize that a baby changes your life. Having a baby changes the lives of individuals, couples, and families in significant ways. By discussing and embracing the inevitable changes about to happen, you can avoid misunderstandings and potential problems in your relationship.[34]
    • Be aware that women are biologically inclined on nurturing their baby during the first few months of life. Keeping this in mind along with inherent changes can help your husband, partner, children or other family members prepare themselves in advance of the baby’s birth.[35]
    • For example, many women have little or no interest in sex after giving birth and may not even want to have sex while they’re pregnant. But it’s important to understand that men don’t experience this change in feelings. Discussing issues such as this before birth or as it happens can help you deal with any frustrations and keep your relationship strong.[36]
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    Educate yourselves. There is variety of information available to help you get ready for your child. Ask for information from your doctor, family, and friends. You can also consult books and websites to help you navigate your pregnancy as a couple and family.
    • Ask for tips and resources that can provide valuable information during and after pregnancy.
    • Consult sources that detail the changes in your body during pregnancy so that you and your husband or partner can understand the changes you’re both experiencing.
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    Maintain a strong relationship. A baby is likely to thrive when its parents have a healthy relationship. Working on and keeping your relationship strong and healthy throughout your pregnancy and after birth helps you prepare and care for your baby.[37]
    • Discuss all matters related to your baby and relationship including expectations, family values and how you would like to raise your children. Even if you cannot agree on every matter completely, find compromises that may prevent problems in your relationship.[38]
    • Schedule plenty of couple time. Go for walks, have date nights, or take vacations to strengthen your bond as a couple.[39]
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    Talk about budget and workload division. Babies incur a lot of expense and also require significant time and attention. Discussing your finances and how you’ll split the considerable workload can prevent miscommunications and problems during and after your pregnancy.[40]
    • Make sure to talk about the workload during your late stages of your pregnancy, when it can get difficult to move.
    • Figure out how you will tackle household work with a newborn, which may prevent couples from having resentful feelings towards one another.
    • Discuss your respective career plans, such as when and if mom wants to return to work. As a part of this conversation, discuss your feelings on child care and if this is a financially viable option or if it may be cheaper for one parent to either quit their jobs or switch to a job that allows them to work at home.
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    Involve your husband as much as possible. Make sure to keep your husband or partner an active part of your baby preparations. This can be key to maintaining your relationship and may help him more easily bond with your baby. Go to doctor’s appointments and purchase baby gear together to enjoy your baby preparations more fully.
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    Prepare other children for the new arrival. Remember that just as a new baby can change your relationship to your partner, it also makes for a new dynamic with any other children you have.[41] Keeping older siblings in the loop throughout your pregnancy and letting them help once the baby is born can help prepare them for the changes they’ll soon experience.[42]
    • Let your child know as much about your pregnancy as you want.[43] Smaller children may have trouble grasping time and the concept of a new sibling. You can say, “we’ll have a new baby in the house about the time Santa comes.”[44]
    • Allow your child to feel the baby kick if you are comfortable with that. Explain that it’s your child’s sibling saying hello or getting some exercise in your belly.[45] You can also take your child to a doctor’s appointment to see the baby on a sonogram or hear the heartbeat.[46]
    • Encourage your child to help you with preparations like packing your hospital bag, thinking of a baby name, and helping to put together the nursery.[47]
    • Allow your child to “help” with the baby if she shows interest. Even though it may take longer, it’s a way to create a positive relationship between the siblings. In addition, don’t be alarmed if your child shows no interest in the baby. She’ll eventually get used to the new addition.[48]

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Categories: Newborns