Preparing for a baby can feel overwhelming for first time parents. The “to-do” list seems unending, the list of suggested items for registry is suspiciously long, the car seat is impossible to install, and the perfect nursery color is elusive. It can be hard to prioritize which projects are truly important.
And always, in the back of your head, is the nagging uncertainty of not knowing when exactly this tiny human is actually going to exit your body.
My youngest was adopted, and we only had 24 hours’ notice before we brought him home. So, from personal experience, I can testify that you really can just stop at Target and grab some diapers, formula, and a bassinet on the way home from the hospital – those bare essentials really are enough to keep your baby alive.
But for those of you with a bit more time to prepare, here’s what I recommend you focus on:
1. Install the car seat
You must have a car seat before you can leave the hospital. Car seats can be confusing to purchase and tricky to install. If you have questions about installations, contact your local police station or fire station for a safety check. I would recommend having a seat purchased and installed by 35 weeks in case the baby sneaks out a few weeks early. In fact, it’s a good idea to have all of your projects done by 35 weeks so you will have more time for tip #5.
2. Learn infant CPR
If you are not already CPR-certified, taking an infant CPR class can give you an added level of confidence in your parenting and could save your baby’s life. You can check with your local hospital, community center, or Red Cross for classes, but if you are unable to attend you can order your instructional video here. (Home CPR kits also make excellent shower gifts… not as cute a hooded towel, but much more useful.)
3. Prepare yourself for the baby, not just the birth
In our society, we spend a lot of time focusing on pregnancy and birth. Women read books and take classes for months on the birthing process. Labor is a challenging, beautiful and unique experience; but it is still (hopefully only) one day of your life. Afterwards you have an ACTUAL child to raise for 18 years. In addition to reading books on birth, you should also read up on baby care. Study the first few chapters of your baby books and highlight what’s normal for feeding, peeing, pooping, and sleeping. Have your partner read them too, so perhaps one of you might remember them in the exhausted sleep-deprived state. Also don’t forget to choose a pediatrician. Once the baby is born, your obstetrician will continue to care for you, but the baby will then be seen by a pediatrician or family practitioner.
4. Be smart with your gear
Walking into the baby store can be daunting. Too. Many. Choices. When I go in to pick up something for a shower, I’m always intrigued by the number of new “must have” gadgets that have popped up on the market in just the few short years since my son was a baby. When you establish your registry, ask someone who recently had a baby to help you wade through your choices. Also, keep tags on as much stuff as possible to see if you will really need it. Staying gender neutral on all your colors is good idea. This is another reason I plug surprise gender deliveries: if you keep newborn stuff gender neutral, you can more easily use for tiny human #2.
5. Go to the movies
For her last fun outing before her due date, one of my good friends (a first-time mom) chose to go to the zoo. When she told me, I shook my head in dismay. Trust me, you will spend the next 18 years at zoo’s, Chick-fil-A, and watching cartoons. In the last months of your pregnancy, please go to (non-animated) movies, eat at restaurants with white table cloths, and enjoy sleeping in for as long as your pregnant bladder will let you. You will not be doing these things again for very long time. Your child will be totally worth the loss of these simple pleasures, but take advantage of those last few months of freedom.
The last few months of pregnancy can be uncomfortable and scary. As you are preparing for your baby try to focus on the things that are going to keep your baby healthy and safe; and you calm and relaxed. The perfect nursery color is fun but likely not as critical as having a good car seat, knowing CPR, or a getting peaceful night’s sleep.