There is no shortage of things to think about when you have a new baby. As a mom and sleep consultant for over 15 years, I’d love to share some wisdom with you as part of your “village.” In this post, learn 10 things you should do before and 10 things you should do after you have a baby!
10 Things to Do BEFORE You Have a Baby (or soon after if you already had the baby!)
Below are the 10 things to do (ideally) before you have a baby.
1. Build Your Village
Gone are the days when we have an entire village to help us raise a child. Things are so different now leaving moms feeling like they have to do it all. But, you don’t! If you don’t already have a village of support, build one!
Here are a few people I recommend you welcome to your village:
- Pediatrician – Of course, you will need a doctor for your baby but that’s a given. I recommend interviewing 2-3 of them to find a doctor who has similar beliefs as you. You’ll want to be similar when it comes to things like medication, immunizations, and breastfeeding (if you plan to). Also, try to find a doctor who has a great bedside manner. You will be seeing this doctor a LOT! Some doctors are good but aren’t warm and fuzzy at all. When you’re a new mom who’s worried about your baby’s fever, you will want someone who is kind and warm AND good, of course!
- Post-Partum Doula – If you have the budget, a Post-Partum Doula will help YOU. Quite a few people will come “help with the baby” and they want to hold and care for the baby. This is GREAT but moms need care, too. A post-partum doula can help you recover from birth, educate you, and get you on the right track with being the mom you envision.
- Night Nurse – Again, if you have the budget, a night nurse can help care for the baby at night to let you get more sleep if you don’t have someone in your village who can do this for you. If you don’t have the budget for a night nurse, consider buying or renting a SNOO Smart Bassinet ahead of time.
- Lactation Consultant – If you plan on breastfeeding, finding a lactation consultant ahead of time can help save you time, should you have challenges. Even if you don’t have challenges, a Lactation Consultant can answer questions and guide you to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals.
- Sleep Consultant – Just like other consultants, a sleep consultant can answer questions specific to your situation pertaining to helping your baby sleep better, get on a schedule, take better naps, and guide you through sleep regressions. Your baby will be sleeping through the night in no time!
- 2-3 Trusted and Dependable Friends – Last, but not least, having 2-3 trusted and dependable friends can be a life-saver! You need someone you can call to cry, watch the baby while you take a shower, or just listen.
2. Create or Update Your Will
As you know, a Legal Will outlines your wishes should you die and a major reason you will want to create or update a Will for your baby is to designate who will care for your baby due to unforeseen circumstances or tragedy. Contrary to what some believe, you can designate a guardian for your baby before they are born.
My husband and I created a Will and a Trust because, frankly, if something happened to us, we didn’t want our children getting a substantial amount of life insurance money when they were 18! That sounded like a bad idea so we established a Trust that will “trickle” the life insurance over a 10-15-year period. But, don’t worry. Should they need money, they are allotted “living expenses.” We simply didn’t want them to go buy sports cars. 😉
While you don’t HAVE to have a lawyer to write your Will, it felt overwhelming to us to do it ourselves and make sure it would be right. So we hired help. After all, we wouldn’t be around to fix anything!
3. Add or Increase Life Insurance
Along the same lines of a Will to make sure your baby is cared for in a way you prefer, I highly recommend you add or increase your life insurance.
Raising a baby is EXPENSIVE!
You really want to make sure you have ample life insurance for any and all income earners. This is especially true if one of you will be staying home with the baby without a significant income. But, if you think about it, even if you aren’t earning income, you are providing a valuable “service” that would need to be paid for in your absence. And, it’s not just for a few years. It will be over a decade until your children are somewhat self-sufficient!
4. Don’t Stress About the Nursery
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends sharing a room with your baby for the first 6-12 months for safety purposes. Therefore, we recommend you plan to have your baby in the room with you for at least 6 months. Therefore, here are a few things to consider:
- Decorate the nursery but don’t stress if it’s not perfect before your baby is born. You might not be using it for months anyway! If you wait to decorate, you might have different ideas about your baby’s personality and styles change rapidly. If you decorate the nursery when you’re 6 months pregnant, you might not use it much for another year and a lot can change in that time! PRO TIP: Set up your Baby Registry with this tip in mind!
- Plan to use a bassinet you can place near your bed such as the Arms Reach Bassinet. Or, as I mentioned above, you could consider having a SNOO Smart Bassinet and your baby won’t have to transition until 5-6 months old. This can buy you extra hours of sleep.
- Be sure to read through our tips for room-sharing with baby.
- When it’s time to transition your baby to a crib or to their own room, be sure to try to do it gently.
- Be sure to review all of the safe sleep tips.
5. Prepare Frozen Meals
Although your family, loved ones, and village (see above) may bring you a few meals and/or gifts when your baby is firstborn, you will start to see fewer people over the weeks and months after you have the baby. What I find ironic is the fact that you expect to be sleep-deprived in the first few weeks and many newborns will sleep almost all day and night anyway. So, when you really need the most help…when your baby is reaching that 6-week peak of fussiness, you will have far less help and you or your partner might also be going back to work!
I highly recommend you make some frozen meals ahead of time that you can use in a pinch when you are feeling overwhelmed or on nights you’re just too exhausted to cook. Here are a few lists of recipes:
- 150 Easy Freezer Meal Recipes You Can Make Ahead
- 15 Actually Easy Freezer Meals (Seriously!)
- 50 Delicious and Easy Freezer Meal Recipes
I recommend making 3-4 meals per week leading up to the birth of your baby. You won’t be sorry!
6. Get on a Waiting List for Childcare, if applicable
If you will be going back to work and plan to put your baby in daycare, plan well ahead. Many childcare places have waiting lists, some a year or more out, and you will want to get on one ASAP!
7. Have a Few Date Nights or Go on a Babymoon
We love going on vacation and LOVE taking our kids! But, since having kids, we’ve only been on one vacation without them and that was a 3-day cruise for our 10-year anniversary. We might be in the minority but we love family vacations and don’t leave them behind! Regardless of your plans post-kids, I highly recommend going on a few dates with your partner or going on a Babymoon (a “honeymoon” for expecting couples). It will give you some downtime from the stress of planning for the baby and let you connect and bond before the birth of your baby and new life. Your life will never be the same nor should it be! It’s a wonderful thing but the more you can bond as a couple beforehand, the stronger your bond during the stressful times, in my opinion.
Be sure to check with your doctor about traveling and when you should stop. Don’t wait too long because there are some cases where you need to slow down and rest before the baby is born. Here are a few ideas for a babymoon:
- 19 Perfect Babymoon Destinations
- Baby Moon Guide
- Best Romantic Babymoon Destinations in the United States
8. Plan some Girl Time, Alone Time, and/or Pampering
Just like time for your partner, I highly recommend taking some time to hang out with friends, spend some “me time” with yourself, and enjoy some pampering! For a long time, you are going to be caring for another person, and let me tell you…taking care of yourself sometimes gets pushed aside! Go get a maternity massage or pedicure (especially if you can’t see your toes!). You won’t be sorry you did!
9. Take Maternity Photos and Find a Newborn Photographer
I know, I know. We often feel fat and not-so-sexy when we are pregnant but YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! Let your shine glow and take some maternity photos. You won’t be sorry you captured this moment. A good photographer will see your beauty and you can cherish these forever. In addition, plan to take some newborn photos of your baby. They grow up SOOOO fast! I know everyone says that, but it’s true!
10. Install Your Carseat or Take It To the Fire Department For Installation
Getting your car seat installed ahead of time will be much less pressure than leaving it for your partner to do while you’re recovering in the hospital. These days it’s much easier to install them but if you take it to the fire department, they will double-check the installation and answer any questions you might have. Then, you won’t worry as much when you’re driving home from the hospital. There’s a lot of pressure to keep your family safe and let me tell you, it doesn’t go away! It forever feels like a part of my heart is walking around outside my body.
Doing all of these things before your baby is born is ideal but feel free to jump on them now if you’ve already had the baby! And, now, 10 things you should do AFTER the baby is born!
10 Things to do AFTER You Have a Baby
Here are 10 things to do after you have a baby:
1. You Should Be Cautious About Having (Too Many) Visitors
When my son was just a few months old, he caught RSV which is a common upper respiratory virus. He slept at an incline and I was nervous to death! He was so little to have gotten sick so young. Granted, he caught this virus at daycare but if you are blessed to have a large group of family members and friends who are coming to see the baby, be cautious about TOO many. Also, ask your visitor’s health status (fever? sniffles?), have them wash their hands before they hold your baby, and wear a mask just in case.
I know it might sound “germaphobic” but babies have immature immune systems. My youngest son has asthma that only flares up when he has a cold so “just a little cold” has been such a nightmare for many years (he’s a teenager now and it STILL happens!). Since you won’t know how your baby will handle a “little cold” you might want to err on the side of caution in the early weeks/months. Non-parents might be a little offended but experienced parents will completely understand. If nothing else, when your baby is ill, they certainly don’t sleep much and you are often up all night!
2. Start Investing For Your Baby
I’m not a financial advisor or anything but over the years, I’ve learned a few things. In the Book, The Automatic Millionaire, he has a fantastic illustration about why you start early to invest on your child’s behalf. I read it way late for our family but we are doing well, now. It has helped us immensely with retirement planning and investing for our children. I am here to share my wisdom so you can be smarter than me! The book is a quick read and I recommend it to anyone who wants to save more money whether it’s for your children, vacations, retirement, or just because! Plan to start investing for your children, now, and they will have much less to do when they are in their 30s and 40s.
3. Prepare for Your Post-Partum Recovery
Again, everyone thinks about caring for the baby, but you will need care, too. A few must-haves are the following:
- Maxi-Pads (you can’t use tampons!)
- Disposable Underwear (or underwear you can throw away) just in case of leaks
- Witch Hazel Pads for hemorrhoids
- Peri-Rinse Bottle to clean
There are many things you CAN buy for post-partum care but these are the things almost every mom will likely need. You will also want to be cautious about post-partum depression and anxiety. Be sure to watch for the signs and symptoms.
4. Clean Your Carpets/Rugs
You will be surprised how much time you spend on the floor with your baby, and once they start crawling, watch out! So, plan to clean your carpets and rugs soon after you have the baby. (Especially if you have pets that might cause allergies for baby.) Yes, you can clean the carpets beforehand but you probably won’t spend a lot of time on the floor during the first few months, and all those visitors might track things into your house. You might want to ask visitors to remove their shoes for that reason if you don’t already.
5. Install an App For That
There are a bajillion apps out there now so before you get stressed about something, see if there’s an app. If there wasn’t last month, there could be one, now! We have a list of awesome apps here but, of course, there are many, many more and we can’t keep the list updated!
6. Send Thank You Cards
Your newborn will sleep 16+ hours a day so when you aren’t trying to catch up on sleep yourself, plan to send your thank you cards for any gifts from the baby shower or birth of your child. You can also send thank you cards (or e-mails) for any food dropped off to help you adjust to life with the baby.
7. Start a Diaper Subscription
There’s nothing worse than using up your last diaper at 2 AM! Sometimes you go through diapers faster than you thought you would. So, you may want to start a diaper subscription so diapers just show up monthly. There are diaper subscriptions out there but you can easily use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save where if you have other things delivered regularly, too, you can save between 5% and 20% of the cost (depending on how many subscriptions you have). That can add up a LOT over the first year!
Do consider that your baby will outgrow the newborn size quickly, so I recommend starting the diaper subscription with Size 2. You do have to be an Amazon Prime member to unlock the savings but you get free shipping on so many items along with Prime Video, Music, and more that it’s well worth the cost! It’s a great gift to add to your registry, too.
8. Consider Buying a Video Monitor and Breathing Monitor
As a new mom, you will worry. A lot. Sometimes peace of mind is just priceless even if the monitors out there aren’t. Consider buying a video monitor for less than $100 for more peace of mind. While they are napping, you can keep your eye on them. And, if you are very worried or your baby has a health condition, consider a heart rate and oxygen monitor, too, or instead. Although you might wonder if you’re just being too much of a nervous mom, sometimes peace of mind helps everyone rest easier at night. No one wants regrets that we “shoulda” done this or that.
9. Give Baby Tummy Time
It’s easy to want to hold your baby all the time and babies love to be held! But, don’t forget they need time to stretch their limbs and work on their neck control. That usually comes with tummy time! As long as your baby is full-term and healthy, you can start tummy time as soon as your baby is born. Always check with your doctor, of course, on what’s best for YOUR baby.
At first, your baby might not like tummy time too much (neither of my boys did!) so you can start with short bouts of time for just 3-5 minutes at a time and gradually increase the time. Aim for 5-10 minutes a day in the beginning and work your way up to 20-30 minutes a day by the time your baby is 4 months old. Learn more about tummy time complete with videos of different ages at Pathways.org.
10. Download 15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need to Know About Your Newborn’s Sleep
Lastly, be sure you know all there is to know about your newborn baby’s sleep. We have a FREE e-Book available to everyone, called 15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need to Know. This is the perfect guide for new and expectant parents! It highlights the basics that every new parent needs to know about baby sleep, and it explains them in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way. Even better, the e-Book leaves plenty of room for parents to follow their instincts, and create their own philosophy of parenting and sleep – no one-size-fits-all approaches here!