There are so many things to do to prepare your mind, body, and home before your baby arrives.
Before giving birth to my first child, I remember feeling excited and nervous and:
- Terrified that I didn’t know how to install a car seat
- Disappointed that I’d not taken a birthing class
- Frustrated because I had zero clue what postpartum essentials to pack
Can you relate?
Had I checked out a new baby checklist, my first birthing experience may have gone more smoothly.
But, I’ve since had my second boy.
So here’s what I’ve learned to do to prepare for a baby’s arrival ahead of time.
32 Ways To Prepare For Baby Before You Give Birth
1. Keep Cool In A Maternity Dress
When your belly gets so big that pulling up your pants is a fight, a maternity dress is your superhero.
Obviously, there are no pant legs to stretch over your puffy, third-trimester calves in a dress.
Maternity dresses feel cool and breezy on your skin and stretch with your growing bump.
I adore this flowy, floral print dress with a flattering angle hemline.
Choose blue for winter, maroon for fall, or peach for a summer or spring due date.
2. Create A Baby Gear Checklist
Create a checklist.
Some baby items are essentials:
- Car seat
- Baby bathtub
- Crib or crib substitute, like a rolling bedside bassinet or Moses basket
- Diapers (get 1-2 boxes of Newborn and 3-4 boxes of Sizes 1 and 2)
- Burp cloths
- Swaddling blankets
- Breastpump (*if planning on using the boobs)
- Nursing pillow
- Nipple cream*
- Nursing pads*
- Nursing/pumping bra*
- Formula (if breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned)
- Padsicles or C-section cream (I love Bio-oil)
- Peri bottle
- Mesh underwear
Others are nice to have:
- Baby mobile
- Babywearing carrier
- Baby play gym
- Lactation supplements (if breastfeeding)
- Diaper bag
3. Wash All The Baby Gear
Whether you’ve been blessed with hands-me-downs or oodles of new baby clothes at your shower, wash everything your baby will wear or come in contact with.
Consider a hypoallergenic detergent since a baby’s skin is more sensitive than ours.
4. Make a music playlist
Music has the power to pump you up and chill you out!
So create a playlist with your favorite songs to serve as a distraction from labor or help keep your breathing on track.
Think of music as invisible supporting hands!
My first birth had no soundtrack, but my second kick-started with Destiny Child’s “Survivor.”
5. Pack Your Hospital Bag
Unless you plan to have a home birth, you’ll want to pack a hospital bag so it’s ready to go when you are (or instead, your baby is!).
Pack in your hospital bag:
- Labor and delivery gown
- Postpartum underwear
- Peri bottle
- Nursing bra*
- Nipple cream*
- Phone charger and cord
- Healthy snacks like nuts, granola bars, chocolate, and jerky
Your hospital bag should be ready to go around 36 weeks.
6. Set Up The Sleeping Area
Prepare where your baby will sleep now so you can conk out with your bundle of joy later.
Set up the crib or Pack n’ Play.
If you’ve bought a gorgeous Moses basket, test it out with the stand and by itself in your bedroom.
Put swaddling blankets, diapers, and wipes nearby.
Get a nightlight ready for all-night nappy changes and feeds (breathe, mama – this phase won’t last forever, I promise).
7. Install Car Seat
It’s wise to set up and learn how to use the car seat ahead of time.
Plus, if you give birth in Canada or the US, it’s illegal to take your baby home from the hospital without one!
I was intimidated the first time I used a car seat.
My third trimester bump did not help to buckle it in the car, but I was adamant about learning how to do it myself!
8. Think About Getting An Additional Car Seat
Some car seats are easier to install than others.
It’s also highly convenient to not have to switch the seat every time you change cars.
If your car seat was a pain in the butt to put in your vehicle, or you have a little extra money to spend, consider investing in a second car seat for your partner’s car or for someone else who will watch your child.
We bought a hand-me-down car seat from a friend in our community.
You can learn how to check for a safe second-hand car seat here.
9. Pick A Pain Management Strategy
Before your baby’s arrival, you should research different pain management options during childbirth.
I recommend first reflecting on your fears (if any) surrounding the experience because the more your body tenses up, the more your body fights the natural birthing process.
Then, consider if you prefer a medicated or natural birth and weigh the pros and cons of each.
You might also want a backup plan, as some women change their minds when the contractions hit.
Common labor and delivery medications include epidurals (eases pain below the belly) and regional anesthesia (common with C-sections).
If you prefer the natural route for pain relief, try mediation, massage, or breathing techniques, like Lamaze and Hypnobirthing.
Lastly, ask your hospital if they provide birth tubs for a water birth.
Some mamas find water soothing, and babies like it because it mimics the womb.
10. Practice Breathing
Guess what: your breath helps bring your baby earthside!
And the more focused your breathing, the more oxygen your body and baby receive, which lessens the likelihood of complications.
Therefore, you should learn to work with your breath.
Two easy breathing techniques are slow breathing (when you’re no longer able to talk during contractions) and light breathing (before you start to push).
11. Hire A Doula
Doulas are like the Wonderwomen of birth!
Think of them as your personal on-call pregnancy and birth advisor that can visit you at your home.
But how are doulas different from a doctor?
Well, doulas emotionally and physically support you and your family before, during, and even after your baby’s arrival.
They can teach breathing techniques, breastfeeding positions, and cloth diapering, to name a few essential baby things.
Doulas also provide nutritional and lactation counseling that otherwise may be too overwhelming for pregnant, tired you to digest via the internet by yourself.
12. Take A Birthing Class
Sign up for a birthing class if you’d like another way to prepare for your baby’s arrival.
Birthing classes are a fun way to learn all the baby basics (like how to confidently take care of a newborn).
And it’s a gathering spot for other pregnant people!
Because why wait to build your Mom Tribe when you can start now?
However, consider hiring a doula if being in a group setting is not your thing.
They provide more 1-1 support.
13. Think About Who You Want At Your Birth
Stress slows down the birth process, so ideally, you want everything and everyone in the delivery room to be as peaceful to you as possible.
Yes, a new baby is an exciting stuff, but that doesn’t guarantee everyone a ticket to your birth!
Think about who you’d like there for support, and kindly decline anyone that wishes to be there that you don’t want.
“I know you want to be there for us, but I learned that my body gives birth best when it’s relaxed and not anxious.
[Partner or doula] can text you when I’m starting to labor, and we’ll give you a call once the baby has come.”
14. Get A Breastpump
If you plan to breastfeed, you’ll want to get your breast pump before your baby is born so you can have it washed and ready to go.
This way, you can also check that you received the necessary parts, like flanges, breast shields, and connector tubes.
It’s helpful to become familiar with them, too, before you put them to use.
You may be eligible for a free pump (like a Philips Avent, Willow, and Spectra) through your insurance, so give them a call!
15. Stock Up On Formula
Because life doesn’t always go as planned, it’s a smart idea to stock up on baby formula.
And there are many reasons why stocking up your shelves is a good idea.
Think your baby doesn’t latch, your body struggles to produce milk, overly sensitive and chafed nipples, or you’re just plain exhausted and need your boobs to yourself for a while.
16. Check If You Eligible For Government Benefits
Depending on where you live, you may be able to receive financial support.
Food and formula coupons can help you stock your pantry with fresh fruits, vegetables, and staples like rice, beans, and milk.
Some programs offer no-cost child development and breastfeeding counseling.
It’s worth checking out to see if you can keep more cash in your wallet!
17. Add Your Baby To Your Insurance
It’s best to add your baby to your insurance before your due date in case of any hiccups.
If you forget this step, insurance companies have a 30-60 day window after your baby is born where you can add them to your policy.
If your child isn’t added in time, you may have to shell out for services that otherwise would be covered.
18. Pick A Pediatrician
Babies are recommended to visit a doctor 7 times during their first year, so it’s crucial to pick a pediatrician you and your child likes.
If you have insurance, you can check with them to see what pediatricians are in-network.
Insurance or not, it’s up to you whether you decide to schedule a prenatal pediatrician visit for a meet and greet or wait until after your baby is born.
19. Choose Your Childcare
If you haven’t thought about your childcare options yet…you should.
Will you be taking your child to daycare so you can work, or will you stay home?
Do you want an in-house childcare provider or make the commute yourself?
If you can square this away, it’ll be one less thing to worry about on your big day.
20. Research Hot Topics Like Vaccination And Circumcision
Again, if you haven’t thought about vaccinations and circumcision, now is the time.
How do you feel about these issues?
What questions do you have?
Explore your feelings, research, and speak with your pediatrician and/or doula.
21. Talk With Your Partner
If you’re not going through pregnancy solo, talk with your partner about their feelings and thoughts.
- What can you do to support them?
- How do they feel about vaccination, circumcision, or baptism?
- How do they think they will discipline your child?
Now lovingly turn the tables, and chat about how you’re feeling and what you think, love.
22. Plan A Date Night – Or Two!
Go ahead and plan some date nights already!
Circling dates on the calendar gives you and your partner a big something to look forward to after your baby arrives.
You’re both bursting with eagerness to have fun as you did pre-baby!
23. Take A Tour Of Where Your Plan To Give Birth
Unless you’re having your sweet little cinnamon bun at home, take a tour of the hospital or birthing center, so it’s familiar to you when you arrive for The Show.
The more relaxed you are, the easier it’ll be to get your baby out of the oven!
24. Book A Birth Photographer If That’s Your Jam
If you’re the type that loves the camera (or just want gorgeous shots of you and your newest love bug), then hire a birth photographer.
Your partner is 100% capable of taking such pictures, yes – but shouldn’t they be 100% focused on you?
Cue the cameraman or woman!
These shots also double as beautiful birth announcements.
25. Make An Away-From-Home Plan
I was away from home for longer than expected during my first birth.
So during my second pregnancy, I created a plan “just in case.”
I listed contact information for our family members, the pediatrician, and wrote down my oldest’s daily schedule.
I also added a designated pick-up person in case he was in school.
26. Fill Your Freezer
Freezer meals are a *chef’s kiss* when you’re postpartum and ravenous from all the energy it takes to take care of a newborn while your body is simultaneously hurting and healing.
If you need inspiration, how about:
- Tomato soup
- Tikka Masala
- Breakfast burritos
- Spaghetti squash and meatballs
27. Gas Up The Car
No one wants to push through a contraction as they push through the panic of having an empty gas tank!
Try to keep your tank over half-full in the few weeks leading up to your due date.
28. Scrub Down The House
Still have the nesting bug? Work it, girl!
Or clean it, rather!
Since you probably won’t have the time or energy to maintain your usual cleaning schedule once your bundle of joy arrives, clean anything that needs it now.
If you have the funds, hire a housekeeper to come in once a week.
Or, see if a friend’s preteen is looking for a way to make a buck!
29. Connect With Your Older Children
Family dynamics naturally change when you bring another baby home, so carve out one-on-one time with your older child, so your connection remains strong.
If you can’t, sprinkle in small moments of connection, like a quick hug when they’re on the couch, or write them a note and let them find it!
30. Download A Contraction Timer
Contraction timers are uber-popular with new parents because they take all that information out of your head and into your phone.
Apps like Sprout Pregnancy is a free and easy tool to track them – and you can even save your contraction timeline for reference with your doctor.
Full Term and Storky are also popular with parents.
31. Make Padsicles
If you have a vaginal birth, having a hefty stack of padsicles will save your behind.
A padiscle is a pad soaked in witch hazel which is then frozen.
The coolness relieves pain down there surprisingly big time.
32. Send Thank You Notes
Get those baby shower thank you notes out of the way now.
Your postpartum self will thank you later!
So mama, how else do you prepare for baby?
Kris McCormick is a boy mama, wife, and blogger. Since becoming a mom six years ago, she’s been researching the best advice, resources, and baby gear from small businesses to make pregnancy and child-raising easier for all parents.