Sure, you're not the first person to have a baby, but becoming a parent is a major life milestone for all. Having a baby is probably one of the most life-changing events you will ever experience. During pregnancy, your priorities, values, and expectations can shift, sometimes dramatically. This shift may take others by surprise, including your family, partner, employer, and friends. Understand that this is a normal part of making the transition to parenting, and will likely come with a wide range of emotions, from excitement and joy to ambivalence and fear. Are you wondering how to prepare for having a baby? It's hard to know exactly how you'll feel once your baby arrives, so we've compiled some helpful tips to help you prepare for this new adventure.
Preparing for a Baby Tips
Make a plan. Having a baby (especially your first) can feel like a huge leap into the unknown. It's hard to predict all the ways your life will change, but one thing's for certain—your life will change. The sense of uncertainty from having a baby can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. To ease some of that new baby stress, having a parenting checklist in place well before the baby comes will help make the most of your baby's first year. Develop a budget, pay off debt, and set aside 3 to 6 months of expenses, if possible, so you have a financial cushion. Talk with your employer about if and when you will return to work. It's important to prepare for a change in managing your work-life balance. What will your daily responsibilities look like? Is your employer open to a flexible schedule? Talk with your partner about household tasks and develop a schedule for completing those tasks, such as grocery shopping, laundry, or housecleaning. Having a plan can ease many of your worries, giving you a sense of control and competence. Of course, flexibility is important too. During the first few weeks after your baby arrives, schedules will probably go out the window as you adjust to your new baby. Having those schedules in place, though, will help you return to a comfortable routine more quickly.
Cut yourself some slack. Most first-timers worry about their ability to parent effectively, but here's a little secret: you are going to make some parenting mistakes. You are not going to be a perfect parent, because the perfect parent does not exist. Fortunately, children don't need perfect parents. They need committed, loving parents who are trying to do their best—parents who acknowledge when they've messed up and keep on trying. Parenting is a learning curve—sometimes a steep one—and it's okay if you don't have it all figured out. Babies are remarkably resilient and your baby will be just fine.
Take care of yourself while pregnant. You'll probably receive plenty of unsolicited pregnancy advice throughout your pregnancy in regards to things that worked for your friends or coworkers, but don't forget the importance of taking care of yourself amidst all of that advice. During pregnancy, your body is working overtime; physical fatigue can worsen the symptoms of emotional overload. Spend at least a few minutes every day to nurture yourself. Take a quick nap, go for a walk, try yoga or meditation, stock up on healthy snacks, or get a prenatal massage. Go to bed early and try to maintain a consistent schedule. You will need both physical and emotional reserves to cope with the challenges of labor and the first few weeks of parenting. Look at pregnancy as a time of preparation for parenting.
Manage relationship stress. The changes of pregnancy and parenthood can cause relationship stress as you try to sort out your new life and roles. Be patient with yourself and your partner. Spend time together and talk honestly about your hopes and fears. Accept those inevitable differences in temperament and priorities, which often become more obvious as you prepare for parenting.
- Use your support network. It's a natural inclination to focus inward as you prepare for childbirth, and you might feel too tired after a long day to socialize, but don't forego the company of friends entirely. Your family and friends can be a source of nurturing support, both now and after the baby arrives. Too tired at night to get together? How about a weekend brunch or a Saturday afternoon movie? Maintain relationships and be sure to ask for help as the big day draws near.
Pregnancy is a time of transition and change. Use this time to articulate and address any fears you have, build a strong support network, and establish a predictable, stable lifestyle for your family.
Bright Horizons Podcast: Let’s Talk Baby Blues
On this episode of the Work-Life Equation: We all start with the idealized image of parenting. Then comes the first night of crying (yours and the baby’s), and you wonder if you were cut out for this at all. On this episode, mother/daughter parenting pros Marti and Erin Erikson get real about new motherhood -- the elation, the blues, being good to yourself, and why we all should be OK with asking for help (even from work) when we need it.
Resources Related to Preparing for a Baby
- An experienced mom shares parenting advice with a first-time mom-to-be. What advice would you share?
- Use these tips for preparing an older child for a new baby and check out these fun family activities to do before a new baby arrives.
- Advice for expectant dads or parenting partners from the "pregnancy hype man."
- Get baby and infant tips, ideas & resources from real parents on our Family Room Blog.