Having a baby is a big deal. It impacts your life in nearly every way. Babies bring new levels of responsibility, care, and concern and create a sense of purpose and meaning that no hobby or profession can deliver.
In short, babies don’t just change the day-to-day routines and habits of their parents, they revolutionize the way they see the world. And, of course, as with all larger life transitions, going into the change with a little preparation and understanding can make a huge difference in how gracefully parents can adjust to the new way of life that lies ahead.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
While there are the obvious things like diapers and onesies that everyone thinks of getting when a baby’s on the way, there are actually quite a few different items you’re going to need in order to take care of your baby after it’s born.
Let’s start with some of the basic items you’ll need to have on hand when your new family member arrives. While there may be other additional things you end up getting, this list should cover most of the basics that go into caring for all babies.
- Swaddling blankets: These are game changers, as they help the baby feel comfortable and safe.
- A crib or cradle: Make sure to also get a mattress and bedding that won’t be dangerous for the baby to sleep on.
- A glider or rocking chair: The ability to rock a fussy baby is very helpful for an exhausted new parent. In addition, things like baby swings and saucers are worth consideration, though not necessary.
- A newborn bathtub: Though you can technically bathe your child in a bowl in the sink, a proper tub can help make sure they’re on a safe incline.
- Babysafe toiletries: Have things like baby-size nail clippers, a thermometer, baby lotion, baby wash, and a sterile bulb syringe aspirator ready to go.
- Diapers: They may be cliche, but they’re still important. Don’t forget wipes and diaper rash cream, too.
- Onesies: While you obviously want full outfits and footie pajamas, onesies are key. They’ll take a beating, so make sure to have plenty on hand. Also try to find a good hat, scratch gloves, and baby socks.
- A monitor system: This helps keep tabs on the baby when you’re not in the room. A white noise machine, while not required, may be a nice added touch as well.
- Gentle, baby-safe laundry detergent: Using an approved detergent is important for your baby’s newborn skin.
- A highly rated car seat: Make sure to invest time into reading the manual and making sure you know how to properly install the seat and buckle in the child. A quality stroller and ring sling or other baby carrier are also very helpful.
The financial elements of having a baby can be a huge stressor. However, if you take each financial concern one at a time, it’s not difficult to come up with a reasonable, rational plan for how to adjust to the added costs (and benefits) that a baby brings with them.
For instance, take the time to find out how your insurance covers births. Is there a certain number of days you can stay in the hospital? What hospitals and other birthing options are within your insurance company’s network? If you don’t have insurance, what financial alternatives — such as Medicaid or other state-run programs — do you have access to?
If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, you may want to start squirreling away some extra cash whenever you can in order to offset unexpected costs down the road, as well. It can also be a huge load off your mind to sit down and draft both pre- and post-baby budgets in order to map out all of the costs as much as possible.
When it comes to the long term, you may also be thinking about getting a house at this point. If you do look for a home, remember to go over your options beforehand. Do you want choices? Then you may want to shop in the high season between March and May. If you’re looking for a deal, though, consider looking in January or February.
Finally, don’t forget to keep in mind things like the Child Tax Credit and any other federal, state, or local tax incentives to help offset the costs as you go.
There’s no doubt that having a baby is an emotional experience. It includes awe-inspiring, love-filled feelings that make every parent want to pick up their phones and take a dozen pictures every time their child does the smallest thing — just think twice before you post those pictures online, as doing so can open up the door for things like cyberbullying and misuse of the image. Just make sure they’re appropriate and don’t give away any personal information, and keep the social media platforms that you do post pictures on as private as possible.
All that said, becoming a parent can also wear on your emotions in other, less pleasant ways. That’s why it’s critical that you take some time to mentally prepare and set expectations beforehand in order to help manage things like stress and worry when they arise.
One important thing to realize is that emotions don’t (and shouldn’t) just go away. If you head into parenthood with the plan to stuff and eliminate your feelings, you’re almost certain to fail sooner or later. Try to practice having emotional intelligence — that is understanding and managing your emotions — and remember that you’re going to feel things like anxiety and stress as you go, and that’s okay. It’s simply part of the journey.
Another more practical way to mentally prepare is to create a flexible mindset towards your sleep schedule. Remember, sleep is a very important element to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s one that parents, in particular, often fail to get in adequate quantities.
This isn’t a mindless, unrealistic call to just “sleep more!” The truth is, having a baby can throw off a sleep schedule as no other life event can. However, trying to keep a flexible mindset towards your sleep schedule can make a world of difference.
As you learn more about your child’s sleep patterns, try to adapt your own schedule to make sure you’re getting as much sleep as is reasonably possible. Part of this means you’re simply going to need to set priorities and manage your expectations for less important things like hobbies and social engagements for the short term until your child is older and more predictable sleep patterns set in.
Enjoy the Experience
Clearly, there’s a lot more to preparing for the birth of your child than buying some diapers, prepping a bottle, and clearing some space on your phone for pictures.
However, for all of the details that are required, all it takes is a little forethought, preparation, and planning to take the edge off of the stress as you launch into what is truly one of the greatest adventures that life has to offer. So gather your baby supplies, set your budgets, and take a deep breath, and before you know it, you’ll be ready for your new parenting adventures to begin.