Leyla Bilali, RN is a registered nurse, fertility nurse, and fertility consultant in the New York City area.
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
Preparing for a new baby is a momentous time. Whether you are trying to conceive or just received a positive pregnancy test, it's natural to feel both excited and daunted by the prospect of parenthood. While adjusting to your changing body and fluctuating hormones, there are appointments to book, gear to buy, and decisions to make.
Fear not: We have plenty of guidance for getting ready for baby while taking care of yourself, too. Start here for ideas on newborn essentials, budget tips, baby names, and more. Advanced planning will allow you more time to recover, relax, and bond with your baby when the time arrives.
Start by preparing for a healthy pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meeting with a healthcare provider to discuss your health history, medications you're taking, and vaccinations you need as soon as you think you're ready to start a family.
Be candid about your lifestyle. It's important to quit smoking, curb drinking, and avoid certain household chemicals to protect your baby from birth defects and other problems. Talk about a nutrition plan to help you conceive and keep your baby on a healthy growth track. Taking 400 micrograms daily of folic acid leading up to pregnancy helps prevent major abnormalities of the baby’s brain and spine.
It's never too early to start family planning. If you have a partner, share financial and relationship goals well before starting a family. Talk with a healthcare provider about how your age and menstrual cycle patterns may affect your ability to get pregnant.
Upon a positive pregnancy test, book your first prenatal appointment to plan for screening tests and discuss childbirth methods and options. At the start of your second trimester, once your pregnancy is well established, consider adjustments to your work schedule and living arrangements to accommodate life with a new baby. As any morning sickness wanes, you may feel more motivated to turn to the fun parts of planning, like choosing baby names, making a baby registry, and setting up a nursery.
First, plan for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth experience. During prenatal appointments, speak with your doctor or midwife about creating a birth plan, which is a set of instructions about how you want to handle labor pains and any complications during childbirth. Another important plan to make when preparing for parenthood is a budget to account for new expenses. Make sure you have health insurance and life insurance plans in place and up to date. As you approach your due date, choose a pediatrician as well as a childcare provider if you know you'll need one.
It's natural to have some roller-coaster emotions as you experience a changing body and perhaps feel anxious about what kind of parent you'll be, especially with fluctuating hormones. It helps to build a support network well before your due date. If you have a partner, discuss balancing childcare duties to allow for proper sleep and exercise. Reach out to friends, family members, and potential sitters to plan for self-care breaks. If you've had mental health issues, meet with a mental health care expert during pregnancy. Treating stress and anxiety before childbirth can help reduce your risk of postpartum depression.
It's smart to save for a growing family. It costs about $13,000 each year to care for a child and around $234,000 to raise a child from birth through age 17, according to estimates. Contact your health insurance provider to understand what's covered before and after the baby arrives. Research local childcare costs, which range from about $5,000 to $24,000 annually depending on your location. Factor in projected expenses for diapers and other basics, and you'll have a good idea of how much you should aim to set aside to make sure your baby's needs are met.
Yes, healthcare providers are essential for you and your baby. Choose an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN), a family practice doctor, or a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) to monitor your pregnancy and your baby's development through regular appointments and screening tests. If you're having trouble conceiving, a fertility doctor can help. About three weeks before your due date, look for a pediatrician for your baby and schedule childhood vaccinations. Contact your insurance company about in-network providers and ask trusted individuals for recommendations.
No diet will determine your child's sex. Despite what you may have read or heard about high-calorie diets making you more likely to have a boy or acidic foods making you more likely to have a girl, there's no scientific proof for these claims. If there are medical reasons for wanting a boy or a girl, like a sex-linked hereditary disorder, you can talk to a fertility specialist about assisted reproductive technologies. In vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (IVF-PGD) is a highly effective method of determining the sex of a fertilized embryo before implantation.
Maternal instinct is the idea that a natural knack for nurturing kicks in as soon as you have a baby. Indeed, childbirth brings on certain physiological changes that may help bond a parent to their baby, like the release of the "happy hormone" oxytocin upon childbirth and breastfeeding, if you choose to do so. However, you don't have to feel an automatic attachment to your child, or intuitively know how to feed, change, or soothe them, to be a good parent. It's normal for it to take days or even weeks to feel bonded to your baby and confident in your caretaking abilities.
Up to 90% of people who are pregnant crave specific foods, like sweets, starchy carbohydrates, and certain fruits. Scientists think cravings (and aversions) may have to do with the way fluctuating hormones alter your taste buds and help steer you away from foods, like certain plants, that may be harmful. Most cravings are harmless, so feel free to indulge as long as your choices fit into any physician-guided nutritional plan you may be following, like a gestational diabetes diet. However, if you are craving non-food items—a condition known as pica—tell your healthcare provider, who can explore any nutritional deficiencies that might be the cause.
A family budget is a plan for how you spend your money. It's especially important to make one when facing the new costs that come with parenthood. To develop a family budget, first assess the annual cost of things that are necessary to live, like rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities (electricity, internet), and basic food needs. The amount of money you are left with after subtracting those costs from your income is how much you have to spend on non-essentials, like entertainment. Create a spreadsheet of weekly or monthly spending goals to keep you on track, and if you have a partner, make this a shared effort.
Some products are essential for keeping your new baby safe and healthy, including a crib with a fitted mattress and sheets, and a car seat. Diapers (newborns go through up to 10 a day) and basic clothing (onesies, socks, and newborn hats) are also a must. Bottles if you are bottle-feeding, nipple cream if you are breastfeeding, and burp cloths regardless are necessary items to have on hand. You may also want a baby bathtub for easier bathing, a stroller or a baby carrier for outings, a breast pump if you plan to pump milk and a diaper pail.
A baby shower is a sweet tradition in which someone close to you—a family member, friend, or coworker—throws a party in your honor to help you stock up on things you might need for your newborn. Showers typically happen a month or so before your due date. Some baby showers are surprises, but most hosts welcome your input on the guest list, the size of the gathering, and activities you might enjoy, like baby-name-guessing games. Set up a baby registry in advance of the party so guests know what you want and need.
Primary caregiving is a practice in which one main person is principally responsible for caring for a baby. Research shows that primary caregiving relationships help develop babies' communication skills and allow for someone to closely monitor a child's development. If a parent is unable to be a primary caregiver, another trusted adult—a relative or experienced childcare provider—can step into that role.
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