Welcoming a new child can be one of the most exciting moments in your life. It can also be the most stressful if you're not prepared.
"Right now, I don't feel prepared, but everything always falls into place when it's time," said Cassie Handt.
After you find out that you're pregnant, it seems there is so much for you to do before the baby arrives. You may want to read books on pregnancy, birthing and parenting, prepare a space for the new baby and begin to baby-proof your home.
Take your time
"The most important thing you can do is realize that you've got nine whole months to get up to speed on everything pertaining to parenting," said Katina Z. Jones, author of "The Everything Get Ready For Baby Book, 2nd Edition." "Besides the things you learn on your own or in prenatal class, you'll have lots of support in the form of solicited -- and unsolicited -- advice," she said.
"I read books during my first pregnancy – 'What to Expect When Your Expecting' -- and a lot of magazines," said Handt.
"For advice, I always turn to dear old mom, she always knows everything," she said.
Jones said that preparation includes savoring the calm.
"Outside of the regular doctor's appointments and general preparations for baby's impending birth, the most important thing you can both do before baby arrives is relax and enjoy some special time together," said Jones. "After all, once the baby is here, time alone will be a luxury."
What gear do you need?
Figuring out what you need can be absolutely mind-boggling. From kitchen tools -- bottle washers, nipple cleaners and more -- to baby's bedroom and household safety supplies, the list can seem never-ending.
"You might focus on rounding up the basics, such as a crib, layette -- newborn clothing and blankets -- infant car seat and stroller, just in case baby arrives sooner than expected," said Jones.
"It's generally a good idea to have at least week's supply of clothing; two to three changes per day is the norm," she said. "And always keep at least one sleeper and two onesies in your diaper bag for day trips."
Some needs aren't as pressing.
"You really don't need baby shoes in those first few weeks home; socks (or) knit or cotton booties will suffice until baby is a little more mobile," said Jones.
"You really only need three or four blankets, but since these are a popular shower gift, you'll likely have twice that amount; that's OK, since you can give some to Grandma or another caregiver for the times when baby goes to visit them," said Jones.
There is no need to stock up on formula, diapers and creams before the baby arrives. The hospital typically provides a starter pack with enough to suffice in the beginning. Besides, if you were to stock up on something to which your baby is allergic, you would have wasted money on something you couldn't even use.
If you feel the need to stock up on diapers, most newborn diapers come in packs of 40, so one or two packs should get you started. But remember that some larger babies will quickly outgrow the smallest sizes.
"You should plan to go through at least four to five diapers per day," said Jones.
Some parents go through 10 or more per day, depending on the sensitivity of baby's stomach or skin.
Get dad to help
Some dads are hesitant or reluctant to tackle baby-associated jobs. The best way to increase the comfort level of a father-to-be is to get him some hands-on training before baby arrives." Dad should change a few diapers or handle a feeding or two for babies belonging to family, friends or neighbors," said Jones.
"If he feels uncomfortable handling someone else's baby, you could consider buying a doll and having him carry it around the house, practicing feedings and diaper changes without risk of injury," she said.
Special tips for adoption
Adoptive parents have different needs when preparing to bring their children home. "It's absolutely critical for adoptive parents to connect with other adoptive parents as soon as possible in their process," said Jones.
"It truly takes a village to help you raise adopted children, especially if your children are adopted from other countries," she said. "Our two adopted children are from China, and we would never have survived it all without the love, guidance and 24-7 e-mail support of other adoptive parents who had been there and done that."
Complete change in life
Once the baby arrives, your life will change completely. Leaving the house is not as easy as it once was, and you must constantly be on the lookout for your baby's safety.
"Driving can be made easier by keeping a well-stocked 'to-go' bag in the car at all times," said Jones.
You could alleviate the stress of transferring the car seat by having one available in both mom's and dad's vehicles. Another option, when the baby is small, is to have a child carrier that works as a car seat when it is locked onto a base. Place a base in each vehicle for ease in travel.
Make sure to have soft music available to calm baby and help keep your nerves from fraying. If you're a rock fan but don't want to expose your baby to your music, check out Baby Rock Records for lullaby renditions of your favorite music.
Finally, remember to relax. As you get used to your new routine, everything will begin to feel like second nature.
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