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That magical moment when your new family member arrives may be weeks away but getting organized now will help you ensure everything is in place before the big event. Here are a few things to consider…
Writing a birth plan gives you a chance to think about where and how you would like to have your baby. You can include where to give birth, what pain relief options are available, what sort of interventions you may – or may not – want, who you want with you and how they should support you. Bear in mind that not all choices will be safe for all mothers. However, your midwife or gynecologist will advise you on what is best for you, taking into account your medical history. Remember to be flexible, though, as things will change along the way.
While you don’t have to decide right away about exactly how much leave you and your partner want to take, it is important that you are both aware of your rights and options, and talk them through together.
What you and your partner are entitled to will vary according to where you live. Laws and regulations regarding maternity and paternity leave vary between countries. In some countries, leave and pay are also affected by your terms of employment, how long you have worked for your employer and your employer’s individual policies. You may also need to inform your employer about your pregnancy and intended date of return within a timeframe. You can check your legal rights and responsibilities regarding this on your government’s website.
In addition, you may both be entitled to share unpaid parental leave, which again varies between countries.
Shopping for the new arrival is all part of the fun – and getting the basics ready before the due date will mean you can concentrate on your baby in those early days.
You will probably receive lots of gorgeous baby clothes as gifts so don’t go too overboard on the newborn sizes, cute as they may be, especially as babies can grow fast. Go for cotton clothes that are easy to put on and not too fiddly to fasten.
Focus on the essentials such as:
• diapers, diaper sacks, wipes, cotton wool or recyclable diapers if you prefer
• a nursing bra, breast pads and pump, or bottle-feeding equipment, depending on your choice
• a crib and bedding
• muslin cloths
• a baby bath
• baby toiletries
• a pram
• a car seat
• a changing bag and mat
This is one of the most important decisions you will make for your baby so it’s not one to rush. Even if you perhaps won’t know the sex till the big day, it’s worth creating a couple of shortlists. Consider how it sounds with the baby’s surname, whether the initials spell something embarrassing, possible nicknames, and whether it will suit someone at all ages. It’s also a good idea to research the meanings of names. If you can’t agree, you could compromise by including a middle name, but too many could make future form-filling tricky.
You and your partner are going to be pretty busy after the birth of your little one, so it makes sense to plan ahead. If you have time, you could cook meals in bulk and freeze them for the first few weeks, or simply stock up on food that is quick to prepare. Consider arranging grocery deliveries and hiring a cleaner or someone to do the ironing, even if it’s temporary.
Also, no matter how much you love your baby, being a new mother can be challenging and it is perfectly normal to want a little time with just your partner – or alone. So consider who you could ask to babysit – even if it’s just for an hour or so. The baby’s grandparents, aunts and uncles make great choices and it will help your little one form family ties.
Check that the crib is in good condition, with no loose bits, nothing hanging over it, and no attachments such as baby mobiles that your baby could grab as they get bigger. Place the crib away from potential heat sources such as radiators, heaters, lamps and windows that catch the sun, and avoid thick blankets, duvets or quilts, which may make your baby too hot. Instead, use thin layers of bedding, such as cotton sheets and lightweight, cellular blankets (the type used in hospitals), so it’s easier to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature.
Do plenty of research into feeding methods, the pros and cons, and what each entails. For breastfeeding, you may find that accessories such as a nursing bra, breast pads and a breastfeeding cushion are helpful. You may also want to consider a breast pump and bottle-feeding kit, so you can express your milk and your partner can help out with feeding.
For bottle-feeding, you will need about six bottles and teats, sterilizing equipment, bottle and teat brush and formula milk.
Try to keep an open mind about the method until your baby is born as it’s not always possible to predict what will happen or how you will feel.
It’s a good idea to pack your bag around six weeks before your due date. Include your birth plan and maternity notes (in Germany this would be Mutterpass), a dressing gown, slippers, an old nightdress to give birth in, a change of clothes, toiletries, two or three baby outfits, feeding accessories, and plenty of diapers. You may also want to include snacks and drinks for you and your partner, things to help you relax or pass the time, such as music, books and a tablet, and an eye mask and earplugs if you’re in a shared ward. And remember your phone charger!
Like any new skill, parenting takes time to learn. No one gets it right all the time, so be patient. It can be helpful to share experiences and tips with other new parents through local parenting groups, online forums or by signing up for a postnatal course, which covers topics such as crying, sleeping, feeding, and returning to work. Through this, you will also hear about other activities such as baby massage and mother and baby yoga classes.