Let me begin by saying nothing on this list needs to be done. The only imperative is to take good care of yourself and listen to your body. However, like many people, I had quite the nesting bug during both pregnancies—especially at the end. So, for the person who likes to stay busy and is seeking some guidance on how to do so, this list is for you. As always, these types of lists look different for everyone—there are so many wonderful ways to prepare for birth and to care for children.
Finalize the nursery. Here are my suggestions for creating a non-toxic nursery. It might seem like this can wait, but I like to have my nursery done at least six weeks before my due date. Part of that is the worrier in me that I could deliver early (HA! Joke’s on me—I’m always super late!!) … and the other part is I like to have nothing planned for my last month of pregnancy.
Finalize any changes to a sibling’s room. Those little guys are going to experience enough change as it is. I like to do this gradually so it doesn’t feel like a major transition right before a baby arrives. A few months give them time to adjust.
Buy any final baby necessities. This list will look different for everyone, but be sure you have what you need now. Amazon can deliver in a day, but sometimes that doesn’t even feel fast enough.
Wash linens and clothes. Here are my tips for non-toxic detergent. Choose organic fabric whenever possible (GOTS certified is even better). If you can’t go organic, at least choose all natural fibers—cotton, linen, wool—and be sure all clothes (especially sleepware) are free of flame retardants. Tip: Be sure you have some newborn or 0-3 size shirts and pants for right after the baby is born. Just 2-3 of each. Newborns cannot wear solid pieces like onesies until their umbilical cords fall off (I didn’t know this for my first pregnancy! Oops!).
Sterilize your pump and bottles. Like many women, I was very engorged after my milk came in and being able to pump off excess was invaluable. A small manual pump is a great option if you aren’t sure you’ll need the full size. It is also helpful to learn how to use everything now—though easy once you’ve done it, pumps can be a little tricky to sort out initially. The bottles can wait but I like having those done, too (we start giving a pumped bottle around 2-3 weeks for a dream feed. Mentioning bottles can spark debate, but for us, it worked out really well. Both of my babies remained strong breast-feeders and never had nipple confusion.)
Assemble and set up any baby gear. Get the car seat and stroller ready. Wash the sling and carrier. Same for a bouncy seat and swing if using those. Tip: if you need to move an older child’s car seat to a different location in the car, do that now. The more changes that can be done ahead of time, the better (at least for my family!).
Think about diapering. Disposables or cloth? We are not a cloth diaper family (as much as I’d like to be!), so I always had a few packs of newborn diapers and wipes ready to go. We use Seventh Generation or Honest diapers and wipes. Bring these with you to the hospital, too, or you will have to use whatever they supply (which is surely more toxic). Also, don’t buy too much in the newborn size as you can always buy more if you need them—both of my babies were into size one very quickly. (I have no advice for those going the cloth diaper route, but more power to you!!!)
Stock up on the essentials. Make sure your pantry and household staples are in good supply. The last thing you want to worry about with a newborn is toilet paper or shampoo! Also, freeze meals and stockpile simple, healthy snacks.
Buy postpartum supplies: Check out my personal list here.
Consider your birth experience. Where and how you plan to give birth should be thoughtfully considered. A hospital birth was our choice both times, but whatever you choose should be done carefully and with considerable forethought. Begin/continue childbirth classes if desired. If you have decided to work with a doula, stay in close contact with her (consider my friend dear Kelly Googe. She is incredible!).
If applicable, pre-register at the hospital or birth center and take a tour. It was very comforting for us to see where I would give birth. I highly recommend this. Also, take an infant CPR class (even if you have done so in the past!). If needed, plan your route to the hospital and what you will do in the event of traffic.
Find a pediatrician. Ask your trusted girlfriends who they go to.
Continue date nights with your partner … and kids! Do this as much as you can before the baby arrives. It might be tricky to make the time, but it certainly won’t get any easier.
Talk with your team. Whoever is your team in life, get them in the loop—the friend at work who is taking over for you, the neighbor who will watch your house, the family who will come in the middle of the night to stay with the kids, those precious people who will be there for the delivery, etc.
Think about who will help. Although there is much lead up to the birth, the real work begins once the baby is here (ta daaaa!). Consider who might be able to help—family? friends? Nanny or doula? Perhaps you need more practical help and want to hire a housekeeper and/or lawn service if you don’t already have one. “It takes a village” is cliché for a reason! Every day we are thankful for the little village we have cultivated and find tremendous support and strength from those people in our lives (and we love returning the favor when other people have new babies!).
Narrow down names. Waiting until he or she is born is perfectly fine (that’s what we did!), but think about narrowing down the options.
Schedule any final personal appointments. Taking care of these things now—dentist (but no x-rays!), eye doctor, hair cut—will be a relief.
Finish any parenting books (sleep, siblings, etc). It is easier to read a book with a big belly than a crying baby. Also that pregnancy insomnia? Books were always the best way to get me back to sleep.
Clear the decks. Get your paperwork and projects in order. If something has not been completed by now, avoid planing to do so during the first few months of your baby’s life. That is a precious (and exhausting) period.
Engage in soothing practices—often. Our bodies are really working overtime now. Prenantal yoga, meditation, prenatal massage—these things really helped me in the last trimester.
Finalize maternity leave plans. Make sure your boss and appropriate colleagues know the plan. Wrap up projects and get things in order so they aren’t calling you later. (For those not returning to work, that is fantastic, too!)
Look into childcare if you are returning to work. Begin thinking about this now. It can take a while to find the right fit for your family.
Babyproof the house. Actually, this does not need to be done quite yet, but think about how your house will need to be adjusted once there is a mobile baby living there.
Prepare for breastfeeding. If you are planning to breastfeed, start reading now, watching videos (so helpful for latching!) and familiarize yourself with helpful web sites (I love kellymom.com). If you’ve struggled with this in past pregnancies, go ahead and line up a lactation consultant (my friend Kelly Googe also does this—so helpful!).
Corral the diapering supplies. Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, tissues, disposal system (for us, that is just a lidded garbage can and bags), and organic hand sanitizer. We simply did this on the dresser in our nursery, but for folks with a bigger home, it might be more convenient to have this elsewhere in the house. No need for fancy organizers to hold everything. Also, if using a changing pad, be sure it is free of flame retardants (if it doesn’t specifically says it is FR-free, it almost definitely contains them).
Designate a comfortable feeding area. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will be glued in place many times throughout the day, especially in the early weeks. Having the necessities at hand makes a big difference. In addition to a comfortable chair, for me, those things were burp cloths, a place to set my water, and a clock or watch. Avoid upholstered furniture with flame retardants. I am not big on nursing pillows, but some people love them. If you use one, be sure it is free of flame retardants—most contain them. Lastly, and this will likely make you think I am crazy, but resist the temptation to use your phone while feeding your baby. There is no solid research proving the safety of wifi/cell phone radiation, and for a tiny developing body, it is certainly not worth the risk. (Some people also argue using a phone while feeding a baby is a bit dismissive of the baby and inhibits bonding, etc).
Pack your hospital bags. I won’t go into detail now for what I like to bring to the hospital, but suffice it to say, this is a good time to check this one off the list!
Know your body and the stages of labor. Familiarize yourself with this so that you are not calling your doctor 18 times. It is so easy to confuse Braxton Hicks with real contractions!
Say yes to meals. If someone offers to set up a meal list for you, don’t hesitate! I am eternally grateful to everyone who helped us during those early months.
Practice swaddling. This seems so silly, but practicing now on a non-moving target will give you the slightest edge of confidence before you do it for real the first time (should you choose to!).
If applicable, create a birth announcement mailing list. This task is for the pregnant lady with so much energy, she needs to find ways to put it to good use (ahem).
Continue with the healthy choices. Keep on with the good diet and exercise. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Take your prenatals. See your doctor. And consider identifying and ditching the toxins in your life (beauty and personal care products, cleaning products, kitchen storage and cookware are all great places to begin).
Take it easy. It can’t be said enough (although this post could certainly make you think I recommend the opposite!). You might be moving much more slowly these days, and for good reason. Listen to your body and take it as easy as you can.