Always be prepared?
February 11, 2014 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Currently 10 weeks pregnant with our first. We are trying to brainstorm everything we can possibly do ahead of time to make maternity leave and the first weeks/months home with a newborn go as smoothly as possible. Some examples: buy a chest freezer and fill it with meals that can just be popped in the microwave or oven. Save up for doggie day care passes to get our dogs out of the house and tired out in the beginning. Veteran parents, please enlighten us as to anything and everything else we can be doing to help us get through the acclimation period!

I know it might seem super early to start thinking about these things, but I'm a planner, and if I can get stuff done in pieces way in advance it will all be less overwhelming for me. Thanks!
posted by sickinthehead to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing you should do after filling the chest freezer is to throw out every expectation of being able to plan anything ever again.

Other than that, buy some diapers and wipes eventually. Have some baby blankets, baby clothes, and some kind of carrier on hand. Find out how breast pump acquisition works with your insurance company. Find your baby's regular medical care provider in six months or so.

And just....well, that's about it. That is the only amount of solid planning you can do for a baby because babies have a habit of making any plans you solidly place into a melting mush of chaos. So if you are an incessant planner, work on getting used to chaos.
posted by zizzle at 9:24 AM on February 11, 2014 [11 favorites]

Oh, and my friend started this great site:

Mom Meet Mom

It could be helpful after baby is born in connecting with other like minded moms in your area.
posted by zizzle at 9:25 AM on February 11, 2014

I don't know you, and I've found that advice for new parents is highly subjective. But I'm a planner too, and found that all my well-laid plans were for naught, and that was for the best. So my advice is to plan as little as possible for things, and build relationships. Spend time with your friends; it'll be hard to do so for some time when the kid is young. Sleep in; if your kid is a good sleeper, you can get plenty of good sleep each night, but no child has a snooze button. Get to know the local store well where you'll get supplies, like target or something; it's great to have a break to do a little shopping, but you may be confused. Make clear to your friends and family how nice it would be if they brought cooked meals or frozen during the first weeks. Plan out good snack trays that can be eaten one-handed if you're breast feeding. And buy as little as possible; kids are so very different that you won't know in advance what will work best for them.
posted by Pacrand at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I came in to say basically what zizzle said. The meals are a good idea; so is setting up "nursing stations" with a bottle of water and a couple of Clif bars. But really. . . there is no way to make this not be overwhelming. Not even if you were Beyonce and had all the money and staff in the world. It may be that you luck out and get a super easy baby who nurses easily and sleeps well and likes the baby swing, but there's no amount of work you can do during the pregnancy to maximize the likelihood of that option. Probably the best "planning" you can do right now is working with yourself to let go of the idea that you can control things to this degree, either on your own or with a counselor.
posted by KathrynT at 9:31 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't have a cleaning lady, maybe start using one a month or so before the baby arrives, so you can train her to do what you want done, your way, even if it's not on a regular basis. Just knowing you can call her and she'll know what to do is a big burden off your shoulders.
posted by Dragonness at 9:32 AM on February 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

The information/education part of parenting is a good thing to frontload, imho. For instance, if you tend to be an optimizer vs. satisficer where shopping is concerned, then this is a good time to do all your product research. Read all the reviews for all the things (carseats, diapers, bouncers, bottles, breastpumps, highchairs, baby carriers, bassinets, swings, nightlights, monitors, soap...) so that when registry time comes you'll know exactly which product is the best for what reasons, and you won't get stuck just buying whatever half-assed overpriced version happened to be on the shelf during that bleary midnight run to Target.

Likewise, now is a great time to do research and come up with your plans for circumcision/non-circumcision, vaccinations, cosleeping, and various other Parenting Philosophy type stuff. It's also never too early to start thinking about your wishes for the birth, especially since there are various exercises, etc., that work best when done throughout the entire pregnancy. And you can start re-envisioning your local environment with a kid in mind-- keeping an eye out for good baby-friendly outings, parks, etc.

As far as concrete preparations go, though, it really is true that less is more, ime. Those early weeks are such a completely unpredictable blend of various wild-card factors in your temperament, the baby's temperament, the birth circumstances, etc., that anything you actually buy or make now is very likely to end up going unused, for reasons you could have never have imagined. Lay in a good supply of information, but plan on being flexible above all.
posted by Bardolph at 9:34 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: Cleaning lady!!!! That was something that made a HUGE difference to me after my kid was born. Maybe it's gonna be a friend or family member who can clean for you? Or a service, that you can just call whenever you need it? Or a weekly or semi-monthly cleanining person who becomes a regular. Whatever - that will really help you a lot.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: I kept my eyes open for sales and stocked up a year's worth of shampoo, deodorant, paper towels, toilet paper, razors, soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, moisturizer, etc. Basically all the consumables that either make the house run or are for personal care for the adults. That way we did not have "OMG I HAVE NO SHAMPOO!" crises and were limited to "OH NO THE BABY HAS NO DIAPERS!" crises.

Buying ahead, on sale, over the course of several months was not particularly onerous on our budget ... when I saw a good price on detergent during my normal grocery shopping, I'd just grab a bunch of it instead of just one.

The other thing I specifically price-stalked was cat food and cat litter, I think we stocked up maybe six months of those things, especially because that required a special errand to the pet store, so that was just an errand I didn't have to run for six months.

The upshot was, we didn't have to buy personal care items for at least a year, sometimes two, and, while this wasn't part of my plan, we had some extra wiggle room in our grocery budget that first year because we WEREN'T buying any personal care or household items, so the baby items we needed were much less of a "hit" to that budget than they otherwise would have been.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Purchase a large amount of shelf stable munchies that can be eaten in small quantities with one hand. There will be times when a microwave meal may seem overly ambitious. An insulated and unspillable drink container will probably also come in handy.

Deep clean your house until it is sparkly and get on top of any DIY bits and bobs that you have been meaning to do for ages.

Acquire box sets of something that requires no intellectual rigour whatsoever.

Get some ear defenders and one of those big inflatable exercise balls. When kiddo is yelling his/her head off, you can wear the ear defenders and bounce on the exercise ball.

Go to all the places that you won't be able to visit for some time and appreciate yourself some lie-ins, adult conversation, and so forth.
posted by emilyw at 9:49 AM on February 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

(Mostly US centric in this paragraph, disregard as necessary) Make all of your parental leave and insurance arrangements, including things like figuring out if your insurance covers breast pumps or if your workplace allows the 12 weeks to be spread out or can only be taken in one lump. Figure out who your child's doctor will be. Figure out what you and your partner's plans for childcare are and make sure they line up now, and then go daycare shopping if needed. (Depending on where you live you may already be late to the game on this one.)

Go do some of the grown-uppiest things a pregnant person is allowed to do. Go to an 8 hour film festival of cheese making documentaries. Go to loud concerts. Stock up on some experiences.

If you plan to nurse: 1, go to a local La Leche League meeting during your pregnancy. 2, keep mental track of the friends of yours who did a lot of nursing and ask them stuff now to get the conversational ball rolling. 3, add the numbers of local lactation consultants. 4, get a basket that can easily be carried with one hand and put snacks, water bottles, pen and paper, and some wash clothes in it. Portable nursing station.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're not currently a napper, try now to learn to be one. I used to not be able to fall asleep during the day, and this was a huge problem when I was out of my head with sleep exhaustion. It took some weeks of practice -- relaxation exercises, breathing, guided meditation -- before I trained myself to be able to fall asleep for a nap. Wish I'd done it before my son was born, so I could truly follow the "sleep while the baby sleeps" advice.

Also, read carefully up on cosleeping and/or bedsharing. It's a choice that many families make, but the risks and advice for safe practice can be subtle... It's all more easily digested while you're still sleeping and thus able to think. It's very likely you won't stick with your premade plans regarding sleep, but being knowledgeable will also help if you need to change course.

And, congratulations!
posted by wyzewoman at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh hey, I am writing this from bed while my three-week-old nurses! Here are my thoughts from the trenches:

-Generally, I think our society turns a blind eye to postpartum recovery and is a bit overly focused on the baby logistics. Your postpartum experience will be highly dependent on your birth experience. C-section recovery, for example, is completely different than recovery from a vaginal birth. I had a drug free home birth with four hours of pushing; I was sore for days, had bad hemorrhoids, and a single stitch. My postpartum must-haves were ibuprofen, depends, poise pads (I have an awesome pelvic floor and no incontinence but you will be wearing pads for upwards of a month and these are much better than always), anucort suppositories, Rutin, and a donut pillow.

-Breastfeeding can be done with little to no equipment, but a My Breast Friend pillow and keeping snacks and water by my bed have been super helpful. Mom will by hungry and thirsty ALL the time. I also wish I had stocked up in nursing camis and bras in a size up while pregnant. Stuff gets covered in milk fast. Also recommend a waterproof mattress pad and a small swaddlebees mattress pad for under mom and baby. You will soon be swimming in bodily fluids. Can't hurt to prepare now.

-Buy mom a tablet as a push present. I am writing this on the nexus 7 my husband got me one week before we gave birth. Super duper useful to be able to surf one-handed, watch Netflix, or read.

-Decide soon how you want to deal with visitors. Remember that visitors are there to help you, not just snuggle the baby. Make them do a load of laundry. Come up with a code to use with your partner when you need to steal the baby back from an overzealous relative. Keep in mind that moms milk comes in around day 3 and 4 and those are therefore the worst days to entertain visitors. She will be super hormotional.

Otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much IF both partners are at home. I have yet to leave the house and we didn't premake meals. My partner has been making grocery and diaper runs. I still am able to eat 3 square meals and shower daily (necessary to feel human, and not like a talking boob). Oh, a carrier or a wrap helps, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: So our baby will supposedly arrive anyminutenowpleasegod, and we haven't had to put a lot of this into practice yet. But we've been pretty much doing what Eyebrows McGee just suggested. Stocking up on household and toiletries items, cat stuff, and easy-to-prepare food. We've also made sure the cats have all their vet visits in order, done all the irritating car/appliance maintenance stuff we can manage, and gotten a lot of major and minor personal medical procedures out of the way.

And we did all that front-loading information acquisition that Bardolph suggests, too. We aren't under any illusions we can TRULY PREPARE, but yeah, there's no way it can hurt to do our research, and fill up the pantry/laundry room/toiletries cabinet.

You also ought to talk to all the sane parents you know. I have many lovely friends, who are not sane parents, and spent most of my pregnancy trying to navigate minefields with them. Then, one of my Rational Human Being friends showed up a few weeks ago and told me all sorts of interesting stuff I wouldn't have known. Not really about the nuts and bolts of parenthood, because we might not be able to extrapolate what worked for her, into something that works for us. But stuff like, "here's where you can get X product in the middle of the night" or "you don't have to buy X expensive thing, it's a damned gimmick!" or "here's how to punch your insurance company in the face until they cough up a breast pump." Very helpful.

(People are going to tell you "get sleep now", but since you can't bank and withdraw sleep, I find that advice kind of hollow.)
posted by Coatlicue at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think there's a difference between expecting things to go exactly as you plan post-baby, and wanting to do things before the baby comes that might stand a chance of making life easier on the other side. I just can't imagine a downside of stocking up on some household items, for example.

I'm currently waiting on my first (40w4d - get out get out get out), so I don't have the personal experience, but I spoke with a lot of my friends who have all had their children already and got ideas from them. Here's what we've done:
Stocked the bathroom cabinet with extra toiletries
Had a cleaning crew come out and do a deep clean + set up a monthly cleaning
Stocked the pantry with easy to fix/eat foods
Took our animals to the vet for annual checkups
Compared insurance plans to consider what we wanted to adjust post-baby
Put as many bills as we could on auto-pay
Signed up for baby care, breastfeeding, and CPR classes
Compared prices on diapers - for us, it makes sense to go through Amazon prime vs stocking up now
Pick your pediatrician
Consider arrangements for any family coming to stay - how long, when, are they staying with you, etc.
posted by bizzyb at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2014

Friends. Your family. Your network.

People matter enormously. Strengthen these connections.

Find the busiest local mom/parent list. Figure out where open and free playgroups and new mom groups meet.

Daycare. Look now. Get recs now. Waiting lists are long.

Psychiatrists and psychologists who understand reproductive mental health: have their info handy.

Seriously, though. People. Community.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:15 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My brother and sister-in-law have a foster daughter who grew up in India. She now lives on the other side of the country, and she had a baby last year. My sister-in-law went and lived with her for a month or so after the baby came, and I understand it was very helpful.

My suggestion for you is to invite one or the other of the prospective grandmothers to come and stay with you for a few weeks after your baby is born. If they both want to do it, then let them take turns. They know all about pregnancy and infant caretaking, and I suspect they would be overjoyed to help out.

If that doesn't work, then a sister.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:17 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: Clean, clean and organize. This baby is going to bring unbelievable amounts of "stuff" into your life. They burn through clothing sizes like you wouldn't believe. Purge through your closets, basement and garage and get rid of any clutter. It will be years to never before you get the chance again. Finish up any DIY projects, touch up painting and little house repairs now. Leave any chemical tasks to the Daddy. You should also have a large bin set aside in the baby's closet for out grown clothing and nursery items no longer needed. Longer term have a plan to store/sell/donate the gear. But the baby will be 9 months old by the time you have a moment to decide what to do with the stuff so it's nice to contain it for a while.
posted by saradarlin at 10:21 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Adding to all the good advice above, sort out your life and insurance and do wills if you haven't already. It's the kind of thing that suddenly seems very important but impossibly difficult to execute once you have a new member of the family, in my experience.
posted by chocotaco at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: The biggest thing I wish we did before our son (14 months) was born is a thorough clearing of all the stuff in our garage and storage areas. We do NOT have a house full of stuff, but I really wish we had really culled our belongings and cleared out our storage space. SO much of the stuff we had isn't important and should have been passed on already. Now we are trying to clear out and organize our house, mostly during naps. The normal nesting phase was focused on the baby's room and things, less on the garage and boring parts of organizing. The baby stuff accumulates fast and we hope to have another baby so we are keeping the big stuff. We feel a little overrun with stuff.... and seriously, we do not have a lot compared to a lot of families.

Do the not fun work now, clear the storage spaces. Get the things you don't need out of the house so you have easy ways to store baby stuff and can have a peaceful calm house without clutter. Then you can focus on the fun nesting and preparing for baby when you are closer to meeting the little nugget!
posted by Swisstine at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: I'm typing one-handed with a 6-week old on my lap (my first) and I kind of disagree that planning isn't worth it because babies are unpredictable. Nearly all the preparation I did before the little stinker came made my life easier, and the hardest stuff I've had to deal with is the tasks that didn't get done before he made his arrival nearly two weeks early. In addition to what you are already thinking of (dog walker, god yes, I wish I had set that up before I delivered!), I'd add:

*Read as many books about caring for babies now as you can stand. Read these instead of reading books about labor and delivery. In particular, books about how to get your baby to sleep (I read Weissbluth and Polly Moore), feeding through the first year and beyond (anything by Ellen Satter), and baby brain and physical development (I read The New First Three Years of Life) were helpful, as well as one all-purpose reference book for caring for a newborn (I loved From Birth To Reality: Heading Home with Your Newborn). You won't necessarily subscribe to everything you read, but doing this will make you feel much more grounded and prepared when the hospital sends you home and you're like, "Now what?"

*The only things that were difficult to not have immediately in the house after we came home were postpartum care supplies like a huge stack of menstrual pads, pantyliners, epsom salts, and nipple soothing pads. Everything else that I needed (shampoo, soap, snacks) was a blessed excuse to let my partner take care of the baby while I ran out to Target and got a 30-minute break. Or could be obtained from Amazon within 2 days. (Sign up for Prime, it's totally worth it.)

*When putting together your registry, make sure you include post-newborn stuff. We went through and bought out all the remaining items on our registry at 37 weeks, since it was all stuff that we needed right from the beginning, then had to deal with a bunch of relatives complaining that there was nothing on our registry when the baby was born and they wanted to send a gift. That corresponded to the exact time when I did not want to research or compare different baby products.

*I'm sure everyone's mileage varies, but I found it unhelpful to try to "enjoy sleep while you can" (I slept terribly when pregnant and wanted to shoot anyone who said this to me) or to try to tick activities off my list that I was sure would be impossible with a kid. The times when I started thinking like that--"oh my god, we have to go snowshoeing the first time it snows because I WILL NEVER SNOWSHOE AGAIN WITH A BABY, my life as I know it is over"--made me depressed and anxious. The times when I instead gave myself permission to enjoy being pregnant, which after all only lasts 9 months and is a pretty cool time, tended to be the times when I felt the most hopeful and happy about the choice we had made to become parents. So: get lots of prenatal massages. If you enjoy it, spend a ton of time nesting and putting together a nursery. Do a plaster cast of your belly and paint it. Take maternity pictures.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:26 AM on February 11, 2014 [12 favorites]

Spend lots of indulgent time together with your spouse. Travel. Have sex. Sleep late. Eat out a lot. Do the things you like to do together - go hear bands, spend time outdoors, game, cook, whatever it is. Enjoy being childless.

See lots and lots of your friends. Lots. Have people over. Go see people. Travel. Make time for people. Once your baby is with you the logistics of even a cup of coffee with a friend change dramatically.

Relax and enjoy being pregnant. Have lots of massages. Enjoy your time alone and take lots of pictures of yourself pregnant. Journal, maybe. Your first experience of pregnancy - even if it's particularly physically demanding, which it will be sometimes - is pretty miraculous.

Know that every necessary thing is available for next or two day delivery on Amazon Prime or

There are fewer really, really necessary things than you think.

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:28 AM on February 11, 2014

Oh, and PhoB reminds me--I wish I had paid more attention when buying maternity clothes to what stuff would be useful when nursing. Postpartum, you are often still wearing your second trimester maternity clothes, and the two shirts that will work for nursing suddenly become all that you wear.

And I will second the awesomeness of a tablet (and maybe a Hulu Plus subscription) for those early days when you are nursing all the time and still need both hands to position the baby and the boob, and a laptop would require a third hand.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:36 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 'm sure everyone's mileage varies, but I found it unhelpful to try to "enjoy sleep while you can" (I slept terribly when pregnant and wanted to shoot anyone who said this to me) or to try to tick activities off my list that I was sure would be impossible with a kid.

Could not agree more. Sleep was a joke by the third trimester; we went on a babymoon mid second trimester and I was miserable, peeing constantly, and super achey. I am sleeping better with a newborn than I was late in my pregnancy. I also feel pretty awesome, physically and emotionally. And i was a miserable preggo. Ask me again when she's a toddler, but early parenthood has really centered both myself and my husband. We are having a great time with it, and are super in love with our new family of three.

People will tell you how hard it will be, and how terrible. I want to let you know that you have an awesome adventure ahead of you, too. You got this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:38 AM on February 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Declutter as much as possible

Borrow as much baby gear and clothes as you can, particularly for the first 6 months when they grow out of items in a matter of weeks

Buy at least one good general baby-rearing book - we have "the baby book" by the Sears

The only baby-proofing we did was affixing bookcases to the wall - but your baby won't be moving around for a while, so this is not even necessary pre-baby

Go out for dinner, movies etc - and yes, sleep...
posted by piyushnz at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Buy a copy of Baby 411.
posted by Silvertree at 10:42 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: Are you baby shower & thank-you-note people? It occurred to us as we were slogging through the process of writing them that we could just have easily have pre-written 75% of them, putting names & addresses on envelopes and basic starting and endings in the cards.
posted by phearlez at 10:43 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: -An infant CPR course is good... likely useless, but it is a good box to check nonetheless.
-Starting to take an inventory of furniture you want to replace is good (Glass coffee tables, rickety bookshelves, things with dangling cords)
-Replacing your electrical sockets with the ones that have built in baby-proofing is handy
-Starting to inspect your house for dangers from the 2' viewpoint (you don't need to babyproof, but its good to just start to be aware of what you'll need to replace / move / etc)
-Pay extra attention to your pets
-Collect every take-out menu you can. find out what restaurants will let you pickup.
-Listen to loud music.
-Enjoy a bathtub with no toys in the bottom in it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: Got a baby 5 months ago; here's what I would do more of if I could turn back time:
- declutter
- shift the reading emphasis from giving birth to caring for a newborn, breastfeeding (much more info needed than anticipated), and the first few months.
- anything that requires attention, thinking, or discussing and getting onto the same page as parents: parental leave, who does what, how and to whom to announce the birth, privacy v. sharing of baby photos or stories online, co-sleeping, pacifiers, bottle feeding, what languages to speak (multilingual family here), visitors, cloth or paper diapers, elimination communication
- practice baby wearing in a wrap/sling
posted by meijusa at 11:32 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be prepared for any plans you make to go out the window depending on the needs of your baby. Develop your coping skills and work on your resilience for dealing with things over which you have no control. Ensure you have support at the time of the important scans throughout your pregnancy, in case you get news that's hard to hear.

Don't buy maternity clothes until you need them.
posted by goo at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2014

I'm a planner too, and I have a 2-month-old. The planning I did was totally worth it - I only bought one useless baby item (pacifiers - he hates them), I'm glad I did all the reading I did, and I'm REALLY glad I took care of all my medical stuff, our cats' medical stuff, our car and other things like that before my son was born. He's about to wake up from his nap so I can't write in detail right now, but later I'll paste in our prep list. It really was helpful.
posted by Cygnet at 11:43 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stock that chest freezer but also start eating one to two meals per week out of the chest freezer. Make sure the meals you're freezing are actually quick and easy to heat up and that you actually like eating them. Stock more of the meals you enjoy, less or none of the ones you already hate.
posted by telegraph at 11:53 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gosh, my comment above came out a lot grimmer than I meant it to, sorry! Just keep in mind that everything can change very suddenly, despite all your planning, and there are a lot of variables in pregnancy and childbirth you simply can't plan for. It can be hard to see that through the joy and hope of 10 weeks.

And to explain the bit about the maternity clothes - you might not need them! I bought one pair of maternity pants about a month before my daughter was born but wore my regular clothes otherwise.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! I wish you and your family all the very best, however it turns out.
posted by goo at 12:19 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I definitely agree with the advice to build relationships. With Amazon and a Target you can get just about any of the stuff you might need almost immediately, but when you're losing your mind from exhaustion, sore, and hormonal you want some people around who can support you. For me that was my breastfeeding group run through my hospital. Look for classes and support groups around you, maybe at your hospital or local crunchy mom store. Look for a mom group on Facebook. Go to a prenatal yoga class. One of the best parts of having a baby has been building a community of women going through similar things. My baby is 8 months old and our best mom and baby friends are from childbirth class, boob group, and mom and baby yoga.

Relatedly, buy as little as possible. The temptation is to stock up, but you really don't know what you need until you need it. Things I bought that we didn't need include a bottle set, nursing pads, a pack n play with bassinet, etc. We unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars. The best things were extra nursing tanks and a "rock n play."

Oh, and sign up for Amazon Mom.
posted by apricot at 2:22 PM on February 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers, everyone! I favorited the comments that were specifically answering my question.

I understand and appreciate that you cannot plan how a pregnancy/labor&delivery/infant/toddler/etc goes. That wasn't at all the point of my question. The point was asking for concrete things you can plan to do to make life easier during an upcoming difficult and stressful time. Like cooking meals that can be nuked. I got a lot of great answer in that regard, so thank you!

Keep em coming if you got em!
posted by sickinthehead at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: (I am a planner too...)

Amazon will be your very best friend for the first three months or so. It suuuccckkkksss trying to bundle up a newborn between feedings and napping to try to get out to Target for something you need. So, consider an Amazon prime account.

I agree with stocking meals. Here's what I learned: I had to go dairy- and gluten-free when my LO was around 2 weeks old (he was having gassiness/fussiness and we weren't sure what he was reacting to). So, stock simple, whole foods, and learn how to do stir-fry, 'cause that's what I lived on for the first year.

DE-CLUTTER! You won't get to do it again until your kid is around 2. Seriously. And if you get pregnant again before your kids turns 2, forget about it.

Get on the email list for your local La Leche League group, there is always someone there to answer panicked, middle-of-the-night questions via email and maybe even via phone. Attend a couple of meetings too. Later, when your LO is very newborn, try to get out to a park day. Going to park days were some of my first times out with my newborn; I was terribly nervous but going to meet other experienced moms was a blessing and I became confident very quickly.

Try to get into a local pregant-ladies meetup group. Nearly 3 years in, my "we were pregnant at the same time" friends are some of my closest. I can't tell you how valuable that group is, for everything from talking over development and milestones, to having regular moms night out get togethers.

I found out after my LO was born that I spent too much time thinking about and preparing for delivery. Delivery turns out to be a one-day event. But coming home with a newborn... think about your wedding day vs. actually being married. If I had it to do over again, I would spend a little more time learning about development and milestones before the baby came.

Check out various facebook groups to find a couple that you vibe with, so you can post questions and get quick feedback.

Watch a lot of youtube videos, on diaper changing, feeding, Happiest Baby on the Block techniques, etc.

You WILL get a bunch of stuff for your baby shower that is not on your registry. Grrrr... return as much of it as you can before the baby comes.

And seriously, if you don't do anything else - de-clutter!

posted by vignettist at 4:05 PM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: I have a four-year-old and a new baby coming in two months (!) so some of these ideas are for when your child is a bit older.

If you have a dog:

- mp3 of a baby crying to get the dog used to the sound
- keep an item worn by the newborn or a receiving blanket to put in the dog's kennel/sleeping area so it can scent bond with the new pack member

Useful Items:

- Hand sanitizer for guest's hands (ignore their eyerolls)
- Carrier like a Baby Bjorn/Ergo/sling so you can go on walks or do tasks around the house
- A scrapbook/journal with prompts like "First Time I Rolled Over", "Favorite Foods" (as a nerd, I think recording things like what was current in tech on their birthday is fun.)
- Day One is a simple journaling app that can incorporate pictures from your iThing. Easy way to write a sentence or two about the day.
- Paper notepad for recording funny things they say or do. A friend had a paper tacked the nursery wall to log moments and quotes.
- WubbaNub pacifier The infant can grab it or it can rest on their chest when they are lying down.
- Soothing sounds (If this works for your baby.) My boy was soothed by the sound of a vacuum. I looped a sound file to get him to sleep. There are many places online to find sounds.

Some items for the baby's go bag:

- Insulated container/Thermos for keeping milk or formula warm
- Snacks for you like jerky/almonds
- Groceries sack(s) for wet clothes or horrific blowouts
- Camera for us dumb phone users

For the toddler/pre-K go bag:

- Quarters for things like duck food at the aviary or zoo and/or parking meters
- A bottle of bubbles for times you are outside maybe waiting or just looking to mix things up or as an icebreaker when playing with a new friend
- Pen/crayons and paper for times you are waiting like in a restaurant or a boring place like some grown-up's house
- A small, quiet toy like a car or stuffy (how we say "stuffed animal" at our house)

Some other ideas that may be helpful:

Parenting is isolating. As much as you love your baby, they can be be very boring.

If you can:
- Find other parents to hang with. At some point, you can take turns watching each other's kids to get a chunk of free time
- Get away from the baby and do something you like that has nothing to do with childcare. I get together with another stay-at-home dad for a couple hours one night a week to draw.
- Shower
- Get dressed
- Get outside for 15 minutes, even if the weather is crappy
- Find ways to amuse yourself during mundane tasks

Diaper changes became a favorite time for me because I would chat with him, narrating what I was doing or thinking. It felt different. Maybe because there was nowhere for either if us to go. He seemed more focused on me and I was helping him.

Other times, I loved answering his coos as if we were talking about complex ideas. Using context-reduced language with an infant makes me giggle. If he cried, I might pretend he was fed up with Congressional gridlock and with a soothing voice talk about something like partisanism. You can say anything with that singsong voice people use with babies.

Read your books to your baby in your best storybook voice. I don't think my baby cared that I was reading to him about programming Java.

Make unusual personality traits for your characters when you play imaginary games, if the game isn't thrilling you.

It's not always easy but it makes hard moments/days easier. It helps remove resentment from being trapped with a baby that you chose to have. ;-)

They get a lot more fun later.

Books I liked:
- Baby Brain Rules
- NurtureSchock
posted by smoochbelly at 4:42 PM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

About planning: Dwight Eisenhower said "Plans are useless. Planning, however is essential."

It's what you learn while planning that really counts.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2014

If it were me and I had the room, I would start price-comparing diapers, checking the sales, and stocking up when good sales happen, so you don't have to be watching for sales when the baby comes.

Don't forget to get several different sizes since they'll outgrow infant ones pretty quick.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:10 PM on February 11, 2014

Make-ahead meals are fine, but also make sure that you have a lot of food that you can eat with one hand. Sometimes a baby just wants to be held. A lot.

Catch up on all of your appointments, house and car maintenance and repairs . . . stuff like that. It's easy to let those things get ahead of you.

Set up cloud storage for pictures and videos.
posted by Ostara at 6:52 PM on February 11, 2014

1. Read this book a few times before birth. A *lot* of things can go wrong with a newborn, but very few of them are actually dangerous. Acquainting yourself with the territory can't hurt.

Similarly, get the direct number for your nurse advice hotline if you can (our HMO has one, and many hospitals do, too).

2. Babyproofing: I found that installing drawer latches, socket plugs, etc., made me feel much more like an impending parent than lamaze classes did (nota bene: I was not the one with the uterus)

3. Diapers: if you're going with cloth diapers, watch a real live baby being changed. The process is a little different than with disposables in a number of ways.

Also, if you're thinking of going with cloth diapers, accept that sometimes disposable is the best/only way to go. (A preemie-sized baby, for example, is a pretty compelling reason to just buy a month's worth of disposables until they grow into the big kid diapers)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 6:57 PM on February 11, 2014

Go for walks, if you can, and scout out good routes around the place. You don't want to be doing an evening 'please sleep' walk (if that's how it works for your family) and finding out that this route has enormous hills, horrible smells, awful dogs, giant potholes and so on. Places that you go regularly, you need to check for accessibility now, not when you've got the pram and a sleeping baby.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:04 PM on February 11, 2014

Best answer: I'll share a bit of experience I had for the post-partum hospital stay. With our first kid I heeded the books' good advice about packing a bag for the mother -- new robe, new pajamas, CDs, scented candles, soap, the works. After a long labor and an emergency C-section, when I had been standing up in the same clothes for 48 hours, I realized that I hadn't brought so much as a toothbrush for myself. Pack the hospital bag for both of you.
posted by Gelatin at 2:53 AM on February 12, 2014

That wasn't at all the point of my question. The point was asking for concrete things you can plan to do to make life easier during an upcoming difficult and stressful time. Like cooking meals that can be nuked.

The reality is that even this stuff --- it only goes so far. And sometimes the planning doesn't make anything easier, even the logical planning like having tons of food because say you made a boat load of lasagne and you find out at four weeks old baby has a dairy intolerance. Or all the newborn clothes won't fit for six months because baby is premature. Or the chemicals the cleaning folks you hired use make you feel incredibly ill that you end up not being able to use the service after all.

This isn't to be a naysayer, but each of the above has happened to people I know. And the planning went out the window and the effort of planning so much was.....I won't say wasted, but unusable in the end and in some cases difficult to handle, given the circumstances they found themselves in. I personally found --- the second time around when I finally understood planning can have more pitfalls --- that just having some food ready and the apartment somewhat cleared out and keeping things more normal to everyday life is what made everything easier in those first weeks.

I also had a two year old at that time, so I had long since entered the stage of, "Oh, you're eating the cookie on the floor......okay.....*sigh.*" None of this is to say don't put thought into how to care for yourself, but don't plan too much.
posted by zizzle at 4:39 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, these were our preparation objectives:

1. Researched baby product options and decided on choices (and a couple of backup choices) that we wanted to try and purchased only as much as was definitely necessary, but put everything else in an Amazon wishlist so it was really easy to find and purchase once we knew what we wanted. (In the end the only thing we bought more of were diapers and different brands of pacifiers.)

2. Made a calendar that our relatives and friends had access to so everybody could see when everybody else was visiting. We also blacked out dates when we weren't accepting visitors and put up a note explaining our preferences.

3. Wrote a guide to our apartment for family members that had offered to help. It explained things like how to do laundry and where all our stuff was stored so they could help without constantly asking questions.

4. We happened to move 4 months before the baby was born, and in the process we did a verrrrry thorough decluttering and organized every closet and cupboard.

5. We made a gigantic spreadsheet of all the items we'd have to buy, plus a conservative budget for how much more we'd spend per month, and then figured out how to fit it all into our budget.

6. Joined "Amazon Mom".

7. Finalized paternity and maternity leaves with all necessary paperwork.

8. Deep-cleaned our apartment by 37 weeks.

9. We discussed our preferences at length on baby hot topics like circumcision, sleeping arrangements, etc.

10. Interviewed and chose a pediatrician.

11. Made sets of keys for people who would be offering help in the early days, so they didn't have to ring the buzzer.

12. Went to the dentist, and got our cats' teeth cleaned and got them their vaccinations.

13. Over 3 months, stockpiled extras of all our staple foods so we always had something we liked to eat even if we hadn't been shopping in weeks.

14. Stockpiled extra toothpaste, soap, tissues, dishwasher tabs, paper towels, toilet paper, OTC medications, sponges, etc.

15. Purchased postpartum supplies: big pads, witchhazel pads, ice packs.

16. Got all of our bills on autopay and made sure our accounts were all set to be ignored for a few months.

17. We packed essentials in 2 diaper bags and put one in the car.

18. Put cat food and cat litter on auto-order to arrive every month.

19. Wrote thank-you notes to all who had given us gifts before the birth, and made sure we had a bunch of thank-you cards ready for afterwards.

20. We met with a lawyer to write a will.

21. Made lists of all people who should be called/emailed after the birth so we didn't leave anybody out in a haze of sleep deprivation.

22. Washed and organized all baby stuff, and filed away various manuals/instructions where we could easily access them.

23. Figure out how your insurance company deals with breast pump purchase, if you'll need a pump.

24. Figure out how to put the baby on your insurance, and make sure you DO IT WITHIN 30 DAYS!

25. Bought convenient one-handed snacks (Luna bars, biscuits, etc.) in bulk packages.

26. Bought and read some essential books: one on newborn care (Heading Home With Your Newborn), 3 on cognitive development in the first year (I don't think you need to read 3, I just like the topic - I read What's Going On In There, The Scientist In The Crib, and Touchpoints), one on breastfeeding (The Nursing Mother's Companion), one on childbirth (The Birth Partner). I also bought several books on parenting that I haven't read yet.

27. Made sure we had active Netflix and GrubHub (food delivery) accounts.
posted by Cygnet at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should sign up for daycare NOW if you need it. I was on a wait list for 8 months, infant spots can be very hard to get. Other prep items: research the things you want and think about your baby logistics - where will she sleep, etc. since that will influence what you need. Do stock up on non perishables and tick off any mundane or potentially expensive chores like car maintenance. For you, try and be as active as possible, it'll make late pregnancy, labor and recovery much better. Get stuff for baby, but my blanket recommendation is get all the generic stuff: blankets, burp clothes etc, but wait on "miracle baby products" until you meet your baby and know what she needs help with.
posted by annie o at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2014

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