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Top 20 Ways to Get Organized for a New Baby

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A checklist of the most common tasks to complete before your new baby arrives.

Planning for a baby can be hard work, but fortunately there are things you can do in advance to help simplify your life and ease your stress before and during pregnancy.  Here are the top 20 things to keep in mind:

1. Keep yourself in shape through a fitness plan and take prenatal vitamins BEFORE conception as well as DURING pregnancy.

When planning to have children in your future, the first thing you need to do is keep yourself healthy, and make sure to visit the doctor for annual check-ups.  Planning for a baby starts months or even years before the actual event.  Following a fitness plan will help you stay in shape, maintain healthy pregnancy weight when you do conceive, and prepare your body for the labor and delivery process.  Prenatal vitamins are helpful for ensuring your body is healthy before conception, especially since most women take prenatal vitamins only after learning they are pregnant.  During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the vitamins and nutrients needed to sustain a healthy fetus are essential to its development.  Poor nutrition can lead to a spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage.  If you cannot tolerate prenatals, childrens' chewables work well.  If that still seems impossible for you, try having a glass of orange juice daily, and eating peanut butter as a snack (with crackers, celery, toast, or on a sandwich).

2. Physically and mentally prepare yourself and your partner/spouse for the life-changes ahead.

Having a baby changes the dynamics of your family life, not just for you, but also for your partner/spouse.  In addition to being physically fit to meet the demands of pregnancy and parenthood, you both need to realize that certain priorities, goals, and ideals will change.  Therefore, you must get ready to face and accept what challenges are ahead.  Talk through your concerns and discuss ways to solve potential pitfalls before they occur.

3. Prepare and organize your home.

This includes cleaning, rearranging, and organizing all the rooms in your home, washing all baby clothing and bedding you might have, and planning for where the baby will sleep.  Nursery decorating need only be completed after the baby is born, so long as you've designated a specific area, and are able to move comfortably around the room once the baby is born, to change and feed him or her easily.  While most baby proofing need only be completed by the time a baby is able to crawl, it is a good idea to get a head start on the process, especially by re-shelving your cleaning supplies and chemicals to the topmost shelves in your closet or cabinet, or plan on purchasing childproof locks when the time comes, to prevent your child from exploring those areas.  Discard old, broken, or cluttered items you might have in your home to clear space and make way for baby items.  Invest in organization supplies to keep you on-track, such as filing cabinets, plastic see-through storage containers, 3-ring binders, calendars, date books/planners, pocket-folders, and even a pda or your computer.  Making lists will be most helpful to you in whatever you do.  Breaking them down one task at a time, and delegating tasks to your partner/spouse and other family members will help minimize your stress.  Above all, don't panic if any goals you've had are not completed by the time the baby comes-as long as you focus on the primary needs for you, the baby, and your family, everything else can wait.

4. Purchase necessities, including nursery basics and newborn needs ONLY.

An infant does not need a stroller, highchair, baby gate, or gender-specific clothing, or clothes to fit babies 3 months old and up.  What an infant DOES need are a crib/bassinet/cradle to sleep in, a changing table (can be the top of a low dresser, if necessary), a place for clothing and diaper storage (a dresser or closet works just fine), a baby monitor, bathing supplies, and an infant car seat in order for you to be able to take the baby home from the hospital.  Make sure the car seat meets safety regulations and have it fitted in your car ahead of time.  That way, if there is a problem with it, or it doesn't fit in your car, you will have enough time to purchase a new one well before the baby arrives.  Have at least one receiving blanket in which to swaddle the baby.  Plan to have a chair for you to use during feedings, so that you can be comfortable and unrushed when attending to your infant.  Diapers can be purchased at any time, and you might want to begin purchasing them starting from when you find out you are pregnant.  You can borrow a swing for soothing a cranky baby if you need it, but it is possible to survive without one.  Everything else can be purchased after the baby is born, especially if you end up having the baby earlier than expected, or are living on a budget. 

5. Set financial goals and plans.

Being prepared involves knowing just how much you can afford to spend for prenatal and postnatal medical expenses, raising your baby, and deciding on a workable budget.  Take the time to go over your current costs for living and your income.  Eliminate or pay down your debts and start saving money.  Doing these things will help you should unexpected complications and hospital visits occur.

6. Have any legal paperwork completed, including wills and insurance policies.

Having a baby, just like getting married or divorced, involves legal procedures.  Make sure to add your child to you and your partner/spouse's wills, medical insurance, and create a life insurance policy for him/ her.

7. Choose an OB/GYN and choose and tour the hospital where you would like to deliver.

Prenatal care is of great importance to the health of your baby and yourself.  Once you find out you are pregnant, select a practitioner whose philosophies match your own.  In most cases, OB/GYN practices are affiliated with specific hospitals, so find out if the one yours is with is where you'll want to be.  If not, find out if it would be possible for you to request your OB at the hospital you choose.  Taking a hospital tour before the baby is born will help answer any questions that you and your partner/spouse might have, or help you in deciding if that hospital is right for you.  If possible, pre-register at the hospital before the baby is born.  This time-saving step will be much appreciated by your partner/spouse who might not be able to think clearly or have time to fill out the registration paperwork needed for processing upon admittance to the hospital.

8. Create a birth plan, and discuss it with your partner/spouse and doctor.

Provide a copy of the birth plan to your doctor, to keep on file for delivery.  Discussing it will allow your partner/spouse to know your wishes throughout the delivery, and it will help the doctors and nurses treat you most effectively, without having to ask you questions when you might be distracted or incoherent.  Giving your doctor a chance to look over the birth plan ahead of time will also allow you both to have questions clarified, or to finalize plans of which you might have otherwise been unsure.

9. Decide whether you plan on breast feeding or bottle feeding.

Educate yourself in both breast feeding and bottle feeding before making a decision.  Attend breast feeding classes and familiarize yourself with types of formulas available.  Even if you do decide to breast feed, keep bottle feeding as your back-up plan, in case there is a problem with being able to do so after the baby is born.  Plan to purchase breast feeding or bottle necessities ahead of time to have with you in the hospital and when arriving at home.  Make sure your OB is aware of your decision, so that he/she discuss any specific needs or problems you might experience, or offer suggestions.

10. Choose a pediatrician.

Talk with your doctor, friends, family, or even other pregnant women for recommendations.  If possible, interview the pediatrician of your choice, visit the office, or at the very least, obtain information about the practice.  After your baby is born, and depending on whether or not the pediatrician is affiliated with the hospital in which you deliver, it may be possible for him/her to meet with you and your baby during your hospital stay.

11. Plan for religious ceremonies/practices.

Most popularly is circumcision, for boys.  Most hospitals do this as a standard procedure, while others will ask if you would like it performed or not.  Include this in your birth plan, if applicable.  Find out ahead of time when it is usually performed (i.e. right after delivery, or a set number of days following the birth).  Newborn baptisms, christenings, or dedications need not be arranged before the birth, but you might want to decide which you would want to do, and find out when it usually takes place.

12. Choose baby names.

Have a running list of names, or ones of both genders, especially if you plan on finding out the baby's sex at the time of birth, or if ultrasounds are unable to clearly discern the sex.  Finding and exploring a variety of names is a fun, individual process that can be done at any point during your pregnancy.

13. Appoint godparents.

Although not a practice used by all, many people like to appoint godparents, or guardians to act as "second parents", should anything happen to the birth parents.  In most cases, godparents are special people who have an influence throughout your baby's life, and remain much like aunts and uncles, or foster grandparents.  Appointing godparents can be done at any point, even after your baby is born.

14. Attend birthing and first aid classes.

Knowing labor, delivery, and first aid procedures ahead of time will ease your anxieties.  Hospitals and several public places regularly hold such classes, and they are available to all expecting parents or other family members who would like to attend.  Often times they are for a small fee, while others might be free of charge, and they can be one-time sessions or repeated weekly or monthly ones.  Plan ahead, register, and obtain a schedule of times, dates, and fees.  If you are unable to attend any classes, a wide range of reading materials and videos are available on all of these subjects at your local library or bookstores.

15. Pack overnight bag for hospital toward the end of your pregnancy, keeping snacks, music, or toiletries for the last-minute.

It works best to make a checklist of all the items you will need to purchase and pack, ahead of time.  Keep your overnight bag in a place you can easily get to when it is needed-you might even want to keep an additional one in your car or office if you work outside the home.  Suggested items you will need are your pre-registration paperwork (if it is not necessary to have them mailed in a few weeks prior to your due date), a nightgown for you to wear, a few changes of clothes, panties, socks, slippers, a robe, eye glasses, toothbrush, hairbrush, sugar-free candies to eat during labor, reading materials while waiting during labor, snacks for your birthing coach, a homecoming outfit for the baby, a receiving blanket, diapers, your pregnancy journal, baby book, sanitary pads, and a camera.

16. Arrange for childcare for the baby after the birth.

Whether you plan to work fulltime or part time, or even if you plan to stay home but would need a babysitter while you run errands, start thinking about your childcare options.  Look into daycares, mommy groups and co-ops, or family and friends who might be willing to provide quality childcare.  See what costs you can and can't afford, based on your budget plan.

17. Arrange for childcare of older children during your hospital stay.

If you already have other children, you will need to arrange for childcare while you and your partner/spouse are at the hospital.  Many couples arrange for childcare during labor and delivery, bringing the older children for visits during your hospital stay.  While several months planning in advance is not necessary, you will need to see who would be available for doing so on a moment's notice.

18. Arrange for a pet sitter during your hospital stay.

Any pets who need constant or daily attention will need someone to care of them in your absence.  While several months planning in advance is not necessary for this either, again, you will need to see who would be available for doing so on a moment's notice.  Perhaps whoever might be providing your older children's childcare can be of help in this area as well.

19. Choose who you would want as helpers for after the baby is born, and set up a support group system.

There will be many things left undone after you arrive home with the baby, and unless your partner/spouse is able to do all the housework and take turns in helping you care for your newborn, you will need to devise a plan for family members and friends to assist you in cooking, cleaning, bill payment, or other daily tasks necessary.  You will need to plan this somewhat in advance, so that people are able to be available to you.  You will also need the help of a support group system-people you can call or talk to in order to fight the postpartum "baby blues" you might be experiencing.  It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed with the new demands of motherhood, and having understanding and empathetic people surrounding you during this time can help take your mind off the stress.  You might even want to join a new mother's group, where you can exchange thoughts and ideas with other new mothers experiencing similar situations.

20. Decide whether you will be taking maternity leave or resigning from your job.

Last but not least, it's never too early to start thinking about your postpartum career goals.  That way, if you choose to only take maternity leave, you will then be able to focus on permanent childcare options.  Otherwise, if you or your partner/spouse plans to resign from your job, or work part time, you'll need to consult your budget plan and see if it would be possible to survive on one income or a smaller one than what you had before.  However, don't panic if you are unable to decide completely before your baby is born.  Many new mothers have been known to change their minds after the birth, depending on what happens during delivery, and how they feel after having the baby in their care at home for a few weeks.

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Natasha Polak

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