What a month! Excitement, anticipation...maybe a little tinge of worry. Some days, it probably seems to be taking forever; other days, you aren’t sure where the time has gone — and your baby will be here soon! There’s plenty to do in these last weeks: winding up at work, getting your home ready for your amazing new arrival, buying things you’ve never shopped for before, such as diapers and tiny undershirts. Without wearing yourself out, you’ll want to make the most of this precious time. Need a little help getting organized? Read on!
Ready for the birth
Jill Ritchie, a certified doula and owner of Babeeze in Arms Doula Centre in London, Ont., stresses that the most important thing to do before you have your baby is to plan for support during labour and in the early weeks postpartum.
• Ritchie recommends writing a birth plan — what she calls a “hopes and wishes list”: a short, realistic, positive letter for your support team describing the kind of labour and birth you’d like to have.
• You will want to put together a labour bag. Besides your hopes and wishes list, Ritchie suggests including: your hospital registration forms and health card; slippers or warm socks; an oversized T-shirt to labour in; a sports bra for the bath or shower; a robe; comforts (music, lotion, lip balm, hand-held fan); your own pillow and birth ball; a list of people to call and a cellphone or change for the pay phone; and your camera and video camera (both charged!). Add toiletries, Gatorade or clear juice, and nutritious snacks for you and your partner.
• Pack postpartum supplies too: diapers and clothes for the baby, something comfortable to wear home, maxi-pads and a nursing bra.
Now is the time to make sure you’ll have help in the weeks after your baby is born.
• “We set up a schedule of mommy’s helpers for the first month,” remembers Jenn Pedernera, mom of Olivia, four months. “My husband, Miguel, took off the first week; my mother took off the second week; my sister-in-law, the third. Even if they weren’t at the house 100 percent of the time, it was so reassuring to have someone I could call at a moment’s notice.”
Think about who might be able to help (with housework, baby care, emotional support) and check out their availability. If family or close friends can’t offer much support, you may want to consider hiring a postpartum doula. Christine Larocque, mom of Jesse, 22 months, suggests hiring a teenager who lives nearby to come while you do laundry or take a shower. Make the call now. “Once the baby arrives, there’s no time to think about arranging for help.”
• Clear your calendar. A few extra errands now could earn you time off later. “I doubled up on my carpool days so that I could have some time banked after my baby was born,” says Debbie Karakowsky, mom of six boys aged seven weeks to 16 years.
• Compile a list of community resources: mom-and-baby groups, breastfeeding support and postpartum drop-in programs, advises Ritchie. Post the list on your fridge and add updates as you find them.
• Stock up. Running out for toilet paper isn’t quite so easy when you have a newborn. “I did mega-shopping so there was no need to buy big bulky household items for months — toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, feminine hygiene products,” recalls mom of two under three, Andrea Moyer. You can do the same with diapers, wipes and non-perishable food. (For more tips, see Shopping list.)
• Fill the freezer with as many prepared meals as you can manage. “When a baby arrives and family is visiting, there’s little time to breathe let alone cook, so these meals are a godsend,” says Larocque, “And it assured me we would all be eating well.”
Get the gear
There’s a bewildering world of baby gear to be bought, but you don’t need it all right away.
• You do need a car seat to bring your baby home, and a safe place — crib or cradle — for baby to sleep. A baby carrier or sling may be the best investment of all; when you carry your baby close to your body, it’s soothing for both of you.
A change table, baby seat and reclining stroller are other items you’ll use from early on — so if they are on your list, you may as well buy now while shopping is easier!
• Some purchases are better postponed until you know you will need them. “I bought a dual electric pump for $500 and breastfeeding didn’t work out, so I spent a lot of money and didn’t use it,” says Larocque.
• Borrowing from family or friends can save lots of cash — but politely decline an old crib, high chair, car seat, gate or playpen, which may not meet current safety standards. (To check, go to Health Canada’s website at hc-sc.gc.ca.)
Ready for baby
• Bet you want to pretty up the nursery! Have fun with it, but don’t wear yourself out. Your baby won’t know if the colours don’t coordinate perfectly. (Delegate the painting — and use a paint with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and low odour. You’ll want a comfortable chair in the baby’s room so you can sit and rock, and a dimmer switch or small lamp or night light for less jarring night shifts.
• Organizing your baby stuff is important too. You’ll want to wash new baby clothes and bedding to remove the sizing. Suzanne Kuperhause, mom of one-year-old Owen Lukas, remembers, “Sebastien and I had everything arranged: The crib was bought and set up, the change table was set up and stocked with diapers, wipes, cream. Next to our bed, we had a Moses basket where our baby slept for the first three months.”
• Pack your diaper bag, so baby supplies are ready to go when you are. Moyer didn’t: “On our first outing, I had to scramble to pack it up and ended up forgetting empty plastic bags that are such an important item in the diaper bag!”
• This is a perfect time to study up. Karakowsky went to a couple of La Leche League meetings before her baby arrived. “That way, if I needed help, I knew who to call and had a face to attach to the phone number.” Ritchie recommends a parenting class. You’ll learn tricks like how to swaddle and calm a crying babe, and it’s a good way to connect with other moms.
• Give yourself lots of breaks — your body is working hard and needs rest.
• What makes you feel good? A massage? A facial? Indulge now if you can. (It may be your last chance for a while!) “I got one last pedicure about two weeks before I was due — I couldn’t get anywhere near my feet at that point!” laughs Karakowsky.
What can wait
In a pinch, almost anything!
Kuperhause has some wise advice: “Remember that the only things a newborn really needs are a safe place to sleep, warm clothes and Mommy and Daddy! All the other stuff can come later.”
Shopping list — the little things
In addition to the big-ticket items, here are some smaller items you might not remember:
• Healthy snacks and drinks for you and your partner during labour
• Staples for fast, nutritious meals and snacks (canned beans and fish, whole wheat tortillas and pitas for quick pizzas and wraps)
For you: lip balm, lotion, maxi-pads, hair clips or elastics, breast pads, sitz bath supplies and hemorrhoid wipes (for tender perineums)
For baby: baby wash (unscented for newborns), cotton balls for wiping little eyes and ears, tissues (lots of tissues), baby nail scissors, newborn diapers (if using disposables), baby wipes, petroleum jelly, diaper rash ointment, digital thermometer and medication for fever
• Nursing bras (at least two)
• Baby clothes: sleepers, socks, a hat or two, a sweater and bunting bag (depending on season), one-piece undershirts that snap at the crotch to keep baby’s tummy covered and hold his diaper in place (plenty of basics mean less frequent laundry, but don’t buy too many in newborn sizes — your baby will grow fast)
• Baby washcloths, hooded towel
• Crib sheets, blankets, washable waterproof change pads
• Diapers (even if you’re using disposables, buy a dozen flat cloth diapers too — nothing beats them for catching baby burps and spills)