A lesser-known checklist
You are getting close to welcoming a very special person into this world: your baby. Do you feel like you have a lot to think about and prepare for?
Sample baby registries often recommend long lists of baby gear. But I would like to offer you a less common, but arguably much more important “getting ready for baby checklist”: things for you to consider and source out.
1. Gather Your Support System
Consider a postpartum babymoon. Some cultures have a wonderful practice of a postpartum “babymoon” or “bubble” where mothers and babies stay home for 20 to 40 days after birth. Relatives help with chores while the mother rests and bonds with her newborn.
How can you create a postpartum babymoon if you live far from family, have older children to care for or must return to work? Try to gather your support system, do some planning and create your own version of a babymoon, if only for a short while. Only you can decide what it will look like and how long your “while” is.
Arrange your life in a way that allows for as much rest and bonding with your baby as possible. Think about who you would like to see during the early postpartum days and weeks. Ask for what you need most. The early weeks are physically and emotionally demanding, but special and precious like no others.
Map out local resources. Find trusted local resources you might need or want, such as a lactation consultant, a postpartum doula or a physiotherapist specializing in postpartum recovery. There may be a local mom support group or a babywearing community in your area. If you find these resources now, getting help and support once your baby arrives will be much easier.
Discuss roles with your partner. If you will be parenting with a partner, talk about your hopes, ideas, and concerns about life with a baby as openly as you can. Studies show that key to engaged parenting is the time parents put into—and responsibility they feel for—the day-by-day caregiving. And moms tend to shoulder more work—and more stress—of parenthood.
For millennia, birth and postpartum has been women’s work, but never of one woman alone. In today’s nuclear families, men are invited to be full partners in birth and early parenting, yet many did not have role models to show them how. Sometimes the new dad does not get involved enough and the new mom becomes overworked and stressed. Changing social policies that contribute to this issue is going to take time, but research points to three things couples can do to support each other in parenting.
2. Prepare Your Mind
There may be no way to fully prepare your mind for the enormous change of becoming a parent. But several key things can help you in the early weeks—and continue to matter for many years to come.
Practice mind-mindedness. Your baby will come into the world ready to connect and form relationships. She will need at least one person to form a secure attachment to: a strong and mutual emotional connection.
Research shows that secure attachment forms best when parents are sensitive and mind-minded. Sensitivity is probably not a new concept for you. Sensitive parents perceive, interpret and respond to baby’s signals accurately, promptly and warmly.
But have you heard of mind-mindedness? Mind-minded parents view their babies not only as little bundles of joy and potential, but as whole people with minds of their own. They adjust their views and practices as they watch their baby’s behaviour, instead of relying on pre-conceived notions, their own feelings and wishes or general ideas of what babies need or should be doing.
Learn about newborn temperament and crying. Newborns’ physiological processes and rhythms are not yet organized or coordinated. They are working hard at staying calm and regulated so they can pay attention to people, things and events around them.
Being calm is harder for some babies than others, for two reasons.
The first reason is something called neurobehavioural maturation. Some babies are born less neurologically ready than others. Their nervous systems are having a harder time adjusting to quick changes in sensory input such as light, temperature and sound. These babies appear more “touchy” or “reactive.”
The second reason is baby’s temperament: a set of tendencies each baby is born with that influence how he approaches, responds to and interacts with the world. Temperament is how a baby responds to the world (what he does); it is only part of baby’s personality (who he is).
3. Prepare Your Home
Although you don’t have to babyproof just yet, now is a perfect time to check on and improve your home’s overall safety. Make sure your smoke alarm has fresh batteries. Have emergency phone numbers handy. Consider switching to non-toxic, environmentally-friendly home cleaning products.
A calm home environment. How will your baby experience your home? Think about your home environment from your baby’s perspective. Your baby will be very tuned into his environment right from the start.
Being tuned into their environment helps babies learn rapidly. At the same time, it makes them sensitive and easily overwhelmed, especially in the early weeks. And you might find this surprising: young babies learn best when they get more sleep and less stimulation.
Can you screen out some of the world’s intensity to help your newborn stay calm and begin focusing her attention? Consider decluttering, adding window drapes to soften light and sound and moving away from background television.
A safe place for your baby to sleep and feed at night. Which sleep arrangement fits your family best: bed-sharing, room-sharing or baby sleeping in his or her own room? Each sleep arrangement has its benefits and risks. Changing approaches on the fly or because “nothing else works” can create unsafe sleep environments. Decide where your baby will sleep and make this space safe and comfortable in advance.
Next, think about how and where you will feed your baby at night: Are you planning on feeding in a chair or sofa? Take utmost care to not fall asleep during feedings. Chairs and sofas create unsafe sleep environments for babies because they can get wedged between the cushions or pressed against an armrest, all serious suffocation hazards.
Will you bring your baby into your bed for feedings? Put the same consideration, thought and careful planning into setting up your bed as you would for bed-sharing, just in case you fall asleep while feeding.
“Baby things”: the minimum essential set. A newborn’s needs are simple (but also all-consuming!): to be fed, safe, rested and loved. Your newborn will need:
Diapers and wipes. Bottles and formula (if you plan on bottle-feeding formula) or bottles, a breast pump and breastmilk freezer bags (if you plan on bottle-feeding breastmilk)
8 to 12 breathable one-piece sleepers or gowns. Those with zippers or snaps all the way down the front work best. There is a very good chance you will not want to pull even the cutest outfits over your newborn’s head in the early weeks.
Large, soft flannel or muslin receiving blankets. They can also double as burp cloths, stroller and baby carrier shades or nursing covers.
A rear-facing infant car seat if you plan on driving with your baby. Learn how to adjust and use it properly ahead of time. Consult a car seat technician if you have questions.