Well, momma, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. And that may have never rung truer than after the birth of my first baby. I thought I was so prepared. But there was so much more I could have done during my third trimester to make for an easier fourth trimester and beyond.
While there were some things I did do well, like making freezer meals, organizing baby clothes and taking a birth class. I so wish I’d spent my baby-free third trimester learning about breastfeeding, mastering my baby gear (while not sleep deprived), getting a leg up on baby care and so much more.
Today I’m laying it all out there! This is everything I wish I had taken the time to learn, research and do before my baby arrived. Think of this as the ultimate gift basket to your (tired) postpartum self. She will be so grateful!
Here’s a brief overview of what we’re going to cover:
- Baby gear: what you need and how to use it
- Diapering: cloth or disposable?
- Baby care: baths, umbilical cord care, and more
- Sleep: safe and comfortable sleep for you and baby
- Breastfeeding: there’s so much you can do now to make this a success
- Preparing your house for postpartum: because life with a newborn can be hard
- Managing visitors after birth: for your sanity and baby’s safety
- Childbirth classes: don’t skip this!
- Preparing to document all of baby’s milestones: time is going to fly
- Tackling health insurance, birth certificate, SSN and other logistics: #adulting
Remember, momma– your birth is important, life-changing, and amazing, but it really is only one day. I promise you that tackling the items on this list during your third trimester is going to make your transition into motherhood and life with a newborn far less stressful.
10 Ways to Prepare for Life with a Newborn Before Baby Arrives
1. Baby gear: What you need and how to use it
Many mommas, especially the first time around, are aware that acquiring at least some amount of baby gear is important before their baby arrives. Some of you may have spent hours researching and creating the ultimate registry on Amazon, others have been scouring yard sales and consignment shops for second-hand goods, and still, others have fallen somewhere in between (like me).
Well, wherever you’re at in the process of acquiring all the baby stuff, let me give you the low down on the bare minimum essentials. This way if you are gathering things on your own, you know what to prioritize. And if you have a registry and are expecting to get a lot of the things at your shower, you’ll know what items to set as ‘priority’ as loved ones begin to choose gifts.
What is the essential baby gear?
This is one of those questions that will be answered differently by different mommas. This is because we all live different lifestyles. For this reason, examining your own lifestyle is important when it comes to determining what will be essential for you.
We invested in a high-quality baby stroller—and then rarely even used it. I live in a rural area that is not walkable, and all of the walking we do is on trails in the woods. Babywearing for the win, that expensive stroller—not so much.
Similarly, we got an infant car seat (one of the click in and out ones) but I often would take my daughter out and wear her from the car rather than lugging the seat around. On the other hand, a working mom friend of mine LOVED her click in and out car seat because she had multiple family members helping with her daughter’s care. Everyone had a base and car seat stayed with baby. It made her life so much easier.
What season is my baby being born? Babywearing can make it easier to keep baby cozy and warm, but an infant car seat with a bunting can also be a great option to go from a warm house directly to warmed up car.
Do you see how important it is to examine your own lifestyle?
With that being said, there are definitely ‘the basics’ that most mommas will agree are good to have before baby arrives:
Safe sleep space in your room: It is recommended for baby to co-room with momma for the first 6-12 months. For this reason, you should invest in and set-up a sleep space for baby in your room in addition to their crib that will be used later. Some great options are Pack and Plays, and bedside sleepers/bassinets.
Crib: While debatably not essential, because baby will be in your room for the first 6-12 months, many mommas find it helpful to get this investment out of the way before baby arrives. It’s also really fun to set up baby’s own room even if you won’t be using it yet 😊
Changing Pad: investing in just the pad makes it possible to convert any dresser to a changing table rather than investing in a full changing table (unless you want to). Here’s the converter we used to keep the changing pad securely in place on our dresser.
Safe spot to put baby down: in the early weeks, babywearing was one of the only ways my baby was happy. However, there are instances where you’ll need to put baby down or it’s not safe to babywear (cooking and showering come to mind). Having a strategically placed infant bouncer and baby swing was important in my home, because we have big dogs making the floor less than optimal
Car Seat: this is a must for most modern families. Think through the pros and cons of infant car seats vs. starting immediately with a convertible car seat. *Note: If you are planning a hospital birth, check with your hospital about their policy. Some hospitals require that you have an infant car seat to be discharged with baby and require a special waiver if you will not be using one
- Infant car seats (with travel systems)
- Click in and out of the car which is really handy if you plan to use a stroller often
- Are a better option if you will have multiple people driving baby around
- May be better for babies born in winter
- May be better for when baby falls asleep in the car for easier transferring
- Convertible car seats:
- Are roomier and some babies who fuss and cry in the car do better in a convertible car seat vs. an infant car seat (I’ve heard this anecdotally from a number of mommas)
- Have a much longer time of use, they make 4 in 1 car seats that will last your baby through their booster seat days!
Living in the bipolar weather state that Michigan is, Joe and Melissa used the Peg Perego Viaggio infant seat for the crew when they were wee babes for the convenience. Once the littles out grew the infant car seat they were transitioned to the Britax Advocate Clicktight convertible car seat for their toddler years. Then finally, once bigs, they graduated to a Britax Frontier Clicktight full harness booster.
A great baby carrier: You’ve probably already caught on to what a fan I am of babywearing. I think this is a must have for all parents. If you’re only going to get one, go with a structured carrier that can be adjusted for you and your partner to use interchangeably.
- The Ergo is a great option for a structured carrier that can be used by mom and dad
- If you’re interested in cloth carriers but find them a bit intimidated, the Baby K’Tan takes a lot of the guesswork away. Love, love, love mine!
- Ring Slings are loved by many mommas
- Moby Wraps are a great versatile wrap-style carrier.
- Melissa and Joe swear by their Tula that is now carrying its 5th child.
Miscellaneous: I’m going to group these here, because they aren’t ‘gear’ per se, but should be included in the bare minimum essentials
- Baby clothes
- Linens (sheets, mattress protector, changing pad cover, burp cloths, swaddles)
- Monitor (may depend on your lifestyle/home) I love this video monitor
- Medicine cabinet items (diaper cream, bathing supplies, thermometer, infant Tylenol, nose sucker (the oddest thing you can’t live without), etc.)
- Feeding supplies (bottles, breastpump, breastmilk storage bags *more on this below*)
Make sure you learn how to use it all
This might be the more important aspect of the baby gear category. Once you’ve gotten all the baby gear, make sure you know how to use it. Open things up, do any necessary assembly, read instruction manuals and practice using items.
This is a great activity to do with your partner so that they’ve also got all the gear mastered. It’s also a hands on way to get them involved in the baby prep and help with baby bonding before birth, which can be more difficult for dads.
After doing any necessary assembly, practice opening and closing the stroller, doing and undoing the straps, clicking in and out the infant carrier if applicable, and even go as far as practicing putting it into your trunk! I’m serious. Figuring all of this out with a fussy newborn and low patience level will leave you super frustrated.
Joe and Melissa have found they absolutely love their City Select stroller. It folds up easily and can be broken down entirely to fit in the most compact spaces. It’s also smooth, can handle off roading, jogging, and anything else you can throw at it. The only downside is the price tag but if you have multiple kids it’s the best, most durable stroller you can get.
Practice putting on structured carriers and even wraps ahead of time. It might be a little difficult with your growing bump, but you should still be able to practice with a stuffed animal or doll and looser straps.
Learn what types of carries are safe to use right away with newborns and what you should wait on. Utilize YouTube to make sure you are doing it correctly. I could not figure out one of my carriers for the life of me until I watched a video. Have your partner give everything a whirl, too.
My husband and I had a good laugh when he was figuring out how to put the Moby wrap on himself with a teddy bear late one night. You might also be able to find local babywearing groups or tutorials with a little Google and Social Media digging. These can be really helpful for trying out different styles and learning babywearing safety.
It’s a good idea to install your car seat, or at least the infant base, a few weeks before you’re due. This way it’s all set for the big day should you need it. Just like with the stroller, practice getting it in and out of the car, and practice the buckles. Again, I recommend using YouTube for proper installation videos. Bonus points, get your car seat checked at your local fire station or town hall to ensure it’s in properly.
All of these types of baby gear have their own features, buckle types and safety guidelines. Practice them all and check them out. Position them where you think you’ll use them. Make sure you’ve thought about which ones need to be plugged in or require batteries. This is another case of just having everything ready to go rather than scrambling for C-Batteries on 4 hours of sleep.
Register your products!
When you are setting things up and learning how to use them, gather all of the registration forms. Any baby products you’ve received new should be registered online so that you get safety and recall alerts. Do yourself a favor and knock this out in one sitting! It’s a pain, but a necessary evil for baby’s safety and your own peace of mind.
2. Diapering: What to prepare ahead of time and know
Diapers and babies go hand in hand. And honestly, I think you’re going to laugh at yourself when you realize just how much headspace will be dedicated to your baby’s diaper output during the fourth trimester. Baby poop also has a way of bringing some much needed comic relief when you’re in the trenches of newborn life (trust me on that).
But there are some things to know and set up to make diapering a lot easier when your baby arrives. Additionally, deciding between cloth diapering and disposables is an important decision you need to make.
I want to add here that this doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision! For example, many mommas cloth diaper when possible but use disposables overnight or when their baby is in the care of someone else.
Let’s unpack the details of each.
The decision to cloth diaper does require a bit of research and a bit more upfront planning. But in the long run, is a really wonderful option for many families. One thing to note, even if you do plan on cloth diapering, is to have a pack of disposable diapers on hand for when you’re in a pinch, in an emergency, or even in the early days when you’re still getting the hang of everything.
Pros of cloth diapers
- Despite a costly initial investment, cloth diapers are probably cheaper in the long run because once you have them you are all set for continued use (especially if you invest in cloth diapers that are adjustable and grow with your baby. Joe and Melissa have some quality cloth diapers that have now made it through all 5 kids.
- One way to bring cost down is to get a used cloth diapering stash from another momma. The reason we can only say probably cheaper, is because the cost can go up significantly based on if you decide to use a cloth diaper cleaning service and where you live.
- Cloth diapers hold their value and can be sold to another momma when you are finished
- Anecdotally many mommas say cloth diapers do a better job at holding in that yellow breastfed baby poop! No up-the-back explosions and less ruined outfits
- Cloth diapers come in a variety of different materials and do not contain things like dyes, gels, and other chemicals present in disposable diapers. This makes them a great option for babies with very sensitive skin and mommas looking for the most natural options
- Cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable, this can be a pro because it makes eventual potty training easier
- From an eco-standpoint, cloth diapers do not fill landfills at nearly the rate of disposables and result in less manufacturing
- There are a million and one adorable little patterns so your babe can be the most fashionable one in town. Check out some of the handmade ones on Etsy.
Cons of cloth diapers
- Cloth diaper services can be quite costly and require some scheduling and planning on your part
- If you choose to clean your own cloth diapers, this can be time consuming and add to the cost of your electricity bill.
- The energy use on cleaning cloth diapers at home/through a service is a perceived con by some
- They are simply not as convenient for many mommas, especially while out and about because you need to bring soiled diapers home with you. A great wet bag solves this problem!
- For some, cloth diapers result in more rashes because they are less absorbent and make for more sleep disruptions due to leaks and wetness.
Deciding on the type of cloth diaper for you
Wellness Mama breaks down the different types of cloth diaper options by price and ease of use in her fabulous guide to cloth diapers 101. It may not be necessary to pick one style and commit completely. Different types of cloth diapers have different pros and cons.
- Flats and Prefold style: these are the least expensive, are easy to wash yourself, and when used with a one-size fits all diaper cover can essentially be used for the duration of your baby’s diaper journey
- Fitted Cloth Diaper: these are a little more beginner-friendly and easier than the flats because the entire diaper is fitter to baby and may hold in messes better. They still require a waterproof outer cover.
- Pocket Style: these are one-sized fits all and do not require an outer cover. Instead, there is essentially a pocket that you stuff with a washable, absorbent, liner insert. Many say these are very much like a disposable in how they go on and off
- All-In-One Cloth Diapers: these are said to be the easiest to use which make them great for daycares or other caretakers that aren’t as experienced with cloth diapering. They go on like a disposable and the liner is permanently attached, no stuffing or separate washing is needed. Joe’s Dad Approved Choice.
*You want to have a stash of 24-36 diapers, and if not using the all-in-one diapers, around 4-6 covers.
Additional supplies needed for cloth diapering
- Reusable baby wipes
- Cloth diaper fasteners if you choose to use flats or prefold cloth diapers
- An odor-locking diaper pail and/or liner bag for storing soiled diapers
- Wet bags for storing soiled diapers when you’re on the go
Disposable diapers are a popular option for many because of their convenience and prevalence in society. However, the drawbacks are the chemicals, fragrances, and plastics present in many popular disposable diaper brands.
If you are looking for the best non-toxic disposable diaper options in order to reduce the risk of diaper rash, allergic reactions, and exposure to harsh chemicals here are some great choices:
General diapering tips and supplies
Regardless of whether you choose cloth or disposable diapers, there are some supplies that all mommas will be glad to have on hand:
- Changing pad, cover and liner
- Wipe holder for disposable wipes
- Diaper rash cream or balm (love this organic and natural option!)
Additionally, I recommend setting up a portable diaper caddy with everything you need to get your baby clean wherever you are in the house. This is especially helpful with a newborn or when you have more than one little at home. No need to trek up to the main changing station for every change.
What to stock in your portable diaper caddy:
- Diaper rash cream or balm
- A clean onesie or two
- A waterproof changing liner to put on any surface
- A toy to distract baby
3. Baby care
Once your midwife and birth team leaves after your home birth, or when you arrive home from the hospital or birth center, and it’s just you, your partner and baby– things suddenly feel real. It’s easy to feel kind of overwhelmed at how completely and utterly dependent this tiny human is on you!
Here are some essential newborn and baby care tips you’ll be glad to have up your sleeve. This is also a great time to PIN THIS ARTICLE before reading on so you can easily reference back to all of this info once baby arrives.
When and how to bathe baby?
When your baby is born, they will come out covered in a white, waxy kind of coating called vernix. Standard practice is often for doctors and even midwives to immediately wipe off the vernix and hand you baby or wipe it off while they are on your chest.
However, there is a lot of benefit to baby’s skin (and yours too!) if you leave the vernix in place, and rub it into baby’s skin like a body cream. It will help keep your baby’s brand new skin moisturized, and is full of antibacterial and antifungal elements that will boost their immune function from the start (source).
Typically, the majority of baby’s vernix will be absorbed by your baby’s skin within about 24 hours. This is the perfect time for baby’s first bath! In fact, WHO guidelines on postpartum and newborn care recommend delaying baby’s first bath until 24-48 hours after birth. Some say that best practice is to wait up to 5 days.
Until the cord stump has fallen off and healed, a sponge bath is all your baby needs. Newborns only need to be bathed 2-3 times per week. As long as you are wiping them well after diaper changes and handling spit up as needed they don’t really get all that dirty.
When you are bathing your newborn:
- Make sure the water temperature is right around 100 F
- Use a very soft sponge or washcloth to gently clean your newborn body, paying special attention to folds/rolls, under their neck and under their arms
- Use soap sparingly, or even not at all except for in their rolls and under their arms and neck
- Be sure to rinse baby well
- Dry them promptly
- Most experts recommend skipping the baby lotion after bathing your newborn. It can interfere with their skin forming a natural barrier and may even lead to dry skin or eczema later on (source).
Umbilical cord stump care
Once your baby’s cord has been clamped, it will take 3 days to 2 weeks for their cord stump to fall off. During this time, parents often wonder how and if they need to care for it. Basically, you don’t want to do anything! Best practice is just to leave the cord stump alone, keep it dry, and let it get air when possible.
While you are waiting for their cord stump to fall off, stick to sponge baths for baby to avoid getting the cord stump wet. Additionally, be sure to fold down their diaper so that it doesn’t rub or irritate their cord stump. Resist the urge to pick at it or help it along. It will fall off eventually.
Once the cord stump falls off, you may notice the area is red or crusty. Continue to leave it alone and trust that within about 2 weeks things will be looking totally clear.
While we’re on the topic of umbilical cords, here’s some related reading:
- A Complete Guide to Cord Blood Banking
- 10 Things to Do with Baby’s Umbilical Cord After Birth
- An In-Depth Look at Delayed Cord Clamping
If you are choosing to circumcise your son after birth, it’s good to know how to best care for it after the fact. Most often, circumcision takes place 2-3 days after birth and takes about 10 days to completely heal. During the healing time, you want to make sure the area stays clean and protected.
To keep their healing penis clean you should gently wipe any bits of poop off of the area using a gentle, unscented soap and warm water. Ideally, let the area dry on its own. Then, you will put petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment on the healing area before putting on a clean diaper.
In some cases, your pediatrician might recommend using a dressing or bandage for the duration of healing, but others prefer for you to keep it uncovered. (source)
Choosing a pediatrician
Now that you’ve read about some baby care you will be doing, the third trimester is the time to choose the right pediatrician for your family. Whether you’re having a home birth or hospital birth, having your pediatrician chosen ahead of time is essential for paperwork and planning.
Here are some questions and things to consider as you choose the right pediatrician:
- Do you want your baby seen at a pediatrician or by a family doctor?
- Is it important that your pediatrician offers home visits especially for newborns? This is especially important if you are planning a home birth or birth center birth
- How far is this pediatrician from your home? Do they offer extended hours, weekend hours, or urgent care hours?
- When you visit the office what is the general vibe? Did you click with the nurses and pediatrician when you did a meet and greet?
- Will the pediatrician be in support of and honor your requests and parenting decisions? Consider things like breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping etc.
- Is there are lactation consultant on staff at the office? This can be a huge help, excellent resource and time saver as you begin your breastfeeding journey.
As you begin to research pediatricians in your area and plan visits or meet and greets, be sure to ask around the community for advice. This could be in person or on social media. Other mommas are often the best resource to finding a great pediatrician for your baby.
4. Safe and comfortable sleep for you and baby
In the baby gear section, I mentioned the current recommendations to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS state that baby should co-room with their mother for the first 6-12 months.
This means that having a safe sleep space for baby in your room is an absolute essential to prepare before baby arrives. Additionally, you can bet that your sleep is going to be highly interrupted by night nursing and baby soothing.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to make sleep more comfortable for you, how to make night feeding a bit easier, and some general supplies and gear I was so happy to have on hand.
AAP safe sleep recommendations
The AAP recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a firm, flat sleep surface with a tightly fitted sheet designed for that product. It is best to choose a sleep option that meets the safety standards of the CPSC and the AAP recommends only choosing sleep spaces with this approval.
Most cribs, bassinets, portable cribs, Pack and Plays, etc. have the CPSC stamp of approval, but it’s always best to check before purchasing or registering for a particular item.
Always make sure there are no loose objects like stuffed animals, blankets or pillow in your baby’s sleep space. It is safe to swaddle your baby as long as they are on their back and the swaddle is snug and in place around your baby. It’s best to stop swaddling when your little one begins to or shows attempts to roll.
For more information on the AAP policies for safe sleep head here.
Safe sleep space options for baby
So what’s the right sleep space for baby in your room? Many mommas opt for Pack and Plays because they are really versatile and will grow with your baby. We used one (mainly for traveling) until my daughter was two years old!
However, the benefits and convenience of a bedside bassinet or bedside sleeper cannot be beat. It makes night nursing so easy when you don’t even have to get up. Babies do grow out of these types of sleep options by the time they are 3-4 months but are so worth it until then.
I personally opt for a bedside bassinet in the beginning, then switch to a Pack and Play, and eventually to a crib once baby is transitioned into their own room. Think about your unique needs, preference, budget, and space to come up with a plan that’s right for you.
Setting up your room for better sleep
Creating the right sleep environment for baby can go a long way in establishing good sleep habits and keeping everyone more comfortable. Here are my recommendations:
- A dimmable nightlight or salt lamp
- Sound machine
- Blackout curtains
- Mindfulness of temperature and dressing baby appropriately
What about co-sleeping?
It should be said that the AAP highly recommends against the practice of co-sleeping/bed-sharing, particularly in babies under 4 months, if you’ve taken any sleeping medication, drugs, or drank alcohol, and if your bed is filled with soft bedding, pillows and blankets.
However, many families and especially breastfeeding mothers find bed-sharing to be a great option for their family. If you find this is true for you, it’s best to approach bed-sharing from an informed and safe standpoint. Kelly Mom’s Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing Overview is a great starting point with lots of information on the topic and additional resources.
How to make nighttime feedings easier and more comfortable?
And last in the section of what to know about sleep before your baby arrives—how to make those middle of the night breastfeeding sessions a little bit easier:
- Keep the lights dim to help your baby sort out their days and nights. Many mommas love using salt lamps or dimmable night lights for late-night feeds
- Change baby and swaddle them before nursing so that if they fall asleep nursing you can simply place them back in their sleep space. Some mommas love velcro swaddles for easy and quick nighttime swaddling
- Make middle of the night diaper changes easier by putting baby in sleepers with either an open, elastic bottom or pajamas that zipper. My husband was especially grateful for both of these
- Get a great night nursing/sleeping bra. Sleeping in a bra will help prevent leaks and help with the soreness associated with early breastfeeding and engorgement by providing light support.
5. Preparing to breastfeed
This is the number one piece of advice I give to any friends expecting their first baby. Spend some time learning about breastfeeding before it starts! I hate to be the one to break it to you, but breastfeeding is probably going to be hard in the beginning. It is going to take determination and commitment to make it work—but it is SO worth it.
So many mommas have the goal to breastfeed for a year but do nothing to prepare for this goal. Breastfeeding comes with a learning curve for both you and baby. There is so much you can do now to give yourself a head start.
Take a breastfeeding class and learn the basics
Learning the basics about breastfeeding is going to give you such a head start on the whole breastfeeding process. I didn’t even know what a latch was until my baby was born. On her very first feed she latched incorrectly which started my breastfeeding journey with a painful laceration. Don’t be like me!
A breastfeeding class geared towards expecting mothers is really your best bet here. You can often find them offered at hospitals, and even better, there are online breastfeeding classes that allow you to learn right from your own home! Books can also be a great place to turn, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a fabulous guide for all mothers.
What topics are most important to understand before you begin breastfeeding?
- How milk production works and why feeding on demand is essential to building your supply: it’s a supply and demand principle, more milk extracted leads to more milk produced
- What cluster feeding is and why it’s so important NOT to supplement when your baby is cluster feeding: when baby feeds repeatedly in a few hour time span, often in the evenings and during a growth spurt it helps ramp up your supply
- The true signs of low supply or that your baby is getting enough: low diaper output and slow or no weight gain
- What makes a good latch and how to promote a good latch: baby’s lips should be splayed out against your breast (think fish lips), all or most of the areola should be in their mouth, you should see swallowing, baby’s nose should be free
- The different breastfeeding positions and best ones to use with a newborn: biological nursing (laid back breastfeeding), cradle, cross-cradle, or football hold
A great breastfeeding class will teach you about all of this and a bit more! Trust me on this and get the basics down before you start.
Gather breastfeeding supplies
A fun nesting activity you can complete in the third trimester to get you ready for postpartum life is setting up a nursing station. You are going to be spending a lot of time breastfeeding your sweet babe, and having the right supplies ready make it more comfortable.
It’s great to put your breastfeeding supplies in a basket so that it can move about the house with you. One other tip I have is that if you live on a house with two floors, splurge on two nursing pillows. You’ll love not having to move it up and down the stairs with you while carrying your newborn (or on a separate trip).
You can save $40 on nursing pillow from nursingpillow.com with promo code “MOMMA” which means the basic pillow is FREE, just pay shipping and handling.
- A nursing pillow, like a boppy
- Nursing bras for day and night
- Reusable breast pads (Bamboobies are my go-to)
- Nipple cream or balm (my favorite is by MotherLove)
- Breast pump
- Breast milk storage bags
- Notebook and pen to track your baby’s feedings
- Insulated water bottle, like a Yeti Rambler (not essential, but you will get really thirsty and ice-cold water is the best)
- A few snacks like bars or trail mix (I remember gobbling handfuls of trail mix in the middle of the night while breastfeeding in the first few weeks. It made me starving!)
Locate breastfeeding resources and support
Lastly, it’s really helpful to locate breastfeeding resources in your community before you need them. Create a list and note support group or drop-in times on your Google Calendar or on a list for your fridge. Your postpartum self will love knowing where to turn when things get tough.
Typically, you can find free support groups run by Lactation Consultants at local hospitals and pediatrician offices. Additionally, look for where and when your local La Leche League chapter meets. Hospital Labor and Delivery units also often offer drop-in breastfeeding support times open to all mothers even if you didn’t deliver there.
6. Preparing your household for postpartum before baby arrives
It’s definitely no secret the first few weeks with a newborn are challenging. It’s a time where you are in survival mode. I underestimated how valuable support and pre-planning would be during this time. For more in-depth info, don’t miss my more detailed guide on setting up postpartum supports.
In the meantime, here are some things to do and coordinate during your third trimester:
- Stock your freezer! Whether this is making freezer meals yourself, enlisting the help of others, or hitting up the frozen section at Trader Joes. Make sure there are healthy, easy to reheat meals at the ready
- Have someone coordinate a meal train (or do it yourself). This is a great way for co-workers, church communities, or general friends and family to do their part when your baby is born. A meal train is basically an online sign-up sheet where people volunteer to bring your family dinner on a certain date. Learn more about setting one up on the website Meal Train
- Stock your house with cleaning supplies, personal care products, pantry staples, etc. to reduce the need to run errands
- Find new mother support groups ahead of time and make yourself go to them! Newborn life can be very isolating and these groups will really help
- Consider scheduling a cleaning service every 1-2 weeks if your budget will allow to take one thing off your to-do list
7. Planning for visitors after birth
After the birth of your baby, everyone will be so excited to meet your new bundle of joy. How you handle this will be a personal decision, but here are some general tips to help handle it all:
- Give yourself time to heal and rest, especially immediately after birth. Save this time for no or very limited “VIP” visitors only
- Consider requiring any and all visitors to have an up to date TDAP vaccine and/or Flu vaccination to protect your newborn from whooping cough and flu (read more about this from the CDC). This is something to notify your loved ones about ahead of time so that they can plan accordingly. They can easily get this taken care of in a quick 15 minute visit to their local pharmacy.
- Make sure visitors are completely healthy when they visit and have them wash their hands when they arrive
- Space out your visitors for the duration of your maternity leave. Many mommas front-load visits and then around the 4-6 week mark start to feel very lonely and could actually use a visitor
- Don’t be afraid to say no or cancel at the last minute if you aren’t up for the visit. You have the ultimate excuse card right now
- Be upfront with visitors about things like taking photos in general and especially about posting photos to social media without your permission
- When visitors are around and ask what they can do to help, don’t play polite hostess. They genuinely want to help, so tell them what you need. Things like taking out the trash, flipping laundry and loading the dishwasher are all easy tasks they’ll be happy to do
8. Childbirth classes: don’t skip these!
While a lot of this article has been about preparing for life with your newborn during the fourth trimester, it wouldn’t be complete without a mention of childbirth classes. Your third trimester is the ideal time to take a childbirth class and I urge you not to skip this on your to-do list.
Childbirth classes are one of the best ways to remove doubt surrounding birth and go into your birth with confidence and empowerment.
Furthermore, a childbirth class is the best way to achieve the birth you desire! In fact, if you are planning a natural birth (one without pain medication) I’d go as far as to say a childbirth class is even more important for you!
So what should you look for in a childbirth class:
- One that teaches the timeline of labor and delivery and what to expect during each phase
- One that explicitly teaches natural pain coping techniques and breathing exercises
- If you desire a certain type of birth, one that is catered to your preference (ie: natural birth)
- One that incorporates partners and prepares them as well
- One that fits your schedule, allows you to revisit resources if possible, and can be done at your own pace
It can be difficult to find a class that fits all of these criteria locally. For this reason, online childbirth classes are becoming increasingly popular. They often include 24/7 lifetime (or very extended) access, and you can find one very specific to your needs. I encourage you to check one out before signing up at your local hospital by default.
The best online birth course I have found that fully supports and encourages natural childbirth is the Mama Natural birth course. Genevieve has seen and done it all including delivering a baby in her bathroom herself before the midwife could get there!
9. Preparing to document all of baby’s milestones
I’m going to be real with you for a second. I was not a momma that did a good job of taking monthly milestone photos of my baby or filled out a baby book. And to be honest, I kind of regret it. I can’t believe how fast my baby grew into a sassy three-year-old!
What am I going to do different this time around? I’m putting a plan in place ahead of time to make sure I document all of baby’s milestones. I will set up monthly reminders in my Google calendar to take photos and use a baby milestone checklist on my fridge as a visual reminder of things to note the date of. This way even if I can’t put it in the baby book right away, I’ll have the info ready.
Additionally, you can book lifestyle photography sessions ahead of time at some of your baby’s big changes in the first year so that you know you won’t forget when the busy-ness of life sets in. Newborn photos, 6-month photos, and one-year photos are all excellent opportunities to document your baby’s growth and cuteness!
Related reading: Professional vs. DIY Birth Photography
Some fun milestone products to help with the task:
- Baby milestone blankets
- A Modern Memory Book for Baby
- Baby milestone blocks
- Felt letter board
- Baby milestone chalkboard
10. Tackling health insurance, birth certificate, and SSN
Some of the most important things you need to know about are the logistics of getting baby set with a birth certificate, social security number and health insurance after they are born.
How to add your baby to your health insurance?
First and foremost, the fastest and easiest way to fully understand how to do this is a phone call to your insurance agency. Every insurance is a little bit different. What’s more, there are a few other things you can figure out on the same phone call.
I recommend calling your insurance provider around 35 weeks and asking about the following:
- Exact guidelines for adding baby to your plan
- How to obtain your free breast pump. According to the ACA, most health insurance providers are required to provide you with a 100% covered double electric breast pump. But different insurances have different ways of going about this, so find out how to get yours
- Lastly, any questions surrounding birth coverage. Whether that’s for a hospital birth, home birth, or birth center. And whether you need to notify them when you are in labor (some require this)
In addition to this, here are the typical guidelines for adding your baby to your health insurance policy:
- Most insurance companies require that you add your baby within 30 days of birth
- Your baby will first need an SSN/birth certificate in order to be added to your policy
- There will be an enrollment form involved, likely that can be done via your health insurance’s online portal
How to get baby’s birth certificate and SSN?
After your baby is born, hospital staff or your midwife, if you have a home birth, will supply you with the necessary paperwork to fill out in order to register the birth. This form will be sent to the state health department and will get them a birth certificate. The birth certificate will be in the town hall records and usually, you will have to make a trip yourself to receive a copy.
On the birth certificate form, you can request a social security number to be assigned and the card will be sent to your home. Legally your baby doesn’t need a social security number until they are one-year-old, but this is the best and easiest time to take care of it.
In the event of home birth, be sure to ask your midwife about this ahead of time. Most are very familiar with this process and will be prepared with the proper paperwork to register the birth and submit the forms for you.
Feeling a little better about the fourth trimester?
Well, momma. Now you know a whole lot more about what to expect during the first few weeks with your baby. You’ve probably learned a lot here and your wheels are turning with new information and maybe even more questions.
You know what you need to learn, set-up and do before that baby arrives. Taking care of these things now that you’re in your third trimester will make your life so much easier after birth.
Looking for more great info on the fourth trimester and postpartum healing? Don’t Miss these articles:
- Essential Postpartum Supplies
- 10 Tips for a Faster Recovery After Birth
- How to Lose the Baby Weight Safely
- Fourth Trimester: Physical and Emotional Changes and How to Handle Them
This article was full of great information, don’t forget to PIN IT to share the resource with other mommas and reference back again later!
Anything I forgot? What did you do ahead of time that made your fourth trimester easier? Drop your tips below!