If you’re having your first baby and you’re worried about what to expect, or what to have at the ready, then this is a piece for you. We asked antenatal specialist Louisa van den Berg to give us a run-down on things you need to have ready for your baby’s arrival.
Preparing for your baby’s arrival is an incredibly exciting time. It gives you the opportunity to really imagine what life will be like with your little one and to think about them as a member of your family whom you will be shortly be meeting.
Some of you will be super organised, booking appointments and shopping for your baby before you are even showing, whilst others will be more laid back and take a more leisurely approach to getting sorted.
Either way there are no rights or wrongs but here are some (hopefully!) helpful pointers to get you on the right track and give you peace of mind that you won’t have an 11th hour panic at the end of your third trimester.
1st / 2nd trimester
- Think about the care you would like to receive. Are you happy with the NHS or would you prefer obstetrician led private care? If that is the case, do your research, meet with some obstetricians before deciding who you would like. We know from research that continuity of care during pregnancy and subsequently your baby’s birth does result in better outcomes, so do consider a private midwife if that is something which appeals to you and gives you some comfort.(Try Neighbourhood Midwives) Make sure you book in with your GP, hospital and organise scans and appointments well in advance.
- Think about the support you would like to receive after your baby has been born. I know it seems a long way off but it will come around in a flash and people get booked up in advance. Good maternity nurses and doulas are often booked very early on in pregnancy as they are in hot demand. If you prefer your mum to come and give you a hand, make sure you book her in too!
- Think about where your baby is going to sleep. It might sound obvious but for many parents it might involve some rearranging or redecorating. Best to start on this sooner rather than later as we all know how building projects can drag on and be quite stressful. Preferably everything will be finished before the baby arrives and in good time so the house does not smell of paint.
- We know that for most mums it is helpful to be well informed about labour and life with a new-born. If it is your first baby, think about booking your antenatal classes. We receive lots of enquiries from mums at all different stages of their pregnancies, but we hate having to turn away those who have left it just too late so best to book early. It also means you can always ask us any questions you may have – we are frequently asked about diet, shopping, domestic help, maternity nurses and so on in the run up to classes starting.
If it is your second baby, you may also like to consider a refresher course – our Lulu2ndbaby course does a quick recap on labour and breastfeeding but mainly focuses on preparing your firstborn for the new arrival and arming you with practical tips for managing with two e.g. how to feed a new-born with a busy toddler running around!
- Shopping! For many mums this is the fun part (not always for the partners!). Try and get hold of a good list (one is available from John Lewis or try a friend; All our Lulubaby mums get our list which tells you exactly what you need and don’t need) This is a really useful resource for giving you some guidance. It is worth thinking about larger items such as your pram and furniture (cot, changing table etc) sooner rather than later as sometimes the lead times are several weeks. Most other items are easily available and you can pick up whenever. It can be a good idea to buy all your items at once to organise just one delivery, but make sure it is scheduled to arrive several weeks before your baby is due – unlike mine which arrived 3 days after my first son’s arrival. Not great timing! John Lewis offers a great service where you can book an appointment and go through everything you need in one go and then organise one delivery – certainly makes things easier!
- Tell your work and organise your maternity leave well in advance so that they are fully prepared for when you finally clock off. Make sure you organise your cover so that you are not worrying about your work when you stop and your baby arrives. You are legally entitled to time off work to attend antenatal appointments and classes so make sure that you book them out in plenty of time too.
- It can be a very good idea to organise a hospital visit if you haven’t done so already so you know exactly who to call and where to go and what to expect. It is really helpful to see what the labour ward and postnatal wards are like. Some hospitals have birthing centres and you may prefer to try that out first. We know that feeling secure and in a safe environment can really contribute to labour progressing well so it is important that you know what to expect and where to go.
- Spend some time discussing with your partner what kind of birth you would like and think about drawing up a list of birth hopes. We prefer to call it this rather than a birth plan. This is because mums can feel disappointment if a birth does not go according to plan and we feel that is really sad and unnecessary. No two births are ever the same and it is good to approach your baby’s birth with an open mind. Having a list of hopes can be helpful though. Things to consider are: would you like delayed cord clamping? Would you like skin to skin time with your baby after birth? What are your thoughts on epidural? and so on..
- Pack that hospital bag! This is pretty essential. Don’t make the mistake I made of thinking my baby would almost certainly arrive late and leave it to the last minute. In fact he arrived three weeks early and so it was that my poor husband had to trail around the shops with my list buying breast-pads and other excitements! Around 35 weeks is a good time to think about your hospital bag. Don’t forget your usual wash-bag necessities, but you will also need breast-pads, breast cream, a nightie that opens down the front (if you are planning on breastfeeding), things to help you out during labour (hair tie, reading material a tens machine, music, oil, comfortable clothing etc), maternity pads and comfortable large knickers plus things for your baby – nappies, vests, babygrows, warm clothes to come home in etc. Don’t forget the baby seat too! It can be a good idea to have a dry run with the baby seat so you both know exactly how to fix it into the car to save any awkward delays coming home.
- If you have older children make sure you have some contingency plans in place for when you go into labour. Who is going to come and look after the children, is their phone on at night, do they know your children’s routine and so on. This needs to be carefully considered and laid out for obvious reasons.
- Don’t forget to choose your baby’s name! It doesn’t matter if your baby remains unnamed for a few days but it certainly makes life easier if you have one up your sleeve. You don’t want to be having a debate about the merits of such and such a name when you are exhausted and vulnerable! I know that from experience when my first son remained unnamed for 5 days. Plus all your friends and family will be constantly asking you for a name until you come up with one!
- Stock up as much as you can so that your house is full of essentials so you are not having to worry about the washing up liquid running out! In addition think about stocking up your freezer with home-made nutritious meals which you can enjoy after your baby’s arrival and when it can be difficult to find the time to cook. If you are planning on bottle feeding make sure you have plenty of formula in the house.
It is worth remembering that nothing really can fully prepare you for your baby’s arrival so it is good to keep an open mind and not panic if everything isn’t perfectly organised! Your baby won’t mind that’s for sure- all they will need is lots of love and milk!
By Louisa van den Bergh, founder of Lulubaby, a leading provider of antenatal and postnatal classes in several locations in London.