Planning for a baby can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a first-time parent. Let’s face it, few things in life are as intimidating as a newborn. The first time that I came home to my wife standing in the kitchen with a whole box of positive pregnancy tests in her hand, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know the first thing about how to prepare for a baby. I was still working out the plan for my own life!
How could we possibly be allowed to have a baby?
Maybe you’re feeling the same way right now. You’re sitting in front of your computer trying to figure out how to plan for a baby and wondering, “Why isn’t there an age requirement for parenthood?” Seriously, why does it take months of preparation to get a driver’s license, but there are zero prerequisites for being a parent? There’s no training, no required reading, and no minimum age…
Think about it. To be eligible to obtain a driver’s license in my home state of North Carolina, I have to:
- Reach the minimum age
- Take a course in vehicle safety and operation
- Pass an exam
- Spend time behind the wheel of an actual vehicle with an instructor in the passenger’s seat
- Obtain a learner’s permit
- Spend several more hours behind the wheel
It’s at this point that I’m allowed to attempt to obtain my driver’s license. To do this, I must:
- Travel to the DMV
- Have my vision checked
- Take a written and practical exam, again, with an instructor in the car.
Then and only then, assuming I’ve done all these things well, am I eligible to receive my provisional driver’s license, which restricts me from driving after 9 pm for the first six months!
In contrast, the only things I need to become a parent are a girlfriend and a basic understanding of anatomy.
Waiting for the good news?
Here it is: If you’re feeling lost, you’re not alone. Most parents know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. That’s where Adaptable Dad comes in!
We’ve compiled a list all about how to prepare for a baby just for you!
1. How to Plan for a Baby: Finances
One of the first things new parents ask is,
“How much does a baby cost?”
There are a lot of sites on the internet that’ll give you estimates, averages, and ballpark figures regarding the 18-25 year cost of having a baby. But you aren’t going to find that type of information on this page because it isn’t really helpful. Sites like that do very little to prepare you for the real monthly cost of having another mouth to feed. What new parents need more than anything is actionable information. When thinking about how to prepare for a baby, it’s important to know how to budget for one.
Some things to consider when budgeting for a baby are:
Reduced income during FMLA leave
The Family Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide covered employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid medical leave for things like pregnancy or care of a newborn. The eligibility requirements for FMLA leave are listed below.
- An employee must be employed by the company for at least 12 months before becoming eligible for FMLA leave (this is especially important if you’re thinking of changing employers during your pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant).
- An employee must also have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours (about 25 hours per week) over the past 12 months.
- Eligible employees must work at a location where the company employs more than 50 people within 75 miles.
When budgeting for your newborn, it is important to keep in mind that one or more income streams may be reduced or eliminated altogether during your parental leave. You will need to check with your employer’s Human Resources department to find out the details of their leave policy. Some companies offer paid or partially-paid leave, and some even offer more than the government mandated 12 weeks.
Diapers and wipes
Diapers and wipes are an unavoidable expense for new parents. There are things you can do to minimize the cost (like using cloth diapers), but you will need to decide if it’s worth putting up with all the crap (pun intended).
Since the average newborn soils about ten diapers a day for the first 30 days or so, you could end up spending a small fortune on diapers in just the first few months.
Ten diapers a day for 30 days equals 300 diaper changes in the first month alone!
I won’t go into the dirty details of choosing the right diaper here (that’ll be the topic of a future post), but suffice it to say you’re going to be needing a lot of them.
This one may or may not apply to you, but you won’t know until after your baby arrives, so it’s better to prepare just in case.
Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding your baby, statistics show that up to 97% of women have trouble with it at the start. That means that you could end up supplementing with formula (we ended up doing this with both of our kids) or giving up on breastfeeding altogether (it’s not ideal, but it is a reality for some women, especially working mothers).
Quick rant: I hate that this needs to be said, but for the sake of those women who experience trouble breastfeeding, have low supply, or limited success while pumping, understand this:
It’s okay. You’re not a bad mom.
And don’t let anyone, especially an arrogant, out of touch breastfeeding consultant, make you feel differently. Don’t get me wrong breastfeeding consultants can be a big help if you’re having trouble with your baby’s latch, low supply, blocked ducts, or any of a host of other common problems, but they can also make a stressful situation worse by making you feel small and inadequate. Okay, rant over.
“End of speech.” ~ Ron Swanson
One more thing: If you do decide to use formula, you’ll need bottles to put it in.
Clothing your newborn can be costly. Depending on the brand, style, and where you shop, you can drop a pretty penny on some trendy clothes in a heartbeat. But don’t worry, the good news is your baby will probably grow out of her new clothes in just a few weeks.
The great thing about clothing is other people love to buy it for you. Clothes are the go-to gift for baby showers and birthday presents, so when thinking about how to prepare for a baby, you may be able to get away with buying only a few things on your own, especially if you’re having a little girl.
One thing that our family cannot do without is Carters full-body sleepers. Sleepers will help keep your baby warm and comfortable on cold nights since blankets and heavy bedding can be dangerous.
When considering how to prepare for a baby, childcare is almost always at the top of the list.
Daycares and nurseries can be hard to get into, so the sooner you start looking, the better. Unless you’re going to be a full-time stay-at-home-parent, the cost of childcare will be one of your biggest monthly expenses. If you do have to go back to work before your child goes to kindergarten, there are some alternatives to traditional daycare.
For instance, grandparents can be a no brainer for all you working moms and dads out there because they care as much about your kids as you do. They are heavily invested in the health and well being of your child, and quite often they’ll work for peanuts!
If grandparents aren’t a viable option, you can also find fully vetted, customer reviewed, full or part-time nannies and babysitters at Care.com. My wife and I use their service, and we love it!
One Time Costs
These are harder to plan for and may require you to dip into your savings a little. Friends and family with kids will sometimes have leftover items like cribs, strollers, portable playards like the Graco Pack n’ Play, or car seats like the Graco 4Ever All-in-One (be careful though, the recommended life span for most car seats is about five years). It’s also a good idea to include big items like these on your baby registry (click here to learn what to put on the baby registry). They may not get purchased, but it’s worth a shot.
Hospital bills also fall into this category. The cost will vary based on your insurance, but hospital invoices can arrive several weeks after your baby is born and blindside you if you’re not careful.
Saving for Your Child’s Future
Finally, there’s saving for your child’s future. The key here is to start early. There are some great investment options available for those thinking about how to prepare for a baby. Options like mutual funds and 529 plans to help parents save for college. Keep in mind that each state’s 529 plan is different so you will probably need to do some more research before making your decision. Just remember, every little bit helps. You may be a single parent on a shoe string budget, but if by the time your child goes to college, you only have enough money saved to pay for books for a few semesters, that’s something. That is money your child won’t have to pay back after graduating, and it’ll help set them up for success.
2. How to Prepare for a Baby: Vitamins and Supplements
The second thing expecting mothers want to know about is which prenatal supplement to take. There is a lot to choose from, each with it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses. I won’t go into all the details on this page, but here are some of our favorites:
- MegaFood Baby and Me Prenatal Multivitamin
- Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Vitamin
- Rainbow Light Prenatal One (this is the one my wife used with our two kids)
- Zahler Prenatal Vitamin + DHA
- New Chapter Perfect Prenatal
3. How to Plan for a Baby: Birth Plan
When thinking about how to prepare for a baby, it is a good idea to have a birth plan in place. A birth plan is a great way to let your delivery nurses and doctors know precisely what you would like before, during, and after childbirth. For instance, if you would like to delay a vaccine, ensure skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after delivery, or have dad cut the umbilical chord, it can be helpful to have it all written down, so you don’t have to remember while you’re in labor.
4. How to Plan for a Baby: Baby Registry
A baby registry is a list of items that others can buy for you and your little one. You can create a registry just about anywhere, (Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s, Pottery Barn etc.), but the best place by far to create your baby registry is at Amazon.com. They have a HUGE selection, fast shipping, incredible service, and registering is a breeze. Anyone can view and purchase items from your registry. It’s easy, convenient, and the items can be sent right to your front door!
5. How to Prepare for a Baby: Must-Have’s for Your Nursery
We haven’t talked yet about one of the most exciting parts of preparing for a new baby, getting your nursery ready! A few things come to mind almost immediately, a crib for instance, and a baby monitor (specifically a video baby monitor), but there are other, less obvious items that you’ll need to make your baby’s nursery feel like home.
- Burp cloths
- Crib and mattress
- Curtains (blackout curtains to make napping easier)
- Light bedding (fitted sheet)
- Noise machine
- Soothies 0-3 month pacifiers
- Swaddling blankets
- Video baby monitor
How to Prepare for a Baby: The Takeaway
There it is, how to prepare for a baby! We’ve asked, analyzed, and answered five of the most common questions posed by new parents. Of course, many of the elements of planning described in this post can be personalized to the sex of your baby. (Find out when you can tell your baby’s gender here!) Have a question or tip to share? Drop it in the comments below!