David Zachary March 13, 2019 Lifestyle
It goes without saying that parenthood is no joke. Bringing a child into the world is serious business, and as such, preparing for a baby can be one of the most stressful life experiences. To exacerbate things, there isn’t really a handbook to parenthood, because EVERY FAMILY IS DIFFERENT. Between the worries over living space and finances, to the hormonal roller coaster our pregnant partners are riding, this is a time to try your best to relax and calmly prepare.
There is nothing like the experience of expecting your first child. It will make you think about life in ways you may not have before. You’ll be asking yourself questions like:
- Is my income enough to raise a child? Should I think of career change?
- Do we have room for a nursery?
- Am I prepared to wake up in the middle of the night to soothe a crying baby?
- Will my relationship with my partner ever be the same?
- Have I done all the things I want to do before having kids?
It’s important to remember that you’re in control. This isn’t a time for indecisiveness, so think about these questions (and others you may have), create a plan, and start to execute it immediately. Every day that passes is a day closer to fatherhood. Here are some helpful tips and preparations for your baby that can take away some of the angst.
1. Evaluate your living space
For you and your baby’s sake, you’re going to want to make space for a nursery in your house or apartment. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to have space for a crib, changing table, and some storage. Your baby is going to thrive in his or her own room, where you can provide them with optimal conditions such as humidity, temperature, air flow, and noise levels. Now, you may be thinking to yourself “but I don’t have a second bedroom or office I can convert”, that’s ok. If your situation calls for it, baby can shack up with you for a while, but this may be uncomfortable to say the least. You and your partner need privacy too, after all (wink, wink).
Moving is ultimately the best option if you can swing it. There are lots of considerations here, from security
2. Budgeting for baby
Budgeting for a child isn’t just about diapers and formula, you’re going to have to consider medical expenses, activities, child care, and the constant need for bigger clothing. Don’t get overwhelmed, people of all income levels have children and figure out ways to provide them with what they need, so you’ll be fine. Open up an excel sheet and start to map out your financial situation. Everything from income and expenses, to debt and taxes. Speaking of taxes, once your baby is born, you will most likely be able to benefit from the Child Tax Credit.
Once you have everything on your spreadsheet, you should already feel better about the situation. Sometimes just being able to look at your finances on one page makes things easier to grasp and visualize. Now you can begin making lifestyle changes if need be. Some of the easiest things to cut out of your life are cable, unnecessary takeout orders, that daily $5.00 coffee, etc.
Thinking of cord-cutting? Check out this fantastic guide to cord cutting.
Start to make smarter decisions. If that means paying down credit cards or student loans faster, go for it. If it means skipping the weekly date night, do it – after all, she won’t be able to drink or stomach much food for the next few months. Looking for further cost savings? See if anyone in your family or friend group has hand-me-downs to offer you. You might be able to score some big-ticket items they no longer need, such as a stroller, bassinet, or pack & play.
3. Health care for mom and baby
Be prepared to feel like you’re living at the doctor’s office. Many OBGYNs like to see their pregnant patients once a month to start off. Once she hits 24 weeks or so, that’ll increase to about once every 2 weeks. At 32 weeks, she may need to go in weekly. What, you thought this didn’t involve you? Try to look at things from her perspective. While you’re nervous about finances and adjusting to fatherhood, she’s worrying about her body, mental health, miscarriage, and a whole host of other conditions that can affect pregnant women. Want to score some brownie points? GO TO THE DOCTOR WITH HER. This is your baby too, and you may be surprised at how exciting these visits can be. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat and seeing him or her grow before your eyes on the ultrasound is an experience you won’t forget. And in the event that something isn’t as it should be, your partner is going to want you there for support. Nobody really talks about miscarriage, and as guys we really don’t get educated on pregnancy in general as much as we should. Know that many pregnancies end in miscarriage before week 20. According to Mayo Clinic, around 20% of pregnancies terminate before week 20. Whether she says it or not, your partner may be thinking about this, and you should always be prepared to be there to support her if it happens.
No matter what the outcome of this pregnancy is, you’re going to want to make sure she is in good hands. Find a practice that has privileges at a reputable hospital with a good maternity unit. Ideally, her OB practice should have more than one doctor. This ensures more hours, and a better chance that one of her doctors will be delivering baby, and not an attending OB you haven’t met before.
While mom is picking out her obstetrician, start to do some homework on pediatricians. You are going to want to start looking for a pediatrician when she is at around 30 weeks. Call up your insurance provider and see which pediatricians in your area accept your insurance. Once you have that list, schedule some appointments for interviews with them before baby arrives. Have a list of questions ready to go, here are some to get you started:
- How many pediatricians are at this practice?
- Can you squeeze my baby into your schedule in case of emergency?
- Do you have special hours to see healthy newborns? (you don’t want to bring your baby into the office while there are sick kids around).
Remember that once your baby is born, you’ll have to bring him or her into the doctor’s office A LOT. They’re going need to get examined really often to check for growth and to receive vaccines. Make sure you’re comfortable with the pediatrician you choose, take this task upon yourself, mom-to-be has a lot on her mind as it is.
4. Child Care
Plan ahead for who is going to watch your baby after birth. While some are blessed enough to have maternity/paternity leave, others aren’t as lucky. If you fall in that latter category, you may find yourself needing 5 days a week of childcare. That can get pretty expensive. One of the classic decisions new parents in this situation make is weighing whether or not it makes sense to continue working if your salary only covers daycare. Depending on where you live, costs have a very wide range. If you live in New York City, for example, daycare can set you back upwards of $2,000.00 per month! Before you start to sweat, know that there are options out there for you.
Live near your parents or in-laws? See if they’d be willing to babysit that precious grandchild-to-be for any amount of time each week. Day cares allow you to choose how many days a week you want to drop your kid off. If a grandparent is willing to commit to even one day a week, that could add up to major savings over a one year period. Perhaps your office or company have a day care available? If you work in a big city, many office buildings do offer this. You might not exactly want to schlep baby on your morning and afternoon commutes, but if it saves you money, why not?
One consideration with child care is that depending on where you live, some daycare centers are fully enrolled months in advance. Be proactive, don’t wait till the last moment. Scout your area for reputable daycare centers, call them and schedule visits. Let them know when your baby is
5. Housework & chores
As her pregnancy progresses, you’ll begin to notice your partner may become even more tired. She may also experience pain, difficulty breathing or bending over, and heightened anxiety about the upcoming due date. While she’s worrying about how a human baby is supposed to come out of her body, you’re on dish duty, dude. Hell, at 35+ weeks, you might even have to tie her shoes. She doesn’t need to get stressed out about laundry and housework, pick up some of that burden. Try to do at least a little more of the housework than you normally do, you’re going have to get used to contributing more around the house once baby comes. This is a good time to start making cleaning more of a daily habit.
Did you know that your baby is going to need their own laundry detergent? Infant skin is so sensitive that you’ll have to wash their clothes separately with a milder detergent for the early stages of their life. Remember to always wash your baby’s clothes before you put them on. You have no idea where those clothes have been or what they’ve come into contact with, so be sure to clean them accordingly.
While we’re on the topic of clothes, your partner is about to go on a bit of a spending spree. If she hasn’t already started showing, she will soon. Before you know it, she’ll be wearing maternity clothes exclusively. This is another area in which it may help to ask your friends and family for hand me downs. Maternity clothes are only good while she’s pregnant, so any way that helps save on them is a benefit. Guys, don’t be annoyed at her when she needs to buy bigger shoes for her 9th month because her feet are swollen.
6. Baby gear
While we’re always going to try to help you save, inevitably you’re going to have to spend. Babies need a lot of stuff. The good news is, your partner is likely going to have a baby shower, where you’ll receive lots of those necessities from your friends and family. As you’re creating your baby registry, you might want to stop into a store to take a look at your options, and when you do, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. It just never ends, mattress pads, breastmilk storage bags, high chairs, and a range of other products that you’ll be wondering about.
You’ll find that there are lots of items that you will need, others that you won’t need right away, and some that just flat out aren’t necessary (wipe warmers, anyone?). So, how to navigate this? Start by getting what your child will need as a newborn. Think clothes, formula (if mom isn’t planning on breastfeeding), a place to sleep, a car seat, diapers, wipes, first aid, etc. etc. This list could continue. Bottom line, you aren’t going to need a high chair for a newborn, so if you can’t get one right away, don’t sweat it. If your financial situation allows, go ahead and splurge, otherwise try to keep to the essentials.
When you do get around to creating a baby registry, consider Amazon Baby Registry. It’s easy to use, and offers the greatest variety of products. You’ll also be eligible for all kinds of promos and discounts, so if you’re an Amazon Prime addict, make sure to check it out.
You’ll want to look the part and have some fun when baby comes!
7. The “fourth trimester” and feeding baby
Some doctors refer to the first few months of baby’s life as the fourth trimester. It makes sense, while your partner is now in the post-partum stage, your baby is more dependent on mom and dad than they ever will be.
Did you know that mom’s breastmilk changes throughout the course of a baby’s life to suit its particular needs? In the beginning, breastmilk is thick and fatty – a substance
You and your partner are going to have to make some decisions regarding feeding your child. Formula feeding is just fine, but keep in mind that most doctors agree that breastfeeding is superior. For more information on the differences, have a look at Mayo Clinic’s “Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding: What’s best?”. Not all women are fully able to breastfeed, and some don’t enjoy it at all, but have a talk with your partner about how you ideally want to feed your child. Breastfeeding is free, guys – but don’t let that be the determining factor. This is one of those decisions where it’s best to let your partner lead the conversation, it is her body. And one more thing, if your child is breastfed, that doesn’t take you off the hook for feedings. Your partner will likely begin to pump soon after the baby is born, which will give you a fridge or freezer full of milk that you can bottle feed your baby with. Breastmilk is all about supply and demand. If you’re waking up at 3 am to feed your baby with milk from a previous pumping-sesh, she is going to have to wake up and pump at the same time. Less pumping and/or breastfeeding = less milk production
8. Back to school
When it comes to infant care, you really aren’t ever going to be fully prepared for what’s in store, though you’ll want to be as informed as possible. One of the best ways to educate yourself is to enroll in some courses when your partner is around 30 weeks pregnant. Three that are no brainers are:
- Birthing / Lamaze
- Here you’ll learn about childbirth and all of its stages. You’ll also learn about what your role is during labor.
- Infant Care
- In this class you’ll learn about all the essentials. Feeding, sleep schedules, diapering, swaddling, and more.
- Infant CPR and first aid
- You’ll learn how to ensure your baby’s safety here. Some classes even teach you how to properly install a car seat.
You’ll feel way more confident about fatherhood once you complete these courses. You’ll also learn some really cool skills, like clearing a baby’s blocked airway. Oh, and Lamaze? It’s not all wacky breathing techniques. Massage, stretching, and contraction timing are just some of the many topics covered. Labor isn’t like the movies, gentlemen. Only about 15% of women break their water prior to labor. You also don’t rush to the hospital at the first sign of contractions. Your partner may be laboring at home for many hours before it’s time to head for the maternity ward.
9. Baby moon
You may have heard about this one before. “The two of you” are about to become “the three of you”. As such, savor these last months before baby comes into the world. Take a vacation! Pregnant women can travel by air until up to around the 6th month. Your partner will likely feel sick and tired during her first trimester, the good news is, the second trimester is the easiest. The “Goldilocks zone” is somewhere between weeks 14 and 28. These crucial weeks may be your last chance to have an adventure alone. If there’s any travel destination you haven’t checked off your list yet, now is the time to go (unless you can wait until your baby is old enough to come with).
You Got This!
This is an exciting time. Don’t lose sight of that, and remember that this overwhelming phase of life is just that, a phase. It’s time to put others before yourself now. Start with your partner, whatever angst you’re feeling is affecting her even harder. Educate yourself to feel more prepared for fatherhood. Loads of resources exist. Read some books and learn about the wonders of pregnancy and childbirth. The whole experience is surreal, to think that in less than a year, your child grows from a bundle of cells smaller than a grain of sand to a developed human baby. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ve grown more confident about what’s to come. Use that confidence and put together a plan of action. Time is of the essence!