If you're preparing for the birth of your first child, you might be using the last few weeks of pregnancy to hang bunting in your pastel-painted nursery, make multiple trips to the nearest baby goods store for more sleep sacks and a bumbo and a wipes warmer, and pose for maternity photos while wearing a flower crown.
These are all things we've actually done, so this next piece of advice is said with love, not judgment: Skip it, you fool. Skip it all.
WATCH: Here's what to really expect when you have a baby. Story continues below.
It's not your fault. You didn't know. But, please, let us save you some new-mom grief with our tried and true checklist of how to actually prepare for the birth of your child.
1. Make yourself a mom nook
You are going to spend a lot of time holding that little bundle for the first few months. And we mean a LOT. Between feeding the baby and being afraid to move in case he or she wakes up, you're going to spend way more time trapped underneath a warm little body than you probably thought. So, get comfy.
Whether you plan to take over the couch or rock a rocking chair, you need a nook where you can set up camp. Make sure your nook has plenty of arm support (breastfeeding pillows are great for this, but regular pillows can work, too).
You'll want easy access to life-saving items like:
- the TV remote
- your phone
- a phone charger that is already plugged in
- a bottle of water (if you're breastfeeding, you're going to be parched)
- a supply of snacks that you can eat with one hand, like pre-opened granola bars and muffins
Take the same energy that makes you want to weave a peony garland for the nursery, and channel it into your mom nook. You'll thank us at 3 a.m. when you're hangry, your baby has decided he can only sleep in the comfort of your arms, and your phone is at one per cent battery.
2. Prepare a postpartum care kit
Getting a baby from the inside of your body to the outside is no joke, and the physical toll might surprise you. And you're not exactly going to want to make multiple drugstore runs with a newborn, so just trust us and stock your bathroom now.
Here's what you should get:
- MORE PADS (you're probably going to bleed a lot)
- adult diapers (sorry)
- laxatives/stool softener (you might have hemorrhoids, which makes pooping a nightmare). Speaking of hemorrhoids: one of those cushions for particularly bad cases, and hemorrhoid cream while you're at it
- epsom salt and a sitz bath to help you heal your undercarriage (you can get these at most drugstores)
- a peri bottle to help you clean yourself
- witch hazel to help with vaginal pain (you can sprinkle it on a pad)
- big ol' granny panties that you don't mind ruining with various fluids
- dry shampoo (LOL at the idea of showering)
- good deodorant for those postpartum night sweats
- nightgowns or loose-fitting pajamas for C-section moms
- a heating pad for any pain
- slippers or slip-on shoes (it's hard to bend down after having a C-section)
- nipple cream and nipple pads for breastfeeding moms
We could go on, but we're worried you may have already passed out, so we'll stop here.
3. Make an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist
Pregnancy can take a toll on your pelvic floor whether you give birth vaginally or via C-section. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can help with everything from pain and incontinence to abdominal wall separation.
Plus, an appointment is an hour of alone time for you, which you should take however you can get. Pelvic floor physiotherapists are in high demand, so book an appointment early to make sure you can get seen when you need help the most.
4. Meal prep for yourself
Maybe you had visions of all the cooking you'd do on maternity leave as your sweet baby napped. We did. But chances are once that baby actually arrives, you're going to be too tired and too busy keeping that baby alive to do much more than eat Deep'n Delicious cake straight from the freezer.
WATCH: Frozen meals that don't suck. Story continues below.
Plan for your new reality now. Stock your freezer with easy meals you can just reheat. (Even better if you can get your family or friends to help you out with this. They keep asking how they can help, anyway, so tell them a lasagna would be nice). And stock your fridge and cupboards with snacks like fruit, cheese sticks, and muffins to keep you sustained all day.
5. Meal prep for the baby
You already know you need to feed that baby, but whether you plan to breastfeed, pump, or formula feed, you want to be prepared for any scenario. If you plan to formula feed, stock up on formula, bottles, nipples (but not too much, since some babies prefer certain types of bottles and nipples over others), and research sanitizing methods.
If you plan to breastfeed, do the same thing. For real. Breastfeeding may not work for you, and even if it does, you might be grateful for that emergency bottle of formula when you've hit your breaking point at 3 a.m. and need to send in your partner, instead.
If you have the means, please just go ahead and get yourself a good breast pump. Do not skimp here. A decent, double-electric breast pump makes pumping faster and simpler, making it possible to stock your freezer with that liquid gold.
For pumping moms, this will make your life so much easier. Ditto for breastfeeding moms, because sometimes a mom needs to leave the house alone or take a break, you know?
6. Create a support plan
There's a lot to love about being a new mom. But it's also an incredibly difficult period of adjustment in which many women are prone to postpartum mood disorders. Make a support plan now to help you get through those first few tricky months.
If you have family or friends who are able to help, set up times for them to stop by with food, to hold the baby while you shower, or clean your bathroom. Look up support groups and services for new parents in your neighbourhood, and plan to attend them. Drop ins, lactation consultant clinics, baby massage classes, and free story hours can be a lifesaver when you're feeling isolated and alone.
Make a list of all the resources you can find, and tape it to your fridge so you can access it when you need it. Even if you're just itching to get out of the house, it can be nice to know that your community centre has nursery rhyme hour on Tuesdays.
7. Take a car-seat clinic and first-aid course
We won't sugarcoat this: installing a car seat is a pain in the ass, as is figuring out how to strap your baby in safely. Luckily, there are professionals out there who will install your car seat for you, and show you how to get junior in there properly. Take a local car-seat clinic to save yourself some grief and make sure your very important cargo is as safe as can be.
Plus, it's better to know now that your car seat doesn't actually fit your vehicle (yes, this can happen).
While you're taking courses, a basic infant CPR and first-aid class is something you shouldn't skip. You would not believe how often and easily a baby can choke until you start to feed yours solids. Plus you'll feel better knowing you have every tool at your disposal in the case of an emergency.
We hate to be that jerk telling you to sleep while you still can ... but sleep while you still can. Do it for us, OK? Do it for the sisterhood.
Even if you happen to birth a miracle child that sleeps soundly (in which case do not talk to us), you will find yourself utterly exhausted in those first few months. Going from sleeping seven-to-eight hours a night to waking up every few hours to feed the baby takes a toll. And you will spend those sleepless nights looking at that wooden growth chart you painted yourself, the stacks of onesies you bought that your baby never actually wore, and those framed maternity pics and wonder why you didn't just nap instead? In your bed! Your beautiful, beautiful bed!
Sleep. Sleep as much as you can. Oh, and go out for dinner, and to the movies, and for a pedicure. This is one of your last windows where it will be all about you, and it is your duty to take advantage.
Good luck with everything, mom tribe! Sorry if we scared you, but you'll thank us later.
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