The 4th trimester or newborn phase is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a bit, ‘sink or swim’.
You want to swim, right? So you need a plan. You need to start preparing for that baby.
It’s all too easy to get caught up focussing on the birth and the delivery: ‘the big day’. The day when life suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Yup, a real, living, breathing, breathtakingly beautiful (when not screaming, pooping and not sleeping) little person, that you created will be with you soon! Excited? Nervous? Already in love with that tiny person growing inside you? I bet!
But let’s get back on track. You need to have a plan, so you don’t sink.
Yes, in preparing for a baby you need to buy stuff. That, my friend, is the fun and easy bit.
And if you’re anything like me and were completely bamboozled by the ridiculous amount of choice when it comes to baby gear, that wasn’t in fact all that easy.
But there are also some more tedious tasks to deal with and your partner needs a mention too.
This is the nitty-gritty of some of the practical and mindful things you need to do now, to make those first few months with your newborn less of a struggle, so you can enjoy the sweetness of the little bundle coming your way.
This is the how-to-prepare-for-a-baby so you can glide effortlessly across those turbulent waves of the 4th trimester.
Why preparing for baby is so important (some biological truths)
This won’t be news to you (I doubt) but birthing a baby and then coping with countless nights of fragmented sleep
while your hormones leap all over the place is enough to make the sanest, in-control lady completely freak out.
A little more on why this is totally normal, so you can get your head in the right place as well as understanding why these baby preparation tactics are so important.
1 – You’re going to be battling physical exhaustion
Did you know that giving birth is actually said to be the equivalent of running a marathon? Unlikely you trained for one, right?
I don’t speak from experience on this one but I can’t imagine a c-section is a walk in the park either.
2 – Your hormones will be all over the place
There will be highs; feelings of elation and happiness at the incredible love you already have for your sleepy, snuggly newborn. Then from nowhere, you may find the tears rolling down your cheeks.
Your body has to adjust to not growing a baby but producing milk instead. So levels of estrogen and progesterone will drop while prolactin is on the up.
A touch of the baby blues is normal.
If these lows drop to feelings of hopelessness, severe anxiety and detachment from both your baby and the rest of the world, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. Again, this is not uncommon, and the good news is it’s fixable. But you need to get help, asap.
3 – Newborn’s are incredibly demanding
Newborns feed frequently, by which I mean at least every 2-3 hours, possibly even more often. Each feed could take 45 minutes, even longer. This is normal and healthy for a newborn; you need to feed baby this frequently and ‘on demand’ (whenever baby requires).
Newborns sleep in short stints. Partly because they need to feed often, partly because newborn sleep is quite different from our own, as adults.
Learning more about baby sleep is preparation tactic #10 where I’ll point you in the direction of some good resources on this.
Newborns are often fussy and struggle with gas and reflux and a whole heap of other things which typically leads to a lot of crying.
It’s tough to endure; the guilt of not being able to help your baby and the frustration and exhaustion of struggling to do the simplest things, like take a shower or even get dressed.
Figuring out what exactly your baby is trying to communicate will come in time, but it will take time.
Again, some more pointers on the figuring out the route of your baby’s issues in preparation tactic #11.
TO SUMMARISE: Expect A LOT of time feeding, little time sleeping plus a fair amount of fussiness and crying.
If you weren’t terrified before, you probably were now, right?!
Practical preparations to take the load off when baby arrives
Preparing for baby means clearing out anything and everything you can during those first 4-6 weeks so you can just concentrate on and yourself and your baby.
So these are mostly about household chores and admin etc. I have made the assumption here that you, mom-to-be, are in charge when it comes to this kind of stuff since that is the norm (don’t shoot me for it!)
#1 Cook, cook, cook – stock up the freezer
Eating is one thing you can’t stop doing once baby arrives. But cooking and planning is, so this needs to be a big part of your preparing for baby plan.
Keep it simple with things you can chuck in the oven or microwave, add a side, or not, and eat one-handed. Some good filling, fuel for your body.
You’re going to be worn out after the birth and then there’s the getting up 3, 4, 5 times a night.
If you’re breastfeeding you’re going to have the appetite of an elephant – the 4th trimester is no time to think about being carb-free or dieting. In fact, a few extra slow-release carbs is the way to go.
Here were some of my favorites, both for ease of cooking/freezing/stockpiling and consuming post-baby.
- Bolognaise (pasta to cook)
- Cottage pie
- Cauliflower cheese/vegetable cheese bake
- Mild chicken korma – not spicy if you’re breastfeeding, your baby won’t thank you (rice to cook)
- Chicken risotto
- Lamb tagine
- Home-made soup
- Chicken pot pie
- Homemade pasta sauce
For some more ideas of easy recipes to batch and freeze, check out these 15 easy freeze meals from Happy Money Saver (just remember to remove the spice if you plan to breastfeed and avoid ones that look a fiddle to eat with one hand!)
Of course, you don’t have to cook these yourself, you can buy the pre-made version and stick those in the freezer.
#2 Stock up the pantry
Stocking up on healthy snacks and foods for easy lunches and a quick boost between meals is essential when preparing for baby. You’re going to need a lot of snacks!
Again, choose wisely; foods you can eat one-handed, that need zero or minimal preparation and are nutritious.
Chips and chocolate are definitely not a no-go (a naughty snack during a night feed made those disrupted nights a little sweeter for me…excuse the pun) but need to be supplemented with other healthier snacks.
A few ideas for snacks and foods to stock up on now:
- Pasta sauces
- Cook-in sauces for one pot meals
- Rice and pasta
- Tinned and packet soups
- Tinned peas/beans
- Tinned peaches/pears or other fruit
- Tinned tuna
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Granola bars
- Peanut butter
- Jam/spread for sandwiches
- Crackers/savoury biscuits
- Chocolate and chips (in moderation!)
If you have a teeny tiny pantry or are afraid you might eat these lovely things before baby arrives, keep the list and organize for home deliveries when the time comes. Or keep the list on your fridge and if someone is popping in and asks if you need anything you have it there to hand (because you need to say ‘yes’ to any offers of help!)
Stock up on other household items; cleaning products, loo rolls etc…
#3 Make a plan for fresh groceries
If you don’t have home delivery, now is the time to get that sorted.
If it’s not possible, hash out a plan with your other half/mom/friendly neighbor to pick up the essentials, just for those first few weeks.
#4 Get ahead on admin
So the food is sorted. Next step in preparing for baby is the other life admin that you don’t even want to have to think about when you’re up to your ears in diapers and laundry on 5 hours broken sleep.
Think about your daily, weekly or even monthly chores and see what you can get ahead on.
Get all outstanding and upcoming bills paid.
Shop for any birthdays in advance.
Get your hair done, dental appointments out the way…
A friend of mine wrote all her Christmas cards in October as her baby was due in November. Genius.
(My firstborn was also born in November, I did no such thing. No one got Christmas cards. Not the end of the world but I like her version much better.)
#5 Divi up other day-to-day chores
If you’ve been taking care of most of the chores up until now (the hoovering, the dishes, the laundry, ironing etc), it’s time to divide and conquer.
Hopefully, your other half can take some of the load off. Part of preparing for baby is having this discussion now so that you’re on the same page when you’re in the throes of the 4th trimester. That’s not to say you can’t revisit this plan, but at the very least, start with a plan.
Also think about what chores you can do without.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, buy a stash of paper plates for when you’ve run out of clean crockery, because there will be those days….
#6 Get help lined up for the first 4 weeks of the 4th trimester if possible
Traditionally families rallied round moms early on to take the load off. Smart, right? Other nursing moms even fed the newest babies so that mom could have a break. Not sure about that one myself but makes perfect sense.
Much trickier in this day and age with family spread far and wide but what’s also changed is the expectation of what moms should and can do.
There seems to be this overwhelming sense that moms should do it all and entirely without any help.
Don’t let this get to you!
If you’re the independent sort (that’s me) you may feel like you can/want/need/have to do it alone.
You will be able to do it alone, but if you want to make it easier on yourself then and give yourself a fighting chance of staying sane, rope in some extra help now. You won’t regret it.
Does your mom want to come and stay? That’s first prize.
If that’s not possible, what about if she could come every afternoon or even once a week?
If you get on well with your mother-in-law and she’s keen that might be a good option or what about a friend, even a neighbor?
Think of something and someone that can take the load off you just occasionally. Give you a chance to take a nap, do a load of laundry or whatever.
Don’t go all supermom on me just yet, give yourself a break and sort out some help.
#7 Build some ‘extras’ into your budget
Things may be tight in the 4th trimester and throughout baby’s first year if you’re staying home, so budgeting is going to be part of your baby preparation.
You will probably need to rework some of these:
- Utilities for heating, lights, water since you’re going to be at home with baby a lot
- Diapers, nappy creams, formula and other expendables
- Healthcare costs
For more on budgeting, check out this post from Nerd Wallet on financial must-dos to prepare for baby.
Now that you’re in this preparing for baby mindset, if you can squeeze some extra dollars out of your budget to make room for the following, your new mom life will be a heck of a lot easier.
A weekly take-out
To help delay the end of your freezer stash.
A mom and baby class or two
These are more for you than for your baby (you’re going to need to speak to another adult once in while) but can come at a price. Do your research. These are well worth it if you can afford!
The occasional coffee or lunch out
Again, so you’re not staring at the same blank 4 walls all day long.
The unplanned baby ‘stuff’
There’s a tonne of baby stuff on the market. Definitely don’t go out and buy everything before baby. Get the essentials and put money aside for the things you might need. There could well be things you don’t realize you need yet.
Some babies are better with certain bottles, same with swaddles. You’re going to have to take a punt now when you’re buying all the stuff.
Just make sure to leave room for when baby throws you a curveball and refuses these Dr Brown’s bottles I definitely recommend or the swaddle you decide on in this review (I had no luck with any particular swaddle so can’t advise on that one).
This Cocoonababy baby nest was a lifesaver for my second born who had reflux – it was recommended to me when she was a few weeks old and luckily we did have some spare cash to buy it.
Preparations to keep your mind in the right place
Staying at home with baby 24/7 is a surefire way to lose your mind.
Part of your baby preparation plan is to come up with ways to get out the house a little bit, for adult conversation and a change of scene.
#8 Start building your mom tribe now
You need to build yourself a security blanket for those tough first weeks and months of the 4th trimester.
Enter the ‘mom tribe’; other moms in the exact same stage of the journey as you.
For advice, to vent to, for a shoulder to cry on. To just be there, when your other half just doesn’t get it, your family’s too far away and your friends are at work…
If you’re doing an antenatal class, this is a great place to meet others who are also about to start their journey into motherhood.
Swap phone numbers and make plans to stay in touch.
You can also start researching some mom and baby groups while preparing for baby.
There’s baby massage, swimming, music, mom and baby yoga.. Pretty much everything you can think of.
Some bright sparks have cottoned onto the fact that moms will do anything and pay a good price to get out of the house with their baby under the guise of ‘enhancing baby’s development’.
Make no mistake, these classes are mainly for mom!
Your baby will develop just fine regardless of the fancy pants baby class you did or didn’t go to – no need to panic if you can’t go this route.
If you’re looking for free alternatives, check out your local church, library or community centre for mom and baby groups and coffee mornings.
But your mom tribe will be your lifeline to sanity. Get researching.
#9 Build mental pick-me-ups into your daily & weekly routine
You might not want to go out those first few days, there you can have some grace. But the sooner you get out the better. For fresh air, for a change of scene, for some adult contact.
You need these mental pick-me-ups regularly as you adjust to your new life and to help you through physical and mental exhaustion.
In addition to a mom and baby group, as per #8, think what else might do the trick and get you out of a mental slump.
There are the classics, like exercise. I’m not talking about re-joining the gym just yet (and your doctor may advise you to wait a while on this anyway) but a brisk walk in the fresh air, or even one at a snail’s pace, is a good thing to build into your daily routine.
What about an outing for a coffee, picnic or lunch with a friend (out or at a friend’s house)?
The occasional massage or pedicure while your mom watches the baby?
This is important for your body and mind.
So think about this now – the more you plan, the more you’ll be able to make it a reality.
Preparing for the what’s, how’s and why’s of babies
The 4th trimester is all about getting baby fed, rested, easing their gas troubles, consoling their tears and loving them.
The loving part is going to come naturally I’m sure while much of the learning is going to happen on the job; the how-tos of breastfeeding and burping etc are a bit easier to figure out with a baby in front of you.
But there are a couple of things worth doing to get a head start on helping you prepare you for baby…
#10 Learn about baby sleep
If nothing else, when preparing for baby, read up on baby sleep.
Your whole 4th-trimester world will become significantly easier if you can get on the path to good sleep.
Did you know you can start encouraging healthy sleep habits in your baby after just a few weeks?
Of course, only if you know how, right?!
I stumbled on The Contented Little Baby Book having been recommended it by a friend. It’s very detailed and full of practical tips on encouraging healthy sleep habits through the use of routine. If that sounds like it might be your thing then that’s a good read.
Other sleep books that have come highly recommended to me from other moms include:
- The Sleep Lady®’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy
- Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents
Or if you want something short and sweet, check out these 10 simple no-cry baby sleep tips to encourage healthy sleep habits.
You can start those 10 tips from the get-go which will encourage your baby to sleep through the night as soon as he or she is physically capable (which could happen right at the end of the 4th trimester in case you are wondering!)
Some of my other popular sleep posts:
- Newborn sleep patterns: decoded and demystified for healthy sleep habits
- Newborn sleep simplified. The ULTIMATE guide to get you in the know
#11 Understand that babies do cry but that there’s nearly always a reason
Contrary to popular belief, babies very rarely ‘just cry’.
Crying is a baby’s way of communicating something is wrong; it’s our job to figure out what.
Inconsolable crying, or ‘colic‘, is not actually all that common. More often than not, gas pains are an underlying factor, so you’re going to have to help baby pass that gas and try to avoid them becoming gassy in the first place (neither of which are easy by the way).
Gas is also a big factor in reflux, as I found out the hard way with my daughter (hence this post on reflux remedies).
Many babies struggle at the ‘witching hour’. Again, this is often just palmed off as being part and parcel of the 4th trimester.
The witching hour is not a given and can nearly always be resolved.
Babies rarely just cry; there’s nearly always a reason.
So the message here is to remember to persevere and try and resolve the cause of the fussiness and crying. It won’t be easy but it can be done.
Two books I’d recommend to have on hand once baby arrives or to read now if you get the chance:
- BabyCues: Nurture With Nature to Prevent and Remedy Colic, Reflux, Lactose and Dairy Overload – Nature’s Logical Answers
- The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer
As I mentioned, my daughter and I battled early on with gas, reflux and the witching hour so I really went deep into researching these areas. These posts cover pretty much everything on the topic if you want to pin/bookmark for later.
- Got a gassy baby? 16 Common causes & remedies to fix them for good
- Colic: what is it & is crying really inconsolable?
- The scoop on REFLUX REMEDIES
Preparing your relationship for baby
If your baby bump was by design rather than a ‘surprise’, then hopefully you have a decent idea of what family life looks like. So you’ve had a conversation or 500 with your husband or partner, depending on how much of a planner you are and how dying-to-start-a-family you’ve been.
If not, there are a bunch of things worth getting out on the table sooner rather than later…
You want to get on the same page, or at least the same chapter because assumptions on either side are a surefire way to get tension building.
Add in a lot of sleepless nights and a dash of overwhelm and you’re relationship might look a little worse for wear.
First things first, though…
#12 Get to the bottom of any lingering issues
A baby is going to do a good job of exposing any cracks. On little sleep and faced with a screaming newborn who just won’t settle, those cracks are going to grow into huge, great cavities…
Now is the time to sort out any issues, while you’re in the throws of preparing for baby. Not while you’re in the throws of trying to settle baby. It’s just not going to happen.
If you need professional help, go find it.
You need to enter this next chapter in your life working as a team. So you can support each other and enjoy it as much as you can.
#13 Discuss how you want to parent and what family life looks like – set expectations
However long you’ve been together or however ‘at one’ you are with each other, you may be surprised at how differently the two of you picture your perfect family life. What are your hopes and dreams? What are your fears?
These typically stem from your own experience as a child; the roles that your own parents took as mom and dad and how family life played out.
Discuss what you liked and disliked about your childhood and the ways your own parents raised you. What is it you want to replicate for your kids and what is it you want to avoid?
The idea is not one of right and wrong – there are a million ways to parent – but it’s trying to get on the same wavelength about it all.
Of course, you don’t need to nail everything down now, while preparing for baby. You have a little time to figure out lots of parenting stuff, things like discipline and schooling.
My husband and I have only recently got it together on the discipline front, with a 2.5 and 3.5 year old (time-ins are now officially a thing in our house, rather than spankings or ‘hidings’ as they’re called here).
But breastfeeding, the ‘if’ and for ‘how long’, can be a touchy subject even between husband and wife. Most moms have a desire to breastfeed – everyone knows it’s best for baby – but it’s not easy.
There’s nothing worse than pressure from your other half to ‘just keep at it for another few months’ when every day feels like a marathon.
So this particular expectation is well worth nailing down now.
#14 Divide and conquer the baby stuff
So you know to divide and conquer the household chores as part of the baby preparation stage.
Next, are the baby specific tasks that your other half can help with.
Settling when baby is fussy?
Feeding (if you go the formula route)?
If you plan to breastfeed this does limit the ability of your partner to help, but isn’t a complete get out of jail free card. Dad also needs some one-on-one time to bond with baby – and this will do you a world of good too.
I was 99.5% sure my husband was going to be very hands on with our firstborn as he’s got lots of young nieces and nephews so I knew he was going to give all or any of these a go. Even then, he was much happier when he had a practical task; bathing baby was his favorite, settling not so much…
So if you’re not sure, get talking. There is nothing worse than thinking or assuming your partner is going to help with x,y,z only to find he has no intention of doing so. It might be a lack of confidence. Maybe the smell of a dirty diaper gets him wretching or maybe he just assumes that you want to do it all.
Only one way to find out!
You might also want to discuss introducing a bottle of either expressed milk or formula. This is a great opportunity for dad and baby to bond and will also give you some much needed time off.
More on introducing a bottle to a breastfeeding baby in hack #6 here: 24 Game-Changing Newborn Hacks For First-Time Parents
Preparing your mind for baby
I’ve hinted that the 4th trimester is tough on more than one occasion.
Your baby might struggle more than others (hence the unhelpful labeling of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ babies) and you might struggle more than others.
Here’s hoping you’ll fly through, of course, but you could well find your best-laid plans for mom life are out the window and your mind is in the gutter.
#15 Prepare for the worst and expect the best
You’re only going to understand what the 4th trimester feels like, when you’re actually in the midst of it, feeling it. So it’s difficult to prepare for.
But if you want to take a peek at some of the realities I faced adjusting to life with a newborn and some of the things that kept me sane, check out this post: Battling the 4th trimester? 6 harsh realities & the tips you need to stay sane
OK, so now you should have a bit of a plan to help you get ready for that baby.
You do need to lighten the load of those first weeks. You’re going to need that support network around you; that ‘mom tribe’.
And you need to have those conversations with your other half.
These things will make the 4th trimester a whole lot easier. Less chaos, more calm.
And don’t forget to check out these 4th trimester truths if you’re feeling brave!
Any questions or other tips on preparing for baby? Please let me know in the comments.