There is so much to prepare for when welcoming a new baby into a family. Nursery furniture, stocking up on diapers, stroller selections, the options are limitless. It can be so overwhelming for parents-to-be to navigate through all of the “must have's” that they may overlook something else that also needs preparation: themselves.
No matter what anyone says, no new parent is ever fully mentally prepared for a baby until they are holding it in their arms and actively parenting. No amount of preparation can make that transition easier either. However, parents can physically prepare themselves for the wild ride of parenting. There are a lot of physical aspects of the job that are often overlooked. Dads, in particular, tend to think that because they aren’t doing the actual labor and delivery (so lucky,) there really isn’t much they need to do to be prepared. Then, about four weeks in, dad’s neck is sore and his back is even worse, meanwhile, his partner is still healing from labor and delivery so he really has no room to complain.
Moms can do a lot before the baby’s arrival to prepare, not only for labor and delivery but for life as a caregiver as well. Mom is going to have just as much, if not more, of a sore neck/back from late night feedings as a dad, so that’s just one more thing to prepare for.
Here are some ways for parents-to-be to physically prepare themselves for parenthood:
20 Prenatal Massage
If ever there was a time in a woman’s life that she should be entitled to a massage, it’s during pregnancy. Nevermind the health benefits, a massage is relaxing and every mama-to-be needs some relaxation during the final few months of pregnancy.
In addition to its relaxing nature, prenatal massage is actually very beneficial to mom’s physical health. According to the American Pregnancy, it can regulate hormones, reduce swelling, reduce nerve and muscle pain, and even give mom better sleep (which, let’s be honest, is enough to make any pregnant woman say “just take my money!”).
This helps mom get into a good physical state before her baby arrives because when it comes time to deliver, she needs every single muscle to be in tip-top shape in order to “bear down” during delivery (unless it’s c-section, of course).
The massages can also help teach her relaxation techniques to use between contractions. If nothing else, her massage therapist may be able to give her some helpful tips for easing labor pains during delivery that either she can do for herself, or dad can do.
Just a reminder, though, always ensure the massage therapist is trained in prenatal massage techniques, and of course, get the OK from the doctor before getting one.
19 Dad: Trim the Beard
According to The Sharpe, the beard-trend really came at us, full force, in 2013, around the same time the hipster look really took off. Since then, more and more men have been really going all out on their beards. So much so, that there are a variety of companies advertising for specialty razors, shaving creams, beard brushes, and soap/conditioning treatments. It’s fair to say that beards may be betting just as much attention as women’s hair.
So, just like a woman with her own hair, a man may grow very attached and protective of his beard. Especially if he’s putting an insane amount of money and care into it. It is no longer just something that grows on his face, it is a trademark of who he is.
Bad news, dad-to-be, that trademark will be a hot mess once a baby gets hold of it.
Literally, your baby will grab it and pull at it because it has a fun and different texture which is like crack to babies. If your bundle of joy isn’t tugging at your facial hair, she’s likely spitting up into it, or somehow managing to hide cheerios in it. What was once a cool, hipster, trendy conversation piece is now a web of literal garbage.
Do yourself a favor and trim it now before that baby arrives. It may help to do it slowly, to get used to the gradual change instead of a dramatic shave (ask any woman who has cut her hair too short by accident, it’s okay to cry). And, try not to worry, because according to that same article by The Sharpe, the beard trend is here to stay, so you will be back to looking like a lumberjack in no time!
18 Kegels For The Win
If you have ever watched the Sex and the City movie, you know that the character, Samantha, gives a good overview of what a Kegel is. If, however, the SATC girls aren’t your thing, this is little an exercise all women can do to strengthen their pelvic muscles. Women do these exercises for a number of reasons, but pregnant women can benefit the most.
Kegels, or pelvic floor exercises, are beneficial to pregnant women as they prepare for labor and delivery. American Pregnancy says that these little exercises can help mom control her muscles during labor which will, in turn, help her experience less pain and any possibility of tearing. Additionally, the exercise is helpful during pregnancy as it can combat the super-fun bladder issues and painful hemorrhoids.
It has also been said that doing these will help with healing after delivery. The stronger the muscle, the quicker the bounce back! Not to mention, it may make the first “romantic night” post-baby a little easier.
The best part about this exercise is that it can be done at just about any time, anywhere, and very discreetly. This is one of the few exercises that can be done while also eating pizza - what can be better than that? Actually, I just realized I've been doing them this whole time.
17 Dad: Understand Your Own Hormones
Your wife isn’t the only one with raging hormones, you have them too. Okay, they’re probably not as “ragey” as hers, but you still have them nonetheless.
According to Slate.com, men go through a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally, during pregnancy and parenthood such as weight gain and drops in testosterone. In fact, they say that a new dad’s testosterone drops by about one-third in the first three weeks after his child is born, which allows for better bonding and more nurturing care.
The article mentions that the drop in testosterone may have something to do with the exposure to a postpartum woman’s hormones, but either way, a dad needs to be ready to feel all the feels.
So, how can a guy prepare himself for this? Watch The Notebook on a loop until the baby comes, if you don’t cry, you’re not cut out to be a dad. Okay just kidding (but seriously, what kind of human doesn’t cry at the end of The Notebook?!). You can study up on how your moods will change during the early days of parenthood so that you can prepare yourself to handle any emotion that comes your way. Particularly if you have a hard time handling strong emotions, because if you go to your postpartum wife for sympathy you may very well find yourself the target of one really scary death-stare.
16 Work It Out
A healthy body is ideal throughout life, whether you’re planning to be a mama or not. When it comes to pregnancy, though, exercising can help prepare you for labor and delivery as well as for once the baby comes along and the physical demands of motherhood come along.
Cardio is an important workout during pregnancy to keep mom-to-be healthy. Not only does it help with maintaining a healthy weight (though, do not use it as a way to lose weight during pregnancy), the Henry Ford Health System also points out that it helps mama’s heart stay healthy and strong in general. During pregnancy, mom’s heart works twice as hard because of the increased blood flow through her body, so a strong heart not only keeps baby healthy but also keeps mom healthy as well.
These exercises can help build and tone muscles which will help during pregnancy by better supporting her growing pregnancy belly (which means fewer backaches).
If cardio is already part of your routine, then consider adding pregnancy-safe strengthening workouts (many of which are modified,) such as barre, yoga, or weight lifting. After the baby arrives, the already-strong muscles will help as you carry the baby everywhere in its infant seat.
Of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise as well as for advice on the intensity of any regular workout you did before pregnancy.
15 Dad: Survive On An Empty Stomach
According to LiveStrong, the average American male eats around 2,600+ calories a day. And, according to BodyBuilding.com, a diet of 2,500 calories a day can include a breakfast of pancakes with bacon, a banana and oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, pretzels, a deli sandwich on an everything-bagel, and a fajita for dinner.
Now, please tell a new-parent that you intend to eat something like that during the early days of parenthood. We will wait until the laughter stops so you can get back to focusing on this article.
Okay, as Jim in Accounts Payable probably just informed you, there is absolutely no way you will be able to maintain this average daily intake during those early days of parenthood. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you can manage those two slices of bacon, the banana, and maybe a handful of pretzels.
So, a good way to prepare for this is to learn how to survive on less. If you are the kind of person who truly has a hard time functioning on an empty stomach, get practicing, because you will be expected to do it. If you think there is no possible way for you to ever manage on less than 2,000 calories a day, you should use the months leading up to your baby’s arrival to prepare more freezer meals that you know what to do with, because that’s the only way you’re going to have time to prepare a “real meal” for quite a while. A word of caution, though, any and all freezer meals are fair game to your baby-mama, especially if she’s breastfeeding.
14 Zen-Like Breathing
Any mom-to-be can really benefit from practicing deep breathing early on during pregnancy. In addition to the benefits of deep breathing during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, it is good to practice the art of the relaxing and calming deep breaths, if for no other reason, than to prepare herself for when the baby won’t stop yelling and dad is somehow snoring through the cries. This is a thing and it will absolutely happen.
Aside from using deep breaths as a way to chill out when you want to kick your husband (again, it will happen and we aren’t here to judge), breathing exercises are used to prepare for labor and delivery. American Pregnancy suggests practicing patterned breathing, which is essentially finding a breathing pattern that provides a calming and relaxing effect. This can mean deep breaths from the diaphragm or more shallow breaths, it doesn’t really matter so long as mom is relaxed and it isn’t making her light-headed.
According to American Pregnancy, breathing plays a significant role in the labor and delivery process. Not only does it promote relaxation, but it can help make contractions as productive as possible, manage pain, and provide mom with a sense of control over the process.
13 Dad: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
Get ready to get competitive, guys! Now is a great time to follow your wife’s lead and start eating healthy and balanced meals. This is not always a super fun thing to do, so make it a competition between you and your wife by seeing who can come up with better recipes or who can go without pizza the longest.
Your wife will likely be feeling a little mopey about food throughout pregnancy. Maybe she’s a big sushi fan and all she can think about is the raw-fish goodness she can’t have. Or, maybe all her little baby wants is some deli meat or a Caesar salad and she’s left trying to find any substitute that will somewhat fulfill her craving. Whatever it is, she will feel down about it at one point or another, and she won’t be able to kick back with a glass of wine to take the edge off, so it will be nice to have someone in the thick of it, too.
Not to mention, this will help set up patterns of healthy/balanced eating which you will likely want your kiddo to partake in as well. By the time that baby is 1, he will want to do anything you do so you can set a good example by already having good eating habits.
12 Squat Goals
There is no way of knowing the position your baby will be in when it’s time to push. There’s also no way of knowing if he will be able to easily pass through the birth canal or past your pelvis. There are so many different scenarios for delivery that there are just as many positions mom may have to hold to safely and effectively deliver it.
While there is no way of knowing what exactly will work for your specific situation, there are a number of exercises you can do to prepare yourself. According to Shape, one of the best things a mom can do to prepare herself is to do some squats.
An effective squat uses a number of muscles in the body, including thighs, core, and glutes - muscles that really need to be strong to push during delivery.
Shape recommends holding the squat for 5-10 seconds and breathing through it, much like you will breathe through contractions and pain during delivery. Be sure to keep your feet hip distance apart and to lift back up through them when you’re coming up from the squat.
As always, check with your doctor before getting down with your squats. If you get the ok, but your balance isn’t great, it’s okay to use a chair, wall, table, or anything else that is sturdy and stable to help you out a little bit. Safety first!
11 Dad: Work Those Shoulders
It’s pretty easy for anyone to come up with all the ways moms need to physically prepare for baby’s arrival, but dad doesn’t come away unscathed by the process, either. Any dad worth his chops will be playing a big role in his baby’s early days, which means he will be spending many days and nights hunched over trying to soothe a crying infant (FYI new dads, this will go well into the toddler years, too).
All of the snugglings comes after the actual birthing experience, too. Assuming your baby’s mom doesn’t have a planned c-section, you need to prepare yourself to be holding up her legs, or other body parts, during delivery.
Oftentimes, it is dad’s job to provide a sense of gravity to mom while she’s pushing, especially when she is numb from an epidural.
There’s no real workout that can truly prepare a person for the acrobatics of labor and delivery, but focusing on shoulders and neck muscles is a good place to start. The stronger you are, the more you can help your partner, and the longer you can rock your baby to sleep night-after-night without having to dip into your emergency savings to get a deep tissue massage.
10 Prepare For Snuggles
As soon as you deliver your baby, the delivery room medical staff will put her directly on your chest. It will truly be one of the greatest moments of motherhood. You get to meet that sweet baby for the first time and get to just hold her there, while she adapts to a whole new world safely in your arms (I’m not crying, you’re crying…).
Skin-to-skin contact is extremely important to your baby’s development. According to Today’s Parent, this sweet snuggle can help solve breastfeeding issues, prevent hypoglycemia, reduce pain, stabilize premature babies, and help with optimal brain development. Not to mention, it helps the baby bond with mom (and dad, if mom lets him, but no rush mama, you earned this) as well as emotional development.
As wonderful as the skin-to-skin time is, it can quickly be met with chaos if mom is lathered in a lotion that irritates baby’s skin or is wearing perfume that the baby doesn’t agree with. So mom, take caution and ensure any products you put on your chest during the last part of her pregnancy (and of course, after taking baby home) are hypoallergenic and as scent-free as possible. Baby skin is very delicate and sensitive, so even the slightest chemical can cause a reaction.
Also, keep those nails filed down as your due date approaches because the last thing you or your baby want is for any pinching or scratching to get in the way of the once-in-a-lifetime snuggles (seriously, cherish them, they go by too fast….okay, pass the tissues).
9 Balancing Act On Point
Over the years, you’ve probably heard someone ask the rhetorical question, “how does she do it all?” when looking at a mom who has somehow managed to work full time, do the laundry, cook the meals, and care for their baby (and still looks fabulous while doing it). Get ready, dad, because after your partner comes home with the baby, you will be the one doing the tight-rope while spinning plates in the air.
If you thought that waiting on your mom-to-be during pregnancy was rough, it was nothing compared to now. She will still be hormonal (at best) but now she will also be healing from a normal delivery or the major surgery that is a c-section. Oh, and there will be a tiny days-old baby who can’t so much as lift his own head, let alone pitch in and help clean the floors he spit up all over. Did we mention you will likely be back at work fairly quickly while all of this is still going on? So, add “meeting corporate expectations 40 hours a week” to your list of responsibilities.
It’s best to prepare yourself the best you can before this comes because the last thing your healing-wife will want to hear, is you complaining about how hard it is. Use the months leading up to your baby’s arrival to really get into anticipating your partner’s needs...and maybe learning how to clean the house to her standards (it’s in your best interest).
8 Study Up On Lactation
First and foremost, as long as baby is fed, it is a happy and healthy baby regardless of the feeding method. That being said, whether you decide you want to breastfeed, pump and bottle feed, or skip it all together and go right to formula, it’s important to understand what the decision means for your body.
There are a number of factors that go into breastmilk. According to Parents Magazine, not only does it depend on your baby and her ability/willingness to latch, it depends on moms milk supply and simple biology. You may go into it knowing you want to breastfeed, only to find out that your supply is too low to provide as much as your baby needs. Or, maybe you’ll think pumping is the best option for you, only to realize that it’s painful and not something you can commit to long-term.
It’s best to research all methods of feeding prior to baby’s arrival simply because moms won't know how it will go until she's living it.
Not to mention, there are a lot of physical factors that go into breastmilk's supply and release. Additionally, it is important to understand any impacts medications may have on your breastmilk. If there is a medicine that is important for mom to take for her overall health and it’s not safe for a baby, then the best option may be formula feeding.
If nothing else, researching the different methods, different techniques, and just exactly how a pump works will help you mentally prepare yourself for any outcome and equip you with the knowledge of any physical requirements that may be asked of you.
7 Dad: There's No Time For Sensitive Stomachs
Don’t worry, we aren’t here to hate on your dad-bod (even if you’re not a dad quite yet). Honestly, that is the least of your worries from now on. We are talking about strengthening your gut because you’re going to need to be able to stomach a lot of gross things once your baby-mama is wheeled into labor and delivery.
Thankfully, the gore at the hospital is brief, but do yourself a favor and listen to the doctors and nurses when they tell you not to look (otherwise, you’ll turn around and have an after-birth staring you directly in the face). If you’re in a c-section, under no circumstance should you ever look past the hanging sheet.
After the trauma of delivery is over, there are still many nauseating things to come.
Your wife’s recovery will be tough and slow, and you may see a side of her you never thought you would (but, you’ll also quickly see how strong and resilient she is).
Then, of course, there is the baby. You will be surprised how quickly you get used to being urinated on, accidentally catching the #2's with your hand, and changing your shirt because you’ve been spit-up on. It comes with the territory, but it’s not for those with weak stomachs.
6 Get Used To Late Nights
Don’t you love those hilarious people who tell you to “get all the sleep you can now because you won’t get it again for a long time,”? So funny.
Of course, it’s true that once a baby comes along, sleep is a beautiful memory of the past, but there are things you can do to help prepare yourself for this. It is important to be well-rested during pregnancy, but you can prepare for those sleepless nights by pushing bedtime back gradually.
According to Parent’s Magazine, in the first two months of life, babies sleep 15-17 hours a day total. You’re probably thinking you can absolutely survive on that much sleep. But, it's important to understand that about 8-10 of those hours are during the evening/night and are usually in spurts of 2-3 hours at a time. And, as lovely as the whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing is in theory, you will be up longer than the baby because you will be in charge of getting it to sleep and then falling back asleep yourself after the baby is down.
So, in order to prepare for this, push your bedtime back a little each night and/or set your alarm a little earlier. It’s difficult to get into the REM sleep cycle in such short bursts, so while you may have the number of sleep hours necessary to survive, the quality won’t be great and you will still be in charge of keeping a human alive. It’s best to prepare yourself as much as possible (and reasonable) prior to that shocking first night as a parent.
5 Dad: Keep Cool
If you think you’ve seen your partner in all of her hormonal glory during pregnancy, you have a lot to learn. According to Parents Magazine, women experience dramatic changes in hormone levels after birth which, of course, affects their mood. These hormonal changes can take your wife from the most nurturing woman you’ve ever laid eyes on to what you’re quite sure is a monster (in fact, my husband actually called me a monster during this period, I highly suggest you do not follow his lead).
While these mood swings are hard on you, it is best to remember they are harder on her. Imagine waking up in total bliss, only to be utterly depressed before lunch.
It will wear her out and she will not know how to deal with the roller coaster, so chances are good she will use dad as both, her punching bag and teddy bear.
So, use pregnancy as your crash course into “not taking what she says personally”. Use the months leading up to the baby’s arrival to channel your inner-zen and work on letting her (quite possibly cruel) comments roll off your back. Remember it’s not about you (well, okay, it’s probably about you a little) and she will be back to herself soon enough.
This practice will also allow the two of you to have open communication about how she’s feeling which will be important once the baby comes. By getting in the habit of listening to how she’s feeling, you’re better equipping yourself to handle the situation if baby blues turn into a postpartum depression later on.
4 Take Birthing Classes
Take the class. Seriously, just sign up. Even if it costs way more than it should, or if it takes up your entire Saturday, just take the class.
It’s easy to assume birthing classes are full of Lamaze practices because that’s typically what you see on sitcoms. However, there is so much more to the classes than that. Typically, you will learn ways to alleviate pain during labor and delivery, get a better understanding of any pain control options, practical ways to move labor along, and gain knowledge on different ways your baby may be delivered (there’s more to it than just vaginal or c-section).
These classes will also help you learn how to properly swaddle your baby and change its' diaper. You will also learn basic emergency responses (such as the Heimlich maneuver) and learn about the early signs you are about to go into labor.
Seriously, these classes are important for new parents.
Everyone can agree that they are time-consuming, overwhelming, and a bit intimidating (especially if you watch a live birth video), but they are the absolute best way to prepare for your baby. Not to mention, they are generally held at the hospital you will be delivering at, so you will likely get a tour and will learn about the difference in a delivery room and hospital room.
3 Dad: Function With A Healthy Heart
Just because your heart isn’t pumping enough blood for two like your wife’s doesn’t mean you can skip out on the cardio workouts. The benefits of a healthy heart don’t need to be listed here because you are likely aware of the fact that a healthy heart = long life. However, your heart health will actually impact your ability to be the kind of parent you want to be, too.
Once again, you will be Mr. Does-It-All in the early days of parenthood while your partner is healing from birth. This means you will be running around the house (and possibly up and down stairs) carrying trays of food, piles of laundry, or your newborn baby in her rock-n-play. These are not going to be days of rest, and if your heart isn’t up for the challenge, you won’t be either. We can only imagine how your partner will feel if you’re not up for the small challenge of not-losing your breath, while you manage the house for a few days, after she took on the challenge of childbirth (but if that’s a gamble you’re willing to make, please send your survival story to us, we’d love to read it).
Later on, you’ll likely be the parent that does the all the throwing-into-the-air acrobatics and is the human jungle gym in the pool. These precious moments are not for the weak-hearted. In order to keep up with your kid, you need to keep your heart strong, so it’s best to go ahead and start now if you haven’t already. Plus, someone needs to put that baby jogging stroller to good use once your little one comes along, it might as well be you.
2 Let Go Of Body Expectations
For many women, body expectations are a struggle at any time in life, and it particularly worsens during pregnancy (thanks, society!). It’s not a shock that the body changes dramatically during those 40 weeks of growing a baby, and that’s before even delivering it.
According to Self, your body can be permanently changed after pregnancy. You may have larger feet, your breast size could change, your hips may be wider than before, and even your hair texture can change. Then, of course, there are the stretch marks many women experience. Additionally, the body takes time to settle after delivery. Your uterus needs time to shrink down to its' normal size, you will sweat out a lot of water weight, and all those moving pieces inside your body need to go back to their rightful home.
This can be very difficult for women, especially if the baby is already walking and the pre-baby jeans still don’t fit right. However, be kind to yourself. This is biology, and it has no reflection on you (well, your shape and weight never should, but that’s a rant for another day).
Throughout pregnancy, give yourself grace as your body changes, and celebrate the changes as much as possible. This can help your attitude when it comes to your post-baby body too. Prepare yourself for life after pregnancy by understanding that just like life will never be the same, neither will your body, and that is okay because you get a sweet baby out of it.
1 Learn To Function On Little Sleep
You may get out of the whole pregnancy and labor/delivery part of having a baby, but you don’t get to escape the sleepless nights. According to Stanford Children’s, newborns wake up at least every three hours during their early days. That means, even if you’re not the one feeding the baby, you will wake up to his shrill cry on a regular basis (and usually just as you are about to drift into your REM cycle).
The only way to prepare for this is to start sleeping a little less before the baby arrives. You may really want to use this time to catch up on all the sleep you possibly can, but all that will do is mess up your already-set sleep schedule (and you’re a grown-up, so don’t do that).
An easy way to do this is to ask your partner to wake you up every time she gets up to go to the bathroom at night. As she progresses into the later days of pregnancy, you’ll likely be up more often with her than you will be with a baby. This will help you get used to the short “power naps” that you will refer to as sleep for the foreseeable future. Also, this will help prepare you to wake up when the baby is hungry and also avoid the passive aggressive kick from your wife when she’s exhausted and sees you snoring your way through the cries.
References: americanpregnancy.org, americanpregnancy.org, henryfordlivewell.com, americanpregnancy.org, shape.com, todaysparent.com, parents.com, parents.com, self.com, stanfordchildrends.org, parents.com, slate.com, livestrong.com, bodybuilding.com, thesharpe.com