Women have nine months — give or take — to prepare for their baby's birth. But while the baby registry may be complete, there are several other last-minute items that should be on a mom's to-do list before labor begins.
She may be getting anxious about the impending birth, knowing that it will be messy and painful, so checking out the hospital and packing the bag can help her feel a bit more in control. She should take a birthing class and discuss her birth plan with her doctor so she understands what her body will go through and the kind of options that she will face during labor. And getting a vaccine before the baby comes can save her newborn's life.
At home, the nursery doesn't have to be complete, but the baby will need a safe place to sleep, and the mom should be prepared for the task of feeding the baby and herself. And a few last perks before the family dynamic changes are also in order.
Here are 15 must-dos before going into labor.
15 Check Out The Hospital Or Birthing Location
We know that labor and delivery can be scary. Many women spend the end of pregnancy dreading that day because it will hurt and there are so many things that could go wrong for the mom and the baby. That's why our first couple of must-dos are designed to help a mom-to-be feel more comfortable when she goes into labor.
For many, the fear of the unknown is one of the worst causes of anxiety. That is one reason that hospitals offer tours of their labor and delivery wings. If you plan to give birth in a hospital, you should go check it out. It may be a good idea even if you have already been to the facility and even if you already know the lay of the land. It can help you imagine yourself in the space.
Most hospitals have the same kind of set up, but getting familiar with the surroundings can mean so much with helping a woman feel a little more comfortable. It's worth an hour-long tour.
14 Discuss Birth Plan With The Doctor
In the same vein, many women will feel a little better about labor and delivery if they have a plan. That's why the idea of birth plans came along.
Let us first stress the fact that sometimes women have little choice about how their labor will progress. Her body will do what it will do, but it can mean a lot to think through the possible outcomes and the decisions that could come up in a tense, scary situation. All birth plans should be flexible, but if a woman wants to try to go through labor without pain medication, sometimes putting it in writing is what she needs to commit herself to the endeavor.
And we didn't just say that a woman should write down a birth plan. We said she should discuss it with her doctor. Her doctor needs to be frank about the risks and make sure that she understands the process. That can help a woman avoid birth regret no matter how things unfold.
13 Get A Group B Strep Test
About 25 percent of women have a form of bacteria in their system that can be very harmful to their baby during vaginal delivery. Of course, sexually transmitted diseases should also be addressed, and necessary precautions should be taken. But many women are unaware of the possibility of Group B strep, which is related to the bacteria that causes strep throat. It starts in the intestinal tract and can get into the birth canal with negative results.
The test is non-invasive, but it is important. If there is time, the mother will be put on antibiotics prior to the delivery to get rid of the bacteria, and if not, the baby will be given the antibiotics afterward. It's important to get the treatment because without it the baby could get severely ill, so a Group B strep test is a must-do before labor begins.
12 Get A Whooping Cough Vaccine
Most parents think that they will have a conversation with a pediatrician about their children's vaccinations, but they don't expect to hear their O.B. talk about the need for them to get a shot before the baby is born. But we put the pertussis vaccine on a parent's to-do list before labor because it could save their baby's life.
Babies don't get vaccinations right away, so many doctors stress the need to protect their caretakers from passing along a preventable illness. Pertussis, or whooping cough, has made a comeback lately, and adults who were vaccinated as children likely need a booster to keep from getting sick. The Tdap or Td booster can keep everyone healthy until the baby is old enough to get her own vaccination. Newborns are really vulnerable to the disease, so a little shot is worth it to keep them well.
11 Install The Car Seat
The only baby supply that a parent has to have to bring the baby home from the hospital is a car seat. the hospital won't let the baby go home without one. And a new parent may be surprised about how hard it can be to install a seat.
According to recent studies the majority of parents — as many as 90 percent — do something wrong when getting their child in a car seat, so it is best to bone up before the baby is born. The installation can take time and even tools. The seat has to be secure and it has to be at an appropriate angle. Parents can get help at many fire stations or police stations or even hospitals, but you don't want to have to wait until after bringing the baby home in an unsafe way before checking on that.
A nurse can help parents make sure the baby is strapped in correctly, which mostly involves making sure that the straps are tight and that the harness meets in the center of the chest, but other adjustments should be made ahead of time.
10 Pack The Hospital Bag
All a mom really needs to take to the hospital is a change of clothes to come home in after the baby is born, but most women want a few more comfort supplies around during labor and delivery. They want their toothbrush and a few toiletries, maybe a comfortable robe. Don't worry about a gown for delivery, as it is likely to get messy and the hospital gown can serve just as well, and the hospital will also provide the mesh underwear.
A couple of pairs of warm socks can make a big difference in helping a woman feel at home, and many parents choose to pack a special outfit or two for their little one. Don't forget your cell phone and charger, and if you want a separate camera as well.
Packing the hospital bag can have a psychological effect of helping a woman feel prepared, and that can mean a lot to stave off the anxiety. So pack up and set the bag near the door for when the big moment arrives.
9 Take A Birthing Class
Another way to prepare for labor is to get more information. Of course books and websites can get a mom-to-be started, but a more hands-on approach is to take a birthing class. Many hospitals and doctor's offices host the programs which can focus on different styles of breathing.
The classes walk parents-to-be through the stages of labor and show them how the cervix will expand. Most don't share opinions on whether or not to have an epidural or a C-section, but because sometimes labor doesn't go the way that a mother plans, they will educate on breathing methods that can help with natural labor and talk about the many different things that can happen. Some classes also give the basics of taking care of a newborn, including changing diapers and giving a bath. It's definitely a must-do before the baby arrives.
8 Pamper Time
All women deserve a little pampering before they go through labor and delivery. Many moms-to-be have waited months to get a foot massage or a pedicure because there is a possibility that they could kick start labor. But after the mother has reached full term, she wouldn't mind that happening. It's time to get the toes looking good, since they will be on full display when she gets to the pushing phase.
A woman in the final stage of pregnancy is often uncomfortable. She has made many sacrifices in the nine months of pregnancy, and she will soon be submerged in the exhausting, overwhelming work of new motherhood. She deserves a little bit of pampering time, and while some may see that as a luxury, we believe it is a must-do before going into labor.
7 Wash The Baby Clothes And Blankets
Many women can get caught up in the coming home outfit for baby, and while that is important, a mom-to-be needs to prepare some other clothes for when baby gets home. Babies are messy, and it won't take long for that first outfit to get covered in spit up or become the victim of a diaper blowout.
There is no right number of clothes for a baby. It depends on the child and the amount of laundry that mom wants to worry about. Some babies don't go through that many changes in a day, but others can need a new onesie after every meal.
A new mom should prepare at least two or three back-up outfits for the first day alone, so that the baby can be clothed while the laundry is going. And a few extra clean blankets should also be on hand.
6 Take A Bump Photo
As much as a woman may hate her body at the end of the pregnancy, we believe that taking a bump photo at the end is a must-do. Some women get professional photographers to mark the occasion, but a selfie will do in a pinch. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but it is important to have a memento from that time in a woman's life.
We believe that a pregnant body is beautiful, but we understand how some women can feel out of sorts and try to hide behind the camera instead of getting a snapshot. Some women can feel like their body is not their own when it is stretched and swollen in the final month or two of pregnancy. But kids really enjoy seeing a photo of their mom when they are in the belly, so that makes it worth a little angst to capture the image. It's a historical record of the baby's history, and that is important.
5 Prepare For Breastfeeding Or Formula Feeding
In the last trimester, a pregnant woman should prepare for the difficult task of feeding her newborn. It's a personal decision as to whether a woman will breastfeed or formula feed, and it is often filled with complications.
In the United States, 70 percent of new moms start off breastfeeding their newborn, but many of those don't even make it beyond the first week much less to their goal. That is because breastfeeding is hard, and some preparations can go a long way to helping. Before a woman goes into labor, she should read up on the subject, maybe take a class and buy some supplies like a nursing tank or bra, a nursing pillow or a breast pump.
If she plans to formula feed, a woman needs some bottles. She should have some formula on hand, but she shouldn't stock up too much since a baby can be sensitive to some types, and it may take trial and error to figure out the best brand.
4 Stock The Fridge And Pantry
Before the baby arrives, it's important for a mom-to-be to think about her own food as well. Moms need their strength in the early days with a newborn, and a breastfeeding mom's success can depend on her nutrition.
It can be hard to make it to the grocery store for a while, so stocking up the fridge and pantry are a good idea. For many new parents, friends and family plan to bring by a meal for a few days, but a woman needs to keep up the calories to make her milk, so having some extra snacks can go a long way.
Some moms also cook ahead of time and freeze some casseroles to be ready for the difficult evenings with a newborn, and that is a good idea as well.
3 Designate A Sleeping Space
We'd like to point out that we did not put "decorate the nursery" on the to-do list. That is because a baby doesn't need curtains or even a changing table to get a good start in life. While the nursery can be nice, all that is truly necessary is a safe place to sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns upon co-sleeping because of concerns that a parent could roll over onto a newborn, but it does recommend sharing a room with the mother in the first few months of life. It allows the parents to be close for breastfeeding and to respond to baby's needs immediately without the risk of co-sleeping.
Keep in mind the "Back to Sleep" guidelines that help avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The baby's crib or bassinet should have only a fitted sheet. There is a possibility of strangulation or blocking the airway with crib bumpers, stuffed animals or loose blankets, although swaddling is encouraged in the baby's first weeks.
2 Narrow Down Names To A Short List
While some parents know what they want to name their baby months in advance, that isn't a necessity before they go into labor. But we do recommend narrowing down the choices to a short list.
Baby naming is a serious task. It reflects the parents' style while setting the tone for the baby's life, and it can be hard to settle on just one choice. Sometimes moms-to-be and dads-to-be can find it difficult to compromise, but it is a good idea to have a few choices going into labor. Parents have a limited time after the baby's birth to fill out a birth certificate, and while they can write "baby boy" or "baby girl" on it as a place keeper, it can be an arduous process to change the certificate after it is initially filed.
If parents have chosen not to find out the gender of the baby until its arrival, they may want to have choices for a boy or a girl — or it's possible that the gender doesn't matter based on recent trends. Nothing has to be set in stone until the baby arrives, but it's less stressful to have a few options ready.
1 Have A Date Night
Romance may not be on the minds of parents-to-be when labor is imminent, but it's a good idea to take a chance to reconnect before the baby arrives.
A couple faces a lot of stress during pregnancy, and the relationship goes through even more strain during the early weeks with a newborn. The baby will soon take over the household, as mom and dad take on the exhausting task of keeping a baby clean, fed, healthy and relatively happy. It may be a while before a couple can spend quality time alone, so we believe date night should be on the to-do list before labor hits.
Even if the date is little more than a night of Netflix, the parents-to-be should take time to share their love and bond. Pretty soon the family will expand, but for now, they should enjoy their time as a party of two.