As you count down the weeks to your due date, you’re likely getting really excited to meet your little one. But it’s also normal to be nervous about bringing baby home. After all, once you leave the hospital, you and your partner won’t have experienced nurses available around-the-clock to guide you in taking care of this tiny new person. Thankfully, there are some things you can prep now to make caring for baby (and yourselves) a little easier in those first few weeks. Read on for our sanity-saving strategies, including advice from real moms.
1. Arrange for Help
Even though they’re sleeping the majority of the day, caring for a newborn is more exhausting than most first-time parents realize. “We didn’t have help with our first [baby], and I felt so overwhelmed and isolated at first,” says Bea S. “With our second, we had my mom with us for two months, and it was a blessing!” Try to put a plan in place before baby arrives, rather than once you’re already feeling overwhelmed. Set a schedule for friends or family members who’ve volunteered to come over and help with a few chores or run errands for you over the first few weeks. Or consider hiring a caregiver, like a postpartum doula or baby nurse. They can be worth every penny, especially if you don’t have much other support nearby.
2. Prep Your Car
Believe us, during that first car ride home, you’ll cringe at every tiny bump in the road. But you’ll feel so much better if you’ve taken steps to make your vehicle super safe for baby. This, of course, includes installing a rear-facing infant car seat. “It’s never too early to be prepared,” says Lynda D., whose firstborn arrived five weeks early. (Surprise!) She learned her lesson: For baby no. 2, she installed the car seat far in advance—it’s recommended to do by 37 weeks, when you’re considered “early term.” (You can have a pro check your seat or help with installation at an inspection station near you.) While you’re at it, be sure your vehicle is up to date on inspections, and check your tires’ condition since they’re key to helping your car stop safely over and over again. Are they at the correct pressure for your car? Are they worn or damaged? If it’s been five years or at least 20,000 miles, you should have your tires professionally inspected to see if they’re still road-worthy. If not, consider replacing them with MICHELIN® PREMIER® A/S tires, which are designed to provide consistent performance whether new or worn.
3. Stock Changing and Feeding Stations
You’ll be clocking a ton of time on the glider or lounge chair feeding baby, and then inevitably at the changing table. To make these new activities as convenient as possible, stock multiple areas around your home with everything you’ll need for feeds and diaper changes—and don’t forget supplies for yourself too. “I set up nursing stations on every floor of my house with snacks, huge water bottles and nursing pillows,” says Jeanette D. “I also opened all wipes and lotion containers—anything that could be opened was opened.” This simple step (and even setting up automatic renewals or subscriptions for these items) can save you a lot of time and fumbling later.
4. Do the Laundry and Get Clothes Organized
Use a gentle detergent to prewash baby’s bedding and newborn clothing, along with some 0- to 3-month sizes. You don’t have to be Marie Kondo, but a little wardrobe organization can go a long way. “I used one drawer for newborn sizes, one drawer for 0-3 months, one for 3-6, and then took out the newborn and put in the 6-9 months clothes when the baby grew out of the smaller size,” Jeanette says. And you never know—you could have a big baby who completely skips newborn sizes! It’s also a good idea to put a fitted sheet on the crib or bassinet mattress and have some swaddling blankets ready for baby’s first snooze, since they’re likely to come home from the hospital already asleep. Trust us, you’ll be relieved to not have to deal with laundry in those first few days.
5. Make a Feeding Plan…for Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in making sure baby’s fed and forget that you need to eat too. That’s why it’s a smart move for parents-to-be to stock the freezer with easy meals to reheat for quick dinners after baby arrives. But even if you don’t have the time (or energy) for major cooking in this homestretch, there are other ways to ensure you don’t end up eating pizza multiple nights a week (as great as that sounds). Find out which nearby grocery stores and healthy fast-casual places deliver, or suggest friends and family bring food if they ask how they can help. “I wish I had asked for food delivery service or healthy meal prep as gifts,” says Jenna M. “I needed someone to take care of my eating.” (Check out our take on some popular meal-kit delivery services.) After all, it’s not just important that baby is well taken care of once you’re home—it’s important you are too.