Here’s What You Actually Need to Do Before Baby Arrives

Here’s What You Actually Need to Do Before Baby Arrives

Consider this a totally doable to-do list, straight from experienced parents.
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Contributing Writer
May 20, 2022
expecting parents building crib for baby in nursery

When it comes to advice given to expecting parents, a lot of it sounds great—in theory. But with only so much time in the day, what do real parents say are the best (read: actually important) things you can do before giving birth? From making time for just the two of you to organizing baby’s wardrobe, here’s a checklist of things you can do now that can make those first few chaotic weeks easier to manage.

1. Prep your village

Having a newborn can feel a lot like being a freshman in high school, all over again. Everything is unfamiliar, the parents with older kids seem to know what they’re doing, and you’re looking around trying to find your people. That’s why connecting with other parents who are in the same boat can be helpful. “I wish I had joined a prenatal support group to get to know people,” says Katie Moore, a mom of two in Jersey City, NJ. These groups can be essential to meeting people who also have newborns, as well as gathering intel on what it’s like to raise a baby in the town you live in. They’re also invaluable for tips and insights into their experiences—including helping you suss out professionals you may want to connect with, like a lactation consultant, postpartum doula or baby nurse. “We don’t have family in the area, and I didn’t realize before my baby was born just how helpful an ongoing extra set of hands might be.”

2. Organize your baby gear

If you had a baby shower and received some hand-me-downs, you may already have an excess of gear on hand, which makes it a little hard to figure out what you have, what you still need, and what you can store for the future. Andy Martin, a dad of two based in Southern California, says that it’s a good idea to only unbox what you will use immediately. “I would put anything designed for six months and up away,” says Martin. But before that, check for doubles and brush up on your return policies. “If you’re choosing between a hand-me-down or a new piece of equipment, I would recommend returning the new piece of equipment and using that credit for formula, diapers or other essentials that you might need in the future,” he says.

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3. Prep baby’s wardrobe

Once you sort through everything, pull out any newborn and 0-3 month clothing. Double-check it’s all weather-appropriate—if you got a 0-3 month winter coat and your due date is the middle of the summer, put it in the giveaway or return pile. Then wash all the tiny outfits, socks and blankets (anything that will touch baby’s skin) with a baby-specific formula, like Dreft Newborn Liquid Detergent, designed to be hypoallergenic and as gentle as possible. Why? Newborn skin is especially delicate. Hand-me-downs may have collected dust and debris while in storage, and even new clothes could have chemical residues or other irritants from manufacturing and shipping. And don’t forget to pack a freshly washed going-home outfit in your hospital bag (you may want to bring several options depending on the weather!). “It hadn’t even occurred to me to wash baby clothes with my first child,” says Kate O’Connor, a mom of two in Denver, CO. “The person who gave me a heads-up was actually my mom, who came to our house to prep things while I was recovering in the hospital. She ended up washing everything!”

4. Pack your hospital bag

Having a bag ready to go can help you avoid panic if labor begins sooner than you thought. Some essentials: A robe, an extra long charger, toiletries, snacks, slipper socks and a reusable water bottle. “I must have packed and repacked my hospital bag a million times. It was the only thing I felt I had control over,” recalls Jenna Scott, a mom of three in Savannah, GA. “I always recommend parents bring something that reminds them of home. I love a comfy throw blanket that I can wrap myself up in. It made the hospital feel less sterile.”

5. Get your paperwork in order

From prepping estate plans to understanding your family leave policy, getting paperwork in order now can bring you peace of mind later. “As a financial planner and mom, I appreciated understanding what paperwork was needed for health insurance, maternity leave and disability insurance [ahead of time],” says Jenna van Leeuwen, a mom of one in Hoboken, NJ. “You have 30 days to get your baby on your health insurance, so it’s really great to have that ready to go rather than trying to figure it out with no sleep.” This may also include setting up a simple estate plan (aka a will) which outlines guardianship arrangements, just in case.

6. Focus on what you want to do

You don’t need to go on a far-flung babymoon to get the most out of the last days before your little one arrives. Setting aside time together, whether it’s to go out on a date or just curl up on the couch watching TV, can feel like a vacation in itself, say new parents. “I would suggest spending minimal time ‘prepping’ for the baby and as much time as possible on yourself, and your partner, if you have one,” says Stephanie Berger, a mom of one in Boston, MA. “You can always order anything you need when the baby arrives!” So take a day off and do nothing with your partner, schedule a massage, spend an entire weekend reading books in bed, daydream at a local cafe…whatever sounds good to you.

Specially designed for delicate infant skin, Dreft Newborn Liquid Detergent has been trusted for over 80 years and is the #1 recommended baby detergent by pediatricians and parents alike. Learn more at

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