20 must-read tips to help you prepare for a new baby

The best baby preparation tips to see you through birth and beyond

Starting a family is possibly the biggest change you’ll ever face, and the challenges thrown at you are both practical and emotional. Calling all new parents, we can help you tool up with the best baby preparation tips to see you through birth and beyond.

Contents

  • Section One: Pregnancy
  • Section Two: Preparation
  • Section Three: Birth
  • Section Four: First two weeks

Section One: Pregnancy

1. Experiment with gentle jogging

“If there’s one tip I always give mums and mums-to-be it is this: listen carefully to your body both when exercising and after your workouts. You may well be a seasoned marathon runner but if your pregnant body is telling you to slow down and stop the distance running, then take note,” says Dr Joanna Helcké, pregnancy and postnatal fitness specialist.

2 Shop so frequently and thoroughly, that you know every employee by first name in Mothercare

Hazelann Williams, reviews editor for MadeForMums suggests:When you’re pregnant, the amount of stuff you need to buy before your baby arrives can seem endless and a bit baffling. How do you know what the best car seat is, buggy or baby monitor? Make a list, shop around, try out as many products as you can before you buy and keep receipts.” Consult Which?, when purchasing car seats, cots and any product that relies on safety and security.

3. Bump, meet bump

There are numerous events where you can meet newborn experts and socialise with couples who are also gearing up for parenthood. Try The Baby Show with MadeForMums (www.thebabyshow.co.uk) in the Kensington Olympia from the 21-23 October 2016, or in 2017 in Birmingham. Alternatively, find a Mothercare Expectant Parent event at stores nationwide, which conveniently are completely free.

4. You glow, girl

At seven weeks, you might get a ‘pregnancy glow’. Your body is flooded with extra oestrogen and as such, expectant mothers have full lustrous hair and a dewy complexion worthy of a Shakespearean nymph. This is the perfect opportunity to casually plan in a party (did someone say: “baby shower” ?). Hopefully, you’ll feel at the top of your game, but there’s no harm calling off social occasions ‘the glow’ goes AWOL and morning sickness sets in.

5. My emotions are driving me to distraction!

It’s normal to experience many conflicting emotions throughout pregnancy. Tommy’s – a charity that researches pregnancy health – says women should expect some turmoil, because it’s likely they’ll feel happy, sad, excited and worried all at the same time. Hormones oestrogen and progesterone may contribute to the highs and lows: “Don’t be hard on yourself if you find yourself anxious and stressed about these sort of things. It doesn’t mean it was a mistake to get pregnant or that you won’t love your baby. You don’t need to feel guilty about feeling down at a time when other people expect you to be happy. How you feel is how you feel.”

Section Two: Preparation

6. Expect the unexpected and save lives

Tracey Taylor from the British Red Cross is determined that parents should learn first aid as a priority before welcoming a baby into the world: “We all hope that we’ll never be in a situation where our baby or child chokes or has a burn or cut, but just learning simple first aid skills can give parents the confidence to help their baby in an emergency. There are plenty of ways to learn, whether it’s booking a first aid course, learning online or downloading the free British Red Cross Baby and Child First Aid app. Setting aside just a little bit of time to learn could make a huge difference.”

7. My birth plan? Oh, under a full moon, in a pool of salt water tears, cried by Daniel Radcliffe fans. Please.

Your birth plan is a record of what should happen during labour and birth, depending on your medical history, circumstances and the services available at the hospital. It includes, but is not limited to, pain relief, who will be with you, where you give birth, how you give birth, and any intervention equipment such as forceps. The NHS has an interactive and printable birth plan that you can talk through with your midwife.

8. Keep lip balm and lots of water close to hand 

Dehydration is common during pregnancy thanks to a thirsty baby! Gulping down lots of water helps, but when you’re heading to the delivery room keep a lip balm close at hand to soothe cracked, trapped and dry lips. You’ll be drying out after all that breathing, puffing, panting and gas and air!

9. Pack a picnic

When you’re planning your trip to the hospital, plan a food shop for snacks – fruit, chocolate, sandwiches, croissants, you name it – because you could be in for a long wait once you arrive, or the canteen might be closed. Poor Lola King’s water broke while queuing for lunch: “The nursing staff assured me I probably had some time to kill, so we waddled around to get some food. Just as I was served my jacket potato and beans, woosh! My water broke!”

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Section Three: Birth

10. If your heartburn is gone, it could be game on!

You’re at 40 weeks and every creak, groan and rumble your body makes convinces you it’s about to go spectacularly into labour. The anticipation is excruciating! But the real tell is a sudden relief from heartburn. The baby has (finally) dropped down into your pelvis and ready to meet the world, labour could be very close.

11. Positive mental attitude will prepare you for birth

Maggie Howell from NatalHypnotherathy.co.uk insists mothers must protect themselves from negative images about birth: “When someone jumps in to tell you about their horror story stop them politely and ask them about the good bits they remember. Visualise these happier memories and indulge yourself by fantasising about your perfect birth. Allow yourself to go over it in great detail from beginning to end. Do this daily in the last few weeks of birth and you’ll be more mentally prepared when you enter the delivery room.”

12. And physical relaxation could be within reach too

Take up ante natal Yoga (find out more at BirthLight or YogaBirth – it can make a huge difference to your posture, core strength and breathing. But Maggie also suggests relaxing your body using meditation “Put aside 15 minutes a couple of times a week to practice taking yourself into a physically relaxed state. Spend a few moments breathing calmly, then start at the top of your head and imagine letting go of any tension, then move down to your neck, shoulders arms and so on. With each muscle group actively relax the muscles and release any tension. By regularly practicing this during pregnancy you can do this with ease during the birth.”

13. Pick music to put you in a good frame of mind

Here’s a free 15-minute pregnancy relaxation track, but the music you chose to give birth to may impact your delivery. A fast tempo, uplifting chorus line, heavy metal or scatting jazz might prove too distracting (or just your cup of tea!) Mumsnet readers suggest more soothing tones, such as Cafe Del Mar Ibiza mixes, Enya (for water births) and even Radio 2. Who wouldn’t love to come into the world listening to Simon Mayo’s Confessions!

Section Four: First two weeks

14. My baby is flakey

Your baby’s skin might be quite dry for the few few weeks of their life. Wallowing in amniotic fluid for nine months is pretty cushy living, but it means they can’t shed skin until they’re born. They’ll be crusty and peely, have translucent patches where you can see birthmarks and even red dots at the back of the head and neck, or even between the eyes.

While they grow more pink baby layers, your best plan of action is to moisturise and bathe delicately. Keep Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream and olive oil (which doctors suggest soothes every ailment!) in your top drawer just in case those peeling parts get sore. It’s been a staple for millions of mums and dads for over 80 years, happily treating nappy rash, skin irritation and eczema. Remember, one in five children suffer from eczema, so if your baby appears in discomfort, seek advice from your GP as early as possible.

15. Pure and simple

The NHS advises you don’t have to bathe your baby everyday, but when it is bath time use plain water. It’s gentler on their very delicate skin in the first month.

16. Breastfeeding

Clare Byam-Cook, breastfeeding expert and author of ‘What to Expect when you’re Breastfeeding…..and what if you can’t?’ says: “Breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as everyone makes out, so do your research before your baby is born.” Mumsnet recommended The Contented Little Baby Book to help get in a routine, but Clare suggests you’ll gel with an author who “reflects the way you would like to breastfeed your baby, and keeps an open mind on things like feeding on demand versus a strict routine. You might change your views once your baby is born!” Experiment with products and equipment recommended by other couples too, because they’re in the same boat and know the helpful items, versus the hindrances.

17. Accept help

Louise Knowles gave birth to Lily four months ago and says her mother-in-law was an extra pair of hands she couldn’t do without: “Accept any help you’re offered. Everyone says it and I didn’t realise how true it was until Lily came along. We had Tom’s mum come and stay for a few weeks when he first went back to work, and at first I wasn’t sure about it. I needed to feel like I could cope on my own, but it was such a huge help and I felt so much more confident when she’d gone.” Sarah Beeson, parenting expert and author of ‘Happy Baby, Happy Family’ agrees: “You won’t know automatically what to do in every situation but no-one has your baby’s best interests at heart more than you. Never hesitate to ask for professional health advice when you need it.”

18. No rest for the wicked

Mum of two, Helen Daniel, spoke of her experience with her son, which will be familiar to mums and dads of newborns: “I ran backwards and forwards every 20 minutes settling down my two week old son. We tried to get the sleep routine sorted, but he resisted with every bone in his body. Once he’s settled it’s 11pm, but it’s a two hour fight when my brain just wants sleep.” Brand new babies have no distinction between night and day, and it’s completely normal for them to have very short sleep cycles. “White noise!” recommends Louise Knowles: “It makes Lily sleep a hundred times better.” White Noise is £1.49 on iTunes, but YouTube has a treasure trove of free long-play white noises. Try this gentle one to start with.

19. How do you go to bed?

Brand new babies sleep best in a sling or in arms, but there are different beds to try too, for example the Bambeano Baby Bean Bag – available from Bean Bag Bazaar – was designed to mimic the curved feeling of the womb with a pliable bean filling.

20. Newborn technology

Sometimes hanging on the line for a GP is anxiety provoking, but an app called Ask The Midwife could be about to speed things up. When launched, it gives all women and families who are accessing Maternity Care in the UK the option to speak to midwives whenever they want, at the touch of a button. Users download the app, ask any questions regarding pregnancy, birth and beyond and get a response within four hours from a UK Registered Midwife. “Asks” cost £1.99 each after an initial free question, but dedicated ten minute chats are also available, as are monthly subscriptions.

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