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Preparing your family for a new baby

Help get your growing family ready for the changes a new baby will bring.

Expecting baby No. 1? Waiting for the next addition to an established brood? Either way, you'll want to do some planning to prepare for the new addition.

Some things, like what you'll name your little one, can be decided when your baby arrives. In other cases, it might be better to tackle the issue sooner rather than later.

Prepare your finances

It's a good idea to sit down and start planning for the financial impact of a baby as soon as possible. Some areas to focus on include:

Maternity leave. Your company's human resources department can outline your options. You might be able to use one or a combination of:

  • Sick leave.
  • Vacation time.
  • Holiday hours.
  • Short-term disability benefits.

The Family and Medical Leave Act also allows both men and women to take up to 12 weeks off without pay after the birth or adoption of a baby. Some high-paid employees and small businesses are exempt.

Household budgets. Make a list of ongoing expenses (such as diapers and formula) and one-time bigger purchases (such as a stroller or crib). This can help with the financial juggling.

Does your maternity leave involve unpaid time or a reduced salary? Talk about how to cover household costs during that time. Don't forget to plan on covering medical-insurance premiums if they aren't paid by your employer.

Child care. Finding good-quality child care can take time. Start early if you're going to need this service. It also can be expensive. Be sure to include the cost when planning the family's financial future.

Every state has programs to help families in need. They may offer:

  • Free prenatal and childbirth care.
  • Nutrition and food support.
  • Health insurance for babies and children.

To learn what's available, contact your local health department.

Prepare other kids

It's normal for parents to worry about how older children will accept a new baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these ideas to help siblings warm up to their new role:

  • Cuddle up with books written for children about getting a new brother or sister.
  • Buy a doll—for boys too—so that they can cradle, kiss and change diapers for their own "baby."
  • Get older children involved. They can help decorate the nursery or pick out new clothes. Or let them come to a doctor's visit. They can listen to the baby's heartbeat.
  • Show older kids their own baby pictures.
  • Ask a few people to bring a special big-brother or big-sister gift when they visit.
  • Be honest but reassuring. Explain that you'll be away at the hospital when the baby is born but that you'll return. Tell them that babies need a lot of attention. But let them know that big brothers and sisters can be big helpers.
  • Let them know they are loved. Talk with them. Listen to music together. Read or play games together. Or have grandparents, aunts, uncles and dad spend one-on-one time with them.

Prepare your home schedule

Taking care of a new baby is a lot of work. Make a plan with your partner for covering household tasks after the baby arrives. But recognize that you may have to adapt as needs change.

Here are a few tips for getting household tasks done once the baby arrives:

  • Split up the household duties and post the list on the fridge.
  • Partner up to get big tasks done.
  • Tackle some smaller jobs, such as preparing dinner, as a couple too. This encourages togetherness.
  • Alternate some of the more draining jobs. This will come in handy later, when early-morning or late-night feedings shake up the household schedule.
  • Talk often. Share your thoughts and feelings, and listen to your partner's. This can head off negative emotions, such as jealousy and anger. And it will encourage positive feelings, such as confidence and comfort.
  • Praise each other often. Everyone likes to hear about jobs well done.

Your relationship with your partner needs care too. Every day, make a point to take a little time to reconnect with each other. It can even be while clearing the dishes after dinner or taking a walk together. Regular date nights are also a great way to keep a relationship strong. Take date nights both before baby is born and as your family grows.

Reviewed 2/27/2024

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