The first few days of motherhood are ones that you're never going to forget. You could experience a rush of love unlike anything you've felt before — as well as overwhelming exhaustion. As you and your partner adjust to your new life with the baby, you shouldn't have to worry about stuff like stocking up on snacks or running out of diapers. Fortunately, there's plenty that you can do ahead of time to make the transition more seamless.
We've gathered advice from top experts about what you should do (and when) in the final months and weeks leading up to your due date—so you'll be able to relax more and enjoy those early moments with your bundle of joy.
Two months before
Shop for supplies It might seem a bit premature to stock up on things like diapers, wipes, and undershirts, but do it now, since chances of early delivery or complications increase around the seventh month of pregnancy, notes Elaine Farber, a baby nurse and author of Baby Lists: What to Do and What to Get to Prepare for Baby. "Coming home from the hospital without having it all ready can make for a very disorganized transition," she says—and you don't want to have to run to the store to buy everything at this busy time.
Choose a pediatrician During the first week, you'll need to take your baby to her first checkup, so it's important to have a doctor picked out ahead of time. Ask your friends or ob-gyn to give you a referral. Once you have a short list of names, write down a list of questions and then set up office visits to meet the candidates in person, suggests Joan Nosakhere, a neonatal nurse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's important that your child's pediatrician be someone you like and who takes the time to address your concerns. "Also find out how the doctor can be reached in an emergency, and how quickly the office will return your call if you have questions," Nosakhere suggests.
Line up help Most mothers will end up needing some outside support in the beginning, so it's wise to have names and numbers of professional resources handy, such as a lactation consultant, etc.
You'll also find it extremely helpful to approach close family and friends for assistance ahead of time. It may be difficult to anticipate when exactly you'll need them, so Farber suggests asking your mom, sister-in-law, or best friend if she could commit to babysitting for an hour each week—with the time being flexible—during the first month, if you could not hire a yaya. You'll be able to use that downtime to catch up on much-needed sleep, run errands, get a manicure, or simply take a bath.
Anticipate your feelings This might not make sense now, but expecting that you'll experience a myriad of emotions (some of them good, some of them bad) during the first few weeks can reduce pressure down the line to feel a certain way. "So many mothers think that they should instantly fall in love with their baby, but that's not always the case, and they think something is wrong with them if they don't," says Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist.
"You can be flooded with confusing feelings that might include love one minute and anxiety or terror at being a parent next." It's perfectly normal to go through this.
Get your gear in gear. By now you've probably already picked out your baby's equipment, like a crib, car seat, stroller, and carrier (if not, do so—stat!). Even though you still have a few weeks before you're likely to use them, assemble them now and learn how they work, since it can be a time-consuming process. "You'll save precious hours later on if you familiarize yourself with these pieces now," Nosakhere says. Plus, if you don't love something as much as you expected after it was assembled or delivered, you'll still have time to swap it for a different one without much hassle.
Figure out your food situation Staying nourished and keeping up your energy are essential for your baby's (and your) well-being, but you won't have much time to devote to cooking in those first days and weeks. Prepare your favorite stews, casseroles, and pasta now, and place them in the freezer so you'll have healthy meals to go later, assuming you won't have anyone to do the cooking for you later on. Don't pack your fridge and freezer too tight, in case family and friends may offer to drop off some food too.
Learn a relaxation technique For the first six weeks after giving birth, your hormones will still be out of whack, so you might find that you're moodier than normal. On top of that, you'll likely feel overwhelmed. It's important to figure out some techniques to help you de-stress before you need them, Lerner says. These might include doing deep-breathing exercises, listening to a meditation playlist, spritzing your pillow with lavender spray, or getting a massage from a therapist who is familiar with postpartum care.
Soak it in There shouldn't be much prep work for you to do. In the coming months, you'll have limited time to focus on yourself, so take this opportunity to sit in a comfy chair and just relax. Watch a movie you love, revisit a favorite book, or simply place your hands on your belly and daydream about your baby.
This story first appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Smart Parenting magazine.
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* Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.