Inside: Co-parenting has incredible benefits, but getting on the same page about everything from sleep to chores can sometimes be a challenge. That’s why we’re sharing nine crucial things to discuss before baby arrives. The more you can have figured out before baby comes, the better!
Having a baby can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but…it can also be one of the most stressful times of your life.
Thinking through a handful of important topics and/or decisions before baby comes can help make the first few weeks and months with a new baby a little bit (or a LOT) easier.
At the heart of this discussion is to think through after baby arrives. What do you want your new life to look like?
Of course, baby is a complete and total wild card. You cannot predict baby’s temperament beforehand, nor exactly how you and your partner will respond to the stresses of parenting.
But you can do your best to prepare, to start these conversations now. Starting on this side of pregnancy will leave the door open for future conversation as various challenges arise, which they inevitably will.
9 Crucial Things to Discuss Before Baby Arrives
With five kids of my own, the things on this list are what I wish my husband and I would have discussed at length before our first was born.
Take your time with these (unless of course you’re due in two weeks). They can definitely lead to some difficult discussions, depending on how much you and your partner think alike.
Go slow. One step at a time; one conversation at a time.
If you get stuck, pull in a counselor or other trusted mentor for outside help working through each of these issues.
You Might Also Like: How to Be a Supportive Husband During Pregnancy
1. Birth and Postpartum Plan
Your first labor and delivery is kind of a big deal. How it goes can have a major impact on your first few weeks – or potentially months – postpartum.
Talk honestly with your partner about your hopes for labor and delivery. Try your best to be open to his/her feedback, as sensitive a subject as this may be. Your partner hopefully knows you really well.
For instance, when you say you don’t want an epidural no matter what, make sure to listen to his/her feedback on that decision.
Do you typically tolerate pain well? Or are you screaming when you get a paper cut? That honest feedback could be vital to keeping an open mind as you make your birth plan.
After five deliveries (one emergency c-section, four v-bacs, and postpartum complications), I can confidently say that things rarely go the way you think they will.
Discussing “the fourth trimester” is just as critical as the birth plan, perhaps even more so.
Make sure to discuss things like paternity leave, relatives visiting (or NOT visiting), whether or not you should hire a postpartum doula, and what you think you’ll need to make the best recovery possible.
2. Parenting Philosophy
There’s so much to unpack here, but I’ll do my best to keep in short.
When you’re pregnant, you don’t really consider how much parenting philosophy/style will impact your first year. But oh, how much it does!
Will you let your baby cry-it-out? How long? Are you drawn to attachment parenting? Do you want your baby to be equally attached to both of you?
Is your partner worried about holding baby too long? How will he/she handle you being completely wrapped up in baby’s needs for the first few months? How will you nurture your partnership or marriage during baby’s first year?
You’ll want to research and discuss these things with your partner before baby is born. Because afterwards? Well, you’ll both be sleep-deprived as heck, which can lead to nasty fights that could have been amicable conversations.
Books and advice abound on the other side of the attachment parenting aisle, so take your pick if that’s your jam.
But if you do find yourself drawn to attachment/gentle parenting (note: I did not say crunchy/natural), THIS book is the one I wish I’d had when I first started having babies.
Whatever you choose, please steer clear of THIS philosophy and associated books. It can be extremely traumatic and harmful for both babies and parents.
3. Finding the Right Pediatrician
Finding a pediatrician doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. You just ask your insurance who is in network and pick the one that’s closest to home…right?
Unless you have extremely limited options or limited transportation, please don’t do that. You’re going to want to put a little more thought into this decision.
You see a pediatrician what feels like every other week during the first year of your baby’s life (and with some babies, it is). You’ll be answering all kinds of questions when you visit.
- How long are you planning to breastfeed?
- Do you always lay baby down to sleep on his/her back?
- Are you feeding him/her pureed foods only at XYZ age?
These questions might not seem like a big deal now, but they can be depending on your parenting choices. Signing up to feel judged every time you go isn’t what you want.
The best way to find a pediatrician that’s a good fit is to figure out what you think will be your parenting style. Next, ask for personal recommendations.
Join mom Facebook groups in your area, and ask for pediatricians they recommend. Make sure to clarify anything you think might be relevant, like “supportive of formula feeding” or “open to baby-led weaning”.
Moms will definitely volunteer names and will absolutely tell you who NOT to go to.
Remember that you can always change pediatricians, but it can be a pain in the butt. Getting it right on the first try can be one less thing to deal with in your baby’s first year.
4. Staying Home v. Going Back to Work
Before baby arrives, you should discuss whether or not you will be returning to work after your maternity leave is over. You’re going to want to look at your projected spending and weigh that against your savings, along with all other sources of income besides your own.
Evaluate both sources of income and career trajectories/types: maybe it’s more feasible for your partner to stay home for a year? It’s worth weighing all the options.
This decision isn’t one to be made lightly…but it also isn’t something that needs to be set in stone. You can always try returning to work for a set period, say three months. Obviously don’t tell your employer that, but you and your partner can decide this between you.
Make sure to ask your employer if working remotely is an option. If it is, this could potentially be the best arrangement, especially if you absolutely need the income.
Working from home with a baby has its cons, but it’s also extremely doable compared to complications (and expenses) like finding childcare and needing time off when your baby is ill.
One parent staying home with a newborn can potentially be a valuable experience if your finances allow it. This gives you time for a deeper bonding and saves a TON of money on childcare.
However, know that you can still get in quality time with your infant if you do decide to return to work. You can try to shift their nap schedules and sleep/wake times to get more awake time after you get home from work.
5. Divvying Up Household Tasks
Besides money, one of the things new parents fight about most is division of labor. If you didn’t have this worked out before baby, adding another [very needy] member to the family is only going to make things worse.
The most important thing to remember as you discuss this is that every couple is different. Just because a couple you know splits household jobs a certain way doesn’t mean you need to.
And you don’t always need to worry about everything being “equal”.
That sounds controversial, I know, but if one partner works long hours outside the home, and another stays home, it might make sense for one partner to do “more” for a certain period of time.
Be sure to cover things like paying the bills (automate this whenever possible), jobs outside the home, scheduling appointments, cooking (pssst – try these easy freezer meals to take some of the load off!), taking care of the car.
Talk it all out before baby arrives.
If you aren’t happy with the division of labor? Speak now. NOW. One more for good measure: now.
If you can’t agree, you can always consider hiring out cleaning or accepting that take-out will be the norm for a good long while is a reasonable compromise. Just make sure to look at your budget before you make final decisions on hiring out household tasks.
6. Cleaning & Babyproofing Your Home
Part of planning for the arrival is making sure the baby has a clean, safe space to come home to. Of course, all homes have everyday wear and tear, but an initial deep cleaning before baby arrives can help take some of your stress away.
It can be a therapeutic experience to know that you and your baby have a cozy, clean haven to come home to.
When it comes to babyproofing, it may be a while before your baby begins moving around independently. However, it helps to have a plan of action on what areas need babyproofing in your home (less is more, in our opinion).
Remember: the more baby-friendly you can make your home, the fewer problems you’ll have and the less exhausting it will be when they start crawling and walking.
It’s far easier to rearrange the items in cabinets than to lock them all up, for instance.
It’s easier to put your favorite breakables away for a season then to feel anxious all the time that your baby will break them.
7. Breastfeeding v. Formula Feeding
If you plan to breastfeed, you will need time to prepare for the process. It can help to get comfortable with nursing pads, nursing bras, sterilizing baby bottles, and pumping. You can ask other parents about their experiences and advice.
What about pumping? Is your partner willing or able to take night feeding shifts?
Keep in mind that if you do plan on bottle-feeding at all (pumped milk or formula), baby will need at least one bottle a day or every other day to continue taking one.
Pumping you will need to learn and trouble-shoot as you go. It can be difficult to space pumping and breastfeeding just right, so you still have milk when feeding time comes.
THIS all about pumping course can be really helpful if you are planning on returning to work and pumping is a necessity.
I rarely see this recommended by parents or professionals, but discussing formula feeding before baby arrives can be so helpful.
Discussing questions like:
- What if breastfeeding doesn’t work?
- How long will you keep trying to make it work?
- Have you considered exclusively formula feeding but are afraid of judgment?
Working through your feelings about formula now, and reading about other mom’s experiences with formula feeding can be really valuable. At least you won’t be caught off guard if for whatever reason, breastfeeding doesn’t work out.
8. All Things Baby Sleep
Separate sleep spaces are strongly encouraged, especially when your baby is young.
But just because baby has her own sleep space doesn’t mean she needs to be in another room far away from you.
You can have a crib or bassinet in the same room while you sleep, right by your bed if you like, so you can easily nurse and put baby back to sleep without leaving your bed (we used THIS style bassinet with our third and fourth babies, and loved it!).
One of the biggest fears of independent sleeping is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Room-sharing can be a great way to keep track of your baby’s breathing throughout the night as you wake up periodically.
Discuss with your partner what you want to do, depending on available space in your room or home. Make sure to consider things like:
- Is your partner a light or deep sleeper?
- How do you both tolerate lack of sleep (you might not know yet)?
- Are you taking turns with middle of the night feeds?
Either choice is fine, as long as you have a separate sleep space for baby.
Make sure to discuss how will handle middle of the night feedings. Obviously, splitting the work in any way is only possible if you are pumping regularly (here’s another plug for THIS pumping course).
There are so many ways to make this work. You can go to bed early and have your partner take the late night feeding (anywhere from 10-11:30 p.m.). That way, you can get a solid stretch of sleep. You could also do the opposite.
Good rest is so, so important! Especially if both parents are working full-time, try to figure out a way for everyone to get the most sleep possible.
9. Boundaries with Grandparents (& Other Extended Family)
Thankfully, more parents are working hard to establish healthy boundaries with extended family, especially grandparents.
Grandparents may have unhealthy expectations about how often they should get to see their grandchildren, or you, the parent, might have unrealistic expectations about how often grandma and grandpa are going to watch your baby.
Boundaries need to go both ways, so first have a conversation with your partner about any concerns. Then, bring extended family into the mix to discuss everyone’s thoughts and needs.
This initial conversation can be an extremely important, and hopefully it will help prevent disputes and/or resentment later on.
Having a baby is amazing…but you never know what will come out of the woodwork after baby is born. Trust me: you just.never.know.
It’s best to be prepared to deal with any problems you can currently foresee (see THIS post for help with overbearing grandparents). That way you’ll have laid the groundwork for open discussions as things come up down the road.
For your sake, I hope that you have a wonderful experience with extended family. Every parent deserves a strong support network.
Discussing These Things Before Baby Comes Is Hard, But Worth It
Having a baby is amazing, and scary and exciting, all at the same time.
I know it can be overwhelming to think about all the things above right now. But I promise you: it’s worth taking the time. It’s worth having – or at least starting – the hard conversations on this side of pregnancy.
Also, make sure you’re making time for self-care NOW. Play and rest are so important, and you’ll have a lot more time for it before baby arrives.
Here’s to a smooth labor and delivery, and an amazing start to your parenting journey!
Owner of Growing Serendipity, June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism, which she does at This Simple Balance. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.