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Slideshow: Baby's on the Way. Are You Ready?
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Stock the Freezer and Pantry
A lot of moms start "nesting" as their baby's arrival gets closer. They get their home ready by cooking and cleaning. Follow your instincts! Freeze casseroles, soups, and other easy meals that you can simply heat and eat. Fill the freezer and pantry with staples like frozen veggies, pasta, rice, healthy cereals, and canned goods.
Baby-Proof Your House
Before your baby's old enough to explore, now's the time to make your home safe:
Cover all electrical outlets with plugs.
Put safety latches on cabinet doors.
Install gates at the bottom and top of steps.
Put padding on all sharp corners.
Tie cords out of reach. Move furniture away from them.
Set your water heater to 125 degrees or lower.
Buy and Install a Car Seat
Way before your due date, install a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your car. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and practice adjusting the straps and buckles. Often you can find a certified child passenger safety expert at a hospital, police station, or fire department. Ask the expert if you've installed it right.
Get Older Kids and Pets Ready
Talk to older children about life with a new baby. Look at their baby pictures and tell them how excited you were when they were born. Give them a job like choosing the baby's coming-home outfit. Spend less time with pets now to ready them for getting less of your attention. Have friends with babies visit so pets can get used to the sounds. Install a gate to the nursery and make it off-limits now.
Choose a Pediatrician
Ask parents you trust for names of their baby doctors. Or check with your obstetrician. Meet in person with at least two doctors. Ask about office hours, if doctors or nurses are available by phone or email, and emergencies after hours. Find out now when to call or come in for a sick baby -- how high a fever, how much spit-up, a cold for how many days -- so you know what to expect.
Check Out Day Care
If you'll eventually need child care, start looking now. That gives you time to visit day care centers or interview sitters -- and get on waiting lists. Ask about cleaning routines, teacher credentials, illness policies, safety plans, and parent communication. Talk to other parents and your pediatrician for referrals.
Make Dinner Plans
When people ask if they can help, say yes. They can bring meals after the baby is born. You'll be busy feeding and changing the baby and trying to get sleep. Yet you'll still have to eat. Ask for fresh or freezer-ready meals that don't need elaborate cooking. Let them know if you have any diet issues and your older kids' favorite foods.
Plan for Sleep
New babies aren't always the greatest sleepers. To help you and your partner get some rest, take turns getting up with the baby if you can. Use a guest room or sleeper sofa -- away from the nursery -- as the place to go for sleep. If you're bottle feeding, every other night, one of you can get a good night's sleep.
Prepare for Breastfeeding
Planning to breastfeed your baby? Start getting ready while you're pregnant. Let your partner and your doctor know that you want to breastfeed. Consider taking a breastfeeding class, and ask your doctor to recommend a lactation consultant. Look into getting a breast pump, and if you work outside the home, talk to your employer about where you can pump breast milk when you're back on the job.
Get Diapers and Formula
You don't want to reach for a clean diaper at 3 a.m. and find you're all out. Avoid late-night store runs by stocking up. Get a couple different brands and sizes early on until you find the size and brand you like. To make sure your nursery is never bare, sign up for monthly diaper and formula shipments. Search online for diaper and formula companies that deliver.
Get Smart About Babies
What does that cry mean? Should you use a pacifier? How many hours should a baby sleep? Ask your doctor for favorite parenting books or web sites. Learn as much as you can about newborns before you bring yours home. But trust your gut -- and your pediatrician. If you have questions, don't feel bad about calling the doctor to ask.
Pack for the Hospital
About a month before you're due, pack a bag and put it in an easy-to-grab place. Include comfy clothes, nursing bras (even if you don't plan to nurse), slippers or non-skid socks, headbands or ponytail holders, toiletries, birth plan and insurance card, camera, change for the vending machine, and clothes/toiletries for your partner. Add an outfit, diapers, and blankets for your brand new baby.
Take Care of Mom
Your baby will be awesome and you'll love him so much. But no matter how cute he is, you'll want and need time for yourself. Plan ahead now for a girls' night out in a few weeks. Buy some new books or DVDs of a TV series you want to watch. Get a pedicure or take a walk. Don't feel guilty about hiring a sitter to give yourself a baby break every once in a while.
American Academy of Pediatrics: "Prepare for Breastfeeding Success -- Make Sure You and Your Health Care Professional Have All of the Facts!"
The American Council on Exercise: "While You Wait for Baby: Nesting and Stocking the Kitchen for Easy, Nutritious Meals."
Child Care Resource and Referral, John A. Logan College: "Choosing Child Care."
HealthyChildren.org: "Buying Diapers," "Car Seats: Information for Families for 2013," "Finding a Pediatrician," "Going Home."
The Humane Society: "Introducing Your Pet and New Baby."
SafeKids.org: "Who We Are."
University of Michigan Health System: "New Baby Sibling."
Virginia Women's Center: "Packing your hospital bag for delivery."
Stephanie Walsh, MD, pediatrician; medical director of child wellness, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
WomensHealth.gov: "Breastfeeding," "Making your home safe for baby," "Pregnancy: Last minute to-dos."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.