How should I prepare for the birth of my baby?

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The best way to prepare for the birth of your baby is to participate in a birthing class. You can often find one at birthing facilities or OBGYN offices. Check with your doctor's office. If breastfeeding and infant care classes are offered, you should attend these as well.

Other ways to prepare for the birth of your baby are:

  • Find out what lactation services are provided at the center where you plan to have your baby. 
  • Ask if the facility has a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). If not, ask the staff what the plan will be if your baby requires more advanced care. 
  • Interview pediatricians and have a plan in place for after you leave the hospital. 
  • Educate yourself on safe sleep for baby.
  • Have your baby's car seat ready. Read the instructions for use.  Check with your local fire department or police station for a certified car seat installer to help you learn about car seat safety.
  • Ask your birthing facility how to pre-register for your delivery. This will help expedite the registration process. 
  • Tour your chosen birthing facility to become familiar with your surroundings.
  • Create a birth plan.
Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

At 28 weeks it is time to start talking with the healthcare provider about the birth plan. Starting the conversation early gives the woman time to get all her questions answered. It is also time to start thinking and making plans for practical aspects of the birth such as transportation to the hospital, including a back-up plan if labor begins early, and child care if there are young children in the family.

Exercise will not only keep you and your baby healthy throughout pregnancy, but it will help prepare you for the actual process of giving birth. Moderate exercise—even walking—can help build endurance and strength that you'll need during labor. Don't do anything too strenuous that could injure your baby or cut off your baby's oxygen supply, but try to be active every day.

You also may want to begin looking into pediatricians for your child after they are born.

Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist

You may want to keep a journal of preparatory items in anticipation for your newborn’s arrival as follows:

  • Prepare a place in your home for the baby
  • Purchase essential nursery equipment
  • Purchase a crib
  • Purchase and learn how to use a federally approved car seat
  • Select a physician to be your baby's doctor. 
  • Attend a newborn care class
  • Attend a breastfeeding class
  • Prepare a basic layette of essential clothing and equipment for the baby
  • List your expectations for yourself and others in your life
  • Determine birth options and psychologically prepare yourself for the option you choose
  • Practice relaxation, positioning, and breathing techniques

Before you deliver, it’s a good idea to prepare for your bundle of joy’s arrival by readying his room (or area in your room) and making sure that you have all the key supplies you’ll need -- for him and for you. This is a great job for your significant other if you have one conveniently handy.

If your baby will have his or her own room, paint in advance so that fumes have dissipated by the time Baby comes home. Don’t be the one to scrape off the old paint, especially if you are pregnant, as the risk of lead toxicity remains high for all homes painted before 1976. While you’re at it, cover all outlets, check smoke alarms, and be sure to remove all cleaners and toxins from lower cabinets.

Here are some things you'll want with you when you go to give birth: Cell phone and charger; laptop for sending instant birth announcement/photos or skyping/ichatting with faraway friends and relatives (check hospital's internet policy first); phone numbers for health insurance company and pediatrician (both should be informed right away about birth); nail file for baby; extra socks, flip-flops, change of clothes (still maternity, we're afraid), toiletries. And don't forget a car seat and going-home outfit for baby.

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

You'll need to pack four bags for the hospital when you give birth. Find out why, and what should go in each, by watching this video featuring nurse midwife Paula Greer.

If you're anxious days before delivery, pack a bag with medical records, the birth plan and personal care items. Don’t forget to bring comfortable clothes to wear home from the hospital. After months of squeezing into maternity clothes, new moms may finally be able to slip into a comfortable nightgown, socks and slippers to wear home.

Having a bag packed and ready to go helps eliminate unnecessary confusion and stress when the time comes to leave for the hospital. Here are suggestions on what to pack for labor and childbirth:

  • A copy of your birth plan
  • CDs and/or cassette tapes of favorite relaxing music
  • A personal focal point -- a picture, figure or design
  • Warm socks or slippers
  • Cornstarch, powder, lotion or oil for massage
  • Lip balm
  • Contact-lens case and glasses
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Snacks for your partner
  • Camera and film and/or video camera
  • List of phone numbers of people to call after the birth

For your hospital stay after delivery, you may want to bring:

  • Robe and slippers (nursing gowns are provided for your hospital stay)
  • Nursing bras
  • Cosmetic and grooming aids
  • A small amount of money for newspapers and gift-shop items
  • Maternity-sized clothes for going home

To bring your baby home from the hospital after delivery, you will need:

  • Undershirt
  • Newborn nightgown and stretch suit
  • One outfit
  • Receiving blanket
  • Booties, hat, lightweight blankets and/or outside blanket, depending on the weather
  • Special clothes for hospital baby pictures, if desired
  • An infant car seat. Before your baby is born, make sure to have an approved car seat. Practice using it and securing it correctly in your car. This is extremely important to your baby's safety and well-being.

Taking a childbirth class is a great way to prepare for the birth of your baby. It can ease many fears and anxieties and can clear up so many unknowns.

In terms of the day and the trip to the hospital, make sure you pack a bag and bring any personal items and anything that will bring you comfort. There's no way of knowing how long you will be staying in the hospital, so make sure you and your partner are prepared. Don't forget to bring the car seat for your baby.

Being prepared like this can leave you feeling confident and excited about your upcoming birth.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Whether you're giving birth in a hospital, your home, or a tub of warm water, your first time can be a tough one—emotionally and physically—mainly because it's all a big unknown. Use this checklist to do as much as you can to prepare for the big event:

  1. Develop a flexible birthing plan. While we admire any pregnant woman who comes up with a birthing plan describing in detail how she wants her delivery to go, we know from experience that you need to be somewhat flexible, because life is unpredictable. The best approach: Pick a birthing team that shares your values and philosophies. In collaboration with your doctor or midwife, you can then decide what kind of overall birth you want to have (a home birth with only calming words for pain management versus an elective C-section with lots of pain management…you get the idea).
  2. Tour the facilities where you're going to have the baby. The more you can familiarize yourself with the whos, whats, and wheres, the more comfortable and relaxed you'll be during delivery - and that plays a huge role in how your experience goes.
  3. Decide who's going to be in the delivery room with you for the birth.
  4. Have your bag packed and ready to go. There's nothing worse than scrambling to find your fuzzy slippers when contractions are coming fast and furiously. Enlist your significant other to making sure the bag gets there at approximately the same time you do and before junior does. Don't forget to include some non-essential items (like photos of your family), too.
  5. Know your pain management options well before you actually need to employ one of them.
  6. Discuss options for banking cord blood. I support banking cord blood, but you'll need to make the decision well before delivery, so the delivery team can take care of it at the time of the birth.
  7. Have your safety-approved car seat ready to go. No seat, no child coming home.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

Continue Learning about Labor Symptoms & Pregnancy

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.