How to get ready for a baby: your ultimate checklist of things to do before baby is born

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Things to do to prepare for a new baby: your ultimate pre-baby checklist

As an expecting mom, finding all the things you need to do to prepare for your new baby can feel super overwhelming. From surviving the first trimester to registering for your baby, pregnancy is a lot. Combine that with the seemingly never-ending list of things to do before your baby is born, and cue stress.

Then you’re learning about breastfeeding, and preparing for labor and delivery – it’s a ton to figure out. And by the time you’re heading into the third trimester you’re likely totally stressed that your baby will be here soon and that you’re not ready yet.

It’s ok. I got you, mamma. After realizing so many pregnant women had these same concerns, I put together a ton of tips (just keep scrolling) and a FREE crash course on baby prep. You’re in the right spot for all the resources you need to fully prepare for your new arrival. This is the ULTIMATE checklist of things to do before your baby’s arrival.

Warning – it’s a long one, so pin it for later.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you buy something using one of my links I may receive a small commission – at no additional cost to you! How cool is that? It’s kind of boring, but feel free to read my full disclosure.

What to do when you don’t know where to start preparing for a baby

It’s ok. We’ll start at the beginning. If you’ve already covered something you’re ahead of the game. If not, this list makes sure you won’t miss anything. Also, keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily in order. I’ll let you know when you should aim to complete each item on the list. 

So, let’s dive in. 

Things to do to get ready for a new baby

Set up your baby registry

This one is a no-brainer, but can actually end up causing a lot of stress. While almost everyone knows what a baby registry is and that they want one, the execution can be tricky. 

Do you want an online registry? Do you want to register in a store? And what the heck do you really need? 

Guess what — I can help with that too. Click here to download your free baby registry guide. It covers the what, when, and how to register for your baby, and (shocking) another checklist of everything you’ll need. 

In the posts below you’ll find all my top picks for your registry. The nursery post includes all things crib, sheet, mattress, and decor related.

The “on the go” post includes all car seat, baby carrier, and stroller recommendations.

Finally, part three is pretty self-explanatory but includes all the household items as well as feeding. 

Related: Baby Registry Part 1: The Nursery

Related: Registry Guide Part 2: On the Go

Related: Baby Registry Part 3: Feeding, Clothing, Bath & General Household Items

If you’re still stumped and know you want even more help, check out The Registry Fairy.  It will walk you through the registry process from A to Z, and you can review all our top registry picks, and alternates for each budget.

If you just want to get right into it, you can look through all the newborn essentials in this newborn baby checklist printable.

Related: Newborn baby essentials checklist (+printable)

Order nursery furniture

Do this at least 12 weeks before your due date. I know it sounds crazy, but even some big-box retailers might not have what you want in stock, and it can take 12 weeks for delivery. I know this because my furniture wasn’t delivered until the day I delivered. My father-in-law had to meet the delivery truck because I was busy in labor. Not my best planning. 

If you’re running late on this, don’t stress. It’s not like you need the crib or dresser immediately anyway, but know that the longer you wait the less time you’ll have before the baby arrives to get the nursery set up exactly the way you want it. 

Begin Diaper Stockpile

You’ll probably get some diapers and wipes at your shower, but don’t rely on those for your stockpile. Especially if you’re looking to get the best prices. Begin your diaper stockpile as early as the beginning of your second trimester so you can buy every time there is a sale. Trust me, you WILL use all those diapers. 

If you’re interested in how to build your diaper stockpile and get the best price on diapers (we only used name brand with our first) you can check out this post on building your diaper stockpile. 

Related: How to build your diaper stockpile and get massive savings on diapers the first year

Hospital Pre-Registration & Tour

You’re technically supposed to pre-register at the hospital during your first trimester. Your OB will give you your hospital information at your pregnancy confirmation appointment. I definitely spaced on this and didn’t do it until a couple of months before I was due. 

Try to get it done sooner rather than later in case you go into labor early. Insurance and logistics aren’t what you want to be thinking about when you show up to deliver your baby. 

On that note, take your hospital tour two months before you’re due. You’ll want to do this early for the same reason you pre-register early. No one ever plans to have a baby two months early. It just happens. (Rarely – don’t stress.) 

Making sure you have a lay of the land will only help to calm you down in the unlikely event of an emergency. 

Wash newborn clothes 

You don’t need to use Dreft. Any fragrance-free laundry detergent works. We’ve used All Free & Clear since my first daughter was born and neither baby has issues. We wash their clothes with ours occasionally and haven’t ever had any problems. 

Make sure your onesies and sleepers are washed about a month before you’re due. No need to do this any earlier because if the baby is that early she’ll need preemie clothes anyway. 

{Mom tip: Don’t take all the tags off the Newborn clothes if you get a ton. You don’t know how big your baby will be or how long she’ll wear them. If you deliver an 8-9lb. Baby, you might even skip the Newborn size.} 

Determine if you want a birth doula (then hire her)

If you’ve never heard of a doula, it’s basically a trained birth coach. They’re your advocate and can help you understand your options during labor, and for us added a ton of peace of mind. If you’re planning a medication-free birth you should definitely consider hiring a doula. 

We weren’t set on medication-free and hired a doula both times anyway. If you’re deciding whether or not you want a doula, this might help. 

Related: What’s a doula, and why you’d want one

If you want a doula, hire one earlier during your pregnancy to maximize your benefit, as they will provide support along the way. 

Pack your hospital bag

Aim to get your bags packed by 35-36 weeks. This will ensure *most* of you aren’t scrambling when you go into labor without a bag packed. 

You’ll want to pack a bag for yourself, for your spouse/significant other, and for the baby. Leave it in your trunk or by the door. Sometimes you don’t get a lot of notice before the main event, and having your bag packed but hidden in the back of your guest closet makes it hard for someone else to find, if necessary.

And guess what — I have a list for you. Check out what to pack in your hospital bag here. You can even grab a downloadable checklist directly from the post. 

Related: The complete hospital bag checklist for mom, dad, and baby

Setup the Nursery

This is an “anytime during pregnancy” to-do. You probably won’t have all your big furniture until later, but you can pick out your paint and color scheme, any theme you want, and small details anytime you like. 

As is the theme, you’ll probably want most of this done before 36 weeks. It gets a lot harder to move around and keep your energy up the farther along you get.

Also, make sure you’re done painting at least a month before the baby comes home, and that you look for low/no VOC paint. You don’t want those harsh chemicals lingering around the baby’s room when they arrive. 

Anchor furniture in baby/toddler rooms

This is something you should do now so you don’t have to do it later. No, your six week old can’t pull over a dresser. But, this isn’t a step you should skip and you don’t want to have to think about it down the line.

Just do it when the furniture gets there and it’s safe forever. It’s one of those things you probaby won’t think about until it’s too late, and “too late” isn’t ever a good time. 

Bonus: Go ahead and anchor big TVs and other furniture items in rooms your baby will be playing in a lot. 

Here are some furniture anchor options to get you started. 

Set up new baby with Pediatrician

You’re going to need somewhere to go for your two day and two-week appointment, so finding the pediatrician AFTER the baby is born is too late. 

Ask friends in your area, search local moms groups on Facebook, and read reviews online before making your choice. 

If you’re breastfeeding, make sure your pediatrician is breastfeeding friendly and will support your goals. Submit all your forms and paperwork in advance so all you need to do is show up with your new baby after birth!

Take a birth course

There are tons of online birth courses (Mommy Labor Nurse, Mama Natural, and Labor Nurse Mama all get good reviews), or check out what’s available through your hospital. 

This is understandably where most moms-to-be spend a lot of time preparing. While it’s a CRITICAL step in the process, it’s not the ONLY part of getting ready for a baby. 

Make sure you’re prepared for either a vaginal or c-section birth, and then move on. Don’t obsess about how your labor will go, because no one will know until it happens. Every mom, every baby, and every labor are different. 

Prepare, then continue on.

Take a baby prep course

This is not the same thing as a birth course. A class that prepares you for a new baby will help ease your anxiety about life with a newborn. It will help you prepare for the reality of the fourth trimester (first three months after birth) and help you feel 100% confident that you’re ready and prepared for a new little one. 

Here’s a great option for a complete baby preparation course that will help you get your entire life in order before the baby arrives. 

I HIGHLY recommend you do something like this so that you’re mentally and physically prepared for what happens AFTER the baby gets here. So many moms focus only on birth, and are smacked in the face with postpartum. 

Make it easier on yourself. Prepare for postpartum and life with a newborn. Seriously.

Related: Conquering Postpartum, your ultimate baby prep guide

Create your birth plan

Creating a birth plan is important to keep everyone on the same page. While it’s not a foolproof document, creating a birth plan forces you to think about how you want things to go. 

I know, I know. “Not a c-section” feels ok most of the time, but there are so many other things to think about. 

Are you planning to do delayed cord clamping?

Are you banking cord blood? 

Do you want antibiotic eye cream and Vitamin K?

How long are you planning to delay baby’s bath? 

Thinking about these things in advance is a HUGE help so you’re not blindsided with lots of questions in the middle of labor. 

Better news: I have a one-page birth plan template. You can grab it with the baby prep and hospital bag checklists by entering your email in the form below. 

Prepare for nursing 

Take a breastfeeding class through your hospital, or take one online. 

Check out this breastfeeding ebook for tips and tricks to breakthrough any possible barriers you might face as a new breastfeeding mom. It’s a quick read and will get you off to a fast start breastfeeding.  

Related: Breastfeeding Breakthrough: From Stuck to Success

If you’re not ready to pay for anything yet, try my FREE five-day breastfeeding mini-course by entering your email below:

Order a breast pump

Most insurances cover your breast pump, with caveats. Many will only pay for them if you order through specific medical device suppliers. Or during a certain window of your pregnancy or postpartum. 

Call your insurance once your pregnancy is confirmed to get the details. They will provide the specific medical device suppliers and time you can order the pump. For many people, this is the last 30-60 days of pregnancy. Shop around as most medical suppliers offer different breast pumps. 

I’ve used both the Medela Pump in Style and Spectra S1. I prefer the Spectra, but Medela recently redid their pumps, so they may be quieter now.

Do this at the beginning of your third trimester. 

Install your car seat base (or carseat) 

If you’re using an infant seat install bases in both cars, or install your convertible car seat(s) by 36 weeks. Are you seeing a trend here?

Basically, you want all the major stuff done the month before you’re due because you never really know when your baby will make her appearance. 

And they won’t let you leave the hospital without showing them the car seat. This isn’t something you want to be figuring out in the hospital parking lot, so get it done early. 

Set up your paperwork: HR / FMLA / Insurance, etc.

You would think you were buying a house with the amount of paperwork that comes with having a baby. Depending on your situation, you may or may not need to fill out the following paperwork:

FMLA request forms with your HR department
Leave of absence request form
Short term disability insurance request forms
Newborn care form
Insurance paperwork to get your baby on your insurance (must be done before 30 days post-birth)

Many of these forms are standard, but check with your HR department once you announce your pregnancy, and no later than 30 days before your anticipated departure. Many companies require forms to be filled out and leave requested 30 days or more before your leave. 

Decide on childcare

Decide how you’ll deal with childcare after the baby is born. Are you going to stay home? Do you want a nanny? Is daycare in your future? 

Think through your options (along with your budget) and make a plan for childcare well in advance of delivery. Many daycares have waitlists that are 9-12 months long. Yes, this means you basically need to be on the list the moment you find out you’re pregnant. 

In most cases they’ll try to work the schedule and get you a spot, but in sought after programs, childcare is competitive. If you think you’d like your child in daycare, it’s in your best interest to take a tour and pay the deposit to get on the list. 

Related: Find out which childcare option is right for your family. 

If you want to go with a nanny or au pair, it’s also good to get this in the works well before delivery. You’re not going to want to do nanny interviews with a two week old when your hormones are a mess. 

Decide on a communication plan for labor

Figure out the chain of communication once you go into labor. It really doesn’t matter how this logistically plays out, as long as YOU aren’t in charge. The one thing you won’t want to be doing during labor is texting your great aunt that the baby is on the way. 

On that note, let your family know how you’ll be communicating AFTER labor as well. It is not in your best interest to commit to calling back every single family member or friend that reaches out the day after you give birth. 

Politely let everyone know that you’re thankful for the thoughts and well-wishes and that you’ll get back to them after you’re home from the hospital. 

Follow some baby sleep experts on Instagram

I know, you probably want to smack the next person who tells you to “sleep now.” These well-intentioned souls are only trying to prepare you for the reality of life with a newborn. 

Unfortunately, no one can prepare you for this. The best we can do is to give you some resources to help when you’re in the trenches. 

Baby sleep is SUCH a huge topic, so I’m just going to leave some resources right here and you can peruse at your leisure. 

Many moms swear by Taking Cara Babies. I didn’t take her newborn class, but we did the ABC’s of Sleep to sleep train at six months (and eight months, and nine months 🙂 I’ve heard she has great tips on Insta and you can learn a lot there without even taking the courses. 

The Baby Sleep Site is another awesome resource, and frequently shows up when I’m googling in the middle of the night when I’m awake for the 10th time. They don’t look as active on instagram but the blog has a TON of information. 

Sign up for grocery delivery

If COVID didn’t get you on the grocery delivery train yet, a new baby sure will. Make sure you’ve ordered groceries online with your staples at least once before the baby arrives. You can even do pickup so you don’t have to pay the delivery fee if you’d like. 

Trust me, once these are already pre-populated in your cart it’s going to save you a ton of time in the future. And when you can’t leave the house with a newborn, it’s a lifesaver. 

If you have Amazon Fresh in your area, it’s definitely worth trying.

“Complete” your registry 

Depending on where you registered, you will likely get a discount if you “complete” your registry. If you’ve registered on Amazon, you can add almost anything you want to your registry right before completion. 

We did this and got almost everything for our toddler’s room at the 15% discounted rate. Make sure you get the right window (usually within 60 days of delivery) and stock up on diapers, last minute necessities, or anything you didn’t get before the baby was born. 

{Mom tip: leave some stuff on your registry even after the baby is due. SO many people will want to get you gifts and when there’s nothing left you’ll end up with a bunch of random stuff you can’t return. If it comes off the registry and you have a duplicate, you can always send it back!}

Freezer Meal Prep

Ok, this is one of my least favorite things to do, but may be one of the most important things on your how to prepare for a baby checklist. When that little bundle arrives the LAST thing on your mind is going to be cooking dinner. 

Having a few weeks of freezer meals (and six weeks of meals planned out) will be your best friend after the baby gets here. That doesn’t mean you need to only eat from the freezer for a month, but having easy go-to meals is a game-changer. 

My favorite thing to do here is scour Pinterest. The hubs and I are pretty picky so I had to go through a few posts before I found enough recipes we’d actually eat, but in the end, it was worth it. 

Optional things to do before your baby arrives

Plan a babymoon

So, you absolutely don’t HAVE to go on a babymoon to prepare for your baby. I just wanted to add it to the list because it’s certainly fun. And, you really won’t have an easy time leaving your baby for awhile. Especially if you’re planning to breastfeed.

A babymoon is just a trip you plan before the baby arrives, typically early in your third trimester. It’s usually a “last hurrah” and time to reconnect with your partner before you’re super uncomfortable or it’s unsafe to travel.  

Taking a babymoon is a great final bonding experience for you and your significant other before the baby arrives. 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, you won’t have a lot of time for each other with a newborn. It’s great to get in some quality time pre-baby. I promise it will be something you look back on fondly, and will look forward to getting that time together again. .

Choose your baby’s name

This is a toughie. Many people don’t end up choosing their baby’s name until they get to the hospital, but hopefully you’ve at least started brainstorming and have it narrowed down. 

You can’t leave the hospital until you’ve filled out the paperwork, and “baby girl” doesn’t look good at 40. 

If you’re ahead of the game, you’ve already got this one done. If you’re indecisive like me, you’ve narrowed it down to 1-2, with a strong preference for one. 

Deep clean your house

Alright, at 38 weeks pregnant you shouldn’t be scrubbing your baseboards. {Ok, you might be, but not because I told you to}. 

However, getting a true deep clean of everything in your house is a great aspirational goal during your third trimester. Try to tackle things you don’t normally think of like window sills, dryer ducts, and behind furniture. 

With the chaos of a newborn and then chasing around a toddler, some of these areas might not get a lot of attention in the near future. And, it just makes you feel better. 

Nesting, anyone? 

Create nursing and diaper changing stations

A great pre-baby to do is setting up a nursing and diaper changing station in secondary locations around your house. This will be hugely helpful as you’re recovering from childbirth. 

Even without a c-section, you’ll be pretty uncomfortable for awhile. Making sure you have all your supplies handy in a few spots will make your life so much easier. 

For your stations, put together a caddy of the following: Nipple pads and nipple cream, water bottles, granola bars, cell phone chargers, diapers, wipes, and a diaper pad. 

If you have everything all in one place it will save you from getting up 15x and tracking everything down from around the house. Trust me on this one. 

Get a haircut or do any other personal grooming

This falls on the list of things you won’t be doing for awhile. Whether it’s because you don’t have a lot of time to yourself, or because you don’t want to expose your baby to anything, you probably won’t be going out a ton at first. 

Getting a haircut, wax, or your nails done late in your pregnancy will help hold you over until you can get out again. I got my nails done and eyebrows waxed a few days before I delivered our second daughter.

COVID hit and as of the time I’m writing this, I hadn’t been for 10 months. EEK. Let’s hope there’s not another global pandemic in our future, but you get the general idea. 

Prepare for any social events for the next few months (birthday gifts, cards, etc.)

While this is definitely on the nice to do list, preparing for a baby by preparing for the rest of your life is certainly a good idea. Birthdays and social events will likely fly right out of your head after the baby is born. 

If you know there are big milestones or events coming up, go out and get your gifts and cards now, so you have everything ready. There’s nothing worse than your kid being invited to a birthday party last minute and you have no gifts in the house. 

Also, people will forgive you if you forget stuff. You did just have a baby. They’ll just be super impressed if you don’t forget. 

Set up bills on autopay

Again, optional, but so helpful. We had this done before our babies arrived, but it’s almost imperative afterwards. Since you’ll be in the mom-bie newborn fog, remembering to pay your bills may be an afterthought. Until you get hit with late fees. 

Even if you’ve never missed a bill in your life, it’s a good idea to set up autopay *just in case.* You can always still pay them yourself, it’s just a fail safe. 

Make a Will

It took us almost a year to do this after our first daughter was born, but we wanted to do it immediately. It’s easier to get things done BEFORE the baby arrives, so I wanted to put this on the baby prep checklist. 

I know it probably won’t be your top priority, but if you have a kid, you need a will. Period. I also wouldn’t recommend downloading one offline, but that’s better than nothing. 

Local mom facebook groups, or your mom friends are a great resource here. Find a reasonable lawyer and just get one drawn up. 

Related: Why you need a will and living will 

Things to do to prepare if this is your second (or more) child

If this isn’t your first baby, you might think you’re totally prepared for a second child. Oh, my friend, there are still things to do. You might not be spending half your life googling “how to prepare for a new baby” but you’ve still got work… so keep reading. 

Create a list of all things you’ll need to transition an older child to a new room

If you’re switching your older child’s room, you’ll need to make a list of everything you need to do to make it happen. We had to convert a guest room into a three-year-old’s bedroom, so that meant selling furniture, getting new furniture, and figuring out a theme. 

Set up a new room for an older child (if needed)

We went with a Frozen II theme and had to decal the walls, get wall art, and set up a canopy play space. We also had to get bumpers and new sheets, etc. for her big girl bed. 

If you want to see the before and afters, you can check it out here.

Take newborn clothes out of storage and inventory (for second child)

Even if you’re having a child of the same gender, you’re going to want to see what you have in storage, and in what sizes. 

Especially as infants, babies grow fast. If your kids aren’t born in the same season, it’s likely you’ll need a new set of clothes. Our daughters were born only one month apart, but our second was almost two pounds heavier. She was consistently a size ahead of the clothes we had for the season during infancy. 

You’ll also want to get any enzyme stains out from storage. I was shocked at how bad my white onesies looked after being in storage for four years. I put them away clean and they came out gross.

{Mom tip: to remove enzyme stains, boil water in a huge pot half full. Add oxiclean. Boil whites for 10 minutes. Take the entire pot and pour it into your washer and wash as normal. Stains should be gone.}

Transition your older child to a new room (if necessary)

Do NOT do this the day you bring the baby home. We did it about two months before I was due, because I didn’t want any inkling that the baby “stole” her room. We made it a big deal that she was such a big girl and was getting a big girl room, so it was never an issue that the baby was taking her room. 

She was already established in her new space and used to not sleeping in a crib well before the baby arrived. We kept the baby in our room for six months, but during that time our older daughter got used to the idea that the nursery was now the baby’s room, because she was so big. 

Buy a gift from the “new baby” to your older child

Kids love gifts. And the baby is going to be getting a ton of stuff. If you have nice friends, they’ll also get your older kiddo something as well. But, it’s nice if the new baby “brings” something for her sibling. 

Well, there you have it. My ultimate checklist of things to do before the baby is born. If you were worried about how to prepare for a new baby, I’m hoping that by the end of this post you’re feeling totally ready for your new arrival. 

Want a copy of this checklist to customize for yourself? Download your Baby Prep Checklist Powerpack.

how to prepare for a baby

Baby Prep Checklists aren’t enough? check out my free five-day crash course on baby prep.

As a first-time mom, I had so many questions. I was worried about choosing the right products for my registry. I had NO idea what to expect with labor. While I was excited to embark on the journey, I just wanted someone to give me some objective advice.

I put together the five-day crash course to help excited (but overwhelmed) moms like you get information on key topics related to pregnancy, delivery, and how to prepare the house for a new baby.

The five-day email crash course for baby prep covers all the basics on key topics for expecting mammas. We’ll start with pregnancy and go all the way through delivery.

We’ll take you from overwhelmed and excited to prepared and confident for your new addition.

Baby prep course topics:

  • Surviving Pregnancy
  • How to register (and my top picks)
  • Breastfeeding
  • Medicine Cabinet & Diaper Stockpile
  • Labor & Delivery 

The crash course will deliver tips and resources so you can prepare confidently for your new baby, all from your couch and computer screen.

How to enroll in the baby prep crash course

Enrolling is super easy. Drop your email below and you’ll get FREE access directly in your inbox. After you enter your email don’t forget to check your email to confirm your address and ensure you get the material.

How to prepare for a new baby: your ultimate pre-baby to-do checklist

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