Are you hearing the pitter-patter of little feet in your head? Do your ears perk up around a baby belly laugh? If so, you might be ready for a small one of your own. Parenthood could be in your future.
There’s a lot to consider when you think about becoming a parent. To be honest, no one is ever truly ready. You learn most things on the job. Still, there are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself. These tips can be helpful if you’re trying for a baby.
1. Plan Your Pregnancy
As great as this sounds, it’s not 100% possible to plan your pregnancy. You have about a 25% chance every month of getting pregnant, and many factors can affect the outcome. The one thing you can do, though, is choose the time you start trying.
Until you know you’re ready, use birth control. Talk to your doctor about your best options. You can either get it from your physician, visit a community clinic, or purchase it online. The key is using it consistently. This way, you’re less likely to be surprised with parenthood.
2. Sacrifice Your Snooze Time
Sure, you’ve gone without sleep before. Maybe you pulled a few all-nighters in college studying for exams or partying. Perhaps you’ve lost shuteye over a big work project. Trust us, sleep deprivation in parenthood is different. This isn’t one sleepless night—it’s months of feeling like a bleary-eyed zombie.
Don’t sweat it, though. You can train for this. For about three months, stay up late after work and try to remain active. Clean the house, organize your bookshelves, or start baby-proofing your home early. Just don’t sit down and watch TV.
Set your alarm to wake you at random times overnight and stay awake for around an hour. It will be hard, but you’ll be better prepared for when your baby needs you at 3 a.m.
3. Carry the Diaper Bag Now
Babies need bunches of things — pacifiers, burp cloths, rattles, and hand wipes. It’s a lot of stuff to remember, and it can feel cumbersome. You want supplies on hand, though. Is your baby covered in yogurt? You need a wet wipe fast. If your little one is tired and cranky, you’ll be a pro when you whip out a pacifier.
Get accustomed to carrying the diaper bag around now. Like your baby, it will be your constant companion for the next couple of years. Choose one you like, and organize all your go-to items. Figure out a system that keeps everything at your fingertips. Carry it everywhere — to the restaurant, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office. It’ll be a habit when the baby finally arrives.
4. Forget Bathroom Privacy
Right now, the bathroom is the one place you know you can get some peace and quiet. That’s about to change. A closed door means nothing to a curious (and impatient) toddler who has a question.
Even though it’s uncomfortable, get into the habit of leaving the bathroom door open. Yes, this includes when your partner is around, too. It might always feel awkward, but you’ll be less shocked when your toddler opens the door and walks in. Plus, if he comes in with a friend (yikes!) to talk about dinosaurs or popsicles, you’ll be more composed.
5. Save, Save, Save!
It’s no secret, babies are expensive. Plan on spending more than $230,000 over the next 18 years if you have a baby today. Before you look at your bank account and freak out, take a deep breath. You can do this. It will take some cost control, and you can plan for it now.
If you can (and you’re comfortable with it), breastfeed your baby. Opt for cloth diapers. See if family or friends will let you borrow or have their kids’ old clothes. Dive into big box stores to buy baby supplies in bulk. Check out library books for bedtime stories. Best of all, when your kids get a little older, take advantage of kids-eat-free deals.
6. Speed Shower
There’s not much better than a hot shower to either wake you up or help you wind down. Those are about to become distant memories. As a new parent, you’ll have too much to do to linger in the power spray for long.
Train yourself to do a quick — but thorough — shampoo and body wash in just a few minutes. Set a timer to work on your speed. You can feel fresh and clean without being away from your baby for too long. Short showers also give you more time for chores or grabbing a few zzzs yourself while your baby naps.
7. Babysit Other Kids
Even if you were a babysitter in school, give it another whirl as an adult. It’s different when you see kids through the eyes of a potential parent. You’ll notice things you didn’t before, like baby-proofing blind spots.
Offer to watch your friends’ baby for a night. They’ll probably jump at the chance for a nap or a long shower of their own. While they’re relaxing, you’ll get a good feel for what it takes to feed, play with, and put a baby to bed.
8. Banish Bad Habits
Choosing healthier habits is a good idea for yourself and your future kids. You’ll have more energy and will likely tack on a few more birthdays. Keep in mind that your kids will likely mimic those good habits, too.
If you’re a smoker — and you haven’t already — ditch the cigs. Lighting up can make it harder to get pregnant, and they can hurt your baby if you’re currently expecting. Eat more fruits and veggies. Incorporate more exercise into your day. All of it adds up to a healthier pregnancy and a healthier you for your kids.
Becoming a parent is simultaneously exciting and scary. There’s no way to know exactly what’s ahead of you. These tips can put you ahead of the curve, though, for when you’re finally holding your own bundle of joy.