Practical Advice for Expectant Parents (and so many others)

posted by Andrea | 02/28/2019

practical advice for expecting parents

No, we’re NOT expecting any more babies — but since I’ve already had that “expecting experience” 4 times (and since I get asked for my tips on this topic all the time) I’m re-sharing a post I wrote a few years ago (with several updates based on more years of mothering experience!)


There are SO many words of wisdom, life lessons, and pieces of advice seasoned parents can share with soon-to-be parents… however, I also think it’s nearly impossible for new parents to truly grasp, understand, and believe most of it until after they have their first baby and actually have first-hand experience.

At least that’s how it worked for me!

All the books, classes, and helpful tips from well-meaning friends and family were essentially pointless for me because I learned parenthood by “doing” and “first-hand experiences” — whether I was ready for it or not!

That said, I DO think there are several tangible things expecting parents can do NOW to help make the transition to parenthood a little smoother.

These are not things like attend birthing classes, listen to podcasts on natural birthing strategies, visit lactation consultants, or read every single parenting book on the market (although feel free to do any of those too!)

NO, these are actual to-dos you can complete and cross off your list NOW, and then rest a little easier knowing that some of these important tasks are out of the way before baby arrives!

pracical advice for expectant parents

1. Get Life Insurance

I realize that with a new baby on the way, the added yearly expense of a life insurance policy might not be your top priority — but I would highly encourage you to give it some thought.

Even if you have $0 in debt, a fully funded retirement account, a nicely padded emergency fund, a hefty amount in your savings account, and 2 full-time, somewhat secure incomes, I would personally suggest buying some sort of life insurance. 

Dave and I pay less than $400 a year for $500,000 of insurance — and based on our standard of living, that’s plenty to give us peace of mind in the event of a tragedy.

Some people suggest only buying life insurance for the working parent(s), but I suggest buying it for both parents because if the non-working spouse dies, the working spouse now needs to hire someone to care for the child, take care of the house, etc.

And heaven-forbid, if something happens to both parents, this insurance money would go to your new baby and would pay for future expenses, schooling, etc. to help out whatever family member will now be caring for your child.

2. Make a Will and/or Living Trust

Speaking of both parents passing away, I think anyone with children absolutely MUST have a Will and/or a Living Trust.

I explained a bit more about the process Dave and I went through to create our Dekker Family Living Trust in this post… but it’s honestly a really simple process once you find an attorney you want to work with.

It literally took Dave and I a couple hours to get some of the requested paperwork together, then we had to bring a letter (provided by our attorney) to our bank, Dave’s school, and our various investment places, sign a few documents, write the check, and we were finished.

Now I can sleep a little easier knowing that if something DID happen to both Dave and I, our kids would be fully protected and taken care of (without needing to go to court or, potentially, a foster family until things got sorted out). Our assets would be allocated accordingly, and our family would have easy access to everything they needed to care for our things and our children.

3. Learn how to properly install your car seat.

I know, this one might sound trivial compared to the first two, but it’s really important… and I’ve read statistics that as many as 60% of carseats are installed incorrectly! Also, make sure anyone who will be driving your children around knows how to properly install their car seat (and how to properly secure the child in the car seat).

My best advice would be to visit the website for the brand of car seat you have. They usually have installation videos right on their site. You can also visit a local fire station to have your car seat inspected if you are concerned about anything.

Although you might feel silly, it’s not a bad idea to practice getting the car seat in and out of the car a few times before you have a baby in it. Dave and I did not do this and we literally spent a good 5-10 minutes trying to figure out how to get the infant car seat to latch onto the base in the back of our car. Our nurse even tried helping (and it was freezing cold at the end of November!)

4. Schedule your own appointments before baby is born.

Again, this might sound trivial, but anything you can do NOW, before the baby is born, will save you lots of stress later.

When Nora was born, I never even considered how much more difficult it would be to schedule Dr. appointments, dentist appointments, haircuts, etc. until about 2 weeks after she was born and I literally had a dentist appointment, a Dr. appointment, and a haircut all in the same day!

I can still vividly remember that day (every single detail — even what we were wearing!) Nora basically screamed all day long — which made me SO stressed, which I’m sure didn’t help her at all, and by the time I got to my haircut appointment, I literally broke down in tears.

When the other kids were born, I made sure to schedule a hair cut and my dentist appointment the week before (I never go early!) and enjoyed a cute new hairstyle and nice clean teeth without all the stress of trying to work my schedule around a newborn!

5. Pack your freezer with healthy meals and snacks.

If this is your first baby, you will probably have the luxury of getting several meals brought in from family and friends — however it’s not always a ‘for sure’ deal.

I would HIGHLY suggest spending a good amount of time in your kitchen before you head to the hospital, because even if you love to cook and bake, there will be plenty of days after the baby is born when you just can’t muster up the energy to make something as simple as a grilled cheese (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything!)

And when you’re trying to eat healthy for your baby, to lose those extra pounds, and to keep your emotions in check, snacking on junk food all day and eating fast food for dinner every night is not the way to go.

I tried to have several fully-prepared meals in my freezer (around 10) plus lots of cooked, chopped, and pre-portioned meats so I could make up a quick casserole, add grilled chicken to a salad, or make a pulled pork sandwich at the last minute.

This was a huge sanity-saver for me after all of my deliveries — and something I recommend to every expectant mother!

6. Know what resources are available for you and your baby.

Before Nora was born, I had absolutely NO idea all the different free (and paid-for) parenting and baby programs and resources that were all around me. There are SO many local programs in my area for information, support, counseling, fun activities, etc. and I didn’t take advantage of any of them until well after Nora’s first birthday.

If you’re expecting a baby or if you have young children, do a Google search for your city or town, ask friends with older kids, talk with your doctor or healthcare providers, contact local public schools, and consult with county officials — you might just be amazed at the free resources you find. And just being aware of what’s out there might be really helpful for you once the baby is born.

7. Talk to your health insurance company.

This is another one of those “I don’t want to do it, but know I should do it” tasks I would highly recommend crossing off your list before you head to the hospital.

Insurance companies are sneaky and unless you REALLY REALLY understand your insurance policy, you could get caught off-guard with some major medical expenses after the baby is born.

Do you know what your deductible is? What about your out-of-pocket maximum? Do you know what percentage of labor and delivery your insurance company covers? And better yet, do you know what your insurance company actually considers as acceptable “labor and delivery charges” or “mother/baby charges” or “prenatal care charges” or “well child charges”?

If not, you might want to figure that out as soon as possible so you can prepare financially.

Since Dave works for a Christian non-profit, non-government employer, they have a lot of control over their insurance, so we actually have pretty good insurance. But we have friends whose insurance is crazy and they end up with more than $10,000 of medical bills after each baby is born (after insurance covers their portion).

Thankfully, Dave and I knew what our “out-of-pocket maximum was” so we could plan accordingly and save up money in our HSA (health savings account) to cover any medical bills and baby expenses ahead of time — which made paying our hospital bills a lot less stressful after our babies were born.

8. Take a deep breath and realize that you won’t ever be 100% prepared!

You know me, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to plan ahead and be prepared. And you better believe that if there was a sure-fire, fool-proof way to assure I was 100% prepared to bring my babies home from the hospital, I would have done anything and everything I could to have crossed that off my list.

Unfortunately, there’s not!

So while you may certainly continue to attend your natural birthing classes, read up on all those parenting books, and smile graciously when well-wishers tell you to “sleep when baby sleeps” and that “your life will never be the same”, I hope you also realize there is most likely no way you can possibly grasp what being a parent will be like until you’re actually living it and doing it.

I’m not saying this to scare you or make you worry more than you might already be worrying — but instead, to allow you to step back and relax, knowing that there is no class or book or friend or old lady in the grocery store who can articulate just what being a parent is going to be like for you. I guess that’s both really cool and really scary at the same time!

Meanwhile, take some of the advice on my list above to make the transition go more smoothly!

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Even if you aren’t expecting a baby right now, if you have older kids, (or you’re expecting your 3rd, 4th, or 5th baby) I still think almost everything on the list above could apply to you in some way or another.

However, for those of you who are embarking on the huge life-change journey called Parenthood, I think this list is THAT much more important for you to think about — and hopefully take action on!

Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS, by the way!

Parenthood is amazing…  challenging, overwhelming, exhausting, aggravating, but still amazing! 

Seasoned parents… share YOUR practical advice for expectant parents in the comments!

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22 comments

  1. Lea

    03/02/2019

    I will second the calling about your medical plan before you go to the hospital (if at all possible). We found out that if we did not call enroll our twins from the hospital after they were born, any postnatal care they required would not be covered. Yikes! My husband called as soon as we were able – our children were healthy and required very little care but we did not want or need a high bill if it was avoidable.

    Great post Andrea! My twins are now 13-almost-14 years old and everything you wrote here still rings true!

    Lea

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — thanks for sharing your story! Those crazy medical bills can definitely catch you on the “fine print” if you aren’t careful!
    Happy (almost) birthday to your almost 14 year olds!

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  2. Amy

    03/01/2019

    I’ll add on my advice after just having my third baby. Make sure you have all of your important paperwork, etc in a place where it is accessible to your family. Also get as much stuff done in your second trimester if you can. After 2 overdue babies, my water broke with #3 at 33 weeks. I spent a week in the hospital on bed rest before delivering, and I am so thankful I had my bills paid & things fairly organized beforehand so that our family & friends could step in and help out at home with our older kids.

    My last tip is to accept help. As a first time parent it is easy to convince yourself you can do it all yourself, but you will make yourself a sleep-deprived crazy person if you try. If someone offers you a meal, say yes & enjoy it. If someone offers to come do your laundry, say yes. Sometimes it is hard to give up control but I learned the hard way how much more enjoyable the newborn stage can be when you accept help (even more so when you get over your pride and ask for it)!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Amy — and congrats on baby #3!
    SO true about accepting help — that’s often one of the hardest things for me to do. I can GIVE it, but not accept it!

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  3. KR

    02/28/2019

    Hi – can’t advocate enough for life insurance. Something else to consider – not only are funerals expensive but you will probably be depressed and upset & people going through a traumatic and massively depressing ordeal such as a spouse dying probably won’t be focusing on living life frugally, will be more strapped for time parenting single which usually makes things much more expensive. I had a parent die young and my parents had banked on my dad dying and not my mom – so they had a ton of life insurance on him (enough to pay off the house & then some) but not nearly enough for her. The money paid for the funeral but not for the years of depression, grief-related health problems, and the household income being cut in half and no longer enough to pay the mortgage. So please make a plan, identify resources if anything were to happen to you or your spouse, make a living will, and realistically talk about what might happen if one of you has to parent as a single person. Would you sell your house? Would you move closer to family? Is it important your kids stay in the same school or same house?

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks so much for sharing this — we too know people who had all kinds of insurance for the husband but not the wife — only to have the wife die and the family scrambling to pay for things like child care, house cleaning (and all the funeral expenses). Such good things to think about — not always fun or enjoyable, but definitely worth it “just in case”!

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  4. Lisa Rohrssen

    03/14/2015

    You can also have your child seat checked or even put in my your local fire station. I saw a video in baby class about what can happen with an improperly installed car seat that scared me so much if I ever took it out of my car I would have the firemen put it back in. I almost never removed it and that little extra was enough to give me peace of mind on the road.

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  5. Stephanie

    03/14/2015

    Health insurance. … we were prepared for all the deductible costs and out of pocket maximum. What we weren’t prepared for was knowing that if you need a ride to the hospital in an ambulance because you get 8 inches of snow on top of an ice storm and can’t get out of the driveway, that ambulance ride is considered an out of network expense, therefore TWO deductibles!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    on wow!! yeah, I’ve heard that ambulance trips were quite pricey — thankfully I don’t know from experience 🙂

    Glad you got to the hospital safely though!

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  6. Calliope

    03/13/2015

    Oh my God! 10.000 to deliver a baby?? This is insane! We paid like 1800 and this is considered too much already. In Greece, mind you. In Germany is almost free and in France is something like 2.000. All over Europe, if you have health insurance and deliver in a public hospital it is free.
    Loved your post! Very helpful as always.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Calliope! And yes, some US insurance companies have REALLY high deductibles so it can get really expensive!

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  7. Heather Ratliff

    03/13/2015

    I’m so glad you mentioned the car seats. Reading the manual and watching YouTube videos are great, but in many locations, you can also have a certified passenger safety technician check your seat installation. At http://www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/cps/index.htm, you can find the nearest technician.

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  8. Paulette

    03/13/2015

    Well said!!

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  9. Liane

    03/13/2015

    Baby proof! Install safety latches, secure heavy TV sets, attach book cases to wall with tethers. Put locks on doors leading to areas where perils await, like cellar stairs and swimming pools. Secure electric cords. My experience working in an ER taught me many accidents occur because the parent never “got around to it”. Because baby was not crawling yet, walking yet, opening doors yet. But he always will. We taught this in our prenatal classes. The time to do it is before your first is born. Children fall out windows, use dresser drawers and book cases as ladders, consume vitamins with iron that look like candy, eat and drink cleaners, get electrocuted chewing wires, just like that mismatched door knob somewhere in the house, hazards become invisible. So crawl around or borrow someone’s kid to do it for you and find all the dangerous places!

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  10. Dawn

    03/13/2015

    BK- haha!! That was awesome!! After 30 years of marriage and over 27 years of parenting, I sure as heck don’t remember life BK. I think I worried a lot less though. And slept a lot more. LOL!!

    And I, too, would have never guessed this was a sponsored post. When the other poster mentioned it, I had to go back and look! I appreciate that!!

    Great ideas too. And if you know ahead of time the sex of the baby, it goes without saying to have all the beginning clothes and things washed and in the dresser drawers ready to go. Mommy doesn’t need to come home and have to do the great clothing search!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I usually have all my 0-6 months clothes washed, dried, and ready to go because it’s amazing how quickly they start wearing those 6 months clothes. Good tip!

    That said, I purposely did NOT wash many of the brand new clothing gifts I received with nora because I had a feeling I’d be returning many of them… and I did. We had SOOOOOOO many newborn and 3mo. clothes that I ended up returning almost all the brand new items for 12-18 mo. sizes instead. I put her in PJ’s and hand-me-downs when she was tiny and saved the cute outfits for when she was walking and we were actually getting out and about. I was glad I hadn’t removed the tags and washed all of those items.

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  11. lydia @ frugaldebtfreelife

    03/13/2015

    Great list! Yes to the life insurance. The SAHP definitely needs insurance as well because the cost of replacing what moms or stay at home dads do is nearly impossible.

    One thing I would add to the list, have someone come in and deep clean your home a couple weeks before the baby is born. We did this and it was the BEST decision.

    (Also you did a great job with a sponsored post without it coming across salesy.)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Lydia! Dave said the same thing “I didn’t even realize it was a sponsored post”
    I will ONLY agree to do a sponsored post if they basically let me write whatever I want to write about a very general topic and simply include relevant links within the post as I feel are helpful. Allstate is a great company to work with!

    I figure, I’m still providing very useful content to my readers that is meaningful for my own life and something I’m passionate about — but I get paid which allows me to keep everything I’m doing on my blog free for everyone else 🙂

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    Christina Reply:

    My husband is a financial specialist for Allstate and I can say hands down the absolute BEST advice is the life insurance! You wouldn’t not have health insurance or skip taking your baby to a Doctor, but so many people have next to nothing in life insurance. I have seen the devastation caused by lack of proper planning. We all don’t want to think about something that we wish would never ever happen, but it’s very real, people don’t live forever. Protect your family, especially with children!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Christina — I totally agree!

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  12. Lauren

    03/13/2015

    GREAT article!!! I just love your practical advice! I wish I had spent less time picking out the nursery paint color and fabric and more time making freezer meals! I just shared this on my FB, great advice. There are even simple forms online for a living will, which is what we did before our daughter was born. Now that things are more complicated with a new business I put this on my list today to talk about with Brandon.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Lauren — and yes, I would encourage you to set up a will professionally if things are a bit more complicated now. It made me feel SO good to know that everything was ‘squared away’ and taken care of.

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