Getting Ready For a Family

"The baby arrived five weeks early. We were not even close to being ready." - Veteran Dad

Getting Ready For a Family

"The baby arrived five weeks early. We were not even close to being ready." - Veteran Dad

 Creating a family, the basic building block of humanity, puts a lot on your plate and it’s hard to keep your most important priorities clear. Here are what they will likely be and how to get a good start on them.

Agenda for Starting a Family

Our rookie moms and dads learn a lot about each other and the common landmines they will face as new parents. Then they do the best thing possible for parents-to-be: they talk.

☐ "Sleep whenever you can" is the first recommendation new parents get, and the last one followed. You need to make sleep a priority and prepare a sleep plan, as Mom will be so focused on her baby’s needs that she'll forget about her own. Check out our Getting Sleep section for much more info.

☐ Make a "Postpartum Deal" with your partner. Postpartum depression symptoms are definitive, and if they show up, you will likely be the only one around her to notice. A popular “deal” for dads to make with new moms is that if he sees signs of PPD, he will make sure mom gets in to see her doctor. 

☐  Regularly check your own mental health. We're learning more about the impact of the stress dads are experiencing as new parents, and it turns out guys are not immune to the baby blues.

☐ Watch for "Gatekeeping." Hormonally driven new moms tend to take over the care of the baby, no matter how egalitarian you both wanted your parenting to be. If she starts gatekeeping (keeping you from helping out and interacting with the baby), we recommend a deal in which you call her on it, and Mom leaves the room. If more effective action is necessary, Mom leaves the baby with you and goes to the mall.

☐ Build your team. Talk about who will do what and how when it comes to the workload of cleaning, cooking, etc. now to be ready when it hits.

New dads are surprised by the sheer amount of work - childcare, housework and producing income – that arrives with a baby. They find that instead of dividing the workload up with Mom, it's best in the first months if both parents just pitch in on everything. Soon you can streamline meal prep, ordering diapers, laundry, vacuuming, bottle washing, etc., but maybe not right away.

☐  Talk with your partner about your financial concerns and map out a plan to stretch those dollars. Do it now, as it will be very difficult to find the time, energy and emotional focus to do it after the baby arrives. Creating a simple budget will make the best use of your money and prevent a lot of unnecessary stress. See Legal & Financial for more information on preparing financially.

☐  Go over the Childbirth Cornerman’s Guide and talk about your plans for birth together. If she wants a ”natural birth,” (with no drugs) point out that plans often don’t work out, and create a code word for Mom to use (“Red!”) if she opts for an epidural due to pain once labor begins.

☐  Download a free contraction timing app for your phone:

☐  See our list of things people can help you with (cooking, shopping, errands) and start outlining visitor rules for those first days. “Help” from friends and relatives can be (and should be) helpful. You don’t want regrets over intrusions in your early days as a family, but you still may want to make full use of your “village.” 

Your family will need:

"Mom friends" for Mom, and perhaps a mom group.

"Dad friends"  for you - take the initiative with rookies you meet at childbirth class if none of your current buddies are procreating yet. You're gonna want to talk about what you're going through with someone who isn't your child's mother...

☐ Willing grandparents -  don’t push them away with a long list of baby care rules. You will need their support.

☐ Hired help like a babysitter. - save your money on baby stuff and spend it here.

☐ A mom who accepts help so those around get comfortable offering help.

Invest In Your Relationship

New families work best when two parents collaborate, have each other’s back, and appreciate what the other has to offer. Love strengthens and rewards your teamwork and enables families to thrive. 

The opposite is true as well, and two-thirds of new parents find out the hard way – they report that their relationship suffered after their baby arrived. They weren’t prepared for the momentous challenge they took on together.

Here's how you can be in the successful third:

If you are like most men, you are not very good at talking with your partner. If you don’t fix that with some practice, your relationship will suffer as your parenting “team” bumbles through months of sleep-deprived stress with too much to do and often divisive issues to confront.

To boost your skills, take the lead as your partner has other issues she is focused on. Pick any issue, tell her what you think, and ask what she thinks. You will find a lot of prompts on the key issues you will face on the Starting a Family Checklist that you can download and print. Practice talking to get good at it.

To help re-ignite the romance after the initial months of parenthood, make a list with your mate now of the things you like to do together. Check off the ones below you like, and add your own. Celebrate what you have together by using your pre-baby downtime to do more of what you checked:

Listen to music
Get a massage
Find a new restaurant
Do a puzzle
Go for a walk
Cook dinner
Visit with friends

Bike ride
Nap together
Go out to a movie
Make love
Go for a drive
Bowling/mini golf




You are already helping her handle her pregnancy; to step it up, take a look at the current month in her pregnancy book and ask her about something (anything) she may be experiencing. Then ask her “Is there anything else you would like me to know?

She may be overwhelmed with all the information she is absorbing (perhaps of potential threats to her baby with a minuscule chance of occurring). Having your interest and calming thoughts will mean a lot to her. 


Optimize Your Paternity Leave

Your first major contributions to your new family and the development of your initial bond with your child will depend partly on the time you are able to spend at home. This information on paternity leave will help you get an early start on making the most of it:

Get Started on Baby Equipment

Rookie dads tend to focus on equipment, so we gathered information to get you started:

While dads have made great strides in a lot of ways, the baby registry is still usually handled by mothers. She can find the many choices overwhelming and you will want input too, so you might visit the registry cheat sheet to help with both.

Since your baby can sleep in a file box for a month, the only piece of equipment you really need is a car seat, as they otherwise won’t let you take the little one home from the hospital. 

NHTSA: Car Seats & Booster Seats

Good infant car seat buying information from Lucie’s List.

Buy baby furniture second-hand, or borrow it from friends who already had their baby. There are stores that recycle baby items – from clothing to strollers and car seats to cribs. Lots of it is almost brand new – castoffs from baby showers or duplicate gifts.  Most baby furniture and equipment outlives its usefulness after only a short while.

“You don't need as much crap as they try to sell you. Rockers, toys, so many bottles, hats, etc. More money doesn't mean better. Buy used. Try to find a Facebook buy/sell/trade board. You don't need a high chair for 4 months. You'll be ditching stuff every few months. Save the money for babysitters.”

 “My biggest was worry about the stuff that you have to have. It is really, do you have diapers? Cloth or throwaways. Milk or your wife’s breast or formula. As long as you have something to feed them with and clean diapers to change them. They really just need the simple things. You don’t need the 4,000 things they have at Babies-R-Us or Buy Buy Baby. It can be a lot more complicated than it needs to be if you let it get away from you… and a lot of money.”

“Diapers are very important in the sense of, when people stop buying you diapers, you have to buy them yourself. It's OK to buy the Target brand, you don't have to buy the Pampers or the Huggies. We had Pampers, we had Huggies and she had some massive blow-outs sometimes and the diaper just wouldn't hold it. But these Target-brand are like granny panties, they keep everything in and they're a heck of a lot cheaper, so I'm like I'll do that. So when people are buying you diapers yeah buy me the most expensive ones. I did like the Pampers when she was a newborn because Pampers has this one that has an indicator that tells you if it's a wet diaper or not. And that was always nice.”

“I get Amazon Prime, so you pay $79 for the year and you get 2-day free shipping. You can automate the shipping too, but they grow so quick you would have to switch sizes. So if you have a party or baby shower and you get a bunch of newborns, I would take them back and get the next size up. Both of my kids grew out of the newborns in like 2 weeks.”

Russell: Baby Registry Strategy (1:51)

“Get as much done ahead of time as possible. A big mistake we made was not buying the mini-van before the baby was born. Going around on weekends with a newborn and talking to salesmen - it’s something you really don’t want to go through.”    -Veteran Dad 

“She came five weeks early.  We were not even close to being ready.”   -Veteran Dad

“Get as much done ahead of time as possible. A big mistake we made was not buying the mini-van before the baby was born. Going around on weekends with a newborn and talking to salesmen - it’s something you really don’t want to go through.”    -Veteran Dad 

“She came five weeks early.  We were not even close to being ready.”   -Veteran Dad

Dads on Getting Ready

Here is some advice from dads. First, dads answering inquiries from dads-to-be on reddit, then Christian from How to Be A Dad (video):

reddit: Dads talk: Pregnancy is a go; what should be on my to do list?

reddit: Dads talk: Just got pregnant! What now?

reddit: Naming your baby strategies.

Christian: How to Be a Dad (4:05)

Checklists for Getting Ready

You have a lot to do and many issues to consider, so we’ve prepared these lists to help you get organized. 

☐ Get any unfinished projects handled prior to junior’s arrival.

☐ Do a safety check on the house, i.e., loose railings, clutter in hallways, or other safety hazards for a parent carrying a baby.

If you have a dog, plan for when your baby arrives.

☐ Put the doctors, hospital, and important contact numbers in your cell phone.

☐ Pre-register.

☐ Take a maternity ward tour if you can; ask a lot of questions.

☐ Keep the car maintained and with enough gas.

☐ Pack for the hospital in advance; your baby could be early.

☐ Name your baby.

☐ If you're planning to text or email a group when the baby arrives, set that all up now.

☐ Make a list of everyone you want to send baby announcements.

Set up a registry at a baby store or online. Register with websites such as for information and discount coupons.

☐ Automate your bill payments online; you are going to be very busy.

☐ Set up online accounts to buy diapers (Amazon or to minimize in-store shopping.

☐ Collect gift cards to local restaurants so you can order takeout.

☐ Order a meal from Grubhub or alternative now so it becomes a “go to” once your baby arrives.

Download Master List

These versions combine the above lists with Agenda for Starting a Family and Invest in Your Relationship to make it easy to track your progress. You use it online or you can download and print it out:

Your partner has more on her plate than you, a gap that will expand once your baby arrives and she instinctively takes charge. This master list provides you with an opportunity to lead as well and create a team approach to building your new family. Print it out and invite her to review it with you.

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