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Wondering how to prepare for a baby? Whether your pregnancy is planned or unplanned, there is a certain timeline for preparing for baby that you need to follow.

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How to Prepare for a Baby: Month-by-Month Timeline

As you prepare for a new addition to your family, it can be overwhelming. There may seem to be so much to do and not enough time to do it, especially if your pregnancy was unplanned. If you’re wondering how to prepare for a baby, you’ve come to the right place.

Every pregnancy is unique, and the preparations that expectant parents will need to make will be unique to their situation, as well. However, how to get ready for a newborn baby does include some common steps, regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy and the parents.

How to prepare for a new baby will be different at certain stages in your pregnancy, which is why we’ve created this “preparing for baby” timeline to guide you. Whether your pregnancy is planned or unplanned, knowing how to prepare for your baby is a key part of being the best parent possible.

Below, find a month-by-month timeline for preparing for your baby and the joys that await you after birth.

Month 1 (Or as Soon as You Discover You’re Pregnant)

Many times, parents ask, “When should I start preparing for a baby?”

The answer? As early as possible.

If your pregnancy is unplanned, you may not even be aware that you are pregnant until you are several months along. However, if you know you are pregnant within your first month, you can take a few simple steps to help you prepare for your new arrival.

As soon as you discover you’re pregnant, it’s important to start taking prenatal vitamins to keep yourself and your unborn baby as healthy as possible. You will also want to select an obstetrician. This is an important decision to make, as your healthcare provider will play a key role in your pregnancy and your delivery. Do your research to choose the OBGYN who is best for you.

Month 2

Once you have chosen a professional, schedule your first checkup. Around week 10 of your pregnancy, you will have a physical, which will also include an ultrasound to check for your baby’s heartbeat and verify your due date. Your medical professional will also help you set your schedule for the rest of your prenatal appointments.

Month 3

As mentioned, an important part of how to get prepared for a baby is ensuring that you are giving them (and yourself) necessary medical care. As part of your prenatal care, your doctor will start running tests around your third month of pregnancy. These are known as your first-trimester screenings.

These tests typically include genetic tests to ensure your baby is developing properly and screen for issues like Down syndrome and trisomy 18. These tests will also determine if your pregnancy and your baby are developing normally and what potential complications you may be vulnerable for.

Talk with your obstetrician for more information about what tests you’ll take during this stage in your pregnancy.

Month 4

Once you have reached your second trimester, the steps of how to prepare for a baby become more involved. Your second trimester is typically the stage in your pregnancy when risks of miscarriage start to fall, and you and your doctor can be more confident about the success of this pregnancy. Therefore, you’ll need to start making concrete plans for preparing for your baby week-by-week.

As you reach your fourth month, your doctor will complete a second trimester screening. Again, these screenings will evaluate your risk of complications and identify any medical issues.

During this month, you may also consider preparing for the delivery of your baby by taking childbirth and delivery education classes. Many of these classes take a couple months to complete, so starting early will allow you to feel better about your preparation for your baby’s delivery. These classes often cover different birthing options, preparation for the delivery process and the things to prepare for the delivery of the baby (like your hospital bag and more).

You will also want to start thinking about your maternity leave plan. Schedule an appointment with your boss and be willing to discuss the different options for taking leave and ensuring your work responsibilities are completed while you are gone.

Month 5

Around 20 weeks, you will have another ultrasound to check up on the growth of your baby. This is often the appointment when you can find out the sex of your baby, as well! For some parents, knowing their baby’s sex will guide their steps of how to get ready for their newborn baby. For others, it’s a fun surprise that they’ve anxiously been waiting for.

For many parents, this period in the pregnancy is the time when they start getting ready for a baby in their house. They create a nursery (or at least order the furniture and other essentials they need) and, therefore, relieve the stress of doing so later in the pregnancy when the baby could arrive at any time. If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you may not have the resources available to create your nursery at this time — but starting this preparation process as early as possible helps to get the necessary plans in motion.

At the same time, you and your partner (if applicable) will want to start creating a birth plan. While you won’t give birth for another few months if all goes as planned, babies tend to arrive on their own schedule. It’s important to consider your desires for a premature labor and birth, as well as start preparing for the birth of a baby at term.

Month 6

As they have throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will complete more tests in your sixth month — specifically, for your risk of gestational diabetes. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, you will start taking additional medication and even insulin to manage your condition through the remainder of your pregnancy.

As part of preparing for the delivery of the baby, many expectant parents tour the hospital during this time. This will allow you to ask questions and relieve any anxieties you have about your delivery process. You may also start looking to hire professionals like doulas to address additional desires of your birth plan.

Month 7

Your final trimester is the time when you start gathering exactly what to prepare for delivery of your baby. After all, the better prepared you are, the better you will handle unexpected developments like an early labor.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to buy materials to help you care for your newborn child. First off, you will need a car seat. These are required by law to leave the hospital, and purchasing one early allows you to practice installing the seat so you are prepared for the big day. You may also wish to learn more about things to prepare for the delivery of a baby with an infant-care class. In addition to providing you item checklists, these classes will teach you the basics of caring for a baby.

You will also want to start searching for a pediatrician to care for your child. Always research to make sure you are choosing the right doctor for your preferences and goals.

Month 8

When the last two months of your pregnancy come around, it can be stressful knowing how to prepare for the birth of a baby. If you have had the ability to make preparations earlier in your pregnancy, you should be in good shape. But, if you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and decide to parent instead of choosing adoption, it can be overwhelming to know how to prepare yourself for a baby this late in the process.

Don’t ever be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Pregnancy crisis centers, support groups, counselors and more can offer advice and suggestions for moving forward.

Wherever you are at in the preparation process, packing your hospital bag in your eighth month of pregnancy is a small step that will be extremely helpful when it comes to your labor process. Having essential items like a change of clothes, an outfit for the baby and hygiene products ready to go will reduce your stress during one of the most important days of your life.

Month 9

During your last month of pregnancy, the last steps of preparation for your baby’s birth should be taken care of. If you haven’t already, pack your hospital bag. Make a plan for any childcare or house-care needed while you are in the hospital, and prepare your support system for when you bring your baby home for the first time.

Mostly, take this opportunity to relax and enjoy the last few weeks you have before your life changes forever.