What to Expect When You’re Expecting … for Natural Parents
Expecting parents can find a ton of checklists online and in books like “What to Expect,” but so many of them focus on “what to buy” or “finding a hospital/healthcare provider.” Those lists aren’t geared toward the more natural-minded family. This one is.
Below are 25 things that expecting parents can do to inform, empower, and inspire themselves. Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood are at once both joyous and daunting – but educated parents are more confident parents. I hope this list helps you embark on your own natural parenting journey, regardless of which aspects you embrace as appropriate for your family.
Top 25 To Do List (with Resources) for Expecting Parents
1. Look into your options for homebirth, birth centers, and the other birth options that women have. Seek recommendations for midwives, doulas, and other healthcare professionals. Remember that there are options outside of a hospital birth and the typical OB/GYN. To find midwives and doulas in your area, here are a few resources to get you started:
- Choosing Your Birth Practitioner, at Mothering
- Find a Midwife, from Mothers Naturally
- Find a Midwife, from the American College of Nurse Midwives
- Find a Doula, from DONA International
2. Empower yourself by learning about the positives of childbirth. Read good birth stories and books, and watch positive birth videos. Take a Hypnobabies or Bradley class. Expose yourself to those who enjoy birth. Stay away from “A Birth Story” and all of the negative birth stories out there. Here are a few suggestions on positive sites, books, and videos:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth or Spiritual Midwifery, both by Ina May Gaskin
- The Business of Being Born
- Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife, by Peggy Vincent
- The Aware Baby, by Aletha Solter
- 250 Positive Birth Stories, from Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby
- Positive Birth Stories
- Childbirth Video Galleries, from Giving Birth Naturally
3. Create a birth plan. Regardless of where you’ll be giving birth, imagine your perfect birth and write down what you envision. Make notes of what is important to you, what you want to avoid, who you want with you, etc. You can find some tips on writing birth plans at Birthing Naturally. And please remember that rarely does a birth go exactly according to plan. Relax and enjoy your birth, whatever happens! It is yours to own and cherish.
4. Research standard hospital procedures. If you do decide to plan a hospital birth, learn about their standard procedures and makes plans for which ones you will consent to, which ones you will refuse, and how you will refuse them. Do you need to sign waivers in advance? Will you have a support person there who can help you answer questions and who will have a copy of your healthcare decisions/wishes? For certain standard procedures that you will refuse, you may want to consider making it abundantly clear that you have not given the hospital consent. For example, some parents have put a written notice on their son that says “DO NOT CIRCUMCISE.” Regardless, have a contingency plan in place that someone will always be with the baby, even if that means your partner accompanies a nurse who is taking baby to be weighed, etc.
5. Get comfortable with breastfeeding. Attend a class offered by a local lactation consultant. Find a nearby La Leche League meeting. Join a local Attachment Parenting group and attend some play dates. Get used to the idea of nursing (and nursing in public!) before babe arrives, and you’ll be less likely to feel uncomfortable after babe arrives. Even better – have your partner attend with you! Have the numbers of two good lactation consultants stored in your phone. Here are a few resources to help you familiarize yourself with breastfeeding and breastfeeding support:
- Natural Parents Network’s “Feed with Love and Respect” resource page
- NursingFreedom.org (including a listing of state laws regarding breastfeeding)
- Find a lactation consultant, from the International Lactation Consultant Association
- Find a local La Leche League meeting
- Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, by Ina May Gaskin
6. Obtain or renew your Infant CPR/First Aid Certification. The classes are long (about half a day), so take your class well before your due date – especially you first time moms. Hopefully you’ll never have to use these skills, but if you do need them, you’ll feel so much better being capable of saving your child’s life than you would waiting helplessly around for an ambulance.
7. Find a support network. Whether it’s a local AP group, your church family, or an online network of parents, make efforts to make connections. You’ll want people around to commiserate with, to complain with, and to share the joys and heartaches of parenthood with. Natural Parents Network’s Facebook page and forums are both excellent places to start to connect with like-minded parents.
8. Research the benefits of leaving your son intact. All parents, regardless of whether you’re expecting a boy or a girl (because the ultrasound may be wrong!), should do some research about the benefits of leaving boys intact. It’s better to educate yourself before the birth, so you’re not caught off-guard in those sleepy, emotional days after birth. And once you’ve decided to keep your son intact, read up on proper care for intact males: never retract, and wash what is seen! Here are several resources to get you started on your research:
- The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
- Researching Circumcision, Part 1: What Is the Foreskin?
- Researching Circumcision, Part 2: What Is Circumcision?
- Researching Circumcision, Part 3: Common Concerns
- Are You Fully Informed? (a list of books, sites, and articles dedicated to educating parents on circumcision and keeping boys intact)
- Basic Care of the Intact Child
9. Invest in a good car seat and have it professionally installed. Learn how to install the car seat and how to correctly position your baby in the car seat so that she will be truly protected in an accident. See these sites for more information:
- Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator, from NHTSA
- SeatCheck.org offers an “inspection locator,” state laws, and tips and tools.
- Car Safety Seats: Information for Families, from HealthyChildren.org
- Correct Harness Use
10. Take care of yourself. If you’ve been meaning to start some good habits, try them now and discover what makes you feel good. Then after baby comes (after those first few weeks of near-constant nursing), figure out how to squeeze in a few minutes of me-time every day. You need to put you on your priority list too!
11. Start some good habits and end some bad ones. Examine your habits and lifestyle; think about what you want to expose your child to (or what you don’t want your child to pick up), and start changing a little bit at a time. Eat a more healthy diet. Take care of your body (diet, exercise, see a chiropractor during pregnancy!). Stop _______ (smoking, eating too many sweets/HFCS, self-criticizing). Use pregnancy and parenthood as an excuse to lead a healthier lifestyle – you won’t regret it.
12. Research vaccinations. Whatever route you decide to take with vaccinations, make sure that you 1) know what is in them; 2) know your options; and 3) know the benefits/drawbacks of both vaccinating and not. You can check out NPN’s “Holistic Health” resource page to start your research.
13. Read a baby book or two, and then remember to trust your instincts. Relax your expectations. Every baby is unique, and your baby will never conform exactly to the expectations and guidelines imposed in traditional baby advice. And when well-meaning people try to give you unsolicited advice, smile, nod, and say “thanks, I’ll keep that in mind!” Here are a few baby books that we like at NPN:
- The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, by Robert Sears and James Sears
- The Attachment Parenting Book: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby, William Sears and Martha Sears
14. Discover the benefits of babywearing! Keeping baby close helps meet a baby’s need for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation and movement. Consider attending a local babywearing event or a natural parenting store to try on different carriers. If you have a friend with a baby, bring her along!
15. Draft a will. If you and your partner haven’t prepared a will, now is the time to start thinking about it. Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents by Alexis Martin provides a great overview of this task (and other legal matters).
16. Interview pediatricians. Find one who listens to your concerns and takes time to really talk to you about parenting and your baby. Make sure your pediatrician is breastfeeding-friendly and knows the proper care for an intact penis. If you are choosing not to vaccinate (or to vaccinate on an alternate schedule), find a pediatrician/family practitioner who is supportive of your choices (not just “ok” with them, but actually supports them). You can find an extensive list of Questions to Ask When Interviewing a New Pediatrician at Code Name: Mama.
17. Research cosleeping. Babies are often healthiest and most secure when safely snuggled up close to a parent. And research has shown that cosleeping families get more sleep, and cosleeping children are actually more independent and have higher self-esteem than their solo sleeping peers. Start your cosleeping research with the many resources listed on NPN’s cosleeping section of the “Ensure Safe Sleep” resource page.
18. Learn about why your baby cries, and realize the dangers of crying it out. Your baby will cry because she needs you, not because she is trying to frustrate or manipulate you. Learn more about responding to babies’ cries and the consequences of crying it out on the cry it out section of NPN’s “Ensure Safe Sleep” resource page.
19. Figure out what health insurance baby will have. Will baby automatically be added to your insurance policy? Do you need to take any action to ensure that happens? Do you need to look into a low-cost program? Start your research early so that you’re not rushed at the last minute.
20. If you are returning to work, make a plan of action. Get details on how long your maternity/paternity leave is and when it can start. Talk to your supervisor/human resources specialist about your rights to pump/nurse at work, and find a convenient, private spot for pumping and storing breastmilk. Start thinking about childcare: think about the options available to you and call around to ask about wait lists. Talk to your employer about whether you are eligible for (or can create a new position that allows for) flex time or job sharing, so that you can return part time for a period of time. Here are a few resources that can help you create a plan for returning to work:
- Workplace Support in Federal Law, from the United States Breastfeeding Committee
- Work and Pump
- Curb Your Enthusiasm About the New Federal Workplace Pumping Law
- Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver
21. Read about ways to reduce your baby’s exposure to chemicals. Many adults don’t worry about our ever-increasing exposure to chemicals – until they become pregnant. But now is the time to start thinking about how you can reduce your family’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Checking for lead paint, switching to natural cleaners and body care products, cloth diapering, reducing your use of plastic and paper – all these and more are relatively easy ways to limit the chemicals in your baby’s environment. Start your research by checking out NPN’s Ecological Responsibility and Healthy Living resource pages.
22. Look into more natural health alternatives. If you haven’t ever researched more natural forms of healthcare, take a look now. From acupuncture to chiropractic, a holistic health practitioner will look at you as a whole – they do not just typically treat a problem. Additionally, once baby arrives you’ll be surprised at how quickly many physicians will push antibiotics or other very invasive treatment procedures. More holistic health practitioners are more likely to consider the preventable causes of a child’s illness and treat it naturally. Here are some resources to get you started:
- Essential Oil Remedies for Children: What to Use
- Children and Chiropractic
- American Holistic Health Association
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
23. Begin to learn about infant massage, baby signs, gentle discipline, and basic household safety. This is my catch-all category for things that are very useful for new parents (infant massage) and things that will be useful within the first two years (baby signs, gentle discipline, and household safety). Infant massage can be a calming way of bonding with and soothing your baby. As far as the other topics, it’s never too early to start planning for the future, and the days of communication issues and toddler exploration will be here before you know it. Here are a few resources on each of these topics:
- Infant Massage Basics
- Learning Sign Language with Babies and Children
- What Sign Should I Use for Breastfeeding?
- NPN Gentle/Positive Discipline resource page
- Carnival of Gentle Discipline
- NPN Family Safety resource page
- Home Safety Council
24. Prepare for those babymoon days. Stock up on freezer meals; save your pennies for a takeout meal or two; enlist a few friends/family members to volunteer to help with laundry, light cleaning, bringing over a meal, etc. (or save your pennies for a cleaning service); organize a couple of breastfeeding baskets to keep around the house; get your bed/room ready for cosleeping (or sleeping near baby); etc. Consider placenta encapsulation. Be aware of the signs of postpartum mood disorders, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Think about other random tasks that you can get done before baby: potty training the dog, working on fun crafty projects for baby, bringing baby clothes out of storage and launder, finishing home improvement projects that will make your postpartum days more manageable, etc.
25. Keep your spending (and registering) to a minimum. Ignore all of those online lists and baby registries that encourage expecting parents (or their friends and families) to spend money on unnecessary items. Instead, concentrate on a few things, and then ask friends/families to pitch in on providing childcare (for older siblings), cleaning, cooking, and other practical necessities. The Shortest “Newborn Baby Registry” Checklist, Plus Baby Gear You Probably Already Own has a very manageable “what to buy” checklist for more natural-minded families.
What was on your “to do” list when you were expecting?
Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.
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