Getting Ready for Baby

Couple preparing baby nurseryThere are a lot of things you need to think about and decisions you need to make during your last trimester. 

A word about the nursery: Your baby will need a safe, quiet, comfortable place to sleep. He’ll need diapers (a lot of diapers) and wipes, clothes, blankets, bottles, breast pump if you are breastfeeding, formula if you’re not able to breastfeed and more. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the expensive bells and whistles that may make a “picture-perfect” nursery. More than anything else, your baby needs your love to feel safe, secure and happy. 

You can save money on your baby needs by shopping at consignment stores for gently used clothing or gear. Be sure to see “Safe home for baby” in the following pages to check on the safety of any furniture, toys or car seats. Many chain stores offer discount or reward cards, and you can get printable coupons or even shop from your computer at home. 

Childbirth and breastfeeding education

Childbirth education classes are the very best way you can prepare for labor and delivery. In these classes you will:

  • Learn about labor, delivery and postpartum care.
  • Learn and practice effective methods for coping with contractions, such as breathing techniques, relaxation and visualization, as well as the pros and cons of medications, such as narcotic analgesics and epidural blocks.
  • Get information on the care of newborns. 

The hospital where you deliver may also offer classes regarding breastfeeding and newborn care. Ask your doctor about free classes or go to to locate providers in your area. 

Safe home for baby

Your baby will grow and thrive in a safe environment. It’s up to you to be prepared for emergencies. There are hundreds of things, big and small, that you can do to help make your home safer. We’ve included additional sources at the end of this section. But for now, here are just a few to get you started. 

  • In emergencies, call 911 first! 
  • Make sure you have the phone numbers of your pediatrician, the poison control center (1-800-222-1222), your spouse or partner at work, and your ambulance service (if you don’t have 911) in your phone and easily accessible. 
  • Set your water heater to 120°F to prevent burns.
  • Make sure every area of your house has a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. Check them monthly.
  • Get a baby monitor and test it before you bring your baby home.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in your house, in your car or near your baby. 
  • Check to see that no safety recalls have been issued on equipment and toys you have bought or received for your baby. Call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 to check for a recall on your used equipment. 
  • Make sure cleaning supplies and other chemicals are out of reach. 

Safe baby gear 

Woman with baby in baby carrierEvery year, tens of thousands of children are injured or killed by defective products. Before you use a “hand-me-down,” check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission at for a list of the most important recalls and product hazards. 

Be sure to mail in the registration cards on all your new baby gear. The manufacturers will contact you if the product is recalled. 


Secondhand cribs are a leading cause of infant injuries in America. In June 2011, stricter guidelines went into effect for the manufacture, sale and resale of cribs. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing and using a crib. 

  • A full-size crib is best for your baby. 
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reviewing safety standards on cribs and urging parents to avoid drop-side cribs (cribs with sides that move up and down). Many of these kinds of cribs have been recalled. It’s best to have a crib with sides that don’t move. 
  • To keep your baby from getting his face stuck between the mattress and crib and suffocating, crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. Crib mattresses should be firm and tight fitting. You shouldn’t be able to put more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame.
  • Sheets should fit snugly.
  • Don’t use bumper pads on cribs. They pose a suffocation risk.

Bassinets and cradles

Bassinets are usually lightweight and portable. Typically cribs and cradles stay in one place. Bassinets and cradles are covered only by voluntary safety standards, not mandatory federal standards. The March of Dimes recommends that you use a full-size crib if you can.


  • Buy or borrow a stroller that reclines fully, so your infant can lie flat. When the stroller is reclined fully, the leg openings should close off so your baby cannot slip through.
  • Strollers should have a five-point harness or a sturdy safety belt and a crotch strap.
  • Make sure there is a canopy to protect your baby from sunlight, rain and wind.
  • Check that the frame is sturdy. 
  • When buying new, look for stickers from ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials) and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Strollers with these stickers meet voluntary safety standards.
  • Do not run with an infant younger than 6 months old in a jogging stroller. Infants do not yet have good head and neck control, so this could be dangerous for them.

Car seats

Couple with child in car seat

The law requires that your baby must always ride in an approved safety seat when traveling. That means you must bring your baby home in a car safety seat that is marked “federally approved,” and the hospital will not allow you to leave without one. Ask your doctor, the hospital where you deliver or your health department about programs that loan federally approved car safety seats. 

Your baby should ride rear-facing until he is about 2 years old. When he reaches the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer for its infant-only seat, he should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible seat until he outgrows the manufacturer recommendations.

To see a list of car safety seats and safety seat manufacturers, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website at

Arkansas residents can visit to find a certified technician who can help answer your car seat questions.

If you’re considering a used car seat for your child, make sure the car seat:

  • Comes with instructions and a label showing the manufacture date and model number.
  • Hasn’t been recalled (go to
  • Isn’t more than 6 years old.
  • Has no visible cracks or missing parts.
  • Has never been in a moderate or severe crash.

If you don’t know the car seat’s history, don’t use it! 


Finding quality child care 

Selecting a child care provider is one of the most important, emotional and difficult decisions you will make as a parent. Even though your baby is not born yet, it’s never too early to begin researching and decide which child care facility is best suited to you and your family. High-quality child care and early childhood education set the stage for how well your child will learn and how he will think of himself and others.

Make sure that anyone caring for your child knows that shaking a baby is not OK and can cause serious harm. Never leave your baby with someone you suspect has anger problems.

Better Beginnings, Arkansas’s quality rating system for licensed child care facilities, will be a great resource in helping you select the best child care for your baby. The Better Beginnings website ( in Arkansas and in Tennessee make it easy for you to:

  • Learn what to look for in a child care facility.
  • Know what questions to ask about child care.
  • Find licensed Arkansas child care providers in your area using a convenient online tool.
  • Compare child care providers based on their quality ratings.

Child care checklist from Better Beginnings

The Child Care Checklist is a comprehensive listing of everything you should consider when choosing a child care provider. Print it out and take it with you:

Family planning

Medical experts recommend that women not have sex for at least six weeks after giving birth and not become pregnant again within six months. Since getting pregnant again too soon can be dangerous, it is important to decide early which form of family planning you will use.

  • Talk to your doctor and partner about the best method of family planning for you. Is the method easy to use? Is it safe? Does it work?
  • Methods that don’t work include withdrawal, douching, makeshift condoms, feminine hygiene products and breastfeeding.


  • Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Roger W. Harms, M.D., 2004

Preparing for the hospital

Plan ahead. Check with your hospital to see if you can fill out admission papers early. Decide who will care for your pets, plants or other children. Who will support you during labor and delivery? Pack a bag and leave it in the closet or under the bed until it’s time to go. Pack lightly but include:

  • Insurance papers or identification cards
  • Preregistration forms from the hospital
  • Robe, slippers and underwear
  • Nursing bras
  • Toiletries, hair clips, hard candy for dry mouth
  • Sanitary pads (for heavy flows)
  • Going-home outfits for you and baby
  • Baby blanket, hat, booties or snowsuit if it is cold
  • Newborn diapers and wipes
  • Two soft, clean towels to roll up for padding the sides of your baby’s head in the car seat

Leave all cash, jewelry and credit cards at home. And remember, all babies must leave the hospital in a car safety seat. You must always use a car seat when you travel with your baby.


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