How to Prepare for Your New Baby: A Planning & Budgeting Checklist

How To Start Preparing for a Baby

Preparing For a Baby Financially

Additional Resources for Expecting Parents

If you’re planning on having a baby, you need to be prepared for everything that comes with it. A baby affects your finances, your familial relationships, and your body, all of which can be overwhelmingly stressful. Take the time to plan ahead, so that you can prepare for any hurdles well before they appear.

This guide will cover all aspects of preparing for a baby, from conception to delivery. As expectant parents, if you take it one step at time and prepare wisely, you’ll be able to ensure that yourself and your newborn have everything you both need during and after pregnancy.

How to Start Preparing for a Baby

Ideally, you’ll be able to start preparing for a baby before conception. While this isn’t always possible, if you are planning beforehand, make sure to consult your partner or your support system. It gives them an opportunity to mentally prepare for helping take care of a baby in the years to come.

Ask These Questions Before Trying to Conceive

These are important questions that you should ask yourself as early as possible. If you are already pregnant, these questions can still serve as a gauge for how ready you are, and help you determine important next steps. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself these questions at every step of the pregnancy; life can change notably in nine months.

Am I Ready to Have a Baby Emotionally?

Both pregnancy and child-rearing are emotionally taxing, especially if you’re currently dealing with others serious life events. This might include grieving, dealing with mental health problems, or simple work-related stress. You should consider how these stressors will interact (and possibly compound) with the stresses of being and becoming a parent.

Consider whether you have a support system in place that can help you regularly handle this pressure. If you don’t, consider building that system up as best you can, as soon as you can. Stress during pregnancy can affect the health of your baby. There is no way to completely eliminate stress from your life, but being emotionally ready and  utilizing the appropriate support system will certainly help.

Some mothers may experience additional emotional hardships if they’ve been pregnant before but were unable to carry to term. If you have previously miscarried and aren’t sure if you’re ready to carry another child, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you had time to grieve?
  • Are you able to sleep regularly?
  • Have you returned to a regular routine?
  • Do you want another baby?
  • Are you depressed?

You may want to consider waiting to try and conceive again if you haven’t had the proper time to experience the grieving process in full. Your emotions may fluctuate from day to day, or even hour to hour, knowing whether you’re ready after a traumatic experience can take some time. Ultimately, only you will be able to decide when you’re ready to try again, but the opinion of a qualified counselor might help. Look in your area for one that specializes in pregnancy loss and grief.

Am I Ready to Have a Baby Financially?

Once you’ve determined that you’re emotionally ready for a baby, the next step is to consider finances. Insurance can help tremendously with the cost of having a baby, but you should still consider the following:

  • Prenatal doctor’s visits will mostly be covered by insurance, but if not, count on spending at least $10,000 here. Otherwise, you’ll definitely hit your deductible.
  • Delivery usually costs around $9,700 (or $12,500 for a cesarean section). There is always the chance of complications, and costs associated with those are hard to estimate.
  • Your baby’s first year will cost about $12,000 on average.

These are good guidelines to go by, but each pregnancy is different. Depending on your doctor, your insurance coverage, and your delivery, the total cost will vary. Know your deductible, and be prepared to meet it during your pregnancy.

Do I Have Parental Leave or Short Term Disability Insurance?

Ideally, all parents will have some sort of leave from work, allowing them to spend more time forming a stronger bond with their newborn. Be sure to talk to your employer or insurance agent before the delivery, so that you’ll know your benefits ahead of time.

Check with your employer and see if they offer paid maternity/paternity leave. If they do not, then short term disability insurance is your next best option. It covers a portion of your salary for six to eight weeks. Make sure that you are covered either by paid leave or short term disability insurance as soon as you can.

However, be aware that some insurance policies consider pregnancy to be a preexisting condition. If your insurance has this policy, then enroll before you conceive, otherwise you may not be able to use something like short term disability insurance.

Is My Body Ready for Pregnancy?

Pregnancy can take a toll on even the healthiest body. It’s important to prioritize the mother’s health before and during pregnancy. Check in with your doctor, eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of nutrients, and begin taking all the necessary vitamins and supplements that pregnant women need. Prenatal vitamins are often several nutrients rolled up into one pill, but generally they include:

  • Calcium: 200-300 milligrams (mg)
  • Folic Acid: 400 micrograms
  • Iodine: 150 micrograms
  • Iron: 17 mg
  • Niacin: 20 mg
  • Riboflavin: 2 mg
  • Thiamine: 3 mg
  • Vitamin B12: 6 mg
  • Vitamin C: 70 mg
  • Vitamin D: 1 IU
  • Vitamin E: 10 mg
  • Zinc: 15 mg

Of course, always follow the recommendations of your doctor before making major changes to your diet or habits.

Plan Your Doctor Visits and Choose Your Hospital

Your doctor will be working closely with you throughout your pregnancy. Make sure that you find a doctor that shares your values, respects your birth plan, and is in your insurance network. After you’ve chosen a doctor, chat with them about what hospital they recommend. It will probably be the closest to your home, or the one that they work at.

Not everyone will choose the same birth route, however. When it comes to the person you’ve entrusted to guide you through your pregnancy, there are several options:

  • Primary Care Physician: This is your family doctor. Some of them also provide prenatal care and deliveries, so if you have a particularly good relationship with yours, ask if they would be willing.
  • OBGYN: These doctors specialize in women’s care, including a focus on pregnancy and the birthing process.
  • Certified Midwife: These are professionals, usually former nurses, that commonly assist in low-risk pregnancies. They can assist in a variety of settings, no matter your birth plan.
  • Doula: These are not medical professionals, but they have been trained to provide emotional and physical support during labor. They have a wealth of common pregnancy knowledge.

You should also consider where you want to give birth:

  • Hospital: This is the most common option in the US. If you have a high-risk birth, you should consider delivering in a hospital.
  • Birth Center: These centers promote natural childbirth for low-risk pregnancies. They are often staffed by nurses or midwives.
  • Water Birth: Usually done at home, water births take place in a large tub. There is no extra risk to the baby, because babies don’t actually breathe until they are exposed to fresh air.
  • Home Birth: Not all home births are water births. You can give birth in your home, as long as you have a low-risk pregnancy.

Preparing for a Baby Financially

Once you’re read to have a baby, it’s time to prepare for him or her financially. Find out what your insurance will cover, double check your deductible, and begin building your baby budget.

Baby Preparation Checklist: All the Essential Items You Need

Some things are non-negotiable for baby preparation. Those items include:

One-Time Purchases

  • Crib or bassinet
  • Mattress
  • Bedding
  • Baby monitor
  • Baby bathtub
  • Breast pump
  • Bottles
  • Diaper bag
  • Baby thermometer
  • Car seat
  • Stroller
  • High chair

Routine Purchases

  • Baby clothes (they’ll outgrow them quick!)
  • Diapers
  • Diaper cream
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby shampoo/soap
  • Pacifiers (they’ll get lost!)

Build Your Baby Budget

Ultimately, your “baby budget” will depend on your situation and lifestyle. These expenses can be used as a rough guideline.

  • Daycare: $1200/month
  • Diapers: $80/month
  • Food: $50/month
  • Doctor’s visits: $100/visit

Understand Your Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage is confusing, and it’s especially frustrating when you’re expecting a baby. Follow up with each bill to make sure that your provider is paying everything that they should.

Talk to a Benefits Coordinator or Advisor

If you ever doubt a certain charge, whether it’s a room fee, a certain medication you don’t remember, or something you don’t recognize, don’t be afraid to ask. If you have a benefits coordinator at your work, he or she might be the best place to start. They can help you understand what is “in network” and what should be covered by your insurance. Otherwise, call the hospital and ask.

Ask Your Doctor About Common Expenses To Expect

Your doctor will have a good idea of what sort of expenses you should expect. Ask about possible NICU visits, additional medications, and even longer-than-usual stays after delivery. They might not be able to give you exact numbers, but they’ll have a rough idea. They’ll also tell you how much you should expect for required immunizations for your newborn, and what schedule is appropriate for you.

Try Getting a Free Breast Pump Through Insurance

Your insurance should cover many essentials for you, including your breast pump. There are many benefits to breastfeeding, but it can be hard to manage feeding without a pump. They can make it easier for mothers to return to work, not to mention they can allow breastfeeding moms to be more comfortable. Without a pump, it can be difficult to control your baby’s feeding schedule, or even return to work at all.

Register online to check your insurance benefits and discover if your carrier will cover the cost of a hospital-grade breast pump for you, or if you’ll need to pay for one out-of-pocket. Your plan has to cover the cost of a breast pump right now — however, it might not be the type you want, and may not come with important accessories. Look into your policy to find out what restrictions might apply to you.

Plan to Hold a Baby Shower

Knowing what insurance will or will not cover beforehand will help you understand what gaps need to be filled. Once identified and understood, a baby shower can help fill those gaps. Throwing a shower can be expensive, but there are ways to save money:

  • Host it at your home
  • Ask important friends and family who live far away to “call in”
  • Send digital invitations
  • Make simple games to play out of everyday materials

Create a Baby Registry

Make sure that you create a registry so that people know what to get you based on what you need. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to research every item beforehand, so you’ll know exactly what you want. It should be a list of all the things you’ll need for the baby. That way, even if your insurance doesn’t cover the right breast pump, for example, you can ask for one here.

Additional Resources for Expecting Parents

Here are some additional financial and support resources for expectant parents.

Government Assistance Programs for New Parents

Medicaid Coverage for Pregnancy

Expectant mothers qualify for coverage under Medicaid. However, states get to decide how much coverage they want to provide. While they must cover procedures in relation to the pregnancy, the state ultimately gets to decide what procedures count. Arkansas, Idaho, and South Dakota do not provide comprehensive coverage for pregnant mothers. Regardless, if you do not have insurance privately or through your employer, this can reduce some of your medical bills.

Private and Nonprofit Financial Assistance Programs for New Parents