5 Parenting Conversations to Have Before Your Kid is Born

There are decisions to be made that add a tremendous amount of stress and conflict after a kid is born, so figure them out ahead of time.

The first few months parenting a newborn are all about happiness, check-ups, introductions, sleep deprivation, stress, and time management. It’s a good hard time and people going through it are asked to make a lot of decisions. Some are about meals and products. Others are about parenting strategies and financial priorities. The truth is that with the emotional pressures at play, more complicated decisions are often made by people with diminished access to their logical facilities. It is better, therefore, to make whatever decisions can be made prior to the birth of a baby prior to the birth of the baby. It’s a classic case of sooner is better.

Here are the decisions that parents are likely to face after birth if they’re not proactive during pregnancy.

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Parental Leave
Depending on their employment situation and benefits, parents generally have to make a decision about how much time off they plan to take before the arrival of their child. That said, it’s easy to make a non-decision version of that decision (“I’ll take a few weeks”) rather than coming up with a concrete plan. It’s helpful to think about not just time off, but the process of returning to work, which can be time consuming, and the extent to which you plan to engage while on leave. Some parents may be home physically but engaged with work via email. There’s nothing wrong with that unless that person’s partner has different expectations. Set the rules of leave early so nobody feels like they are carrying more water (or breastmilk) than the other person.

Visitor Schedules and Volunteer Help
A firstborn will arrive to great fanfare from friends and family (although some parents say that zeal falls off around the third kid). That means that people will want to visit the baby or provide help in some way. Coordinating visitors and help is not something new parents will want to do.

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Some parents will often delegate the duties of guest and volunteer help wrangling to a trusted friend. It’s important to sort out the details as far ahead as possible. Also, couples should keep in mind that people will want to help. Let them.

Night Shifts
Both parents will ultimately end up on the wrong side of sleep debt. But there are ways to be more egalitarian about post-baby sleep deprivation. Some couples might alternate “on-duty” nights, for instance, while others may simply opt for dad to always work the night shift. Other couples split the night in half, giving one person late night duty and the other early morning duty.

The ideal method is entirely based on what works for the parents. The biggest consideration is making sure everyone is on the same page the first-night baby comes home. Yes, the schedule can and should shift based on need. But it should start out as a solid plan that doesn’t completely rest on the shoulders of a new mom.

Parenting Duties
An appropriate division of labor is crucial. These are the tasks that are distinct from late night feedings and diaper changes. Hashing out what each parent will be responsible for especially helps fathers feel more involved in the early months when mom and baby are connected at the boob. So before the kid arrives, figure out who’s making meals, doing dishes, grocery shopping, tidying and, of course, changing diapers.

Understanding how to tackle that last chore is key. Some dads take all the diapers during the day, or when they’re home. Some couples split them. It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s codified. The phrase “but I did it last time” has led to more arguments than can possibly be counted.

Sleeping Arrangements
Many parents turn a room into a nursery before their baby arrives home, but it’s not necessarily in line with the AAPs current sleep recommendations. Pediatricians suggest that SIDS risk is lowest when a child shares a bedroom with their parents for the first few months.

But whether parents are deciding to have a crib in their bedroom, co-sleep without a crib, or keep a baby in their own nursery, the decision needs to be made prior to the first night. There’s a good reason for this: consistency. That’s not to say that things can’t change, but giving consistency a chance sure helps.

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