There are very few experiences in the world that compares to witnessing the birth of your first child. The rush of excitement, the deep awareness of responsibility, and the acknowledgement that your entire life is about to change forever create lasting intimate emotions.
Taking care of a newborn baby is a tremendous undertaking that is extremely rewarding but can make any new parent very nervous. I can attest to this, based on my own personal emotional roller coaster when my son and most recently my daughter were born.
My wife and I were new to parenting when our son was born one month prematurely, and we had to figure things out through trial and error. Our home was unprepared to welcome a new baby, so there were several mad dashes to the baby store and a couple of hours spent setting up baby equipment in between hospital visits before our son came home.
Our various experiences the first time around prepared us well for our daughter’s birth, and I am happy to share these life lessons with you. With that stated, here are five parenting tips that I hope can provide some guidance as you prepare to welcome your bundle of joy into the world:
- Purchase the baby necessities 2 months in advance of your baby’s due date.
- Research and secure a daycare spot well in advance of your baby’s due date.
- Take advantage of a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA).
- Start a College Savings Plan.
- Go out on dates with your significant other while your baby is under 6 months old.
Tip 1: Purchase the necessities 2 months in advance of your baby’s due date. The day before my wife went into labor, we thought we had plenty of time to get the house ready for a baby. We had not yet purchased a car seat, stroller, bottles, bottle warmer, newborn clothes, or a bassinet for the baby to sleep in. We received lots of toys, wet wipes, diapers, baby clothes, and a high chair from several baby showers and family, but felt like we had at least a whole month to head over to the local baby store to get the necessary items. Well, history has shown that our timing was way off!
I left the hospital the morning after our son was born, made a beeline to the baby store, and frantically began gathering the big-ticket items (including balloons and flowers for my wife!).
Then I went to the house and spent a couple of hours assembling the bassinet (thank you Youtube!) and setting up a changing table, before heading back to the hospital to be with my wife and child.
We could have avoided the last minute scramble had we made early purchases and completed assembly at least a month or two before the baby was due.
Bonus tips – purchase MANY boxes of baby wipes. Five boxes of wipes (10 packets per box) should last you through the first 6 months. Trust me; you will use up every sheet. In addition, babies grow quickly out of their newborn diaper size. After one month, you should gauge how many newborn diapers (Size N) to continue purchasing (up to 10 pounds), before your baby can comfortably move up to Size 1 (up to 14 pounds).
Tip 2: Research and secure a daycare spot well in advance of your baby’s due date. Finding the right daycare that will make you feel comfortable leaving your bundle of joy during the workday requires weeks (if not months) of research. My wife and I spent months visiting and interviewing daycare owners within our city before we finally settled on the right institution.
If you do not have the benefit of having a retired relative, a close friend nearby, or a stay at home partner who can take care of baby at your home, you will be faced with the prospect of turning to a daycare center after two to three months of maternity leave (depending on your employer’s childcare benefits). Keep in mind that there may be a long waiting list for your preferred daycare, depending on the demand levels and quality of service.
Popular websites like Care.com provide you with a solid list and quality rating of daycare centers and baby sitters in your city. Friends and co-workers are also great resources for finding suitable daycare recommendations. So start as early as possible, and take the time you need to make an informed decision!
Tip 3: Take advantage of a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA). Let us face reality – childcare costs are extremely high in today’s economy, especially if you do not have family close by to assist you with babysitting while you run errands or go to work.
Fortunately, thanks to the government you now have the option to put aside tax-free dollars to help pay for your dependent care costs. Dependent care costs simply mean costs associated with taking care of your child (under the age of 13) or any disabled adult dependent (for example your spouse or your mom) of any age.
Examples of dependent care costs include adult and child daycare, after school programs, babysitting, summer camp, and sick childcare costs.
So, how does this benefit work?
Employers can set aside $2,500 of income annually on a pre-tax basis for individuals (married couples can set aside up to $5,000).
This means that once you enroll in this program, your DCFSA contributions will be deducted from your gross salary and applied to an FSA account of your choice.
Taxes will then be deducted from your remaining salary, thus reducing the total amount of your taxable income by $2,500 (or $5,000 for married couples).
You can then reimburse yourself for any dependent care costs that you incur throughout the year up to $2,500 (or $5,000 for married couples), once you provide the necessary proof of eligible payments.
Check out the FSAFEDS website for more information on this program.
Tip 4: Start a 529 College Savings Plan. College tuition continues to increase year after year, leaving many college graduates (and parents) with significant debt upon graduation.
It is a good idea to begin saving for your child’s college tuition from an early age. The 529 College Savings Plan, a federal tax-exempt college savings account, is one of the more popular saving options available to parents.
These plans are offered in most states, and can be used to pay for eligible education expenses.
Check out the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website for more information on this great savings opportunity.
Tip 5: Go out on dates with your significant other while your baby is under 6 months old. Taking care of a newborn is a full time responsibility in which you will be 100% focused on parenting duties. However, that does not mean that enjoying a nice dinner your favorite restaurant is an activity of the past!
Your baby will sleep A LOT when only a couple of months old. You should take the opportunity while baby is mostly in a sleeping stage to go out occasionally and have a nice dinner – with baby in tow of course!
Babies will typically sleep throughout the date, and this will provide you with an opportunity to enjoy quiet time and adult conversation during your meal with your significant other. As baby grows older and become more aware of the world and his or her surroundings, these quiet dinner opportunities will diminish, as you transition to the “tantrum” phase. Trust me; nothing speeds up your meal and check request faster than baby throwing a tantrum!
So heed my advice, and continue to enjoy quiet time with your significant other while baby is still sleeping away all snug and peaceful.
Do you have any additional parenting tips that you would like to share? Please leave a comment below, thanks!