How to Prep for a Baby: The Complete Guide for Clueless First-Time Parents

New Baby, New Mom

We are overjoyed to be expecting our first child this fall! Of course, that means we are off racing around to figure out the complete list of things needed to prep for a baby. He will be joining our home in just a few short months!

There are no right or wrong ways to set up your preparation timeline. Don’t let pushy family and friends worry you that you are being too laid back, or nesting too early. If you start getting pulled in too many directions, here’s Rule #1 we will refer back to. You do what works for you!

Spoiler alert. There will be no other rules added to the list. You've got this!

Rule #1: You do what works for you!

Over here, I thought I’d be off to the races. Figured we would be ready for baby in the first trimester just because of all the excitement. But I have to tell you… nursery shopping and baby registries are OVERWHELMING for us first-time parents!

Sure, it’s obvious the baby will need a crib and diapers and plenty of clothes. (Even though you know they will just grow out of them too quickly.)

But what you don’t hear so much about are the differences between the hundreds of stroller models on the market. Or the plethora of the features of crib mattress options. All which make you feel like if you select poorly, your model will simply disintegrate one day while baby is using it.

That’s why from one new mama to another, I have put together this complete list of baby-prep goodness to share with you. My hope is that my research insanity will help lead you to some decisions of your own as you prep to add a plus-one to your growing family!

Preparing for a New Baby Title Image

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Prep for a baby with a registry

Congratulations! You just found out you're pregnant.

Maybe you shared the news with some close friends or family.

But keeping the news relatively quiet from coworkers and social media is still a tough secret to keep! You can’t feel the baby moving around yet. You may not be having too much morning sickness just yet, either (hopefully!) So, it can take a minute to feel like the big lifestyle change it is going to be.

Starting a baby registry is one of the first steps that makes it feel real in the earliest stages of pregnancy.

If you are overwhelmed trying to figure out what you need as first-time parents, here's a blog that I wrote just for you. It's a list of everything we registered for our bought along the way. I research everything like crazy. If you are looking for an “easy button” for your registry, feel free to copy mine. I even made a printable list for you over on baby registry essentials for new parents.

When to start a baby registry

We started our baby registry shortly after our 12-week exam, getting through those first-trimester worries.  

Personally, I always recommend starting sooner than later. Inevitably you will slowly add to it over the next several months. It’s nice to have a running list at your fingertips. Then, each time you come across something adorable you don’t want to forget about, it's an easy add.

Worried you’ll add things you decide later you don’t want? Or haven't told everybody your good news yet?

Start your baby registry on the private setting instead of public, so it won’t be searchable by family and friends.

We did a combination of this and starting new private “wish lists” on our favorite store websites when we found our favorite 3-5 items we wanted to go back and decide between later (especially when it came to cribs and nursery theme décor!)

Don’t worry. Once you’re ready to publish your baby registry to the public, it’s a simple click of a button.

Nobody will have to know how much crazy research or obsession you put into choosing each of the items!

Where to start a baby registry

The wonderful thing about the internet is that registries are simple now. From weddings to baby, you don’t have to go into the physical store, sit down, or walk around for hours with a scanner to decide what you’d like to have. Now, it’s a simple click of a button.

Plus, most places are thrilled to give you a goodie bag of baby freebies when you sign up with them.

That has been one of my favorite differences between our wedding registry and baby registry!

Some of the most popular retail shops for new parents to start a baby registry are Target, Walmart, Amazon, BuyBuyBaby, Pottery Barn Kids and Crate & Kids.

Start a registry at each store individually, or make it easy on yourself and head to Babylist to have everything merged into one.

Bonus: Babylist has exclusive collaborations with certain manufacturers, so they offer patterns and designs only available through Babylist!

Prepare the nursery for baby

As adorable as all mom bloggers make their nurseries look, we are not all gifted with decorating skills. I do not have a natural eye for interior design or Instagram-worthy finishing touches.

Are you excited to decorate the nursery, or dreading new furniture purchases and kitschy themes?

Regardless of how you design the décor, there are some boring, overlooked steps to focus on first.

Before you get into the finer details of nursery prep, work through the list below. These things are just as, if not more, important to take care of before bringing home baby.

Empty the room

Is the nursery currently a guest bedroom, office or cluttered storage space?

Take everything out of the room before adding nursery furniture. Yes, even if the baby nursery will become a new shared space.

Too often, we push things get into corners or top closet shelves that we forget about. Honestly, don't we know better by now? They just need to be thrown away or donated. Do it now, because you are about to add plenty more toys, clothes and – let’s be honest – junk. You might as well empty the space before there is twice as much to go through.

Deep Clean the Room

Take this opportunity to do more than wipe down walls, windows and surfaces in the nursery.

Have blinds or vents that have collected dust, or carpet that could use some special treatment? [Note that blind cords are considered hazards. It may be a good time to ditch those altogether!]

Invest in a cleaning company to come out and give the room the TLC it needs.

Fix Creaky Boards or Door Hinges

If the nursery is in an unused guest room, it’s a good time to spend some time in there. Note any noisy spots from the floor or doors. If you have a light sleeper, you will be grateful for this little detail. Especially as you realize how often you peek or tiptoe in to check on your newborn.

Assemble Furniture Inside the Room

Our crib would definitely not have fit if we assembled it outside the room and tried to bring it in later.

Keep this in mind if you are scheduling cleaners. Make sure they are able to clean around the furniture if you will already have it assembled by the time they come out.

Update The Lighting

Have you thought about using a dimmer for the nursery?

If all you have now is an on/off switch and an intensely bright single-bulb light, it may be a good time to think about what options you may want for those 3am feedings.

Will a nightlight do the trick? We haven’t decided in our house just yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one in the comments below!

Financial Prep for a Baby

I’m not the first, and I surely won’t be the last, to say babies are expensive. And I’m not even talking about “children” or “dependents” through all the years you are responsible. I’m talking babies.

Before getting too wrapped up in buying the cutest little socks you’ve ever seen (eeeek… I can’t even say that without holding some and gushing…) it’s time to sit down and update your budget. And, if you don’t have one – it’s time to get serious and make one.

Financial positions are so diverse that I can’t do them justice in just this section, but it’s key for anybody, in any position, to think about what a new addition will add to their monthly bills. Regardless of how thrifty you are, some costs are just inevitable.

Are you in a job that includes benefits? Make sure to look into your benefits package and start talking to your insurance company about what is and is not covered throughout the pregnancy and delivery process.

Quick Money Hacks for New Parents

  • Start buying a pack of diapers every time or two when you are out for groceries and toiletries. Rather than waiting for baby and suddenly having hundreds of dollars of diapers needed in a month, you will spread out the cost across 9 months beforehand and thank yourself later!
  • Go to consignment stores for lightly used clothes, toys and books. Newborns grow so quickly that some of those adorable outfits given at baby showers don’t even make it onto the kiddo before they are too small! Don’t forget Facebook also has some great local shopping and buy-nothing groups to trade with neighbors as well.
  • Sign up for freebies and coupons. The phrase “coupon mom” became a thing for a reason. It’s a no brainer to stop paying full price for things that have coupons EVERY week.

Prep for a baby: Pets

Do you have four-legged friends in your home that need to get prepared for a baby as much as you do? (No offense to the other types of pets out there… I just assume fish, birds and terrarium dwellers won’t have quite the same problems.)

Cooper is our very adorable, very spoiled pup at home. One key piece we talk about making sure to prepare is getting him ready for a newborn in the house.

Many more updates to come on this section as we research more and talk to our local dog trainers about the best efforts here. I imagine they still recommend letting him sniff the baby’s blanket before bringing baby home, and learning our little one’s scent early on.

Other things that jump out at me as a mom-to-be include minimizing his appearance in the baby’s nursery (this dude can JUMP… don’t need him thinking it’s HIS crib!) Plus, he sheds everywhere and for such a sweet dog otherwise, he’s a very aggressive plush toy destroyer (seriously, Kong, send us your BEST tough chew and this 45lb beagle mix will ruin it in minutes.)

Other Things to Consider While Prepping for Your Baby

Writing this as a 22-week pregnant mama-to-be, there is surely more to be added here as we get further along. That said, here are some other thoughts I’ve had or other parents have shared with us to consider as we stumble though this new journey.


Have you picked out a pediatrician (some may need a heads-up to get you on a new-patient waiting list… and if you don’t have a kid, you may have not even thought about this yet. But turns out, they need those first few shots and vaccines REAL early… so add it to your list!)

  • Has your partner been to a doctor recently and had their vaccines and booster shots? I would have never thought about this one, since mama here heads to the doctor monthly these days and they give me whatever I need… but I can’t say the same for the mister, and that whooping cough booster is calling his name!

Work / Leave Policy

  • Do you understand your leave policy at work?
  • Do you have a policy for parental leave?
  • Is any work PTO paid / unpaid?
  • How many weeks?
  • Does it have to be consecutive leave? (At some places, you may be able to take 6 weeks off, go back to work for a few months, and take another 6 weeks off. This can be great if your partner has a leave policy and you are trying to trade off.)
  • When and how will you tell your boss and coworkers about your pregnancy?
  • Do you plan to go back to work after baby comes?

Mom Has the Final Word

So, do you feel even a LITTLE more prepared now? Just stay the course and take one step at a time and remember… you can ALWAYS refer back to Rule #1.

[Rule #1: You do what works for you!]

As I get ready to join this amazing new club of mamas out there, I can’t wait to hear from all of you!

Share in the comments below – what baby prep has been the craziest? What other great tips have you heard along the way?

We all need to know! Tell us now, pretty please!

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