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11 ways to prepare for giving birth

From getting your house ready for a newborn to packing a hospital bag, we help you get organised ahead of your baby’s arrival

As we enter the period of the year when the most births take place, we highlight 11 tasks for expectant parents to tick off their to-do lists in the run-up to the big day.

More babies are born at the end of September than at any other time of the year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In 2015, the ONS looked at birth dates over the previous two decades, and found 26 September to be the most popular day for births.

So for any expectant parents counting down to a due date this month, our 11-strong checklist will help you feel a bit more prepared. For those who have bucked the trend and still have a few weeks or months to go, it’s never too early to start getting organised.

Which? Birth Choice – advice on all your options during pregnancy and birth.

1. Learn to spot the first signs of labour

Some of the most common early signs that your baby is on its way are obvious, such as painful contractions or your water breaking. However, some signs are closer to normal pregnancy symptoms, such as backache or having a strong urge to go to the toilet.

Read our article on the signs of labour to find out how to recognise the difference between Braxton Hicks and the real deal, when to call your midwife, and more.

2. Pack your hospital bag

When you go into labour, you don’t want to find yourself frantically chucking a random assortment of items into the closest carrier bag.

Even if you’re planning a home birth, it’s worth preparing a bag just in case you end up needing to go to hospital.

The most popular hospital bag items include nappies, spare clothes and a blanket for the baby. We’ve highlighted five other useful items that might not immediately spring to mind in the video, below.

3. Have your birth plan ready

A birth plan outlines what you’d like to happen during the different stages of labour, through to the first hours with your newborn. It can be a full detailed guide, or a few key points that you’ve discussed with your midwife.

It’s useful to have this ready ahead of time, to share with your midwife and birth partner, so they know what’s important to you during the birth.

4. Know your rights

Giving birth is a very personal experience, so it’s important to know what choices you’re entitled to make about the care you receive. Did you know, for example, that you can change your mind about where you want to give birth, even when you’re in labour?

5. Prepare your birth partner

During labour and birth, it can be a great help to have someone you know and trust by your side, who knows what you want and how to support you.

Read and share our top tips for birth partners, to help them prepare for this important role.

6. Fill up your car

If you’re planning on travelling to a hospital or birth centre by car, make sure it has plenty of petrol/ diesel/ electricity to get you there, so that you’re not caught short on the day.

Also, collect your loose change and keep it handy – you’re likely to need coins for the car park and vending machines.

7. Fit a car seat

Make sure you have a car seat that’s suitable for a newborn – you’ll need one to bring your baby home if you’re travelling by car.

Practise attaching it a few times in advance, too, so that it’s not all new to you when you come to put your baby in.

If you haven’t yet given much thought to which car seat you want to buy, start with Which car seat do you need for your newborn?

If you know a little more about the spec you’re looking for, find the perfect fit by heading straight to our child car seat reviews.

8. Make sure your house is kitted out

There are so many baby products out there and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – or to panic buy everything, especially as your due date gets nearer. First things first, double-check that you have the essentials.

In February 2017, we asked over 1,000 parents about the baby products they couldn’t live without. The top five list is:

  1. Cot mattress
  2. Stair gate
  3. Video baby monitor
  4. Baby change bag
  5. Audio baby monitor

For the full list, check out parents’ 10 most useful baby products.

9. Get ready for the long nights ahead

As any new parent will tell you, sleepless nights with a newborn are one thing you can’t easily prepare for. But, there are some things you can do to make those long nights a bit more comfortable.

  • Consider investing in a TV streaming service subscription – find out whether Netflix, Amazon Prime or Now TV offer the best value for money.
  • Stock up your cupboards with snacks and simple meals.
  • Check out our baby safe sleeping tips so you and your little one will both rest easy (in between the night feeds).

10. Learn the breastfeeding essentials

If you’re planning to breastfeed, it helps to know what to expect in the first few days with your baby.

Our advice on getting started with breastfeeding is your first port of call for tips on latching, breastfeeding positions and recognising your baby’s feeding cues.

11. Sign up to our emails for parents

Whether you’re early on in your pregnancy, approaching your due date, or you’ve just given birth, we have advice to help you through the process of becoming a new parent.

By signing up to our email list for new parents, you’ll receive relevant and timely information based on the stage of the journey you’re at. We’ll also tell you of any important baby product safety recalls, to help keep your little one safe.

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