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Preparing for a baby is so exciting, but it can also be mind-boggling when faced with so many options. Offspring to the rescue! Here’s the only guide you’ll need to be ready for your new arrival…

Before baby arrives:

  • Maternity clothes are a must have. It won’t be long before undoing that top button just won’t cut it!
  • Invest in good quality maternity bras — mastitis (blocked milk ducts) can be caused by ill-fitting ones.
  • Take care of yourself using skincare products specially designed for mums and bubs.
  • Book a maternity and newborn photo shoot. This is a great way to commemorate this special time in your life.
  • Consider taking a plaster cast of your pregnant belly! It can be decorated and hung on the wall of the nursery.

Start thinking about the birth:

How you choose to give birth is a personal decision. If this is your first baby, it’s natural to feel apprehensive. If you’ve had a baby before, you may feel upset and anxious if your previous birth didn’t go to plan, or you may even be looking forward to the birth! Many women say birth is a natural and enjoyable experience.

However you are feeling, it’s normal. Take some time to research your options:

  • Will you give birth in hospital or at home? Home birth is legal in Australia with a registered midwife or obstetrician.

 

  • What pain relief options have you considered? No doubt you’ll have heard about an epidural which is a spinal injection to make your lower half numb, but there are other options like gas and air (laughing gas), pethidine injection (related to morphine) or using a TENS machine (to stimulate nerves in the lower back).

 

  • Who would you like to be present? Most women choose to have their partner present, but some also choose to have another support person such as their mum, sister or close friend.

 

  • How about a water birth? Many claim water birthing is relaxing and eases pain.

 

  • Have you thought about hiring a doula? A doula is a (non-medical) trained professional who offers support throughout labour and birth.

 

If you plan to go to hospital, get your bag ready early.

“Everyone has a different experience of birth.

Try not to get stressed if things don’t go to plan”

What to pack for hospital:

  • Paperwork – maternity notes, medicare card and birth plan.
  • Old nightie or T-shirt – and maybe a dressing gown.
  • Socks – feet get cold during labour.
  • Lip balm – particularly if you plan to use gas and air.
  • Your toiletries, toothbrush and glasses/contact lenses.
  • Hair ties.
  • Snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up.
  • Something to distract you and help pass the time  – maybe an iPad loaded with your favourite shows.
  • Maternity and breast pads.
  • Old underwear.
  • Newborn nappies – disposable are best for hospital.
  • Baby onesies.

 

Travelling with baby:

 You will want to show your baby off to the world at the first opportunity, but it is sensible to limit visitors and outings for a little while. You will be exhausted after the birth, and those first few days getting to know each other are precious – enjoy your little baby bubble!

  • Car restraint

Newborns must be in a rear-facing seat which conforms to Australian standards. Consider having it professionally fitted and buy new for safety. You might like to hire a baby capsule since newborns grow so fast although some seats can accommodate newborns to four year olds. There are also capsules that lift out of the car and click straight onto your pram which can be very helpful when baby is asleep!

  • Pram

Take your time choosing the right pram. Test drive them! Practice putting the pram up and down and don’t forget to check it will fit in your car boot. If you plan on having more children, consider a pram that can take a second seat.

  • Baby carrier

Babies love to be held and a baby carrier means they can be close whilst you still have your hands free.

  • Nappy Bag

There are so many stylish options available. It’s a good idea to choose a purpose made nappy bag as they often come with a portable change mat, bottle insulator and a zip-close pouch for storing your valuables.

Setting up the nursery:

  • Bassinet and Cot

Many babies spend the first few months in a bassinet close to mum. This makes those night feeds a lot easier! Another option is co-sleeping and there are cots that attach to the side of your bed if this suits your family. Make sure you buy a new mattress if you opt for a second hand cot.

 

  • Changing space

Set up an area with a mat, fresh nappies and wipes, plus a nappy disposal bin for convenience.

  • Nappies

There are lots of great re-useable nappies out there. They save money in the long run and are better for our planet – Win! Win!

  • Feeding chair and pillow

A reclining glider chair can be your saviour if you are struggling through night feeds or to settle a distressed baby. A nursing pillow will save your neck and back too.

  • A baby monitor

Put your mind at ease and invest in a monitor. Some have video option so you can see as well as hear your sleeping bub. There is also a heart rate monitor option which can help decrease the risk of SIDS.

Helping older siblings adjust:

It can be challenging for existing children to accept a new arrival. Choose how to break the news carefully. They may not be as delighted as you are. Depending on the age of the child, sharing a book about a new baby is a nice way to introduce the idea.

Let children be involved in preparing for the baby. Maybe they could help paint the nursery, help wash their old baby clothes ready to give their new brother or sister, or even be involved with choosing a name!

Once baby makes an appearance, consider getting a gift from the new baby to their sibling as a way to encourage a bond. Also, try to ask visitors to acknowledge the new big brother or sister before they fuss over the baby.

Baby clothes:

Lots of people gift baby clothes so it’s up to you how many outfits you buy, but looking at baby clothes for the first time is particularly exciting. Enjoy!

  • Onesies

Size 0000 and 000 fit newborns. Buy more than you think you will need and get a variety of styles such as long sleeved and short sleeved. Some also have scratch mitts incorporated.

  • Cute outfits

It’s nice to have one or two little outfits – but be aware babies grow quickly

Feeding time:

Breastfeeding gives your baby the best nutrition, boosts the immune system and is sterile and convenient. However, if breastfeeding is not possible for you, don’t beat yourself up! There are lots of different formula options available so accept the situation and enjoy time with your beautiful bub.

  • Formula and bottles

Buy a couple of different formulas, bottles and teats – your baby may not like the first one you try. It’s sensible to have some on hand even if you plan to breastfeed. Babies are unpredictable and you will be more relaxed (and probably more successful) knowing you always have a back-up available.

  • Steriliser

This is the best way to keep your bottles germ-free.

“Feeding time is a great time to bond with your baby

– whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed”

  • Breastfeeding cover

If you plan to breastfeed, you might like to buy a cover (a bit like an apron) for when you’re out and about. That way you can breastfeed anywhere without compromising your modesty.

  • Breast pump

It’s a good idea to have a breast pump too – electric ones are the easiest. This way you can pump and have spare milk to use if you get sick and need to go on medication, or if you need to be away from your baby for a while.

Bath time:

  • Baby bath

Buying a small tub to put inside your bath or shower saves water and makes bath time quick and easy, but you can also use your sink!

 

  • Toiletries

Invest in good quality nappy rash cream, shampoo and body wash specifically designed for babies. There are a lot of harsh chemicals in some products.

Other essentials:

  • Muslin cloths

There are many beautiful designs out there for this multi-use item. These can be used to swaddle baby, drape over a pram for shade or even to mop up baby vomit – it’ll happen!

  • Baby thermometer

There’s nothing worse than being up in the middle of the night trying to decide if your baby has a fever.

Top Tips

You can often borrow baby items from friends or family – don’t be afraid to ask around.

Search for second hand items online – you can save a lot on your big ticket items that way!

Your baby will grow faster than you think, consider preserving those tiny fingers and toes by creating a plaster model from a kit. When they grow up, they won’t believe how little they used to be!

Choosing where to give birth is one of the biggest decisions you will make during your pregnancy. Whether you are contemplating public or private care, there are several important factors, as well as possible alternatives, to consider when choosing the best maternity care option for you and your family.

Finding out you are going to be a parent is a very exciting time, but making decisions about the right maternity care for you and your new baby can be a bit overwhelming. We take a look at some of the maternity care options available.

Private Care

If you have maternity care included in your private health package, you may wish to choose private care for you and your baby. If you receive care through the private system, you choose a private obstetrician, who will care for you from your antenatal appointments, right through to the birth and postnatal check-up.

Dr Stephen Lane, president of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG), says in the private system, the baby is delivered by very experienced caregivers, with obstetricians going through six or more years of specialist training, on top of their five or six-year medical degree.

He says the most common reason many people choose to have a private obstetrician is continuity of care.

Dr Lane says some considerations expectant parents think about when choosing an obstetrician include:

Gender (for some women, choosing a female obstetrician is important)

Location (“Is there a suitable carpark that is accessible? Are the rooms easy to get to? I think these things are important to consider,” says Dr Lane)

The obstetrician’s desk staff (“If the desk staff are friendly and approachable that is a good sign,” Dr Lane says. “It gives a good feel that they are a mirror of the person you will be seeing.”)

Cost (Dr Lane says the majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Australia charge well below the Australian Medical Association’s rates, with the average out-of-pocket cost for delivering a baby throughout Australia around $2000).

Note: Ask about your chosen obstetrician’s fee schedule and check with your health cover provider to find out exactly what is covered so you can be prepared for any out-of-pocket expenses.
“Australia is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby, and this is a reflection of the world class education our specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists undertake, with many completing more than 12 years of study and training,” he says. “NASOG believes that the care provided by specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists is worth every cent to the patients who enjoy improved health outcomes as a result of our professional care.”

Katie Lavercombe says she chose a private hospital because she wanted to be able to access any pain relief that she wanted during childbirth and was afraid her wishes might not be respected at a public hospital.

“I loved giving birth at a private hospital, the care was great, it was never too busy, and the staff were attentive,” she says. “We loved being able to stay together as a couple and have time to bond with each new baby.”

Katie is currently pregnant with her fourth child and does not have the right level of cover to choose a private hospital this time, so is receiving care through the public system.

“We are utilising the public system, and while it is full of hard working doctors and midwives, there are long wait times at each appointment, meaning a large chunk of my time is taken up by waiting for medical appointments,” she says.

Crystal Henderson decided to have her daughter at a public hospital because her GP recommended it. “We had planned to go Private, but when he recommended it, along with many of our friends, who shared their very positive birth stories after giving birth in public hospitals, we thought we should at least look at it,” she says. “When we went to the public hospital, and they took us through the rooms and birth suites, we were blown away.”

Ms Henderson says she was very happy with the care she received. “There (were) some minor complications during the labour and I needed extra medical assistance, however I felt very safe, in control and informed of everything the whole time,” she says

Shared Antenatal Care

If you have a great relationship with your trusted family GP, then shared antenatal care might be an option to consider. In a nutshell, antenatal shared care involves a woman’s appointments being shared between maternity care providers (usually GPs, midwives and obstetricians), and is most commonly between a GP and maternity staff in a public hospital.

Dr Wendy Burton, chair of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ antenatal/postnatal care specific interest group, says women choose to have shared antenatal care with their GP for a number of reasons.

“They may have a good relationship with their GP and are confident that they will be well taken care of,” she says. “The GP’s rooms may be closer or more convenient than the hospital/obstetrician or GPs may work extended hours, making appointments easier to plan around work commitments.


“Antenatal shared care involves a woman’s appointments being shared between maternity care providers – usually GPs, midwives and obstetricians.”

“The best models of shared antenatal care involve a collaborative team effort with well-informed GPs communicating effectively and efficiently with the other providers of care,” she adds. “If your usual GP is not up-to-date with current best practice for antenatal care, they may be able to recommend another GP who is better placed to provide care for you.

Work is currently underway to create digital records and an app for women, which will give additional options for the sharing of the pregnancy health record.”

Your Support

Who will be your support person when you welcome your baby into the world?

Many women will choose a partner, family member (such as their Mum) or a close friend to be their support person. However, there are some options to consider.

For example, a midwifery student is a good choice. They will attend antenatal appointments with you and, if you consent, can also attend the birth.

Another support option is a doula (a professional, non-medical birth and/or postnatal companion who is able to provide continuity of care, and emotional and physical support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period).

Michelle Perkins, chairperson of Australian Doulas, says many women hire a doula after experiencing a negative or traumatic previous birth experience.

“Some hire a doula to help them understand the maternity/obstetric systems. Some hire a doula to provide emotional and physical support if they do not have a partner, or if they believe their partner may also need support and guidance.”

Home Birth

Do you want to have your baby at home?

Grace Sweeney, coordinator at Homebirth Australia, says a woman who chooses to birth at home is guaranteed to receive continuity of care from a known midwife.

Ms Sweeney says the most important thing that a woman considering homebirth needs to do is to seek out a midwife as soon as possible.

“Nearly a decade of a sustained witch hunt against homebirth midwives has meant that midwives in private practice are scarce, and book out early,” she says. “It’s worth doing research on midwives in your area before you’re pregnant and making a booking as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed.”

Dr Lane says NASOG does not support home births in Australia.

Sarah Purvey decided she wanted a homebirth for her first child. “I had two private midwives,” Sarah says, when asked about her care. “A primary midwife came to my house regularly in pregnancy, so I built a very close relationship with her in that time and all the options for tests and injections were managed by her, with my consent and our discussions about them first. My primary midwife was there during the birth and then I had a second midwife attend shortly before my babies were born. For my first birth, I was also supported by a private obstetrician. I saw her a few times during pregnancy and she was open to supporting me, if I needed to transfer to hospital, if I needed more medical support from home.”

She says her experiences were wonderful and empowering.

“My first birth was very tough, long and in the end, I did transfer to the private hospital with my obstetrician, as I had a long second stage. In the end, I had an episiotomy, which couldn’t be done at home. This was handled beautifully by my midwives and by my obstetrician. I spent about 30 minutes continuing to labour in the private hospital, once I arrived, then we all discussed the option to do an episiotomy. I consented and this was done well. I felt wonderful when my baby arrived, despite 18 hours of active labour and a previous night of no labour.”

“Second time was much easier – four hours of active labour and my baby was born in to the water, straight into my arms and onto my chest.”