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Big decisions Parenting

Big decisions

You’ve got a lot of important choices to make as you prep for the transition from bump to baby.

While expecting, moms-and dads-to-be will need to ask themselves a lot of questions about how they want to bring baby into the world and how to care for her once she’s finally here. Some decisions (like a color for the nursery walls) will be less daunting than others (writing a will), but we’re here to talk about the major forks in the road—because you can always repaint. They’ll crop up early, and there are a lot more to come. So, let’s take a peek at what you might be picking and choosing as you ready yourselves, your home and your lives for a tiny addition.

A prenatal care provider

Maybe you haven’t started buying up baby gear yet, but there is one thing you should be shopping for right from the get-go: a health care provider. “Choosing who you should turn to for your care is a big decision and one of the first you make during your pregnancy,” says Maria J. Brooks, BSN, RNC-OB, LCCE.

Begin your search by asking mom friends whom they’d recommend. It’s also worth checking in with your health insurance company for a list of local care providers who are covered by your plan.

Once you’ve narrowed down your top candidates, Brooks suggests meeting with a few early in your pregnancy to learn their different styles of care and find the best fit. “Ask questions to assure this is where you and your partner will receive the support you deserve.

“Giving birth will be one of the most memorable events of your life. It may be hard to imagine how you will respond to the powerful physical and emotional aspects of labor,” explains Brooks. “But no matter how you feel, it is bound to be easier if you are surrounded by a team of people you trust before, during and after the birth.”

Where to deliver
The answer to this question will be closely tied to whom you choose to be your prenatal care provider, so it makes sense to think of them in tandem. When it comes to where you’ll welcome your newbie into the world, you have four choices: a hospital, a in-hospital birth center, a freestanding birth center or your home. “A comfortable environment that makes you feel relaxed and supported will help your body move through the important process of childbirth,” Brooks says.

Consider what’s most important to you: a particular doctor or midwife you really clicked with or the birth center that’s 15 minutes from your house. If you’re set on a home birth, then that narrows your list of potential providers(you’re looking for a midwife!). If you know you want an epidural stat, then you’ll need to do your laboring in a hospital where an anesthesiologist can help. Aim to surround yourself with people who share your birthing goals.

Breast milk or formula
What your mini’s first meals will be tends to get a lot of attention from health care professionals, fellow moms and even total strangers. But before you get too worried about making the wrong call, just remind yourself that (1) it’s your call to make, no one else’s, and (2) what matters most is that your babe is fed and cared for.

There are an array of reasons why you might opt for breast or bottle, so let’s get down to the pros and cons of each …

“Breastfeeding is a natural and powerful way of helping mothers recover from birth, learn mothering skills and connect with their babies,” Brooks explains. “[It also] ensures that babies are well-nourished, protected against disease and allowed to develop optimally.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for six months.

Breast milk includes just-right amounts of protein, sugar, fat and vitamins for your growing sprout. Plus, it’s loaded with antibodies that help fight off infection. The composition of your milk even changes to give your baby exactly what she needs as she gets older.

There are advantages for mom, too. Nursing burns calories and helps shrink the uterus back to its pre pregnancy size, so you can lose some of those lingering pounds more quickly and without hitting the gym. Furthermore, it lowers the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Beyond wellness, another major perk is that it’s free and readily available. You are the only thing you need to feed your little one. Pretty cool, right? That convenience could come in handy when you’re out and about—or just when your hungry babe is demanding her next meal pronto.

On the other hand, the fact that you are the only thing your baby needs to chow down can really wear a mama out. Having a frequent eater nipping at your, well, nips can be a lot for a mom—and her breasts. Your body produces milk to meet the demand of your baby (or pump), which means the girls will need to be emptied every few hours or engorgement will set in.

If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll also need to keep tabs on what you’re eating and drinking to ensure it’s safe for baby. Yep, just like during pregnancy, you’re sharing your meals with your mini—so avoid high-mercury fish, more than one or two cups of coffee (or any caffeinated beverage), and wait at least two hours after sipping on a single alcoholic drink to nurse or pump.

Whether you’re unable to breastfeed, you simply choose not to, or you prefer to supplement your breast milk supply, formula is a top-notch alternative for infants. It’s specifically designed to meet their nutritional needs and help them thrive. Nowadays, even infants with food allergies and intolerances can find a formula that fits their dietary restrictions.

Another benefit is that it’s easy for dad, grandma or even a babysitter to pitch in when mealtime rolls around—which means more bonding for everyone (and maybe even a little more rest for mom). Knowing your baby has an alternate food source takes the pressure off, so you won’t be scheduling your day around feedings or pumping sessions. For some, that flexibility is essential.

On the flip side, formula requires a little more planning. You’ll need to stay on top of dishwashing to ensure you always have the necessary supplies, like bottles and nipples, clean and ready to toss in your diaper bag.

Many mothers worry that opting for formula will hinder their connection with their little ones. But you can still practice skin-to-skin with a bottle in hand, and the fact is a mama’s love is felt regardless of how her baby eats.

Whatever feeding method you settle on, the choice is a personal one—and remember that it’s A-OK to change your mind after birth. Although many pose this decision as breast versus bottle, you don’t have to stick with one. There are many lanes on the feeding highway, and they all get you moving in the right direction toward a happy, healthy baby. So, exclusively breastfeed, mix bottles of formula, serve up expressed milk, supplement—or do a little bit of everything and see what works best for your family and lifestyle.

A last will and testament
It’s not the cheeriest subject matter, but planning for the future—even when you’re not in it—is crucial for parents. “A common trigger for creating a will is the birth of a child because the importance of protecting your family becomes more of a reality for new and expectant parents,” says Chas Rampenthal, general counsel at LegalZoom. “A will makes your wishes known in regards to the division of any assets, last wishes and— probably most importantly for new parents—names a legal guardian or guardians for your minor children, should you and your spouse not be around to take care of them.”

If you were to die without a last will (also known as dying “intestate”), the state where you live would assume responsibility for deciding how your assets would be distributed. Most notably, passing away without a will means you won’t be the one deciding who takes care of your little one. Instead, living relatives, and eventually a court, would come to an agreement about who would step in as legal guardian.

“While judges are charged to do what is in the ‘best interests of the child,’ the judge’s choice might not be what you would have wanted,” Rampenthal warns. “Failing to have an estate plan can leave your heirs wondering about your wishes after you’re gone. Don’t make them guess. Let them know exactly what you want.”

When you’re ready to spell it all out, the first thing Rampenthal suggests is taking a quick inventory of what you have. Afterward, sit down and discuss your wishes with your spouse or partner—that includes who should inherit what and any final requests. List all the assets you plan to leave behind (don’t forget to include relevant paper- work, such as deeds and appraisals) along with who the beneficiaries will be. Rampenthal adds, “This includes putting assets for minor children into a trust until they are of age.”

Next, those with young children need to name a guardian. Be sure that you are in agreement with your spouse or co-parent on this to save valuable time later on. You’ll also need to appoint an executor (and an alternative), who will be the person to ensure your will is carried out when you’re gone.

Once you have a plan on paper, it’s time to consult an expert. “Even if you think that you have it all figured out, parents should consult an attorney and go over their wishes. … Pay attention as your attorney explains the options you will likely have for your plan,” stresses Rampenthal.

It sounds like a lot, but preparing a last will can take as little as 15 minutes. “[It’s] a much simpler process than most people imagine,” Rampenthal says. Costs can vary depending on whether you go through online resources, such as LegalZoom (estate plan bundles start at $199), or a traditional attorney. If you go the latter route, Rampenthal suggests asking if your lawyer is willing to quote a flat fee beforehand and finding out exactly what that price includes.

After a will has been executed, the last decision you’ll have to make is where to keep the documents. Pick somewhere secure yet accessible to the executor, such as a sealed envelope in a home safe, held with your attorney or backed up by digital archives. Let your executor and guardians know its whereabouts, and update them on any significant changes.

A pediatrician
You aren’t the only one in the market for a new doc. The bean in your belly will need one, too, just as soon as she’s on the outside. But don’t wait until then to begin looking: “In general, it is never too early to start the search,” advises Russell Horton, DO, pediatrician with Banner Health in Queen Creek, Arizona. “I would definitely start no later than the beginning of your third trimester to allow for plenty of time.”

The process will be similar to finding your prenatal care provider (ask friends and co- workers with kiddos about their experiences, set up consult meetings to get to know your top picks), but you’ll have a whole new list of questions. “Consider all the things that are most important to you, and then feel free to ask about those things,” Horton suggests. “If having early or late hours or an after-hours phone line is necessary for your family, then seek out offices that offer those things.”

Other topics worth chatting about include: their willingness to handle sick questions over the phone, how quickly they can get your child in for an impromptu visit if you’re concerned and how they handle well-child visits. If you have questions about vaccines, chime in with those, too.

Your pediatrician should be willing to tackle any inquiry about baby’s health and care (because as a new mom, you’ll have lots!). “Always feel comfortable asking your pediatrician anything,” Horton adds. “There are no unimportant questions.” At the end of the day, your pediatrician should put your mind at ease and leave you feeling confident that your child is in good hands.