When I brought my son home from the hospital, I couldn’t wait to spend time with him in his beautiful new nursery. Eventually I learned there was one major problem with my plan. It seemed as though everything I needed was in some other part of the house. I spent so much time looking for feeding journals, snacks, and ointments that I was often too tired to enjoy my baby.
“After giving birth, moms are going to be in deep recovery: low on energy and sleep-deprived. Having the entire house in order before bringing home baby can help to make those early weeks much easier,” says Marcie Jones, co-author of Great Expectations: Baby’s First Year. We all know that expectant moms love to nest, and they fantasize about decorating the nursery, but then, like me, they often find that their plans weren’t exactly realistic.
Here’s a welcome dose of reality—trustworthy advice from organizing pros that will help you prepare your entire home for baby’s arrival.
It’s tough for tired new parents to walk from the bedroom to the nursery several times a night to calm a crying baby. Instead, many move their baby into their bedroom for late-night feedings. Prepare your bedroom now: Decide on a bedside sleeper or Moses basket for baby during the early weeks.
“Create a relaxing place to nurse your baby day or night,” says Sandy Jones, co- author of Great Expectations: Baby’s First Year. “A rocker or a glider and footrest will work well.” Be sure to place other necessities nearby. “Equip a small side table with a lamp that turns on low-to-high by touch. Also include a CD player, tissues, and a pad of paper or feeding log. If you’re breastfeeding, include breast pads, soothing gel packs for sore nipples, and a case of bottled water underneath the table for late-night thirst attacks. A U-shaped nursing cushion to support the baby will be helpful, too.”
When morning comes, adopt an easy schedule for getting dressed. “Before giving birth, I went through my dresser drawers and weeded out makeup and clothing that I didn’t need. Now my routine is streamlined,” says Stephanie Vozza, founder of TheOrganizedParent.com.
After childbirth, your doctor will probably give you several medical supplies to help with your physical recovery. “New moms are sometimes really shocked when they see all of the stuff they have to take home from the hospital,” Jones says. “The key is to keep everything together.”
“Assemble the basic things you use everyday, like lotion and facial cleanser, and also make room for items like maxi pads, sitz bath, and a peri-bottle, which you’ll need to use while you’re healing,” says Bonnie Henson, R.N., B.S., who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a man- ager of prenatal education and lactation support services at MemorialCare Center for Women at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, CA.
Your supplies could be kept on the bathroom counter, a shelf, or even in a basket on the floor. Just don’t keep them in separate places, or you may be frustrated by not having necessary feminine toiletries when you need them most!
Outside of the bathroom and bedroom, the kitchen is probably the most important place in the house. And the best thing for postpartum moms is to stay out of there as much as possible. To do this, ask your friends for help. “Everybody and their mother will want to come over to see your baby,” Henson says. “I suggest that new moms tell visitors, ‘The admission price for seeing my baby is to bring a soup or a casserole, or empty and reload the dishwasher.” Don’t be shy—the idea is to encourage well-meaning friends and family to help out where you really need it. Any true friend will appreciate the direction.
If you have to cook, make sure you stock up on meals. It’s a great way to focus that nesting impulse that happens in the third trimester. Time goes by quickly those first few days home with a baby, Vozza says. “I would look up, and it would be 6 o’clock in the evening already, and I would not have a clue what we were going to have for dinner. I’ve since learned to plan meals for the week.”
Meals are a necessity, but a well-stocked pantry should also have simple foods. “Set up a dedicated space for quick, nutritious snacks,” says Sonya Weisshappel, owner of Seriatim, a New York City–based professional organizing company. She suggests using convenient foods that are easy to unwrap. “Select low-fat, low-sugar snacks that you can eat with one hand. You’ll be holding your baby with one arm, so you’ll only have one other arm free.”
The kitchen is also a good place to keep important contact information. “Post critical phone numbers by the kitchen telephone,” Jones says. “This includes the phone numbers of the hospital, your cell phone, your obstetrician and pediatrician, your lactation consultant, and your closest relatives and friends.” Keeping this information near the phone is important, but don’t let clutter accumulate there. Designate a home office location to keep up with other paperwork.
The family room is an ideal place to welcome guests, as long as you have a way to cut visits short when you feel overwhelmed. “I tell moms to keep a bathrobe near their front door and slip it on when people come over,” Henson says. “Visitors don’t have to know that the mom is fully dressed underneath the bathrobe,” but guests will get the message to be sure not to overstay their welcome.
Keep a mini-changing station in the family room to eliminate the need to trek to the nursery to change dirty diapers. “You could have something as simple as a foldable changing pad on the floor, with a basket or bag beside it for supplies,” Vozza says. A portable diaper caddy can help you easily move belongings from room to room, while keeping your supplies within arm’s reach.
You gotta do the laundry, and this chore is only going to get bigger when you add a new member to the household. Try not to tackle multiple piles of clothing at once. “I recommend doing one load each morning and not using more than one hamper,” Weisshappel says. She suggests keeping soiled clothes in the laundry room, instead of spread throughout the house. It will eliminate the overwhelming feeling of having dirty laundry in several rooms.
If your clothing piles stack up too high, ask for help. “Doing the laundry is a great chore for new dads,” Jones says. Another option is to hire out the task. “Get in touch with your local high school to see if there’s a student who can assist with some of the household tasks.” The local laundromat probably offers a wash-dry-fold service for about the same price as having a few suits dry cleaned.
Even if your office is just a corner of a room, create a file system now for handling insurance information, hospital records, and manuals. “Set aside a table with baskets or boxes to help you organize your mail handling for the next few months,” Sandy Jones says. “Plug in a baby-safe shredder, and use baskets or bins to collect junk mail and newspapers for recycling. Keep a large trash can there for tossing it all out.”
The items that you are not going to toss should be kept in a safe, dry place. “Store gear manuals and receipts for baby equipment and baby gifts in clear, plastic zippered bags in a drawer or a three-ring binder with plastic sleeves,” Jones suggests. If something breaks, you’ll always know where the instructions or receipts are.
Using your last burst of nesting energy for practical organization and planning is a much smarter alternative to impulse shopping or over-decorating the nursery. If you take steps now to get your home ready, when the big day comes, you won’t have to worry about anything but getting to know your new bundle of joy. And when you forget a few things? No worries—your first few days at home with baby will be wonderful and exciting, no matter how scattered you feel.
— Margarette Burnette