Consider more classes
In addition to a childbirth class, you may want to consider classes on baby care, breastfeeding, and infant CPR. Many hospitals offer these, and you can also ask your caregiver or childbirth education teacher for a recommendation.
Prepare for breastfeeding
If you're planning to breastfeed your baby, learn as much as you can about it now. Talk to nursing moms, read articles to familiarize yourself, and consider calling your local La Leche League International chapter or taking a breastfeeding class. The more you know about how to get started and the benefits of nursing, the better.
Choose a doctor for your baby
Get names of pediatricians or family practitioners from friends, co-workers, neighbors, or your pregnancy caregiver. Make sure the doctor accepts your health insurance, keeps hours that work with your schedule, and has an office that's convenient for you. If you can, schedule face-to-face interviews with your top candidates. If it seems too early to be thinking about this, consider that your baby will have his or her first doctor's visit shortly after birth.
Think about big decisions
Assemble your baby gear
This is the perfect job for your partner or a friend who wants to help. Cribs, bassinets, and strollers can be tricky to put together, especially when you're sleep-deprived, so get started now. Swings, mobiles, and monitors usually require batteries, so make sure you have enough on hand. To save money – and help the planet – consider getting rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.
Set up a safe place for your baby to sleep
Whether you plan to have your baby slumber in a bassinet, crib, cradle, or with you, it's important to follow basic guidelines to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS.
Talk to your baby
Your baby can hear your voice now, and talking to him or her is a great way to start the bonding process. If having an actual conversation with your bump seems odd, try narrating your daily activities; reading a book, magazine, or newspaper aloud; or sharing your secret wishes for your child.
This is great practice for after your baby's born, too. Talking to babies is one of the best ways to help them develop language skills.
Wash your baby's clothing and bedding
You know all those adorable, pristine outfits and blankies you bought or received as gifts? It's time to throw them in the laundry. You should wash anything that will go near your baby's skin to remove any irritants in the fabrics. The gentlest detergents are those designed for babies and those that are labeled hypoallergenic or good for sensitive skin.
Start lining up helpers
Your friends and family will want to pitch in after your baby's born, but many new moms are too overwhelmed to direct household help. Here's how to prepare now: Make a list of friends who might be able to help. Then ask one friend to contact these folks and set up a schedule so each person has a specific task and date to do it.
Tasks could include bringing your family a meal, picking up groceries (create a master list of foods your family likes), taking care of your older children, doing the dishes, cleaning up, taking out the garbage, walking your dog, or feeding your pets.
Commemorate your belly
Celebrate your amazing pregnant belly by decorating it with beautiful designs (you can use regular face paint), getting a henna "tattoo" applied (go to an artist who uses the pure, natural kind), or making a belly cast. You may also want to splurge on professional pictures of your pregnant self.
Consider top baby costs and how to save
Raising a baby isn't cheap. (You can check our Baby Costs Calculator to see how it all adds up.) But there are plenty of ways you can think about saving money now.
Read up on baby care
If you haven't already, the third trimester is the perfect time to switch reading gears from pregnancy to baby. You won't have as much time to read after your baby's born, so learn all you can about the first few weeks now. A good place to start is BabyCenter's Newborns area. Or check out our book: BabyCenter Baby: The All-Important First Year.
Pack your bag for the hospital or birth center
Key things to bring include your insurance card, toiletries, comfy clothing, a going-home outfit for your baby, a camera or video camera (plus charger!), and snacks for after labor. You may also want to bring a box of chocolates or other treat for the nurses (not required, but appreciated!).
Have your house cleaned
In a BabyCenter survey, a third of moms said they wished they had had their house cleaned before their baby's arrival. Consider hiring a housecleaner or asking a friend or family member to tackle this task, maybe while you're at the hospital or birth center. It feels great to come back to a tidy home, and you won't have time or energy to clean while your baby's a newborn.
Stock up on household supplies
To avoid having to make trips to the store with your newborn, stock up now on pantry staples, frozen food, toiletries, medicine, toilet paper, shampoo – even extra pairs of underwear! And of course, make sure you have newborn necessities like diapers, wipes, baby clothing, and bottles and formula if you plan to use these.
Make food for after your baby's born
When you cook, start doubling recipes and freezing half. You and your partner will be too exhausted to cook in the first weeks after you bring your baby home and you'll be thrilled to have healthy meals you can heat up fast. For ideas, check out these recipes good for freezing and reheating.
Install your baby's car seat
You can't drive your baby home without a car seat, and they can be more complicated to install than you'd think. So don't wait until the last minute. If you're having trouble, some car seat manufacturers have a toll-free number for you to call so an expert can walk you through the process. Or get a car seat safety inspector to help you. To find one in your area, go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website or look in your local phone book.
Tour your hospital or birth center
The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the less intimidating labor and birth will be. On your tour of your hospital or birth center, you'll probably visit labor and recovery rooms and the nursery, as well as get an overview of basic policies.
Ask if you can preregister in the weeks before your delivery to get this red tape out of the way. You don't want to have to sign a bunch of releases and permissions forms when you're in labor, or have your partner whisked away to do so.
Make a plan for when labor starts
Long before the first contractions hit, you'll want a firm plan in place. Your doctor or midwife should give you a clear set of guidelines for when to call and – unless you're having a home birth – when to head to the hospital or birth center. Decide who will take you there, and have a few back-up folks lined up to help if you need it. Know the route you'll take – this may sound silly, but it will be one fewer thing to think about. This includes learning where to park and which entrance to use when it's time to check yourself in.
Create an online birth announcement
Start making your free online birth announcement on BabyCenter now. You can choose the look you want and fill in email addresses for friends and family. Then – once your baby makes his or her big appearance – upload a newborn photo and add pertinent details before you send. Recipients can post their comments and congratulations on your announcement, too.
Make a baby watch list
Figure out who you'll want to tell right after your baby arrives (or when you go into labor) and how you'll spread the word. Some new or soon-to-be moms post updates on their social networking sites, while others prefer to call, text, or email the big news. If you'd rather your partner or a friend handle this for you, make a list of phone numbers or email addresses of people you want told right away and pass it on.