Starting a family is an exciting time, but don’t rush into it just yet. Take the time to discuss important parenting issues with your partner before the baby arrives.
1. Is now an appropriate time?
Alan M. Singer, Ph.D., family therapist and author of Building Your Ideal Family Size, believes that if you know you want children, the most significant decision for couples is when to have a kid. When Dr. Singer meets with couples who are ready to conceive, he offers them 92 self-test questions to help them evaluate their mental and physical health, the health of their relationship, and, for those who already have children, how they are doing as parents and how much they enjoy it.
Couples should also be on the same page when they choose to have a family, in addition to financial considerations. One of you may be ready to procreate, while the other may want a few more years of couplehood before introducing Baby into the picture. You might find it helpful to write a list of everything you want to do or achieve before having children, with an emphasis on the things that will be more difficult once you have kids.
Pay special attention to what will be harder to do once you have kids. Is there a vacation that you both would like to take? How many years would you like to wait once you begin living together? Will changes in your financial condition (such as a substantial promotion or the repayment of a debt) accelerate or retard your ideal schedule? Creating a strategy can assist in realizing and respecting one another’s desires.
2. How will you divide parenting duties?
Who will perform what? In some households, one parent is responsible for changing all or most diapers while the other provides showers and reads bedtime stories. Discussing ahead how much each of you will be involved will prevent burnout and dissatisfaction with your partner’s degree of commitment.
You may choose to go with the flow or find a list of daily responsibilities useful, such as who gets up with Baby during the night (would a tag-team approach be optimal, or does one cover overnight but sleep late and nap when Baby naps?). Knowing what to expect from each other will help you get through the day and prevent new parent meltdowns whenever these difficulties no longer seem insignificant.
3. You circumcise?
Is it a given that, if you have a son, you will wish to remove his foreskin? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend this practice, despite the fact that it has been a social norm for decades in the United States. However, the AAP notes that there are benefits, including a reduced risk of urinary tract infections, certain sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer. Thus, the circumcision rate in the United States is decreasing. Between 1979 and 2010, the national rate decreased from 64.5% to 58.3%, according to the CDC.
Some parents believe that circumcision is more hygienic, while others choose it for religious or cultural reasons. Frequently, parents who opt against circumcision do not want their children to endure the anguish of an unneeded operation. Others believe that the foreskin is necessary to protect the tip of the penis and that it enhances sexual pleasure, while others believe that teaching their kid appropriate hygiene will reduce his risk of infection despite not being circumcised.
If you cannot agree on this issue, you may find yourselves in a battle.
4. Should you bank the cord blood of your newborn?
Wonder what all these advertisements for cord blood banks are about? They can provoke a variety of emotional responses in pregnant women. If you have not yet considered the cord blood problem, you and your spouse should conduct research and determine whether to pursue it.
There are two types of banking, according to Dr. Mitchell S. Cairo, Chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, Westchester Medical Center: private-directed donor banking and public banking. Dr. Cairo explains that with private banking, “the cord blood is processed and stored frozen to be used solely at the donor’s or family’s discretion.” With public banking, “the cord blood is contributed by the family to be processed and frozen, and it will be used by bone marrow transplant physicians to treat other patients throughout the world. It is no longer at the discretion or control of the family that gave the cord blood.”
Therefore, private banking is costly and is advised for families with other siblings who have been diagnosed with an illness that can be treated with sibling cord blood transplantation. Besides private cord blood banking, the AAP supports public cord blood donation. The sole disadvantage of cord blood donation is that the hospital may demand the umbilical cord to be clamped and severed early. Current research suggests that waiting a few minutes or until the umbilical cord stops pulsating before cutting it can help your baby to acquire more cord blood and vital stem cells.
5. Will you instruct your child in a certain religion?
If you and your partner were raised in the same religion, the answer to this question is generally obvious if you intend to raise a religious child. Nonetheless, some parents of different faiths must decide how they will raise their children. This decision should ideally be taken prior to marriage because it might spark heated disputes.
You may decide to attend two types of religious services and let youngsters make their own selection. One of you may feel more strongly about your religion and decide to teach the child about it, while the other steps back. Ensure that you are satisfied with your strategy and that you are flexible should your spouse experience a change of heart. Regardless of the faith you select, you must demonstrate to your children that you can accept each other’s beliefs even if they differ.
6. Will you use cloth or disposable diapers?
Since the development of disposable diapers in the 1950s, the vast majority of American parents have abandoned the cloth-and-safety-pin method. Now that various cloth diaper types are available (think snaps and Velcro in addition to fleece or biodegradable liners), parents with green and/or economic objectives are increasingly opting for cloth.
Some contend that the energy and water required to launder cloth diapers are just as detrimental to the environment as the energy used to make and decompose disposable diapers in landfills. And for some parents, the potential environmental benefits of disposables are outweighed by their convenience.
Consumer Reports estimates that parents spend between $1,500 and $2,000 annually on disposables. If you choose cloth diapers, you might save up to $2,000 annually. The least expensive type of cloth diapers, pre-folds, might cost less than $300 total (including washing and drying), whereas all-in-ones, which range in price from $17 to $25 each unit, could cost over $800 to purchase and launder. But remember that cloth diapers can be reused in succeeding children.
7. Who will provide childcare?
Have you discussed whether one of you will stay home with your child or if childcare will be utilized? This decision is often influenced by financial considerations and sometimes by a person’s desire to pursue a career. Even if you love what you do, being a stay-at-home parent can be as difficult as (or even more difficult than) the corporate grind.
Discuss each of your ideal work-family balance scenarios and the means by which you could attain them. Remember that there is no guilt in choosing to stay home, place a child in daycare, or hire a babysitter. As long as you and your partner agree on what is best for the family, nothing else matters.
8. Will you be breastfeeding?
Regarding parental responsibilities, how do you intend to feed your child? Do you have any thoughts regarding nursing versus formula? You could wait until you’re expected to reach a decision, but understanding a little bit about your options now could help settle any disagreements.
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes breast milk to be the optimal diet for infants in their first year of life, while formula is an excellent alternative. Beyond medical considerations, the decision between breastfeeding and formula feeding may hinge on your willingness to devote the time and energy required to nurse, as well as your ability to pump at work if you are not staying at home with the Baby.
Whatever your choice, it is important to conduct extensive study to determine what is best for your family. There is no shame in the fact that some parents are unable to breastfeed or fail to produce enough milk, despite their best efforts.