Install the Car Seat
The one absolutely essential piece of baby gear is your car seat. Most hospitals won't let baby leave unless you've got one. If you're driving your own car, go ahead and put the seat in now, so you have plenty of time to make sure it's installed correctly. If you'll be taking a taxi, practice installing it in a car once or twice to familiarize yourself with the seat.
Visit the Drugstore
To cut down on errands during the blissful, exhausting days after baby arrives, stock up on maxi pads (believe us -- you'll need them!), newborn diapers, alcohol-free baby wipes, and laundry detergent. Other postpartum comfort items recommended by veteran moms: a gentle laxative or stool softener (as your Ob-gyn for a recommendation), rubber gloves for filling with crushed ice (ideal for applying to sore spots), gauze pads and witch hazel (again, helps ease soreness), and a donut pillow.
Stock the Freezer & Pantry
Channel that "nesting instinct" energy into the kitchen ? cook up some easy-to-freeze meals for heating and eating when baby keeps you busy. And while you're at the grocery store, get some easy-to-grab snacks like dried fruit, granola bars, and healthy cereals, perfect for those days when sitting down to a meal isn't in the cards.
Call in Reinforcements
Line up help for the first week or two of baby's life. Every couple can use an extra pair of helping hands while adjusting to life with a newborn. If family members are willing to help, definitely recruit them. Other ideas: arrange for temporary cleaning help, hire a reliable teen to entertain the older kids, or enlist a doula for postpartum visits. These ideas may sound like splurges now, but you'll find that conserving your energy in those first hectic weeks is worth a few extra dollars.
Make Plans For Your Family
Figure out who will care for your children while you and your partner are in the hospital, and let the siblings-to-be know the plan in advance. If they're sleeping over at a friend's or relatives, help them pack overnight bags, and later, tuck in a secret surprise -- a new coloring book or a small toy they've been asking for. If they're staying home with a caretaker, stock up on favorite snacks (to be hidden away until the big day) and maybe a brand-new DVD.
Don't Forget a Pet Sitter!
It's easy to let your pet slip your mind during this busy time. If you need to recruit someone to feed and/or walk your pet while you're away, ask in advance, and remember to call your help when the time comes.
Rehearse Your Hospital Trip
When labor begins, you won't want to worry about which highway is under construction. Take at least one practice run with your partner to the hospital or birthing center, and map out a backup route, as well, in case of unforeseen traffic jams or road closings.
Practice Checking In
If you haven't already, sign up for a tour of the birthing areas and ask about check-in procedures. Scope out the parking situation and find out which entrance to use if you arrive at 2 a.m.
Ask your hospital or birthing center about pre-registering, which allows you to take care of some of the paperwork and insurance matters ahead of time. Check with your insurance company, too, to find out what needs to happen to get your baby on your plan as soon as he or she arrives.
Pack Your Bag
A few weeks before your due date, gather your supplies for the hospital, pack them up, and put the bag in an easy-to-spot place. Tape a note to the top listing any last-minute things you'll need to throw in ? toothbrush, deodorant, etc.