8 Parenting Debates to Hash Out Before Baby

Think you're ready to make a baby? Not so fast. It's important to talk to your partner about big parenting issues like religion, circumcision, and child care.

01 of 08

Is now the right time?

couple with new baby
Fancy Photography/ Veer

If you know you want children, Alan M. Singer, Ph.D., family therapist and author of Creating Your Perfect Family Size, suggests the most important decision for couples to make is whether it's the right time to have a baby. When Dr. Singer meets with couples ready to get pregnant, he provides 92 self-test questions to help them consider their own mental and physical health, the health of their relationship with each other, and, for those who already have a child, how they are doing as parents and how they like parenting.

Along with financial issues to consider, couples should make sure they're on the same page about when they want to start a family. One of you may be eager to go forth and multiply; the other may be hoping for a few more years of couple time before adding Baby to the equation. You might want to come up with a checklist of the things you'd like to do or achieve before embarking on parenthood, paying special attention to things that become more difficult once you have kids. Is there a vacation you'd like to take together? A certain number of years you'd like to wait after you've begun living together? Would any changes in your financial status (a significant promotion or a loan payoff) speed up or slow down your ideal schedule? Drafting a plan can help you realize and respect each other's desires.

02 of 08

How will you share baby duties?

father changing baby's diaper
Fancy Photography/Veer

Who's gonna do what? In some families, one partner changes all or most of the diapers, while the other gives baths and reads bedtime stories. You'll work out the details once baby arrives, but discussing beforehand how much each of you will be involved and can prevent burnout and disappointment in your partner's level of involvement. You may want to just go with the flow or you might work better with a list of daily duties, such as who gets up with Baby during the night (would a tag team approach be best or does one cover overnight but get to sleep late and nap when Baby naps?). These issues may seem inconsequential now, but once you're in full-on parenting mode, knowing what to expect from each other can get you through the day and avoid new parent meltdowns.

03 of 08

Will you circumcise?

Fancy Photography/ Veer

Is it a given that if you have a boy you'll want to have his foreskin removed? Although this has been a societal norm for years in the United States, the AAP does not recommend it, but does state there are benefits, including lowering risks of urinary tract infections, some sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer. With that being said, the U.S. circumcision rate is currently on the decline. According to the CDC, the national rate declined from 64.5 percent to 58.3 percent between 1979 and 2010.

Many parents choose circumcision for religious or cultural reasons; others feel it is more hygienic. Parents who decide against circumcision often don't want their child to undergo the pain of an unnecessary surgery. Others believe the foreskin is needed to protect the tip of the penis and that it increases sexual pleasure, and state that teaching proper hygiene will lower their son's risk of infections despite not being circumcised.

If you don't agree on this one, you may find you'll have to fight it out.

04 of 08

Should you bank your baby's cord blood?

Cutting newborn's umbilical cord

Wonder what all these cord blood bank commercials are all about? They can cause all kinds of emotional responses from hormonal moms-to-be. If you haven't thought about the cord blood issue yet, you and your partner should do your research and decide if you want to pursue it.

Mitchell S. Cairo, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, says that there are two types of banking: private directed donor banking and public banking. With private banking, "the cord blood is processed and stored frozen to be only used by the donor or family member at the family's discretion," Dr. Cairo explains. With public banking, "the cord blood is donated by the family to be processed and frozen and will be used by bone marrow transplant physicians to treat other patients throughout the world and is no longer under the discretion or controlled by the family who donated it."

Private banking is expensive, and is therefore recommended to families who have other siblings diagnosed with a disease treatable by sibling cord blood transplantation. Otherwise, if you'd like to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends the public donor route. The only downside to donating your baby's cord blood is that sometimes the hospital requires the umbilical cord to be clamped and cut earlier. Recent research has suggested that waiting longer to cut the cord—a few minutes or until it stop pulsating—will allow your baby to receive more of the cord blood and crucial stem cells.

05 of 08

Will you teach your child a certain religion?

child praying

If you and your partner grew up in the same faith, the answer to this question is probably a no-brainer if you plan to raise a child with religion. But some parents of different faiths will need to determine how they're going to raise their children. Ideally, you made this decision before getting married because it can stir up strong debates.

You may decide to attend two types of religious services and let children choose. One of you may have stronger feelings about your faith and decide to teach the child that religion while your spouse steps back. Make sure you're happy with your plan and that you're open to changes should your partner have a, well, change of faith. No matter what religion you choose, you want to provide stability and show your children that you can respect each other's beliefs if they differ.

06 of 08

Will you use cloth diapers or disposables?

cloth diapers
Getty Images

Since the invention of disposable diapers in the 1950s, a majority of parents in the United States have opted to forego yesteryear's cloth-and-safety-pin approach. Now, new cloth diaper models are available (think snaps and Velcro along with fleece or biodegradable liners) and parents with green and/or economic initiatives are choosing cloth more frequently.

Some people argue that the energy and water it takes to launder cloth diapers is equally as harmful to the environment as the energy used to manufacture and break down disposables in landfills. And for some parents, the potential green benefits don't outweigh the convenience of disposables.

As for how much you could save financially if you chose cloth, Consumer Reports estimates that parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 on disposables per year. The cheapest form of cloth diapers, pre-folds, could run you under $300 total (washing and drying included), while more expensive models, all-in-ones available for $17 to $25 each, could cost around $800 to purchase and launder. Keep in mind, though, that cloth diapers can be reused on subsequent children.

07 of 08

Who will care for your child?

man waving good bye to woman and baby

Have you discussed whether one of you wants or needs to stay home with your child or if you'll be using child care? This decision is sometimes driven by financial factors and sometimes by each individual's passion for pursuing a career. Staying at home with a child can be just as tough as (or even harder than) the corporate grind, even if you love what you're doing. Take some time to talk over each of your ideal work/family balance scenarios and how you could achieve them. Remember: there's no shame in deciding either to stay at home or to place a child in daycare or with a babysitter. As long as the two of you are in agreement as to what's best for the family, that's all that matters.

08 of 08

Will you breastfeed?

woman breastfeeding baby
Buff Strickland

Speaking of baby duties, how do you plan to feed your child? Do you have an opinion on breastfeeding versus formula? You may wait until you're expecting to come to a resolution, but learning a little about your options right now may help resolve any differing opinions.

The AAP considers breast milk the best nutrition a child can receive in the first year of life, but formula is a great alternative. Beyond medical reasons, the choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding may depend on whether you're willing to commit the time and energy it takes to breastfeed and whether you'll be able to pump during work if you're not staying home with Baby.

Whatever your decision, it's worth doing thorough research to decide what's best for your family. Bear in mind that, despite some parent's best intentions to breastfeed, some can't do it or fail to produce enough milk, and there's no shame in that.

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