New Parent Checklist

Deciding to have a child is probably one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Once a person becomes a parent, they're not only responsible for their own life but also for the life of their child. 

It's no wonder that new parents and soon-to-be parents experience anxiety. But preparing for what's to come when the baby arrives can help to ease that anxiety. The following article provides a checklist that new parents can use to help prepare them for the responsibility of having a child.

New Parent Checklist: During Pregnancy

  • Find out what your health care insurance will cover. Health insurance plans may not pay for all treatments or care. Determine what treatment your healthcare insurance provider includes in its plan. For instance, does the plan cover prenatal and maternity care? Is preauthorization needed? What prenatal tests are covered? How many days can you stay in the hospital after delivery? Does health insurance cover any postpartum developments? The Affordable Care Act requires that all Healthcare Marketplace and Medicaid plans provide coverage for prenatal, maternity, and post-birth care. You may even find coverage outside the normal enrollment period.
  • Select a doctor or a midwife to deliver the baby. Choosing whether to receive care from a doctor, a certified nurse-midwife, or a direct-entry midwife will depend on several factors. This includes where the delivery of the baby will occur, whether the pregnancy is high-risk, and what type of treatment the healthcare insurance plan covers.
  • Select a pediatrician. It is important to select a pediatrician during the last few months of pregnancy. Visit doctor's offices, speak to the office staff, and interview doctors. When evaluating pediatricians, consider whether the office is clean. Do sick and well children wait in separate waiting areas? Do you and the doctor have similar views on childrearing?
  • Create a Hospital Bag. Whether delivery occurs at home or in a hospital, expecting parents can have certain necessities in one location. The hospital bag may include newborn diapers, wipes, lotion, a home-going outfit, your health insurance card, emergency food, and water. The list can be endless. Just don't make your bag too heavy. And remember you will need the infant car seat nearby as well.

New Parent Checklist: After the Birth

  • Apply for a birth certificate. To apply for a birth certificate, it is necessary to complete a birth registration form. When a mother gives birth in the hospital, the hospital will request a parent to complete the form and will then submit it to the appropriate agency. Some states automatically mail a copy of the birth certificate to the parents, but you may need to request a copy.
  • Obtain your child's Social Security number (SSN). The easiest way to obtain a Social Security number is to apply for it at the hospital when completing the birth registration form. If you apply later, it's necessary to do so at the Social Security office. At the office, you will complete an application for a Social Security card. You will provide proof of the child's U.S. citizenship, age, and identity. You need a Social Security card for your newborn child for many reasons. These include claiming your child as a dependent on taxes, purchasing savings bonds, and opening a bank account for your child.
  • Claim a Child Tax Credit on your income tax return. The IRS allows taxpayers with children under age 17 to claim the Child Tax Credit if their adjusted gross income falls below a certain amount.
  • Determine whether you can take leave from work. The Family and Medical Leave Act grants eligible workers the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child, or after the placement of a foster child into your home. During an employee's absence, the employer must continue providing the same healthcare coverage as before the leave and must keep the employee's job open.
  • Know your right to nurse in public. In 1999, the federal Right to Breastfeed Act permitted a woman the right to breastfeed anywhere on federal property that the mother and the child have a right to be located. Subsequently, the Affordable Care Act in 2010 required employers to provide break time and private locations for breastfeeding mothers through the first year of the child's life. In 2022, Congress passed the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act. This law extended nursing mother coverage to more employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many states also have laws that address breastfeeding in public.
  • Educate yourself on proper care for your newborn child. There are many helpful books and resources that parents can consult. This will help your little one adjust to their new family. Knowing how to handle and soothe baby will be important for you and your loved ones who plan to visit.

New Parent Checklist: Returning to Work

  • Select a child care provider. Possible child care options include an in-home child care provider, a daycare center, a nanny, or a family member. Gather the important information your childcare provider will need about your child. Make sure to include emergency contact numbers and up-to-date information on vaccines and allergies.
  • Make a plan to pump breast milk at work. Because of the health benefits of breastfeeding, many states have laws that allow lactating mothers the right to pump breast milk in the workplace. Employers, for instance, may be required to provide a private place and a break time for breast milk pumping.

New Parent Checklist: Planning for the Future

  • Select a guardian. legal guardian is a person designated to care for a minor child in the event of the death of both parents. When selecting a guardian, consider financial ability, age, religious beliefs, and values and morals.
  • Draft a Power of Attorney. Both single and married parents may consider drafting a power of attorney for use by others who care for the child. A general power of attorney allows a designated adult to handle financial and healthcare matters for the child. A health care power of attorney only permits the holder to make health care decisions for the child. Parents who serve in the Armed Forces may name a grandparent on a general power of attorney when they are away on periods of deployment. Parents can also provide a grandparent or long-term childcare provider with a health care power of attorney. This may permit them to make short-term decisions at a doctor's office or emergency room.
  • Create a will. Estate planning includes creating a will and/or trusts to benefit your child. The function of a will is to distribute the deceased parent's property according to their wishes. A will can name a trustee to manage the property on behalf of the minor children.
  • Buy life insurance. A life insurance policy will support the beneficiaries that survive the policyholder. A life insurance policy is a good way to provide for minor children in the event of a parent's death. Unlike some assets inherited through a will, life insurance will operate outside the probate process.
  • Save for your child's college education. Some parents engage in financial planning for a new baby even before pregnancy. You can begin a college savings plan right away. Ways to save include Section 529 plans, Coverdell ESA's, UGMA and UTMA Custodial accounts, U.S. savings bonds, and a Roth IRA. Investigate the options, as some may provide tax-free benefits to your child.

Have Questions About This New Parent Checklist? Talk to an Attorney

While becoming a parent can be equally exciting and scary, planning for parenthood can bring peace of mind. When drafting legal documents, you should consider consultation with an attorney. If you have legal questions about any aspect of parenting, you may contact a family law attorney near you.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Parental liability laws are different in every state
  • Liability cases are complex and a skilled attorney is essential
  • Establishing or terminating parental rights will involve a court process

An attorney can help protect your rights after your child’s negligent or criminal acts. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

If you are in the midst of a parental rights or liability case, it may be an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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