They say you’re never ready to have a baby.
And that may be true. But there are varying degrees of “never ready”.
Like when you’re a teenager in high school and have your first boyfriend, or a college student subsisting off a pizza and jagger bombs.
And then there’s the version of “never ready” you are probably at. It looks a little like being pretty ready, but acknowledging that you don’t know what you don’t know. So you're doing research into the questions to ask before having a baby to equip yourself with the knowledge.
So we’ve set out to figure out what we don’t know to become as prepared as possible for this little babe to come into the world.
I’ve scoured the internet, reached back into the recesses of my mind, talked to parents (new, established, and veterans), and compiled opinions, seeking to answer this one important question…
What topics do you wish you talked about with your partner before becoming pregnant or having your children?
Or, for the more organized among us, what topics were you glad you talked about pre-parenthood?
This is what we found.
- 115+ Questions to Ask Before Having a Baby
115+ Questions to Ask Before Having a Baby
Whether you’re already expecting, have a newborn or a baby, or planning on “pulling the goalie”, do yourself a favor and figure these things out right away.
Feeding and Breastfeeding
Women’s body, women’s choice, but dad shouldn’t sit passively through the feeding experience. Having a plan and discussing it up front to share concerns, fears, and standpoints on the breastfeeding vs formula feeding issue is important.
As a supportive, feminist partner he’ll understand if you have difficulty breastfeeding, if you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so, or if you just don’t want to because holy-shit-it-hurts and makes you hate parenting.
But at least it was understood initially. So it’s time to get on board with one another with these questions:
- Will you breastfeed your baby, exclusively pump, or formula feed?
- If you formula-feed, do you have a strong stance on the type of formula?
- If you choose to breastfeed, how long are you hoping to do so?
- If you choose to breastfeed, how hard and how far are you willing to try to make breastfeeding work?
- If breastfeeding comes at the expense of her mental health, your sexual relationship, or her body image, what is more important?
- Do you have any plans for or strong stances on feeding baby solid food?
- Do either of you have specific food and nutrition preferences for the baby? (ie no dairy, vegan, gluten free etc)
There are no right or wrong answers. Just discuss them.
Family and Family Involvement
Having a baby doesn’t mean your family of origin isn’t still important.
In fact, while your little family is the most important, our original families became even more important than they ever were.
Those families make up a huge portion of you and your child’s support network.
My family of origin provides my daughter with strong aunts and great aunts, cousins and second cousins, grandmothers and step grandmothers to look up to, learn from, and create memories with. It would give Poppy goofy uncles to giggle with and pull pranks on, grandfathers to tease and play with her, and step grandfathers to adore.
They make up your child’s first and most important relationships. So here’s the questions to ask yourself, here.
- How will you divide Christmas and other holidays? This one has to go first, because it is such a touchy subject between couples, and one that cause the most tension with most couples I know. Do you want to spend the holidays rushing back and forth between grandparents, aunts, and uncles houses? Do you want to create your own holiday traditions with your family? Think about these things and make a plan before you give birth. Try to communicate them with your families, too, if things will change.
- Who will you let babysit? This isn’t limited just to family, but it’s an important question. Who are you both comfortable having babysit your children in your families?
- Who will you let your children stay with for an extended period of time? When I was young, we stayed for a few weeks many summers with my great grandmother (or, Grandma the Great as we called her), great Aunt, and mom’s cousins (who my brother and I just called Grandma, Auntie, and our cousins). My mom wasn’t always around, and it was an amazing time I remember fondly. If your mother, father, parents in law, sister, brother, etc want to take your child on a trip, or offer to give you a weekend or week away, will you take the opportunity?
- How important extended family involvement and proximity is?
- How you’re going to take unsolicited advice from important friends and family?
- Who will the baby go to if something happens to both of you?
- Will you assign “godparents”? If so, who?
- What will each grandparent be called?
- Who are you comfortable with your child calling “auntie”, “uncle”, etc?
- What is the role of step parents, spouses or partners of divorced parents, etc?
Naming Your Bundle of Joy
If you check out pregnancy subreddits on Reddit, Facebook groups, or really any group discussion about starting a family, you’ll see a lot of similar themes in what people are talking about.
Mother-in-laws, family boundaries, weight gain during pregnancy and food cravings are all popular topics. Among those? Baby naming.
Most people just talk about friction with their significant others about what to name the new addition, but let’s not forget these important questions to save a lot of potential emotions – starting with the most important (and touchiest):
- Whose last name will the baby take (if either of yours)?
- Will the baby have the dad’s last name, mom’s, or be hyphenated?
- Will you create a new last name?
- How will you choose a middle name?
- Is it important that the middle name is a family name?
- Will the middle name be something meaningful from partner’s side of the family who didn’t get the last name?
- Are there any naming traditions on either side of your family?
- How do you feel about nicknames?
- How will it feel for one partner if you have separate last names, and the baby takes one of them?
Who knew naming was so sensitive?
Most of the questions in this guide can be covered after you have a positive pregnancy test in hand…
But not these ones.
For the love of all that is good in the world, please do yourselves a favor and talk about hot topics before you conceive.
Sometimes, this isn’t possible. Sometimes your bambino is a lovely surprise. In which case, have these conversations right away, because let’s be real: the more time you have to sort out any disagreements on these hot topics, the better.
- If you have a little boy, will you circumcise him?
- Will you raise your children to practice any specific religion? If so, which?
- Will you allow religious influence from people outside of your immediate family, such as grandparents, aunts or uncles?
- Will you vaccinate your children?
- What do you envision being each of your parenting styles?
- What is your stance on physical punishment (spanking, hitting, etc)?
- How do you feel about gender stereotypes, gender norms?
- Will you undergo genetic testing during pregnancy?
- How important is organic to you? Will you cloth diaper?
- Do you have any strong stances on traditions? For example, we don't give gifts during Christmas.
- What will you do if, during genetic testing, it is shown that the baby has a chromosomal abnormality/disability? Will you terminate the pregnancy?
- If something terrible happens to you both, who takes care of your children?
- The holidays. I know it sounds stupid to put this under hot topics but this is hands down one of the most touchy topics couples have to deal with, that should absolutely be dealt with before you add the stress of a new family member to the mix.
I can imagine a lot of tension arises when a couple doesn’t agree with how to discipline.
If you believe that physical discipline is child abuse, and your partner believes that “the reason kids are so bad these days is because they’re not spanked”, you’re going to have a rough go of it.
Discuss these questions to make sure you’re on the same page.
- What do you imagine is your discipline style with children?
- Is physical discipline (ie hitting and spanking) okay?
- If so, how far are you willing to take physical discipline?
- Is raising your voice and yelling okay?
- How would you handle a child who:
- Is failing a grade?
- Hits another kid?
- Is hit by another kid?
- Bites someone?
- Runs from you?
- Won’t share?
- What is your stance on time outs?
It’s hard to accurately predict how you’ll react in these situations until they come up, but discussing these with your partner ahead of time can be very useful.
Parenting and Family
The bulk of discussion points to go over happen in this category, and while some of these may seem minor – especially to talk about before you even have a positive pregnancy test – it’s disagreements on these things that can add up to a lot of tension and fighting.
- Will you (or do you plan to) co-sleep?
- Will you sleep train your child? If so, at what age?
- Will you use the cry-it-out method?
- Will you raise kids to believe in Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Elf on the Shelf?
- What are your core family values (ie feminist values, religious values, etc)?
- What parenting choices are a hard line for you, where you absolutely will not budge and where are you willing to be flexible?
- Swearing around kids – a no go or okay?
- Do you expect your teenage children to work at part-time jobs?
- If yes, at what age is it ok for your kid to get a job?
- Do you expect certain grades in school? Do you pay for those grades?
- What are the expectations for your child to contribute to the household?
- Are smoking, drugs, alcohol (parental usage) okay around children?
- How will you react if your child is gay? Transgendered?
- What if your child makes a mistake (like gets pregnant in high school or gets a DUI)?
- Are sleepovers okay?
- Are mealtimes together important?
- How will you make time for “family time”, and how important is it?
- How will you each approach baby and child interaction (Ie are you always playing with him or her, or do you expect self entertainment at least a portion of the time?)
- Are extracurricular activities important?
- How many is too many?
- Do you make your kid stick with something even if they don’t seem into it, or is it important they they follow through and don’t quit?
- What family traditions do you hope to establish?
You can’t know the answer to all of these questions until you’re in the thick of it (I mean, who really knows whether they’ll give into co-sleeping until they have to get up and walk down the hall to a crib every hour during the night to feed?) but they’re important nonetheless.
At least discuss them with your partner to be proactive.
Screen Time and Social Media
Despite having this blog, believe it or not, I was pretty hesitant about splashing Poppy on social media.
There are a few personal reasons for this that are sensitive between Ryan and I.
And since every single person we know is on at least one social platform, chances are Poppy would end up on social media against our will. So we don’t pretend she doesn’t exist.
But for some parents, kids both using social media and being posted on social media is uncomfortable. Not to mention screentime.
- Is children watching television okay?
- Will you restrict screentime?
- How many hours per week are you comfortable allowing children to watch?
- Will you post on social media about your children?
- Are you comfortable if other people post photos of your children without your permission?
- If not, how will you handle photos being posted of your children or family without permission?
- How will you make it clear to friends and family that it’s not okay?
- Will you allow children to be on social media?
- If so, at what ages?
- Will you monitor their social accounts if you do allow them?
- Will you monitor children’s overall computer usage?
Again, if you’re pregnant or thinking about trying to concieve, a lot will change between now and when your children are old enough to use social media, but it’s still good to be prepared.
Health and Safety
Ryan is a man with many hobbies. This is something I’ve always admired about him – it’s nice to see somebody have so many interests.
Having said that, many of his hobbies were dangerous – not only for him, but with having children around.
So, we had to have “the talk” about safety in our family home and how we will handle this.
- Are guns okay in the house? (Can you tell we’re Canadian?!)
- If so, will you take any special precautions with firearms?
- Are there any unsafe hobbies or activities you’re uncomfortable with your significant other or yourself doing after children (i.e. motorcycling, contact sports, etc)?
- What is your stance on health precautions? (Ie is it okay for your child to eat dirt, put something in their mouth that’s been on the floor?)
- How do you feel about medication for your baby and child?
As I said to Ryan on our first date, “safety never takes a vacation”, and this is especially true when you have kids.
Work and Careers
Having children changes so much when it comes to work and careers.
Initially, it might just seem like it provides a temporary hiccup in mamma’s work schedule. But what happens after that?
If this comes up and you’re not on the same page, you could be looking at some major disaster. Make sure you discuss these questions first.
- Is it important that one of you stays home to take care of children?
- If one of you plans to stay home with children, who will that be?
- Who will take most (or all) of the parental leave (if you’re in a country that gives parental leave)?
- If you plan to take unpaid time off with your baby, who will do this?
- Will each partner's work impact the portion of childcare each one does when at home?
- Will sleep schedules change based on each partner’s work?
- If your child is sick and needs to be picked up from daycare, preschool, or school, who will usually be responsible for leaving work to do so?
- If you’re both working, how will the working partner manage their schedule to allow not only for family time but also for couple time?
Relationship and Marriage
I’ll admit that this category has been one of the ones I stressed out about the most when I was newly pregnant.
In October, when I was just 7 or 8 weeks along, we went to Austin, Texas for my work with SumoMe and Ryan came with me. One Saturday morning, we got up early and went for a walk, bringing some breakfast stuff with us so we could have a breakfast picnic.
I was so emotional about the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do things like that when we had a baby. It wouldn’t be just the two of us anymore.
This is an important topic of discussion because your relationship is important for your family.
- How will you make time for your relationship after the child is born?
- How will you resolve conflicting parenting styles arguments?
- What actions will you take if you come against a point of friction that can’t be resolved?
- If you’re not already married, is it important to one or both of you to get married?
- What is each of your love language?
- How will you show each other appreciation?
- What issues need to be resolved before you conceive/have the baby?
Our rule of thumb is to always put each other first. We think that the biggest gift of stability and love we can give to our baby is to love each other. What is your approach to your marriage or relationship within your family?
Since you’re reading this blog, my hunch is that this is a really important topic for you.
And even if you and your partner seem as if you’re on the same page with the type of lifestyle you’ve set up as a two-person family, you need to talk about what happens when that third addition gets here.
Here’s something that surprised me: Not everyone wants to lead the same lifestyle as they dreamed of as a DINK couple when they have a baby.
You need to talk about this.
When we met, Ryan and I had hugely different lifestyles. I moved around a few times, worked as a digital nomad for myself and with a tech startup, and travel was (and still is) my biggest passion. All of my possessions could fit into half of my 2-door Honda Civic and just a few days before our third date, I booked a long-term trip to Europe.
While I didn’t envision myself living this way for the rest of my life (and certainly not when I had a family), I do value a lot of what that type of lifestyle brings, including:
- Minimalism and the freedom from material goods
- Freedom and location independence
- Travel and growth through travel.
Ryan, on the other hand, lived in the city he grew up in, with family supports all around him. He’s a Marine Biologist (one of the biggest things that attracted me to him in the first place!) with a fairly location dependent career and my god does that man have a lot of hobbies.
Hobbies that, of course, required not only a lot of location stability but stuff.
Huge fish tanks, motorcycles, bicycles, canoes, hunting gear… you name it, and the dude does it. And I love that about him. But it led to vastly different lifestyles between the two of us.
We discussed these important topics early on (and we still discuss them regularly) and we suggest you do, too.
- Where will you live?
- Will you move from your hometown or where you live now?
- How important is it to have your children grow up in one constant town?
- How many children do you each want?
- What happens if one partner desperately wants a second (or third, etc) and the other doesn’t?
- What happens if you experience infertility or secondary infertility?
- How important is it to have (another) child?
- What will you do to make it happen (adoption, surrogate, IVF, etc) if you experience this?
- What are non-negotiables for you each as far as lifestyle goes?
- Are you homebodies, or would you like to be able to travel with your children?
- What type of hobbies do you want to engage in on your own, as a family, with kids?
For us, lifestyle was one of the most important topics of discussion throughout our relationship. It became even more important when we found out I was pregnant.
Money and Personal Finances
They say that money is the most-cited reason for divorce in America.
It makes sense, too. Money — specifically not having enough of it — is a super stressful situation. Not to mention the stress of being in a partnership where your spending habits are mismatched.
And let’s be real. All stresses are compounded when you add a baby to the mix.
- Will you have a budget?
- If you haven’t already combined your finances, will you when the baby arrives?
- If not, how will you split child-related expenses?
- Who will manage expenses of the pregnancy?
- If one partner earns less than the other (either because of staying home with children or otherwise), how will the finances be managed and divided?
- How will stay-at-home parents or lower-earners be protected financially in the case that your relationship doesn’t work out?
- If not both of you, who will assume a leadership role in the family finances?
- If you have the financial means, will you pay for college for your children?
- What is your stance on giving children an allowance?
- Will you make a will for your family before the baby is born?
- Do you have life insurance? Is this important?
- How will your spending habits change with a baby?
- How will you approach baby gear and acquiring all the things needed to support a child and baby?
Even if you think some of the questions are far-fetched, address them all. Seriously.
Pregnancy and Birth Plans
You might think that pregnancy is the easiest part.
The baby isn’t even around yet to be a topic of serious discussion, let alone argument or tension, right?
Well, not quite. Because pregnancy and birthing holds many hot topics (I know, right?) you may want to talk about these things prior to conception.
Or hey, if you’re already pregnant, no time better than the present, right?
- Who would be involved in the actual birth/hospital experience.
- Will you (or she) have a medicated or unmedicated birth?
- Are you (or she) more comfortable giving birth at a hospital or at home?
- Will you find out the sex of your baby during pregnancy?
- If you do, will you share that information with friends and family before the baby’s birth?
- If something goes wrong, who should the non-pregnant partner save: you or baby?
- Will the non-pregnant partner drink during the pregnancy?
- Will you engage in genetic testing during the pregnancy?
- If so, what will you do if the test comes back with abnormalities?
- How will you handle annoying opinions? (Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty).
- How will the non-pregnant partner support the pregnant partner during the pregnancy? What does the pregnant partner need?
- How involved will the non-pregnant partner be in the birth?
Clearly, some of these questions won’t really be topics of discussion. Mama-to-be needs to decide alone whether she wants an epidural, whether she’s more comfortable birthing in a hospital or at home, and who she is comfortable with in the delivery room.
But some of them absolutely are important to chat about.
In the (ridiculously sexist) book Babyproofing Your Marriage, the author tells story after story (after story…) of the worn-out woman who can’t catch a break and the lazy husband who won’t lift a finger around the house.
As feminists and egalitarians, Ryan and I are naturally inclined to a fair and equal split of household labor. But, we’re also practical.
With careers, childcare and feeding, household and property maintenance, and of course self care and health, 50/50 might not be possible. This is something we highly recommend you talk about pre-baby. Here are a few questions to jog the conversation.
- Who will be responsible for what portion of the household work when the baby arrives?
- Is the division of household labor dependent on workload/schedules?
- What duties will each of you assume around the house?
- How important is a clean home vs. a tidy home to each of you?
- When your child is is old enough, will you expect him or her to contribute to the household chores?
There are a lot of questions here. They are important questions, and ones that you should talk about early and often.
Are there any that you would add?