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Parenting is easily the most challenging thing you'll ever do. You have no choice but to "learn on the job" and to simply get stuck in, but it is not too early to start thinking about your personal parenting philosophy when you get that positive pregnancy

When you are trying to conceive, and even when you are already pregnant, the time when you will hold your baby in your arms still seems light years away. The time when you will have to make complicated parenting decisions about your child's education, how to handle disciple issues, or how to deal with sibling rivalry seems even further away.

You probably can't fathom the idea that you will have parenting disagreements with your other half. You are both so thrilled to be pregnant, after all! Now that you are expecting, won't everything else work itself out? You don't need to follow anyone else idea of what makes a good "parenting philosophy", and you certainly don't need to parent by the book. Your own views, common sense and intuition are the most important and it's key to start talking about this with your partner while you are still pregnant. You've got roughly nine months to explore your options and reach an agreement on decisions you'll need to make in your baby's earliest months. What? Newborns require active parenting decisions? You bet! A whole host of pretty daunting choices is awaiting you, and your first real parenting decision is probably how and where you will give birth.

Labor and birth clearly don't always happen just in the way you want, but developing preferences can definitely make you feel more comfortable and in charge of the process. Those parents who are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy may just have the whole spectrum of options available, from homebirth to birth center and from epidural anesthesia to c-section in a hospital. Start exploring all possibilities now, so you have a clear idea of what you feel best about. Breastfeeding vs formula feeding is another much-debated early parenting decision that you can start exploring now. There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the best option health-wise, for you and baby. If you are committed to nursing your baby, now is the time to start reading up on how to ensure success.

If you're not sure yet, reading about breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding now will help you come to a decision. Once you are about halfway through your pregnancy you will probably start decorating your baby's nursery and purchasing baby furniture like cribs and changing tables. But do you really want to put your baby in a crib in another room, or would you prefer to keep your baby in your bed with you, or in a crib in your room? Co-sleeping vs sleeping in baby's own bed is another new-parent decision you benefit from exploring. Then, there's diapering. Are you going to go traditional and use disposable diapers, or would you like to give modern cloth diapers a try? Or are you that lone weirdo who practices elimination communication and goes totally diaper-free?

These are hardly life and death decisions, but they still need to made. But other decisions that would affect your baby's life far further down the road may also need to be discussed now, while you are still pregnant. Are both you and your partner planning to work out of the house full-time after your baby is born, or will one of you be a stay at home parent? In both cases, you will need to plan and budget. Daycare facilities often have long waiting lists. You may even have to sign up while you are still expecting! Pregnancy is the right time to revisit your own childhood and how you feel about how you were parented.

It's great if you and your partner could share these things with each other now, at a deeper level than ever before. Some people really do benefit from therapy or counseling to resolve feelings about their own upbringing, and working through any traumas they have. If you are one of those people, realize that it is much easier to attend therapy with your baby on the inside than it is once the baby is born. Going into therapy now will also prevent you from making the same mistakes that your own parents made. What would you like to add to the list? What's on your mind as you're preparing for parenthood?

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