The prospect of welcoming a new baby into your life is at once both exhilarating and overwhelming. There is so much to figure out in this unknown territory! You don’t want to overlook something important – like forgetting the baby’s birth certificate!
While you’ll most likely remember the birth certificate, it can certainly be helpful and reassuring to have a quick checklist of all the important documents you will need leading up to, and just after, the birth of your new family member. Thankfully, there is help available from people who have been there before. For example, Pillar offers a secure storage service that can keep all of these vital documents organized, accessible and safe from fires or the other unexpected events that life seems to toss us from time to time.
Here's a complete checklist of every single document you and your newborn baby need.
What Should be Included in a Birth Plan?
Despite all the planning in the world, no one can know how the birth will ultimately unfold, however completing a birthing plan ahead of time puts the pregnant woman or expectant parents in the position to be as prepared as possible for whatever might arise. Copies of this written document should be provided to all the members of the birth support team, including the hospital staff, the midwife or doula, and the doctor.
When considering what to include in a birth plan, a birth plan checklist or template can ensure you don’t miss anything. A birth plan should cover birth preference basics, and details, as well as how you might like to handle unexpected situations that might arise.
Where do you want to give birth?
A hospital, home or birthing center? A bed or birthing tub? Do you want special lighting, music, or items in the room? Be as specific as you can.
Do you prefer a vaginal birth or C-section? A vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) requires special attention from the medical team so be sure to communicate well ahead of time with your doctor so you can have the birth experience you wish. What if you plan on a vaginal birth, but end up requiring an emergency C-section?
What kind of pain relief would you like to consider? Would you prefer a natural birth without pain medication, or would you rather consider an epidural? Do you want alternative pain relief, such as massage, acupressure or hypnobirthing?
Who do you want with you in the delivery room?
Do you want just a birth partner and the medical team, or will there be family members or close friends present?
Will you be breastfeeding, using formula or a combination? Who do you want to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want to save the cord blood?
What Documents Do You Need After Your Baby is Born?
There is so much to do after Baby is born, and new parents are not always in a state to do much of anything! They may be frazzled from being up all hours of the night. They may be overcome with awe – and a thousand other emotions – at the beauty of the new baby, and the incredible impact such a tiny person can have on their entire life!
However hectic life may become, be sure not to miss the deadline on the most time-sensitive tasks. Some of the items on the list below can be tackled whenever you get to them, but you can avoid potentially major headaches later by ensuring these items are complete:
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Number
- Health Insurance
- Vaccine Records
Birth certificates are needed any time you must prove your child’s date of birth, such as when registering for school, getting a passport, or even joining some sports leagues. If your baby is born in the hospital, the staff there will provide the paperwork for the birth certificate before you leave. You can complete this paperwork after you leave the hospital if you prefer, for example because you haven’t yet chosen a name for the baby.
If this is the case, simply send in the paperwork to the county within your area’s allotted time frame (5 days from the birth of the baby in many areas).
Home and Alternative Births
If your baby is born at home with a midwife or doula these professionals can usually provide this paperwork for you. Alternatively, you can obtain and register these forms with your county health department.
Social Security Number
Obtaining a social security number is voluntary, but it’s a good idea. A social security number enables you to claim your new baby as a dependent on your tax returns. It’s helpful for opening a bank account, obtaining medical coverage or applying for government services for your child. The easiest time to get a social security number for your child is when you are completing birth certificate paperwork while still in the hospital.
If you are adopting a child from a foreign country they are eligible for US citizenship, however they won’t automatically become a citizen without walking through the process. Be sure to complete this process as soon as possible to avoid trouble down the line. The adoption process will generally include getting a US birth certificate and citizenship if it is finalized in the USA. If the adoption was finalized in another country it may be worth going through a “re-adoption” process in the United States for this reason.
Dual Citizenship Documents for Newborns
Dual citizenship is granted automatically to babies born in the US to foreign parents. If a baby is born to a US citizen while abroad, be sure to register the birth with a US consulate or embassy for proof of dual citizenship.
Update your Health Insurance
If both parents have different health insurance plans, take a close look at each before deciding to which to add the baby. Most insurance plans allow 30 days to add a new family member to the plan. If you miss this deadline you may not be able to add your child until the next open enrollment period, so contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the baby is born to complete this important step. Time flies quickly with a new baby!
How to Update your Will
If you already have a will in place and want to update it you can make an addendum called a codicil. This may be a good option if there are only a few changes. If there are more than a few minor changes, it might make better sense to revoke the old will and write out a new one to avoid potential for confusion.
It is a good idea to keep your own copy of your child’s vaccine records, which should be updated each time a new vaccine is given. You can get a vaccination tracking card from your pediatrician or state’s health department. You will need to provide your child’s vaccine records to schools, daycare centers, and often to summer camp or sports leagues. You’ll also need these records for any international travel.
Tax Credits and Child Care Reimbursement Accounts
Many new parents find themselves shocked at just how expensive child care is. While costs vary by location and situation, infant care in a US daycare center averages around $12,000 annually. Thankfully there are some tax benefits that can help offset a percentage of these costs. There are more than one option, and generally you’ll have to decide between them. Two of the most common benefits include the Child Care Tax Credit and a child care reimbursement account, commonly called a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). It’s important to understand the options to make the best financial decision for your family’s unique needs.
Important Papers that Adoptive Parents Need to Know About
If you are looking to adopt a child, keeping the adoption paperwork organized and easily accessible is extremely important to managing stress through this long and arduous process. The specific process may vary state to state or for international (or third-party) adoptions. Keep a dossier of detailed records, which typically include notarized copies of:
- Social worker home study report
- Birth certificates of both parents
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Police reports
- Tax returns
- Financial statement
- Letters regarding mental and physical health of parents
- Records from previous adoptions
- INS approval notice
- Letter from employer
- Photos of Parents or Family
- Letters of Recommendation
- Form I-600A (for international adoptions)
- Form I-171H (for international adoptions)
- Form I-797 (for international adoptions)
- Form I-600
- Form I-864
- Form I-864A
- Form N-600
- Form G-884
Important Documents to Keep After Having a Baby
Be sure to keep the following documents in a safe and accessible place. While past generations stored these types of documents in a fireproof safe or safe deposit bank, technology has advanced to the point where they can now be stored online. Always use a site that is completely reputable and secure, like Pillar Life. Today’s generation appreciates being able to securely and easily access their important documents from any device.
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Number
- Citizenship (for foreign adoptions)
- Health Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Maternity/Paternity Leave Paperwork
- Childcare Information
- Guardian Designation / Information
- Will/Trust (learn more about what is the difference between a will and a trust)
- Beneficiary Information
- Tax Adjustments and Benefits
- Savings/Investing Accounts
- 529 Account
- Life Insurance
As described above, birth certificates are extremely important documents that will be needed into adulthood.
Social Security Number
Keeping secure documentation of a child’s social security number is important for your child’s entire lifetime.
Proof of citizenship is vital to be able to access easily when needed.
Health insurance information needs to be stored where it is accessible for anything from routine preventative wellness checks to emergency situations.
Disability insurance, including Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) can be a good investment for some families. Often available through employers, disability insurance can pay up to 60% of your paycheck for a period of time should you become temporarily, or permanently, disabled, which can be especially reassuring when there is another mouth to feed.
Parental leave policies vary from workplace to workplace. Your company may have a straightforward parental leave policy, or you may need to use vacation time, sick time or even unpaid leave during this time. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the positions of eligible employees who are out for extended periods, and there are also statewide programs in many areas. Many policies require medical certification and paperwork, so check with your workplace well ahead of time so you know how to plan.
Take some time before Baby is born to look into childcare options, and to consider what will make the best sense for your family. Will one or both parents need to alter their work schedules or stay home full time? Visit or interview prospective nannies or daycare providers to get a feeling for what’s out there. It’s a good idea to line up a backup plan in case your first choice isn’t available or doesn’t work out.
Name a Guardian
It is important to consider who you would want to take guardianship of your child if something unexpected should happen to both parents. This can be specified in your will. You can also specify a temporary guardian if the primary guardian isn’t able to immediately take custody, such as if they live far away.
Update Wills and Trusts
Wills are important legal documents which can protect your estate and dictate how you would like your assets distributed in the event of your death. If you don’t have a will in place and should unexpectedly pass away, your property can become tied up in a complicated process of probate, in which the state determines where your belongings go. Always update your will for major life events, such as births, deaths, weddings and divorces.
You may choose to set up a trust instead of a will. Trusts are more complicated, and therefore more expensive for a lawyer to set up, but you do have more control over how your assets are disbursed. Trusts also allow you greater control over how funds left to a minor would be administered.
Don’t forget to update beneficiary designations on your insurance and retirement fund accounts to reflect your new wishes now that you have a new baby. Be sure that these beneficiaries match what is stipulated in your will or trust to avoid confusion and ensure the money goes where you want it to go.
Tax Adjustment and Benefits
Many families find that it makes sense for them to adjust the number of allowances taken out of their paycheck so that they have more money available on payday. This means that less money is withheld for taxes, so this can affect the amount of taxes that are due or refunded come April 15. Having a dependent child on your tax return will affect the total tax liability as well, and people often find that they receive more money back at the end of the year because of it.
Setting up a flexible spending account for health care expenses can be a smart way to save money by spending pre-tax dollars on health care costs. However, there are limits to how you can use this money, and if you set aside more than you use you may ultimately lose the funds. Used wisely, they can save a good deal of money, but take care to understand the terms of your FSA before committing to one.
Savings and Investments
Consider setting up a savings or investment plan for your child now. One popular option is known as a UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act). You can make regular contributions to a UTMA account in the child’s name, and it will become their property once they reach age 18 or 21, depending on the state of residence. This money can be used to pay for certain expenditures that benefit the child – but only above and beyond what the parents are legally required to provide.
This can be a bit tricky, so be sure you understand the boundaries well before trying too much. UTMA money legally belongs to your child, which has advantages during tax season. However, this also means that it might affect your child’s eligibility for financial aid in college, so many parents opt instead for a 529 savings account.
529 Savings Account
A 529 savings account is a special fund that offers certain tax benefits to encourage savings for higher education. Generally financial planners recommend prioritizing your emergency savings account and retirement plans prior to opening a 529 account.
A life insurance policy is a good investment for both parents in most cases. At minimum the primary breadwinner should maintain a life insurance policy in case of an untimely death. Term life insurance is usually more appropriate for younger adults due to their affordable rates. They usually require a medical exam.
Essential Newborn Baby Documents
Having a baby can easily become overwhelming, but a little preparation can make all the difference. As you complete your documents, keep them organized and accessible with a safe secure online portal that you can update and share with the people you trust.
By being prepared you can ensure that you have the opportunity to pay full attention to your new baby, without wasting time or energy stressing out about what needs to be done, or missing something vital along the way.