Planning for Parenthood in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide to Health Insurance, Workplace Benefits, and Parental Leave
By Milk Stork Team on December 4, 2023
As 2023 winds down, many families and parents-to-be are looking ahead to next year. If you're hoping to expand your family in 2024, a little planning can go a long way to ensure a smooth transition. The checklist is long, so we've put together a handy guide to help you properly plan and prep all the aspects of new parenthood. Let's dive in!
Before Parental Leave
1. Understand Your Health Insurance Coverage
- Pregnancy and NICU Services: Begin by reviewing your health insurance plan for coverage related to pregnancy. This includes prenatal care, delivery, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) services (just in case).
- Breast Pump Coverage and Lactation Consultant Coverage: Most health insurance plans, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, cover breast pumps. Additionally, check if your plan provides coverage for lactation consultants, which can be invaluable for new parents to establish breastfeeding and pumping routines.
2. Understand Workplace Parental Leave Policies
- Parental Leave: Inquire about your company's parental leave policies, including the duration and whether it's paid or unpaid. You'll also want to check if you'll have access to your work email address during parental leave so you know where you'll receive benefits communications during that time. This will help you plan your time with your newborn, budget accordingly, as well as help you get the most out of your work benefits.
- Return to Work Options: 1Speak to your Human Resources rep or direct supervisor about your transition back to work. This period can be a particularly stressful time for new parents, so it's essential to understand if flexible work options, phased return, or part-time schedules are available to ease your transition.
3. Research Your Childcare Options
- Research Childcare Early: Start looking childcare options such as daycare centers, nannies, or family care. Consider factors like location, cost, and the type of care that aligns with your family's needs.
- Waiting Lists and Fees: Be aware that many childcare services have waiting lists, especially in urban areas, and charge a fee for those waiting lists. These fees can add up if you sign up for multiple waiting lists, so be sure to work them into your budget.
- Daycare Tours: If you're considering daycare when you return to work, attend open houses and meet the daycare staff at each location. Kids & Company, a leading childcare provide in North America, encourages prospective parents to come in for tours and familiarize themselves with the environment before committing.
Returning to Work
4. Explore Workplace Lactation Benefits
- HR and Lactation Benefits: Ask your HR department what lactation benefits are offered to pumping employees during parental leave and after you return to work. Many companies offer lactation consultant services, flexible pumping breaks, and dedicated lactation rooms.
- Lactation Room Accessibility: If you work in an office, check out the workplace lactation room for comfort and privacy. Get familiar with where you'll be pumping to ensure that it's a stress-free environment for pumping when you return.
5. Prepare for Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Breastfeeding Support: Consult a lactation expert to establish breastfeeding and a pumping schedule. When you're ready to transition baby to bottlefeeding or need help transitioning back to work, lactation consultants can make a world of a difference.
- Breast Milk Shipping Services: For parents who travel for work, consider services like Milk Stork for efficient breast milk shipping. Check if this is a benefit offered by your employer.
- Daycare Breast Milk Policy: After you've chosen your childcare provider, ask what their breast milk policy so you can adequately prep.
6. Build a Support Network
- Connect with Other Parents: Engaging with parent groups at work or in your community can provide emotional support and practical advice, making your parenting journey smoother.
Planning ahead is key in navigating the path to parenthood. By being informed about your health insurance, workplace benefits, and parental leave policies, you can focus more on the excitement of welcoming your newest family member.