Baby Prenups Are a Thing — But Do Parents Really Need One?

The oldest of my three children was a terrible sleeper. Since I was nursing, I handled all of her night feedings, and then my husband and I agreed to take turns trying to get her to go back to sleep. Somehow, on many of my husband’s turns, he “didn’t hear” her crying (although I am pretty sure he was just pretending to sleep through those wails) and I would have to not-so-lightly nudge him to get up and care for our daughter.

It is because I vividly recall those sleepless nights that when I heard about “baby-nups,” I didn’t immediately laugh off the idea. In fact, “baby-nups” are becoming very popular among expectant parents. Like a prenup, a “baby-nup” is a document that is formed in advance of an event (in this case, a baby’s birth) to avoid miscommunication between partners. Similar to a child’s chore chart, but for adults, a “baby-nup” outlines how folks will divide up household chores and childcare responsibilities when the baby is born.

Why have a “Baby-nup”?

Eirene Heidelberger, a certified parent coach and founder and CEO of GIT Mom, a coaching service for moms, tells SheKnows that “most parents cannot understand how much their lives will change from this little nugget. They look at Instagram and they see their beautiful, pristine nursery and they think that parenting is going to be glorious and picture-perfect.”

That’s why Heidelberger thinks a “baby-nup” is a great idea for both first-time parents and for parents who are adding to their brood. Although not usually a legal contract, Heidelberger says, “A ‘baby-nup’ starts the important conversation between parents about the lifestyle changes that will occur when a new baby arrives on the scene. It allows both partners to discuss their expectations before the hormones and the sleep deprivation set in.”

Mom Friends in Park
Image: SofiaV/Shutterstock. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

What should a “baby-nup” include?

Heidelberger suggests you lay out guidelines for:

Hospital rules: Who will be allowed to visit when the baby is born, and who will act as a gatekeeper to stop unwanted visitors?

In-laws: Even the most harmonious families can have strife and discord when a new baby arrives. A “baby-nup” can outline how much in-laws can visit, what is allowed to be posted on social media, etc.

Sleep/night feeding schedule: Even if one parent is nursing, the other can still play a role in nighttime routines to help the breastfeeder get some shut-eye.

No asking when the birth parent is “getting back in shape.” Enough said.

Meal prep, laundry, food shopping, etc.

In addition to dividing up childcare and chores fairly, Heidelberger says that a “baby-nup” can help couples make sure that both partners get alone time. She explains that “a new baby can be all-consuming, and it’s easy to feel lost in a sea of poopy diapers. A ‘baby-nup’ should include non-negotiables that each partner needs to feel like themselves. For example, writing down ‘I get to go to Barry’s Bootcamp each week and you can play an hour of tennis with your friends’ allows both partners to get some much needed ‘me’ time.”

How it works

Mom Melissa Biggs told Parade Magazine she feels a “baby-nup” is a great idea: “I remembered how exhausting and stressful it all was when we had our daughter, especially since I was breastfeeding and a lot fell on me.” So Biggs decided to create a list of home/baby jobs for both her husband and herself. Biggs told the magazine that she “listed all the chores we had and assigned a name to each one and hung it on our fridge. We both signed it so we knew we would stick to it, no excuses.”

But do you really need it?

Of course not. Everyone’s pregnancy, birth, and parenting experiences and opinions are different, and not everyone is a fan of the “baby-nup” concept. The argument against it is that people who feel mature enough to bring a child into the world should be mature enough to divide up baby care and household duties equitably without the need for a signed piece of paper between them.

Danielle Stilwell gave birth to her first child four months ago and did not jump on the “baby-nup” bandwagon. Stilwell tells SheKnows, “When we took our wedding vows, we agreed to be partners in all aspects of our life together. Our child is our shared responsibility. There may be days where I do more than [my husband] does, but there may also be days he does more than me. It’s a team effort and a respect for one another.”

Similarly, Kristy Jones, a mother of three, did not see the need to draw up a “baby-nup” with her husband. Jones tells SheKnows, “I did make it clear that I didn’t make them myself so I won’t raise them by myself. Daddy does the bottles and diapers. He will do baths if I can’t, like when I hurt my knee or at the end of my pregnancy. With three kids under 5 years old, we divide and conquer.”

While it’s easy to feel like a “baby-nup” sounds somewhat silly, so does pretending to be asleep in order to force your partner to get up and take care of the baby. Perhaps if my husband and I had implemented a “baby-nup,” we could have avoided some arguments in those early months of parenthood. As Heidelberger told SheKnows, “A ‘baby-nup’ is a proactive way to decide how to equitably share the responsibilities of a new baby and avoid building up animosity between partners — especially during those stressful early months of parenthood.”

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