By Catherine Martinez

After finding that you’re pregnant, you may have already started planning and dreaming about lots of things: Baby names, nursery décor, and researching which stroller to buy. But there’s one thing that you shouldn’t ignore—financial planning to take time off from work. If you’re eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you will be able to take time away from work with your job protected. 

By taking the time to plan, research, save, and strategize before you start maternity leave, you can enjoy stress-free time with your baby as you begin your motherhood journey. Here are a few tips to consider in the planning process: 

Understand what benefits your company offers and how long your leave will be. Most companies offer between 6 and 12 weeks, but some extend longer. Some companies offer leave with full pay and benefits, others offer partial pay and benefits, and some offer leave that is unpaid. Each situation requires planning ahead, but unpaid leave requires the most strategizing.

If your leave is partially paid, it may be helpful to ask your human resources or accounting department for a schedule of how much you will be paid each pay period during your leave since it will be different from your normal paycheck. Some companies use short-term disability insurance to pay out benefits, which means that your pay may be coming from an outside source. Knowing how much you’re owed will help you spot any mistakes or discrepancies in payment.

Don’t let someone else do this for you. Learn how much your deductible is and how much you’ll be responsible for paying after you meet it. Double-check that your doctor and hospital are in-network with your insurance company. Get estimates of the final cost from your insurance company for both delivery at the hospital and care from your obstetrician. Remember that these estimates are just that—estimates. Additional medical needs for either you or your baby could arise during labor and delivery, which will lead to increased costs. If a bill arrives that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to file an appeal with the insurance company.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have fully paid maternity leave, it’s wise to increase your savings during your pregnancy. Often, medical bills start rolling in at the end of your leave, so it’s nice to be ready to deal with those without stress. Cut back on things you don’t need or consider shopping for baby essentials at children’s resale shops or secondhand sales to boost savings.

If you plan to return to work, start thinking about childcare now. Plan to save for the first month of childcare expenses before going on leave. If you can afford to do so, begin putting aside the amount you will need to cover childcare while pregnant each pay period, which will help you get used to your new budget now.

Put together a budget for your family to follow while you’re away from work. Remember to add nursing essentials, formula, diapers, and other baby supplies to the list.

If you’re making a baby registry, try registering only for items you will need in the first few months of your baby’s life before you return to work. Don’t forget to register for diapers!

When your baby is born, hopefully, you will find out how helpful people can be. If someone offers help, accept it and be ready to share specifics of how they can best help. The gifts of meals, babysitting, or household chores are incredibly helpful with a newborn and a huge cost savings.After you’ve made a financial plan that works for your family, you can enjoy every moment of your pregnancy and the newborn months without financial stress.

Catherine is a full-time copywriter for a nonprofit organization and a freelance writer. She spends her days writing, chasing toddlers and learning how to master her money. Catherine lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and their two young children.