With a new baby comes a huge set of challenges, questions, and requirements that start to sink in almost immediately after you arrive home from the hospital.
What vaccines does your baby need? Where can you go for breastfeeding help? What if your baby doesn’t sleep? How and where can you get out of the house and meet other new moms (and dads)? Where can you go for emotional support?
During pregnancy, we are innundated with prenatal and birthing classes. But where are all the classes and support networks after the baby is born and your on your own?
Following are some important resources for Toronto parents that we wish someone had shared with us way back when.
If you’re an expectant mom or dad, or know someone who is, this guide for new parents is an invaluable resource.
Drop-Ins, Classes, and Groups
(AKA, Your Get-Out-of-the-House Guide)
It can feel like an insurmountable task to get out of the house with a new baby, but it’s important for your physical and mental health. Signing up for a group or class that meets regularly or committing to a drop-in program gives you an incentive and allows you to learn about your baby and meet other new parents to have some adult conversation—even if it’s just about spit-up and colic!
City of Toronto Ward Reports on Children
This sounds daunting, but what it actually is, is a list of community centres parenting and family literacy centres and early learning centres with free or low-cost drop-in programs, drop-off programs (toddlers+), classes, and support groups. in your ward. Click on Libraries & Family Support Programs to find what’s available near you.
Ontario Early Years Centres
These publicly funded centres have free and low-cost programs like mom groups; baby-and-me playtime with toys, songs, and snacks; informational sessions on nutrition and childcare; and parent relief services (free babysitting, usually for 1 to 2 hours).
City of Toronto Free Parenting Programs
The City of Toronto has two free programs specifically for parents of infants (Make the Connection 0–1, and Living and Learning With Baby), offered by Public Health nurses. Call 416-338-7600 for details and locations.
City of Toronto Recreation Programs
These aren’t just swimming lessons and tennis programs (though they are those, too). These free and low-cost programs for children start with mom-and-tot programs for babies like music and creative playtime for babies under 1 year.
Check the website for registration dates, which take place at the start of each season. Note that some classes go fast—as in five minutes after registration opens. No joke. Have your family ID numbers, and course registration numbers ready the moment lines and Internet registration opens.
Family Resource Centres
Community family resource centres are not part of a centrally funded organization; rather, they are independent centres or a small network of centres all over the city.
They offer programs—usually free—ranging from drop-in play, circle time for babies with caregiver, coffee talk for moms, parenting workshops and classes, and even free short-term childcare (generally for an hour or two). The best way to find a family resource centre is via online search or by checking all the centres in your ward using the City of Toronto Ward Reports tool.
You’re probably aware that hospitals offer pre-natal classes for parents, but did you know that many also have parenting classes, meetups for new moms, and more? Some are even free!
You aren’t relegated to the place where you deliver, but you do have to register in advance. St. Joseph’s Health Centre has childbirth and parenting programs for breastfeeding, yoga for mom and baby, a new dad’s workshops, and a new mom’s group.
Mt. Sinai‘s classes for new parents include infant massage and feeding your baby solids.
Toronto Public Library Ready for Reading
A quiet library may seem like the last place you’d want to bring a baby, but the Toronto Public Library has programs designed specifically for babies and kids under six, including the Ready for Reading Baby Time program, with storytelling and songs for infants (with caregiver), and KidsStop Early Literacy Centres at select branches across the city.
And, of course, you can check out books! Get a library card for your child from birth. It’s a great way to add some variety to your child’s book collection. (The library’s super-convenient hold system allows you to “shop” for books online and have them delivered to your closest branch.)
Interactive, eight-week programs for either moms-to-be, new moms, or mom-and-tot (toddler) in more than 20 locations across Canada. Mom and Baby program invites experts to speak on diapering, baby health, mother health, returning to work, and more.
Baby Learning Centres
There are many caregiver-and-baby classes offered for a fee by organizations that specialize in child development and play-based learning. These include Wholeplay (music and baby development/parenting classes), Rainbow Songs (music and movement), Kidville (music, movement, parenting), and Making Music Togther.
Note that the City of Toronto Recreation Programs offer some similar classes at low cost.
Yoga Studios and Gyms
Many yoga studios and gyms have mom-and-baby yoga or fitness classes. And there are programs just for moms and babies like Belly Bootcamp and Baby & Me Fitness. It’s a one, two, three punch of getting out, staying fit, and meeting other new moms.
Baby Cafés and Play Centres
Many of these are designed for toddler ages and up, but they can also be great for moms with babies to meet, have a coffee in a breastfeeding-friendly space and not worry about interrupting others if baby gets cranky.
More Programs and Groups
Not finding what you’re looking for? Create your own group via MeetUp.com or post fliers at a community centre. Also check out our full listings for Toronto:
Dad Support Information
An online resource just for dads, with a blog, booklets, and information about workshops and meet-ups.
24-Hour Cribside Assistance for New Dads
A father-to-father resource with articles, guides, and videos and fun tips like “10 Things To Do with Your Baby When There Is Nothing To Do”.
Infant Health and Development Resources
Ontario Best Start Initiative
A wealth of early learning and child development information online, including a breastfeeding services directory and guides and brochures on healthy sleep, postpartum depression, and play-based learning, plus links to other resources.
Canadian Paediatric Society
General information about health and development, and a good place to go for common questions about, say, what that rash or cough might mean, whether to use a soother, or whether your baby’s behaviour is “normal”.
Toronto Public Health
This free resource is a great place to start for information regarding child health and development, common parenting issues, breastfeeding/infant feeding, postpartum depression, and new parent support services. Public Health Nurses can help you with just about any question you have at the number above.
Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services
Another good resource to find information on health, development, and local services. You’ll find links to Early Year’s Centres, hotlines for postpartum blues, immunization schedules, licensed child-care centres, registering your newborn, and more.
La Leche League Canada
Sunnybrook Breastfeeding Clinic Helpline: 416-480-5900
Toronto East General Hospital Breastfeeding Centre: 416-469-6667
St. Joseph’s Health Centre Breastfeeding Clinic: 416-530-6331
Mt. Sinai Breastfeeding Centre
City of Toronto Breastfeeding Services
Wish you had a list of all the official tasks you have to check off your list? Now you do!
Birth Certificate and Social Insurance
Register a birth, get your baby’s birth certificate and Social Insurance Number, and to start receiving Canada Child Benefits via Service Ontario.
Your hospital or midwife should give you a form to complete in order to receive Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage for your child (and get a health card via mail). If they do not, you must visit a Service Ontario site in person to register your child. Note that newborns are exempt from the usual three-month waiting period for health coverage.
Do babies need passports to cross the border? Yes! Go to Passport Canada for more information.
Birth Abroad Registration
Children born to one or more parent who is a foreign citizen may require an official birth abroad notification with the foreign citizen’s home country, even if the child is also a Canadian citizen and even if you have no immediate plans to leave Canada. Check with your local embassy or consulate for instructions.
Think you may be eligible for a child-care subsidy? It’s best to apply as soon as possible. The waiting list is so long that not everyone who is eligible for a subsidy is able to get one.
It’s never too early to visit daycares and get on waiting lists at those that are a good fit for your family. In fact, many parents start the process during pregnancy. The city of Toronto’s Child Care Services tool is a good place to begin. The parent-to-parent review site Daycare Bear is a good way to locate daycares (private and home child-care) near you and see what other parents have to say about them.
There are so many resources for new moms in Toronto that there’s only one thing we are sure of: there’s no way we’ve covered them all here. If you know about more great resources for new parents, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what we missed or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter @HelpWeveGotKids.