Let’s be real. Most of our pregnancy is focused on making sure baby & the birthing person are physically healthy throughout pregnancy and birth. Care providers monitor our blood sugars, blood pressure, how much weight we’ve gained or lost, the size of our baby(ies), and more. While we educate ourselves on birthing options, comfort measures and create birth plans to try to have the ideal birth. But little is often mentioned about planning for our postpartum period… a special but physically & mentally exhausting period that most of us are grossly under prepared for.
To help take some of the stress & time away from trying to figure out a plan, I’m going to share some key areas that I recommend my birth & postpartum doula clients plan for while they are still pregnant.
First off, you’re going to have to get over your phobia or stubbornness of asking for help. I am SUPER guilty of this, but having a baby is an “all hands-on deck” type of affair and enlisting multiple different people to help in your postpartum period is critical. Most people genuinely want to help, they just aren’t 100% sure of how to do it. So being clear with your needs and addressing them BEFORE the birth makes it a lot more helpful, rather than afterwards when everybody is in more of a survival mode.
1. Sleep. Who in your life is able to support you in the daytime and the nighttime so you can try and get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep? Identify at least 2 people and their contact information so your significant other or family can reach out to them easily. Or go ahead and set up an action plan for after baby(ies) arrive. If you don’t have any friends or relatives who are able to do this, many postpartum doulas do overnight care and are an excellent option.
2. Nutrition. Eating and drinking regularly can be difficult when it comes to a newborns schedule and meeting all their demands. We tend to go for easy, often processed, foods that don’t always make us feel good long term but meet an immediate need. Planning & preparing meals in advanced or setting up a meal train, enlisting people who will go grocery shopping for you or bring meals is super helpful and an easy way for people to be involved.
a. Have a freezer meal party a few weeks before your due date to stock up with nutritious and delicious meals.
b. List out places that do on-line ordering/delivery or curbside pickup.
c. Create a meal train were people sign up to bring you meals (you can list likes, dislikes, restaurants you prefer, etc.)
d. Ask for meals that cover breakfast, lunch AND dinner. Variety is nice and can help prevent getting 10 casseroles!
3. Older Siblings. Everybody will be going through a transition once baby is born, including any older siblings. It’s important to secure childcare for during labor, and identify individuals who can assist with taking them to school/daycare, provide in-home or out-of-home playdates, offer childcare so you can rest, etc. List out those individual with their contact information and discuss their role after birth during your pregnancy.
4. Feeding & Newborn Care. Depending on how you choose to feed or care for your baby, it’s beneficial to research into area lactation specialists, postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, etc. and have their information handy or hire them before hand to meet with you after your birth. Reach out in local mom groups or ask providers for good (evidence-based) websites that you can also tab and keep on hand.
5. Maternal Mental Health. Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD or sometimes just referred to as postpartum depression) is the #1 complication associated with pregnancy and birth. One in seven women will experience it and one in ten dad’s will struggle with it as well. It’s important for those close to you who will be helping provide care and support to know the risk factors and risk signs. Talk with your care providers about mental health professionals or programs that are in the area and obtain their information. The sooner you are able to get treatment for a PMAD, the quicker you will recover! Resource: Postpartum Support International
6. Selfcare. Some of you with children may laugh at the notion of selfcare, but it’s a topic I hit on hard with my clients. The sooner you prioritize selfcare for yourself and with your partner, the better off you will be long term. Identify a few people who you can reach out to and do things with, find things that you love and can incorporate with your kids (ex. Baby and me Yoga) or enlist people who are willing to step in and help watch the kiddos so you can step out on your own. Additionally, don’t forget to try and set limits & healthy boundaries for yourself when it comes to …. well, everything. Our culture glorifies the woman who can bounce right back from birth and take on everything independently and perfectly. But it’s an unsustainable model that is breaking down the women in our community and is only hurting them.
7. Door Sign. Post it on every door a visitor may come to and in several places in your house that identify tasks that a visitor can do without having to ask you permission for. Example tasks could be emptying the dishwasher, folding the laundry, taking out the diaper bin, emptying the garbage, etc. This is a great option for those who truly struggle with asking for help and allows them to just refer to the sign and let others care for them. Here is an example door sign I’ve made for some birth & postpartum doula clients.
Whether it’s your first or your 10th child, having a postpartum plan can only benefit you and your family. Prioritize and invest the time in creating one with your partner, care provider or Doula. I promise you won’t regret it!