A few weeks ago, I shared a little preview of my five postpartum essentials on Instagram in preparation for an awesome Empower Hour with Thrive Breastfeeding. Since we didn’t do a recording, I decided a great way to keep procrastinating my taxes would be to write up a little guide on how to use my “5 Postpartum Essentials” to make your own postpartum plan.
Why should I think about postpartum when there is so much to do to prepare for birth?
As both a birth and postpartum doula I see how overwhelming preparing for birth can be. There is so much information to sift through, decisions to make, and doctor’s appointments to attend. It’s hard to think about anything else. According to the March of Dimes, the average birth lasts between 12-24 hours. However, postpartum (also known as the fourth trimester) will last a long 12 weeks. During these 12 weeks your baby, body, and family will go through a lot of changes. With little planning or consideration, postpartum can quickly snowball into a time marked by exhaustion, frustration, and never-ending challenges. Taking the time to create a plan that accommodates these changes can help make this special time a smooth and healing journey, for you and your family.
Build your postpartum plan, in 3 Easy Steps
Grab a piece of paper and create five columns. Fill in the columns as you go through the list of essential elements.
Step 1- Assess
Confidence: How confident do you feel in your abilities as a future parent? Do you trust your intuition? What exposure and experiences have you had with newborns?
Knowledge: What do you know about postpartum healing, breastfeeding/bottle feeding, and infant care? How do relationships change after the addition of a newborn? How will you navigate postpartum if you’re a single parent?
Support: Is your spouse/partner able to take leave from their job and for how long? Are they able to provide you with emotional and logistical support? How will you feed yourself? (i.e. prepared freezer meals, organize a meal train, meal delivery) Do you have someone who can help you keep up with household chores? Do you have someone who can help you take care of yourself and your newborn? Is there someone in your life who can watch your baby so you can get some rest? Do you have a community of friends/family that can emotionally support you through the changes and challenges you will face?
Resources: Do you have access to professional resources that you will/might need? (Postpartum doula, Pediatrician, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Mental Health Professional, Massage Therapist, Newborn Photographer, and so on)
Patience: What are your expectations for postpartum? Postpartum can be difficult, but it should get a little better every day. If it isn’t, you might need more support to help you adjust, which is totally normal!
Step 2- Identify both your strengths and areas of growth
Go through the answers you just wrote and highlight your strengths. Take a moment to appreciate whatever strengths you already have. Then, go back over and identify what areas might need some filling out.
For instance, if when looking at your “knowledge element” you realize that you have a lot of newborn experience but don’t know anything about postpartum healing or breastfeeding. You could then make a plan to learn more about those two topics or identify some resources that would help you fill in that knowledge gap, such as a postpartum doula or IBCLC.
Another good example would be support. You might have your freezer stacked with frozen meals, a good emotional support network, a partner with paternity leave, but your family/friends aren’t going to be able to come over to help you get some rest. That can also be a great time to consider connecting with your local postpartum doula, just in case you need an extra pair of hands to get a nap, reheat a meal, and do some laundry.
Step 3: Piecing Together Your Plan
Once you’ve identified your areas of growth you can build a comprehensive postpartum plan that takes into account your specific needs. A mother-in-law who is a great cook unfortunately won’t be much support if all she wants to do is hold your newborn.
Bonus: Consider the services of a postpartum doula!
I am biased, but I think postpartum doulas do amazing work. Most new parents don’t have enough support available to them but for some reason postpartum support is less popular than birth. It’s a shame because I believe that just 16 hours of postpartum doula support can make a huge difference in the transition to motherhood and here is why:
In an average 4-hour postpartum visit I will do the following:
Talk to mom about how she is healing and answer questions/give information resources and tips
Talk to both mom and dad about newborn care related questions/give informational resources and tips
Help do some light housekeeping i.e. baby laundry, change your sheets, and take out the trash
Cook lunch/dinner and leave some snacks for later
Encourage naps and help with breastfeeding/bottle feeding
Establish age-appropriate sleep routines
And sometimes more!
So, whatever you do, don’t ignore postpartum. Whether you hire a doula or not, you deserve to be prepared. I hope this guide helps you enter postpartum ready to thrive!