Updated: May 16
Whether this is your first baby or not, it is important to actually have a postpartum plan. It often comes as an afterthought, but you will be doing yourself a huge favour if you think about what you will want and need ahead of time. And even when making a plan the second time around, there are things that you will probably forget to do. Each postpartum experience is different depending on your baby and what type of birth you have. Here are some tips to get you onto the right track.
YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING
The first thing to remember is that you don’t owe anyone anything. Some people struggle with family members not respecting boundaries once the baby is born. It is up to you to decide who you want to visit, how soon after and how much you can handle. Some people might ask you to do things like pump milk so that they can feed your baby, or take your baby overnight for a “sleepover”, but you do not have to do any of these things. There are lots of other ways for your family members to bond with the baby. You decided what you are and are not comfortable with.
KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT
Bringing home a newborn can be very overwhelming at first. You might look around your home and realize there are a lot of things that need doing, and you might be tempted to try to do them all yourself. It is important to keep your priorities straight, and to not push yourself too much.
Top priorities include:
Managing your pain
Feeding yourself and your baby
Drinking lots of water
Resting as much as possible
Delegating everything else that needs doing
Letting go of what isn't important
You can make feeding yourself easier by having a meal plan. This could include making meals ahead of time and storing them in the freezer, setting up a “meal train” for your family and friends to bring you food, or ordering take out. You can also make delegating tasks easier by having a “To Do List” posted on your fridge. Put daily tasks on there that you don’t need to take care of yourself. If you have older children, you might want to arrange some help with childcare for the first few weeks as you adjust to your new life. If you are planning for your spouse or partner to take time off work, it might be helpful to know that the first 12 weeks are the most challenging ones.
MAKE A BABY FEEDING PLAN
No matter how you choose to feed your baby, you are going to need support. Babies eat a lot and frequently in the beginning, every 2 hours with multiple growth spurts and cluster feeding days in between. It’s exhausting and it can make it difficult to look after your own needs. You might want to consider passing your baby off to someone else between feeds for burping and diaper changes. Have items in place to make feeding easier. If you are breastfeeding, I recommend a supportive nursing pillow, such as a My Brest Friend. If you are bottle feeding you might want to invest in a bottle sterilizer, for example. Think about what you are going to need ahead of time.
HONOUR AND RESPECT YOUR BODY
Your body has just done a really big job, growing and birthing an entire human being. Recovery takes time, way more than the allotted six weeks, especially if there were complications involved. Be kind to your body and yourself. Think of some things that you can do to honour and respect your body. You might buy some postpartum tea, make some special food for healing, have a spa day, plan a birth debrief or have a closing the bones ceremony. Do what feels good for you.
ITEMS TO HAVE ON HAND
Some things to have at home ready to go are:
~ Tylenol, Advil and Gravol. These are medications that are safe for breastfeeding and will help you with pain management, nausea and sleep.
~ A Water Cup With a Straw. When you are dealing with a new baby, it is easy to forget to drink water, and it can sometimes feel like a chore. Using a big cup with a straw will help you to stay hydrated.
~Rubbing Alcohol. If you are planning a hospital birth, there are a lot of things that get stuck onto you during your stay that leave a sticky residue behind. Rubbing alcohol can be used to more easily clean this residue from your skin.
~ Laxative. Chances are pretty good that you will need to use one, or at least benefit from using one. During labour your body temporarily shuts down your digestive system to prepare for birth. It is very common not to have the urge to go to the bathroom for a day or two. If you have an epidural or spinal block, this is true for a few days. You can use your own laxative, or ask for one in the hospital. Don’t worry, it takes a bit of time before it works so taking it sooner is better than later. If you have read “Ina May's Guide to Childbirth” you might already be familiar with “sphincter law”, but it’s good to know that relaxing your jaw while you go also helps. Lots of people are scared of that first postpartum poop, but using a laxative will make it go more smoothly.
~ Loose Fitting Clothing. After your baby is born there is a period of time where nothing fits. Your maternity clothes are too big, your normal clothes are too small, and especially if you are breastfeeding, your body now has different proportions. Plus you are going to want some comfy clothes. Jogging pants and leggings are a great choice because they are stretchy and comfy. Nursing tanks are also great, with a loose fitting t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to buy some new clothes for this period, you deserve to look good and feel comfortable.
~ Epsom Salt and Healing Bath Herbs. Baths with epsom salt have multiple benefits postpartum. They help with healing, help your body to relax and also give you some time to yourself. If you want to elevate your bath to the next level and maximize the benefits, look for some postpartum healing bath herbs. This is the one that I used. There are differing philosophies when it comes to baths after birth. Some people wait six weeks before having a bath but really it is situationally dependent. If you are concerned about taking a bath after having a baby, get the okay from your healthcare provider first and remember to weigh the risks vs benefits.
~ Postpartum Belly Band or Abdominal Support. There are a few options for this. The best option on the market is The Ab System from Bellies Inc. If you want something less formal, a pair of postpartum leggings, such as the Mother Tucker series from Belly Bandit are also a great choice.
LINE UP COMMUNITY SUPPORTS
It is a good idea to figure out what supports exist in the community ahead of time, so that you know where to turn when they are needed. You might want to look for a:
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
Chiropractor who specializes in Perinatal Health and Infant Care
Pediatric Oral Surgeon
Counsellor that specializes in Birth and Perinatal Mental Health
Mother’s Helper or Childcare Professional
HAVE A POSITIVE MINDSET
The first days, weeks and months with a new baby can be quite challenging. There are some things that you can do to make things easier for yourself. Celebrate your wins, no matter how big or small. This will help you to stay in a positive mood. Be kind to yourself when things go wrong, everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned. Take a break when you need it, and a moment to breathe when you are feeling stressed. Enjoy the small happy moments when they come. Remember that the difficult moments are temporary. I promise you that it gets easier over time. Surround yourself with supportive people who will understand what you are going through. Cut ties or limit contact with people who judge or shame you. Let go of the things that you cannot change.
You’ve got this!