Don’t Forget the Most Important Part of Your Birth Plan!
Planning for the birth of your baby feels like kind of a big deal. (It is. It’s your child.) Where you’ll give birth, who will be in attendance, what music will be playing – it’s your right and privilege to research and plan and dream and craft the details of what this special day will be like.
But as you write down your birth plan, are you forgetting the most important part?
We’re doulas: far be it from us to try to downplay the significance of birth. But consider this: the day (or night) that you give birth to your baby, is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the days, weeks, months, and years afterward.
You need a plan to get through the trenches of postpartum recovery.
Rates of postpartum depression and anxiety are high, and in today’s society we don’t live in tight-knit communities with all of our friends and relatives a stone’s throw away. We need to ensure that once we bring that baby home and there are no more nurses at our beck and call, we have a game plan to avoid the pitfalls of isolation, exhaustion, worries, and cold takeout night after night. We need to make a postpartum plan.
How to Make a Postpartum Plan
If we could boil down all of the complex needs of a new parent down into one short list, it might look a little something like this:
Now let’s break down each category. You can make your own list, if you like. We’ll look at each need, and determine what applies to you, and how you’re going to plan ahead to have that need met.
What: a nonjudgmental listening ear you can go to if you need to cry, vent, or ask for advice. Parenthood is a tough job and comes with many different challenges, so having someone available to talk to is a must.
How: If you have trusted friends, relatives, etc. that you often talk to, these may continue to be a source of emotional support after birth for you. You may also need to look outside your circle or plug in to some parent groups that are in the same stage of life as you. Build a supportive network during pregnancy, so that you can be cheered on and supported once your baby is here.
Who: Your friends; relatives; mom groups; Facebook mom groups; your place of worship; a postpartum doula; a professional counselor
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS/WORRIES ABOUT BABY
What: Trusted resources for when you are unsure what is or is not “normal” when it comes to your baby or your recovery.
How: Have the numbers written down ahead of time for your nurse hotline, pediatrician, lactation consultant, etc. Educate yourself by reading books and watching videos on postpartum and parenting topics, and bookmark your favorite informational websites such as KellyMom.com and AmericanPregnancy.org.
Who: Pediatrician; nurse hotline; postpartum doula; lactation consultant
PHYSICAL RECOVERY FROM BIRTH
What: Support for bleeding, soreness, stitches, engorgement, and other factors in the physical recovery from childbirth.
How: Collect supplies such as a Momwasher, Tucks pads, nipple cream, large maxi pads, disposable underwear, and a breast pump. Determine who will be there to help you if you require assistance with bathing, dressing, medications, etc.
Who: Spouse/partner; parent; close friend; postpartum doula; OB-GYN/midwife
INFANT FEEDING SUPPORT
What: Professional guidance as you navigate the world of filling your baby’s tummy.
How: Collect supplies and resources for your infant feeding plan. Breast? Pump? Formula? Combination? Meet with a lactation consultant, read books, attend La Leche League meetings, get a breast pump.
Who: Lactation consultant; La Leche League; postpartum doula; infant feeding specialist; pediatrician
NUTRITIOUS FOOD & HYDRATION
What: Ensuring that you have fresh, healthy food to eat after birth and plenty of fluids.
How: Store up meals and one-handed snacks in your freezer, set up a meal train website, have relatives or your postpartum doula cook or meal plan for you.
Who: Spouse/partner; friends; relatives; church; coworkers; postpartum doula
REST AND SLEEP:
What: Adequate rest and sleep is the bedrock of a patient, alert, and attentive parent.
How: Determine who will help with the night wakings and feedings in order to prevent exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Will your spouse/partner help during the night, or will you need to hire an overnight postpartum doula?
Who: Spouse partner; postpartum doula
SELF-CARE AND HYGIENE
What: Taking a little me-time, even just for a shower or an errand, can become very difficult once you are the 24/7 caretaker of an infant.
How: Determine who will support your needs for some restorative self-care. Will your spouse/partner take shifts? Will a postpartum doula help with the baby while you sleep and bathe? Will you have a babysitter roster on hand? Will you retain a housecleaning service?
Who: Spouse/partner; friends/family; postpartum doula; babysitter; housecleaning service; massage therapist; stylist
As much as possible, try to think of ways that you can make your baby’s early weeks a time of sweet memories, rather than a blur of exhaustion and anxiety. By putting just as much – or more – effort into planning for your postpartum as our society does for the birth, you can protect your family’s peace during that vulnerable period of time. What will you add on to your postpartum plan?