As a doula, I help many families plan for the postpartum period. So often, couples focus on getting through the birth, and while that’s an important experience to prepare for, it’s often just a blip in the grand scheme of things. The postpartum period lasts for much longer, and we call the 3 months after birth the “fourth trimester”.
What is Postpartum?
Everyone who births has a postpartum. It is simply the period of time after birth where our bodies and families go through a plethora of changes. Often times, I see that families are confused by this term because they most often see it associated with postpartum depression. While PPD is a part of many mothers’ postpartum experience, it’s a separate thing entirely. This post won’t be discussing maternal mental health disorders at length, but I’d like to note that if you found this post while trying to get information on PPD or a related maternal mental health disorder, Postpartum Support International is a great resource and has a call line.
How to Prepare for Postpartum
As a growing family, there are things that you can do that may make the transition into adding a child into the family easier.Some parents tell me that they are just in “survival mode” during those first few weeks. Especially in those early, foggy days, having a solid plan can help mitigate issues that may arise like your nutrition and other basic human needs.
When your schedule is up in the air, you’re exhausted, recovering, and your house is a wreck, the last thing a new parent wants to do is plan and cook a good meal. Take out can seem like an “easy” answer, but during the postpartum period it’s more important than ever to nourish your body with wholesome, healthy foods. That’s why I encourage my doula clients to prepare postpartum meals before the birth.
Planning postpartum meals can be done in a variety of ways via: freezer meals, meal delivery services, and meal trains.
For families without the support of friends or family postpartum, the duty generally falls on them. Freezer meals are a fantastic option for these families because they can be prepared weeks in advance and are typically “dump and go” meals that can last for several days.
Meal Delivery Services
Meal delivery services, like HelloFresh, are a great option for families that may have someone coming to care for them after birth. Take advantage of grandparent help, for example, by putting them to work on cooking the fresh meals for you. Utilizing meal delivery services can be a great way to enjoy fresh meals, without having to meal plan.
For families with a rotating door of well-wishers wanting to visit, I suggest setting up a meal train. There are many ways to do this, but using an online service like MealTrain.com is a simple way for people to sign up for a meal and time slot. A meal train is also a fantastic way to field visitors. It’s common for people to want to visit as soon as you’re home and many times new parents feel overwhelmed with the amount of visitors in the early days. A meal train can help space the visitors out and will keep your refrigerator stocked with rotating delicious meals for a long time.
Prior to birth, I encourage parents to stock their pantries with easy one-handed snacks like nuts, cheese, and protein bars for easy and nutritious snacks that can be eaten while simultaneously caring for an infant.
Much like the meal train, chore lists can be a huge help during the postpartum period. I like to tell my clients that if someone is coming to see the baby, they can do a chore. Most people are more than happy to help out around the house, but many people feel awkward asking what needs to be done, and often times, new parents are so disconnected from the housework that an easy answer may just be, “nothing” even though there are dozens of things piling up.
Setting Up a Postpartum Chore List
To help avoid this, make a list of several household chores:
- Wash Laundry
- Dry Laundry
- Fold Laundry
- Run Dishwasher
- Put Away Clean Dishes
- Sweep Floors
- Take Out Trash
- Get Mail
Add whatever household chores you can think of to the list. Post the list somewhere that visitors will surely notice and ask that when someone stops by to meet the baby, they also complete a chore.
If you aren’t expecting visitors postpartum, it can still be beneficial to make the list. This way, each partner can help take responsibility for the household and it doesn’t fall on one parent. Side note: partners, this is usually a great way you can step up!
Going into the postpartum period with healthy expectations for one another in a relationship is also an important aspect of the postpartum period. Tensions can be high with a newborn and your relationship can be tested in brand new ways. Caring for a new person can be STRESSFUL, but there are ways you can set yourself up for success.
Prior to birth, have an honest and frank discussion with your partner about your worries. Simply knowing what each other is concerned about prior to the birth can be a great way to open the communication and it’s possible to stop problems before they even happen this way.
For example, a new dad may be worried about the finances, especially if one or both of you is taking unpaid family leave to stay home with the baby for a while. Discuss ways that you can make it work together. You may try to stock your pantries and buy all the basic newborn essentials well before the birth so that there are limited expenses after baby arrives.
Sleep is often a point of contention between new parents, but discussing your general tendencies can help you game plan. For example, often times, one parent functions better at night than the other. Set up a plan for the “early bird” parent to take primary responsibility for the baby until 9 or 10 pm, and then the “night owl” parent takes over for the next several hours while the first parent sleeps, then switch.
There are countless examples like the ones above, but the main thing is to just be open and honest with your partner about your fears and your expectations before hand. You can always adjust the plan to fit your new needs later, but feeling heard and valued during postpartum is really key to a happy relationship throughout baby’s first few months.
Experienced moms know that there are a lot of products needed in those initial days. From self-care items, to breastfeeding essentials, to diapering needs, there’s no shortage on the new items you may find yourself needing. It’s important to keep these things handy, so I suggest setting up baskets with all the necessities.
Mother Care Kit
Regardless of if you had a vaginal or cesarean birth, you’ll need some basics to get you through postpartum comfortably. Get a basket or bin and set it near the toilet with some basic postpartum essentials that you can grab quickly. Here’s a basic list of items you might find helpful:
- Adult Diapers and/or Large Overnight Pads & Comfy Spare Underwear
- Peri Bottle
- Tucks Pads or Witch-hazel
- Numbing Spray
- Nursing Pads
Having these things within reach during bathroom trips for mom can be really helpful. Keep the basket stocked with these necessities so she doesn’t have to go on a search every time.
Much like the mother care basket, set up a breastfeeding kit in the area you plan to breastfeed the majority of the time: near the bed, couch, or rocker. Having these items within arms reach while nursing can make the whole process much easier:
- One Handed Snacks
- Bottles of Water
- Breastfeeding Pillow
- Burp Cloths
- Nipple Cream
- Phone Charger
Nursing Bras – Cake Maternity Nursing Bras
In addition to the breastfeeding kit, get yourself set up with several really good nursing bras. I found this piece challenging because I’m hard to size. I purchased several that had to be returned because they didn’t remotely fit, even though I followed their fit guidelines. Others were returned because there was no support. Then, I found Cake Maternity and angels sang.
For every day wear, I love the Croissant Smoothing Flexi Wire Nursing Bra. It’s comfortable and the fabric is so insanely soft. There’s also enough structure that it makes me feel secure.
For date night, I love the Tea Wireless Soft Cup Nursing Bra. The lace is so tasteful and when I’m wearing it, I don’t feel like I’m wearing a nursing bra. Score!
The Sorbet Wireless Nursing Bra is another perfect everyday bra. I have never had a wireless bra that felt so supportive!
And lastly, the Zest Flexi Wire High Impact Nursing Bra brings the best of two worlds: the best of nursing bras and the best of sports bras. Sports bras are hard to nail down alone, so I am tickled that this one pairs the two in a brilliant way.
Sure, you may have a fancy changing table set up in the nursery with all the essentials, but many new parents find that they change diapers wherever they happen to be when it needs changing. I like setting up a spare diapering kit that can follow you around the house. That way, you have the basics wherever you are. I suggest filling a portable diaper caddy with:
- Diaper Ointment
- Hand Sanitizer
- Swaddle Blanket
- Spare Onesie
- Baby Finger Nail Clippers
The postpartum period is filled with magic and wonder, but it’s filled with long sleepless nights, too. Planning for the postpartum period can really help new parents find that magic and wonder without getting bogged down with the rest of life.
What did you do to prepare for baby’s first days at home? How did you manage?