The Importance of Postpartum Planning
Expectant parents today are overwhelmed with information when it comes to their baby's birth. They attend childbirth classes, read books on labor, hire a birth doula and practice labor coping skills. They spend hours researching what they would like for their birth plan preferences. And they should! Birth is so very important! Now the baby is here. Now what? There should be as much attention given to planning for the postpartum period as there is for the birth. This is called "Postpartum Planning."
Some things can not be planned. You cannot plan what kind of temperament your baby will have. You can't plan which breastfeeding positions you are going to need to use to get a correct latch for the first two weeks. You can not plan on which type of binky you need because you don't know which one the baby is going to take.
What you can do is plan to have an environment that caters to your being able to focus on having the time to figure out all of these things. This is where your postpartum doula comes in.
Your first several weeks should be devoted to just you and your baby spending time together. It's a precious time where you both learn how to breastfeed and/or bond with each other. You get to know your baby's preferences and temperament. You snuggle together and nap together. You take in your baby's "new baby smell" and the feeling of their tiny hand clutching your finger. You might take out a baby carrier and put them in it while you walk around the block for a bit of sunshine in between diaper changes.
What your first several weeks should not be full of is stress and demands. "What am I going to eat next? Have I showered in a week? What's for dinner? Is the toddler drawing on the wall? Has the toddler eaten today? Have I eaten today? Ohmygosh my aunt is coming over later - she doesn't ever shut up...."
What you need is a postpartum plan. Here are a few things you can do to plan for the postpartum period.
1.) Hire a postpartum doula. Whatever you don't think of, she will. She will support you as you transition into life with a new baby. Her expertise is in affirming you as a new mother and facilitating an environment where you can just be with your baby.
2.) Make a few extra meals during your pregnancy and freeze them. When you cook dinner, cook a double batch, and freeze half of it. If you do this frequently during your pregnancy, you'll have plenty of ready-made meals that only require re heating.
3.) During your pregnancy, go through your house during your chores and make a "how-to" list for each of them. Where do you keep your bathroom cleaning supplies? Is your washing machine pretty straightforward or does it require special instructions? Where is the dishwashing soap? Where do you store your towels? What one chore makes you feel like the house is in order? Where is your vacuum cleaner? Take these instructions with a list of chores and put them on your fridge. This way, when people come over to see you and the new baby, you can ask them to help out with something and they already have the instructions. It also helps your postpartum doula when she is helping you with these chores.
4.) Have a trusted friend organize a meal train. There are several ways to do this. Many people will use a site like www.mealtrain.com or something similar. This way, you have the first several weeks of dinners covered. And when people come to drop off dinner, they can also help with a chore because you have a list on your fridge!
5.) Set clear boundaries about visiting times. It's a time for you to focus on recovering from birth and bonding with your baby. It's not time to be entertaining. (Entertaining is stressful enough WITHOUT a new baby to care for!) Tell family and friends that your visiting hours are limited to "xyz" time and that you ask that they be respectful of your time with your baby.
6.) Be flexible. It's easy in pregnancy to speculate about what the postpartum period is going to be like. Helping a tiny person adjust to life outside the womb is a big job and it's not always the way we envision it's going to be.
Plan to have the basics covered. Food, clean clothes, enough diapers for the baby and a breastfeeding station that is fully stocked. Your postpartum doula will help take care of everything else. To learn more about our Postpartum Doula services visit our Postpartum Doula page.