Having a postpartum support plan will help you take care of yourself, set healthy boundaries, and ensure your needs can be well taken care of while you transition to new parenthood. New mom or dad, you are preparing for a huge life change. If there is more than one parent, both of you can contribute to the plan. After the birth of your baby, your life as you know it will transform. Yes, you’ll be falling in love with a new person, but you’ll also be so tired and sometimes overwhelmed. That’s why you’ll be planning ahead now and setting up structures to support you (and of course a partner if that’s the case). You’ll reevaluate your needs as you go along.
Getting started creating a postpartum plan
Remember, you’re setting up a plan— to help you. We already know who will be taking care of the baby! You’ll be planning to assure your basic needs are met, and you’ll be giving yourself more opportunity to be held as you hone in and strengthen your self-confidence and instincts as a new parent. It’s true that you will go through a wide range of emotions that you have never experienced before, sometimes all in one day or weekend. Whether it’s help with the mundane tasks or a way to therapeutically reflect on it all, you’ll want to know who’s on your team.
A postpartum plan should definitely include a circle of support that will care for you and your family after the baby arrives. New parents often plan for the labor and birth but give less attention to what happens when the baby is by their side. Who will be there with you? Start to imagine in your ideal world: who cares for you as parents while you care for your baby; how often will they come by; who specifically is assigned to each task and need. Who helps with baby care at night? Who is there while you take a much-needed nap?
Around the start of the 3rd trimester, start to envision and create your support plan for after the baby arrives. Once you are in it, it can be more challenging because you’ll be so immersed in all the things (feeding, changing diapers, sleeping, remembering to eat). Start to create a list of all the people who can help with baby, those who can run a quick errand, and another list of professionals you might be needing on a whim (IBCLC, postpartum doula, chiropractor).
Remember, there is a new reality and new life ahead of you. It’s hard right now to imagine but we can still plan ahead so it’s all the easier. Unsure where to start? We have a guide for you.
Invited Helpers and Visitors
After having a baby, you will want your home to feel really comfortable and comforting. You’ll be spending most of your time there, and it is important that it feels cozy and safe. It’s also important that the people who come through your home also mix well with the ideal feelings you wish to feel in your home. It is important that your guests are helpful and understand boundaries. Your ideal guests will be supportive of your daily needs and will also know when it is time to leave so you can rest. Remember that it is ok to ask visitors to delay their visits until you are ready. It is also normal and important to ask your visitors to bring a meal/snack or to hold the baby so you can shower for example.
Start to think about: Who do you want to visit you in the first few days home? And then during the first two weeks? And then in the first month?
Remember that you will feel more sensitive than usual during this time. The tiniest thing may bother you. That’s okay! It just means you have to be careful about who is in your space and for how long. Those who are coming to support, rather than observe and hold the baby, will most likely not bother you as much because they are making something easier for you. Start to envision not only the physical set-up of your space but also the energetics of your home and how you wish to protect them.
Asking people to come by to drop off food can be so helpful. It’s an incredible gift for a new and tired parent. Nourishing meals are so important for your physical and mental health. Meal Baby is a website that helps you design a meal calendar with your favorite foods. There are even delivery app gift card options if your friend/loved one wants to gift you with a take-out meal!
You might also stock your freezer with meals that can be easily thawed out and cooked or reheated. Using your nesting urges late in pregnancy to plan for your meals will take a big load off later! Also remember those easy to prepare meals and snacks: veggies/hummus; yogurt/granola; pasta and quinoa salads; fresh fruit; easy-to-prep sandwiches, etc.
Research and take note now where you can meet other local parents in-person. It may be a baby store with newborn and parenting classes or an online group that meets in the park every week. Make sure you are connected to announcements and meeting times. Community in motherhood is so important!
The notion of having a baby might spark the first thought of “building a village” for you. This is normal. Babies and children and all little creatures bring people together. You all will have similar questions and needs that come up through your parenting. These new connections will prove to feel very nourishing, even during the initial stages. And of course, some friendships will last a lifetime.
Remember that your wider village or community of care also includes professionals. Have your list of providers (postpartum doula, lactation support) readily available!
When planning for the postpartum period, having an idea of what costs you’ll be responsible for can help you design the best plan to deal with those expenses.
You’ll want to think about:
- What costs will be associated with the birth
- What type of maternity leave options are available to you
- What kind of expenses may be associated with newborn needs (diapers, car seat, crib, etc.)
- How much you spend on groceries and take-out
- What your personal/self-care expenses are
Feeding & Baby Care
Think about your preferences surrounding the care of your baby. Are there products you prefer? Are you planning to breastfeed or bottle-feed? Do you have a list of professionals (postpartum doula, lactation/feeding support) that you can call or schedule ahead of time? Is there a partner/friend or night nurse/postpartum doula who can give you a break during the night, once or twice a week?
A postpartum doula can help with household tasks, hold the baby while you sleep or shower, and help you get more comfortable feeding your baby and learning their cues. A lactation specialist (CLC or IBCLC) can help you make sure that breastfeeding is off to a good start in a myriad of ways and help with pumping and bottle feeding concerns. Having a phone number of a few doulas and lactation experts nearby will prevent any added stress in the moment that you do realize you need extra support. Your needs will feel different when you are in the throes of the first few weeks than they did when you were thinking about them hypothetically. And it’s normal to need help. Plus, you deserve it!
Other family members
Do you have an older child who will need care and attention while you focus on the baby? When you contemplate your postpartum support plan, imagine ways that you can maintain your older child’s routine and include them in the celebration of bringing a new baby to your family. You’ll be learning how to build in time to share more engaged moments with the other child(ren). As you can imagine, the little ones feel the change in the home as well, and they need that extra attention to feel secure in this moment of change. They may not get the same amount of time from you as before, however, the dedicated time they get with you will make it all the easier to adjust. It’s also just as nourishing for them to receive extra attention from your partner, their grandparents or close friends of yours. You all are supporting the little one’s needs.
And of course: your pets may feel the change. Make sure they have their needs met (whether it is with you or someone else like a friend or new pet-caretaker).
Our homes still need tending to after our baby is born. The laundry will pile up, the dishes will gather, and the floor will collect dust. While caring for your little, think about who can help with the cleaning and tidying. Is it your partner, or a friend who can come by once or twice a week? Will you hire someone short term just to get through the initial weeks of multi-tasking? Asking for help from others and being willing to receive support as part of your postpartum plan is the key to your success and sanity as a new parent.
Remember who you are in those tough moments
How can you remember to nourish your mind and spirit? When you feel too tired or like you can’t get a break, what can bring you back to center?
- Getting on the phone with a trusted friend
- Listening to your favorite music
- Reading a good book or some inspirational words of a mentor
- Watching a really good movie
- Taking some quiet time to breathe and tune inward
- Dancing or singing
- Cooking a favorite meal
- Taking a long relaxing bath
- Getting a massage or acupuncture treatment
Create a list and place it on your side table, refrigerator, or bathroom mirror, so that you can remember what brings you back to you.
Other things to keep in mind for your postpartum plan
- Listen to and trust your instincts. Your mama gut knows best.
- Try to tune out the overflow of parenting advice (especially the perspectives that don’t serve you)
- Be specific about the support you need when you’re really needing a hand!
- Don’t worry about jumping back into the real world so quickly. It’s okay not to “bounce back” right away to a normal routine and the way you used to feel!
- Allow yourself time to rest and heal, for as long as you need.
- Give yourself permission to let your emotions flow during this time.
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