Postpartum Planning for You and Your Baby

I’ve been a doula for almost a decade now. One thing I still find surprising is the lack of postpartum planning. Too often, bringing home a new baby only focuses on the physical environment, not the new parents’ emotional and physical well-being.

Compared to other countries, support for newly postpartum families is minimal in the United States. Practices like zuo yue zi, or “sitting the month,” found in China, or the Latin American custom of cuarentena or “quarantine,” provide ceremonial support for necessary rest and healing during the crucial 4th trimester. These practices offer nurturing care for mothering the mother. Allowing the birthing person to rest, heal, and focus on their newborn.

While it is unrealistic to expect this type of care in the United States currently, with our social fabric and lack of systems for postpartum care, having a support plan should still be a priority.

According to ACOG

Five years ago, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology updated its recommendation for postpartum follow-up care. This includes an office visit at three weeks postpartum and at least one other visit within the first 12 weeks at home. Still, many OB practices only schedule one six-week appointment. These visits should assess the following:

  • Mood and Emotional Health
  • Infant care and feeding
  • Birth control
  • Sleep concerns and fatigue
  • Physical recovery
  • Ongoing health concerns

Unfortunately, most doctors fall short and only address physical healing. Even when they assess and find mental and emotional problems, they provide few resources or referrals for support to address the concerns. Many cannot support breastfeeding parents due to a lack of understanding.

So what should we do to ensure the postpartum parent gets the rest and support they need to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally?

Have a Postpartum Plan

In the last decade, I have seen an increase in people having a plan for the labor and birth of their babies. This is a positive change, but labor and birth are only a tiny part of becoming a new parent.

The early days and weeks at home with a new baby are challenging and can be an overwhelming transition. A postpartum plan is crucial for well-being, yet I have not seen this be a priority for many.

Things to prepare and plan for as you transition home with your little one include:

*Setting boundaries for visitors

Everyone wants to meet the new baby, but it’s essential to have guidelines that allow you to rest and recover without being bombarded with company. Decide when and who will be visiting. Ask those visiting to help with meals, do dishes or laundry, walk the dog, pick up groceries, or entertain older siblings.

*Creating space and time for rest

Have a plan for getting some consecutive hours of sleep. This might be alternating overnight feedings with your partner, having friends or family care for the baby while you nap, or hiring a postpartum doula.

*Defining roles and responsibilities

Sit down with your partner before the baby is born to discuss expectations for household responsibilities, caring for the new baby, caring for pets, and caring for other children in the home. Clear communication will help keep emotions in check when things become intense in those early weeks.

*Planning for meals

This may include preparing and freezing meals before the birth of your baby, having friends and family set up a meal train, using a meal prep service, or hiring a postpartum doula.

*Care of older children and pets

Knowing who will walk the dog, take the older kids to school, or play with an active toddler will give you time and space to focus on healing and your newborn. Make plans for friends and family to help in those early days. Postpartum doulas can help here too.

*Support for infant feeding

I call breastfeeding the most unnatural natural process. It is undoubtedly a learned experience for you and your new baby. Having a support plan is imperative for success. Bottle feeding creates extra work with cleaning and sterilizing. Ask for help.

*Emotional support

Almost all birthing people experience the baby blues from the hormonal fluctuations post-birth. Having a non-judgmental support person you can rely on is crucial to your emotional well-being. Maybe it’s your partner, your best friend, or your mom. Enlist the support of a postpartum doula, trained to provide unbiased support, know the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, and can provide professional resources.

*Physical recovery support

Whether recovering from a c-section or a vaginal birth, planning for the physical recovery is essential. There may be postpartum bleeding, contractions as the uterus returns to normal, swelling, pain, constipation, and hemorrhoids, to name a few. Have things on hand to deal with your physical needs post-birth. Prepare peri-bottles, adult diapers, pads, stool softeners, ice packs, and sitz baths before you have your baby.

Slow Down and Ask for Help

We won’t have the ceremonial postpartum support of other cultures overnight. Still, we should expect to care for the birthing person to allow postpartum recovery. This isn’t an easy task, and many families won’t have the support they deserve.

What we can begin to do is to slow down and make it okay to ask for help. Allow mothers and fathers time off work to care for the new baby and adjust to a new normal. Provide medical and practical resources that foster postpartum recovery. Stop mom shaming and guilt-ridden comparisons. Allow the birthing person time and space to feel all the emotions associated with the 4th trimester.

Budget for Professional Postpartum Support

Surprisingly, in a country where we spend small fortunes on weddings, children’s parties, baby nurseries, professional photography, gender reveals, cars, homes, etc., we don’t budget and prioritize the postpartum period. Postpartum doulas, night nannies, lactation consultants, pelvic floor therapists, and the like are not inexpensive. However, their value is immeasurable. Orlando Doulas can help you plan for the postpartum period and provide resources for professional support.

Having a baby is one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Having a budget and a plan will ensure your postpartum recovery goes well and make your 4th-trimester one to look back on with peace and joy.

Posted in

Orlando Doulas LLC