Whilst pregnant, chances are you have come across a “birth plan”, a means of making your wishes and expectations known whilst you are in labour, but have you ever considered the need for a postpartum plan?
Of course, as a first-time parent, you can’t really know exactly what it will be like for you when you meet your baby for the first time (and, indeed, subsequent birth and post-partum experiences all differ too), but there are things that you can plan for that may help ease your transition into parenthood.
What is happening to your body postpartum is briefly covered in another post: The “Fourth” Trimester or “Baby Moon” and your postpartum (or babymoon) plan needs to take into consideration these very normal experiences post birth.
In a moment I’m going to write about what, in my opinion, should ideally happen postpartum. It is an ideal. I realise that for some people it might be difficult to achieve that ideal, please don’t think that I don’t recognise that and at the end of this post I am going to write a little about that. I’ve been broke, I’ve been stressed, I’ve been a single mum – including a homeless single pregnant teenage soon-to-be mum (yes, really) – so I know sometimes life really is very far from perfect – please bear with me, I am planning an article on this and potential ideas/strategies that might be helpful for you if life is rather far from what many might consider “ideal”.
What should ideally happen post partum
Seriously, all day, every day. Ideally for at least 28 days, but if not, for as long as possible. Yes it can be hard (I will write about this later), but you need to give your body time to heal and you need to give baby time to get to know you and adjust to life outside of your womb. Try to keep the first week (and preferably the next few weeks beyond) as quiet as possible – babies need to take things slowly and quietly whilst they get used to the world around them. If you can, sleep when baby sleeps. Also, remember that resting doesn’t mean being entirely confined to bed for an entire 28 days, rather that there should be a more gentle easing back into “normal” life. Be gentle on yourself.
However, that said, please try to spend as close to the first seven days in bed as you can – plenty of skin-to-skin with baby and concentrate on establishing breastfeeding. Get support if necessary – there are support workers/volunteers who will come to you if you need support with establishing breastfeeding.
Limit visitors during the first few weeks. I know that everyone may want to visit you. Babies are exciting! Of course other people are excited. But you need rest. It’s one thing if people come bearing practical help – a meal to pop in the oven; an offer to give the house a quick going over or that they will do some laundry for you; but if there’s any chance that they will arrive expecting you to make them coffee and refreshments whilst they hold baby and coo (and people do!), say no! Please say no! And if you struggle to say no, try to have a plan in advance that there will be someone with you who can advocate for you.
Consider limiting the number of people that hold your baby. One of the best ways for you to bond with your baby and establish breastfeeding is for baby to spend as much time with you (and on you) as possible. Being passed around can be very over-stimulating (so many different smells, touches and voices!) Please consider holding your baby – at this point a sling is invaluable (please see links) so your baby can’t be passed around like a parcel!
If you are tired, say so. Anyone that cares for you will understand and give you space.
Try to stay at home and rest as much as possible. Could someone else take the children to school? At least intially? Midwives do home visits (partly in recognition of your need to rest!); you have up to 42 days to register a birth; if you really have to be involved in food shopping – maybe use the internet, get it delivered to you! If you do need to leave the house, try to do so as gently as possible. Take it as easy as possible, please don’t pile pressure on yourself. The outside world is very stimulating to babies, try to take some time and not expect too much from them so early on in their experience of life outside of your womb.
Housework: As much as is practical: Not. Your. Problem. I repeat: you need to rest, rest and more rest. Ask, ask, ask. Let someone else do it. (If there isn’t anyone else, again, please bear with me).
Try to avoid draughts and keep warm, but do get a window open if possible to get fresh air circulating and if it is warm, do get some fresh air (and hopefully sunshine) in the garden (or take a gentle walk if you feel ready and able to do so). Warming massages using gentle (baby-safe) oils to soothe you and encourage your body to heal. At this point, please don’t use strongly smelling oils that will interfere with baby smelling you and avoid using mineral oils, stick to natural, plant-based oils – sesame is ideal.
Eat as well as possible. If you’ve been super-organised and have not (like I often did) felt like death-warmed-up in your third trimester, cook and freeze as many meals to stick in the oven as you can. If you’re not a big cooking fan, or you’ve been absolutely shattered/ill/any number of reasons to feel like you Just. Can’t. Cook in your third trimester, get it in your plan. Ask people to help. ASK ASK ASK. Remember people care. People will make you a meal to put in your freezer. Please ask (and if you feel you can’t ask or that there isn’t anyone to ask, a post about this is planned too!)
All food and drink to be brought to you. Seriously. Let someone else take care of you. Not just for the first week, but aim for 28 days. You rest, concentrate on you and baby. That’s it. No other considerations. Try to eat foods that you would eat to recover from an illness – warm, easy-to-digest soups and stews, if you eat meat, think chicken soup (bone broths, etc), if you are veggie, think kitchari and anything that will help promote recovery – especially protein and iron rich foods. Drink warming herbal teas to help support your relaxation and healing.
Look at ways to encourage your milk supply: nurse, nurse, nurse. However, there are various herbs such as fenugreek that may be used to help support milk supply.
And last, but by no means least:
This is a very special time – enjoy it! Spend time together as a new family – you, baby, your partner and any other children you may have. Whilst you do need time to rest with your newborn, embrace this opportunity to spend some peaceful quality time together. Read stories to your other children in bed, play cards or other quiet games, or simply time spent dozing together.
Enjoy the time do be quietly creative. Journal? Knitting (mind those pointy needles – but I got loads of knitting done in the early days – far easier before you’re dealing with a grabby 6 month old or toddler!) Maybe some colouring? Think of something you enjoy. Something that you can do quietly and indulge yourself.
Writing the plan
Your Postpartum plan will be personal to you and your needs and circumstances, but, like your birth plan, it should outline the care you expect and/or need and what you would like to happen for the first few weeks postpartum.
Sit down with your partner, if you have have one, and make a list. If you don’t have a partner, is there anyone else who is able to support you once baby has arrived? Even if temporarily? Outline what you will need and discuss how that might happen. If you have older children, consider how they might be encouraged to be involved and supportive (but recognise that adjusting to a new sibling can be a challenging time for some children). It will potentially be a tiring time for all of you and certainly everyone will need time to adjust to the changes, so any external support you can organise from family and friends will support you all! (NB: Families come in all shapes and sizes and a future post for fathers/partners is planned).
A baby shower or Blessingway can be a very good time to start to put in place the support you might need postpartum. Ask people if they will offer to cook a meal, run the vacuum around, take the children to school, do a bit of shopping for you. Look at the list above and think about how people can support you to put each ideal into place.
If you are in the position to hire one, you may find a postnatal doula helpful (link to information in Links below).
Before you switch off and say, well yes, that’s all well and good and in some magical fairytale world the above might happen, or reading the above makes you feel sad, or even angry, because you feel that it is unachievable – pregnancy and motherhood hasn’t always been easy for me and I haven’t always achieved the above (or even close to the above!) – a post is coming about barriers to resting, barriers to you putting YOU first and some suggestions for solutions.
These may be helpful:
- Your body will be feeling a bit bruised and battered and has some healing to do: Arnica 30c tablets can help speed recovery.
- Hormonal changes whilst you are pregnant can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding. Ratanhia Mouthwash can help strengthen and tighten gum and prevent irritation.
- Made with warming sesame oil and calendula flower extract, the fragrance-free Calendula Baby Oil is perfect for a soothing massage for you and, in time, baby too!
- During pregnancy your skin can become particularly sensitive. With organic sweet almond oil, the soothing Almond face care and body care ranges calm sensitive skin, reducing irritation and redness, whilst restoring your skin’s natural balance. It is fragrance-free and hypo-allergenic.
- Whilst your hormones work to re-establish some sort of equilibrium, Aknedoron Purifying Lotion can help target blemishes and eruptions.
- Blackthorn Elixir is recommended by Weleda as a supportive supplement in times of growth (such as pregnancy and breastfeeding) – a lady I met recently at an NCT Nearly New Sale told me she is convinced it helped her feel so much better post birth!
- The Mindfulness Colouring Book is perfect for those quiet moments. Commissioned from artist Lizzie Hobbs, each page is inspired by the botanicals and key ingredients found in Weleda’s ranges. There are twelve pages to colour, taking you through the calendar year.
Not from Weleda, but potentially helpful – I love the fantastic range of teas from PukkaHerbs. Please pay attention to whether any of the ingredients are contraindicated in pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.
If you feel that further supplements would be beneficial to you, I personally also like the range of products from Viridian (you may wish to discuss any supplements to your diet with a healthcare professional).
For breastfeeding support and advice:
Slings (Doncaster specific groups):
Outside support postnatally:
- Concerned about postnatal depression or perinatal mental health (Mind)
- Doula UK for information about postnatal doulas