Creating a Postpartum Plan
During pregnancy, many new families are learning and preparing to care for their newborns. After your baby arrives, managing your old and new lives can be challenging! Creating a postpartum plan is important because it can feel overwhelming to be thrown into parenting and to wing it with little to no direction. For some, it is very reassuring to have a plan on how to manage life as someone healing from childbirth but also someone with the new full-time job of being the parent to a newborn.
Give yourself a gift and create a postpartum plan. Consider the following points when doing so:
Who’s watching the baby?
Who will be staying home with your baby and for how long? Contrary to some other countries around the world, partners in the US are not always able to stay home as long as they would like to. Two weeks can go by really quickly and your baby will still be a newborn with round-the-clock needs. The birthing parent will need to rest & recover. Getting extra support can be critical to navigating these intense first few weeks. Some of us are lucky to have family nearby to give a hand, but if it is not your case, consider hiring help. Postpartum doulas are there to care for your baby and support your recovery post-birth. They can support the family as a whole with errands, sibling care, food preparation, and partner support among other amazing things.
How and what will your baby eat?
There are many ways to safely feed your baby to ensure their development and growth. What you feed your baby might be breastmilk (your own or from a milk bank) or formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months. But each family, baby, and circumstance is different. Think about how you would like to involve your partner to feed your baby, as it might dictate your approach as well. There are many formulas to choose from to meet your baby and your budget’s needs. Take some time to look them over and choose one that you feel confident about. Methods of eating for a newborn baby could be directly from your chest, bottle, cup, spoon, or tube.
Where will your little one rest?
There is a wide variety of places that can be safe for your baby to sleep as long as they are placed on their backs onto a firm surface. The sleep environment should be free from pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. Some use a crib, bassinet, Moses basket, or choose to safely co-sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best place for a baby to sleep is in their guardian’s or parents’ bedroom until their baby is at least 6 months old! This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. But again, what you decide is ultimately what is best for your family.
Your own rest
It is just as important to prioritize your own sleep and rest. Taking care of a baby is an around-the-clock, 24-hour job and at some point, you will need an opportunity to rest. Discuss with your partner or support team how you plan to arrange overnight care for your baby so that everyone involved is getting the rest they deserve and need.
Coordinate additional care
With the added responsibility of taking care of a newborn, it is important to consider who will be taking care of other important parts of your life, including older children, cooking, household chores, and pets. It’s vital to also prioritize nutrition, hydration, self-care, mental health and your emotional well-being. These can easily be placed at the bottom of your do list, but making sure you are running at your best is key for everyone, including your baby. Again consider hiring a postpartum doula to support you during this time!
Who is allowed at your birth location or in your home? How long after having a baby or how long of a visit feels right to you? All aspects of having guests should be discussed as you create your postpartum plan. If any of your expectations differ from your potential visitors, it is important that these boundaries be made clear, so that they can be respected.
Items you will DEFINITELY want to have on hand
Maxi pads or adult diapers
For the first several days or weeks after having your baby, you may experience some heavy period-like bleeding. You’ll be happy to have something extra-absorbent on hand!
Padsicles are sanitary napkins soaked in witch hazel and placed in the freezer for a few hours. Use these to relieve and soothe any genital soreness, itchiness, or discomfort.
Peri or squirt bottle
These bottles because they are extremely helpful in cleaning your private area when it’s still sore and tender to the touch. They can also be used while peeing to reduce stinging and discomfort. Try both warm and cold water to find out which feels best to you!
Nursing bras and pads
Some postpartum bras make nursing and pumping easier with removable straps or fabric which can be moved out of the way. Nursing pads will collect your leaking milk so that they don’t stain your clothing.
Lanolin or any good nipple balm works well to soothe chapped and sore nipples, which can be expected at the beginning of your lactation journey, as you and your baby establish a solid latch.
There are many useful pumps to choose from! Pro Tip: if the one you have doesn’t seem to be working well is to make sure you are using the correct size flange. Many new parents are often pleasantly surprised at how helpful silicone “pumps” are. They use light suction and gravity to collect any letdown that would otherwise be tossed away in a nursing pad. They are a gentle way to begin a small collection of milk.
After delivering your baby, you may find the first few bowel movements you attempt are difficult or you may hesitate to apply any pressure in that general area. Stool softeners are helpful if you find yourself in this predicament, and many do.
Consider this list as you plan for the arrival of your baby! With the wonderful addition of your little one, you will require special care as well. A postpartum plan is a great way to organize postpartum life so that you don’t feel quite as overwhelmed with so many new things going on.
Laura is a doula, having served clients in both New York and in mid-Michigan. She is a wife and the mother of two, a toddler and a teen. When Laura is not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out fun new recipes. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.