We all like to think that the first weeks and months with our little bundle will be all cuddles, naps, and peaceful walks around the neighborhood. But reality rarely looks that good. We plan so much about the birth and everything about baby's first weeks, but what about the parents?
If you make a postpartum plan for how you want to manage food, household chores, visitors, sleep, returning to work, self-care, and your social life, the better chances are that you will feel confident and capable to handle whatever parenthood throws at you those early days.
1. Pregnancy and birth are depleting, you need time to heal and replenish your reserves.
During pregnancy, the body prioritizes the baby's needs for nourishment, oxygen, and everything else. Growing a baby is hard work on your body. And in case you didn't know, birth is REALLY hard work and no matter how your baby is born, you're going to need time to heal. The three keys to replenishing your inner resources are sleep, nourishment, and self-care. You are going to need a plan because no matter your intentions, without a plan it is easy to skip naps and showers, rely on takeout, and allow visitors to overstay their welcome.
2. Parents need nourishment too, especially breastfeeding moms
Moms need nourishment to heal their bodies and replenish what was used to grow that beautiful baby. Asking for friends and family to prepare meals for your freezer instead of buying those 123 onesies and sleeper sets is a great way to stock up during pregnancy. Creating a list of favorite healthy quick snacks will help your village do grocery shopping for you. Breastfeeding moms need about 500 calories a day to make milk for their babies. This is in addition to the calories she needs to fuel her own body. Having some favorite recipes and takeout menus close at hand will help your village keep you nourished so you can take care of that baby.
3. Visitors are nice, but only if they relieve your burdens.
In many cultures in the world, mom is surrounded by women caring for her while she cares for the baby. These wonderful traditions look different from culture to culture, but one this is universal - the family takes care of the mother/parents so that they can focus on bonding with and caring for the baby. They clean the home, feed the family, wash the dishes, do the laundry, and manage visitors and guests. You need the same team taking care of you. So use a service like Meal Train or Sign-Up Genius to help your friends and family help you. You can ask for meals, grocery shopping trips, or help with the laundry and your loved ones can have something specific to do. You can also post a list of what needs to be done on the refrigerator, by the front door or in another prominent place in the home. This way you don't have to ask for help, and your friends can simply pick something off the list and do it for you.
4. No matter how much you plan, there will be surprises.
This is true of every stage of life. But having a list of resources like support groups, lactation consultants, pediatricians, doctors, etc. will probably come in handy. If you need some help finding local resources, arrange an appointment to work through your postpartum plan.
5. You need a village AND you need time and space to bond as a family.
Don't forget to carve out some time for bonding with your partner and your baby. You do not have to be a hostess and serve tea and cookies to your guests. You don't even have to have guests. You are totally in your rights to take a few days or weeks for only your little family, maybe with visits by grandparents. You can make your rules. If you need help sticking to them, ask your partner or a friend to be the heavy (postpartum doulas can fill this role too).
Pregnancy is a time full of planning and preparation, but we so often focus on the birth and neglect all the time after. But with just a litlte forethought and an hour or two of making a plan and pulling together some resources, you can feel confident and prepared for whatever the postpartum period brings. Just remember, taking care of mom is just as important as taking care of baby. We cannot give from an empty well. You deserve care and support. If you need some help thinking through your postpartum plan, reach out for some support.