The nursery is stocked with diapers and wipes, you’ve been listening to the hypnobirthing tapes on repeat, and the contraction counter app is downloaded to your phone – now what? When it comes to preparing for baby, so much of the attention is put onto the birth and buying all the essential items, we forget to prepare for the physical and emotional changes that come along with such a major life transition.
Preparing for what happens after baby is just as important as preparing for how they enter the world. The fact is creating your postpartum experience prenatally only leads to a more positive experience after birth.
This is the plan put in place by the most important individual postnatally – the mama! *gasp* What about the baby?! The baby is certainly an important part of a postpartum plan, and it is exactly during this initial postpartum period that everyone and their neighbours are banging down your door for some new baby snuggles. All that attention on your little one means that the parents are often forgotten, leading to postpartum depletion – physically, emotionally and energetically. Invest in nourishing these forgotten aspects of your identity in parenthood by planning out your postpartum experience when you have the time in pregnancy.
What to include in a postpartum plan?
Find your tribe
Build your support system & resource list. Names and numbers to have on call (or just printed on a contact sheet on your fridge): a babysitter, public health nurse, Telehealth, postpartum doula, lactation consultant, mom friends, dog walker, the friendly neighbor that would happily pick up your mail.
Fuelling your body is the most important part of recovering from birth and setting yourself up for success in breastfeeding. Yet with the demands of parenthood and general exhaustion, finding the time to prepare nutritious and nourishing postpartum meals can feel impossible. Meal prepping before baby arrives will help you ensure you’re fuelling your body when you least feel up to going to the grocery store or sweating over the stove. If you like to keep busy and are able to take time off leading up to your due date, then spending a few days cooking and freezing a bunch of meals might be the perfect solution for you. Preparing hearty meals like chillis, curries, stews & soups are all integral parts of the Ayurvedic approach to postpartum healing, and conveniently all freeze super well. I recommend taking a read of The First Forty Days by Heng Ou, a recipe book with 60 recipes to feed and replenish the new mother.At your baby shower, you can even set up a meal train where your loved ones can sign up to drop off meals. Other valuable things for new parents include grocery delivery services (check to see if your local farm offers an organic produce box for home delivery), postpartum doula support to help with meal prep, and registering for an UberEats/other meal delivery service gift card.
As your family structure evolves, it is inevitable that your relationship will change as well. Try to anticipate these changes as much as possible and discuss how that makes you both feel, and what you can both do to support each other through this time. An exercise I like my clients to do prenatally is to talk about household task division – how will you and your partner divide household tasks? Take the time to write out what each of you are responsible for within the home (paying bills, walking the dog, cleaning the bathrooms, etc.) and try to discuss how those responsibilities will change when baby arrives. Do you have the resources to outsource any of these tasks as your time will be taken up with infant care?Another important conversation to have is regarding parenting styles. Send your partner some articles sharing your parenting preferences. Do you intend on co-sleeping? Breastfeeding on demand or scheduling feeds? Have these conversations with your partner before baby arrives to hash out any ideological differences if they happen to come up. Having these heavy conversations when you’re running on little sleep only invites an escalated and potentially heated moment, and you two are going to need each other to help get through this time.While it might not be as easy to have a spontaneous date night, take the time in pregnancy to invest in your relationship bank. Connections to other people, your partner especially, will be essential in these early days with your little one, so start this next chapter on the right foot. Have a date night where you don’t talk about baby, send a romantic text, hold hands. Spend some time now to simply be there for each other. If you don’t have a romantic partner, connect with your community of friends and family. Your secret sauce to parenthood will be a support system that you can trust to be there for you when you ask for help (and even when you don’t.)
Being a new parent is exhausting. Like learning any new skill, there’s going to be a learning curve, and add in all those postpartum hormones and a lack of sleep, it’s easy to view your momentary struggles as impossible to overcome. Build your resiliency strategies and develop some emotional resources now so you can easily access them when you’re feeling on the verge of breaking down. Some tips I recommend:
Make a list of what makes you feel good. These things may be something like: a 20 min yoga, bath, read, walk, putting on a face mask, crafting, journaling, or whatever makes you feel happy. When those dark feelings arise, go through this list and make the time for your own self-care.
Make a list with directions/address for local places you can go when you’re feeling isolate: Early years centers, postnatal fitness, library programs, names/numbers of people you met in prenatal classes, etc.
Have a printout of the signs & symptoms of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders on your fridge: when you’re feeling blue, it can be hard to recognize what’s normal baby blues versus what requires intervention. If your partner knows what to look for when you can’t see it within yourself, you will be able to access resources far quicker and be on the road to healing much sooner.
Practice Mindfulness: Learn the tools that calm you in moments of overwhelm so you can access them when needed. You could always start with a roving body check to ground yourself in your space. Breathe and release tension. Remind yourself where you are in the current moment – avoid thinking about the future or past (for example: “I am safe at home sitting on the couch. I am ok right now.”) If meditation and mindfulness feel foreign to you, connect your heart with someone you trust and let it out of your system with a good old fashioned vent sesh – you are not in this alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhiannon Langford is a full-spectrum doula & fertility coach based in Toronto, Canada. As founder of Birth Boss Maternity Care, she guides families to feeling empowered as they transition to parenthood. Beginning her studies in bioethics and birth justice at Columbia University, she is now a certified Maternal Support Practitioner and has trained in many complementary practices, including aromatherapy, crystal healing & nutrition. She offers her doula services virtually worldwide.