I truly love having a newborn in our home, its actually one of my favorite stages, but postpartum is hard for me. If I get into the social media comparison game I might say some have it easy and some have it hard. But after being a part of the care for over 400 moms, I would suggest that postpartum is just hard! There are of course some things that make it difficult which are individual to each situation, but I would say having handled my own postpartum 3 different ways now, that the only thing that made it “easier” was planning. The saying “if you fail to plan you plan to fail” was definitely true for me. While I still didn’t get it right the third time, I have improved with each baby.
Below is a list of tips to help you thrive, not just survive your postpartum, and are things I would put into practice for my next time (if that is meant to be). One specific tip from me about my most recent baby…maybe don’t sell your home & move in your 4th trimester lol. For the first six weeks up until our move, I was doing great and thinking I had finally “arrived” and figured out how to do this. Turns out, I bit off more than I could chew. This was a big set back for me, and I think maintaining as much rhythm as you can the first few months of a new baby is important for recovery. So while this post is geared toward your immediate postpartum, stay tuned for another post about the whole 4th trimester.
- Have a Plan! Discuss a postpartum plan with your partner or support people. I actually give my clients homework around 34 weeks by sending them home with a postpartum wellness plan worksheet. It has them outline responsibilities for the first 2 weeks, and then the next 4 weeks. Things like meals, who’s coming to help, and how to keep your other kids busy and cared for. In addition to these basic responsibilities, it also outlines a plan to protect everyone’s rest/sleep, and helps think through steps to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. How can your loved ones recognize if mom is going into fight or flight, and what do you need and appreciate for self care? If you don’t plan, it most likely won’t happen and a unhealthy change in behavior may go unnoticed. For me, important self care was simply a daily bath, followed by slathering myself in curated oil by my Ayurvedic doula Cheryl Johnson.
- Pre- Interview with a Postpartum Counselor. I have entertained the idea of actually requiring my clients to do this prenatally. One of the hardest parts of beginning with a postpartum counselor is taking the big step of establishing a provider. When you have a new baby, and already feel overwhelmed, the task of reaching out to a counselor, scheduling an appointment, filling out the paperwork, and actually going to the appointment will feel like it takes a whole day. But if you contact a counselor prenatally, it will be easy to reach out at the first sign of overwhelm. This can also be beneficial headed into birth if any emotional traumas need to be addressed.
- Set Expectations! Set clear roles and responsibilities for household responsibilities. There is a midwife’s saying I use. “In the bed 2 days, by the bed 2 weeks, around the house 6 weeks.” This means that SOMEONE ELSE will need to be doing the cooking, cleaning, and tending to other children. Set clear expectations with the support people around you, and if at all possible don’t put all the responsibilities solely on your partner.
- Hire a Postpartum Doula or Mommy’s Helper. Ok, I know not everyone can do this, but man is it worth it. Admittedly, I was skeptical about how much a postpartum doula would help me. I mean I was a doula for 8 years, a lactation counselor, and now I am a midwife so the thought of having someone to help me with simple baby care and basic lactation seemed unnecessary. So I decided to hire a postpartum doula I knew and felt comfortable with (I mean I was at her homebirth, so I felt like we knew each other lol). When she came to our initial appointment I told her I wasn’t sure how she could help but I was here for it! She did an awesome job at asking us about the flow of our home, and helping us identify areas we would need help. When the time came to begin her visits, she was so good at identifying my needs without me having to do it myself. The ways she helped us the most was laundry, prepping light snacks, sweeping and mopping the kitchen, and taking the older kids to the park. I highly recommend my postpartum doula Sagan Birth Nerd Services.
- Food Prep! Utilize food subscription services or pre stock freezer meals. I am not really a freezer meal kind of girl. I have tried and it’s not for me. As you can probably tell from my blog, I am a bit picky about what we eat. Well – enter 3 friends who knew exactly what we needed! They gifted us with a weeks worth of a meal service. It made ALL the difference. If I ever have another baby we will continue this for the whole 6 weeks. Being able to properly nourish your body is key in nourishing your mind, helping you heal, and stabilizing your mood. What you eat needs to be a priority, and it is so easy to let it fall to the side if you don’t plan ahead. Let me just go ahead and say, IT WILL fall to the side if you don’t plan!
- Plan Your Outfit. Invest in a few incredibly soft robes and/or PJ’s. This might seem silly, but man, having the texture of bamboo up against your skin just lowers your overall stress level. Being able to slip into a clean, butter soft, and beautiful robe as you crawl back in bed where you have been for a week- will make you feel so much better about yourself, and life. Check out my Amazon Store here for some that I used or Kindred Bravely for my favorite bras and lounge wear.
- Set Up Your Postpartum Space. This was my bed, bedroom, and nightstand. It might be the nursery and a rocker for you, but find a place that feels like an escape. I had my diffuser and specific essential oils set up, a coaster supporting 32oz of water in a mason jar, trail mix, a hakkha, and nipple butter. I also had a diaper caddy so I didn’t have to move to change diapers.
- Get the Right Breastfeeding Accessories Get them ahead of time! I would even go so far as saying you should take a breastfeeding class and reach out to a consultant. If you are local to the DFW area www.bishopbabies.com offers both. It will feel like an extra challenge to suddenly have to find a pump, pump bra, and nipple cream at 3 days postpartum.
- Self Care Self Care Self Care! Pre-arrange and invest in self-care. I was lucky to have access to ayurvedic treatment from Cheryl Johnson with OmBalance. I saw her prenatally as well, but the care and attention given postpartum was incredibly healing (I will do a separate post exclusively on this). I also continued my massages bi-weekly with Brittni of Massage With A Purpose, saw my chiro Lexi Maleski with Our Wellness Community, and closed my hips at 40 days with Mayte with Womb Centered Care. All these things might seem over the top, but your body just went through 10 months of growing another human and then getting them earth side. All of these treatments may not be for you and your situation, but I encourage you to at least choose one thing you find to be restorative and healing to both your body and soul. These are the kinds of things I wish people could register for. I utilized baby list, as they allow you to establish specific funds for things like this.
- Lower Your Standards. I’m not kidding, and I am reminding myself of this daily amidst any overwhelm. My mentor and precepting midwife would say this to clients as a new mother would sit in front of us in tears over the laundry not being done, the toddler having PB&J two meals a day all week, and not remembering the last time she showered. She would look directly at them and say “you need to lower your standards.” I think the overwhelm often comes because we have a list in our heads that needs to be accomplished in order for us to feel like great mothers, friends, wives, ect. When we don’t check off the list, we feel like a failure and that we can’t accomplish anything. Set small goals for yourself (showering daily, 5 min in the sun, 1 bedtime book with the toddler). Remember, this is just a season- a short season that you will soon miss parts of. Get rid of the things that don’t serve you in order to enjoy as much of this time as you can.
-The Dallas Midwife