As moms-to-be, we often organize an adorable nursery, purchase tiny outfits, and hopefully prepare for an amazing birth. But our culture doesn’t do a good job of preparing moms (and dads) for the postpartum period. I know it was a serious wake-up call for me with my first baby, so I’ve compiled a list of five ways to set yourself up for a smoother, more restful postpartum period.
1. Breastfeeding – Everyone tells us “Breastfeeding is natural!” While it definitely can be, I had a lot of trouble getting started with my first baby, and it took the better part of two months to get back on track. I am so grateful that I had the help of a terrific IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), and the unwavering support of my husband.
It would have been even better to take a comprehensive breastfeeding class (this is included in Birth Boot Camp’s natural childbirth course), and to have had a list of resources before I had my son, so I wouldn’t have scrambled to make those connections in the postpartum period. If you’re returning to work, invest in a great double electric pump, and speak with your employer during your pregnancy to sort out logistics.
2. Food – While meal trains are welcomed blessings, it’s still good to plan on filling in the gaps. Start by preparing some casseroles or other food that will freeze well. (Pinterest has tons of great ideas for crock-pot meals that you can freeze ahead of time.) If people ask what you need and you already have the necessities for baby, gift cards to local restaurants (or even a Visa gift card) are a great idea.
3. Support system – Being a new mom can be isolating, as you figure out your new normal and are responsible for a tiny human 24/7. It’s helpful to check out local moms groups during your pregnancy so you can connect with other women going through the same thing, and more experienced moms who have been there before. MOPS and La Leche League are two great places to start, but a Google search of moms groups in your area should turn up a few other options as well.
4. Help – If possible, hire someone to clean the house so you can focus on resting and recovering from the work of childbirth. If not, have a list of ways visitors can help you. Folding a load of laundry, washing dishes, and taking older siblings to the park so you can rest are terrific ways to give new moms a break.
That said, be prepared to set boundaries with visitors. Everyone wants to come see your sweet new baby, but don’t be afraid to speak up about a time frame: “We’re really trying to focus on recovering and bonding right now, but if you’d like to stop by for 30 minutes, we’d love to introduce you to the baby!”
5. Postpartum depression and/or anxiety – This isn’t pleasant to think about, but it’s so important to familiarize yourself with the “red flags” for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety (and for your partner to do the same). Postpartum Progress is a great online resource.
Be sure you (and your partner) know what is within the realm of “normal” for postpartum feelings, and what is perhaps a sign that you should speak to your OB or midwife. PPD and PPA are nothing to be ashamed of, and they are a lot easier to face when you have professional help. Knowing what to look for ahead of time will make it easier to get the help you need, if you need it.
These are just a few tips that I hope will help as you prepare to enjoy your new baby. I wish you a joyous pregnancy and birth!