Planning After Baby Arrives – What to Expect in the Postpartum Period
Planning for after baby arrives can help the big postpartum transition go more smoothly. You may want to “return to normal” life soon after your baby is born, but will soon find out that there is new normal.
You wrote a birth plan, took a birth class (if you have taken one we have a great one), and have been preparing for labor. That’s great. Let’s also look at what happens after the baby arrives and comes home.
What to Expect During The Postpartum Period
Our preoccupation with labor and delivery is understandable. Your experience of birth will affect how you view parenthood, your baby, and yourself. But birth is just the door. It’s an important door, and going through it is one of the biggest things you’ll ever do.
But what life looks like on the other side of that door is also important. You can take a baby care class, but actually learning about people’s experience postpartum will help make your own experience of it easier.
Talk to Other Moms that You Trust
What is it really like in those first few weeks? Find someone who will be honest with you and listen. Keep a short list of people who are home or available during the day that you can call while you’re home with the baby.
Read a Book
Get a book about postpartum and read it during your time in bed or before the baby comes. Some good choices are:
- After the Baby’s Birth by Robin Lim
- Post Pregnancy Handbook by Sylvia Brown
- The Year After Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
If there is anything you can NOT do for the year after your baby’s birth, plan on that. It’s a good excuse for letting go of any commitments or responsibilities that you know aren’t really serving you. Take a sabbatical from anything you can.
Stay in Bed
Plan to spend at least three days in or near your bed. No household responsibilities, no trips to the store, no responsibilities of any kind besides holding and nursing your baby.
Prioritize Rest and Sleep
For the first six weeks, while your uterus is healing, give yourself permission to NOT do. Sleep as much as you want/can and just relax around the house. Read books you’ve wanted to get to, binge watch shows, swipe around the internet mindlessly, sit and look out the window, listen to music, talk to people on the phone. You need as much rest and sleep as you can to recover optimally.
Plan to Nurse “All Day Long”
Babies nurse a lot, 24 hours a day. They eat very slowly and it’s not unusual for them to nurse 10 or more times each day. It’s not something anyone can really prepare you for. Even though they sleep a lot, they take up all your time. Just be glad if you get one thing done each day—and that includes brushing your teeth.
It’s time for more people in this world who are willing to accept help. You like being the helper more than the helped. So does everyone else. Who are any of us going to help if no one lets us?
Letting people legitimately help you is an act of humility and vulnerability. If you’re only ever the helper, you become obsessed with control. Parenting is a sting of lessons on the limits of one’s control.
Encourage your partner to take as much time off as possible. Your partner is one of the people who you need to accept help from.
If there’s ever a time in your life when you need help from the outside it is now. People have not cared for children in these insular families without the help of extended family for most of human history. For millennia we lived with our grandparents, our parents, aunts, uncles, etc.. Everyone was around and helped with children. If someone offers to help, let them. Make a list of things they can do.
Off-load Other Children
If you have other children, plan on having childcare help for the first weeks. Ideally, your partner stays home for 4-6 weeks. But your mom could come for a long visit or you can ask your friends. If you have the means, hire a postpartum doula.
“No one does that.” Well, it’s true. Most people “have to” tough it out and care for all their kids within a week. If you ask for help, your mom might balk and say that no one helped her and she survived. That’s a clear indication that she is still hurt by the experience. You can follow in her footsteps or you can prioritize yourself during this delicate time.
There is a 100% chance that you and your partner will feel overwhelmed. If you can get help, the overwhelming feeling is less likely to lead to postpartum mood disorders, unhealthy exhaustion, or disease.
Prepare Projects for Other Children
Whether you can get some help for your other kids or not, have a few easy activities planned for them during your time at home. You can pinterest this up as much as you like, but anything that is simple, engaging, and doesn’t make a lot of mess or require much of your help is gold.
Pick up some of those little craft kits and buy a new toy or two to pull out in your moment of need. Have a basket of books near your bed to read to your toddler while you rest or nurse. You can also plan simple projects you can help with from your bed, ideally while laying down!
Let Standards Drop
This is the time to take it easy. You can prepare some freezer meals ahead of time, do a lot of slow cooker stuff, and eat grilled cheese.
Whatever your housekeeping standard is, it goes 1-3 notches lower during the fourth trimester. If you usually care how the dishwasher is loaded, you now do not mind whatsoever. If the dogs get walked twice a day, now they only get walked once. Maybe.
The same goes for your awesome parenting philosophy. A few tv shows a day and a week of yogurt for lunch won’t kill them.
Make a List of Things People Can Do to Help
Ideally, before baby comes, make a list of things you would love help with. Running errands, making meals, cutting up fruit for snacks, cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn, whatever. Your friends can also come over and sit with you for adult conversation, hold the baby while you shower, or take your other kids.
Partners: If You Want to Take Care of Your Baby, Take Care of Mom
For the first few weeks, it’s really the breastfeeding mother that needs to care for the newborn baby. Partners can change diapers, bring the baby to mom, and do skin-to-skin whenever possible. However, most of what they do to help is to make sure mom is taken care of. The better off she is, body and soul, the better off the baby will be.
Make a Plan
After you think over these tips, write up a plan for how you can get help and help yourself postpartum.
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