You’ve got your birth class done, your hospital bag packed and your car-seat safely installed! Have you considered what happens once you are home with your baby in your arms? Do you have a postpartum plan in place?
You may have heard a lot of talk about birth plans and much less discussion about a postpartum plan. Your labor and birth experience is conceivably one of the most important and special days of your life, but it’s equally as necessary to think beyond labor and delivery. Let’s dive into what a postpartum plan is, why it’s essential, and what elements should be considered.
What is a Postpartum Plan?
A postpartum plan is a written document that you prepare with your partner to express your goals and preferences for life during the first weeks and months with your new baby. It walks you through various aspects of daily life, ensuring you have a plan for each resulting in a smooth transition into parenthood. This blueprint assists in organizing responsibilities, setting expectations, establishing resources and a support network to make this new chapter as enjoyable as possible.
Why is a Postpartum Plan Important?
The real benefit of a postpartum plan is in the act of putting it together with your partner. It requires you to sit down and talk through each topic before your baby arrives. This helps ensure you are both on the same page. Maybe you are thinking your partner will help with the night time duties. Does your partner know that? Are they prepared to be up in the middle of the night?
Compiling a postpartum plan helps work these things out now, and can prevent some complicated issues taking you by surprise. It helps you think about things you might not have thought of before. By walking through each step of the plan together, you can make the necessary arrangements to create a happy and positive environment for you and your little one. A postpartum plan puts you in a better state of preparedness.
Before you put your plan together, we do want to remind you to be flexible. Just like with your birth plan, you should be flexible with your postpartum plan. Life is unpredictable and we cannot anticipate or control everything that may happen. It’s still valuable to put this plan together so you know what your preferences and goals are and can work together to accomplish them.
What Should be Included in a Postpartum Plan?
Topics you might want to incorporate in your postpartum plan include: parenting roles, rest and sleep, food, meal preparation and hydration, older sibling childcare responsibilities, pet care and chores, postpartum self-care, mental health, information about visitors, returning to work and more. Consider consulting with your postpartum doula when creating your plan to get her input on anything you may have forgotten.
Sleep and Rest
Having a newborn can make getting enough sleep a challenge. It is normal for babies to sleep in short stretches of time that lengthen as they get older. Infants need to eat frequently and this means somebody will be up with the baby overnight.
Who will be responsible for caring for the baby overnight? How can you ensure that both parents get the sleep they need? Will you and your partner both be getting up at night? (For example, one feeds the baby and afterwards the other burps the baby, changes the baby, and puts the baby back to sleep?) Or will you take shifts? You may also consider getting help from family or hiring a postpartum doula to provide overnight care so you and your partner can get more sleep.
Once you’ve thought about this you can make a plan for a postpartum nighttime routine that will work for you and your whole family.
Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
You will have a lot less time for cooking once your hands are full of that sweet little baby. Consider planning some nutritious meals in advance. Meal prepping and freezing some of your favorites you can pop in the oven is a great idea. Make note of grocery stores that deliver or have curbside pick-up, and restaurants that you like that offer delivery and takeout. Perhaps your friends and family want to create a meal train for you. Don’t forget to include healthy grab and go foods on your list so you can eat while you are resting or taking care of the baby. Create some stations around the house where you might spend time with your baby and have water bottles ready to keep you hydrated.
Feeding the baby, how hard could that be? There are plenty of things to consider. Is the plan to breastfeed, bottle feed or combo feed? Will you use breast milk or formula? Are you planning to pump? Are you okay with offering the baby a pacifier? When it comes to infant feeding you may also have a plan that changes once the baby arrives and you have a better idea of what works for all of you. However it’s still important to think about how you are most likely going to feed your baby so you can plan accordingly. You will need breastfeeding or bottle feeding supplies. We also recommend having a lactation consultant and feeding expert at the ready if things get complicated. Having support groups where you can lean on other parents can also be a lifesaver when you are struggling with feeding concerns.
Household Chores, Siblings, Pets and Other Responsibilities
You had a full and busy life even before the baby arrived and many of those tasks will still need to be done. As much as possible, delegate household chores and responsibilities to family, friends, a housekeeper or your postpartum doula. When putting together your postpartum plan, consider who can help take care of the older siblings when you first get home with the baby? Who can help with your pets or walk the dogs? Are there any special needs or routines that are important for them to know about in relation to the older siblings or pets? Diet, allergies, medications, etc. Additional tasks that can be delegated include: emptying and filling the dishwasher, folding laundry, running errands, watching the baby so mom can take a shower, sending thank you cards, etc.
Self-Care, Support & Mental Health
Both parents need some “me-time” and a break for self-rejuvenation built into your routine and schedule. What activities help you relax, bring you joy and recharge you? Your postpartum plan should prioritize self-care and ensure each parent has support for your emotional and mental well-being. Now is the time to build your village and establish your support system with friends, family, professionals and support groups.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) affect up to 20% of pregnant people and new parents. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have resources and a list of local mental health care professionals who have expertise in postpartum/family/marriage therapy. These professionals can assist with counseling and medication when necessary.
Consider who is supportive that you can call if you are feeling down and need someone to listen? What are some local postpartum community support groups you can turn to? Examples may include: moms groups, breastfeeding support groups, church groups, colleagues at work, prenatal/postnatal fitness groups, “mommy’s day out” programs, or online discussion groups.
Movement & Getting Outside
Daily exercise can boost your mood and may even reduce the risk of postpartum depression. You will want to first get cleared by your care provider and wait until you feel ready. Start easy! Plan some light exercise and movement to aid in your postpartum recovery. Maybe take the baby for an outdoor walk in the stroller. Try to get outside everyday for some fresh air. Make sure you start with a gradual routine and slowly work back up to your pre-pregnancy activities.
Connecting & Visitors
Some new parents feel comfortable with loved ones around them in person and others do better with some space at first. Think about when and if you are going to want visitors and what the guidelines and boundaries should be. Perhaps you want to allocate specific visiting hours to manage interactions and prioritize family bonding time. You might also want to create a list of supplies, tasks and errands that visitors can do to make life easier. Most people want to help and just need to be told what to do. Accept the help when offered.
Creating a postpartum plan is an essential step in preparing for the journey of parenthood. By considering each of these elements you set yourself up for a smoother transition into this special phase of life. Remember, flexibility and adaptability are key. You will most likely adjust your plan as you go, shaping it to the unique needs of your family. Happy planning!