There’s a lot to think about when it comes to having a new baby. Lots of expectant parents spend so much of their time and energy preparing for labor and birth and getting the nursery ready that they forget to plan for what life will be like once their baby is home.
The weeks and months after having a new baby are a time of big transition for your entire family. Postpartum is defined as the period after childbirth. You may have also heard it called the Fourth Trimester.
When most people think of this time, they probably think of the joyful bliss of snuggling an adorable new baby. And there is certainly plenty of that to enjoy as a new family.
But your new baby also requires round-the-clock care and is 100 percent dependent on you during a time when you’re trying to heal and recover from childbirth. This experience can leave a lot of new parents feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, especially if their expectations for this time in life do not align with their reality.
Lots of people make a birth plan, but it’s just as important to make a postpartum plan. Taking a little bit of time to think about how you will get the rest, nourishment, and support you need after having a baby can make a big difference.
As a postpartum doula, it’s my job to provide support and help to new families. When families hire me before their baby arrives, I provide a complimentary postpartum planning session where we can talk through some strategies to make the first few weeks at home a bit smoother.
Here are five questions to ask yourselves in the final weeks of pregnancy so you can feel more rested, nourished, and able to enjoy the first weeks at home with your baby.
How will we feed our family during this time?
This is one area where new families often receive support, and you may already have family or friends who offered to bring meals. That’s great! Either way, consider having someone create a meal train link to streamline the coordination of this effort. Then, direct everyone who offers food to your meal train.
Be sure to include the most important details, like where you live, what your food preferences are, any allergies in your family, preferred drop off times, etc. Don’t be afraid to include visitor instructions if you are accepting visitors. If not, consider leaving a cooler or drop spot outside your front door and be clear about where people should leave food in your drop off instructions.
If you do have time left before your baby arrives, you can prep freezer meals for yourself or create a folder of go-to recipes your family can make after your baby arrives. You can also look into many of the wonderful meal prep services that exist in Des Moines.
How can we get enough sleep to be able to care for ourselves and our baby?
You probably already know that babies need to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock. This means you aren’t going to be getting long stretches of sleep at night like you were before. You may have heard the advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but that is often easier said than done.
Instead, think about how many hours of sleep you typically need to function normally (maybe it’s 6-7, maybe it’s 8-9), then try to think about how you can get that amount of sleep in a 24-hour period. Ask your partner to handle the bedtime feeding so you can get to bed early and have a 4-hour stretch before you first have to wake up. Then, you can take the early morning shift so your partner can get a bit more sleep. Or, maybe you feed your baby around the time your partner gets home, then head upstairs for a nap until dinnertime.
Postpartum doulas can also help new parents get more rest by caring for the baby while you rest. There are even some postpartum doulas who work overnight to help new parents get more sleep.
What is your policy on visitors?
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, it is especially important to discuss your policy on visitors ahead of time. Will you require visitors to wear masks? Will you ask that they quarantine or get tested before coming over?
You may need to remind people to wash their hands upon entering, and you may not feel comfortable letting others hold your new baby. Maybe you are not comfortable having visitors until your baby is a bit older and able to get his first vaccinations.
Whatever you decide, it’s YOUR baby and your choice. Be clear, and stick to it. You can even create a “visitor policy” to hang on your front door to set expectations before people come inside.
A postpartum doula can encourage visitors to head out if they are overstaying their welcome, or help you excuse yourself to a quiet space if their presence is overwhelming.
What is your expectation for household chores during this time?
When you’re caring for a new baby and trying to heal/recover your own body, even ordinary chores can begin to feel overwhelming. It’s important to discuss your expectations for your home and your relationship during this time of rest and recovery.
If the birthing person is normally the one who does the cleaning or laundry, you may need to shift these tasks to someone else for a while, whether that means your partner, a family member, a cleaning service, or a postpartum doula. Or, have an open and honest conversation about adjusting your standards during this time. Are there a few chores that can go on the back burner for a while, or that can be done less often than you’d normally do them? Try to remember: There will always be dishes and laundry to do, but there won’t always be a new baby to snuggle. The dishes can wait.
Are there any additional resources you might need to know about?
When it comes to big changes in life, we often operate on the expectation that everything will go well, then find ourselves scrambling to locate help or solutions when challenges arise. A little research and preparation can go a long way to make these challenges a bit easier to navigate.
- If you want to breastfeed, find a local lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group ahead of time, and keep the information in an easy-to-find spot.
- If you are prone to anxiety or depression, find the name of some mental health therapists who have experience working with postpartum mood disorders.
- Maybe ask your friends/family for recommendations for a cleaning service or a meal prep service during your third trimester.
- A postpartum doula is also an excellent resource to connect you with experts when needed.
Postpartum doulas do that
I love that I can help new families with all of these things as a postpartum doula! I provide in-person and virtual support for new families, and I’ll be there to help your family with whatever you need that day or that week.
Ways a postpartum doula helps:
- Listens to you, and reminds you that what you are experiencing is normal (or connect you with an additional resource if it’s not).
- Be an extra set of hands around the house to take care of everyday chores and meal prep so you can rest and recover.
- Help you to gain confidence in your parenting abilities.
- Watch your baby while you take a nap.
Whatever you may need, postpartum doulas are trained to help all new parents, not just ones who are depressed or overwhelmed. Being a new parent is hard, and it’s OK to want a little help and support to make this time easier. Everything is better when we feel heard and supported.