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Why Everyone Needs a Postpartum Plan

  • Author: Michelle Homan
  • Published On: Sep 29, 2023
  • Category: Planning for Baby

After having had two children of my own and speaking with countless new parents, I am convinced that having a well thought out postpartum plan is incredibly beneficial. This is not to be confused with a birth plan (e.g., decisions like whether to have an epidural) By postpartum plan, I mean an actual, written document that gets down to the details of how you and your people will navigate the changes and challenges after birth. As a culture we put so much focus on the milestones leading up to a baby’s arrival and the birth itself. We obsess over the nursery decor and dutifully check our apps to see which fruit baby resembles that week. We write out well-intentioned birth plans and hire newborn photographers. And yet, we don’t spend anywhere near as much time thinking about and preparing for what the first few weeks, months, and years will entail.

And to be fair, how could we? How could we know how profoundly difficult and beautiful and different our lives will be? Even the second time around, I found myself woefully underprepared. Just like the pains of labor, it’s easy to look back and downplay our prior fourth trimester experiences. And, for the same mother, that postpartum period can be wildly different from one birth to the next. But ultimately that is the whole point of having a plan. There will be so many “unpredictables”: the new skills, feelings, psychological and physiological changes to navigate. We need to provide ourselves with the space and grace to work through them.

We can do this by proactively defining and finding the support we will need. I recommend expecting parents to think about postpartum planning along the six dimensions described below. Our team here at Yuzi would be honored to support you through the fourth trimester.

Parental Leave

Who will stay home with the baby and for how long?

  • This is the first major decision for expecting parents and one that will shape your outlook on many of these subsequent decisions. If you and/or your partner work, find out if your employer offers paid leave benefits and what they cover. Research whether you state offers Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) and if so, what benefit amount you would be eligible for. With all of this information in hand, determine how long you and/or your partner are able to stay home with baby and what additional support you will need.

Rest

Who will relieve you (and your partner)?

  • Consider whether you are comfortable having a family member or friend staying in your home for a period of time to help with the baby, and if so, who and when? Have the discussion early to set expectations around who will do what specifically and lay out any concerns ahead of time. Assess whether a baby nanny, night nurse, and/or postpartum doula might be a better fit for your needs (or an addition to other support) and find caregivers in your area.

How will you and your partner divvy up nighttime care?

  • It’s important for you and your partner to get on the same page about how you will manage nighttime care before baby comes. Some parents divide the night into shifts so that each are able at least a few hours stretch of sleep, some divide the actual tasks (e.g., feeding, diaper change), while others choose to switch off entire nights. Many families employ night nurses or seek support from family members in order to get some much needed zzz's. There is no one right answer and you can always adjust if the first plan isn’t working as intended. For single parents, it is of even greater importance to figure out a nighttime support plan well in advance.

What will your visitor policy be?

  • Family and friends will be eager to meet your new bundle of joy. Setting boundaries around how soon postpartum those visits should start and how long they will last will help to ensure you and baby are able to get the rest and nourishment you need. It’s ok to kick people out after a half an hour. It’s ok if the house is a mess. Your visitors should be understanding and eager to support you. Additionally, new parents should feel empowered to set expectations around the vaccination status and general state of health for visitors as baby’s immune system will not be fully developed until they are at least 2-3 months old.

Physical Recovery

What should you expect?

  • Common postpartum physical symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal cramps, soreness, night sweats, engorged breasts, back pain, fatigue, constipation, and the list goes on! Talk to your doctor about what is normal and what’s not before delivery and as you experience symptoms after. Aside from recovering from the delivery itself, you may also experience common conditions like diastasis recti (when the abdominal muscles become separated from being stretched in pregnancy) and/or pelvic floor dysfunction (another fun postpartum condition that can cause constipation, incontinence, and pain). Specialized exercises and therapies can help to resolve both of these conditions. Work with your health insurance provider to find a specialist or check out virtual providers like flyte, Every Mother, and Origin innovating to make this kind of care more universal. Wait until you are cleared by your doctor to begin working out again. In the meantime, gentle at-home exercises to reconnect to your core can do wonders in reducing pelvic floor dysfunction and healing diastasis recti.

Connection & Mental Health

What makes you feel like you?

  • It may seem silly or unnecessary to write down what makes you, well, you. But the reality is bringing home a new baby will profoundly change your life. On top of caring for this tiny, needy creature, hormones plunge and the body is in recovery. Doing things like reconnecting with friends and getting outside for walk around the block can help tremendously in regulating all of these changes. Ask your partner or a friend to check in with you regularly to ensure you are doing things for self-care. Consider joining a parenting group in your area or virtually to make new friends, learn, and connect on shared experiences.

How will you care for your mental health?

  • Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this does not constitute medical advice. This reflects my personal opinion. You should seek a licensed professional for diagnosis and treatment. Given all of the challenges associated with the fourth trimester it’s important for you and your people to keep an eye on your mental health. Postpartum mood disorders are incredibly common and knowing the signs is key. Research and share these with those closest to you. Ask them to keep you accountable for seeking help if needed. Better yet, find a mental health professional that specializes in postpartum mood disorders and set up an appointment pre- and post- birth. These days, there are many services available virtually (you can search the postpartum support international directory for providers). Don’t hesitate to call your primary care doctor as well.

Feeding

Do you intend to breastfeed?

  • Even if you answer yes to this question, you should have a few bottles and infant formula on hand just in case. If you will be returning to work at some point, consider whether you will pump. Your employer is required by law to provide certain accommodations for this. Breastfeeding parents should drink plenty of fluids and consume additional calories to replenish their bodies. Don’t hesitate to seek support from a lactation consultant, doula, or other specialist. While breastfeeding may be “the most natural thing in the world” feeding and supply issues are incredibly common.

Family & Household

Will your family need help with pets, other children, and/or dependents?

  • Plan for childcare, eldercare, transportation, upcoming appointments, and any special needs.

How will your family handle meals during the first few weeks?

  • Look for a friend, family member, or neighbor who can help make a few trips to the store, or a delivery service such as Instacart and have a plan for who will handle meal preparation. Consider setting up a "meal train" (services like mealtrain.com make it easy to set up) or putting takeout delivery service gift cards on your baby registry.

How will your household manage cleaning, laundry, and dishes?

  • Set expectations with older children on the need to “step up” and take over new chores during this time. Ask for help from those in your community or find a cleaning service able to service your home during the first month or two.

Planning for what’s in your control can help manage the stress of what’s unpredictable. That said, remember that the best laid plans often go awry. Be flexible and don’t hesitate to adjust if it's not working out like you expected. Find your support people before baby comes home and keep the lines of communication throughout.

Get in touch! At Yuzi we strive to make the world a better place for mothers. We would be honored to care for you and your baby in our postpartum retreat and beyond.

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