There’s so much to think about when you have a new baby, like making sure they’re fed, cleaned, cuddled, thinking about what to feed them to keep them safe and healthy, preventing baby heat rash, the list is endless. With all of those things, and more, as you’ll discover as you go on, it can be hard to ever put ourselves first when there’s so much more to think about.
During pregnancy, a lot of thought and preparation goes towards the birthing plan, but making a plan for postpartum is possibly more important than that.
A postpartum plan helps new mothers to prepare for the first few months after birth. A lack of this type of planning can result in a wide range of problems such as stress, breastfeeding issues, further sleep deprivation, and postpartum depression.
Here are some of the hows and whys of creating a postpartum care plan to help make the transition a little smoother.
What is postpartum?
Often referred to as ‘the fourth trimester’, the postpartum period is usually considered roughly the first twelve weeks after childbirth.
Women will, however, require different amounts of recovery time following the birth. It will usually take around six weeks for the physical and hormonal changes to regulate in the body, but it can take longer for mental health recovery to catch up. Every woman and every birth will require different levels of recovery.
Schedule Your Visitors
The arrival of a new baby is exciting, and can often signal to our friends and family that they must all come at once to meet your new bundle of joy. However, too many visitors at once can be overwhelming when you’ve just given birth and can hinder the healing process of postpartum.
Introducing the baby to everybody may be exciting, but it can also feel like too many people crowding them and you.
Hospitals will have specific visiting times that people can come and visit, so continuing this when you are at home may also help to set the boundaries you need.
Schedule times for visitors to come and limit the numbers that come at any one time. Ensure visitors wash their hands before holding your newborn and don’t allow anybody to kiss them and small babies are incredibly sensitive to infections. Creating a schedule for visits will help you and baby to create an established routine for sleep and feeds.
Make sure to communicate your boundaries to visiting friends and family, even if you feel awkward about it. Most will understand, and communicating your plan before the birth will prepare visitors ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to remind people of these once the baby is born.
Track Your Appointments
Remember that you are not hosting a party, so if you need to be excused at any moment to rest, then you should feel comfortable to do just that.
As throughout your pregnancy, following the birth, both you and your baby will need to attend the doctor’s office during the postpartum period. You must stick to all of these appointments, so keeping track is incredibly important.
It may help to look at a calendar and predict your appointment timeline. You’ll know that two weeks following the birth, your baby will need a checkup with the pediatrician. At six weeks, you’ll need to follow up with your doctor.
Postpartum can go by quickly, and having a record of these dates ahead of time will ensure that you don’t miss any vital appointments, and help you to stay focused on recovery.
Keep note of your appointments on a calendar and set reminders on your phone so that ‘baby brain’ doesn’t take over! Knowing when you have upcoming appointments means you can plan ahead some of the questions that you may have for your physician. Taking note of these questions could help you to reduce your anxiety and stress.
Appointments with your midwife, lactation consultant, and health visitors are also important. In addition, you may want to schedule an appointment with a newborn photographer and for religious ceremonies too, as well registering the baby’s birth with officials.
There is an awful lot that needs doing when a new baby enters the world!
As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. In many cultures, a new mother would never go through the postpartum experience on her own. So asking for help when you need it is nothing to be ashamed of and does not make you less able to be a mom.
Asking for help will mean you get plenty of solicited advice from people with experience which will help you with your parenting over time.
Your partner will be number one when it comes to helping with the baby, but they may only be available for a limited time due to work commitments. Make a list of people who have offered help and schedule them in for the times that your partner cannot be around.This will mean help around the house and with cooking as well as with childcare. People will be more than happy to help you out if you ask them!
If people are unable to help you, if your budget allows, consider hiring a cleaning service or food delivery to aid you during the postpartum period. If there is no budget for this, consider adding these things to a baby registry.
Your first priority during this period should be centred around getting the rest you need. All new moms need to let their bodies heal following the birth. Make sure you get time to sleep and rest. While the urge to cook, clean, and look out for everybody in the home will be strong, you must not feel guilty about needing rest in those first few months. You have a lot to contend with such as shifting hormones, adapting to new schedules and not sleeping as much through the night. Make sure that you and baby are getting enough sleep. At the same rate you need to recover, your baby needs rest in order to grow!
Having time to rest and recover will also allow you to focus on breastfeeding if this is something that you choose to do. If not, plenty of skin to skin contact will help with the process of bonding which can help to alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Keep Your Mental Health in Check
Mood and anxiety disorders are some of the most common areas of concern for new mothers after the baby is born. Therefore, even low-risk mothers should consider preparing for these concerns as part of their postpartum care plan.
Many mothers will experience symptoms of having less energy, being prone to anger, range, frustration or sadness, but in excess, these symptoms could point toward postpartum depression. If you are concerned about this, speak to your doctor. There is no shame in seeking mental health support, especially if you feel it is impacting on the bond between you and your baby. Getting the right support will help you to assess the situation and enable you to start seeing things more clearly.
Speak up and seek help if you realize that things are not quite right for you. Speak to your partner, friends and family about it as well as speaking with a medical professional. There are, as always, many ways you can get the help you need.
Postpartum is known as ‘the fourth trimester’ for a reason. It comes with a wide range of body and emotional changes- none of which should cause you shame. Speak out and get the help you need to get through.
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