Most women, myself included, spend the majority of their pregnancies preparing for their birth. Postpartum preparation mainly focuses around baby, buying (adorable) clothing, stocking the diaper table and picking out names. Most of us forget that the postnatal period is about mom too. The time immediately after baby is born can be challenging. Whether you are a first time mom or a pro the first days after birth can be upside down mix of emotions and hormones. .While traditionally many cultures have included a “lying in” period with extended family taking care of everything so mama can just take care of baby , these days many of us are trying to managing it all with very little support. This can be exasperated if you, like me, are an expat living far from your extended family. What can get lost in this process is care for the new mom, to ensure her own health and wellbeing. There are things you and your loved ones can do ahead of time to ensure that you have a smoother postpartum period where everyone feels looked after. Here are some of my favorite ideas, cultivated from my experience as a doula, as a postpartum yoga therapist and my own experience as a new mom.
Stock your freezer Well wishers may tell you they are going to bring you food but at the end of the day only you and your household will really know when you are hungry and what you best like to eat. My husband spent most of the month leading up to my due date cooking up curries, pasta sauces and stews, hardy meals that we knew I loved and would keep me well nourished. I highly recommend making sure you choose at least a few recipes that are dairy/soy/egg free. Small babies often have intolerance to these food items which they will be exposed to during breastfeeding. Pro-tip. Store your foods in freezer bags which take up less space than traditional containers.
Padsicles As long as you are stocking the freezer you may as well make a few of these icy soothers. You will thank your pre-partum self if these are ready for you right after baby is born or you return home from the hospital. You will need:
Large/overnight Feminine Pads
Clean filtered Water
Unwrap the pads, keeping the wrapping attached to the bottom if possible.
If you have an empty spray bottle fill it with a 50/50 solution of water and witch hazel. Spray the pad with this solution
Mix a 50/50 solution of water and witch hazel in a small glass and poor over pads.
Lay pads on a clean baking tray in the freezer.
These should feel heavenly on postpartum perineum!
Get Cosy I had a wonderful homebirth but somehow during it I wore both of my cosy robes. So until they went through the wash I was robeless! I also discovered that my favorite house slippers had a giant hole, making it feel unstable to walk while wearing them and holding my new little one. I now always recommend the soon to be new mom set aside a cosy robe, PJs and warm socks and slippers for those first days at home. You may be lounging in these things for awhile so you will want them to be clean and comfy.
Know your resources: While we always hope for a perfect postpartum period the reality is for most moms things may not go exactly as planned. Breastfeeding is often more challenging than expected. Physical pain can linger after birth. And mental health challenges like postpartum anxiety and depression can affect anyone. Take some time during your pregnancy period to stock up on referrals from friends, care providers and community members for professionals you may need to contact after birth. This will save you time and rapid googling later on. Professionals you may want to have recommendations for include:
Masseuse. Especially if you can find one that works with postpartum women. You may even be able to have your baby with you.
Stock your Shower You may have heard that you will be busy during the postpartum period. You may not even have the opportunity to shower every day! Postpartum showers are often a moment of calmness, where you can be by yourself and have some moments to cleanse and relax. The last thing you want is to notice you are out of shampoo. Stock up on your favorite bath products beforehand so you know you will always have that time to enjoy.
Stock your bookcase (or e-reader) The first days and weeks after births can be hectic, but there is also often a great deal of downtime, albeit you may be holding a sleeping/feeding baby. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is important advice but there may be times when you are holding said baby or otherwise can't sleep. Having books that are funny and don’t take too much mental energy are great for this time. I have a whole list of favorite postpartum reads coming soon, so watch this space.
Breastfeeding Survival Kit If you are planning on breastfeeding there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself before you even start. Knowing a great IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Counselor) is a great first step (see above) to help troubleshoot. You can also make sure you have some things to ensure you and baby are as comfortable as possible.
A great nursing bra. Most people recommend getting fit at around 36 weeks pregnant so you don’t have to hit the shops with a new little one.
A few comfortable breastfeeding shirts.
Plastic waterbottle with straw, or something else you can drink with one handed
Lots of snacks that are easy to eat one handed, like granola bars, bananas.
A support team. Let your loved ones know you are planning on breastfeeding and that you are only looking for support from them.
Great Chapstick. Lips tend to get very dry during birth, likely due to a combination of breathing through your mouth, lack of hydration and other factors. A soothing lip balm will be your best friend in those first postpartum days. Even better have a few so you can leave one in every room of the house!
The Postnatal Period can be a time of great excitement and wonder but it is OK for it to also be a time of fear, confusion, stress and even some sadness. Your life has changed forever and you don’t need to adapt to that all in one day. If you are pregnant do try to prepare for your postnatal period in a way that honor’s your own body and major life changes. And if you are currently postpartum do try to take a few minutes for yourself and always reach out for help if you need it.