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I was never a fan of the newborn phase.
The hardest stage in my life is when my first child at the newborn stage. There, I said it.
It was a rough phase because I didn’t expect it to be THAT mentally and physically exhausting.
Nobody told me the hormonal changes will trigger anxiety and I struggled to have an instant connection with my baby. I was so overwhelmed. Then I was hit by baby blues which made these times even harder.
I feel like you are educated on how to take care of yourself up until you gave birth and then it immediately switches to how to take care of your baby. I wish I would have known about the baby blues, whether the anxiety that I had is normal or not, how to actually heal and slow down with a newborn, and what a realistic day as a new mom looks like.
As a first time mom, I wish I could be more prepared not just how to take care of the baby, but also to take care of me.
Fast forward to the second pregnancy, my dear friend who also is a doula, advised me to make a Postpartum Plan. Little did I know this plan literally SAVED my life during the fourth trimester. Also armed with a better perspective as a mom, now I actually can enjoy my time with a newborn in the house.
Realizing how amazing this little worksheet is, now I recommend all of my pregnant friends (and you, of course) to have this postpartum plan set and ready before the baby arrives.
In my opinion, planning a postpartum strategy is equally, if not more important, than writing a baby essential and birth plan.
This after birth plan can actually save your sanity during the first days and weeks with your newborn baby.
What is a Postpartum Plan?
Many parents to be (including me) have that newborn baby checklist and a birth plan that we so eagerly prepare before the baby arrives. Diapers, baby furniture, the hospital bag, that 50 different baby bottles, all of them are washed and ready to fulfill the baby’s needs.
But how about the mother’s needs after the baby comes out? What about the food and the house chores, who will take care of that when you are busy with a new baby? You are going to need a lot more help than you think you will need.
Enter, the Postpartum Plan.
Inside this plan is a worksheet focusing more on the mother’s care after the baby is born. It outlines the mom’s needs, expectations, and preferences during the birth recovery, and the share duties of taking care of the baby and the house.
Why is a Postpartum Plan So Important?
Because the first months postpartum are such a vulnerable crucial recovery time for a mom and the new baby. During this time, a woman is adapting to multiple physical, social and psychological changes.
She is recovering from childbirth, adjusting to changing hormones and learning to feed and care for her newborn.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests six weeks as a postpartum period, where postpartum care is needed to set the stage for long-term health and well-being.
Yes, just like a birth plan, you can’t decide what the postpartum period will look like. But it will help you prepare a strategy on what lies ahead.
No matter how things go, you will have a support network, a structure and resources in place to help you. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Secondly, preparing a postpartum plan will create an understanding between you and your partner in terms of the responsibility of taking care of the households and the baby.
It can even save your marriage.
Sometimes, your partner might not have any clue on how to help you. By communicating your expectations and needs BEFORE the baby comes to your spouse, and setting up an agreement, it will greatly reduce (or even avoid) any conflict that may arise in the future.
Matt Lundquist, a psychotherapist for New York City, has great insight about this. As quoted in this article he says, “Childcare is an area where couples often make assumptions – based on how they were raised or even an interpretation of things their partner has said or inferences based on a sense of who their partner is. A plan such as this – a contract – allows the opportunity to test those assumptions, to make them clear and bring attention sooner (pre-baby) to what might live in conflict”.
It should be noted that mom and dad have equal responsibility in raising the child. Moreover, research shows that instrumental networks like immediate family and friends are essentials to a mother’s physical and emotional recovery.
By creating a postpartum plan, you can set up your support network in advance. When you are overwhelmed, you know who to ask for help and what kind of support they can provide for you.
If you are a single mother, you can decide who will be the primary and secondary caregivers. Either way, it’s important to accept help and share the bulk of responsibility for the household to other people. Especially on the postpartum period.
The insurmountable pressure of taking care of the house, the new baby, the family members, and yourself will take an enormous toll on your health and well being. Please don’t carry them all by yourself.
How To Write A Postpartum Plan
There are many sources that will give you ideas on what is important to list inside your postpartum plan. A great example of a postpartum plan template is created by DONA , who obviously know and trained to tends the needs of new parents.
I also made my own postpartum plan worksheet based on DONA’s and other resources, which I will share with you for FREE.
Download links at the bottom of this page!
You can download and print it yourself , or use this as the base of your postpartum plan and modify it according to your needs.
Here are the details of my postpartum templates.
1. My Support Network
Inside this section, you can list all your contacts and resources should you need some help when the baby comes. Need to rest or take a shower? Or just someone to hold the baby when she’s crying inconsolably for the last 12 hours and you’re exhausted? List what kind of help that you need, and assign them to the people that you can rely on.
Who is available to help you? Who are the resources that you trust? After you identify them, ask in detail what time they are available for help, their contact number, and what kind of support they can provide.
And don’t forget to say thank you! A simple thank you gift or a promise to return any help is enough.
In my experience, I was kind of afraid asking for help because I thought it will be an inconvenience for them. But I was amazed because apparently lots of people wanted to help me after I kindly ask for it.
I remember one time I broke down and cry in joy when one of my friends came to the rescue and happily helped me do a load of laundry and get the dirty dishes out of the sink when my baby won’t get off my boobs all day.
You know there is a saying, it takes a village to raise a child. That village might not come to you if you didn’t admit that you need help and ask for it.
2. My Self Care and Recovery Plan
The changes in your body after birth, physically and mentally, are no joke. During the first week after delivery, physically you need to be sure to keep up with fluids, pain medication, personal hygiene, and most importantly, plenty of rest.
Mentally, the hormonal changes in your body ofter resulted in anxiety and this can messes up your emotional state. Combined with the sleep deprivation, you likely will not be thinking or feelings your normal, “rational” self would.
How can you make the healing process easier and faster? My templates provide a checklist to help with your recovery.
Aside from that, identify your preferences and plan for self-care. What brings you joy? Taking a relaxing bath? Reading motivational quotes? Calling a friend who would understand?
Write down a list of activities that makes you feel rested, relaxed and rejuvenated inside the postpartum plan. When you need to take a break later, these activity choices can give you an idea of what to do to get your sanity back in place.
This section also includes your preference for visitation after the baby is born. If you are more comfortable with minimizing visitors in the first few weeks, don’t hesitate to state and discuss that with your partner.
Lastly, list a number of resources that can help you with occasional child care. It can be family, friends, night nurse, or professional childcare providers.
3. Household and Taking Care of Baby Duties
I used to think after birth I could just jump back into everything and started going for walks or trying to shop/run errands way too soon. Well, I couldn’t have been more more wrong.
With the sleep deprivation and all over body soreness from birth and breastfeeding, all I wanted to do is just laze around the house in my PJ and sleep.
Yet, the dishes and house chores keep piling up.
Thus, an agreement with your partner to share household duties is important. Take time now to consider how your partner can help to keep your home running smoothly. You also can ask for simple baby care tasks, like changing diapers and play with the baby, with your partner or older sibling.
Of course, this arrangement can evolve and change later when the baby arrives. But it’s reassuring to know that you have someone else to share the house responsibility if you plan beforehand.
4. The Meal Plan
When you are busy tending the baby, preparing meals every day can be a hard task. Even more so if you are breastfeeding, because trust me, you’re gonna be hungry ALL THE TIME. And it’s important to eat nutritious foods during this period.
How can you prepare meals before that time comes? List a couple of options to make sure everyone in the house has a nice meal for dinner.
Make batches of premade freezer meals, vegetables, healthy snacks, and even cookies! You will be thankful when the time comes and avoid unnecessary stress to prepare food when you have a stash of delicious meals on hand.
Meal train is another great option to organize meals from relatives or friends for you. Lastly, list takeout options your family would enjoy a couple of times a week.
5. A list of professional and medical help
This plan is important when you want to seek answers about anything baby related, your emotional well being, and breastfeeding support. Have a contact list of medical professionals in one place so you don’t waste energy trying to google someone when you need it later.
These lists of professional help include:
- Your ob-gyn
- Lactation/breastfeeding consultants (IBCLC)
- Postpartum doula services
- A postpartum therapist near you
It’s best to get these recommendations now, so there is one less step to go through when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. When the baby blues hit or your baby has difficulties latching, you can seek help faster if you know who to call beforehand.
It also helps you avoid making wrong decisions by frantically doing google searches for answers, or worse, taking advice from the wrong people.
6. Older Sibling(s) Care
My 5-year-old were really excited when we told him that (finally) there will be a new addition in the house. But after the baby comes, he then realized that he can’t have mom’s and dad’s full attention anymore.
Although thankfully he didn’t become jealous of the new baby, there were certain times that he looked disappointed when I told him I couldn’t play with him when I need to feed the baby. Or when I couldn’t pick him up from preschool anymore.
It takes time for my son to understand the changes around the house. To ease the transition, sometimes I will ask my hubby to hold the baby so I can play with my older son. It would be just the two of us where he can have my full attention. He treasured that time a lot and I was glad we could avoid the jealousy situation.
Planning ahead for older children to have time to welcome their new sibling but still have special parent time is an important step in ensuring a smooth transition.
You can plan special activities, and set up a time to delegates baby care to other people so you can have alone time with the older siblings. You can even ask them beforehand what they can do to help take care of the new baby so they feel included in this transition as a family together.
7. List of Supportive Groups
Becoming a mother screws with a woman’s confidence, sometimes not in a good way. You may feel like you are exhausted and not being good enough. This section also included a list of friends or family that you can rely on for emotional support whenever you need one.
Finding and joining a group of moms in your neighborhood can also be very beneficial to you. They know all the sitters, nannies, daycares, parks, playgroups, schools, pediatricians, you name it – in your area.
The thing that helped me the MOST those early weeks was talking with other moms. No one else is as obsessed with the minute by minute sleeping and eating habits of tiny humans the way us new moms are.
As mentioned, every baby is unique and brings its own set of challenges and rewards. Listening about other’s experiences and surprises is a great way to remind yourself at 2 am that other mommies know what you are going through.
In summary, L&D is not the end of the story for physical and emotional upheaval for the mom. It doesn’t have to be so stressful if you know that going in.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a little selfish during postpartum—you can only provide good care to your baby if you’re feeling safe, happy, and supported.
We’ve been going through all this together for a while, and I care about you all and your beans and want you all to have the best adjustment to motherhood possible. By having reasonable expectations of yourself and your body can make it much easier.
So go ahead and write what you need after the baby is born in a postpartum plan. Don’t be afraid to ask for or get what you want, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Making sure your needs are taken care of is unquestionably the best gift you can give to your baby.