Many pregnant moms know about birth plans: your list of wants and goals for your ideal birth experience. But an article crossed my inbox recently that made me pause and reflect on a different kind of plan – what I’m calling the post-birth plan.
Postpartum care, which is the period of roughly six to eight weeks spent recovering from childbirth and improving your health, is getting a lot of attention in the media. In 2016, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued recommendations on optimizing postnatal care, specifically addressing lack of sleep, pain, and breastfeeding difficulties. Here in the U.S., women and their partners too often try to manage too much on their own. But help is available, and families can really benefit from taking time before the baby arrives to plan for day-to-day responsibilities, chores, and in-home support.
Planning for the first few months as a new parent
Immediate newborn needs are among the first things expecting parents prepare for: the car seat, bottles, bassinet, nursery, etc. Equally important is planning for how to ensure your individual and household activities will be handled when you bring the baby home.
During your third trimester, make a list of all your household and personal responsibilities. Then consider what tasks can be handled ahead of time or temporarily transitioned to someone else to give you an opportunity to settle in with the baby. It can be tough for independent women to accept help, but this is one of those times in your life when it’s not only acceptable but recommended. Below are a few items to include on your post-birth plan list.
Extra help with your newborn
Doulas are known for providing nonmedical maternal support during childbirth. But an article I read in American Pregnancy made me think about how new parents can benefit postpartum from a doula’s help. This might be valuable for new parents who either don’t have much family support nearby or whose babies are exceptionally challenging.
For example, a doula’s services could have really benefited a couple who recently came to UT Southwestern. Their twins were colicky, and considering the typical sleep deprivation new parents experience with just one baby, these young parents were stressed to the max. A doula could have helped them with caring for the newborns, late-night feedings, and more, allowing the parents to get some much-needed sleep and downtime.
If this sounds like something that could help you, check with your insurance company about coverage. You might have to pay out of pocket, but it also might be worth it to keep your energy up and your stress levels in check.
Pets are important members of your family, and you don’t want to neglect them. However, it can be easy to forget to clean the litter box or to skip walks when your focus is on the new baby.
If possible, get your pets’ routine veterinary appointments taken care of before the baby arrives. Believe it or not, running around town with a growing belly might be preferable to hauling the pet and the newborn from point A to points B, C, and D. You also might want to reach out to friends, family members, or pet daycare organizations that can help with grooming, socializing, exercise, and feeding or hygiene.
Moms and babies should have several checkups in the weeks and months after delivery. Knowing ahead of time that your vehicle or other transportation plan is secure can give you peace of mind. Is your car inspection due, or is your registration going to expire in the next couple months? Schedule a trip to the mechanic and renew your tags early if you can to avoid having to haul the baby all over town for these errands.
Groceries and dining
Healthy eating after the baby is born will benefit the family by providing immune support and energy, as well as nutrients for the baby if you choose to breastfeed. But grocery shopping with a newborn can be exhausting.
Consider ordering staples such as toilet paper, pet food, coffee, and diapers online through your local grocery store, Amazon Prime, or another retailer. These items usually can be delivered to your door within just a few days. If you’re technologically inclined, Alexa can assist you! You might have to be flexible with your favorite brands, but this small sacrifice might be worthwhile to avoid multiple trips to the store with the new baby.
Sometimes takeout is an easy go-to when you don’t have time or energy to cook. If a friend or relative offers to provide meals, consider printing out a few menus from your favorite restaurants (old-school, I know, but hear me out!). Draw a star next to your favorite dishes, and leave the menus in a convenient place, such as on a bulletin board or on the refrigerator, so people who are helping you at home can order for you without disturbing feedings, naptime, or quiet moments with the baby.
Don’t be shy about asking for help with meals. In fact, if a loved one offers to bring over food, you could suggest a meal train in which family members and friends can sign up for specific dates and meal preferences.
With a new baby, laundry can pile up quickly. How can someone so tiny go through so many clothes in a day? And if you have older children at home, it can be tough to stay on top of the wash. Some local laundromats might offer pickup and delivery services, but it’s OK to ask a family member for help. And heads up, guys: This is not the time to be squeamish about your mother-in-law doing loads of laundry that include your underwear!
Ask around for recommendations for a housekeeper or cleaning service that others have used and been happy with. At least find out the costs, even if you’re not sure you’ll use the service – if dust and grime pile up and you do want some help, it will be nice to have already done the research. Plus, a gift certificate for cleaning services makes an awesome baby gift should someone ask.
While the traditional birth plan is a list of “best case scenario” wishes, the postpartum plan is something you can control to a greater degree. In that time of feeling somewhat out of control with a newborn, take care of what you can in advance, and don’t hesitate to rely on services in your community and the generosity of family members or friends who want to help you.