What’s a postpartum plan, and why you need one


So you found out you were pregnant. You attended medical appointments, enrolled in childbirth classes, decorated the nursery and purchased all of the “must-have” new baby items. You had an amazing birth, and were discharged- now what?


Pregnancy is a significant life change, and most of the time, most of our attention focuses on preparing to give birth, and none is placed on what happens after giving birth. There are major physical and emotional changes that occur after a baby, and sis, you need a plan to help you navigate your new world.


So what about my baby? I get it. You want to dedicate all of your attention and energy to your  perfect new addition- who wouldn’t? While your baby is an integral part of a postpartum plan, a postpartum plan is intended to focus on the emotional and physical needs of the birthing parent (aka you!) to encourage a stress-free mental, physical and emotional recovery during the postpartum period. It outlines your desires, expectations and non-negotiables following your baby’s birth.  In fact, creating a postpartum plan prenatally fosters healthy bonding and attachment with your baby after birth.


So how do I make one?

Before you start making to-do lists for your support person, visualize what your fourth trimester looks like to make you feel like your best self. It may look like having a clean home, prepared meals, getting a massage, eating clean, or simply sleeping. How do you feel? Excited to be pampered or terrified because it seems needy, indulgent or overstimulating? Pay attention to your emotional response during your visualization because these are the areas you’ll want to pay particular attention to in your plan. 


Who’s in your tribe?

Figure out your tribe, and grant access to the people you want to welcome in your space for the first few weeks home. Your home is your sanctuary, so it's important the energy in your space feels good to you. Let’s be clear- you have the power to let people into your space, so no, not every cousin, aunt, friend, or coworker can drop by for a visit. You can, and should, dictate who visits you and when.  Give special consideration to how long each person can visit, when they can visit and what the visit looks like. Nah, you will not be cooking or entertaining anyone!


Outside of your immediate network, you can plan out the new connections you want to nurture. Are you interested in a baby and me workshop nearby? Is there another new mom in the neighbourhood you want to chat with at some point? Although you may not know when you will get together with these people, it’s essential to include it in your plan!


It’s also noteworthy to gather important phone numbers and store them in an easily accessible space: i.e. your primary healthcare provider, your postpartum doula, lactation consultant, public health nurse, or emergency contact etc.


Nourishment

Eating, and eating the right foods, is the most crucial part of your recovery, but new parenthood makes this hard! Meal prepping before baby arrives gives you the flexibility to grab a meal and reheat it. However, this option isn’t for everyone- meal prepping is time-consuming, and it can be hard to stand for hours during the last trimester to prep big meals. An alternative is to delegate meal prep to members of your tribe that are freezer friendly. You can also ask them to grab groceries, so your favourite drinks and snacks are on hand.


Get your partner involved

If you are a first-time parent, you’re going to have to adjust to changes in your relationship. A new baby often means less time for partner and stressors that were not present before. To try to manage these changes, incorporate a ‘partner check-in’ to your postpartum plan that outlines non-negotiables, de-escalation tactics (i.e. what to do when you’re both sleep-deprived, but the baby is up), household tasks, and how to support each other and emotions. 


In terms of baby, discuss parenting styles with your partner, sleep preferences ( will you room share, bedshare), feeding modalities: breastfeed, bottle feed or both,  will you practice cry it out or attachment parenting? There are many considerations, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed if you haven’t thought it through before baby’s birth. Having these conversations, resolving any ideological issues  and incorporating them into your postpartum plan prevents arguments. 


What about romance after baby?

You won’t be able to get physically intimate with your partner for six weeks after birth and until your primary health care provider has cleared you, but that doesn’t mean that romance is dead! Take the 5 Love Languages test prenatally with your partner, and based on your results, create easy, low-effort things you can do to stay connected. For example, bring it back to high school days and write a love note, give a foot rub, dim the lights and watch your favourite movie. 



Emotional Wellness

What brings you joy? Whatever it is, write it down in this section of your plan along with a commitment. For example, if you love watching a particular series, you can plan to watch it at least once a week. Keep in mind this isn’t set in stone, and you can adjust as needed. 


Black women face an elevated risk for postpartum mood disorders after birth. It’s so important that you have resources or connections in your postpartum plan, that makes you feel safe- it can be a therapist, friend, community centre etc. Print out a copy of the Edinburgh  Postnatal Depression Scale on your fridge, so can discern between what’s normal and what needs professional help. Your partner or postpartum doula can also refer to this resource if they see signs you may not. Please note, the Edinburgh scale is by no means a diagnostic tool, rather it is a screening that will help you assess whether you need to seek professional intervention. 


These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to postpartum planning. It’s not hard, and it’s super valuable.


Stay blessed Qweens!


Blog Contributor:  Lerri-Ann Williams is a full spectrum doula in Toronto, Canada. She is the founder of Mommin It Wellness, where she guides families to feel empowered and supported before, during and after pregnancy. She is ProDoula trained and is currently training with Bebo Mia as a Maternal Support Practitioner.