A Facebook group that I am an Admin for (along with 2 amazing women, Jen Hazi and Amelia Parkinson) has ‘Lives’ on pregnancy and birth topics every Monday evening (click HERE for details of the group!). Last week, Amelia and Jen and I discussed ways that families can prepare for the postpartum period while they're still pregnant. Getting things organised before baby comes can make for a smoother transition to parenthood - our top tips are below:
1. Dial Down Your Expectations
I love this suggestion because it takes no effort ;) It's just a mindset adjustment but if you can manage your expectations appropriately then those first few months will feel much easier. It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't had children what those its like to not be able to put your baby down and take care of basic physical needs - even to go to the bathroom! You can feel overwhelmed, trapped, isolated, exhausted and emotional - but if you approach this time with realistic expectations then much of this feels normal and temporary.
One of my favourite mottos for the early postpartum is for the first 3 weeks:
Spend 1 week IN the bed, 1 week ON the bed and 1 week NEAR the bed
This allows you time and space to rest, recover and connect to your new baby. It's a beautiful time, allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy it as you heal.
So get a good understanding of what's normal for a newborn and what your day is likely to look like. Here is a great video created by my friend and childbirth educator, Jen Hazi and it is a wonderful visual exercise in what a day in the life of a newborn might look like:
2. Prepare for the Shift
Your relationship to the world and the people around you will change and that can feel confusing. You've become a mother, your priorities will have changed and people are sometimes unsure of how they fit into your life now. This can even be true for your partner, so open communication before baby arrives as well as afterwards is so important.
You might be used to having a professional profile or identity and when that disappears (even if it's temporary) you can feel a little adrift. You will also be leaving a world where you are competent and efficient and entering one where you have very little experience - this can be very confronting. There's a lot to learn and if you do have a professional career it can add to the feelings of overwhelm to be feeling unsure of what you're doing.
3. Organise Your Online Shopping / Food Ordering
Good nutrition is key in the postpartum period. One way to make sure that you have easy access to good food is to get your online grocery shopping organised ahead of time. If you don't currently order online then set up an account and do a few practice orders so that you're not figuring things out once baby is here. Don't just order your groceries either, stock up on bulky items too. Things like toilet roll, laundry liquid, kitchen roll etc. These are harder for your partner to grab on the way home and certainly harder for you to manage with a baby in tow. Pantry items are great to preorder too - pasta, rice and tinned goods are all handy to have on hand.
There are now many options for ordering dinner delivery - Australian options include UberEats, Deliveroo, Menulog etc. Again, set up your accounts and make some orders while you're still pregnant - just stay away fro anything too spicy if you're breastfeeding!
4. Stock Up on Items to Support Yourself
Outside of groceries and dinners there are other items to stock up on - these are items that will support your experience in the postpartum period. Examples of these are:
- breastfeeding teas - there are many brands around, ask for recommendations and see what works for you
- incontenence nappies / maternity pads - regardless of how you gave birth you will likely bleed for around the first 6 weeks of your postpartum. Many mums are ditching the maternity pads in favour of adult diapers for ease and comfort during this time
- padsicles - these are maternity pads that have been treated with witch hazel, aloe vera and essential oils and frozen before birth. They can be very soothing when applied to your perineum in the early postpartum so get stuck into this craft project and set some up before baby arrives!
- gel breast discs - if you're breastfeeding then these are a life saver. Buy several if you can and keep them in the fridge
- ingredients for sitz baths -
- arnica - this stuff is great for treating inflamed and bruised tissues and generally aids healing. See a homeopath and get some if you can.
5. Focus on Nutritious Food
Food is medicine and good nutrition can make all the difference to your recovery from birth. If you have a freezer then stock it full of precooked meals and snacks. You probably won't feel like doing lots of cooking and baking in the last months of your pregnancy so this is a great way for friends to help. If you're breastfeeding then having meals or snacks that include galactogogue foods which will support your milk supply. They key to great snacks in the postpartum period is that they can be eaten one handed - nutritious cookies, bliss balls, chopped up veggies and dips, smoothies etc are all great options. I have a few delicious recipes for postpartum snacks which can be found HERE.
6. Set Up A Google Docs List
I love this tip so much! People will always offer to help or ask what they can bring - and your mind will go blank. Plus many people (myself included) can be pretty bad at asking for help, even when it's offered. Keep a spreadsheet of what you need help with and what items you're getting low on - keep it on a Google Drive and allow your friends and family to have access to it. This way, when they're coming over they can see what you need and you won't be constantly fielding questions.
7. Buy Some New 'At Home' Clothes
You will likely be home a lot in the early months. Before baby arrives buy some new, comfortable clothes. Hanging around the house in the same old clothes will do nothing for your self-esteem, putting on something new and fresh is an easy way to lift your spirits.
8. Get Some Parenting Education
If your plan is to breastfeed then get some breastfeeding education while you're pregnant. There are courses from many independent organisations that are specifically aimed at pregnant women and learning during this time can pay huge dividends once baby is here.
Similarly it can really help to make sure you get some 'parent-craft' education. Learn about what's normal in the early weeks, what can help soothe your baby, practice how to swaddle a baby (or, more likely a doll during the class!), maybe how to bathe a baby. It really will boost your confidence and a few things will at least feel familiar to both you and your partner.
9. Make Sure You're Well Supported
Support comes in many forms, sometimes it's having some help around the house, it can mean someone caring for your baby while you sleep or have a shower, it can be someone encouraging you to come for a walk or help you to navigate leaving the house and actually going for a coffee.
Support also comes from many people - it can come from your partner, your family, friends and your doula. Postpartum support is something that I'm passionate about because I know that so many mothers struggle. More on my postpartum packages can be found HERE.