After having two kids in two years and going through postpartum back to back, I realized something radical. When we are pregnant, we don’t pay nearly enough attention to planning for postpartum recovery, and then we pay the dear price for it. What if we spent half as much energy that we spend on decorating the nursery or buying the perfect layette, on preparing for our own health and wellbeing as a new mom? Like childbirth, postpartum can feel like a complete unknown until you’re there and going through it yourself. But, also like childbirth, there is so much you can learn from hearing other women’s experiences. I hope these lessons from my story will help you plan for your own postpartum journey.
1. A supported postpartum recovery begins during pregnancy.
I get it - creating a postpartum plan is probably not going to be on your priority list when you’re feeling tired, and sore, and queasy, and have the actual birth to think about first.
But planning for postpartum doesn’t have to be a long drawn out exercise. The main areas to think through are:
Meals: Making dinner will be the last thing on your mind once baby is here, so plan ahead now - whether it’s double batching dinner and freezing half, or jotting down favorite restaurants or meal delivery services.
Sleep: Newborns usually wake every 1-3 hours to eat, meaning sleep for you will most likely mean naps here and there. Think of some strategies with your partner to get in solid naps throughout the day and night so you can stay ahead of sleep deprivation as much as you can. Every minute counts when you’re a new mom, trust me!
Breastfeeding: Find support via lactation consultants, breastfeeding groups, and/or online resources before you give birth, so that if and when you and baby are struggling mid-feed, you will have the help you need at your fingertips.
Self-care: Identify one or two activities that recharge you. Maybe it’s taking a bath, or talking to a friend on the phone. Commit to doing just one a week, as even that will make a big difference.
Finding community: Look up a few mommy groups near you. Being a new mom can be very isolating, and joining a group that meets regularly can feel like a lifeline when you need it most.
If you’re interested in using template to plan for your postpartum, we’ve created a super practical, one-page one.
2. You cannot rush your body’s healing.
Baby is here, and you’re finally home from the hospital. You’re eager to take a shower, eat your own food, sleep in your own bed, and get back to your life with a baby in tow. Pause for a moment, mama. Your body has just done a really hard thing… you just gave birth! To a human! What you really need right now is to rest. The chores can wait, the visits from friends can wait, it can all wait. Move slowly, move gently, and try to stay in bed as much as you can. Even if you feel “normal”, your body has just dealt with a major shift in hormones, energy, and blood capacity. Don’t rush it as it tries to recover from childbirth. And when you are ready to increase a bit of physical activity, do it slowly. If you notice that you’re bleeding more after increasing your activity, this is a sign from your body to take it easy again.
3. Breastfeeding is something that you likely will not get right away, but can absolutely be learned with the right support.
Breastfeeding was a curveball that I didn’t see coming when I gave birth to my daughter. I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and thought I would just get it, naturally. Most moms start out breastfeeding, but by six months fewer than 50% are still doing it. I don’t think this is because moms don’t want to breastfeed anymore. I think it’s because moms lack the resources to help them keep going. As a new mom, I had no idea there could be any number of challenges I might face (like a bad latch, low supply, oversupply, clogged ducts, mastitis, thrush, just to name a few), that those challenges are completely normal and common, and that there are tools and aids to help overcome them. If you are facing one of these challenges with breastfeeding, it does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey. Having the right breastfeeding essentials on hand and receiving care from a good certified lactation consultant will give you confidence that any issues you might face are just a blip on your journey.
4. The volatility of your emotions will surprise you.
The strange thing about postpartum emotions was, I knew it was hormonal and that’s why I was weepy, then anxious, then rage-filled, then so happy, then weepy again… but I couldn’t snap out of it. To a certain degree, it’s helpful to just recognize and acknowledge the feeling, then let it pass through you. I used affirmations (much like the ones I create for Fourth Trimester Mama) to help me weather the daily ups and downs. I found it to be helpful to have little reminders around my house, wherever I was spending a lot of time with my newborn, to take it easy on myself and to give my baby and me time to figure it out together. If you find that your emotions are becoming debilitating, reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible, whether it’s before or after your six week postpartum check up. If you answer their screening questionnaire and “pass” the test, but still feel like something is not quite right, mention it anyway.
About the Author:
Stacy Ni is a mom to two toddlers and the founder of Fourth Trimester Mama, a company that delivers postpartum and breastfeeding essentials to new moms. Fourth Trimester Mama’s mission is to help pregnant moms feel more prepared for postpartum with curated products that ease recovery from childbirth, get breastfeeding off to a strong start, and provide emotional support that doesn’t just live inside an app on your phone. Find out more at www.fourthtrimestermama.com and follow along on Instagram @fourthtrimestermama.