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Four Areas To Plan For In The Postpartum Period



New mother recovering in the postpartum period

It's very common in pregnancy to be solely focused on your growing baby. And as you approach your due date, you will likely begin to shift your focus to the labour and birth. It's not that common though to spend a great deal of time considering and planning your postpartum period. As a doula, and a mother of three, I can honestly say, your postpartum period is the hard part. Getting baby out is a small fraction of time, 12-24 hours of your life. The postpartum period, the hardest part, is going to be several weeks to several months. In fact, some studies suggest that recovery from birth could last upwards of a year post birth. At minimum your uterine healing could take 6-8 weeks and hormonal balancing could take up to 2 months. Recovery is not just the physical healing of your uterus and or any stitches you have, it includes the emotional and hormonal changes and shifts you will go through. Too often I have seen parents going into the postpartum period, ill prepared for they will be experiencing. But with a little preparation and thought, it can go more smoothly and that can help to speed your recovery too. So let's look at the four areas to plan for in the postpartum period


Food:

After birth, one of the best things you can do to speed healing and make yourself feel genuinely better both physically and mentally, is eat food that will give you a variety of nutrients, vitamins and energy. The immediate postpartum period isn't a time to begin considering any weight loss plans or restrictive diets. Your body needs food and hydration to fuel it for those hours you will spend feeding your baby from your body, and the sleep deprivation you are going to experience. Restricting your diet at this point can leave you feeling weak, light headed and faint. Remember you are recovering from a huge physical exertion and also some big blood loss too.


How to prepare for postpartum eating?

  • Meal plan and prep in the weeks leading up to your birth.

    • This can include storing easily reheated foods in your freezer, or meals that can be thrown into a crockpot or insta-pot.

  • Grocery delivery

    • Having food and essentials delivered frees up your time to concentrate on rest and baby. Plus, you are less likely to buy food that is lower in nutrients and vitamins. The chips and cookies don't fall into your cart the way they do at the store. But, if you want chips or cookies, don't deny yourself a craving if you have it.

  • Guests bring you food

    • Often times, once you are home, people may want to come over, see baby, maybe see you. If you are having friends or family over in those first few days or weeks, let them know, in lieu of a baby gift, you would prefer they bring food so you can work on your recovery.

  • Meal delivery

    • In a pinch, using a meal delivery service can help you out if you are stuck. Options are so numerous, and you can even. Choose meals that can bring you joy, even if they are not your usual nutrient rich fare.


Sleep:

In the early days and weeks with your new little human, sleep will be elusive. So your job will be to consolidate as much sleep as you can. Even just lying down and resting can be restorative. Sleep and rest are necessary for your physical and emotional recovery.


Ways to consolidate your sleep.

  • Prioritize rest and sleep.

    • When baby is sleeping choose rest over dishes or laundry. Those chores will be done eventually but your rest is your top priority, along side caring for baby.

  • Ask for / accept help.

    • If you have friends or family that are offering help, take it. I know accepting or asking for help is extremely difficult for some but getting others to handle these little chores like laundry or even watching baby while you rest can be invaluable.

  • Get time outside

    • Get daylight each day can help balance your melatonin and circadian rhythm and that can help you fall asleep faster

  • Sleep in shifts.

    • Between you and your partner/support person, during the times that baby will only sleep when in your arms, take turns. One you holds baby while the other sleeps and then switch it up. Your sleep during this time won't be what you are used to. Perhaps going to bed at the same time and getting up together. But you will get back to a routine or rhythm in your sleep/night time habits eventually.


Relationships:

The first few weeks and months after baby is born is a blur of activity and you can feel like you are drifting through a fog. Relationships and friendships can take a hit. But if you are open and honest and can share your thoughts and feelings with those you love, it can help get you through until you can get back to being a friend, partner and lover again.


With your intimate partners, it can feel like you are two ships passing in the night. Running on fumes and loosing yourselves. But taking time to talk openly and appreciate each other can make you feel seen and loved. Also when things start to calm down, relatively speaking, make a concerted effort to date one another again. You maybe in a committed relationship but as people you have changed. So take the time to get to know one other again by calling in a favour or two to baby sit and go out on dates. Schedule it, and prioritize it.


For both of you, birth will change you on many levels, and you are both at risk of postpartum mood disorders. Baby blues or normal postpartum adjustment is common in the first two weeks. But if after two weeks you aren't seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, it could be postpartum depression. Make sure you are both seeking the help of a professional to alleviate these feelings and so you can feel better. You may do fine with just talk therapy but don't be afraid if medication is needed. You won't have to be on it forever and it can definitely make you feel better and enjoy your new life with baby better.


To Do Lists:

On top of food shopping and eating, there will be other things on your to do lists that will need to be done. Paying bills, walking the dog, laundry, cleaning the bathroom and more. Some ways you can minimize your to do list can include:

  • Prioritizing the "Need To Be Done" and leaving aside the items that can wait, or delegate items that can be done by others.

  • Accept the help. As mentioned above, accept the help from others and don't be afraid to give them chores that aren't fun. Like doing or folding laundry

  • Get comfortable with imperfect. Having a baby and recovering from birth means that your house might not be Instagram pretty but you'll get there again, if you were there before. Clutter and things not being put away, and dust on the shelves will not kill anyone. But ignoring your own recovery and doing more on very little sleep can set back your recovery by a lot.

  • Add a housecleaning service to your baby registry. Cute baby clothes will barely be used, but having a deep clean before baby comes and someone coming in once every couple of weeks can help you rest and be good for your mental health.


Ultimately, take some time really look at what your postpartum life will be like and make some plans to allow it to move smoothly. For some extra help in planning check out these resources:


  • Build Your Nest - by Kestrel Gates - A postpartum planning work book

  • The Fourth Trimester - by Kimberly Ann Johnson

  • Consider hiring a doula - Postpartum Support


Good Luck!!









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