Folks are beginning to understand that preparing for life after birth is as important as preparing for the birth. As a birth educator and doula, I am so pleased that postpartum planning is becoming more common practice. Having a baby transforms our bodies, minds, homes, and relationships, with lasting effects for years to come. Getting information ahead of time allows you to manage expectations and strategize for success.
Even in the six years since I first gave birth there are more books, podcasts, and classes to help families prepare for the good, the bad, and the overall reality that comes with postpartum life. You’ve likely heard about coordinating a meal train or prepping freezer meals. You may have heard about buying postpartum underwear and hiring a lactation consultant ahead of time. Despite all the amazing information out there, I commonly see three particularly important topics left out of conversations.
So, to help you best prepare here are my top 3 tips and resources for preparing for life after baby!
1. Develop a strategy for communicating with your partner / co-parent / primary helper.
As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish, and nothing is going to rock an adult relationship like a tiny human. Hormonal shifts, disrupted sleep patterns, and sheer panic wear new parents down. Resources from The Gottman Institute are an incredible way to get a handle on healthy communication. Fair Play by Eve Rodsky provides a framework for thinking about and dividing up the domestic tasks that come with parenting. If you’re not year heard of the Mental Load, it’s the idea that the thinking of parenting, like tracking the diaper size, researching breast pumps, arranging childcare etc. predominantly falls to the birth parent. Beginning to have explicit conversations, and experimenting with how to divide domestic tasks and emotional labor can set couples up to move smoothly into the added workload. I also encourage all of our clients to have “family meetings” once a week for everyone to get on the same page! Dividing responsibilities evenly is so much sexier than date night!
2. Create a mental health emergency plan.
Besides getting fresh air everyday and joining a new parents support group, we recommend you research Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders ahead of time. At least one in 7 new parents suffer from PMADS today, and the logistics of finding a therapist can often be a barrier in getting help. The book, What No One Tells You, A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood by Alexandra Sacks and Catherine Birndorf is a wonderful place to start. I would also recommend having a copy of the Edinburgh Scale accessible to help you screen yourself and your partner for Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders and lining up a local therapist ahead of time is the way to go – especially if you or your partner have a history of depression or anxiety.
3. Protect Your Pelvic Floor!
No postpartum planning checklist would be complete without a nod to taking care of your body after birth. From vaginal care to cesarean recovery, we all have to work in rest, nutrition, breathwork and movement. My personal favorite postpartum tip is to use a Squatty Potty! If you don’t know, a squatty potty is a stool that’s placed under your toilet to raise your knees higher than your hips while you’re going to the bathroom. It has amazing benefits for men and women in any stage, but I particularly love the idea that going to the bathroom can now be considered a time I am doing something good for my body! These are the small victories we need postpartum.