In this second blog post on postpartum planning (you can read the first one here), we’ll be looking at practical ways to approach your postpartum plan. Granted, every family is unique and will have different circumstances based on who is available to help out and what each family members’ individual routines demand of them, but this is a basic guideline to help you get the most support during this time.
Galvanising your support structure
Gone are the days when women and birthing people had a village around them to look after them so they could look after their babies. Nowadays, many of us live in nuclear households and far away from our extended families who would typically be the ones we rely on for this kind of support. We therefore have to be more strategic in setting up our support structure to help us through this time.
Here are some tips:
- Think of a handful of people who you know you can trust and who would be willing to help you in those first few weeks. Everyday, every other day, or maybe just once a week.
- Have a chat with each of them to see what their capacity is to help you. It could be a few hours a day, one day a week or a few days a week. Also, ask what they’re willing or able to do. Can they help out with your older child, can they do a grocery shop, housekeeping, cook, or simply come and hang out over tea and maybe look after baby while you sleep or shower?
- Choose your people wisely. If you don’t have a great relationship with your mother or mother in law, maybe ask them to help with more practical tasks like grocery shopping or spending time with your older child.
- Don’t leave out your partner. In fact, this planning should be done as a team - with your partner as your first line of support.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for more help, or to cancel a visit for whatever reason. As long as the people in your support structure know where they have to be and when, it’s ok if you let them know you don’t need their help that day.
- Get your ‘visitors’ to help out too. When baby has arrived, set up a WhatsApp group for all your friends and family (not just those in your support structure) as they will inevitably want to come and meet your new bundle of joy. Let them know what days and times are most appropriate for them to visit and ask them to message you before to check in if it’s still ok for them to come. If it is and they come, ask them to help out with anything you need - be it takeaway food, some groceries or medication.
- Most importantly, try to manage your expectations of what your support team are capable of. Many will most likely have children and families of their own, or need to work. This is why having an initial chat to see how and in what ways they can help you is so important. Let it be on their terms so that it works for everyone - you can fill in the gaps with other people who are willing to help.
Now that all your team members know their roles and what is expected of them, here are some tips to start putting your postpartum plan in place.
- Split your day up into three or six-hour sections: 6am - 9am, 9am - 12pm and so on, or 6am - 12pm. Fill in what everyone in your support team’s roles/ duties are within those time frames.
- Chat to your partner to see how they can support you during the times when most others in your support network will be less available, like early morning and early evening. For instance, take care of baby for an hour or so in the morning so you can catch up on sleep, drop your older child at school, or be in charge of dinner prep or bath time of baby. Note that your partner will most likely play the most hands-on role, especially in the early morning, late afternoon, early evening and nighttime. The more opportunity they get to spend time with the baby the stronger their bond becomes, and you get a break too.
- Whilst the first few weeks of having a new baby is difficult to implement any structure or routine (this is only really viable once their feeding routine has been established, which could take up to two months), starting with a bath and bedtime routine as early as possible is recommended. Same time, same order of events. Babies learn from early on how to formulate sleep associations, despite how sporadic their sleep patterns are. It helps to regulate their circadian rhythms, which is a complex process that encourages melatonin production (the sleep hormone). A warm bath with dim lighting at roughly the same time each day, and keeping the sleep environment warm and dark, is a good start.
- Structuring the night time shifts into six-hour blocks is also really helpful as the only help you will most likely have throughout the night is your partner. This is particularly useful when your partner has to return to work and therefore has to be allowed the time to sleep. But so do you. A good suggestion would be for you to go to bed as early as possible once your little one is down after the bath and bedtime routine, and your partner can then be the one to manage baby’s wake ups. If they need to feed, which they most likely will in those first few weeks, your partner can feed them (if on a bottle), bring them to you to feed (if breastfeeding and if not co-sleeping), burp them and put them back to sleep so you can go back to sleep. From 12am the shifts switch and your partner sleeps while you are with your baby when they wake up. The benefit of this is that you can get some uninterrupted sleep from when your baby goes down, till 12am. After 12am, your partner can.
- Set a day of the week to do your online grocery shopping or for your partner or other members of your support team to head out to the supermarket to stock up. Same with housekeeping and laundry.
- Most importantly, remember that the point of putting a plan in place is to ensure you are looked after, can recover from birth, connect with your baby and to take the load off other responsibilities.
Genevieve Putter is a Lil-lets Talk Expert Responder, digital doula and founder of The New Normal Instagram account
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author. Any product recommendations are their own, and do not imply endorsement by Lil-Lets or Premier FMCG
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