In the DMV area, people have gotten used to the idea of a birth doula. They hire me as an expert to help them prepare for labor and delivery, and get them through the process in one piece. They expect me to help them create a birth plan, cope with labor, and provide comfort. But I often remind them that birth is a small moment in time. And I encourage all of my clients to consider postpartum planning.
Like so many important things in life, parenting comes with no manuals, and the instructions books tend to offer conflicting advice. When you think about it, it’s a pretty high stakes guessing game.
A few things to consider:
1. Think about how you want to feel the first few months with your baby. What sort of environment do you want to create? Let’s make sure your postpartum planning will get you there. It may be most important that you feel connected to your baby, or you might want to find ways to help the new addition to the family adjust to existing schedules and routines.
2. Remember that after having a baby, your mood and energy levels may be completely different. Your body poured a lot of nutrients into your baby, and birth is a lot like running a marathon- you’re doing hard work for hours at a time. Consider ways to replenish yourself. Many women are choosing placenta encapsulation, a service that we provide.
3. Give yourself time to learn new skills. Feeding your baby, whether by breast, bottle or a combination, is a natural urge. But it’s not something you’ll automatically know how to do. Be gentle with yourself as you learn your baby’s cues to when it’s hungry, when it’s gassy, and how to best work out this whole nourishment thing.
4. Diapering, though it seems simple, is another new skill that may take time. Expect to get caught in the line of fire once or twice (especially with boys), and possibly be a little obsessive tracking your baby’s “output” for a few weeks. You may also be considering cloth versus disposable, and how to clean up after it all.
5. Think about sleeping arrangements for you, your partner and your baby, as well as your other children or fur babies. Will you follow baby’s schedule, or start working on getting a routine going as soon as possible? Co-sleeping, bed sharing, or keeping baby in the nursery? Do the pets need to forfeit their spot in the bed? Could a postpartum doula during the overnights help you?
6. Last but certainly not least, think about your relationships. Dynamics with family (who may be very attached to a new niece, nephew or grandbaby), and friends (who may suddenly stop inviting you to happy hour) may change. And you and your partner’s world will certainly shift (as will your dating life if you’re single). You can get through this time. Remember, the newborn phase is temporary, and your community will find a way to adjust.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the things to think about for after baby, but it’s a start.
Remember to use your resources as you make this plan! There are plenty of books and websites available. Hospitals in DC, Maryland and Virginia can connect you to a great deal of support. And, just like with birth, there are experts to help you navigate the postpartum period- like me!
If you’re wanting to talk about postpartum planning for after baby gets here, ask your questions in the comments, or just give me a call!