What is Postpartum?
In simple terms, postpartum is the period following birth. In our current healthcare climate, this means 2 nights at the hospital before you are sent home to keep a baby alive on negative sleep. The reality is postpartum is a mess, literally (’cause lochia) and figuratively (’cause chaos). Your body is wrecked and your brain has physically altered.
We love to obsess over baby. Everyone wants to hold them and ask how they are sleeping (newsflash, they aren’t), but what about mom? A healthy baby is not all that matters. Moms physical and emotional well-being is equally, if not more important, and we can’t expect an infant to thrive if we aren’t first helping the mother to heal.
Make a Postpartum Plan
Start by preparing frozen meals or buying paper plates to limit dishes. Make a list of restaurants that deliver, and find grocery stores with curbside pickup. Enlist friends and family to help with household chores or consider rearranging the budget to allow for outside help. Pack your freezer with homemade padsicles and utilize programs like Amazon Prime to help with automatic deliveries of diapers and wipes.
Organization ahead of time can also be a lifesaver. Set-up feeding and changing stations in the areas of your home you will most frequent. These should include all the things you need when your baby is in hysterics because they shit themselves or need boob juice. Think diapers, nipple cream, or snacks and water for mom (FYI, breastfeeding makes you hungry and thirsty AF). You might even want to take stock in a few extra cell phone chargers. There’s nothing worse than 10% battery life when your baby is cluster feeding.
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More than anything a postpartum plan is meant to nurture mom and support her emotional healing. Many cultures around the world embrace what is known as a “40 day lying in”, a time when mothers quite literally stay in bed (FOR 40 DAYS!) so they can nurse and recover while others care for her and the household. This space exists because feeding and caring for your baby is a full-time job and one of the best ways we can prepare for postpartum is by adjusting expectations and understanding that even at its best, postpartum is hard.
Yes, having a baby is joyful, but it can also be overwhelming. It is a major life transition, and we can’t be afraid to talk about the emotions behind that journey. Sadly, our culture sets unrealistic expectations and women can feel pressured to have their shit together and put the needs of their children first, often ignoring their own. Studies show 1 in 5 women suffer from postpartum depression, yet many aren’t even screened for mental health at the postpartum visit. The standard of care desperately needs to shift so mothers can start feeling less isolated and more empowered in their healing.
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Hire a Postpartum Doula
Postpartum doulas are often the first to even ask how mom is doing and can provide front line defense for new parents struggling in those tender early weeks. Parents can put on a brave face when they go out of the house, but postpartum doulas see families in their own homes, and get to see how things are really going. They offer continuous and compassionate care that is shown to improve outcomes for both mother and baby. Postpartum doulas essentially fill the void when we don’t have the level of support we need. They provide evidenced based information on things such as infant soothing, feeding and newborn care, they process birth stories, ensure mom is eating well and staying hydrated, and generally keep mothers sane by continuing to mother them as they heal. Postpartum doulas are also trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders and can advise you on what is a normal part of your recovery and what you might need some extra help with. They can also connect you with any resources needed such as therapists, lactation consultants, or support groups and will always normalize the need for support by empowering mothers with the knowledge and resources to thrive.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard asking for help, but a supported mother is a confident mother with the power to bloom. With awareness, we can shift values. The more women know, the less likely they are to feel they are the only ones being crushed by the weight of new motherhood. It is my hope that mothers can one day take back postpartum and carry that confidence forward throughout a lifetime of motherhood. If you are in need of postpartum support, check out doulamatch.net to find a postpartum doula in your area.