Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Those who have been to any of my pregnancy yoga or hypnobirthing classes will know there is a good chance of me going off on one about postnatal planning. I have strong feelings about this personally as I (unknowingly at the time) really ballsed my own postnatal period
up. I had planned meticulously for birth, invested time and money educating myself planning my perfect home birth, which was everything I had hoped, but I had not really considered what would happen afterwards. This left me feeling shocked, unprepared and pretty helpless when I was suddenly responsible for this little stranger who would not let me put them down (even to sleep) and needed feeding round the clock. I had not prepared for this. I thought birth was going to be the hard part, but let me tell you…for me, the following few months were BRUTAL.
If you are pregnant, reading this and panicking…DO NOT WORRY!
There are things you can do beforehand which can set you up for a much more successful fourth trimester that I had. I think firstly becoming acquainted with normal new-born behaviour (i.e needing to be close to you at all times, feeding constantly etc) is a great start. We even cover these kinds of postnatal expectations in the last session of my hypnobirthing course, even though it is not strictly birth related, and it is super useful. Next I would get rid of any stupid cultural expectations about getting ‘up and at ‘em’ anytime soon after birth. In whatever way that baby makes its exit, be it vaginal or belly birth, you need SERIOUS time to recover. Your body has just been through this colossal physical event, and don’t even get me started on the hormonal one. After the birth of your placenta oestrogen levels drop a huge 90-95 % and progesterone drops to nearly zero within 48hrs. This is a massive hormonal shift and needs to be respected. You are also probably sleep deprived (just from birth but then also from feeding round the clock) while bleeding, trying to figure out your feeding journey and get to know these two new people are. And by that, I mean you…and your baby. For me at least, this was a shockingly massive adjustment.
This is all to say that out culture in general has a general lack of respect for this time, and you are often expected to be up, clothed and making tea for visitors while passing round your baby, who just wants/need to be with you…when what you really (I mean REALLY) need to be doing is resting. Hardcore resting. Treating your body, and your recent birthing experience with honour and respect. Many other cultures still have built in resting periods, for example China traditionally observes a ‘sitting month’ in which traditionally the mother-in-law comes to take over the cooking and household tasks, and the new parent and baby are cocooned up in bed and kept warm, fed and nurtured. For a whole month. Even in the UK we used to have similar traditions, which have since been lost in favour of ‘snap back’ culture and isolated living. If you are the parent of a small baby right now, and you are struggling, please do not feel guilty… culturally and socially we have been doing this all wrong. So, what are the important things to consider when it comes to postnatal planning....
And I mean, hardcore rest. Take this resting seriously! Your future self will thank you. You need to figure out how you can do literally nothing, apart from lie, sit, snuggle, eat and feed for a few weeks at the very bare minimum. No cooking, no laundry, no chores…none of it.
A week in the bed, a week around the bed and a week on the sofa….make your postnatal nest and bloody well stay there.
At this point you are recovering physically from birth (even a straightforward birth requires a long and gentle rest period,) you have the crazy hormones to contend with, the emotionally recovery AND you are likely to be constantly feeding this baby day and night. You. need. to. rest. I MEAN IT! Your postnatal plan is VITAL to the success of this rest, and setting up boundaries beforehand with well-meaning but not very helpful visitors as well as ironing out your support network will set you off on the right path. You may be too tired, emotional and overwhelmed to ask for specific help in the moment (I know I was) so setting it up beforehand is really, really helpful.
As part of your plan, work out who is going to come and help you and when. And be specific! This person to come and bring me shopping on a Wednesday, this person to come and help me get some rest when my partner goes back to work on this day… you get the gist. Work out who is up for helping, make sure you are super comfortable with them, as they will probably be seeing a fair number of boobs and potentially tears. And then, if they are up for it, rope them in early so they can plan accordingly. If you have no local friends and family, I highly recommend looking into a hiring a postnatal doula. They are worth their weight in gold and may not be as out of budget as you may expect. Go through every single little household chore and work out what can out- sourced to the aforementioned support network, what can be streamlined and what you can just not worry about for a while as you have much bigger fish to fry. Your house might well be a mess. And this is absolutely fine.
Next think about your visitor boundaries. Be ruthless. Ideally no visitors….only helpers. Anything that is going to add to your stress level/work load is going to be detrimental to your wellbeing (and therefore your baby’s) and is just not worth it. So, prioritise your own needs and take no prisoners. If you are allowing visitors, make sure to ask them beforehand not to bring flowers (which are just going to sit there and then die and bum you out) but to bring food instead.
The other important pillar of postnatal recovery is nutrition. Make this another big chunk of your plan. How are you going to get nutritious, home cooked, warm and comforting meals in daily. Without you or your partner lifting a finger. Plan an insane amount of batch cooking if you can, again rope in friends here if cooking is not your thing. Ask for a meal train instead of baby shower gifts (don’t get me started on baby showers…that’s another convo for another day) or postnatal doula vouchers! Think about food for a month or so, with no/minimal effort on your behalf. Pack those meals with good fats, protein, warming spices, vegetables and make them super tasty and comforting.
The other thing that can be really helpful is discussing postnatal expectations with your partner. Research what you might expect in terms of mood and figure out a plan for how you are going to manage night times, e.g. you doing all the feeds, and them doing all the nappies. Also learning about breastfeeding together can be a massive help. If you are taking my hypnobirthing course you have access to an online breastfeeding workshop which will really get you on your way. Protecting that oxytocin bubble for as long as possible (think of it as an extended golden hour) is also really beneficial in terms of bonding with your baby and with breastfeeding. Preparing for your fourth trimester is not just for you....it is for long term health, wellbeing and happiness of the whole family!
So, don’t be like me. Prepare for your postnatal period. Honour the incredible thing your body has done and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ve got this!