By Alexis Edwards, LCSW, Birth & Postpartum Doula
So, you’ve grown a human, and it is almost time to bring home baby! This is truly an exciting and beautiful stage of life, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, babies fill us with all the joy, but they are also stage five clingers, demanding all the milk and that can be downright exhausting!
Despite your fear of never sleeping again, you have probably been busy preparing for baby’s arrival. Maybe you wrote a birth plan, packed a hospital bag, and neatly folded itty-bitty baby clothes. The truth of the matter is, our culture places emphasis on all the wrong things. A plan can be helpful and decorating is fun, but that monogrammed chevron throw will mean nothing at 3AM as you cluster feed your infant.
Many of us dive into postpartum completely unprepared. We don’t adequately plan for our physical and emotional healing or have unrealistic expectations about what postpartum should look like. Postpartum is a less than perfect journey that requires nurturing and grace as parents help ease baby (and themselves!) into this new scary world outside the womb. Those early moments of bonding and attachment pave the way for baby’s development and success later in life, and even though those demands can be intense, there are ways to make it easier.
Here are 3 things we can do to strengthen our postpartum bliss in the fourth trimester:
- Make a Postpartum Plan.
We spend plenty of time thinking about baby’s arrival, but how many of us think about the reality of life after baby? I know I personally was shocked when the hospital said we had to go home. I may have even asked if the postpartum nurse came with us. My swaddling skills were a hot mess, but our nurse. She was the boss of swaddling. She would swoop in and save me from mental implosion and magically wrap my kid into the snuggest of sleepy time cocoons (PS: just buy all the velcro swaddles y’all).
I know it sounds silly, but had I known beforehand about the significance of swaddling (amongst other things), I might not have been as terrified to head home. Insert postpartum plan! It simply involves putting together a plan of action that can set you up for success and boost your confidence as you navigate the murky waters of new parenthood. It requires thinking through things you don’t normally have to consider, like when the heck do we sleep. Babies don’t care if you are tired, and despite all the pressure our culture places on the infamous “sleeping through the night,” it is NORMAL to NOT be sleeping (at least consecutively) those first few months.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t still make sleep a priority! “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the advice we most often hear, and while it is one of the biggest ways you can optimize sleep postpartum, it is also one of those phrases you will come to despise. There are dishes to do, laundry to fold, and meals to make. How can they get done if you are sleeping?! This is another reason the postpartum plan is so critical. Those tasks need to be delegated as much as possible, and a postpartum plan is a useful tool to think through who you know and trust that can support you.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about visitors. Visitors show up to your house and hold your baby…while they are sleeping. A support person is there FOR YOU. They care about mom’s physical and emotional healing and let her focus on baby while providing reassurance, food, and jugs of water (cause FYI breastfeeding makes you thirsty!). Instead of asking how the baby is sleeping, they are asking YOU, the mother, HOW YOU FEEL and what you need. If you can’t think of a friend or family member that meets this criteria, it’s time to move on to tip number two.
- Hire a Postpartum Doula.
From the beginning of time, women have been cared for and nurtured as they became mothers. Family, friends and neighbors from the community would help guide them through those tender early months. In fact, many cultures still embrace what is known as a “40 day lying in.” This time is dedicated to allowing the mother to focus solely on her baby while others take care of her and the household.
Postpartum doulas essentially fill the void when we don’t have that level of support available to us. They provide evidence 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. Postpartum doulas are also trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders and can advise you on what is normal versus what you might need help with.
Sadly, the U.S. doesn’t quite value the postpartum period the same way other cultures do. Our country lacks proper parental leave policies, which ultimately makes postpartum healing somewhat of a luxury. Despite those barriers, space to heal and adjust to the challenges of parenting is critical to positive outcomes for both mom and baby. If we can’t find that support from our family or community, then hiring a postpartum doula could make all the difference in our family’s health and wellness.
- Use Remedy!
Remedy’s founders were inspired by the friendly and trustworthy house calls of the past and instead of waiting at an office, their kid-friendly providers comes straight to you!
If you haven’t caught on by now, postpartum is hard. You are sleep deprived, leaking milk, and possibly healing from a vaginal tear or cesarean incision. The last thing you want to do is leave your house to brave a germ-infested waiting room with your immunocompromised infant. One of the million things you will learn as a new parent is that a fever of 100.4 or higher in a newborn is considered an emergency, so why not limit exposure and have the professional come to you?
Again, one of the most vital components of postpartum recovery is support, and I can’t think of anything more supportive than a doctor visiting you in your own environment.
Thinking through a professional support system can significantly improve our postpartum experience. It’s hard to ask for help, but researching our support team ahead of time truly makes it easier to reach out when we need the additional support. Invest time before baby arrives to contact your pediatrician, as well as other support professionals like lactation consultants, therapists, or that oh so helpful postpartum doula we discussed above. Maybe you won’t end up needing their support, but if you do, you will be prepared. Bonus, you’ve left more time to sleep when the baby sleeps ☺
Alexis Edwards has over 10 years of experience supporting families as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is now a Certified BEST Doula and provider with Parenters. She received a Bachelor of Science in Child & Family Studies from Louisiana State University and a Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. Alexis’ unique expertise allows her to bridge the gap between birth and mental health and she is passionate about supporting parents in their physical and emotional healing during the perinatal period. She believes wholeheartedly in the healing power of relationships and feels emotional support is a critical component in the sacred space of birth and postpartum. Learn more about Alexis in her bio on parenters.com.
Parenters connects providers to families who are seeking personalized guidance in the comfort of home. We work with parents to provide the tools they need to move forward in each new, unique situation through tailored support and education suited for their environment. Learn more about their services.