Postpartum Care Plan: Recovery Tips For New Mothers
When a woman is expecting she will find much information about caring for herself during pregnancy and preparing for labor. She will be watched and monitored through both of these phases of giving birth.
One thing sorely lacking in the process, though, is preparing a new mother for her postpartum. The reality of the postpartum period is that it is exhausting, emotional, and unpredictable. Many a new mother has lamented “No one told me it would be like this!”
This being said there are definitely ways to prepare for it so that your postpartum will be nourishing, enjoyable and predictable. Here are a few things to know.
The importance of rest
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the catch phrase given to postpartum moms. You can hear it so much you may not give it much attention. This advice, though, is really on the money. First time moms often are so used to going 24/7 that the idea of napping or hanging out for two weeks postpartum seems unnecessary. Not so! Why? You will be doing a whole lot of work internally. You will be expending a lot energy that you may not even be aware of. Remember these 4 things your body will be doing – all without any conscience thought from you!
- Your body will get busy regulating your hormones. This is no small task. Immediately
after delivery your body goes to work changing your hormone production from being pregnant to being non-pregnant. “Raging hormones!”
- Your body starts repairing from delivery. So whether you have a vaginal delivery or a C-sect., your body starts to go into overdrive to heal all that needs to be healed.
- Your body begins shift from creating your baby to feeding your baby. Breastfeeding hormones begin working. Your breasts continue the process that started during pregnancy of preparing to feed your baby. Milk receptors are formed and other processes begin during the first few days of life to set the stage for the amount of milk your breasts will need to produce and to meet the needs of your ever growing newborn.
- Emotional intensity. Our emotional selves begin to process this amazing start to becoming a new mother. Having a baby stirs up a lot of our own mothering issues. Whether we had a great mom or one who fell short, we often can start to feel things and process issues about the way we were mothered. How am I going to mother this baby? Can I do it well? And OMG I am responsible for another human being and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing! (If you are a 2nd time mom you may find that you are more confident with your baby, but you may worry if you will possibly love the second baby as much as your first or you may be struggling with guilt over the impact that bringing home a sibling will have on your beloved firstborn!)
So now if you physically start to expend too much energy trying to care for your own or your family’s needs by doing too much, something is going to give. It will. So if you do not rest you will find yourself either bleeding more, crying more, struggling with breastfeeding, or snapping at your husband or children. So somehow you need to prepare so that for at least two weeks you can rest and focus on healing, nursing and getting to know your amazing newborn.
If you have a great mother, mother-in-law or other female family or friend who is offering to help you, let them.
From the beginning of humans having babies, women have been caring for each other after a baby arrives. In the Greek culture they were called “doulas”.
A doula is one woman helping another woman through pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Her role was to teach a new mother about her baby and take care of the new mom and her family until the new mom was able to take on her life again. In our modern American culture, many women are not surrounded by female family members.
Many women go home from the hospital exhausted without any female support, and feeling like they either don’t know what to do or realizing with the older children at home, how am I going to do it?
Hiring someone to come in for support can be a good option if one doesn’t have automatic family support.
A professional postpartum doula specializes in the needs of the postpartum woman and her family. She is typically there short-term until the mother is able to take on her own life again.
A doula supports a new mother and her family physically and emotionally which allows the postpartum mom to rest and take some time needed to heal and adjust to her new baby.
A good doula helps the mother with whatever is needed: answering, guiding and caring for the newborn, assisting with breastfeeding, making meals for the whole family, playing with the older ones so mom can nap, and assisting with cleaning, shopping and laundry for the whole family as needed.
Other ways to prepare
If having outside help is not available, prepare in advance for some of your needs.
- Freeze meals ahead. Food is a constant. Try to shop ahead, if possible, for the things you use all of the time. If anyone offers to bring you dinner, let them. You can return the favor in the future when a need arises in your friend’s life.
- Clean your home well or hire someone to clean your home the week before your due date. This will go a long way for you not to worry about how the house looks when guests inevitably stop by. It will also help you not to stress that your house is “falling apart” if you don’t clean for a couple of weeks.
- Limit company. Everyone who loves you and your spouse will want to come to visit. Only have people visit with whom you are comfortable nursing in front of. If you have a well-wisher overstaying a bit, know that it is not rude to say “I’m getting a little tired. Feel free to stay but I’m going to take a nap!” Listen to your body! Give those who want to come a future date to visit, after your two weeks of rest are over, if possible!
- Care for your emotional needs. If you find yourself feeling blue, reach out to a trusted friend or family member who can help talk you through it. If it continues or if you find yourself feeling heavy anxiety, let your doctor know. There is help available.
- Prepare for breastfeeding. Knowledge is power! If you understand how it works, how your body establishes and meets the needs of your baby, you will be more confident with the process. Nursing needs to start immediately after delivery. It’s an important way good latching happens.While in the hospital look at your nursing sessions as “practice”. You need your baby to comfortably. Newborns are not starving and therefore are quite patient as you figure out what a good latch feels like. You can take him/her off and start again in the first two days as you learn how to do it.Your baby knows how, you have to learn. This way you will be prepared for when you get home and your baby starts to get hungry. Newborns on day 3 (typically) will have a 24 hr. period where they will “marathon nurse”. This is normal! You will feel like you have no milk but as you keep putting the baby to your breasts it will signal your breasts that the baby is here and it will help your milk to come in.Once your milk comes in, the baby will get what it needs and you both will be ready to take a long nap! If you are struggling with the latching when you get home, reach out and get some guidance from a professional lactation consultant sooner rather than later. It’s always a good idea to take advantage of the ones that the hospital provides while you are there, too.
- You will be your baby’s best expert! If you give yourself the time to do all of the above, you will find that at the end of the 2nd week, you will start to feel like yourself again, the nursing will be going better, and your confidence in yourself will start to grow. It only gets easier from here!
So in conclusion, it is wisdom to prepare as well for your postpartum as you do for your pregnancy and labor. Know that it is good and normal for you to care for own your needs during your postpartum.
How you do that is up to you. You are a new mom, and you will be caring for everyone’s needs soon enough going forward. You will be happier if you give yourself permission to heal and hang out with your baby for the first couple of weeks and let others do for you during your postpartum.
About Susan Shepard
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”