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  • Beth

Making Postnatal Amazing For You

The time after the birth of your baby is a really special time, one you won’t get to repeat. If this is your first baby it’s the only time you are bringing your first baby home. If this isn’t the first baby it’s still a special time with your growing family as everyone gets to know each other and settle into their new family roles.


Alongside this it is a time of huge transition for you as you adjust to life with a baby, your body is adjusting back to a non-pregnant state and you are recovering physically and mentally from birth. There is really so much happening, physically and mentally that it is really important to look after yourself and make some plans to ensure this is the absolute best time for you and your family.


It is really easy to focus on the birth doing your research and making lots of plans but it is equally important to think about the time after birth and how you can make things easier and what you do or don’t want to do.


I have worked with hundreds of families; in antenatal classes, baby classes and as a postnatal doula and I would love to share the things I recommend you think about.

 

1.      Food

What can you do during your pregnancy to make life easier? Have a think about your lifestyle and what you can change or streamline. It might be getting online shopping organised, batch cooking for the freezer, having a rota of family/friends who can bring a meal or even just knowing your top take away choices.


It’s a good plan to have some really easy meals in place, things you can reheat or cook very simply and maybe even things you can eat one handed! It’s important to take care of yourself and eat healthily as you recover and it will be really hard to find time to cook so work out what is the best approach for you.


If you are breastfeeding you will soon discover it’s hungry work so plan for some snacks too. Something you can grab and eat easily and maybe even something it’s easy to have in box or bag right where you feed. It’s a good idea to have a drink to hand too. A big easy drink water bottle or an insulated cup to have a hot drink whenever you want it. Even if you made it 2 hours ago!

 


2.      Baby equipment

Babies can come with a lot of stuff (they also can come with much less but it’s so fun shopping that you might end up with all sorts!) and figuring out what you need when and where might be tricky before baby arrives.


You will probably get some clothes washed and tidied into drawers ready but try and keep them organised so you know all of one size are together and then as you need the next size you know which is which. This is particularly tricky with newborns when you aren’t sure if you need ‘tiny’, ‘newborn’ or ‘0-3, clothes for your little one.


You are going to be changing lots of nappies so it’s well worth having more than one place in the house to do so. Having a box with nappies, cotton wool, wipes, bags and some spare clothes in a few spots around the house can save you the hassle of having to always change nappies in the same place. You might have a lovely changing table setup in the nursery but in the early days you might find yourself changing more nappies in the lounge and your bedroom so make it easier and have different options. As a minimum have something upstairs and something downstairs to avoid having to go up and down for every nappy change.

 


3.      Visitors

When you have a new baby everyone wants to meet them! There are many stories about there about people expecting to meet the new baby while you are still in hospital and whilst this might work for some, most new parents would rather have time to recover a bit from the birth!


It’s a good idea to think a bit about visitors at home before the birth so you can have a few conversations and make sure people know what your wishes are.


Lots of people would prefer to have some time to adjust, to let baby settle into the world, to figure out sleeping, not need to get dressed, not worry about the time and really just all get to know each other without outside pressures. If this is you then go for it. This is the only time you get these first days with your baby and if you want it to just be your household for a few days or even a week or two that is totally your choice. You might want grandparents only visiting, or maybe your siblings can pop by but if you know the extended family are likely to be on your doorstep on day 2 it’s worth getting word out that you will let them know when you are ready.


Some will opt to give times and limit people to a 30 minute visit planned in advance so you know who is coming when, or you might decide to go for a one afternoon free for all and get it all done in one go. Whatever you feel most comfortable with.


Make sure you don’t feel like you need to ‘host’ your visitors. Let them put the kettle on and make everyone a drink rather than you rushing around making sure everyone has drinks and biscuits. Ask them to pick up shopping or bring a meal for you, or maybe someone could wash up or put some laundry on. Ideally the visitors in the early days are ones you can ask for help if you need it, are comfortable wearing pjs with, and you are comfortable feeding baby when you need to; rather than feeling that you need to make your home spotless and have food prepared for them.

 

4.      Support

What support will you have after the birth and what might you need? If family live far away they might be coming to stay for a time rather than dropping in so hopefully they will be able to help with support. If you don’t have family who are able to help you have a think about what you can utilise. It’s incredibly hard to adjust to a new baby and recover when there are just the two of you trying to manage everything so don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or find a postnatal doula who can support you. It can make a huge difference to have someone who understand this postnatal period and can be the extra pair of hands and unbiased listening ear you need.


I do also work with families where there are grandparents staying or visiting regularly, having an external person coming in can really help and sometimes the new parents want to make sure they are getting the most up to date information about parenting and babies.


When you are pregnant it is a good idea to research some support options for after baby arrives. One of the key ones is finding out about feeding support. So many people struggle with feeding and knowing where to go and when can just make it a little bit easier to get yourself to a group or call for help. Find your local Children’s Centres or Family Hubs and see which groups are on which days. They will probably also have Health Visitor and weighing clinics which are useful too. You might investigate local Lactation Consultants and have a few phone numbers noted in case you need them.


You could also start to check where and when the local baby groups are on so you are prepared when you feel ready to get out and about, or you can start to plan your days which can bring some positivity as you look forward to special times with your baby.

 


5.      Rest

Rest doesn’t come naturally for lots of us and it can feel like we are surrounded by a culture of ‘bouncing back’ and getting ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible. The earlier you can get to the supermarket or do a school run the better! Well, no. If you really need to or you are feeling great then maybe do but listen to your body and respect what you’ve done. Growing and birthing a baby is huge and you need to rest. Sitting and feeding your baby, holding them while they nap or napping when they do are really simple ways – and maybe nature’s way of slowing us down a bit – but you might need to consciously do more.


I love learning more about postnatal traditions and many cultures protect the mum and baby dyad for a period of time post birth. It might involve special foods and drinks, massage for mum and baby, staying in bed or staying at home for up to 6 weeks post birth.


Some follow a 5 5 5 guide. 5 days in bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days around the bed. It isn’t just about rest and recovery but also about skin to skin, establishing breastfeeding and growing the mum and baby connection.


You might feel this isn’t possible for you, I certainly would struggle to stay at home for 6 weeks, but respecting and honouring this time with good rest will aid your recovery and help you connect with your baby. It will also help them adapt to life in the world making for a more gentle transition.

 

6.      Being Active

Yes prioritise rest but when you are feeling ready you can get a bit more active. Keep it low key, a short walk with the pram is ideal to get you and baby some fresh air, and see how it goes. Gradually build your walking but take it very easy and if you feel and discomfort in stitches or your bleeding increases you might need to take a step back.


As soon as you are able you can restart pelvic floor exercises. Try and do a few through your day. Link it with something to become habit – when you clean your teeth, feed the baby or boil the kettle. You can also start some super gentle core exercises when you feel able (more caution with a caesarean birth). Breathe in and pull your tummy muscles in, breathe out and hold them there. Then release. Repeat a few times as you feel comfortable with and, again, gradually build over time. It might be a week or two or more before you feel able to do core or pelvic floor exercises but keep it very simple and work within your capabilities. It is a marathon not a sprint!

 

7.      Be kind

It’s a lot. A lot to process as you reflect on your birth, figure out looking after a baby, deal with exhaustion, get used to a strange body, the emotional hormone rollercoaster, all the questions, worries and uncertainties about whether you are getting it right or not and how you are measuring up as parents.


Try not to put yourself under too much pressure. It is a massive learning curve and huge life change. And yes, you probably knew that was coming but the reality is often harder than we imagine and it’s really easy to get critical as you wonder whether you could be doing things differently or why your baby doesn’t appear to be like the ones in the books you read.

Don’t feel like you need to have it all figured out in the first days, weeks, months or even years. We’re all learning. Every child and parent is different and that’s totally fine. What works for one family won’t be right for another but you can find you own way. It just might take time.


So be kind to yourself. About all of it. About your body, your mental health, how you look after your baby and how you look after yourself. No one has got it all worked out however it feels when you see social media or talk to others.


If you can, take the pressure off and enjoy this time with your baby without worrying about your choices. Do what works for you today and don’t worry about tomorrow. They change so quickly, even in the early weeks that it’s really easy to miss it while you are busy trying to make sure you get everything right.

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