Much of what we write here is geared towards new mamas with babies already in their arms. But we also strive to reach expectant moms, those on the cusp of motherhood who might not yet know or understand what their needs will be after their baby is born. There’s so much talk these days about the importance of birth preparation and planning and I strongly believe that our birth experiences greatly affect psyche and our motherhood experiences. It’s important to educate ourselves about our birthing options. But we also want to start an important conversation about postpartum preparation. It’s the often missed piece of the puzzle as we embark upon motherhood and I am confident that with some planning ahead during pregnancy, many moms might experience the postpartum transition a bit more peacefully. I’ll be sharing some ideas and compiling some of our resources for postpartum preparation intermittently here on the blog and hope you’ll share them with the pregnant moms in your life!
When you think about what’s needed when baby arrives, do you think of your own needs? Or do you find yourself mostly planning for the essential baby items? When I was pregnant with my first, I barely thought about what I would need in those days after he was born. I had the baby clothes, diapers, sleeping spaces, and everything else all set, but honestly did not even consider what my own needs would be. Now I’m busy preparing for our third baby, who will join us in just over a month, and I’m thinking carefully about what my needs will be. I know now that my own well-being is so very important and that the well-being of the rest of my family depends upon me filling my own cup and making sure my needs are met first.
Here are my 5 Must-Haves for Mom (in order of importance):
1. A Postpartum Support Plan.
If you plan for nothing else, make a plan for who will support you, what type of support you think you’ll need, when you want support people to come over, and how each one can best help. This will look different for every family. If this is your first baby, your needs will be quite different than if it’s your fourth. Think about who you want in your space during those early days and who you would like to keep some distance from. Think about what others can do to help you focus on nourishing yourself, resting, healing, and bonding with baby. Write these things down and communicate ahead of time with your helpers. Talk with your partner about what you anticipate needing from them as well. Of course it’s possible that your plan will change, and flexibility is key, but thinking ahead about this will save you a ton of time and mental energy during the sometimes overwhelming postpartum days.
This postpartum toolkit, created by me and hosted on my local doula website, will help guide you through making a plan.
You might also like to download our free resources to guide you through getting support and engaging in self-care. Keep them handy for when you need them most.
2. A Postpartum Resources List.
Try to anticipate your needs during the postpartum days. You might need extra information or support with feeding (breastfeeding or bottlefeeding), common baby care issues, general encouragement, and information about postpartum mental health concerns. You’ll want to compile a list of websites that might help, as well as local resources like mothers’ groups, La Leche League, postpartum doulas, and mental health professionals. It’s often harder to search for this information when you find yourself in the moment of need and it’s super helpful to have a list handy ahead of time. The postpartum toolkit linked above has space to fill in this information.
Our resource page will get you started with links to websites and books for the postpartum and baby days.
My Pinterest account for my doula services has a postpartum board that you might browse for some more good ideas and encouragement.
3. A Postpartum Meal Plan.
Your body has the important jobs of healing from pregnancy and birth, as well as nourishing your baby if you’re breastfeeding. You will recover more easily and feel much better if you’re well nourished postpartum. Any new mom will tell you that you won’t be cooking meals for yourself though! That’s precious time and energy that needs to be put towards healing and recovering. Here’s where your food plan comes in. Cook some freezer meals ahead of time and have them ready to re-heat. Better yet, have a freezer meal party and ask a bunch of friends to come cook and leave their meals in your freezer. Stock up on healthy and easy to eat snacks before your baby is born (nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, hard-boiled eggs, sliced veggies, fruit, cheese). Have takeout menus at the ready. And, when people ask how they can help, request that friends and family bring you food or make a grocery run for you.
Mealtrain is a great free site that allows others to sign up to bring you meals. Many new moms will ask a friend to set up a Mealtrain account for them and share it with other local friends and family after baby is born. All helpers can see which days are available for meals and you can include information about allergies, etc.
Regardless of how you give birth, your body will need time to heal. You can also support your healing with a few basic supplies. What you use will largely depend on your own philosophy and approach to wellness. Some things I like to have on hand are frozen menstrual pads for supporting your perineum as it heals (just open each pad, soak it in witch hazel and aloe, and wrap in foil before freezing), an herbal bath mix to support healing, nipple cream if you’re breastfeeding, pain relieving medication, and any herbs and natural remedies if you tend to use that type of thing.
Here are more of our thoughts on postpartum healing supplies.
Earth Mama Angel Baby has some good postpartum healing products. You can order online and find some of their products at Target.
For making your own herbal products, we love getting supplies from Mountain Rose Herbs.
5. Your Postpartum Nest.
You might be surprised at how much time you spend sitting and/or laying down during your early postpartum days, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Think about intentionally planning a comfortable space for this. If your surroundings are peaceful, you likely won’t feel as stir-crazy and you’ll enjoy these quiet moments with your baby just a little bit more. Consider a comfortable chair that helps you sit upright to feed, but also recline to rest. Think about adding your favorite pillow(s) or blanket(s). Maybe have a little table nearby with a scented candle, a favorite photo, some personal care items (nipple cream, hand lotion, a chocolate bar), some snacks, a few diapers, burp cloths, and a water bottle. If you have everything you need when you sit down, you won’t be stuck under the baby wishing you could just grab a few things.
Now, off you go to to make your postpartum preparation plans! Check back in for more thoughts on baby must-haves, partner must-haves, and sibling must-haves in the weeks to come.