If you’re pregnant, chances are you’ve thought about your birth plan. Whether you made a written one or not, you understand what one is and why they’re useful for birthing families. A postpartum plan? That may not be on your radar. But it really should be!
Here’s why you should prepare and plan for postpartum, including the full fourth trimester…..and our expert tips on exactly how to do it.
What is a postpartum plan?
A postpartum plan is well, just that! A plan for the immediate days, weeks, and months after birth (often called the fourth trimester, a term that refers specifically to the first three months postpartum). Your postpartum plan may be a written document a la a birth plan, or may simply be the actual process of thinking about and prepping for your postpartum experience.
Why you should make a postpartum plan
There are so many reasons why it’s important to think ahead about after birth experience. The biggest one? Because you matter! Your emotional, mental, and physical health are paramount as a new parent.
It’s also important to take the time to plan because doing so can help you learn what’s truly important for you (and your partner, if applicable) during this tender time. You’ll clarify your needs, get insight into your priorities, and help set yourself up for a smoother experience overall.
That brings us to the last reason—because planning can make the whole thing easier. Having a newborn can be really overwhelming and exhausting….like, really. When you’ve already done the groundwork and have an idea of how things may go, you can focus on recovering from birth and caring for your baby.
Of course, you can’t plan it all. Variables like how your birth goes and your infant feeding experience may really impact your actual postpartum period. Whatever happens, you’ll be glad you laid out a roadmap for this brand new time of life.
How to make a postpartum plan
Start planning during pregnancy. Late in the second or early in the third trimester is a good time to start thinking about it. More time gives you more opportunities to have necessary conversations, educate yourself, and gather resources. But we want to stress that it’s never too late…even if you’re getting induced in a few days, you can easily get some strategies in place before baby comes home!
Plan For You
You’re going to be recovering from birth and parenting a brand new human. What will you need to thrive during this time?
- Body care: Make sure you have the right supplies for your body after birth, including pads, a peri bottle, and more.
- Infant feeding: How will you feed your baby? Do you feel educated about how to do so, whether it’s by breast/chest or bottle? Consider taking a breastfeeding class, if you plan to breastfeed. Ensure you have the supplies you need, like a pump, bottles, nipple cream, etc.
- Rest: It’s really key to rest as much as you can after birth. Does this feel comfortable for you? How can you make this work with your lifestyle/situation?
- Emotional support: Who is on your support team? How will they communicate with you? Are you ok with check-ins or do you want to be the one to reach out? Consider a daily text thread with your besties or signing up for our text-a-doula service, where you have easy instant access to our team of postpartum doulas.
- Mental health: Do you know the signs of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and how to get support if you’re struggling? Are you aware of the mental health resources in your area? If you’re already seeing a mental health professional, talk with them about how things may change for you and what you can do to be supported. As you learn about PMADs, make sure your partner does too. They can experience them, too, plus it really helps having the people who know and love you best to understand what you’re going through and when they might need to be concerned.
- Sleep: You likely won’t have continuous nightly sleep, but getting some chunks of rest is important. How much is the minimum you need to feel functional? Consider taking shifts with your partner or prioritizing naps (daytime sleep counts in postpartum!) to ensure everyone is getting the Zzzs they need.
- Movement: What are your expectations for exercise or movement? How can you build in simple, gentle movement in a way that supports your body?
- Returning to work: What is your timeline for going back to work? Will you be pumping? Consider the logistics (commute, childcare etc) and spend some time envisioning how it could go.
Plan For Life Logistics
Life goes on, even with a newborn in the mix. How will you ensure the things that need to get done in your life are getting done?
- Food: Consider both meals and snacks. Will you prepare freezer meals, rely on takeout, or set up a meal train so friends and family can help? Nutrition can play a big role in your recovery, so think mindfully about this one and consider bulk buying, stocking the pantry, and preppring snacks that are easy to eat with one hand. (Psst… if you’re wondering which meal train service to use, our blog post can help!)
- Visitors: Are you open to people coming to see you and baby? Just immediate family or open door policy? How long will visits be? Think about boundaries that will work for your family.
- Cleaning: Dishes. Floors. Bathrooms. Your home will get dirty—so think about how it will get clean. Is someone else able to do this for you? Is it in your budget to hire a cleaning service…or can you ask for that as a baby gift? Decide your dealbreakers—like having a cluttered coffee table—and make a plan to ensure at least those are getting done on the regular.
- Laundry: Babies make lots of laundry. Who will do it, fold it, etc? How often?
- Yard Care: If you have an outdoor space, it will need care. Think about how and how often this should happen.
- Pet Care: Of course, your precious pets will also need TLC at this time. Think ahead about dog walking, litter boxes, and those sorts of tasks.
- Budget and bills: If you’re planning to take time off of work, do you have a savings cushion? Paid leave? Planning to take FMLA (and have you filed for it yet?) Take in the full financial picture at the end of pregnancy and for the first few months postpartum. Are things looking good or will you need to make some changes? Don’t forget monthly and quarterly bills, as well as the act of paying them.
Plan For The Family
- Your partner: What might your partner need during the fourth trimester to feel healthy and happy? Consider their emotional and mental needs as an individual, as well as your own relationship/partnership. PMADs can affect partners too, so make sure they know that’s a possibility. Consider scheduling daily or weekly check-ins or otherwise prioritizing open communication about both of your needs.
- Other children: Siblings may have big emotional needs around the time of welcoming a new sibling, as well as practical needs like getting to school/childcare. Who will support them, and how? How can you build in time to spend with them? Check out our Q&A with LCSW and mindful parenting coach Michelle Felder to learn how to emotionally prepare an older kiddo.
For more help with postpartum planning including our entire Postpartum Prep module (complete with recipes and resources!), download our FREE app, My Fourth.