If you are pregnant and busy planning for your upcoming birth, don't forget to plan for your postnatal recovery as well!
Many women don’t think about planning for this time when the focus is often on preparing for birth and beyond. Often expectant parents spend hours pouring through pregnancy and childbirth blogs and books but don't take the time to learn about life with a newborn.
Your postnatal journey can be a very challenging time because not only are you healing from Childbirth, but you are also trying to figure out how to care for a new baby without much sleep. The physical and emotional challenges can often come as a surprise to many first time parents. Remember that as well as the physical changes that come with being a new Mum, your identity and your relationship is changing. Because new parents are often not expecting these challenges, they don't plan appropriately for enough recovery time.
Birth plans have become standard pregnancy to-do list items, but they're not the only plans you should be making. Looking beyond birth and having a plan in place to navigate the often-overlooked fourth trimester—the three months after your baby is born and your first three months as a parent—is just as, if not more, important than putting together a birth plan.
Here are some of the essential components of a postnatal plan:
Most new parents know that with a new baby comes sleep deprivation, but it's hard to truly wrap your head around what two- or three-hour stretches (or less) of sleep feel like on repeat—especially when you're also managing the new job of being a parents (which is a 24/7 gig).
Planning postnatal sleep support will look different for everyone. For some, that might mean leaning on a mother, mother-in-law, or another family member to help with some of the feeds – daytime or night time so you can catch up on some extra sleep. For others, it might mean splitting the night with a partner or going to bed a little earlier than you partner. If you feel comfortable inviting someone into your home, a midwife or mothercraft nurse can also be helpful.
Be very specific about how people can help and start trying to accept the idea that it is ok to ask for help and say yes if people offer. When people offer to help, they really do want to help. If you are not sure what you really need or a struggling to ask for help, having a list of to-do tasks on the fridge can be helpful. When people ask what they can do to help you can direct them to the to-do list. The more specific you are the more likely you are to get help.
It's easy to feel guilty as a new parent—and many parents find the emotion of guilt creeping up from time to time. But it's important to remember that parenting was never something that was supposed to be done by one person. After all, all throughout history, children have been raised by a village of people.
Workout your “village” before the baby arrives. It’s so important that the Mother is mothered. Allow yourself to be nurtured by those around you and to remember than self-care isn’t selfish! Be kind to yourself and have some empathy for yourself.
Try to have realistic expectations as a new parent. Looking inwards instead of at what other people are doing or at social media can be helpful. Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary. I often see new parents comparing themselves or their baby to other people or books and using language such as “my baby should be doing this and should be doing that”, which can be damaging.
Try to think about what you have achieved in the day, rather than what you haven’t achieved. You are enough for your baby. Your best for that day is enough – if your baby is fed, warm and safe then you’re doing a good job.
When you have a baby, you may find yourself with an influx of food deliveries from friends and family (an often-welcome gift as you'll likely have little time or energy for cooking). I always encourage people to ask for cooked meals or to order take away if needed to get through those early weeks.
These pre-made meals are great for when partners are around at dinner time, but during the day, even warming something up in the oven can seem tedious when you're sleep-deprived with a newborn. Ensure you have easy, go-to snacks—nuts, energy bars, fruit, cheese—on hand once the baby arrives. Treats are great, but having more nutritious easy to grab snacks will provide longer lasting energy and probably make you feel better than junk food.
Stock your freezer with extra meals that can be thrown into a slow cooker or oven.
Have a good water bottle with straw/easy pop top lid for easy access when breast feeding. It’s so important to hydrate yourself.
In current times, social drop-ins from family members and friends aren't as common, but setting boundaries is still important. After all, not everyone has the same ideas about what is and is not appropriate in terms of visiting.
Setting some ground rules around when you are seeing people and what you'd like people to do before they enter your home (hand sanitizer or a mask, for example) can help keep clear boundaries and help keep uncomfortable scenarios with others at bay. Don't feel comfortable stating the rules yourself? It's okay to delegate someone else to do it and it’s easier to set the boundaries before the baby arrives.
About 1 in 5 Mum’s and 1 in 10 Dads will experience anxiety or depression (PNDA) in pregnancy or the first year after having a baby.
It’s important to know that about 80 percent of new Mums experience the "baby blues"—weepiness, crying, anxious thoughts, and irritability related to a drastic drop in hormones in the first two weeks after giving birth.
PNDA is different from the baby blues. If you're not feeling like yourself (you're constantly worried, have low mood, you can't sleep when the baby sleeps, you're crying unexpectedly, you have repetitive intrusive thoughts) for more than a couple of weeks and your symptoms are getting in the way of your day-to-day, please reach out for help and support.
It’s often really hard to have a difficult conversation about not feeling ok especially when you’re already feeling depleted after a baby has arrived. I suggest starting conversations with your partner and family about difficult topics before the baby arrives. A suggestion includes discussing with partners how you could share that you’re not feeling ok.
Fortunately, PNDA is highly treatable with the right help and you can feel better. Before you have the baby, it’s a good idea to know where you can find help and support. You can find support at
If you need further help or information about a postnatal plan, check out our range of antenatal education programs – we offer face to face and online options so we have you covered however you choose to do your education. Programs include postnatal plan template