Postpartum and Breastfeeding

This Midwife Shares Why You Need a Postpartum Plan

Hayley Oakes

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • What is a postpartum plan?
  • The ideal postpartum support plan would look like this
  • Things you can do now during pregnancy to prepare for the postpartum
  • The Bottom Line

0 min read

Intro

Typically during pregnancy, the birth is all you can think about, much like being engaged to be married and envisioning ‘the big day’. You may spend a lot of time researching the right setting, choosing the perfect planning team, dodging unsolicited advice from family, and asking all your friends about their personal experiences and hot tips for success.

What is a postpartum plan? 

There is so much emphasis on preparing for childbirth – rightfully so, given it’s a massive physical, emotional, spiritual, and sometimes highly medicalized event for both Mom and baby. However, even though the postpartum period lasts days and months longer than the time spent giving birth, very little preparation, mental bandwidth or financial resources are devoted to what happens after the birth.

Medically speaking it takes about 6-8 weeks to recover from giving birth. However, you are considered postpartum for one year, so what does that look like and how do you plan for that?

After having a baby and being discharged from the hospital, it’s customary to not have a postpartum follow up appointment with your primary provider for 4-6 weeks. This is a lot of time for questions, concerns, and issues to arise from all the drastic change that is taking place as you heal from the birth and transform once again into now being a lactation and feeding machine, whilst of course taking care of a newborn. Without proper preparation and planned support, this can be a very challenging and/or isolating experience in which you manage to scrape by sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and under showered. By virtue of this, it is imperative to not only familiarize yourself with the ‘fourth trimester’ but to plan accordingly. You want to stack the odds in your favor of having a joyous and smooth transition to this postpartum period.

Regardless of mode of delivery, you will be bleeding for 4-8 weeks after the birth. Your uterus is making huge efforts to contract itself back down to its pre-pregnant size and position of being the size of a fist nicely tucked into your pelvis. The brain and breasts are also being stimulated 8-10 times a day to produce milk for your baby, which requires a lot of your body’s internal energy. If you are engaging in additional physical activity (including simple tasks like going up and down stairs multiple times a day or preparing yourself a meal) then there is very little energy left for the body to do its work. Healing can be prolonged, breast milk supply can drop and the baby blues and/or more severe mood instability can set in.

So based on the necessary physiologic recovery demands alone, the ideal postpartum support plan would look like this:

For the first 2 weeks:

Mom in bed resting, recovering, and feeding her baby so all other household duties of cleaning, caring for other children or animals is the responsibility of the partner, grandparent, or postpartum doula. It’s hard enough to ask for help in a moment of need and then if you come to find help is not available, it can be soul crushing.

Arrange for in-person help in advance or at least have someone on call so they are ready for duty, if need be.

Plan for a lactation consultant to support you in the early days and weeks. They can bring much needed peace of mind knowing you are on the right track or be incredibly instrumental in troubleshooting latch or supply issues.

For the first 4-6 weeks:

Have a meal train going with friends and family or stocked freezer meals. Not having to make quality meals while in this immediate recovery mode is one less thing to think about. *Pro tip: space these food drop offs every 1-2 days and give the generous participant a heads up that they can either drop at the door if you’re napping or just stay for a short visit (no more than an hour -- midwife’s orders). Having too many people over too soon can be overwhelming for Mom and baby.

Your body has a cocktail of hormones surging through it as it changes hourly and then matched with the physical demands of caring for a newborn around the clock, it’s going to need some extra TLC. Plan for weekly body work in the form of massage/abhyanga and belly binding to support the uterus’ involution process.

Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for lactation support, mental health, and sleep issues.

Pediatric chiropractic care is incredibly helpful for newborn gut, feeding and/or optimal sleep health.

Lastly, but very importantly giving birth brings new life in the form of a baby but also a new role, identity and responsibility of becoming a mother and parent. Mental health check ins with a provider are beneficial for processing and integrating all of these new experiences and moving through challenges with more resilience and ease.

After 6 weeks to 1 year:

You will ‘graduate’ from your primary provider and be considered healed/recovered from the birth. However, there is still recovery ahead after carrying a growing baby for 9 months. See a pelvic floor physical therapist to continue to support your body and regain strength and tone. As long as you are producing milk, you are also producing relaxin (the hormone that keeps bones and ligaments soft) so adjustments and modifications to your daily body mechanics is a must in protecting your back, abdominal core, and pelvic organs.

Things you can do now during pregnancy to prepare for the postpartum:

- Start a registry for these services. Include in your baby shower invite. Little Honey
Money is the perfect platform for this.

- Take a class about newborn behavior or postpartum recovery. This will help
familiarize yourself to the postpartum landscape and manage expectations/roles for
all – including eager grandparents. 

- Set up a bedside diaper changing station to conserve your energy during the middle of the night feeds/changes.

- Set up a bedside essentials basket complete with all of your recovery and newborn needs like nipple cream, newborn nail clippers, burp cloth, non-perishable snacks for Mom, etc.

- Make your own ice pads aka ‘padsicles’ and store in the freezer. These can be used on the perineum post-vaginal birth or over your incision post-cesarean.

Bottom Line

The immediate postpartum is an incredibly special and transformative time of healing, learning, trusting, and watching your baby grow. They say, ‘it takes a village’ and while we may not always have family nearby, if you know what to expect and your options around care, then you can put your village of support into place ahead of time and ease your way into the world as a new mother with a new baby, well cared for.

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Hayley Oakes , LM, CPM

Hayley Oakes is a licensed midwife based in Los Angeles offering integrative prenatal and postpartum care. She has attended births since 2010 as a doula, midwife assistant, apprentice and midwife, witnessing and supporting birth in all settings: home, birth center and hospital. Hayley is the host and creator of Milk Trails, a podcast dedicated to the out-of-hospital birthing experience.