If you're pregnant with your first child, you're about to be initiated into a club like no other: parenthood. Although millions of people become mothers and fathers every day, the profound and permanent impact and the magnitude of this transition -- from taking care of yourself to being completely responsible for another human being -- are not given due diligence in society. Bringing home a newborn is a hit the ground running life experience for which you cannot completely prepare or understand before your baby is in your midst. While parents immerse themselves in the world of maintaining a healthy pregnancy and prepping for childbirth, the vital work continues postpartum -- and most don't have a plan of action in place. In addition to writing a birth plan, you should also write a postpartum plan. Here are several things to consider getting in order before you cross the threshold of your home with your bundle of joy.
1. Can Dad Take Paternity Leave from Work?
The first weeks home with your newborn will no doubt be enchanting and invigorating, but they will also be emotionally and physically demanding and exhausting. If it is at all possible to have your partner along for the ride, it’s an experience that you will both benefit from sharing. Not to mention, you can divide the workload, especially if you have other children at home to care for. Paternity leave rights and allowances vary from state to state, and country to country, and reimbursement will also depend on your husband’s place of employment and insurance carrier. Get the ball rolling on figuring out the details mid-way through your pregnancy, as figuring out a leave requires the company to plan for a temporary replacement, and typically requires a lot of paper work, negotiation and back and forth.
2. Be Prepared to Care for Baby and Yourself & Stock Your Home with Essentials
Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, have some organic, eco-friendly formula on hand in the event you aren’t producing enough breast milk in her initial days of life to sustain your newborn. Know who your baby’s pediatrician will be, and have the number to a local lactation consultant in the event you need to make an appointment or a phone call with questions about nursing. Have a breast pump ready to go in the event breastfeeding gets off to a shaky start and you become engorged or need to pump to increase your milk supply. Be well supplied with diapers and all of baby’s essentials so you won’t have to worry about making trips to the store. Also, stock up with things you may need to heal after giving birth, such as this Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Recovery Kit that our Senior Editor Jasmin was happy to have in arm’s reach.
3. “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps”
As a Type-A personality, this advice, which was given out to me on a daily basis in those first few weeks, always annoyed me. How am I supposed to sleep when I have so much to get accomplished? I need to clean the house, make a deadline, take a shower! But in hindsight, I should have caught some much needed zzz’s. Those were the good ol’ days, because now I’ll have a 3-year-old to look after in tandem with a newborn, and napping isn’t even an option!
4. Request Friends & Family to Hire You a Postpartum Doula as a Collective Shower Gift
When it comes time to celebrate your baby shower, skip the things you don’t need and ask revelers to pitch in to hire you a postpartum doula. The extra help and expertise will come in handy a lot more than that designer onesie, which will fit your baby for precisely one hour before she outgrows it. Decide what you need in a postpartum doula — whether you’d like her to strictly help with the baby, or whether you’d like to enlist someone who may also lend a hand with cooking and light cleaning.
5. Prep Meals in Advance or Ask Friends & Family to Deliver Meals
You can bet one of the last things you’ll want to do in any downtime is prepare or even think about what to prepare for a meal. If you’re able to pre-prep and freeze some food during the final weeks of your pregnancy, do so. Or, when friends and family call and ask what they can do to help, ask them to bring over a meal that will last three days! A giant, undressed salad, a casserole, a lasagna…
6. Call on Extended Family to Give You a Break from the Baby
If you live near family, ask them for their help! They’ll be delighted to hold the baby. Even if it’s just to take a shower, taking a break from your baby will behoove your mental health. Especially if you’re nursing every two hours, it will help to schedule some sanity-saving me-time. Whether you and your husband go for a walk to get some fresh air, or you take a nap together, when you re-charge you’ll be a better parent.
7. Hire a Green Cleaning Service
The housework will certainly take a backseat to baby-rearing, so if you’re worried about keeping your home clean, you might want to consider hiring a green cleaning service to come intermittently throughout the first six weeks of your baby’s life. During this time, you’ll also be healing from giving birth, so the lighter your workload, the better.
What are your best tips for making the postpartum period go smoothly? What do you wish you had planned for when you brought your first baby home? Please share in the comments below!