By Josephine Atluri
During pregnancy, a lot of thought goes into the delivery process which gets put into a birth plan that you share with your doctor and your doula if you have one.
The thought that goes into the time after birth typically pertains to baby gear, feeding supplies, and nursery decor that needs to be purchased in advance; no one really thinks about postpartum planning.
Pregnancy is often regarded as three trimesters, but the 4th trimester after birth is an equally important part of the birth of a baby.
What is the 4th Trimester?
The 4th trimester is the twelve weeks after a baby is born. It is the time when the baby is adjusting to life outside of the womb and the new mom is recovering from the new baby’s birth and getting settled into parenting a newborn.
It is a physically and emotionally challenging time of transitions for both mom and baby. In the fog of recovery and lack of sleep due to round-the-clock feedings, it can be tough to figure out what kind of help you need and how to go about asking for it.
Therefore, along the same line of creating a birth plan, it also makes sense to think ahead and have a postpartum planning session to mindfully create the best postpartum plan to set you up for success.
What is a Postpartum Plan?
I like to use the word “proposal” instead of plan because things can change.
If you have your expectations set in stone in the form of a plan, it can create a lot of stress and anxiety when things don’t go according to schedule. This seems to mess up a new mother’s mental health more than it already can be after delivery.
Instead, creating a proposal still lists out your needs but with an underlying tone of flexibility, understanding, and grace.
In my new book, “5 Minute Mindfulness for Pregnancy,” I pair pregnancy and preparation with mindfulness or awareness in order to make the gestational and postpartum periods authentic and intentional to your unique needs.
How to Create a Postpartum Action Plan
Here are some suggestions for what to include in your postpartum care plan/proposal so you can feel fully supported during this momentous transition.
1. Cultivate a Community of Support
Create a list of people that you can turn to and ask for help during the 4th trimester.
These can be dependable friends and family or it can be outsourced help such as babysitters, night nurses, lactation consultants, therapists, etc.
If you can organize these contacts into a spreadsheet, you can share this information with your partner so they can easily call upon help without having to ask you for little details.
2. Create a List of Tasks
Write down the various tasks that need to get done around the house regularly right now before your baby is even born.
Then brainstorm with your partner about the new tasks that will get added once your baby arrives.
Consider picking the brains of friends and family or message boards for things that new parents had to do during this time and add appropriate things to your list.
3. Schedule Time
To ensure that your brilliant ideas actually happen, take the extra step of adding it into your family calendar.
It can be very helpful to schedule some dates for help to come during the first few weeks after delivery so that it is already set in stone.
During your planning session, come up with a postpartum self-care plan. Write down things you enjoy doing during your “me” time and be sure to schedule in some personal time every day during the 4th trimester. It can be something as little as 5 minutes if that’s all you feel like you can manage.
The important thing is to schedule in this me-time so you know you have a dedicated moment to rest, reset and nourish yourself in your day. Self-care is crucial for new moms.
4. Make a List of Supportive Reminders and Postpartum Affirmations
The 4th trimester can be very hard mentally and emotionally because of the newness of your situation mixed with the fluctuation of pregnancy hormones and exhaustion on so many levels.
Prepare in advance to give yourself a boost of encouragement, support, and love by preemptively writing down some reminders of how amazing you are.
Then when you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, break out these written words of encouragement to bolster your mood.
For example, you can write things down like, “I am a goddess who created life.” “I am doing a wonderful job caring for my baby.” “It’s okay to feel what I am feeling.” “It’s okay to take a break.”
If you have a hard time asking for help, perhaps changing your perspective on assistance can help you feel more comfortable. Instead of thinking of help as something that is for you, you can view assistance as something that ultimately benefits your family.
When you are taken care of and feel rested and nourished, you are better able to care for others like your newborn.
5. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Having certain postpartum care routines will help you further take care of your health. From working out to taking time for yourself, everything you do will benefit your mental health and your recovery.
You can get postpartum support even while staying at home!
Drafting a postpartum plan or proposal during pregnancy is a wonderful way to set the tone for your motherhood journey of love and support not just for your baby but for you, the newly born mama, too.
Now, get to postpartum planning mama! It is worth it!