Postpartum Essentials for Mom and Dad

By Jess Pacchione

May 18, 2020

Jess is a Pediatric Nurse, supporting families as The Mama Coach in Portland, OR. She is a Mama herself to the funniest baby boy (admittedly she's a little biased) and a handsome Vizsla pup. Also, her husband can tell you who won any NCAA Final Four game since 1985.

So, you are packing your bag for the hospital, maybe even helping your partner pack his too (see my last article here for a dad’s packing list!). You might be wondering, what is my life going to be like when I finally need to use this bag? I was lucky to have a few wise voices in my life that spoke some great advice in those last weeks of pregnancy, and I’m going to share some of that wisdom with you now!

A post-birth hospital plan for Mom.
Most people spend a lot of time on their birth plans, covering everything from the first pangs of labor to baby’s first vaccines. What often gets forgotten is what you need for yourself after baby is born. This could look like a short checklist of must-haves (like a chocolate milkshake as your first food, just as an example) and definitely-not’s (hello unannounced visitor while topless and trying to breastfeed for the first time). Think about what you want the environment to be like for those first 24-48 hours. Do you want music? Some essential oils diffusing? Your favorite lotion? What makes you feel comfortable and at ease? Write that down and bring it with you. If your partner knows where the list is, he won’t have to ask you a million times which flavor of milkshake it was supposed to be again.

A postpartum healing plan.
I had an amazing doctor in my corner. She spent so much time with me during prenatal appointments, making sure I had a plan for my own healing postpartum. Top three on the list? Rest. Nourishment. Hydration. These sound super simple but in that immediate postpartum period you can become so focused on keeping your newborn alive that you forget your own basic necessities. Recruit your partner to help with this. He can keep your water bottle filled and close by you at all times. He can care for baby for a half hour so you can shower and comb your hair. Make sure you continue your prenatal supplement regimen. Those vitamins you took while baby was inside you will continue to help nourish you and your growing baby once he’s on the outside!

A postpartum sanctuary plan.
In many cultures around the world, the immediate postpartum period is considered a sacred time. The mother rests while other family members and friends take care of everything else. There are a few things you can think through (and write down!!) before baby arrives.

First, who is on your care team? Write down the names and phone numbers of your most important people. Second, who are friends you can call? Write their names and numbers down too. Your partner might need to reference this list and call them on your behalf if you’re having a rough time (speaking from personal experience). Next, what are some nourishing foods that you love? It’s easy to reach for the ice cream every time because it feels good in the moment, but if you’ve taken time to write a list of nourishing foods, and better yet premade some of these foods and stashed them in the fridge or freezer, it will be much easier to say yes to caring for your body. Now, what are some things that make you happy? Just a short list of 3-4 things that bring you joy. Mine included: A clean house and a great nap. This list helped my husband be able to increase my happiness without me having to remind him that I love a clean kitchen. And lastly, what are 3 daily necessities? Do you have a few non-negotiables that make you your best self? For me, these were: A good coffee, 30 minutes of alone time, and sleep. We almost always managed to get me the first 2, and even though sleep was tricky, sneaking in naps here and there helped me to be a better version of myself.

Items to care for your postpartum body.
I have written (reach out to me if you want the links!) a long list of essential items for the care of your postpartum body. I had a rough labor and a long recovery. I won’t put the whole list here, but my top items are:

  • A peri bottle like the FridaMom Mom Washer. You will NOT want to use toilet paper for a while. Invest in a good peri bottle, your peri will thank you.
  • An herbal peri spray or bottom balm.
  • Padsicles. My mom made me a big batch of them and I used them for weeks. There are many tutorials on youtube for how to make them. Basically, it’s a giant pad that you soak with witch hazel and put in the freezer. It will soothe your swollen peri like you wouldn’t believe.
  • Mesh underwear (so you don’t have to steal extras from the hospital) and large menstrual or postpartum pads. You might leak fluids for a while. And especially if you have a c-section or stitches from tears, you’ll be caring for wounds for a while. Mesh undies are great because they are so stretchy, lightweight, and you throw them in the trash! You do not want to be trying to scrub blood stains out of your favorite underwear, trust me. Get the disposables.

A list of your people.
Write a list of the people in your life who will be coming around in those first few months of baby’s life. Write them in two columns. One column is the helpers and the other is the visitors.

The helpers are those people who will step in to help with things around the house, hopefully without you even having to ask. They will scrub your toilets and your kitchen, restock your fridge, mow your lawn. If you want them to, they will hold your baby. But mostly they will be there to help you, however you need them to.

The visitors are those people who love you and will come over, maybe even bring you food, but mostly they just want to hold the baby. They have good intentions, but holding the baby so you can scrub the toilet is really not what you need in those early weeks.

The first 2-4 weeks should be filled with helpers. This is when you need the most support. Visitors can wait. Keep those lists on your phone or a shared document with your partner, do not post them on the fridge in case your Aunt Martha sees that she’s been put on the visitors list…

A plan for designation of tasks in your household.
Before baby comes, sit down with your partner and talk through all of the jobs that will need to be done around your house and for your baby during those early weeks and months. Who is going to do them? Is one of you all about grocery shopping? Or do you get queasy when you smell poop? Talk through who is going to change diapers (it can be both of you!), feed baby, feed yourselves, do certain chores, and walk the dog. Having planned out ahead of time who is responsible for those recurring chores is so helpful so that you aren’t arguing over who’s supposed to be keeping the dog exercised while you are bleary-eyed and sleep deprived.

A Meal Train™ (or some plan for food to show up at your house without you cooking it).
For the first week or so of our son’s life, my mom brought us takeout or made us meals. Truthfully she did so much for us during that time that I can’t even remember it all. But my point here is that we didn’t have to think about or be responsible for getting ourselves fed. A close friend then set up a Meal Train online for all of our friends near and far to send us meals for 3 months. It was 3 months before we had to start making dinner for ourselves again. This was a huge gift. We asked for meals 3 nights a week with enough servings for 3 people plus some leftovers. This allowed for some variety in our food but not new food every night that we felt like we had a homework assignment to eat it before the next friend stopped by.

Bonus tip: before baby is born, make a list of your favorite pantry and fridge items that you always like to have on hand. For example: A half gallon of organic whole milk, a bag of Second Nature Wholesome Medley trail mix, and watermelon cut into cubes. Be specific so that one of your helpers can look at the list (which you’ve posted on your fridge) and notice that hey, that milk is getting empty or hey, there’s a watermelon that hasn’t been cut yet, and they can then help ensure that your list is complete. The best part is that you won’t have to tell them what you’re missing!

Now, what about Dad?
Well, this whole article has sorta been about Dad too. Yes, your life has also been turned upside down. Yes, you are also bleary-eyed and sleep deprived. And yes, you had your own experience of the birth of your child. Your job, in those first weeks especially, is to do everything you can to support your partner who is not only recovering from a major physical endeavor but is also dealing with surges of hormones, pain, and she’s still the only one keeping your baby alive (well, unless you’re formula feeding, then maybe you’re helping with that too, thanks Dad!).

My point here is that she needs you to be strong. She needs you to anticipate her needs and if she asks you to do something, to jump up and do it immediately. Go find all those lists that the two of you made together before baby was born, the ones about people and happiness and healing. Do what you can to help her get the needs on those lists met. Listen carefully, observe carefully, and you’ll be able to see what she needs. And if you’re still not sure, reach out to those friends she put on her list, they’ll be able to help you figure it out.

Want some help making your plans? Or to learn about newborn care? Reach out to your local Mama Coach! We can help. We are, afterall, here to make motherhood easier.

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