The journey to parenthood is often filled with “plans.” Starting in the earliest of stages, women are often asked to develop a plan for conception, which then evolves to the prenatal plan and of course, the ever popular and frequently discussed birth plan. While I hate to throw one more plan at a new parent, something I have seen to be very helpful for my patients, and which also seems to be gaining in popularity over the past year, is the Postpartum Care Plan. As with any plan, I encourage you to approach this not so much as a set of questions which need concrete answers and which you then must stick to rigorously, but rather, view it through a lense of curiosity and consider what may be helpful to you in the early weeks of welcoming a new baby. Remember always that it is your plan and you are allowed to make changes that best meet your needs. Your Postpartum Care Plan is helpful to share with your support system. Friends and family (be it a partner or even an older sibling) are often eager to help but just don’t know how or what you would prefer. These plans can be a helpful way to provide clarity even for yourself around what could be beneficial support in those first few weeks. There are plenty of wonderful, beautiful, colorful one-sheet care plans available online. Just search it. Some things to consider may be:
This is a major one. One that often produces stress and conflict. Considering when you might be comfortable accepting visitors (be it at the hospital or a month later), how long a visit will last and what visitors could possibly do that might be helpful are all things to think about. It is also ok to let people know you aren’t sure when you’ll be ready for visits and that you will let them know. Having clarity about what your needs, expectations and ideals are and then working on those with a partner or expectant grandparents can be very helpful.
Though not much can be planned in terms of baby’s sleep, having an idea of where you would ideally like the baby to sleep (their own room/your room/your bed), and who will be assisting you in the middle of the night as well as how much sleep you would like to try and get or expect to get, can be helpful guideposts in limiting the intensity of frustration and powerlessness that can arise around issues of sleep…or lack there of.
With feeding it isn’t strictly a question of breast and/or bottle. Think of other ways you (be it you and a partner, you and a night-nurse, you and your mother) would like support while feeding baby. Feeding can be one of the hardest things to determine pre-baby so this area is a good one to remain curious and flexible about. Support may come in the form of someone else getting up and getting baby and bringing baby to you. If you are pumping it’s that someone else in the home cleans the pump or cleans and preps the pump for the next session. The time involved in pumping (set-up and cleaning in particular) is often shocking to new moms. It’s a lot of work!
I’ve seen a major resurgence in this over the past year. I wonder if it has to do with our inability to visit friends or accept visitors into our homes so people reverted to dropping off food or sending gift cards for meal delivery services or restaurants. Whatever the case may be, I’m happy to see its return. What was once commonplace upon the arrival of a new baby – dropping off prepared meals – really had fallen out of style over the past several years. Food is something almost all new parents eagerly welcome. Friends are usually thrilled to drop off food or send gift cards. Letting friends and family know that this is something you would like is important, as people often worry about “bothering” a new family. Other things to consider would be: how many nights to order in; frozen foods to buy at the store; ready to eat items available in the fridge and, one of my all time favorite recommendations from a mom in my post partum group, “Buy things you can eat with one hand that won’t drip.” Seriously.
Self-care often looks very simple and very brief the weeks after welcoming baby. Consider what you may need: an uninterrupted shower; 30 minutes in the house alone to do nothing; going to the grocery store alone; someone else doing, folding and putting away laundry; asking a friend to walk the dog for you; asking a friend to take older siblings to the park. Self-care may not look super exciting when baby first arrives, but it is an important habit to develop and discuss with your support system.
One of the most common things I heard over the years from women in my postpartum group was, “Friends are asking if they can help and I don’t know what to say so I just say no.” The reason for saying no varies and there could be an entire series dedicated to why women decline help. For Postpartum Care Plans though, consider specific tasks you may actually need help with. Often new moms will decline help because they don’t want anyone in the house, “It’s a disaster. It’s too messy.” Or they aren’t ready to see people yet. Fair enough. But there are plenty of tasks friends and family can do without ever setting foot in your home. Here are some: grocery shopping (leave the bags out front); laundry (leave the laundry bags out front for drop off and pick up); dropping off food (again, leave it out front). If seeing people is something you’re comfortable with then here are some things to consider as well: hiring a cleaning service even just one time; asking a friend to ride with you in the car if you’re nervous about driving with baby alone; asking a friend to walk with you, baby and dog if it’s overwhelming to tend to baby and dog at the same time. The list is endless, but the point is to ask OR accept the offers. Again, people are eager to help, providing clarity and direction is often a welcome relief to your support system.
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) at a group practice in Beverly Hills and maintain a private practice in the Los Feliz/Silver Lake area. I provide individual, couples and group psychotherapy to both teens and adults. My practice approaches include, but are not limited to, CBT, EMDR, psychodynamic and mindfulness therapy. I started my career at psychiatric hospital working on both the inpatient units as well as developing and running the hospital’s long-term outpatient Partial Program. I then spent five years at Kaiser Permanente’s LA Medical Center providing individual and group psychotherapy in their outpatient psychiatry department. Women’s health, in particular perinatal health, has always been a passion of mine. While at Kaiser I started their Post Partum Depression/Anxiety Group. As an alum of the Kaiser MSW Training Program, I was excited to join the training team as a clinical educator when I returned as an LCSW. I love collaborating with my patients as they identify patterns, achieve their goals, cope with change and improve their well-being.