By Jayme Jo Ebert
You’ve had the baby shower, washed and folded all those sweet little clothes, and set up an Instagram-worthy crib. What more is there to do but wait?
Many of our clients come to us so fully and wonderfully prepared for everything right up to the moment their little one(s) arrive. It is oftentimes only until the day they get home that the stark realization sets in: “I WASN’T READY AT ALL!!!” Having a baby is truly a tricky thing to get your mind around. We tend to prepare as if this little human comes just needing the basics: clothes to wear, breastmilk or formula to drink, and something to put bodily waste in. While all of these things are a great start, it isn’t until one sees the reality of life with a new baby that they can start to bridge the gap in understanding, the HOW in all of this. How do I dress a newborn? How do I learn to breastfeed? How do I find time to eat or sleep or pee? How often do I change diapers? How do I manage eager visitors? How do I begin to heal my body? How do I process this huge change in my life?
This “how” is precisely why we do the work that we do. Because nobody goes into parenthood knowing all the things, because we are new parents with each new child we have, because we aren’t supposed to do the hard and beautiful work of the postpartum time alone.
So how do you prepare for the reality of bringing a new babe home? The answer, put simply, is to get really honest and really really practical. These four tasks, developed from our hundreds of hours with postpartum families, will leave you much closer to where you need to be. The only thing left really, will be to meet your new love. So without further ado, here we go.
Create a breastfeeding space (or a few of them)
A majority of the mothers we work with intend to breastfeed, but as expected (especially if it’s their first time) don’t really know what it’s going to look or feel like until baby arrives. The reality? You will spend a majority of your day (and night) feeding a baby, regardless of your feeding choice. Newborns have very small stomachs that need to be filled frequently in order for growth to happen. It’s very normal for newborns to feed every 1-3 hours, totaling up to 10-12 feedings (or more) every 24 hours. This is physically very demanding and will require lots and lots of time sitting. So let’s make your sitting situation fit for a queen. Find the most comfortable chair in your house, add a few pillows and a small table next to it with a basket on top. Fill this basket with everything you think you might need: a large water bottle, snacks (think one-handed), remote, phone charger, chapstick, nipple cream, burp cloths, and more. Baskets are great for this because they are portable, and make gathering what you need to hunker down for a while that much easier. It’s great also, to make more than one of these breastfeeding spaces, one on each floor preferably, so that you can feel comfortable wherever you might be.
Make all the food
If you are breastfeeding, you can bank on being very very hungry. An average breastfeeding mother will need to consume an extra 300-500 calories a day, over what she normally eats. To put it simply, you need food to make food. The big problem here tends to be that because mothers who are breastfeeding are breastfeeding all the time, the chance to eat with both hands is a rarity. So when you are stocking up on all the food for your postpartum time, think about things you can eat with one hand. Being that breakfast and lunch tend to happen while help is not around, it’s great to focus on quick lunches and breakfast items in addition to a few dinner meals. Some of our favorite foods to prep ahead are as follows: breakfast cookies, lactation bites, soups, breakfast sandwiches, comfort meals (like enchiladas or lasagna), egg muffins, burritos, and more.
Organize your village
Unless you are far from home or new to town, it’s likely you will have lots of vague offers of help after baby comes, which usually results in folks knocking at your door while you are sitting just inside, not having showered for three days and looking like you’ve been through some stuff. Truth is, most of your people want to help just as much as they want to hold that brand new baby. They just don’t know how. This is where you come in. In our experience, working these logistics out before baby comes will save you lots of stress and help others to support you the way YOU need it, which in turn makes you both feel really good. So see if you can answer some of these questions before labor:
-When do we want visitors? (right away, after two weeks, in hospital or no?)
-Who am I comfortable with seeing my breasts? (because the girls are gonna be out)
-Who can we ask to do some practical things? (dishes, laundry, trash out, shoveling, mowing)
-Do we want a time limit for visitors or just a code word for “I need them to leave now”
-Is there anyone we don’t want to come over?
Have a think about self care
While exactly none of us knows how our birth will go, there are some common threads in the needs of both vaginal birth and cesarean birth mothers. You will need rest, lots and lots of rest. Your body just did a huge amazing thing, and you need to pay attention to what it’s asking of you in return. We also know from research that the more rest, particularly sleep, a postpartum mother gets early on, the quicker and more effective her healing will be. Think of it as an investment that will pay off greatly as you walk through and beyond the fourth trimester. Prepare for the 5-5-5 rule: 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days near the bed. This gives you a solid two weeks of focused intentional rest. It also helps to get your priorities in order when it comes to those eager visitors. They will get to see the baby, but they don’t get to make the rules. It sounds a little harsh, but these boundaries are so absolutely essential to your family’s health and well being in this huge transition. Think also about what you (and your partner) need to do everyday to be okay. Is it a walk? A shower? Time with a friend? Exercise? A clean kitchen? Whatever it is for you, make space for and organize your resources around making sure it happens every day. Self care is what tethers you to who you were before this baby, and to who you are (and what you need) in the now. Make it a priority.