You’re adding a new baby to your family, and you may have gotten the advice that you should accept all the help your village will give you. But what if your friends and family can no longer be there in person? If you’re facing this situation, you’re not alone. There are a few things you can do before welcoming baby that will make life easier, especially if you can’t have the in-person support you may have envisioned.
Write it out
As a postpartum doula/new parent educator duo, we help families create postpartum plans so that their lives are as joyful and functional as possible when baby arrives. A written plan gives you something that you can easily share with your partner, friends, and family when they want to know how to better support you after the baby arrives. You can make a postpartum plan after your baby has arrived, but it’s ideal to create it before he or she is born. Write down the strategies that will work best for you, then put the list somewhere where everyone in your household can see it!
Find mental healthcare support before you need it
Identify a few mental healthcare providers that you can call on if you need additional support after your baby arrives. Do a little research and write down their contact information in case you need it in the weeks after welcoming your baby. The best time to figure out if a therapist or psychiatrist accepts your insurance or does telemedicine is before you need that information. However, it’s never too late to find mental healthcare. Some of our clients go ahead and schedule a first visit (for them solo, or for them and their partner) in advance just to have it on the books. Your obstetrical care provider is also a good resource since they most likely have menatla healthcare providers they routinely work with.
Cut down your list of what you think you need to do and then cut it down again. Once you’ve prioritized your to-do list, delegate everything you possibly can. Write down some concrete ways people can help you. Can a friend pick up a bag of laundry from your front porch and wash it (or take it somewhere to have it washed)? Can someone be the “communication point person” for a larger group of friends and family so you don’t feel pressured to send out a ton of baby updates?
Make a plan for food
As parents, we always make sure our kids are fed, but sometimes we forget about ourselves! This is where you can use your support system. Let friends (even if they’re far away) organize a meal train, grocery delivery, or send restaurant gift cards. Just make sure to communicate your needs and desires well in advance. People want to feed you, and if you’re not comfortable with home-cooked food, or carryout, tell your friends and family! And remember, gift cards (to grocery stores, restaurants, and food delivery services) are the perfect thing for people who don’t live close by to send your way. Record (and communicate) a few strategies for making sure everyone in your home gets fed.
Decide on strategies for getting sleep
Think about how you can get sleep in those first few weeks. If you’re partnered, this is a big one to discuss! One of our favorite tips to give clients is to sleep in shifts. If you don’t have the extra hands you thought you would, you still have to find a way to get sleep. If there are two adults in the home, break up the night into two shifts and take turns being “on”. If it’s your shift, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stay awake and listening for the baby’s cry. It does mean that you have to get up and let your partner sleep if the baby wakes during your shift. If one of the partners is breastfeeding, the other will bring the baby to them for their feeding during their shift and then handle any diapering or changing of the baby, as well as putting them back to bed.
Plan to use shift sleeping, plus naps, incorporating bottles and pumped milk or formula (as appropriate) and creative scheduling as strategies to get enough sleep! Record a few strategies for getting sleep on your plan.
Your future self will thank you
A solid postpartum plan is a gift to your future self. By thinking through these strategies and writing down some tools you can incorporate into your life after baby arrives, you’re anticipating future issues and addressing potential obstacles before they become an issue. Although your support plan and day to day life may not look like you expected, having a detailed (but flexible) strategy will help you make the most of those first few weeks at home with your new baby.
Candy Baracat-Donovan and Tiffany Miller of Like A Sister: We're two real-life sisters, currently with four kids between us. In having our most recent babies together, we came to appreciate that we had something lots of people don’t – a sister! Everyone deserves that kind of support, but most people don’t have it built in. So, we started Like A Sister to provide expecting and new families support for everything from educating themselves to creating and executing a postpartum plan.
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