When I was about 3 weeks postpartum, I kissed my partner goodbye as he went back to work and I was left sitting on the couch in the middle of winter wondering what was next. It was a bit of a shock. I realized that at least for the near future, every day would look like this: my baby and me breastfeeding at home for hours until my partner finally came home what felt like eons later. I was thrilled about the birth of our baby, but was also filled with anxiety. Was I doing everything right? How did I know if my baby was gaining weight? I was unprepared for how ALONE I felt.
I had low milk supply and was advised the protocol to breastfeed, supplement with formula and pump at least 8 times a day by an IBCLC. It was very challenging, especially trying to do all of this with no one else to hold the baby when she cried. Also, I felt shame and that I was somehow “less than” since I couldn’t feed my baby the way I thought everyone else was, easily and joyfully. It wasn’t until months later that I gleaned that there were many other mothers having the same challenges and were also trying to boost their supply with the same protocol.
I was unprepared. I prepared for almost 40 weeks for the birth of my baby, but hardly thought or even researched what it would be like afterward. Unsurprisingly, I was so excited to meet my baby that I couldn’t imagine it being that difficult after she was born. I would be on cloud nine, right? What was there to really prepare for? I would figure it out.
In retrospect, I wish I had had some help, someone I could have confided in, someone to reassure me and perhaps give me some perspective. I also regret not having more of a connection to other women that were going through the same things and to a professional who could have helped with the feeding protocol, the care of my baby, who made meals and would have helped me to feel less lonely.
Be prepared. Just like preparing a birth plan, create a postpartum plan. Here are some suggestions to start you on your way to visualizing the months after your baby comes and what you may need during the tender, postpartum period.
Who will be there?
Put some thought into what you want the first weeks to look like. Do you want to enjoy your little one exclusively with your partner? Do you want your extended family around you? If so which ones, when and how often? Who will be with you when your partner goes back to work? Consider hiring a postpartum doula who will be there to take of you and the baby, as well as provide excellent referrals for any practitioners you may need postpartum. You may even add this to your registry, it’s perhaps the best gift anyone can give!
Have the phone number of a great IBCLC in your back pocket.
Ask friends who have had a baby, your birth doula or a postpartum doula, for a recommendation for an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in case you need one after you come home from the hospital.
If you have experienced depression or anxiety at times, find a perinatal therapist to call in case you need it postpartum.
1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety. It has been found to be more likely that women will experience ppd if they have struggled with depression or anxiety before or during pregnancy.
Sign up for a new moms support group.
Finding a group of women who are going through the same challenges as you can feel like relief. These women can become your support system. They are the ones you can text at 3 am (because you know they are also awake) and they are the ones to meet for coffee when you have cabin fever. I facilitate the New Parents Support Groups at Bend + Bloom and I’ve been told that groups who met there more than a year ago are still meeting up regularly. Find your tribe.
Set up a meal train (or better yet have a friend do it)
Friends and family who want to help can go to mealtrain.com to sign up to bring you meals. You can set up a schedule and put in any allergies or food preferences and where and how you would like meals delivered.
Make meals ahead of time and freeze them
This is a good time to clean out your freezer to make space for meals that you make ahead and for breastmilk storage.
Take a breastfeeding class
Breastfeeding can feel like a full time job. When you start a new job, there is usually a training period, right? It can be way more challenging to jump in without any preparation. Taking a look at the mechanics of how the baby transfers milk from the breast, can give you a step up when the time comes.
Read some excellent books on postpartum
The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity and Success After Baby by Lauren Smith Brody
Many Bend + Bloom teachers have amazing skills to offer outside of yoga.
Tina Goldstein: Postpartum Doula + Breastfeeding Counselor
Lara Kohn Thompson: Pre and Post Natal Massage and Craniosacral Therapist, Post Natal Physical Training and care, Perinatal Trainer and Educator
Lena DeGloma: Pre and Post Natal Massage, Birth Doula, CLC, Childbirth Educator + Herbalist
Heather Mullen: Int’l Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Denise McDonald: Int’l Board Certified Lactation Consultant
TJ Halliday: Yoga for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma + Loss
Kate Reil: Acupuncturist + Herbalist
Feel free to introduce yourself to them at the studio or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be in touch.
Tina Goldstein is a pre and postnatal yoga teacher, certified breastfeeding counselor, a certified postpartum doula and a mom. She also facilitates the New Parents Support Groups. Her passion and fascination with all things moms, babies, and kids has put her on the path of providing open-minded support to her clients and students whatever their choices may be. Contact her at www.motherher.com