You wrote a birth plan, because birth is a big deal. But did you write a postnatal care plan? After your baby is born, your whole body and mind are in transition. Transition can be so tough, it’s even got a psychiatric label attached to it (Adjustment Disorder). Your body is physically transitioning in crazy, magical ways, and you are mentally transforming to get used to being instantly interrupt-able, having strange sleep patterns, putting yourself second, and grieving your lost carefree past. You are learning to know and love your baby. (Honeymoons were designed to help you love your new partner. Babymoons should also be designed to help you love your baby). Your brain is processing the birth. The list goes on and on and on and on. So, don’t just go home and hope for the best. Here is an example of what your postnatal care plan might look like:
“My Postnatal Care Plan
I have written a postnatal care plan because I very much want to enjoy my first few weeks getting to know my baby. I am aware that I have a tendency to do too much, and to feel guilty when I’m not getting stuff done. I want to ensure that this doesn’t happen following the birth of my baby, and so I am planning how to take care of myself in the first two precious weeks with my baby.
Generally, I wish to spend time skin to skin with my baby, I wish to establish breastfeeding, and I would like my husband to be an integral part of this with us.
Immediately upon coming home:
My husband would like to carry me and our baby over the threshold.
I would like a warm bath with rejuvenating bath salts, and then I would like to get into fresh (new) pyjamas and into our king size bed with new fresh sheets, and my baby.
I would like the lights kept low, my phone and my remote control next to me.
I would like to eat a huge, warm, filling meal of cottage pie and peas, washed down with camomile tea and a glass of champagne.
I would like my husband to join us as much as possible in bed.
For the first two weeks after coming home:
I would like visitors to stay away for at least 12 hours, apart from the midwife and my lactation consultant, who I have pre-arranged support with.
In the first three days, I would like very close members of my family only, to visit.
I do not want my baby to be held by anybody else in the first three days, other than her father.
We have arranged for a food delivery of fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, chocolates and champagne. There are plenty of ready cooked meals in the freezer too.
I have arranged for a cleaner to come in every other day to tidy and clean the house, as per my husband’s requests (she will not clean our bedroom).
I have specific herbal/homeopathic remedies that I will be taking each day.
After the first three days, I have arranged for a postnatal doula to come in and provide emotional and practical support every three days.
My husband will help to ensure that I get plenty of rest, by regularly encouraging me to go to bed, and ensuring that the household and visitors are taken care of.
My husband will take a few hours out of the house each day, to do something to help him to feel refreshed also.
According to how I feel, I plan to spend most of the first two weeks in and out of bed. I might take a walk or potter around the house if I feel restless, but if not, I will stay in bed to recover and adjust, both physically and mentally, and to help me to fall in love with my baby and establish breastfeeding.”
What do you think? If you are thinking “that’s a bit overindulgent” then you are totally not getting how important this time is. If you are thinking “it’s only relevant to rich people” then drop the champagne and the au-pair, but stick with bed and help from family. If you’re thinking “what if I’m a single mum” then think even harder about your postnatal care plan, because support matters, whether its from a husband, a mother, the NHS, a best friend or social services.
It’s my prediction that postnatal care plans will become more and more common. If you’ve ever used one, I’d love to hear from you.
Perinatal Clinical Psychologist