What do you think of when you hear “Postnatal Support”? Perhaps:
- Hospital nurses who can swaddle a baby in under 5 seconds
- Your mom and your husband
- Hemorrhoid cream (stocked in your bathroom with the hope that you’ll not need it)
- A bag of frozen maxi-pads sitting next to prepared freezer meals
- Your wonderfully comfy robe and breastfeeding pillow that friends say you MUST have
Or maybe, you haven’t thought about postnatal support. Expecting parents are busy with normal day-to-day life, work, prenatal appointments, baby showers, preparing the nursery, and worrying about how birth will go.
My invitation to you: take a deep breath and a few minutes as you read on to consider that elusive future time past pregnancy, when you are home wearing that comfy robe over the belly binder, holding a currently mysterious baby on that currently clean breastfeeding pillow.
Excellent, comprehensive postnatal support involves a mix of professional and personal connections; a community, to give yourself the best start as a new parent. I founded Popins with a passion for planning out this community before baby. So that instead of scrambling to “do it all”, you can give your recovering body, fluctuating hormones, new parent identity and newborn baby the focus and attention deserved.
Experiencing this best postnatal support community takes some effort in the US; our robust prenatal visit schedule nearly disappears after delivery, replaced by frequent pediatric visits and sparsely scheduled (and sparsely attended) check-ups for the birth mom. But, there is a professional community out there (many that you can register for here, on BeHerVillage!), passionately working to change the narrative (and improve the statistics) on birth and postnatal experience in the US and make your entry into parenthood experience safe, healthy, and joyful.
Some personal background: My first baby was born in the Netherlands, where at-home postnatal support was the standard of care. For 6 hours/day for the first week after we came home with our son, our caregiver helped with breastfeeding, bathing (me and him), made sure I was fed and hydrated, and forced naps upon us. When my second was born in Wisconsin, we had more family support on hand; and didn’t really consider lining up professional support.
If I had to do it again (though for the record, I’m not planning to…I have set a VERY CLEAR expectation that I am not responsible for night shifts for any future creatures in our household), I would line up a postpartum doula – because having that person helping me after baby #1 and not after baby #2 was silly. Every baby is different…and life is different each time around. In my case, we were in a different house, I had a different job, and I was already in sleep debt thanks to my early-rising first born. Oh…and we also had a toddler who needed attention.
This is a picture of my first born’s first bath - at home, with our stuff, with support.
This is a picture of my second born’s first bath - in the hospital sink. Her first at-home bath is not pictured, because I was on my own, my clothes covered in water, my bathroom and hall floor covered in water, scrambling for an extra towel because I forgot how exactly we did it before our kid couldn’t hold their own head up. *note - this is not because others were unwilling to help - just unaware. And I didn't think I needed the help.
We had a lot of “Oh yeah, I forgot that” moments that first week (tar poop!). And some “Well that’s different” moments (Good: sleeping for a 4 hour stretch! Less good: figuring out a latch that didn’t involve being chomped on).
As you think about setting up your professional community, here are the top areas of support that we recommend lining up before the baby arrives:
- A postpartum doula for monitoring birth mama’s recovery & coaching baby care.
- Lactation support that you can access immediately.
- Fill in the gaps of your personal support with home/cleaning services.
- Schedule a Mental Health assessment for 2-3 weeks post delivery, and have a list of in-network resources you can access quickly if you or someone on your support team is worried. I feel grateful for my pediatrician who recognized that I was struggling with postpartum anxiety, and who helped me take the first step to getting help.
- Go to your postpartum OB or midwife appointment.
- Schedule a Postpartum Physical Therapy assessment for 6 weeks post delivery to make sure that you are on a healthy path to physical recovery.
If this list is feeling overwhelming based on all the things already on your plate (Prenatal appointments! Work! Pet/toddler care! Baby shower thank you notes!), Popins can help. Our services will help you stress less by saving time and providing you a personalized plan.
I work with some amazing expecting parents: high performers who are used to putting in the work to have things done right and well. Who have put love, energy, and years into building their career. When we talk about preparing their work to be on leave, they worry about how their team members will be supported while they’re out, if their work will be covered well, or sometimes, if their work will be covered so well they aren’t needed anymore. And when we talk about how their at-home preparation is going, they worry about managing their mothers, mother-in-laws, sisters (in-laws). While having a baby is unlikely to magically fix any emotional strain in your adult relationships, you can stack the odds in your favor by looking at the skills & availability different people bring forth, and being realistic about them and yourself. Consider:
What kind of Time will your support team provide? Will you have someone living with you? Stopping by for an hour?
What Skills does your support team bring? Do they like to cook (or not)? Clean? Manage laundry? Care for pets or older kids? For example, if I expected my mom to take care of dinner without input or assistance, she would be stressed out (and so would I). But she jumped right into making sure our dog was fed and walked, kept our toddler entertained, and changed diapers while I showered.
What is The Stuff - on and off the list?
On the List. A friend (due any day now with baby #2) has a “visitor chore list” at the ready. It’s delightfully simple and specific. Someone stopping by for an hour or a week who asks “what can I help with?” can be pointed to the list and make a selection that works for them. Some examples:
Off the List. Keep the things that you are particularly particular about off the list. For example, I know that my husband likes his shirts folded just so…so best if anyone else willing to help with laundry does sheets and towels. A friend likes her kitchen with spotless counters and a folded towel…hanging, not flung carelessly on a surface…so best if anyone willing to help with cleaning stays out of the kitchen (or does it right!).
Looking for help preparing your personal community? Popins Grandma Camp is all about preparing your personal support team – so that expecting parents can know what to expect (and start the conversation in advance of baby’s arrival). In addition to helping start the conversation about who will do what, we’ve brought in experts to bring your support team up to speed on current baby care recommendations and what’s typical versus worrisome related to the birth mama’s recovery.
My wish for you (expecting parent)
I hope that you find your early weeks home with your new baby to be a special time, filled with many moments of joy and wonder, and the community that you need and deserve.
If you would like help creating the best support for your family, let’s talk! And you can of course add Popins to your BeHerVillage Registry. I would love to work with you to stitch together the personal + professional support plan that works for you.
No one’s postnatal experience is perfect. Your experience will be uniquely yours. I hope that when you hear “Postnatal Support”, you think of:
- The pediatrician who told you you were doing great, and encouraged your breastfeeding journey as “a beautiful gift”; without guilt, shame or pressure
- The doula who showed you how to bathe your squishy newborn comfortably (for both of you)
- Your mom or sister who knew the perfect latte to bring you; and kept your household afloat
- The friends and neighbors who unobtrusively brought meals to your door
- The therapist who provided a safe space for you to cry for the whole hour
- The PT who got you on that path to running without peeing your pants
- The sleep specialist who gave you back your ability to function at work
And overall, I hope you think of Your Team - made up of loved ones who are woven into the fabric of your life and those whose brief interaction leaves a footprint on your heart - who came together to celebrate and support your family.
BeHerVillage is helping parents like you get the funds they need for the support they deserve! Are you having a baby and are looking for support? Create a registry for support today and get gifted funds directly into your bank account to pay for your support team. You deserve this.
Are you a birthworker who supports new moms? Use BeHerVillage to help your clients pay for your support. Create your free profile here and you can be the best baby shower gift a mom will ever get!