Wondering how to take care of yourself with a newborn baby at home? Use our best tips to prepare for postpartum during your pregnancy. (Grab a free postpartum starter plan below.)
Most expecting moms prepare as much as they can for bringing a baby into this world. They take labor and delivery classes, they set up a baby registry to stock up on essential newborn must-haves and they research all about things to expect while expecting.
But rarely do they prepare for the aftermath as a new mom recovering at home with a newborn baby — especially how to take care of themselves — postpartum body and mind included.
This was exactly my story when I brought home my first baby after a four-day c-section recovery in the hospital.
But I was lucky to have my mom around to help for the first couple weeks that followed. She was much-needed support for cooking, cleaning, and looking after me. Every time I finished feeding baby, she insisted I take some time to shower, nap, or eat. Even when I thought I could do it myself, she would reach for my arms to help me stand without straining, adjust the pillows around me and remind me to take it easy.
In short, she was my personal doula…and what I needed most during those early days home as a first-time mom. Because when it was time for her to go I realized just how lost I would have been without her help….
Why You Need to Have a Postpartum Plan Ready
Today more than ever, moms are understanding why preparing in advance for life after baby is critical to their family’s overall well-being. The first few weeks home with a newborn are eye-opening.
With a postpartum plan, you can better manage stress and anxiety that might follow, especially when you’re no longer in the care of nurses and doctors at the hospital. Because we all know without a caregiver at our side, things aren’t so easy.
A little planning will help you feel confident about recovery next steps once you are home with a newborn baby.
And then an extended plan sets you up for long-term success the following months when your back-up or full-time help at home is gone (think: your spouse going back to work or your mom/doula away).
This extended postpartum time is just as critical to prepare for, as it is a time you will be alone, and thus most vulnerable to things like postpartum anxiety or depression.
Grab the FREE Postpartum Starter Plan to help you during this fragile recovery time.
Tips to Prepare for Postpartum Recovery
So while baby’s due date is approaching, make sure you address all of the major areas within your postpartum plan. Below are a few ideas to get you started!
Find a support network
The most important part of setting up a plan for postpartum recovery is finding support.
Will your partner be around to care for you? Do you have family coming to help? Or will you have to hire outside support?
Figuring out who will be there to take care of you, is the first step.
Because as baby’s main caregiver — feeding, changing and rocking through the exhaustion — you cannot neglect your own self-care plan. Your new role will include daily care of your postpartum body, taking it easy, washing and nourishing yourself to ensure you are strong enough for your new motherly role.
If you do one thing, remember to make arrangements for the first few weeks back home for a smooth transition.
Prepare meals in advance
I felt very lucky to have my mom with me for a couple of weeks postpartum — along with support, it meant I didn’t have to stress much about meal prep or cooking. One less thing I had to worry about!
But when it was time for her to head home, reality struck: I was still in this exhausted new mom / postpartum period left to figure things out alone.
So most of the time, when I was hungry, I just grabbed whatever packaged snacks were in the pantry or whatever was quickest to make so I could get back to baby. And as a breastfeeding mama, with a ravenous new appetite, those pb&j sandwiches just weren’t cutting it.
That’s why I strongly recommended new moms prepare meals in advance.
Because your help won’t be there forever. And when you’re still recovering, going on little to no sleep, and hungry, it’s critical to have healthy food options ready to go.
I will admit, I struggled with finding healthy options initially in my postpartum season — often having to eat the processed prepacked muffin, granola bars, cracker, snacks in the pantry.
Here are a few great options for making healthy food choices postpartum:
- Grocery delivery
- You won’t be able to drive for some time, as you recover from birth anyway, but the last thing you’ll want do is go grocery shopping. Get groceries delivered with a service like InstaCart or Peapod.
- Freezer Meals
- Prep meals in advance and freeze them. This usually works best for dinner meals, but you can also do this for pasta, casseroles to make for lunch.
- Healthy, prepped snacks
- Have a readily available stash of fruits and veggies. Bananas and oranges are great no-prep options loaded with potassium and Vit C to fuel up. For the fruits that need to be prepped (strawberries, melons, peppers), cut them up to munch on or add to smoothies!
- Also, think about small portions you can throw into a salad for extra protein — cheese, eggs etc.
- Stock up on healthy granola bars — not the overly processed types because the extra sugar that will keep you up when it’s time to rest.
- Meal Train
- I wish I knew about meal trains during my pregnancies — it was only recently that I discovered this as a real system families use. The basic idea is that friends and family, sign up to cook and deliver a meal of your choice to help you ease into your new mom role — such a kind gesture!
Have a plan for the division of labor
Surely you won’t be expected to do much after actually going through labor, right?!
That’s what we all deserve. But the truth is unless you have extended help at home, you’re eventually going to have to deal with household duties…ahem, laundry. Because newborn babies go through clothes, bibs, and blankets so fast!
You can use this simple postpartum template to start planning ahead and have an action plan for managing household duties — whether you decide to hire help or split household duties with your partner, make sure you talk about it beforehand so you aren’t worrying about the little things when the baby arrives.
I will say, that if anyone is asking what you’ll need most (in your baby registry) request Visa/Amex gift cards you can use towards a cleaning service. My mother-in-law paid for a cleaning lady when we had our first baby and it was a huge help!
Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health
One of the often-overlooked areas of postpartum recovery is mom’s mental health. It’s an area that doesn’t get much attention unless there is a clear history of issues.
But as a new mom, it’s natural to experience a range of emotions — you just brought a new creature into the world which is sure to leave you hormonal. While you experience profound joy with your new baby, it’s natural to also feel a bit of overwhelm, anxiety, and even sadness from time-to-time.
It’s when these feelings persist for weeks on end or even months and bring you to a negative place that you have to take seek further help. Those are red flags to look out for.
So it’s important to have healthy mental breaks to turn to for when you need to recharge. Things that can provide you a sense of normalcy and reassurance like:
- Fresh air
- Walks around the neighborhood
- Friends or family to talk to
Think about how you can take care of your mental health when filling out your postpartum plan.
Other things to consider
One last thing to consider as you prepare for postpartum is child care.
This is a must if you have more than one child — make arrangements for help those first couple of months.
Will you have a mother’s helper or sitter? Will your older child be going to nursery school?
Line up help for when you need to get out of the house, have a date night, or just catch up on sleep.
Keep all this in mind as you build your postpartum plan.
So as you prepare for the arrival of your bundle of joy, remember to also take the time to plan out exactly how you will care for yourself with a new baby at home. When you do this, you’ll find this new chapter in your life to be a more manageable positive experience.
Don’t forget to grab your FREE postpartum plan — to help make your time home with baby easier than ever!
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported hundreds of thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a blogger and maternal health advocate at MommysBundle.com.