I learned a lot (as most do) after first becoming a mom 3.5 years ago. You do have some warning on how hard it is, but even still it wasn’t until I was actually in it that I learned how unprepared I was. Postpartum was tough for me. I was prepared in all the ways I thought I needed to be before Jaxson arrived. Getting the nursery ready, having enough diapers stocked, picking out a fancy stroller, and preparing from my birth. But I had no idea what to expect once he arrived and therefore no plan.
I thought that I would just figure it out as I go and be able to do what I did before hand, but now with a baby. I also thought I would have so much free time because babies just sleep all the time. Boy was I wrong! I was tired all the time, nursing every few hours so I really didn’t want to do much else.
Where I really had a hard time was cooking and the day to day house maintenance. The first few weeks we had some food brought to us occasionally by family, but the following weeks after when all the visitors slowed down, and my husband went back to work I had to feed myself. Oh, and I forgot to mention that my husband doesn’t cook at all.
Now preparing for a baby the second time around, I find a lot more of the focus has been on postpartum preparations and trying to make things easier in the fourth trimester. I know things will be different and challenging in other ways with soon having a preschooler at home and a newborn, but preparing now where I can will make a huge difference rather than trying to wing in while I’m in it.
Plan meals ahead. You don’t want to have to juggle cooking and a new baby in those first few weeks. (Check out my previous blog post on my postpartum meal prep party). Prepare some freezer meals ahead or see if your family and friends would help by doing a meal train for a few weeks. Also stock up your pantry with essential items that you use all the time. It will save you from unnecessary trips to the grocery store.
2. Create nursing stations
If you plan on nursing, you’ll learn pretty quickly how much time you spend sitting in the same spot day in and day out. Create a basket with all the essentials you need while in those long nursing sessions. I created one for upstairs on my night stand and one in the living room. Items such as water, snacks for me (as well as my son), lip balm, hand lotion and hand sanitizer, diapers and wipes, a pen and note pad in case you need to take any notes, and nursing pads. Include anything else that you use frequently so you have it at arms reach.
3. Stock up on household essentials
Make sure the essential items you use around the house are fully stocked. Toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, dish soap, laundry soap, cleaning products (though you shouldn’t be worrying about cleaning) again anything you know gets used frequently that will save unnecessary trips to the store.
4. Space out visitors
It’s an exciting time! A new baby has arrived, but it is also a very exhausting first few days and weeks. When Jaxson was born I finally got to sleep at 5:00 am (though I don’t think I even slept) and visitors showed up at 8:00 am till about 6:00 pm that first day. We slept another night in the hospital (which again we didn’t sleep much) and when we arrived home the next morning, we had more visitors in and out that day and the few days following. I was exhausted, but felt I had to stay awake and I wasn’t able to go to sleep without my newborn. This time I plan on setting more boundaries. We may not have visitors for the first day or even few and from there maybe one visitor a day for a short visit. Baby will be here for many weeks to come and I learned these first few weeks go by so fast and are so important for me to rest, bond with baby and get nursing off to a good start. Also you may feel you should get dressed when you have company, but stay in your pajamas or comfy clothes. This lets people know you are not back to business as usual and are still recovering and need to rest.
5. Communicate with your partner
This one is so important! You both need to have conversations about the postpartum period and what that might look like. You would be surprised how different your partner may see things from you. It’s hard when you haven’t done it before and don’t know what to expect, but the obvious things like cooking, cleaning, resting, and visitors should all be addressed so no one is surprised once you’re in it. Even still don’t be surprised if you and your partner have some disagreements. Having a baby is a wonderful time, but it is also an adjustment on your relationship too.
6. Clean and organize beforehand
I have no intentions to clean anything for a few weeks postpartum and even still once I do it will be minimal. I have been trying to do a good clean and organize in small phases around the house. Purging some junk, making sure all paper work is filled, completing any unfinished projects, and closets are neat and organized (thanks to Marie Kondo). I have no idea when I’ll be up for these tasks again and I know that I will feel overwhelmed if our house is chaotic when baby arrives. Basically, I’m getting a head start on a spring cleaning.
7. Create a list of things you need help with
After having a baby it’s really nice when visitors come by and offer some help or bring some food! Not everyone will, but when people do offer let them help! Have a list on the fridge of things that need to be done so if someone offers, they know what you need.
8. Pre- baby self care
Treat yourself to a pedicure, facial, massage, or whatever makes you feel good! You may be able to get out in few weeks postpartum, but some moms just aren't up to it or have a hard time leaving baby. I know I did! Knowing that I have already gone for a haircut and a pedicure, it was nice to have some time for me pre- baby!
9. Sleep when baby sleeps
I know this is easier said than done. This is something that everyone told me to do the first time around, but I didn’t. I kept to my routine pre-baby and I was exhausted. Babies only sleep for short sleep cycles and they wake up to eat, have a diaper change and basically go back to sleep again. Being on the same cycle as them will help you feel a lot more rested. This isn’t going to be easy once my husband returns to work since I’ll be alone with two kids but I’m going to do it while I can.
10. Build your village
Just like communicating with your partner, talk to close family and friends that you know will be there to help you postpartum. Have a list of who you can call when you need some sleep, someone to talk to, help with house hold tasks etc. If there is limited support look into a postpartum doula. They help with household tasks, light meal prep, sibling support, emotional support and more!
Everyone has different needs in the fourth trimester and postpartum period. Some have tons of family and support available while others have limited to none. I am a strong believer that new moms should just be focused on rest and bonding with baby in the first few weeks. Everything else can wait. It may be hard to let the cleaning go, not do the things you did prior, but in a few weeks you will get into a rhythm and be more up to doing what you used to. Postpartum is a journey and it doesn't really have an end date either. These tips may not apply to everyone, but they are a rough idea of things to consider that can help make life a little easier the first few weeks postpartum.