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  • Writer's pictureJulianna Werner

How to prepare for postpartum – 4 tips from a postpartum doula

Have you considered what you can do in advance to make things easier for yourself during the first weeks of motherhood? Being responsible for a newborn baby around the clock can sometimes feel overwhelming. Many new parents also face challenges related to things like sleep deprivation, the body's recovery after childbirth, and initiating breastfeeding.

Below, I've listed my best tips for how to mentally and practically prepare for this special time and promote a positive start for you and your baby.

1. Fill the freezer with nutritious food

Being able to eat and feel satisfied is one of our most basic needs. Extra nutrition and energy are also needed to support the healing process and milk production. Dedicate the last weeks of pregnancy to cooking and freezing portions of stews, soups, and casseroles so that you have access to frozen ready-made meals when, due to the baby's constant need for closeness and your own limited energy resources, you are not able to spend longer periods in the kitchen.

Choose dishes that are especially meaningful to you and provide a sense of familiar comfort. Invite friends who want to help prepare the food and take the opportunity to talk to them about your expectations for the postpartum period and what you may need assistance with down the line.

2. Teach someone to prepare herbs for tea and peri-care

Herbs have traditionally been used in postpartum care, and even today, many mothers choose to use traditional medicinal plants to promote physical and mental recovery after childbirth. Herbs can be used to calm the nervous system, regulate hormones, and for their anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.

A cup of soothing herbal tea during breastfeeding can serve as a reminder to relax and unwind, making it easier for milk to flow. A daily sitz bath with aromatic herbs can become your sacred postpartum ritual. Also, fill your peri-bottle with the same healing herbal infusion that you use in the sitz bath and spray it on the vulva and perineum every time you use the toilet.

A tip is to teach your partner or another support person in advance how to prepare teas and infusions for peri-care. You can also write instructions that you place, for example, inside the kitchen cabinet or where you store the herbs to guide whoever will be taking care of you after childbirth. Remember that the dried herbs should be stored in a dark and airtight container to preserve their therapeutic properties.

3. Consider how you will create opportunities to rest

Dedicate at least a month to physical and mental rest. Rest facilitates the physical, hormonal, and emotional adjustment after birth. By saving your energy reserves, adjusting to the baby's irregular sleep patterns also becomes somewhat easier.

When you rest with the baby skin to skin, the hormone oxytocin is released in both of you. You feel more synchronized with your baby and your relationship strengthens. Oxytocin release also helps your uterus contract back to its normal size and bleed less.

Creating opportunities for rest involves delegating your normal everyday chores to others and removing anything that may hinder you from relaxing. These obstacles may include piles of dishes and laundry, blinking and beeping electronics, and curious visitors who come to see the baby.

4. Hold on to what is important, let go of what you don't need

Becoming a parent is a huge adjustment. You will see yourself differently, and if you have a partner, your relationship will also change. It can be valuable to think in advance about which aspects of your identity are important to you and which you want to maintain into parenthood.

You may also want to consider how you define being a good enough parent. Write down at least 20 points that you then sift through until you only have left those that you really want to hold on to. If you have a partner, you can do this exercise together. Keep in mind that what seems important now may not feel important later. Be open to the possibility that your values may change.

Preparing for postpartum largely involves preparing your close ones for what you will expect from them and how they can best assist you. You will be more dependent on others than usual during this short but transformative period in life.

Even if you don't have many friends and relatives around where you live, you can create good conditions for a safe and positive start by prepping the practical aspects, talking to your partner if you have one, and looking for professional postpartum doula support.

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