Preparing your postpartum support network
The onesies are washed, the car seat is fitted and the hospital bag is packed… But have you organised your support network for when you and your baby return home yet?
This isn’t typically something that makes it on to the checklists before you have a baby, but it is something that can have a huge impact on your postpartum experience.
We all know the saying, “it takes a village” but you never really understand it until you have a baby. You might have a doting husband, loads of friends and an eager mum and/or mum-in-law, but taking some time to think about how they can best support you can be a good idea. Even coming up with rosters or allocating tasks can be a huge help and means you don’t have to feel bad about asking because they will just get in and do it.
When you get home with the baby, you might be inundated with messages like “please let me know if you need anything..” but you don’t want to feel like a burden, or you are too tired to articulate what you need. And so you end up saying nothing and then quickly become overwhelmed.
Before you have the baby, have a chat with your nearest and dearest and spell out what ways they might be able to help you best.
They can often feel a little unsure/helpless so if you task them with a specific role like chief bather or head nappy changer they will be able to just jump in without being told.
Grandparents and family members will love forming their own special bond with your little one. Especially mums/mums-in-law who can be invaluable in those early days (you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for them!) But be sure to use their strengths to your advantage. If they are great with the baby and are confident to watch them so you can sleep and rest – great utilise that! But if you can’t relax when they have them and it only makes you worry more, set them on to other tasks like washing, cleaning or cooking.
Friends will often offer up help but we very seldom take it. Suggest your friends make some food for you that can be frozen or ask them to stop and get groceries for you on their way to visit or unpack the dishwasher before they leave. True friends will love helping you out, and if they don’t then they don’t deserve the baby cuddles or your precious time.
You could even ask a good friend to organise all your other friends into a meal roster to make sure you are covered for the first few weeks or a cleaning, babysitting schedule. You can then repay the favour when they have a baby.
If your budget allows, you might want to think about what you can outsource. Make a list of priorities and what you think you will need the most. You might want to get a cleaner in while you’re at the hospital or perhaps you can lock one in fortnightly to ease some of the pressure. Other things such as meal delivery can be great to make sure you are getting healthy meals and not relying on takeaway in those first few weeks when you need nourishment but cooking is out of the question.
You might also think about a postpartum doula to help you out with both emotional and practical tasks. They can do everything from helping with breastfeeding and settling the baby, to postnatal massage, cooking, housework and a shoulder to cry on.
By now you’ve already got your obstetrician and/or midwife who will support you during the birth and recovery in the hospital, but what’s the plan once you get home? Have you got a GP you know and trust or can you look into one in your area? It’s also a good idea to find out where your nearest Early Childhood Health Centre is, this is where you can go to see a nurse for both you and your baby to ask questions, weigh your baby, help with breastfeeding, advice and care.
Pending covid restrictions, mother’s groups are a great way of building a support network in your local area. You will be grouped with other local mums with babies who are the same age as yours and can be an invaluable resource of advice, comfort, support and friendship. They often get a bad wrap but it really is a good idea to give it a few goes before you decide its not for you. Even when you’ve had a sleepless night and its the last thing you feel like doing, talking to other mums who are going through the same things can really help you feel less alone.
Whether due to Covid restrictions, your location, or you’re just keen for extra support – the opportunities online are endless! Virtual mothers groups, support groups, social media, apps, are all there to support and connect mums and can be available any time of the day or night when you need it.
Remember that you’re never alone there are always people there to support you and having a plan in place can help take the pressure off when you’re running off two hours sleep and up to your eyeballs in poopy nappies