Knowledge is power, and the more you know about caring for yourself after giving birth, the more prepared you’ll be to feel your best in those first few weeks of motherhood. After all, whether you’re having your first child or your tenth, every pregnancy is a new experience — and every recovery is different. Taking the time to put together a postpartum care plan will help you feel more empowered and prepared. It’ll also put your partner and support system in the best possible position to take care of you.
After you have a baby, your body needs time to recover. You might be surprised by how tired you are and how much help you need. That’s why it’s important to have a postpartum care plan in place before your baby arrives. Think of this plan like a birth plan, but for the immediate post-birth period. You’re planning ahead for the support you and your family will need.
Your plan will have two broad categories: a list of tangible things you need, and a list of preferences for you and your newborn.
The first part should be the easiest to tackle. You can start compiling lists of what you’ll need and even include some items on your baby registry. Some helpful postpartum supplies may include:
You will need postpartum care for at least six weeks after you give birth. This care may include help with breastfeeding, wound care, and support in caring for any little ones that might already be at home. You’ll want to review your care plan with your partner, family, and any other support you may have (like a postpartum doula).
Six weeks is a suggested timeframe, but you may need longer if you have a C-section or any delivery complications. If you’re delivering your baby in a hospital, you’ll usually stay for observation for at least 24 hours (and sometimes, as long as 72 hours) after delivery. Your personal postpartum care plan should start after your hospital discharge and continue at least through your first follow-up with your health care provider.
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While you can (and should) write notes for your postpartum care, think of this document as more of a conversation. You’ll want to write this plan as you approach your third trimester and share it with your doctor. Your partner should be involved in creating this plan with you.
Here are some questions to talk through as you create your postpartum care plan:
It may seem strange to think of “goals” for something like childbirth. When we use this term, we’re thinking more of the parenting and self-care practices that are important to you. For example, you may want to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, only use cloth diapers, or take fifteen minutes to yourself every day.
After discussing what your goals are with your partner and/or care provider, it is helpful to create a list of what you need to do in order to reach those goals. If this seems too daunting on your own, try making a list with two columns. One column is what you need help with (e.g., breastfeeding support) and the other column is who will help (e.g., nurse). For any items where there is no person listed in the second column, ask for help or consider hiring professional support.
You will need help after you have your baby. In fact, you might be surprised how much help you need. Many new parents say they could not have survived the early weeks without help. And while everyone will say they’re happy to help, that doesn’t mean that you want them to be part of those first few weeks. This is especially true in the case of well-meaning family members who might be very opinionated about your feeding/sleeping/parenting choices.
There’s nothing wrong with being selective about who you see in the first couple of weeks after birth. Let everyone know that you appreciate their support and you’ll be sure to reach out when you need them. Then make a list of people who can help (family, friends, hired help). Put this list somewhere where you can see it often, and add more names as people come up with ideas or offers. That list can be a visual representation of your support system. It will make the people named on the list feel good, and help jog your memory if/when overwhelm starts to set in.
There are a few visits that are a routine part of post-natal care. These usually include care in the hospital (or your place of birth), another visit around 7-14 days postpartum, and a longer check-in at approximately six weeks. It’s important to stay on track with these appointments.
However, in addition to these routine postpartum visits, it’s also important to know which symptoms might be out of the ordinary. Most new mothers are not aware of the changes that their bodies go through after giving birth. Make it a priority to ask your ob/gyn questions if anything seems out of the ordinary. For example:
Part of your postpartum care plan should include movement and gentle exercise. Exercise will help your body heal, boost your mood, and get you out of the house. Talk to your doctor about your current exercise routine and what movements are safe for you after delivery.
Walking is a great way to start exercising after you have a baby. It’s low-impact and can help you ease back into working out. Plus, it’s a great way to get some fresh air and bond with your baby. But, before you start any exercise routine (including something as low-impact as walking) be sure to check with your doctor first, especially if you’ve had any injuries or complications.
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After you have a baby, your pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are stretched and may even tear. This can cause problems with incontinence, sexual function, and even pain. Post-delivery, you should avoid heavy lifting or any strain during bowel movements. Doing pelvic floor exercises can help heal your body and prevent these problems.
If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or a pelvic health physical therapist. They will be able to diagnose any concerns, teach you exercises, and give advice on how to care for yourself after birth.
The first step is knowing what resources are available in your community. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your doctor, midwife, or doula. They can help connect you with resources like lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, and support groups.
You can also ask your ob/gyn or primary care provider about community resources, like parenting classes or local chapters of the La Leche League. Your hospital may also provide access to a lactation consultant or professional counselor. Ask your birth team or other new parents about postpartum doulas, baby-friendly events, and even household help. Sometimes, a referral for a cleaner or nanny can pay dividends.
After you have a baby, it’s important to make time for yourself and your partner. This can be difficult to do, but it’s important to schedule some time each week just for the two of you. This can be anything from going on a date night to taking a walk together. It’s also important to find time to do things that you enjoy outside of being a parent. This can help you feel more like yourself and reduce stress.
As you create your postpartum care plan, include ways to take care of yourself as well as the rest of your family. Schedule a postnatal massage, food delivery, or download a series of books on your e-reader. These small investments in yourself will make you feel more confident and satisfied with postpartum life. Make them non-negotiable.
It’s been said before that “If mama isn’t happy, no one is.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. While you may want to do everything you can for your new baby, one of the most important things you can do is to take good care of yourself. Taking the time to craft a postpartum care plan will help you feel your best and recover from childbirth as smoothly as possible.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Lisa Parsons, DO.
While we hope you’ve found this helpful, we can’t give you any medical advice without knowing your situation. Please reach out to a healthcare provider if you have specific questions or concerns. Nothing on this site is intended to diagnose or treat any illness, and no statement is intended or should be construed as medical or legal advice. Please utilize your best judgement and the support of your doctor when making any decisions about your health.