How to Survive & Thrive Postpartum

It’s 9am. You’re arriving on the mother-baby floor after being up all day and all night in labor. Your nurse checks you in and then a mass of visitors arrive: friends, family, co-workers, and a million hospital staff. All of a sudden, it’s 9pm and you haven’t slept all day and your baby has barely fed. Just as you settle into bed, hoping to get some sleep, your new little one suddenly wants to be on you ALL night nursing, and the hospital still need labs, vitals, newborn weight, and so on. Sounds ill planned right? Well, here are Windy City Doulas’ tips on thriving, not just surviving, postpartum

Limit visitors in the hospital: Everyone wants to see your new baby, but guess what? You both need to work on eating and sleeping. Limit visitors to those who are very important to you, those who will bring you meals and set visiting hours. Tell people they can come from 11am-12pm and 6-7pm or whatever time frame works best for you. This helps prevent the revolving door and gets you a good lunch and dinner. 

Use your visitors wisely: Put to work whomever you deem important enough to visit. Have them come when your partner needs to run out for something; have them hold the baby after you feed so you can both rest or take a shower. 

Don’t play pass the baby: Babies like to be held - no surprise there. But it can be stressful to a brand new little person to be passed around for hours on end. Many babies will stay “sleeping” when passed around, but really they are trying to avoid the stressful stimuli. These huge chunks of sleep can result in weight gain issues and delayed milk production if your baby isn’t eating often. 

Bring a Bathrobe: Instead of the lovely green hospital gown, bring a robe. This provides easy breast access for moms who are planning to breastfeed and easy skin to skin for clients while still remaining covered for the random pop ins. 

Ask for care to be clustered: When it comes to your and your baby’s care, ask for as much of it to be clustered as possible. If pain meds are at 10pm and vitals are at 11, ask if they can be done together. 

Bring ear plugs and a mask: Take turns with your partner getting good sleep. Rest when you’re not in charge of the baby and do so completely. 

Wake your baby for day time feedings: Babies need a certain number of calories in 24 hours. To help limit all night cluster feeding (there will be some no matter what) make sure to feed your baby often - and thoroughly - throughout the day. If babies sleep for long stretches during the day, they HAVE no choice but to nurse all right long to make up for those missed calories. 

Take a breastfeeding class: Women who want to nurse should take a class. Yes, you have breasts and yes, babies have a natural desire to suckle, but there is more to nursing than just that. Knowing what is normal in terms of discomfort, schedules and so on is very helpful in the beginning. 

Have a postpartum care plan: Most families have a lovely double spaced multi section birth plan ready to go, but rarely do people have a postpartum plan besides: Have baby and come home. Make a plan ahead of time for visitors, food, pet care, and any It is great ahead of time to plan out visitors, food, pet care, and other daily activities. 

ASK FOR HELP: Last, but not least, ask for help. If people are offering, they want to help you. There is no need for you to cook or run errands postpartum. You should be resting and snuggling your little one. Take people up on their offers for dinners, dog walks, laundry service and anything else they’re willing to take off your hands. If you don’t have a tribe in your area, and you just can’t bring yourself to accept “free” help, hire a postpartum doula. Their job is to make sure your body and soul are well slept, well fed and well comforted.  

Samantha Trebilcock BSN RN