So You've Just Had a Baby. Now What?
The initial postpartum period, the first six to twelve weeks after giving birth, is challenging. Whether it's your first baby or your fourth, you are adjusting to having a new member of your family, of meeting the demands of a helpless, dependent being, and of getting to know and love this new little person. Let's talk a little about what you can do to make this time of transition as healthy as possible for you and your newborn as well as the rest of your family.
Enlist someone to organize offers of help
You know you're going to need some kind of help after the baby is born. This can differ from person to person, but most new parents appreciate having others help them in some way, from caring for older siblings, to sending meals, to washing dishes, to folding laundry, to running errands. Figure out what you think you'll need the most help with before you give birth, and then ask someone to be in charge of organizing all the offers you'll (hopefully) receive. This can be a religious community leader, a good friend, a relative, a neighbor, or anyone else you trust and who you know can handle the responsibility. Often someone steps up to be the point person. Tell this person what you think you'll want the most help with and direct all offers of, "What can I do to help you?" or "Do you need meals?" to this person. There are also websites that can help everyone keep track of what needs doing and when.
A few things I can recommend, from experience, to put on the list:
- Help with your other kids: Entertain older siblings, assist with school pick-ups and drop-offs, take your toddler for a few hours (playdates, baby-sitting by grandparents/aunts/cousins)
- Food: Ask people to make meals that can be eaten cold or room temperature or that are easy to rewarm. Specify dietary restrictions, allergies, preferences to the point person.
- Laundry: Newborns generate a lot of laundry, and the rest of the family still needs clean clothes and sheets and towels. If someone can throw in a load of laundry or fold and put away clean stuff, this can be very helpful.
- Kitchen: You can use paper goods for a while, or you can take the offer from someone to wash dishes, load/unload the dishwasher, and put clean dishes away.
- Errands: If someone offers, send them to the store with a specific list of random things you haven't been able to get out of the house to pick up. Maybe you're low on certain staple foods, diapers, or receiving blankets and burp cloths. Be sure to establish how and when you'll be paying them back, or give them cash to take with them to the store.
- Company: Being home with a new baby can be lonely. Sometimes it's nice just to have someone come over with a cup of coffee and hang out. Keep the visits short and to close friends and family, and don't feel obligated to play hostess.
- Baby-Holding: The thing you'll probably both most and least want is for others to hold your baby. Make it clear that what you need help with is everything else, not holding the baby. However, sometimes you just want to take a long, hot shower in peace, and then it's nice to have someone around you can trust to hold the baby for 20 minutes while you take some time for yourself. Alternatively, if you know the baby is content and fed and should be fine for an hour, ask someone to keep an eye on him for you while you take a nap.