Nevermind a birth plan, it's the post-birth plan that really matters

Women and their families need to have a plan in place for if/when things don’t go as planned.
Women and their families need to have a plan in place for if/when things don’t go as planned.  Photo: Shutterstock

From the moment a woman falls pregnant she is inundated with information around pregnancy and how to take care of herself and her baby throughout the 9 months. As you get further along in your pregnancy you may attend birth classes and you will be encouraged to write your birth plan. We spend so much time focused on pregnancy and birth but what happens next?

I am not saying there isn't a place for a birth plan, most of the time it won't leave your hospital bag but it does get you to consider pain relief options, birth positions and how you want to deliver. As long as you are prepared to be flexible then they are great, but I think more attention needs to be given to the post birth period. When you leave the hospital it's just you and your new family and it can be a real shock to the system.

Women and their families need to have a plan in place for if/when things don't go as planned. So many of us have curve balls thrown at us and are left shell shocked and blindsided in our already vulnerable state.

Here are my top things to include on your post birth contingency plan:

Delivery

Obviously in an ideal world we would all have a calm, intervention free and relatively straightforward birth. Some women will and some women won't. If you end up needing an emergency c- section then you should expect to be out of action for a few weeks.

As scary as it may be for you to think of this happening , if you have a contingency plan in place you will at least have support and assistance ready if you need it. Things to think about are the fact that you will be in hospital longer so older siblings will need care at home, you will be in pain for at least a week post birth.

The hospital will send you home with some pretty amazing drugs but you will still need help lifting the baby for feeds and housework is a big no no. Have someone in mind to come over and help with cooking and cleaning whether its family, an amazing friend or a professional. If you have older children consider the fact that you won't be able to drive for a few weeks and so you may need to call in favours for school or daycare drop off and pick up.

Sleep

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Ok, no woman goes into pregnancy thinking that they are going to be back to sleeping all night immediately after birth but I am yet to meet a mother who has not been completely shocked and thrown by the complete exhaustion. Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion hits hard and when you are in it, it's hard to see your way through or ask for help. We don't want to admit we need help, so many women feel that if their baby isn't sleeping or they aren't coping it's a failure on their part and they need to figure it out alone.

NO. This is the absolute worst thing you can do for yourself and your family. There are no prizes for suffering through depression and extreme sleep deprivation. Before you come home with your baby, look into professionals who can help if you need it. It isn't all about control crying and sleep solutions, find a service that will give you a break so you can sleep or shower or go for a walk. If you can't pay for the service then find friends or family who you can call upon when needed or better yet, book them in advance before you need it so you avoid the burnout altogether.

Most people would love the chance to cuddle a newborn for you so you can take time out. Have the conversation with your partner or close family member or friend before you have your baby around what they should do if they think you may be suffering from post natal depression. Read up on the signs and who to contact for advice and support.

Support

Mothers group will be your lifeline. You may not get along with all of them, they don't have to become lifelong friends but a group of women who have a baby the same age who you can meet up with once a week is amazing. Not only does it give you the chance to connect with women who are going through the same thing as you but it also gives you a reason to get up, get dressed and leave the house. A big effort in the early days!

The purpose of the post birth contingency plan is not to prepare for the worst or worry unnecessarily but it's so important to have a plan in place so you are able to relax and enjoy the first few weeks of motherhood knowing that if you need it, help is there.

Breastfeeding

If you plan to breastfeed your baby there is support out there for you. There are usually workshops held in the hospital and midwives will check on you to assist with correct positioning and latch. What you need to plan for is what you will do if issues arise or you are struggling. 

Who can you contact if you suspect tongue tie or reflux or pain outside the norm? Ask around for recommendations for lactation consultants and save their details.

Formula

There are so many different brands and types of formula available. Do your research on which you think will be suited to you and your baby. 

Try to choose one that is fairly mainstream so you aren't stuck trying to find a place that stocks yours. Some GPs will have sample packets that they will give you if you ask or you can have a couple of different tins ready to test out. If your baby doesn't like one or reacts to it take a look at the ingredients and ratio of casein to whey component in them as this can make a difference. Some babies just don't like the taste of certain formulas so it can be a bit of trial and error.