Let’s state the obvious: recovering after you give birth is SO important. Each time I’ve had a baby, I learn a little bit more about how to set myself up for a smooth postpartum recovery period after the birth. Last year, I wrote a post about how I was preparing for postpartum with our third baby. I wanted to do a follow up post about how that plan worked for me.
In that post last year, I outlined 9 strategies I was going to try for a smooth postpartum recovery after the birth. Five were logistical, and four were emotional. This is my report about how those strategies worked for us and my “hot tips” for the strategies I recommend.
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Logistical Prep #1: Food for smooth postpartum recovery ✅
The first logistical strategy was all about food. I front loaded a lot of work about month 7 of my pregnancy making freezer meals. Then I did a big grocery shop about two weeks before my due date for all the snack stuff. I arranged for the meal train to have meals arriving three days a week for the first few weeks, and then twice a week for awhile after that.
Was this a good strategy for me? YES. We had plenty of food on hand to support all the healing needed after the birth of the baby. Would I recommend it to other Mamas hoping to have a smooth postpartum recovery after birth? YES, 10 out of 10. Specifically (in order):
#1 Food Recommendation: Prepare Freezer Meals ✅
Seriously, do this! Make sure you make meals that you know you and your family like, that are loaded with good nutrition. I recommend using bone broth, if possible, lots of veggies, whole grains, and PLENTY of fiber.
Hot tip: I suggest that you make your own freezer meals REALLY healthy options. Go extra on the veggies – doubling or tripling the amount, and don’t skimp on quality protein. (I tried to get bone broth into anything and everything I could. I used it to cook rice for casseroles I froze, I used it in soups, I used it as the liquid in sauces, etc. The nutrients in bone broth are so beneficial for a smooth postpartum recovery after birth.)
I did a LOT of freezer meals. We ate them for months! It was awesome to not really have to think about making dinner for a long time. But even if you just do a few (whatever you have time and space for), it is worth it!
#2 Food Recommendation: Ask for or set up a Meal Train ✅
If you possibly can, do this too! I was hesitant to ask for a meal train – but my sister offered and set it up for me. We got so many delicious meals. A lot of it was what I’d categorize as classic “comfort food” – cheesy lasagna, flaky chicken pot pie, saucy pasta bakes, etc. And desserts! We didn’t ask for it, but so many people also brought delicious desserts! It was perfect to balance those rich, soul-feeding foods from the meal train with the nutrient dense freezer meals.
Hot tip: Space out your meal train meals! I loved having meals come every few days rather than every single day. Because we received more meals than just the meal train. Several friends (who hadn’t signed up on the meal train) dropped off a meal. And at least three different meal train givers actually prepped multiple meals and dropped them all off at once. And people brought us bags of groceries, too! I was thankful we didn’t have a meal train meal arriving every day or else we would have run out of space and ability to eat everything!
So, if you’re going to ask for 10 to 12 meals, I suggest you stretch them out. Plan them over four to six weeks rather than getting them all in the first two weeks. We actually stretched our meal train out for about 10 weeks. The later dates didn’t all get filled, but a few of them did. And it was super nice to have a ready-made meal come even when the baby was several months old!
#3 Food Recommendation: Whatever else is going to be helpful for your household
I did a couple things:
Loaded up on frozen veggies and fruit for smoothies and side dishes.
Bought a lot of snack food.
Pre-made some breakfast foods “kits.”
Restocked our pantry so we had back ups of most pantry staples
Where they worth doing? Yeah, I totally think so.
Did any of them single handedly make as big of a difference as the other two food recommendations? No, I don’t think so.
Would I do them again? Yes, I would, if I have time and energy.
Would I encourage someone to stress about getting them done? No, I wouldn’t.
Hot tip: I suggest you have a well “stocked” house including some fun “extras” that you would enjoy. Gabe really appreciated not having to load up the girls and try to take them to the store. And it was nice to have so many things on hand for easy meals. We loved having the easy-to-eat snack foods, but honestly, our daughters ate as many of them as I did! I think Gabe would have been fine with making breakfasts. He was getting good sleep (see below for more details). And it was nice to have the frozen food, but probably not necessary. We generally had our meals well covered with the freezer meals and meal train meals. So do what you want to do, but don’t stress about it!
Logistical Prep #2: Creatively Maximizing Sleep for a Smooth Postpartum Recovery ✅
OK, this was a game changer for us. Prior to Lazlo’s birth last year, I’d done two rounds of postpartum recovery. Both times I remember those early weeks as being headache-y, foggy, and generally acute sleep deprivation seasons. Do we love our new babies? Absolutely. Is the sleep deprivation hard? Oh yeah.
So this was something we put a lot of thought into. I didn’t know how we were going to manage being good parents to our older kids if we were exhausted. Not to mention, how I was going to have a smooth postpartum recovery after birth for myself.
#1 Getting Sleep Recommendation: separate sleeping zone for the Mama-baby dyad ✅
We were able to use our separate “sleep out” building as my “recovery zone.” If that hadn’t been possible, we would have planned to make our bedroom the spot for the baby and me, and Gabe would have moved into the girls’ room. It was crucial to the overall wellbeing of the family for Gabe to get solid sleep. He had to maintain the rest of the household functioning and parenting. If he had been sleeping in the same room as the baby and me, he would have had broken sleep. Obviously, since I was nursing, I was going to have broken sleep! But Gabe was able to wake up in the morning with a solid night’s sleep. He could let me sleep in, go to bed early, take naps, and that resulted in a smooth postpartum recovery after the birth.
We had planned to try the separate sleeping zone strategy for a week. We ended up having me out in the sleepout for a week, and then we swapped. I moved into the house with the baby and Gabe moved out to the sleepout. (My back was aching from the bed and all the relaxin in my body). We kept that up for 6 weeks, then my Mom came. She needed the sleep out, so Gabe and I were back together in our bedroom and that was tough! Once Mom left, Gabe moved back out to the sleepout and I stayed in our room. We kept that up for another month or two. Then Gabe would come sleep in our bedroom every other night so we could balance getting good sleep (separate) and also feeling like a married couple (together).
We would absolutely do that again in the future! We were so much happier with each other and so much more emotionally well regulated than after previous births. For us, getting good sleep is a cornerstone for a happy marriage, patient parenting, and maintaining a peaceful home.
#2 Getting Sleep Recommendation: being open to bed-sharing with the baby ✅
OK, I know this may be controversial, so I’ll start with some disclaimers:
➡ You do what works best for you! I’m sharing what worked best for me.
➡ You take responsibility and ownership for your decisions! Again, I’m sharing what worked best for me! This is what I felt comfortable with and what I ultimately took responsibility for doing.
I haven’t planned to bedshare with my previous babies. However, as it turned out, our babies would usually sleep on Gabe’s or my chest in our bed for the first week or two. We’d often start the night putting the baby in their sleep space. But after the first feed of the night, one of us would burp them, and resettle them and… Then end up with a baby sleeping on our chest!
With this baby, I made the decision to PLAN to bedshare. I did my research (making sure I was following the Safe Sleep Seven). Since our baby was full term, about nine pounds, I was exclusively breastfeeding, I don’t smoke, I wasn’t drinking, and I wasn’t taking any controlled substances, I felt comfortable making co-sleeping and bedsharing our strategy for sleep.
For the first week, while I was out in the sleepout, I did the “baby sleeping on my chest” strategy. Once I moved into the house – and our queen size bed – it was really easy to bedshare. Lazlo had one side (with no pillows or blankets). And I had the other side with my comforter and pillow.
It resulted in so much more sleep and therefore a much smoother recovery after birth. I don’t remember having the fatigue headache until my Mom came (and Gabe and I shared the bed and we had to work harder to get Lazlo to sleep in his hammock). Gabe and I would definitely plan to do this again for future babies.
Other Logistical Strategies for a Smooth Postpartum Recovery ✅
I had planned some other logistical strategies, including recruiting some help for childcare with the older girls, recruiting some housecleaning help, and making sure I had communicated my goal to follow the 5-5-5 rule to promote a smooth recovery after birth.
It was great to have some friends lined up to take the girls for a walk, hang out with them at the trampoline in the back yard, and even jaunt off to the mall for a hot cocoa date. It didn’t end up being at a set time every day, or for a set amount of time, but since I had asked around, I had a list of people who were willing to provide some extra support, and most of them reached out to Gabe or me to set up a day and time that worked best for them. Gabe appreciated having a little bit of a break from being the primary parent when this was able to happen.
It was also super helpful to have some housecleaning support – I had a friend that came over at least once in the first few days after Lazlo was born to help with some cleaning and housework, and then after my Mom left, I had another friend offer to come weekly to help out with housecleaning tasks. Sometimes things came up (we were sick, she was sick, she had other commitments, I was busy, etc), but she ended up coming every week or every other week for about five months, and that was SUCH a blessing. Even if we didn’t get to a lot of items on my cleaning list, it was so nice to have her company and a great excuse for me to set aside 90 minutes to work with her on washing windows or mopping the floors.
Prioritizing Rest Via the 5-5-5 Rule ✅
Confession: I didn’t actually follow this rule perfectly! I alternated between my bed in the house, my bed in the sleepout, and the couch from the start, so I didn’t stay IN (a) bed for the first 5 days like prescribed. But I did really prioritize horizontal rest – I stayed laying down almost exclusively for the first five days, and I did pretty much stay home for two weeks, with a lot of horizontal rest and naps. I limited being upright (standing or sitting) to about 20 minutes maximum at a time for the first five days, only a few times per day. Over the two weeks, I gradually increased my time and frequency, but I really tried to err on the side of conservative horizontal time for the full two weeks!
Emotional Prep Strategies ✅
I had four strategies for helping structure a positive emotional environment to aid a smooth postpartum recovery after the birth, and ultimately, they flowed out of the logistical preparations.
Intentional Check-Ins Between Parents ✅
This was helpful! I think communicating with Gabe that I was planning to do this was beneficial, because it kept me accountable and helped him to know he was still a priority for my attention, and that he could still actively support me as well.
I had a few instances of intrusive thoughts or anxiety-feelings, and it was really beneficial for me to be able to mention them to Gabe when we had our daily check-in. We didn’t end up having a specific time every day that we did this, but when we found ourselves with a few minutes (even if the girls were around, just otherwise occupied), we made a point to ask each other how we were doing emotionally.
Hot Tip: develop a “peaceful postpartum play list” to keep your home atmosphere nourishing. We did this kind of accidentally, as Grayson Kessenich released a new album, Haven, shortly after Lazlo was born. We purchased it and played it a LOT during those early weeks. In fact, when I think back to the first month of Lazlo’s life, I think of warm (winter) sunlight streaming into our living room, the fire in the stove crackling, and that album playing.
Prioritizing Sleep ✅
I know, I know, I already went over this, but seriously, like I said, this was a gamechanger for us! Getting ENOUGH sleep and getting QUALITY sleep was vital. And the benefits were physical and emotional. I would definitely prioritize sleep with any future postpartum recoveries!
Being Available For The Older Kids ✅
This was a sweet priority, and one I’m really glad I did. Although I think I would have tried to have intentional time with the girls and helping them bond with Lazlo even if I hadn’t made it a specific priority, it was good to have the accountability.
I read a LOT of books aloud to the girls (we made it through most of the Amelia Bedelia chapter books by Herman Parish, if I remember correctly!). Sometimes I would hand the baby to Gabe so he could get some cuddles while I snuggled with the girls on my bed and read to them. And sometimes they would bring the book when I started nursing Lazlo, and we’d sit on the couch and read while I nursed the baby. (They figured out in a hurry that I was relatively confined when I was breastfeeding, so that was a good time for them to have my attention!)
I also tried to make a point to check in with each girl individually, and give them space to tell me about what had been happening while I was in the sleepout sleeping or when they were with a friend. There were some big emotions and meltdowns over the weeks after Lazlo was born, but overall, I felt like the girls really adjusted very well.
And they absolutely LOVED getting to hold the baby, help me with the baby, and checking on him if he was sleeping on the bed.
Planning Activities to Give Gabe a Break ✅
I kind of went all out with this one! We got some new consumable things for the girls (coloring books, stickers, stamps, little games from Kmart, etc), and I also planned some craft activities using stuff we already had. I wrapped each item or project in wrapping paper before the baby was born. I showed the girls where the box was with all the wrapped gifts, and I told them once the baby was born, they would each get to unwrap one gift per day and do the activity that was inside it.
The girls were SUPER excited each day (we had enough presents to last about a week), and Gabe liked having a pre-planned game or activity or craft for the girls to do, which usually allowed him to be able to drink a cup of coffee or tea in peace!
I would definitely do this again, especially for young big-siblings (my girls were 4 and 2), as it makes the baby’s arrival a really positive and exciting thing for them on a personal level.
A Year Later…
Looking back at our postpartum with Lazlo, I am so glad I put as much forethought and preparation into it. It resulted in a smooth postpartum recovery after the birth, and that has had a carryover effect into a really smooth first year of having Lazlo in our family.
I have physically recovered very well – my bladder prolapse, which I had after Jemma’s birth, had gotten better at my 8 week appointment with a pelvic floor physio following Lazlo’s birth. That was a total surprise – I had hoped it would just be the same, not worse, but to get a better report was really encouraging.
I did not experience postpartum mood disorder after Lazlo’s birth, and I feel like my relationship with Gabe was better and stronger than the first year after either of our previous births.
I’m sure some of the smooth postpartum recovery was the result of just having gone through is a few times, knowing a bit better what to expect, and being intentional about priorities. But I do attribute a lot of the positive association I have with Lazlo’s birth and postpartum to getting really specific about developing a plan for those early weeks.
I hope that, if you are approaching the postpartum phase, something in this post is helpful for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts down below – feel free to drop me a comment and let me know what you’re planning to prioritize in recovery!