Our Umi Guides complement our online courses to focus more closely on discrete topics, as guided by our community. Here you’ll find all of the e-guides we have published to date. As our community is broad and multi-generational, not everything will be relevant to you, but keep your eyes peeled as new guides are released regularly. If you have a topic you want us to cover, ping us a message and let us know.
The Umi guide to postnatal planning
What is a postnatal plan?
It’s exactly what it says on the tin; a chance for you to think ahead and give you a plan that you can take with you into the postnatal period. The aim is to help you to navigate life more confidently after your baby has been born. Poor or lack of postnatal planning can be a contributor to a decline in maternal mental health, so although this may feel like a lot, you will be so glad you did this when your baby is here.
Why do we advocate working on a postnatal plan?
As expectant mothers, we are encouraged during pregnancy to think about and formulate a birth plan/preferences. However, the birth is just the beginning, and what follows can be a mental and physical endurance event! Your stamina will be tested and your sense of who you are is likely to change. Often, postnatally, we can find ourselves in a fog of tiredness and hormonal change, which - with all of the challenges of having a new baby to care for - can create a feeling of overwhelm. A little advance planning can help you to feel more grounded as you embark on the first weeks and months of motherhood. This can have a huge positive impact on your sense of physical and mental wellbeing as you navigate this incredible chapter. We also recommend that you share this plan with those you feel comfortable with so that they can also help you with implementing it.
How do I use this Umi Guide?
In this Umi Guide, we take you through seven topics;
The immediate days and weeks following my baby’s birth
My mental health
My post-baby body
Each topic has a few questions to work through at your own pace. The idea is that you work through the questions that are relevant to you before your baby is born. Just ignore any that are not. Keep a notepad and pen to hand and scribble down your thoughts and feelings. Your notes do not need to be overly detailed or complicated. We’ve also included some examples of what your plans could look like - but remember your plan is specific to you, and your plan might look completely different to the examples we have provided.
The seven topics
1. The immediate days and weeks following my baby’s birth
The first six weeks postnatally are a crucial time for healing, and we at Umi advocate a focus on relative rest during this time: to allow the uterus, muscles and ligaments to shrink down; to allow the internal wound in your uterus to heal (where your placenta was attached); and to allow for any tears, cuts or incisions to knit back together fully. It is helpful to think in advance about the logistics of respecting mother nature’s healing window because, while you cannot speed this timetable up, you can slow it down by doing too much too soon.
How do I imagine the first few hours and days following my baby’s arrival? Do I want my parents or parents in law to come and visit? Will I be in hospital? How will I get home?
How do I imagine the weeks following my baby’s arrival? What do I envisage my physical activity levels to be during this time? When will I accept visitors, and how long will visits last?
How will I keep well-meaning friends and relatives up-to-date in a way that does not overwhelm me?
What specific things will I need help with in the early weeks? – for example cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping or care of an older sibling - so that I can focus on healing, feeding and bonding? Who can I ask for help with these tasks? Do I have a budget for external help e.g. for a cleaner?
How can I ensure I am well nourished during the early weeks? What will my go-tos be for meals and snacks? Do I need to put any steps in place ahead of my baby’s arrival?
What are my thoughts and feelings about napping or resting during the daytime? Do I think it’s lazy or a waste of time? Do I struggle to do it? Can I get some practice during pregnancy?
Who can I rely on to check in on me (beyond a partner) and to keep a watchful eye on me?
What are the physical signs I might notice if I am doing too much too soon?
Example notes and plans
I only want my partner around in the first few hours and days following delivery. My partner will get us home - need to ensure we have a car seat ready ahead of baby’s arrival.
Prefer the first two weeks to be spent mainly in bed or on the sofa so I can have lots of skin-to-skin with baby and time with my partner. Partner to make sure I am not doing too much too soon.
If feeling up to it, short daily walk from week 2. Partner to support me in taking my time to build up gradually.
Limit visitors to immediate family for first few weeks. Communicate this to them ahead of time to also allow their expectations to be set. Maximum one visit a day, keep to 45-60 mins only.
No need to make lunch etc for visitors - will not be hosting, need to rest!
Book in supermarket delivery slots ahead of birth and save trolley of regular shopping items.
Set up a Whatsapp group for sharing updates and baby photos - include family and friends to avoid needing to duplicate messages.
Ask friends to bring a meal for the freezer when they ask what we need.
Cook double portions in run up to birth, and freeze the extras to eat postnatally.
Meltdown = tired. Maximise rest.
2. My village
They say it takes a village to raise a child. In the past, a new mother would have been supported by that village through the postnatal period. Create your village before your baby arrives. Decide what you may need help with and get your helping hands on stand-by. If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of asking for help, start practising now, because it will almost certainly be a harder habit to create after your baby arrives.
Who will I call if/when I get frustrated, scared or confused, or when I am feeling lonely or low?
Who do I know will listen to me without judgement and without leaping in to provide unsolicited advice?
Who can I turn to if I do actually need and want advice?
Who will keep me company during the early weeks and months?
Is there anybody who I want to avoid during the weeks following my baby’s arrival while I find my feet?
Example notes and plans
Friends A, B and C are my go-tos when I am feeling down. They never judge me and always make me feel heard.
I know my sister is a great person to turn to for advice on feeding/sleep etc.
Will possibly feel lonely when my partner goes back to work. See if mum/sister/friend can come to visit that week to keep me company?
Suggest get together with the lady down the street who is due around the same time as me?
Prefer to avoid Friends D and E until more settled and robust; often find them quite triggering and know I might feel vulnerable in the weeks after birth.
3. My career
Maternity leave is something that many of us really look forward to, but when it happens, stepping away from work can throw up various emotions. Spending some time thinking about and pre-empting these emotions may enable you to handle them better if they arise.
How long do I plan to take away from work?
How will my income be affected?
How might it feel to take a break from work? Do I have any worries around this and are there any steps I can take to manage them?
Are there any boundaries that I wish to put into place with regards to work? For example, do I intend to check work emails during my maternity leave either before or after my baby’s birth? Do I plan to keep in touch with colleagues? Do I plan to go to visit my workplace, and when?
If I am taking on work, how will I manage my own and other people’s expectations? How can I ensure I set realistic deadlines?
Example notes and plans
Hope to take full 12 months from work, but would be up for some Keep In Touch Days once the baby turns 6 months, if things feel settled enough. Decide closer to the time.
Will be a bit of a struggle once maternity pay ends in X month. Set some money aside each month from now to allow a bit of a buffer? Dip into savings if needed.
Worried that will be replaced at work, plus FOMO. Remind myself that it’s OK to feel worried about the change ahead. First time I’ve taken a break from my career in over 10 years! Remember there is only one me. And I only get to have this time with my baby once.
No checking emails. LOG OUT!
Possible visit to work but not until baby at least 3 months old.
Send clear communication and seek assurance from team members that flexibility is possible, or - if not - that help with the baby is on hand for important deadlines.
Double estimated deadlines!
4. My Relationship
Having a baby is a huge milestone for any relationship. It can be a time of enormous happiness, and a time of challenge too. Studies have found that marital satisfaction drops dramatically after the birth of a first child. With foresight and preparation, you may be able to keep a better sense of perspective - and connection - as and when challenges arise.
What will our respective roles be once the baby is born and how will we split the household and childcare responsibilities (including care of older children)?
How will our finances be affected by our baby’s arrival?
Can we still keep some protected time just the two of us? Even if it’s just a set time to check in with each other every few days to begin with?
How will our sex life be affected? How much does this bother us? What can we do to continue to actively connect with one another during this period?
How will our social lives be affected by our baby’s arrival? How much does this bother us?
How do we plan to navigate disagreements about how we parent (e.g feeding, sleeping, attachment parenting v. routine orientated)
How will we communicate with each other when either or both of us are feeling at the end of their tether?
Are there any friends we trust who have older babies that we can speak to ahead of our baby’s arrival to chat about this more?
Example notes and plans
Try and do (and enjoy) as much parenting together as is feasible.
Consider sleeping in separate rooms if possible - will be odd not to be sharing a room but it is only temporary and there is no need for us both to have broken sleep if I am managing on my own with confidence.
Partner to plan meals and cook as much as possible for the first few months. Early dinner to ensure I can get to bed asap in the evening.
No pressure on me to clean the house/do chores during my mat leave - this is not a holiday!
If my partner is working late they need to give me as much notice as possible, but they are going to try to be home for bath/bedtime for the first few months.
May feel jealous if my partner’s social life continues while mine is on hold, but unrealistic that I will want/be able to go out in the evening for a while. Partner to facilitate other catch-ups that suit my timetable insead? Introduce a bottle if possible so I am free in the evening to go out/head to bed early.
Must communicate and listen to one another’s point of view. Never great at this when we are tired. Try to have contentious conversations when we both feel a bit calmer.
Therapy if we need it - this is not a failing!
5. My mental health
Having a baby is a huge change, and it is common to feel many different emotions after your baby is born. Thinking about your own mental health before your baby arrives may make you feel more willing and prepared to seek professional help in due course if you need it.
Have I had mental health problems, including depression or anxiety, before?
Have I experienced depression or anxiety during pregnancy?
Do I understand the symptoms of, and difference between, baby blues, postnatal depression (PND), postnatal anxiety and birth trauma?
How will I monitor my mood postnatally? Who is a good barometer to let me know if my mood seems low?
What self-care activities do I enjoy? Is there a way to preserve some or all of these after my baby arrives?
How comfortable will I feel about seeking help if I think I may have PND or another mental illness postnatally? Do I know where to seek help?
How will I maximise sleep?
Who else can I turn to for help if I am struggling?
Example notes and plans
History of depression, and pattern of low mood in winter months. Lack of sleep is always a trigger for me.
Mood up and down through pregnancy. Have found lockdown and change of energy levels challenging.
N.B. to read up on the NHS website re: PND, anxiety and birth trauma ahead of birth.
Will ask husband and friends to keep an eye on my mood. Warning signs for me are withdrawing, not wanting to socialise, dodging calls, crying frequently, getting angry easily.
Seeing friends is important to me. Must prioritise this, even if over Zoom.
Calming activities for me: reading, walking by the river, listening to music, a warm bath.
Don’t really know any of the GPs at my practice. Unsure how confident I would feel making an appointment. Husband says he would come with me if I needed him to. Apparently can self-refer for some talking therapies if needed.
Remember that even the most well-meaning of people will potentially have judgments and opinions that it is OK for me to ignore.
Weekend will be an opportunity to catch up on sleep/rest. DO NOT PACK FULL OF PLANS.
6. My post-baby body
Thinking about your expectations for your post-baby body may enable you to be a bit gentler towards it after your baby is born.
What are my expectations for my body postnatally? How do I expect it to look? What about my postnatal body will likely make me feel uncomfortable and why?
How important is it for me to get back to my pre-baby shape, in what timeframe and why?
Do I intend to weigh myself after my baby is born and, if so, why and when?
What steps can I take if I am feeling anxious or uncomfortable about my body postnatally? Who can I confide in?
How can I ensure my attitude to food and exercise remains as healthy as possible if faced with anxiety about my postnatal body?
How do I feel about buying new clothes if my pre-baby ones do not fit comfortably? Are they any clothes I want to clear out before my baby is born?
Do I feel comfortable to approach my GP about incontinence, pain during sexual intercourse or other issues that I might experience postnatally? Do I feel able to advocate for help or treatment if not forthcoming?
Can I schedule an appointment now with a pelvic health physio for 6-8 weeks after my baby’s birth?
Example notes and plans
Anxious about how my body might look but I know it is normal for my tummy to remain enlarged for several weeks post-birth.
Mantra: I allow myself to be postpartum.
No weighing - always triggering for me. Get rid of scales?
Get some comfy clothes to tide me over; will take the pressure off feeling like I need to fit back in my pre-baby wardrobe. Give the jeans that haven’t fit me in ages to charity NOW!
Unfollow accounts on social media that make me feel rubbish. Follow accounts that help me to feel good.
Chat to A Friend and B Friend about lack of body confidence if I experience it. They always seem to know the right thing to say.
Begin exercise gradually - bodyweight only. Avoid classes for the first while as I know I will get competitive. Keep ego in check.
Eat nutritious foods that give me sustainable energy and keep my mood elevated in case I am not sleeping well and am continuing to breastfeed. Use exercise as a method of feeling and getting stronger or boosting my energy; not to exhaust me or punish my body.
Search for pelvic physio using Squeezy Directory or through a recommendation and get a postnatal check booked in.
Aim to start watching Postnatal by Umi if I can to feel more prepared about my physical recovery.
Guidelines encourage new mums to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first 6 months of baby’s life. Sometimes, though, this does not work out, either because mum chooses not to breastfeed or experiences difficulties. Thinking in advance about your expectations around feeding, and making some contingency plans, may help you to feel better prepared later on.
Do I plan to breastfeed my baby? If not, why? Are there any steps I can put in place that might enable me to give my baby colostrum or breast milk for even a short time?
Do I have a comfortable space set up for feeding my baby with plenty of back support, and a table in reach for water and snacks? Is there anything I can do to make this space more relaxing or uplifting for me?
Will I breastfeed in bed overnight? Have I got supportive pillows I can use and a bedside table accessible?
If you have a partner, have you spoken with them re: feeding plans? Are they on board and understand that you’ll likely need some support/help?
If planning to breastfeed, how long do I plan to breastfeed for?
How comfortable do I feel about mixed-feeding i.e. giving a combination of breast milk and infant milk?
Who will I turn to for support if I am struggling with breastfeeding? Are there support groups locally or online? Can friends recommend a certified lactation consultant?
What advice would I give my future self in the event I face challenges with breastfeeding?
Example notes and plans
Keen to breastfeed but not going to make a plan as to how long I will breastfeed for - take it day by day.
Buy some formula and bottles ahead of birth. Am not adverse to this and I want to have the option there and ready rather than buying in a panic.
Friend X breastfed and may have some advice. Call her for a chat this week.
Would like to get a breast pump. Look into options for buying and hiring.
Look-up local/online breastfeeding support groups - I know there are antenatal breastfeeding classes that I would like to attend with my partner so that I feel more informed.
Advice for future self: take each day as it comes, you are doing your best.