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Postpartum: Why it Matters, How to Prepare, and How to Support

Updated: May 10

Postpartum Awareness Week for Black, Brown, and Indigenous People takes place May 5th to May 11th. This 7-day virtual series was co-created by Speak! Move! Change Collective! in 2021, a group of Reproductive Justice champions committed to restoring the life and dignity of birthing and postpartum experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous People identifying people across the nation.

Ke'xia Draper, SisterWeb Community Doula for the Kindred Birth Companions (KBC) Program

To contribute to amplifying and and uplifting the voices of women and birthing people, babies, families, and those who support in the postpartum period, Sofía Carbone, SisterWeb's Communications Coordinator, spoke with Ke'xia Draper, SisterWeb Community Doula for the Kindred Birth Companions (KBC) program. Ke'xia is a certified Full Spectrum Doula and Lactation Educator with a special passion and commitment for supporting parents and families postpartum, also called the fourth trimester or postnatal period.

Sofía: Why is it important to support mothers and birthing people in the postpartum period?

Ke'xia: There are so many different levels of support that the mom and the baby and the dad need. Right after delivery, it's the whole relief of everything: meeting baby, bonding with baby. You're still in that joyous realm of love and falling in love all over again. Then a few hours after, reality hits that you have to take care of a baby and you have to figure out how to work as a team and notice cues of baby.

The first night home is always the most chaotic so to speak. It's a different environment for the baby, so the baby has to get used to it. Also the parents need to get used to hydrating, sleeping, feeding, etc. Also the emotions. From the beginning there is a wave of emotions, thoughts, and restructuring of life... a life after birth. But it's so important that in the beginnings of a a new family there is a plan of who is supporting, whether it's outside relatives or outside resources. Everything needs to be set up so the new family can thrive and survive this new lifestyle. Schedules will be readjusted week to week, month to month until baby is sleeping for at least eight hours (which normally takes a few months).

Sofía: What draws you in to supporting people in the postpartum period?

Ke'xia: I understand and I value the vulnerability it has, the unspoken vulnerability it has, because it takes a while to adjust to everything, mommy's body, mommy's emotional awareness, mental awareness, and now nutrition... nutrition is going to be different because she has depleted so much and she needs to replenish herself and the baby (if she's breastfeeding). Hydration, meals, love, or showing up for mom is super important.

Sofía: How can people prepare for the postpartum period? What are some examples of what that can look like?

Ke'xia: Always know your capacity as far as mental, emotional, and physical. Always keep that in mind. Make sure you have a very strong, supportive community around you because the little things that people do for you will mean a lot in that period.

Researching and reading articles with factual information regarding postpartum care and needs, healing recovery, newborn care, and emotional awareness are encouraged in order to get an idea of what to expect— maybe not to the very granular details, but to get an overall perspective so you can prepare. Seek out professional help like lactation consultants, peer counselors, pediatricians in order to affirm evidenced-based practices. They have training and have gone through curriculums that let them know what's needed and what is supportive during postpartum.

Give yourself grace. Not everything is applicable to everyone. Sometimes if you read something it might not fit your lifestyle or can feel outdated.

Definitely take into consideration your culture and your family history as far as patterns, consistencies, or inconsistencies. For example, if you've ever heard of women in your family noticing the same emotional awareness, like feeling disconnected or sad or defeated or happy or complete... look for key words in your lineage to understand experiences and prepare for them.

Sofía: How can loved ones support people during the postpartum period?

Ke'xia: Don't ask to hold the baby first. Ask if you can do something around the house that will help them, like chores, making meal preps, snacks, filling up water bottles, taking the dog on a walk or cleaning our the cat's litter box.

Watching baby while the parents sleep or take showers lets them have their time to themselves to not think about the baby. Change the baby's diapers, feed, interact, bond.

Ke'xia Draper, SisterWeb Community Doula for the Kindred Birth Companions (KBC) program, with Kaylani, client.

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