Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - Postpartum Survival Kit - Helping Families Be Ready for Life with a Newborn

By Cara Terreri, LCCEPSK BABE

May's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators idea is all about the postpartum period.  Lots of families don't realize that good childbirth classes not only prepare families for the labor and birth but can be a wealth of information about the first weeks with a new baby.  Today on Science & Sensibility, Cara Terreri, LCCE shares her classroom activity to help families get ready for what happens after the birth - when they bring that new little one home. - Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager

 Introduction

The postpartum period is an important component of childbirth education. As we know, preparation for the birth of a child isn't enough. And unfortunately in our culture, postpartum needs aren't given a lot of attention, which means that parents often feel unprepared, confused, and frustrated during the early days and weeks after baby comes home.

For my childbirth classes, I developed a fun and interactive activity to introduce and discuss the many topics related to postpartum. The exercise can be a stand-alone activity (in a refresher childbirth class) or used as an opener to more in-depth activities and lessons on postpartum in an entire series. My inspiration for creating the "Postpartum Survival Kit" was the wonderfully humorous "Postpartum Robe," a trademark teaching tool from Teri Shilling, MS, CD(DONA), IBCLC, LCCE, Passion for Birth founder and Lamaze educator, as well as Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar trainer.

The Postpartum Survival Kit (PSK) consists of a large plastic container with lid (mine also includes a handle, which helps for easy transport), and includes 23 items representing different issues or experiences a family may encounter during the postpartum period. The items represent everything from the physical recovery after birth (peri bottle, thick menstrual pad, and hemorrhoid cream) to emotional issues, like the importance of finding "me time" and postpartum mood disorders.

How It's Used

In my classes, after introducing the topic of the postpartum period, I bring out the PSK, pass it around, and instruct families to take out 2-3 items (depending on the number of students in class). I then introduce the PSK and talk about how the different items represent typical encounters and issues during the postpartum. We then go around the room and each couple is asked to share the items they pulled and offer an explanation of their significance. Some items are more obvious, like the sleep mask for the importance of getting sleep when you can; some elicit giggles and awkward moments, like the KY jelly which represents the possible need for vaginal lubrication during intercourse if the parent is breastfeeding; and some items are confusing, like the mini manicure kit (taking "me time") and the red golf ball (size of postpartum clots, what's normal and what's not).

photo 2

When students share their items, I jump in when they (or the other students) cannot accurately describe the item's meaning. I also open the floor for discussion with open-ended questions like "How would you cope?" and "What kind of support would you need if this should happen to you?" and "Who could you call on for help?" Depending on the size of your class, this exercise can take up a good amount of time, so be sure to plan appropriately and be prepared to reel in side discussions should it get off course.

Takeaways

Parents in my classes really enjoy this exercise. I get a lot of laughs, bewildered looks, and "lightbulb" moments. It's always interesting to see how often the non-birth parent accurately describe the significance of items in this exercise - there have been many moments where the pregnant person is stumped, but the partner knows. In these instances, the exercise provides reassurance to both parents that the knowledge on what to expect during postpartum is intuitive. Additionally, I have found that this tangible exercise helps reinforce learning and memory when we talk more in depth about postpartum issues later in the class.

Modifications

The PSK exercise can be modified in several ways. I've used it in coordination with a worksheet, which could also be turned into a competition between families. If using in a private class, you can have each family member take turns with each new item. You could also use the exercise as an interactive teach-back. Ask each family to take out 2-3 items, learn about their significance (offer assistance if they are completely stumped), and then return to the next class and teach the other students.The PSK also could be replicated for use in teaching the stages of labor and breastfeeding. Create a similar, smaller kit for each stage of labor and/or breastfeeding and begin the segment with the kit. For example, a Transition Kit may include a focal point, washcloth, water bottle, and mini bullhorn (to signify the "take charge" routine). 

Contents & Creating Your Own

The fun part about creating a PSK is making it uniquely your own! Some of the items will naturally be the same (lochia pad, hospital underwear, peri bottle, breastfeeding pads, for example), but others are limited only by your creativity! Consider the ways in which you can demonstrate postpartum mood disorders, changing emotions, dividing up hours in the day, eating nutritious food, sleep, etc. Items included in my Postpartum Survival Kit are:

  • Water bottle - keeping hydrated
  • Hospital underwear and pad - postpartum bleeding
  • Peri bottle, Dermaplast, and ice pack - perineal healing
  • Elastic abdominal brace - cesarean healing and core strengthening
  • Plate with balanced meal - postpartum nutrition
  • Ibuprofen - normal aches and pains
  • Hemorrhoid cream - a not uncommon postpartum issue
  • Stool softener - this is an important concern for many!
  • KY Jelly - lubrication issues
  • Condoms - postpartum fertility/birth control
  • Eye mask - getting sleep
  • Small red balloon paired with giant red balloon - involution, postpartum tummy
  • Hand mirror with puzzled/confused face - postpartum mood disorders ("I don't recognize myself")
  • Laminated speech bubble with "helpful" advice - dealing with influx of family/friend advice
  • Cloth breastfeeding pads - leaking nipples
  • Stuffed heart toy with wide open arms - finding and accepting support
  • Do not disturb door hanger - limiting visitors is ok; family time is important
  • Small baby doll with a heart and question mark on her tummy - conflicting emotions a baby often brings
  • Encouragement flags - encourage and praise your partner
  • Manicure kit - making time for yourself
  • Pill box modified to read -house, partner, work, baby care, errands, etc- and filled with 24 beads, divvied up into the different compartments - how will you divide your time

 What else might you add to your customized Postpartum Survival Kit? There are many ways to teach about adapting to and surviving the postpartum weeks.  How do you teach about the postpartum period in your childbirth classes?  What activities have you found effective?  Share with all of us in the comments section.  If you have a "BABE"  to share in future posts - please contact me and let's talk. - SM

Note/Disclaimer: The use of the acronym "BABE" (Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators) is not affiliated with, aligned with or associated with any particular childbirth program or organization.

About Cara Terreri, LCCE

© Cara Terreri

© Cara Terreri

Cara is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, doula, and site administrator for the Lamaze parent blog, Giving Birth with Confidence. She teaches and works in Myrtle Beach, SC, where she lives with her husband and three children. You can learn more about Cara at Simple Support Birth.

8 Comments
1 Like

Such a great idea Cara! I love

May 26, 2015 07:00 AM by Tanya Strusberg, LCCE, FACCE
Such a great idea Cara! I love it and will definitely be preparing my own "PSK"! Thank you for sharing. Tanya

What a wonderful idea for teac

May 26, 2015 07:00 AM by Cynthia Good Mojab
What a wonderful idea for teaching about postpartum needs that many expectant parents may not yet have considered! I would also suggest making sure that this activity is accompanied by two screening tools--the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) Scale--as well as psychoeducational materials (e.g., brochures about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) and a list of local resources for perinatal mental health support and treatment. Without anticipatory guidance, screening, and referral many new parents coping with perinatal mental health challenges fall right through the cracks--with devastating short-, medium-, and long-term consequences for the entire family. For more information about screening and free access to the screening tools mentioned above, please see: http://www.lifecirclecc.com/professionals/perinatal_screening.

I utilize a lot of the same pr

May 26, 2015 07:00 AM by Serena
I utilize a lot of the same props mentioned above. I also put discriptions on the items for students to read aloud. Then, I have a Help Wanted sign on the white board with room around it to write practical tools where we go over resources for each. Examples: FOOD -www.takethemameal.com -frozen meals, -restaurant gift cards SLEEP -sleep when baby sleeps -partner bring baby to breast and put to sleep, every other feed -swaddle It's nice to see how many suggestions/solutions/tools a class can come up with for each topic, all on their own.

I use a fake pear for the invo

May 26, 2015 07:00 AM by Stacie Marie Bingham, LCCE, CD(DONA), CBS
I use a fake pear for the involution, and it doubles as, reminder to have good snacks on hand. I love The Official Lamaze Guide, I wish every couple would read it. I take this activity right out of the book (page 215). The 5th class in my series of 6 is the postpartum/breastfeeding/what-happens-after-baby class. I pass around 6 pieces of paper at the end of class 5. They are titled: How will you...share your feelings, eat well, try to rest, do something for yourself, relax your expectations, and finally, release your emotions. I ask each participant to list a way he or she can meet this personal need after the baby comes. For example, under "try to rest," some past suggestions have been, "nap when baby does," "accept help with anything and have a rest," "try not to schedule too many activities right away," "read, drink tea, shower, ask for help from others to do so." For "share your feelings," some suggestions have been, "write each other love notes," "get baby and partner and go for a walk and talk honestly about how you feel," "do yoga, dance, have dinner together." We don't share these the night of class 5. Instead, I take them home, type them all up together, and send everyone home with the ideas THEY came up with (and on the paper, I let them know all of these ideas were thought of BY THEM). Because they did the brainstorming, they have more of an idea of what will work for them individually. There is also a direct, "How does this apply to me?" factor.

Wonderful idea! I have and tal

May 27, 2015 07:00 AM by Lakisa Q. Muhammad, LCCE, CD(DONA)
Wonderful idea! I have and talk about most of these items during the postpartum portion of class, but this is a fun way to present it. Thanks for the inspiration!

Love when educators share idea

May 28, 2015 07:00 AM by Ellen
Love when educators share ideas! Will add some of these to my pp discussion, already similar to Teri's also! Your red balloons could also lead to discussion about watching for clots that first week... Pamphlets on PPD great idea too. . Thanks for sharing!

@Cynthia Good Mojab Cynthia, t

May 28, 2015 07:00 AM by Cara Terreri
@Cynthia Good Mojab Cynthia, thanks for the tip! In fact, I hand out the Edinburgh Scale to all students and doula clients, but I was not familiar with GAD-7. I will add that to my resources!

Thanks Serena & Stacie for add

May 28, 2015 07:00 AM by Cara Terreri
Thanks Serena & Stacie for adding to the conversation with ideas! I love hearing how other educators cover the same topics. Thanks, Tanya!

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