Keep these sites and numbers on speed dial for when you need support the most.
If you’re expecting a new addition to the family, you’ve probably already received plenty of cute stuff for your baby. But I’m going to give you something else: the gift of information.
I know, I know. It’s not nearly as fun as swaddle blankets and keepsake photo frames. But trust me. After the baby arrives, sh*t gets real. You never know — whether it’s your first or fourth — what particular hurdles you’ll face or the type of support you’ll need.
That’s where this handy guide of essentials comes in. There are some resources listed that I hope everyone uses. There are some resources listed that I hope no one has to use. Either way, it’s all included here, judgment free.
As a postpartum doula, it’s my job and privilege to support new parents when they’re at their most vulnerable. Providing resources is a huge part of that. (Less mind-numbing time combing the online abyss, more time with your family: Yes!) I hope I can do the same for you.
After all, it takes a village. And these days, that village is a loose patchwork of real-life and online resources.
First things first: Add your pediatrician’s phone number to your phone Favorites in case you ever have any concerns about the baby. Know where the nearest hospital or 24-hour urgent care center is.
Same goes for you. Never hesitate to call your provider, particularly if you experience the following postpartum: If you pass a clot that’s bigger than a plum, soak through more than one pad per hour, or have a fever, chills, nausea, or rapid heartbeat. Any of these can be signs of postpartum hemorrhage.
If you have changes in vision, dizziness, or severe headaches, call your provider immediately. These symptoms can be signs of postpartum preeclampsia.
General support and guidance
I’m a huge fan of tapping Facebook to find local new parent groups by neighborhood, as well as national/international groups by interest. Use them for support, advice, venting, or physical meet-ups, which are particularly beneficial when you’re home alone in those first weeks or months. Your hospital will also likely offer a new parent group.
- Breastfeeding. La Leche League is the most well-known, and widespread, lactation support group. (More on lactation below.) It has chapters in nearly every town and city, and is an incredible free resource — for insight, as well as potential friends.
- Cesarean deliveries. The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has local groups as well as a closed Facebook group for those seeking support, whether you had a scheduled C-section, emergency C-section, or VBAC.
- Postpartum anxiety and depression. Postpartum Support International (PSI) provides a host of mental health resources (more on that below), but I particularly appreciate the weekly online meetings it holds for perinatal mood concerns and military caregivers.
- Surrogacy. If you are using (or have used) a surrogate and are looking to connect with other surrogacy parents, you may want to check out the Facebook group Surrogates and Intended Parents, which boasts nearly 16,000 members.
- Adoption. The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) offers an index of adoptive parent support groups by state. It’s worth noting that post-adoption depression is a very real condition, which some find difficult to discuss openly. If you are struggling, you may find these forums helpful as well as this information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Medication questions: Can I take this?
I’ve written about postpartum supplements and popular lactation herbs here at Healthline, but if you’re still wondering, “Can I take this?” use these two resources for the clinical scoop:
- LactMed. This is the National Institute of Health’s drugs and lactation database. (There’s also an app!)
- MotherToBaby. If you have a question about a medication or other substance during the perinatal period, this nonprofit can likely help. Read relevant fact sheets on the site or contact them directly via call, text, email or live chat to talk with a specialist for free.
There’s a certain amount of “I don’t feel like myself” that is normal postpartum. But how do you know if what you feel is normal, or something to be concerned about? Especially when postpartum blues, depression, anxiety, and psychosis can manifest very differently for each individual.
It is estimated that up to 15 percent of pregnant and postpartum women experience depression. If you’re unsure, you can start by taking this quick quiz. It is a standard questionnaire many doulas use for pregnant and postpartum visits.
- If you’re concerned about your answers, or the feelings the quiz brings up, please reach out to your provider, a trusted mental health professional, or call the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOMS (773-6667).
- PSI also offers a myriad of resources. I think they’re the best go-to for mental health questions. You can call the helpline at 1-800-944-4773 or find nearby support through their state-by-state directory.
- If you ever feel you are in immediate danger, call 911, your local emergency services, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Breastfeeding and lactation
For moms who choose to breastfeed, lactation support tends to be brief and short-lived in the hospital, and there is no formal lactation follow-up once you head home.
Breastfeeding is hard work, and it takes practice and persistence. Perhaps you’re dealing with nipple challenges (flat, inverted, or pronounced can be extra tricky), or latch issues, or a low supply — particularly if you had complications, a premature birth, or are dealing with the stress of an early return to work.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a comprehensive Q&A on common breastfeeding concerns.
- Stanford Medicine has a small yet mighty collection of breastfeeding videos that are useful to watch when you’re pregnant or newly postpartum and trying to get the hang of things.
- If in-person support is more your speed, La Leche League, as mentioned above, is widespread — and it’s free!
I believe wholeheartedly that every postpartum person should invest in a lactation consultant if a) it’s financially possible, and/or b) your heart is set on breastfeeding. They are worth their weight in (liquid) gold.
I always recommend checking with your pediatrician first for local, trusted experts. As a fallback, you can look up a local IBCLC lactation consultant. IBCLCs have the highest level of training possible.
That said, there are several other levels of certification and, combined with (literal) hands-on experience, there is no reason they cannot be equally helpful to you. Here’s a quick rundown of the alphabet soup of lactation designations you may come across:
- CLE: Certified Lactation Educator
- CLS: Certified Lactation Specialist
- CLC: Certified Lactation Counselor
Each of the above designations represents at least 45 hours of lactation education, followed by an exam.
- IBCLC: International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
This level signifies at least 90 hours of lactation education, along with a comprehensive exam.
Pelvic floor health
As I wrote in an earlier column on postpartum pelvic floor health, giving birth does not automatically make you destined to a lifetime of peeing accidents when you sneeze, laugh, or cough.
Barring extenuating circumstances, you shouldn’t have leak issues after 6 weeks for an uncomplicated delivery, or after 3 months if you’ve had significant tearing or birthing-related trauma. If you do, it’s time to seek a pelvic floor physical therapist.
- There are two directories you can use to find a specialist near you: First, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Filter for “women’s health” and look for someone with DPT and WCS by their name.
- Then, there’s the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute directory. These providers have incredible training. You’ll also see an additional designation of PRPC for Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification, which is specific to Herman & Wallace.
Although there are literally thousands of online tutorials and useful exercises via YouTube and Instagram influencers, they shouldn’t be where you begin.
You need to know what is specifically going on with your body before trying any moves. (For example, kegels are not good for everyone!) Seek professional insight first, and then explore as needed.
Obviously, as a postpartum doula myself, I am biased when I say the following, but I believe it to be 100 percent true: Every family can benefit from having a postpartum doula.
Studies have shown that doula support can help reduce the rate of postpartum mood disorders,
To find a certified postpartum doula in your area, check out DONA International’s nationwide listings. Full disclosure: I am certified through, and a member of, DONA International. There are many other postpartum doula organizations and collectives that are equally credible. Whichever organization and whomever you select, I suggest you opt for someone certified and inquire about their training, in addition to asking for references.
And a self-promotion moment: I run a weekly newsletter that provides evidence-based info and guidance for the fourth trimester. It’s short, snappy, and includes interesting reads from the week. You can learn more about it here.
- Household goods and environmental safety. If you’re concerned about the skin care and household products you use during pregnancy and postpartum, the Environmental Working Group has a super helpful database of rated products. Navigate to the drop-down menu on the Babies & Moms tab. You’ll find many popular lotions, soaps, shampoos, and diaper creams ranked for toxicity.
- Nutrition. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program not only helps with healthy food for moms and babies, but it also provides resources to new parents such as health screenings and breastfeeding counseling. Learn more here.
- Opioid use disorder. Opioid use during pregnancy has quadrupled, and substance abuse is a contributing factor in perinatal deaths. If you need help — finding a treatment facility, support group, community organization, or other resource — contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). It is confidential, free, and available 24/7.
Mandy Major is a mama, journalist, certified postpartum doula PCD(DONA), and the founder of Motherbaby Network, an online community for postpartum support. Follow her at @motherbabynetwork.com.