Prepare for Postpartum Care and your Body After Baby
Preparing for having a new baby is a big deal. You’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, you’re tired, and you’re ready to do this thing. Every part of your body is gearing up for giving birth…but then what?
Postpartum recovery is sort of overshadowed (and rightfully so) by the intense task of bringing a new baby into the world. But the work definitely doesn’t stop there. Postpartum is hiding around the corner, ready to attack the second you feel like the hard part is finally over. The best we can do is prepare. Both mentally and practically.
Here is what to expect, plus how to prepare for getting through it.
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Postpartum Pain and Bleeding
After giving birth, your body has to recover. You may have stitches from tearing that require some extra care. Using the bathroom may be painful and you’re typically pretty sore down there for a while. Take it slow. Ease back into walking (which is actually good for your recovery,) and stand up slowly and gently for the first several days.
Then, of course, there’s the bleeding. Postpartum isn’t just painful, it’s messy too. Real nice, right? You finally get used to going without a period and BAM! you get to deal with this.
(By the way, I wish somebody had told me that this is NOT a period. It’s called lochia: our bodies’ discharging from the uterus after childbirth. It’s gross, but it’s normal. Expect a lot of bleeding at first, then more of a pinkish, watery substance, possibly with an odd smell. This can last anywhere from a few days to a month.)
My best tip for dealing with vaginal pain and bleeding after birth is preparing a postpartum basket. This is such a great way to get ready for what’s to come.
Here’s whatcha do:
Get a little basket and put it next to the toilet. Fill it with all the things you’ll need for your postpartum care. You don’t want to have to waddle over to the cabinet and fumble with opening pads or toilet paper when you’re recovering from childbirth.
Here are some tips on what to include:
Pads – This kind is perfect. Yes, they’re huge, but compared to what they give you at these hospital these will feel great. You may want to stock up on a thinner kind like these as well, to use when things lighten up.
Tucks – These wipes are so helpful for postpartum healing. There’s a lot going on down there and you’ll be glad to have these on hand, trust me. I think every mama I know uses these after giving birth.
Good toilet paper – You want a good quality, thick ply variety for patting. Keep an extra roll in your basket, just in case it runs out.
Cleansing bottle – You’ll get this at the hospital to rinse and care for your postpartum needs. Keep it in the bathroom and refill with warm water each visit to the bathroom.
Pain Relieving Spray – I read this tip before my first baby. So great! Any extra relief you can get down there is a must! This will help!
Colace – You’ll most likely use this at the hospital and they’ll recommend you continue. I recommend that too. You want to stay as regular as possible. More on that later.
Extra panties – You never know when things may get heavier or when a surprise could get messy. Keep a change of panties in your basket, so you can freshen up with plenty of privacy. My tip: Buy a pack of too-large granny panties for postpartum. Like these. Once you graduate out of the hospital net undies, you’ll be glad to have something loose and comfortable that you can just throw away if they get ruined during the joyful postpartum aftermath.
After welcoming the sweet new life you created, you may be a bit weepy. Many women feel uncontrollably emotional for several weeks after giving birth. It’s ok. Your hormones will level out and soon you’ll feel back to normal.
You may also have some outbursts of impatience, frustration, or overwhelm that catch you off guard. Give yourself grace, but don’t let yourself wallow for too long. Your baby can pick up on your mood and it can even affect your breast milk. Take a deep breath, take a break, reset and remind yourself that your body is still going through something major. It takes time.
The best way I can suggest preparing for this is to have a conversation with the people who will be helping after baby comes. Make sure your mom, your husband, your friends, etc. know what to expect and how to support you while your body returns to its usual self.
Also, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Postpartum Depression. This is a real and serious condition that you should keep an eye out for. If you’re concerned at all that the way you’re feeling is more than normal hormonal fluctuations, talk to someone and tell your doctor. Take it seriously. No one will judge you for being cautious and the sooner you seek help the better.
Postpartum Muscle Soreness
After going through labor, your body may be SORE. You’ve just done something pretty stinkin’ amazing and it’s going to be a few days before everything settles.
Some women feel back pain or aches in their hips and legs. This can be lingering pain from carrying Baby around for 9 months or soreness from laboring and pushing during childbirth. In my case, I actually bruised my tailbone. That was fun.
Warm baths, Epsom salt, a heating pad, and lots of comfy pillows can help ease your pain. Most of all your body needs REST. Before long, your hubby will go back to work and you won’t have quite so many visitors offering to do the dishes. Take advantage of the help while your body needs it. Make yourself a super comfortable spot to nap, cuddle with Baby, and breastfeed. Enjoy this time and use it wisely while you can.
Yet another form of postpartum misery. Like we needed another, right?
Your first bowel movement after Baby might be…well…difficult. I hope yours is nothing like mine was with my first. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I think I might prefer giving birth. It was super painful and took multiple attempts, a call to the OB on call, and a late night run to the pharmacy. (Take heart. My second baby didn’t cause so much trouble, so it’s not guaranteed to be so dramatic.)
Postpartum constipation can happen. To prepare for this, drink TONS of water in the last bit of your pregnancy. Eating well during those final weeks will help too, plus it will help your body do a better job of healing. Also, talk to your doctor about using stool softeners during pregnancy before Baby comes. If you think you might be prone to having difficult postpartum bowel movements, you might consider having some Miralax in your medicine cabinet to avoid that frantic run to the pharmacy. Of course, talk to your doctor before taking anything, especially while breastfeeding.
Oh postpartum. As if we didn’t have enough making our bodies crazy, we also get to go weeks and months on unthinkably minuscule amounts of sleep. This can honestly be one of the worst parts of recovering from childbirth.
Listen to me, Mama. After Baby is born, SLEEP. I know you’re excited and you want to put on your makeup and take pictures…do that tomorrow. Your body NEEDS to rest and recuperate. Let Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie, Uncle, and the nursing staff hold Baby while you nap.
Then, when you go home, make this a giant priority. When you’re not nursing, sleep. It’s pretty likely that you’ll be spending the next several months awake when you’d rather be sleeping. At least let your body catch up from the intensity of pushing a human out before putting it through the exhaustion ahead. Otherwise, you’ll spend the first part of your baby’s life feeling like you’re trying to catch up.
I will say that mama’s bodies are pretty cool and we have this amazing ability to not mind these hard parts at first. For about the first 2 months or so, getting up at night doesn’t seem all that bad because we are infatuated with our new baby and on a high. But it does wear off. Check out my tips on handling Mama Sleep Deprivation for tips on how to cope.
This is a big one.
I love breastfeeding and I think it’s incredible…but it can be dang hard. Especially at first. It’s bad enough that we have to spend up to six weeks bleeding, achy, exhausted and sore between our legs. On top of that, our boobs get to feel like they’ve been punched repeatedly and our nipples feel like they’ve been scraped off with a dull blade. All while we’re leaking uncontrollably and trying to figure out our way around a breast pump.
Am I making you dread breastfeeding?
I’m sorry. Don’t. Honestly, despite the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience, breastfeeding is one of the coolest things we get to do for our little ones. And the fact that we are able to push through the difficulties for the sake of what’s best for our babies proves that mamas are tough broads.
It’s worth it. And it gets easier fairly quickly. In the meantime, using a Breastfeeding Station may help.
Here’s how you can prepare:
Set up a little basket or tray set next to anywhere you plan to breastfeed regularly, especially at night. For me, this was my bedside and next to the chair in the nursery.
Include some practical items and some comforts. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Lanolin – This will help with some of that pain. Use it after ever time you nurse. Just get in the habit of applying it right after you’re finished. It can really speed up the healing process and help prevent more pain.
Nursing Pillow – Go ahead and keep your pillow near your Breastfeeding Station. It will be nice for it to have a home, not just land random places. Here’s my review of this amazing pillow. It’s even better than a Boppy and can be used in pregnancy and for Baby’s tummy time too! I’m literally using it to nurse while I type this. It’s my favvvorite.
Breast Pump and Accessories – You can prevent some of that extra pain by avoiding engorgement as much as possible. It is inevitable while your supply is leveling out, but if you pump a little, it will decrease the pain without telling your body to make too much extra milk. Don’t be afraid of your breast pump (like I was.) Getting use to pumping early will make things easier when you’re trying to store a milk stash later.
Breastpads – This kind is great.
Chocolate – Because chocolate.
Water Bottle – I have loved using this one. It’s great because it’s easy to slip onto your finger and carry around while holding a baby. When it’s dirty, I use a cup and I’m always fumbling trying not to drop or spill it while loading into the car or going up the stairs. You’re gonna want something easy to keep with you allll the time while you’re nursing. Hydrate, mama. (I’ve since switched to a glass water bottle. I’m using this one now and I love it. )
High Protein Snacks
Wipes and Burp cloths – For dribbles and messes.
Plus, whatever other things you think you might need during the ridiculous amount of time spent breastfeeding during the first few months.
Ok, something I don’t hear mentioned a lot is how hungry you may feel after having a baby! Both right after birth and during your postpartum weeks.
RIGHT after giving birth to both of my sons, I was starrrrving. Once the bonding hour was over, I was seriously stuffing chicken strips down my throat with one hand while taking pictures of my husband holding our newborn with the other. Make sure you have good snacks ready and waiting for you and don’t be afraid to ask a nurse to bring a meal as soon as you’re able to eat.
Also, breastfeeding makes you ravenous. Especially at first. For the first several months after my babies were born, I was hungry allll the time. Make sure to consider this when making grocery runs after you and Baby are settled at home. Budget for some healthy and filling options, particularly right after breastfeeding. And don’t be afraid to reward yourself with some treats a little too.
Having a baby is a magical time. The hard stuff is just part of it, but you will be re-motivated to push through it every time you snuggle with your baby. Still, that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard.
Yes, there will be some pain. Mentally prepare for that. The tips above will help you avoid some unnecessary stress ahead of time. Things will be challenging, but you can do this.
My best tip is to be patient with yourself. It takes time to adjust to how things are going to change. All mamas are different. All babies are different. Soon, you will find a rhythm that’s right for you.
So prepare the best you can and let the rest fall into place. You’re going to be a great mama. And remind yourself, this is going to be worth it.
If you’re looking for more pre-baby prep ideas check out my posts, What you Probably won’t get at your Baby Shower and How to Mentally Prepare for your Birth Plan to Fall Apart.
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