Practical Postpartum Recovery Tips: Preparing While You’re Still Pregnant
Preparing for 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?
Oh, HELLO postpartum recovery!
The postpartum period 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 recovery 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.
These postpartum care tips will help you know what to expect, plus how to prepare for getting through it with the best advice.
Postpartum Care Tips for New Moms
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Postpartum Pain and Bleeding (and Making a Postpartum Care Kit)
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 recovery 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 making a postpartum care kit. This is such a great way to get ready for what’s to come.
DIY Postpartum Care Kit:
To make your postpartum care kit, get a smallish caddy or basket (I like this kind) then fill it with the important postpartum care essentials you’re gonna need. Trust me, waddling around the bathroom with your postpartum panties around your ankles digging for pads isn’t what you need while recovering from giving birth.
Here are some tips on what to include:
GOOD toilet paper – You want to PAT your tender areas with a quality toilet paper. Something with a thick ply that’s super soft. Put at least one extra roll in your postpartum care kit so it’s right there if you run out. And no, you don’t have to share the good stuff if you’re on a budget. Tell Daddy hands off.
GREAT Pads – Go with this kind. I know they are gigantic, but that’s actually a good thing. And after wearing the massive pad panties you get at the hospital, these will feel pretty good. Stock up on a lighter pad as well (I use these) so you can graduate to a thinner kind once the initial flood calms down.
Tucks– This is truly a MUST for postpartum care and I think most new mamas will back me up on this. These are wipes that are super helpful for postpartum healing. With everything going on “down there” you’ll need some cooling relief. These are inexpensive and really soothing.
Sitz Bath Salts– Taking sitz baths for postpartum care is great for extra healing “down there” if things are really wrecked after birth. This post by Carly at Mommy On Purpose has great tips on why and HOW to do a sitz bath correctly. This particular kind is a really good options. It works really well, smells amazing, and a little goes a long way.
Peri bottle – This cleansing bottle is essential to rinse and care for your postpartum healing needs. Keep it in the bathroom and refill with warm water. It speeds up healing and the warmth is a sweet relief after every not-so-sweet visit to the toilet.
Pain Relieving Spray – I’m SO thankful I got this tip before Baby #1, so I’m passing it on. Gotta share that new mama love. This spray is the BEST. Even if you get away with no tearing at delivery, you’re gonna be sore. Any extra relief you can is a necessity. I recommend this kind because it has natural ingredients, which is important when you’re dealing with your special places.
Colace – After giving birth, your body has to adjust and get back to normal. It’s pretty common to have some constipation and when you’re already hurting, you don’t want more pressure happening. If you give birth at a hospital they will probably give you a stool softener like Colace and tell you to keep taking it for several weeks. I recommend that too, especially after my first postpartum experience. I’ll spare you the details, but stay as regular as you can. More on this later.
Panties – DON”T skip this one. Put at LEAST one pair in your postpartum care kit as a back up. Things will probably fluctuate in heaviness for a while and it might catch you by surprise. Messes will happen and keeping a change of undies nearby will mean you can freshen up without drawing any attention.
My tip: Get some granny panties like these and go up a size or two. You will want something comfy that you can just throw away if they get ruined during the joyful postpartum aftermath. Go with a loose fitting, cheap kind that you won’t mind tossing.
(This list comes from my popular post, Last Minute Things to do Before Baby Arrives. Take a look for more helpful ideas on how to make newborn life easier while you’re still pregnant.)
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 the essentials to have on-hand:
Nipple Butter – This organic nipple cream will help soothe some of the unavoidable breastfeeding pain. It’s safe for Baby and feels amazing. Use it after ever time you breastfeed your baby. It can do wonders. Get in the habit of applying it right after you’re finished with each breastfeeding session. It can really speed up the healing process and help prevent more pain moving forward.
Nursing Pillow – Mama, you want this pillow. TRUST me. I’ve used multiple brands and kinds, but this baby is probably my favorite baby item EVER. 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. I received it as a gift in my third trimester and realized it’s also a FANTASTIC pregnancy pillow. So comfortable. Plus, it can be used for Baby’s tummy time too! I’m literally using mine to breastfeed 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.
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.
High Protein Snacks
Wipes and Burp cloths – For dribbles and messes.
Hand Sanitizer – This kind is a dye and alcohol-free kind I like to use. Less chemicals = less harmful residue on your new baby’s skin.
Also include whatever other things you think you might need during the ridiculous amount of time spent breastfeeding during the first few months.
Do some breastfeeding prep. Beginning breastfeeding can be pretty overwhelming, so knowing what to expect is crucial.
This online Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is inexpensive and really great for moms-to-be. I highly recommend it. (She also has a class for mamas returning to work called The Back to Work Pumping Class.)
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.
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 during your postpartum recovery. 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.
The best of my postpartum recovery tips 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. Remind yourself, this is going to be worth it.
While you’re in baby prep mode:
If you haven’t yet, take a prenatal class to prepare yourself for labor, delivery, and newborn life. This online class by a sweet labor and delivery nurse is really thorough and much better than those awkward hospital classes.
If you’re looking for more ways to prepare before baby arrives 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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