This is part 2 in our series on postpartum recovery essentials. In this article, we talk about the things you’ll want and need to make your postpartum recovery much easier.
The key to a smooth recovery is to have as many of these things ready as possible before the baby arrives.
When you are discharged home from the hospital with your baby, you are going to be sore and exhausted. Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a c-section, you’ll need time to let your body heal.
Be sure to read part 1 of our series so you’ll know what to expect physically and what complications to look out for in the first 6 weeks after delivery.
Your postpartum recovery essentials:
Get the super long ones or adult diapers. I preferred the super long pads. Your vaginal discharge will be heavier than your period, so you’ll be glad if you get the thickest and longest ones possible.
Large comfy underwear.
You will likely be very sore and swollen. I had an emergency c-section with a midline incision, never saw that coming, so I was so grateful for the advice to get big comfy underwear that wouldn’t dig in anywhere. If you use the hospital ones, the mesh is very loose but tight enough to hold the pads in place.
Don’t skip this one. If the nurse in the hospital offers you a suppository to help you go, take it. Going that first time after you have a baby, whether vaginal or c-section is hell.
You’ll want to make it as easy as possible. Do not strain to make yourself go. Just one thing to keep in mind, if you had a 4th-degree tear, suppositories should not be used, and if you need to use one talk to your provider to determine if and when you can use a suppository. You do not want to disrupt any of the stitches. Your nurse will know this but take this upon yourself to remember as things do get busy on the postpartum floor.
Medicated pads like Tucks for Hemorrhoids:
Another post pregnancy gift many women get, myself included, are hemorrhoids. Tucks or any of the generic varieties will work fine. They have witch hazel in them which is magic for relief or hemorrhoid pain.
If you are like most women postpartum, you will likely have swelling in your feet and ankles after delivery. I couldn’t wear shoes for days. I really liked the soft fuzzy socks. They are super stretchy and didn’t feel restrictive.
Nike Slide on Sandals:
These are the absolute best shoes for the postpartum recovery period. They are non-slip and super comfortable. I’d bring them to the hospital in your bag. You can slip them on in a second for that 2 AM feeding/diaper change. If you have some swelling in your feet and ankles, they will likely still fit fine.
For the first one to two weeks, you will find yourself urinating a lot in the middle of the night. This is because of the fluids you received during your labor and delivery.
Postpartum, the fluid you received goes to the most dependent portion of your body. During the day this will be your feet/ankles. Assuming you are not dealing with swelling related to toxemia, this fluid will mobilize out of your ankles when your legs are at the same level as your heart while sleeping.
The reason you will find yourself urinating a great deal during the night is that the fluid in your tissues is able to return to your circulatory system. In addition, gravity is not impeding the flow of blood up your legs and back to your heart. This results in an increased delivery of blood to your kidneys where the excess fluid can be filtered out resulting in increased urination during the night. WIth your ankles and kidneys resting at the same level diuresis can take place as described. Usually, by two weeks the excess fluid in your lower extremities will be gone.
To further facilitate the removal of fluid from your lower extremities, you can also wear mild compression stockings to compress surface veins in the lower legs.
After a vaginal delivery, especially if you pushed for a while and had a vaginal tear, there can be nothing more comforting and therapeutic than ice packs applied directly to the perineum. Labial swelling can be quite extensive even before a delivery. After your delivery, the swollen tissue needs time to recover.
Combine ice packs with Dermoplast spray after a sitz bath to avoid further swelling, promote healing and avoid infection. This approach should give you tremendous relief during the first 24 to 48 hours after delivery.
Nursing Bra/Nursing Pads/Nipple Cream:
If you planned to breastfeed, there is no doubt you will already have prepared yourself for what to expect. Hopefully, you have talked with others who have breastfed and taken full advantage of the resources available to you at your provider’s office and in the community.
Among the women who breastfeed, one of the key indicators of whether they continue to breastfeed is how prepared they were at the outset.
Breastfeeding requires organization and establishing a consistent daily routine. Without the necessary preparation, what can be a rewarding experience can quickly become overwhelming.
Make sure your home is prepared for breastfeeding when you get home from the hospital.
Purchase all the necessary supplies and decide on a designated place in your home where you will spend most of your time breastfeeding so that your baby will become familiar with your routine.
When you are postpartum and have just arrived home you want your life to be planned out as much as possible.
Loose Comfy Clothes:
You’ll probably be spending a lot of time on the couch or in bed feeding and holding your new baby. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible. Plan to wear loose fitting clothes. Yoga pants and sweats will likely be your go-to for the first couple weeks, at least. If you are nursing, you’ll want a couple nursing tops to make it as easy as possible to nurse.
Epsom salt is amazing for helping to relieve vaginal pain and inflammation. It should absolutely be on your postpartum recovery essentials list! You can take sitz baths to help ease the swelling and pain. Be sure to get the OK from your doctor, but after that soak, soak, soak.
Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray:
Dermoplast is also recommended by many moms and Doctors for relieving pain after delivery. Get the blue Dermoplast can so I’m told. Take the peri-bottle home from the hospital, you’ll still want to rinse off with that first, then use the Dermoplast spray to relieve your pain.
Freezer meals/Take out menus/Finger foods:
Having freezer meals prepared and ready to go for when you come home will be a huge time-saver. I did not do this and I regretted it. I had a c-section and my son was born early and had trouble eating, and was colicky. By dinner time, I was totally fried. Don’t make my mistake. Prep those freezer meals.
You will be hungry and you’ll be stuck at home for a while. Get the take-out menus from your favorite restaurants so you can order the comfort foods you enjoy. Think finger foods. Your new bundle of joy may want to be held all the time or may nurse frequently. That may require you to eat while holding your baby. Finger foods are much easier to eat with one hand.
Stuff to make you feel more human:
Stock up on your favorite shampoo, nail polish, hair color, snacks, and lipstick. When you first come home with your baby, you usually don’t go out much except to the pediatrician for several weeks. You’ll be glad you stocked up on the things that make you feel more human.
Batteries and chargers for phones/tablets:
Make sure you have batteries for the remotes, your camera and the chargers for your phone and tablet. There is nothing worse than a sleeping baby in your arms and a dying phone or tablet. Put an extra charger by the couch or bed, you’ll be glad you did.
Maternity Belt/Belly Band:
If you developed Diastasis Recti during your pregnancy (see part 1) the postpartum use of a belly band (also known as a maternity support belt, abdominal binder or pelvic support belt) can be very helpful.
Diastasis Recti is a bothersome condition where the abdominal muscles separate in the midline. This can lead to a tremendous amount of laxity of the abdominal wall.
This is the result of either a predisposition due to a weak abdominal wall or a result of multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets).
Most often the redundant tissue and attenuated muscles in the abdominal wall will tighten up in time.
However, there are rare circumstances where the tissues never regain their tone. Procedures can be performed to remove the redundant tissue and tighten the midline abdominal muscles.
When this is required a general or plastic surgeon is consulted to repair the abdominal wall to restore the abdominal tone. This may also be necessary, in some instances, to restore normal bodily functions including maintaining proper posture and normal bowel function.
A baby swing is the one item that most women who have had a child will tell you they could never do without. You will always need to be with your baby when he or she is on the swing; however, simply being able to put your child in the swing can be a lifesaver when you just want to sit down and rest. As a rule, babies love swings and often fall sound asleep.
Postpartum Recovery Survival Advice:
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep:
Nap as often as you can. One of the best ways to speed up healing is with rest. Rest when the baby sleeps. Everything else can wait. There is no task more important than rest when you first come home. Take advantage of anyone who offers to help and be sure that your partner is doing their part to help you get some much deserved and needed rest.
You can say “No” to visitors:
Everyone wants to come and see the new baby. Though you want to show off your little one, you may be flat out exhausted and sleep deprived. You don’t have to be the entertainment committee. You can simply say “Not today”. There is nothing more important than you resting and healing. Your friends and family will understand.
Ask for help:
You need to be careful to not overdo it when you come home. Ask for help when you need it. Take help when it is offered. Pushing too hard will only make your postpartum recovery take longer, it won’t speed your healing.
Don’t be afraid to call the doctor:
During your postpartum recovery, which encompasses the first 6 weeks after delivery, there are many possible medical concerns that could come up. This includes bleeding problems, infections (urinary tract, mastitis, uterus, incision), blood clots in thighs/legs, breastfeeding concerns, etc.
As was discussed in Part 1, these are all urgent medical matters that should be addressed promptly. Your doctor and his/her medical group make arrangements to cover urgent issues day and night. Never be afraid to call about these concerns as they can become serious quickly. Diagnosing postpartum problems and treating them early is essential.
Babywearing is a great way to free up your hands so you can do things. You can keep your baby close while you make dinner, do laundry, or take a walk with your other kids.
Being self-employed meant I didn’t get a full 6 weeks to recover. I was back working two weeks after my cesarean delivery and it only happened because of babywearing.
*** I certainly do not advise anyone to return to work two weeks postpartum.
Breastfeeding is NOT Easy:
Breastfeeding is hard. My son was born early, he was a sluggish eater and he wasn’t great at latching on. I ended up with blood blisters on my nipples…ouch!
I pumped and nursed through the pain for several weeks and it didn’t get easier. We made the decision to switch to formula and it was the best decision I ever made. It took so much pressure, pain and fear off my shoulders.
You will receive many unsolicited opinions, ultimately do what you want to do.
One thing that did help me was using a nursing pillow. I had a midline c-section incision that really hurt when anything would touch it, so the pillow helped keep the baby off my belly for those first few weeks.
Here are a few resources that can help with breastfeeding if you are struggling and want to continue nursing:
If you want to switch to formula feeding or formula feed from the beginning here are a few resources you may find helpful:
Postpartum anxiety is real and normal:
It is totally normal to be scared and anxious when you first come home with your baby. I was so afraid something would happen to him. I watched him like a hawk when he slept. It is going to be OK, try to relax and enjoy your little one.
Do only the things that must be done for at least the first week:
If it isn’t about rest, bonding, feeding, changing your baby, or spending time with your other children, it can wait. Visitors can wait. Laundry can wait. Cleaning can wait. Your only responsibility is to heal and take care of your little one. Let people take care of you.
Make sure you have some things to do that you enjoy. Get Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, books you enjoy, podcasts you love…things that are just for you!
Other articles you may find helpful:
- What To Expect During Your Postpartum Recovery
- 7 Brilliant Baby Hacks Every New Mom Needs
- 11 Common Baby Rashes A New Mom’s Quick Guide
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