So much preparing for a baby focuses on the baby. Diapers, wipes, swings, baby clothes, bottles, baby blankets, strollers, car seats. There are so many list dedicated to the “must haves” when you are having a baby (I am not immune from this: I wrote one back in 2016). But preparing yourself for post-delivery seems to get forgotten. Sure, you literally grow a baby in your belly for 9 months, go through intense labor, and push that baby through your vagina or get a serious surgery to remove that baby (not to mention that after all of that, you then feed the baby you just made). Your body does all of that. Yet, we put all the focus on the baby.
So much so that when I got pregnant, I knew basically nothing about post-partum care for myself. You guys, I didn’t even realize that you had to birth the placenta after you birth the baby! Sure, now it seems so obvious. But when my natural birthing class brought it up, my eyes widened, I sat straight up, and was speechless. Then I learned that I would become very familiar with a peri bottle and that tearing was very common. I quickly realized how clueless I really was and got upset about how much of my future care was a completely mystery to me. Seriously, I knew next to nothing. When I came home from the birth center with JR, the first thing I did was ask my mom to go to the store to buy me Depends. Because I didn’t realize that I’d be bleeding for weeks after giving birth. No one had really talked about the raw details with me. I took a birth class. I saw a midwife my entire pregnancy. But the post-partum care of me was just never really a focal point of the conversation.
After I gave birth to JR, I made a list of “must have” things for mom. I shared the list with pregnant friends. Bought them items off the list. Spilled the gory details of what happens to your body after you push a baby out of it. Because why tiptoe around this part of motherhood? Your body just accomplished something unbelievably remarkable. It needs some extra attention. And that’s ok. There is no reason why we should hide this part of motherhood.
Now with baby number three on the way, I feel incredibly more prepared than I ever have been to take care of my healing self. So here’s my list. After having JR and Max, these are the items that made such a difference in my post-partum care.
1. Bath Pillow
After having a baby, you are going to be taking A LOT of baths. A lot. At least once a day to soothe your swollen self. My husband was great about making sure I got at least one, if not two, baths a day and wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible so he got me a bath pillow. Having a bath pillow was wonderful. I have never been a bath person so I wasn’t really into the idea of sitting in a bath each day. The pillow allowed me to relax and spend more time in soaking than I otherwise would have, which helped speed along my recovery. I have the Airia Luxury Quick Dry Bath Pillow. I took off the cover so its just mesh. This way the pillow dries faster, as the soft cover is akin to a towel that holds moisture.
2. Extra Soft Bath Towels
There’s no way to sugar coat this: when you first start nursing, your nipples are raw. I will never forget the first time I got out of the shower after having JR and wrapping my towel around my body. Holy hell, my nipples were pissed. The towel was far too rough for my super sensitive nipples. After that eye-opening experience, I got myself the softest towel I could get my nipples on 😉 It was a game changer. I no longer cringed when I got out of the bath to towel off. Do yourself a favor and pick up the softest, nicest towel you can find.
After pushing a baby out of your vagina, it is swollen. You may have teared and have stitches. Witch hazel can provide some relief down there to smooth your sore muscles. These Tucks pads are incredibly thin pads soaked in witch hazel that help alleviate your swollen self. The fact that the pads are so thin made them less irritating since they really didn’t move once you placed them on. Something to note, the witch hazel has a cooling sensation that either makes you feel better or bothers you, depending on where your stitches are. On certain days, I couldn’t handle Tucks. Other days, they were a life saver. Which is a great metaphor for motherhood. Sometimes what you do works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And Lord knows I haven’t cracked the secret of why. It just is the way it works.
Another surprise for me was that you should not use toilet paper after peeing for a couple weeks after giving birth. Of course, after I had JR, I got it. No way would I let toilet paper near me. The birth center gave me a pedi bottle to use after I peed, but I wanted just a little bit more to feel extra clean. So after using the pedi bottle, I sprayed this Sitz Bath Spray from Motherlove. It has witch hazel in it, which helps soothe and heal your sore perineal muscles. Since the spray is just a light mist, the cooling sensation is considerably less than the Tucks pads. For me, the spray made me feeling like I was “extra clean” verse providing me relief from soreness. Plus, on days when the Tucks pads were too much, I was still providing relief to taper the swollenness.
5. Stool Softener
I am not sure about anyone else, but I swear to God, JR came out of my butt. The pain and pressure associated with pushing him out was so intense that the only sensation I could relate it to was pushing a bowling ball out your butt. So the last thing you want to do is push anything else out “down there.” With this in mind, most birth centers and hospitals recommend that new moms take a stool softener to help with your first double potty (ok, poop. There, I said it. Ugh, I hate that word). Because, you know, softer potty, less pushing. And after pushing a bowling ball out of your butt, I think that buys you a free pass from pushing anything else out for a looong time.
6. Depends (or various sizes of pads)
You got to experience 9 months period free. It was lovely and glorious. To make up for that, you now will bleed for several weeks. Maybe just a couple days. Everyone is different. When my babies and I came home from the birth center, we were both wearing a diaper. And I decided to roll with it. Instead of wearing my underwear and pairing it with a bulky pad, I wore Depends. Honestly, I cannot recommend Depends over pads enough. Pads are huge, awkward, and move around as you move. Depends are disposable underwear that don’t have moveable parts so when you move, you don’t have a wad of cotton jabbing your already sore vagina. Depends are so easy to change, and I didn’t have to worry about leaking and ruining a pair of underwear. Plus, then you and the baby get to match since you’re both in diapers #mommyandme 😉
7. Nipple Cream
If you plan to nurse, nipple cream is your friend. No matter how much positive thinking and vibes you put out in the world, the first week or so of breastfeeding is generally uncomfortable. Your nipples are not use to a baby sucking on them 12 plus hours a day. Some babies aren’t pros at latching right off the bat. If you are like me, your nipples will chap and bleed until your body gets accustomed to breastfeeding (which will happen! Within a week or so, you will not grit your teeth as your baby latches!). You will play through the pain, but you’ll make it to the other side so much more gracefully if you use nipple cream after you nurse. I lathered it on like chap stick between nursing, applying it no less than 10 plus times a day. Within a week or so, my nipples had adjusted, and the cream no longer had a prominent role in our nursing routine. But without it, nursing my babies the first week would have been so much harder.
Particularly for first time moms, it can take awhile for your milk supply to match your baby’s demand. While your body is learning to regulate how much milk it truly needs to make, you may make a bit too much milk and leak. Or after your body has the supply/demand down, anytime you hear a baby cry, your boobs may leak milk on cue, even if it isn’t your baby. Or if you are me, you leak milk when you get embarrassed or scared. Placing washable nursing pads in your bra helps mitigate milk soaking through your shirt. They do make disposable nursing pads, but I found them to be itchy. Washable ones were far more comfortable, as long as you arrange them right, and since we are doing almost a load of laundry every other day anyway, tossing nursing pads into the wash wasn’t a big deal for me. I got the Bamboobies Overnight ones, which are extra thick, for every day use. They have thinner ones as well, but I found the thick ones were more comfortable, and I worried less about leaking throughout the day.
Yes, more boobie stuff. I was very lucky when it came to breastfeeding. My mother had instilled in me from early on that my body just made a baby–of course it could make enough milk. Her constant reminders to me that making milk was the “easy” part became my mantra–I can do this. Having that mindset made me more relaxed about nursing because I unabashedly decided that no matter what, my body would make enough milk so no need to worry about that. Still, I didn’t go into nursing without setting myself up for success. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea religiously. Every morning, my husband would make me a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Mother’s Milk Tea. By early afternoon, I’d usually be on my third cup of tea. If I ever got worried that maybe my milk supply was down, I’d gulp down some tea. I can’t honestly say if this tea truly affected my milk supply, but it surely affected my mental confidence that my body was properly fueled to make enough milk. That is good enough for me.
Also, I totally get that making milk is not easy for everyone. It can be a huge challenge and struggle for many. I was lucky to not have that struggle. Instead, my struggle is that my babies don’t sleep 😐
10. Nursing Bras
I lived in nursing bras for the first year of JR’s and Maxie’s lives. My entire wardrobe focused on whether I could “get a boob out,” which trickled down to my bra. When you are nursing an infant, you’ll be pulling your boob out every couple of hours, if not more. Wearing a traditional bra can be clumsy, and yanking the cup down time and time again could stretch out the bra. A nursing bra just streamlines the process of getting your boob free without ruining the bra. There are tons of beautiful and fancy nursing bras on the market. If that is your jam, get them. I grabbed a handful from Target that came in a pack of two, and they work just fine and are a good price point for me at $10.00 a bra. I’m on baby number three and still plan to use the same nursing bras since baby number one. I’d say I got my money’s worth on these bras.
11. Nursing Cami
Depending on the size of your boobs and/or your comfort, nursing camis in lieu of nursing bras are great. You could wear them together but I wear either the cami or the bra. Nursing camis have a little clip on each side of the top of the cami that pops down so you can easily free your boob and feed your baby. Similar to nursing bras, there are so many varieties and styles of nursing camis. I’ve only worn nursing camis from Target, and they have lasted me through two babies and are still in great shape for baby number three.
And that is how I survived my own post-partum care the first two times around. We’ll see if my body falls in line with baby number three or if some new items will be game changers. If you have any post-partum tips or tricks, please send them my way!