You are counting down the days until your pregnancy aches and pains are behind you. Okay, truly you are counting until you get to hold your new little squish. Although, with baby #4, I’m not sure which I’m counting down faster! I’m into the home stretch now, 33 weeks along. If I have learned anything through three births, it is this:
Do Not Forget to Prep for YOUR Postpartum Period
With my first pregnancy, I gave very little thought to what I would need after birth. Each baby has taught me more about how short this timeframe is in the grand picture, and how fast it all goes. Taking the time to properly heal and bond is not only important, but it is truly needed.
It doesn’t matter where or how you birth, hospital or home, natural or medicated, you need to reserve the time to take care of yourself postpartum. (While snuggling a newborn of course!)
I’ll tell you that after an unmedicated homebirth, it’s really not that hard to overlook yourself. I felt good enough to get up and make dinner the same day I gave birth. But, I’ve realized that is not what I should do – and neither should you.
So here’s my list of postpartum must haves:
A House Cleaner – At least once. You don’t want to be lying in bed and see dust bunnies across the room. (This would drive me NUTS.) The peace of mind that a clean house gives me is worth the $100 it costs to get it done. Ask for this as a baby gift from family!
Build a Gift Card Stash: You will need random things after you give birth that you just can’t think of now, and for most families, the newborn stage is not exactly the most financially bountiful. If you can collect a few cards to restaurants for delivery, amazon, or any of your favorite stores now, it will pay off later. Bonus points if all gift cards can be used online. (Go with a standard Visa if you have any doubts.)
Coconut Oil: (See our blog on uses of coconut oil for both mom and baby!) Coconut oil is magic. You won’t believe just how many things you can use it for!
Placenta Pills: While you may be on the fence, these are a must for me. Regulating your hormones after birth is a must – and what better way than to use what your own body created to do so. (Read about Placenta Encapsulation and its benefits HERE )
Prenatal Vitamins: That’s right, they are not just for pregnancy! These babies should be taken daily throughout your childbearing years.
Herbal Bath: Follow the instructions on the box to make a soothing perineal compress. Or, my favorite, throw it in bathtub with Epsom salt and hot water to help ease your sore bottom and promote healing. Save the tea bag and pop it in the freezer for an herbal ice pack and will help make your nether regions feel better. I recommend buying at least two boxes. Earth Mama Angel Baby is my personal favorite brand (on almost all postpartum items!) for bath herbs.
Peri Bottle: The peri bottle (filled with warm water) will come in very handy for cleansing your perineal area. Use it in lieu of toilet paper in the days or weeks following birth, especially if you have stitches or hemorrhoids. You can also fill the bottle with an herbal sitz bath solution and spray it on tender areas to speed healing and increase comfort.
Herbal Healing Spray (Or a Numbing Spray): There are several natural Mama Bottom Sprays out there (hello amazon!), but good old dermoplast will be your best friend if you are in a pinch. Spray after using the bathroom and feel instant cooling and relief.
Pads of All Sizes: In the weeks following birth, your uterus will be discharging copious amounts of lochia (blood and tissue – big globs of tissue). The first few days of flow will be very heavy, and then it will taper off over the next two to four weeks. Lochia is discharged regardless of whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or a C-section. If you’re giving birth at the hospital, they’ll provide you with enormous pads and most likely some mesh undies (so you don’t ruin your own). These come in super handy for the first week, so grab as many as you can from the hospital before you leave. If you have given birth at home or a birth center, you’ll want to pick up some overnight maxi pads (preferably the thick ones). Some women even use Depends or Poise disposables for the first few days of very heavy flow. After that, you’ll probably be able to step down to an overnight or even a regular pad until the bleeding stops.
(Go the natural route and use "Mama Cloth" washable, soft, environmentally friendly pads!)
Granny Panties: You want soft, supportive, underwear that you can just toss after the postpartum bleeding ends.
Tucks with Witch Hazel: This provides so much relief for the days after a vaginal birth. I would just layer it on top of the pad and use. It’s amazing what these little circles will do to help with relief.
Padsicles: Here’s a recipe to make them (and store in the freezer) ahead of time
Stool Softener: Do NOT skip taking these. They will make going to the bathroom a whole lot easier (spoiler alert – it really is not a fun experience right after birth.) I always opt for a food-based high quality version so I can skip the chemicals.
Cooling Gel Nipple Pads: I didn’t even know these existed until baby #2! OH.MY.COLD.NIPPLES.HEAVEN. The amazing glory of cooling them off is indescribable!
Reuseable Breast Pads: I love the Bamboobies brand because they aren’t noticeable under clothing. But there are so many cotton brands out there. Overnight (SO much leaking), I just layer them and throw them in the wash the next day.
Nipple Cream: I’ve never needed this, but I have yet to meet someone else who has said the same thing. If breastfeeding is hurting your nipples, the latch is not 100%. There is not a painful period that you have to go through. Pain means you need a good lactation consultant ASAP. But if your nipples are hurting, go for an organic version of nipple butter/cream.
Mattress Cover: Your mattress will thank you. There will be baby pee, breastmilk leaks, possible blood leaking at night and just random other things that will happen on your bed. Keep that mattress protected.
Waterproof (washable) Pad: Your sheets will thank you. By keeping a waterproof pad under you at night, you won’t have to wash the sheets if you have a blood or milk leak.
New Sheets (Or a wonderful back up set): This is a follow-up to the above. You will be changing sheets frequently.
Arnica: Arnica is actually on my "Birth Kit" list from my midwife. While we use arnica all the time, using it for birth or after, has never crossed my mind. Cue research.
Taking arnica consistently during labor will help decrease the chance of swelling after delivery. You then keep taking them for about 12 hours after delivery, or longer for swelling or soreness.
AfterEase: With each birth comes stronger after birth pains. You don’t realize this until you experience them. By missing just a few drops of After Ease into your water, you will help tame the pain.
Lounge Wear: You will be lounging around for a few weeks, and nursing often. Make sure that your clothing is not restricting and makes you feel happy.
Nursing Bras: Your breasts are going to swell as engorgement occurs, but they will settle after a while. Skip the underwire and opt for comfort.
Frozen Peas: Oh the engorgement pain. Two bags of frozen peas will help the pain.
Breast Pump: I love using my pump for just a few minutes to alleviate some of the engorgement. (Don’t over do it because the body replaces all milk that is taken from the breasts!) I also like to keep some milk on hand just in case. If you plan to go back to work, start building your stash.
Some stored breastmilk: Breastmilk can cure just about anything. From a clogged tear duct to drying out the umbilical cord, and everything in between – this liquid gold is worth keeping a separate stash for random things (HELLO BABY MILK BATH!)
Luxurious Bath Products: This is a splurge and not necessary, but highly recommended. Your postpartum period is the perfect excuse to lie in a bath tub multiple times a week. When will that ever happen again? Splurge on essential oils, sugar scrubs, face products, anything that makes you feel pampered. Read labels though – NO CHEMICALS.
Books, DVDs, Magazines, and Netflix: All night nursing sessions are going to happen. All day nursing sessions are going to happen. You will do a lot of sitting. There is only so much daytime (or late night) TV you can handle.
Belly Belt (Like a belly bandit): These are great to get things going back in place. They provide abdominal and back support, in addition to helping the uterus contract.
Heating Pad: I use this for a few different things after birth. Cramping, back pain, and to heat a place on the bed before laying baby down are just a few. (Don’t lay baby ON the pad!)
A Wrap or Sling: LIFESAVOR. Keeping your arms free is a must. Keeping baby on you is a priority. Accomplish both with a supportive, comfortable carrier. My favorite for the newborn stage is a maya wrap ring sling.
Snacks: Think high protein and snacks that you can grab and eat quickly with little prep. While you are still pregnant, make some of your favorite items and freeze them. Keep in mind that some foods boost milk supply (almonds, oats, etc) so try to include them whenever possible.
Giant Insulated Water Cup: I recommend one with a handle and lid – maybe even a straw.
Freezer meals: Invite a friend over to help, or just mom up and do it. Take a weekend to shop, prep and store about 20 dinner meals, snacks, and any other food item that will help you relax through your postpartum time.
Busy Boxes for Older Siblings: Order a few sticker books, movies, kid-friendly needle points, or other activities that can buy you time postpartum.
Anything to Make your Life Easier: Paper plates, paper towels, plastic utensils. ANYTHING that eliminates tedious chores. Also, keep your daily schedule written out for family to see. That way, whoever is helping will know what time they need to have which kid where, without asking you!
The ability to say "YES!" and "Thank You" – Say yes to friends who want to bring meals, fold laundry, or watch your older children so you can nap with baby. Let your family send gift cards and presents. Even if you are a bit OCD, and a tad Type A, accept help in any and all forms.
Wine: This is an absolute necessity on my list. To each their own.
Did I miss anything?