Having a baby. Oh my. There are some THINGS we women should be talking about.
For all you new mamas (and mothers-to-be!), I compiled a list of the essential items that really helped me through the first month of recovering from labor. The weeks after giving birth were really challenging, but I thought it would be difficult only because of the lack of sleep and learning how to take care of the baby. I had gone through an un-medicated 36 hour-long labor, so you can imagine that I thought the hard part was over once the baby was actually out. I had no idea that the recovery process for my own body would be just as demanding as caring for my new babe. There are so many things people don't tell you! So I wanted to pass along the few items that really helped me overcome the physical recovery process (even though at 8 weeks postpartum, I can tell you I am definitely still recovering!) For you single gals, I don't want to scare you... but maybe you don't need to read this until you're actually pregnant and prepping for your postpartum recovery experience. This post might seem a little too-TMI for you. However, once you become a mom, there is nothing off-limits when it comes to discussing bodily functions. You sort of lose that squeamish edge once you've had a dozen people watch your naked body contort in all the most unflattering of positions to actually birth a baby.
This info is geared towards those breastfeeding mamas recovering from a vaginal delivery, though I imagine some of this would be applicable no matter what type of birth experience you have. So without further adieu...
Wear Essentials: Note: I covered some of theses items in My Hospital Bag post.
- Nursing Tanks - I have been living in these Gillian O'Malley for Target Tanks and these Motherhood Maternity Seamless Nursing Camis (also, Jessica Simpson makes this awesome version with a built-in tummy tightener.) These tanks seriously make nursing so much easier and are super comfy. Also you don't need to wear a bra with them, SCORE.
- Nursing Bras - When you do have to go out and wear normal clothes, a nursing bra is a necessity. These can get pricey, which is why I did a happy dance when I found this extremely comfy, supportive (and affordable!) Gillian O'Malley nursing bra at Target. It doesn't have any underwire, so it's comfortable enough to sleep in and the easy snaps make it suuuuuper for nursing.
- Comfy Undies - These are to wear during the few weeks after you deliver the babe while your body is healing. I got a six pack similar to this at Target. You want to get a size that would fit you during your pregnancy (so a little larger than your normal, pre-preggo self) in dark colors. Don't invest too much here, you want something you don't mind tossing if they get ruined.
- Cozy PJs - You are going to be living in your pajamas for a while after giving birth, so make sure you're comfortable! I've been rocking a steady uniform of nursing tanks, yoga pants and a gorgeously soft robe that Stevie gifted me with for Easter this year. These items have been my comfort during the first few weeks/months of nursing with Everett. When your hormones are raging during postpartum, your temperature fluctuates a lot! Be ready to shed layers and then put them right back on. Having something cozy to wear around the house has been a delight.
- Danskin Waist Trimmer Belt - This was loaned to me by my darling sister-in-law Katie, who swears this helped her get her midsection back after her first baby. I wore it interchangeably with my Bellaband during the first two weeks postpartum. I know it takes a lot of time to get your body back after a baby, and mine isn't anywhere close to what it used to be. But I like to think that making this little effort will help?
Healing & Recovery Essentials:
- Silhouette Depends - Don't cry. You won't have to wear these forever. But during the first several weeks after the baby is born, yeah. These are things I wish someone would have told me. So when you send your husband out to the store to pick up your baby's diapers, make sure he grabs a pack of your diapers too. Seriously, you've got to stop crying.
- Poise Ultimate Absorbency Pads - These pads are pretty much the most giant, super absorbent, overnight kind of pad on the market. The nurses at the hospital taught me to layer these inside the Depends. And I've never felt so sexy.
- Tucks Witch Hazel Pads - These are really cooling and comforting for the nether regions, whether you are healing up with stitches or dealing with post-labor hemorrhoids (yep, that's also a thing). Layer them in your pads, within your Depends, and you're good to go. (I'm pretty sure this method is how Stella got her groove back.) I know, you're tears are probably raging at this point. Just power through.
- Perineal Bottle - Hopefully the hospital will give you one of these. It helps clean your "down there" area when its too tender to wipe.
- Sitz Bath - Again, I'm sure your hospital will send you home with this little device, and you should do the sitz bath at least once a day for the first several weeks postpartum. It will help everything heal up just right. Little tip: I HATED taking a sitz bath. So to encourage the full 10 minutes that I just had to sit there... I painted my nails. I had some GOOD nails going in the first few weeks postpartum. Silver lining?
- Smooth Move Tea - Bless my dear doula. She brought this tea to me a day after I got home from the hospital and it works. Helped move my digestion along, since everything slows way down after birthing a baby.
- Probiotic Supplement - I started taking this Jarro-Dophilus supplement when I was pregnant, and my midwife recommended I stay on it while I'm breastfeeding (especially since my little one has a super sensitive tummy.)
- A SHOWER - I swear by this one. Taking a shower everyday is not only good for keeping your body clean so it heals up well... but I truly think it will help you keep sane. I loved taking a shower everyday (and I still do!) even if I wasn't going anywhere and if the only person I saw all day was my little baby. A shower just makes me feel like myself again.
- Honest Co. Nipple Balm - THIS STUFF IS GOLD. Seriously, if I can recommend any product, this is it! This balm is like magic for the nips. It's made of completely natural, food-grade ingredients so it's safe for baby.
- Lasinoh Disposable Nursing Pads - These are dumb, but you have to use them. You don't want to milk all over the place. Which totally happens. Yeah, the good times keep on rolling.
- Lasinoh Soothies Breast Pads - I was ready to raise the white flag at one point, because initially breastfeeding is just so painful. These little guys helped me power through. I couldn't believe how fast they worked! Within a day I was feeling an enormous sense of relief.
- Milkmaid Nursing Pillow - I have been SO pleased with this nursing pillow, especially after trying a few others. The design, the materials used, the shape - it's all SO perfect for nursing the baby, whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding. It has kept my back from wearing out completely, because breastfeeding can be super exhausting.
- Mothers Milk Tea - This tea promotes lactation, which is helpful when trying to build up your milk supply. I thought it would taste awful, but it doesn't! It's got a smooth, peppermint-y flavor, and I've been trying to drink it once a day just to keep my milk flowin'. Yes.
- Hylands Baby Colic Tablets - My baby has a sensitive tummy, and these tablets have really helped calm him down when he wails. I feel so so bad for him because I can feel his stomach tense up (he gets really gassy), so while I am trimming my diet down to really bland foods, I have also been giving him these homeopathic tablets to calm his tummy. They really work!
- Water - This one may seem simple, but its seriously so essential. You body is going to be flushing out fluids over the coming weeks, and its super important to re-hydrate so that you can make milk, etc. It won't be hard though - you will be waking up in the middle of the night sweating and thirsty! Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and keep filling it up throughout the day.
- HELP! - I have been overwhelmingly blessed to be surrounded by so much family during my postpartum process. Being surrounding by loved ones during this incredible experience created a safe environment for me to make mistakes, cry and slowly figure "it" out. And also, it's wondrous to have someone cook you a bit of breakfast, do a few (or in my case, ALL) loads of laundry, clean up your bathroom, and just help out in the areas where you need it! I am so indebted to my sister and mom, it's not even funny. They were lifesavers.
- Talking - I am still mentally and emotionally processing the birth of my son. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Talking to people really, really helps. I have spent hours discussing the different aspects of the birth with my amazing husband, my mom (who is also a certified life coach, SCORE!), and my precious friend and doula, Liz. I truly believe that having a birth experience that differs from your expectations, coupled with the raging hormones, can contribute to postpartum depression. While I am still overcoming different "road blocks" in my mind, having continued support has really helped me avoid plummeting into those darker places. I am so, so grateful that they have been willing to re-hash the birth with me so that I can talk it through and gain some inner-healing.
- Meals - My darling friend Tricia organized a Meal Train using Take Them A Meal, and let me tell you what, IT WAS AMAZING. Having a schedule of folks who were willing to bless us with a meal was so incredibly helpful during those first few weeks. I still don't have the capacity or desire to cook anything, so having that meal support was another thing that I didn't have to worry about. Thank you to everyone who blessed us with such yummy food!
- Sleep - I have been especially bad about napping. But it is honestly the thing that heals you up the MOST. It's been personally hard for me to nap because my son doesn't like napping during the day (yeah, I KNOW), but anytime the baby goes down, I should be napping too. You don't get brownie points for staying awake and doing laundry. Just freakin' TAKE A NAP. Your body is craving it so badly. And you will need those power naps to get you through the day and those endless nights. Believe me.
A Few Resources: Reading through these other blog posts really encouraged me during the healing process.
Postpartum Must-Haves for Mommies
Body After Baby: What to Expect After You Deliver
Making it Through the Last Month of Pregnancy
I hope all of this helps with your recovery. It feels like an eternity when you're in the midst of it, but those little babies grow and change SO much from week to week. Believe me, your body, mind and heart will be changing and healing, too! Give yourself lots of time to recover, give yourself grace when you feel like you aren't measuring up, and let go of comparisons and expectations. Everyone heals at a different pace because everyone's birth story is unique to them. But these sweet newborn moments are fleeting - you never get the beginning back again! So soak it up!
For those who have already gone through labor and delivery, are there any tips or products that helped during postpartum? I'd love to hear about what worked for you. Feel free to comment below!