Postpartum Self-Care Survival Guide

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postpartum self-care

Recently in the media, there has been more “real talk” about postpartum recovery and what to expect after the baby makes his/her exit. Whether via c-section or vaginal delivery, a mother’s body can be somewhat worn out post-birth.

I had two c-sections followed by vaginal delivery, and I felt fairly unprepared postpartum with both modes of delivery. Despite my birthing classes and knowledge of birth, especially for the vaginal delivery, I hadn’t thought about what I would actually be feeling and experiencing after birth. Possibly this was because I was afraid to get too emotionally invested in a vaginal delivery as providers warned me that it was unlikely. Although ultimately successful, I was somehow naive about the aftermath.

I hope to offer some helpful tips for what to expect from your body and how to prepare for postpartum recovery. Some of the Fairfield County Moms Blog mamas have added their own suggestions as well!

Stock up on all the things.

However you deliver, you will need pads. So. Many. Pads. Pads the like you have never seen before. I’m talking about industrial strength. Don’t buy some thin, dainty little panty liners. You need thickness. And wings.

If you plan on breastfeeding, stock up on comfy nursing bras for sleep. I liked nursing tank tops the best so that you don’t have to show too much skin if you are surrounded by friends and family. Buy good breast pads for breast milk leakage. Unfortunately, in my experience, disposable is best. The washable ones are prone to yeast growth, etc.… 

Vaginal Delivery

If you have a vaginal delivery, you will need several products to help you. Recently, Frida Mom has come out with some seemingly good products, but I cannot attest to them personally. You can also make your own kit. I wish I had done this! Here are a few suggestions from myself and the Fairfield County Moms Blog Team:

  • Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray (for your sore and possibly torn vagina).
  • A Peri Bottle (for washing off your bits since you won’t be wiping for a while).
  • Witch Hazel cooling pads, like Tucks (to line your giant pad. They have a cooling effect and also an antiseptic quality).
  • Stool Softener, like Colace (they will give it to you in the hospital, but you should have some at home so that you don’t risk constipation postpartum. All women fear the first bowel movement. It’s totally normal, and you will get through it!).
  • Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
  • You can also take arnica, which is homeopathic and may reduce swelling/bruising.
  • If you have a Boppy Pillow, it makes an excellent undercarriage cushion for your traumatized lady bits.
  • Postpartum underwear if you would like to preserve your regular undergarments or snag lots of hospital ones. See below.

C-Section

For a c-section, many mom’s swear by belly bands that give some support to your incision and the stretched out muscles. Understand that you will be sore for weeks. You are recovering from major surgery! My advice is to take all the drugs that you are prescribed. With my first c-section, I tried not to take them because I was worried about side effects, etc.… but I suffered as a result. Being in too much pain can negatively affect your milk supply if you are breastfeeding, and will make your recovery much more difficult. For sober mamas, you should talk to your healthcare provider about pain management before delivery. Weigh the pros and cons of taking limited quantities of opioid medication. 

Steal all the things.

This heading is a joke (kind of). You may have heard tell of the glorious hospital disposable underwear. It is as marvelous as you have been led to believe. Ask for a bunch to take home with you. Take as much as you can. Using them preserves your own underwear from staining, and they are soft and stretchy. Take the hospital pads as well. They may even offer you some that have the gel inside that makes them cold. They should give you a peri bottle to take home and maybe a sitz bath as well. I didn’t use the sitz bath, but I know that some other blog moms found it comforting. I was too worn out to figure out how to use it. 

Postpartum, whether recovering from a vaginal delivery or a c-section, take care when you cough, sneeze or laugh to brace the injured area with a pillow. It will help minimize the pain. 

When you are able, try an Epsom salt bath. Some products add lavender for relaxation and soothing. Epsom salt helps draw toxins out of the body, so have a family member hold baby for a bit so that you can relax in the tub. 

Eat. As strange as it sounds, it can be hard to prioritize your own needs when you are caring for a little person all the time. I’ve never been the sort of person who “forgets to eat,” but often, when you have a baby on you, it makes it hard to stay hydrated and fed! Before baby comes try to do some cooking for the freezer. Stock up on hearty granola bars and other high protein/fat snacks. Do not let visitors into your home unless they come bearing food. After every delivery, I’ve had mamas drop off pot pies, lasagnas, chicken piccata, etc… It really helps. Especially when you have other mouths to feed! 

Ask for help. I can’t stress this enough. We need help after we deliver. In my last postpartum experience, on my first day home, my middle son had walking pneumonia. He was up coughing my first night at home with the new baby. I texted my mom in the middle of the night and said, “I need you to come here tomorrow.” Even though my husband was home, we had so much to manage. 

My third baby’s first pediatric appointment involved me sobbing in the lobby to staff that I was also bringing my boy for a sick visit. I was utterly overwhelmed and panicked that the baby would get sick. My mom was at our house when we got home and held the baby while I set up the nebulizer for my son. She held the baby while I napped my very sleep deprived and beaten up body. She held the baby while my husband then went to the school to pick up my daughter, who had inserted lead pencil tips into both of her ears and brought her to the doctor to have them removed. This was not a drill. You need help.

If you don’t have family nearby, ask for help from friends or if you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula. She can help you with breastfeeding, housework, and more. 

At the end of the day, mama, you have done something incredible with your body, and you need to be sure to identify what you need to help you heal. You’ve got this!

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