This was really really hard to write! How can I possibly cram all the postpartum things into one blog post. For anyone who has experienced the postpartum period, you know there is no real way to prepare for that roller coaster ride. So I decided to split this in to parts and tackle the physical recovery first. So here it is!
So you’ve likely researched and prepared for birth, and now the baby is finally here, so now what? Take some cute newborn pictures, immediately become a swaddle pro, and off you go? NOPE. After the baby comes is when the real work begins. Bleeding, a sore vag (or incision), aches and pains, swollen feet, and all kinds of other things, on top of caring for a new baby. So I’m here with some tips to help you recover and to give you a run down of what to expect. This is not intended to be medical advice, just some helpful tips.
1. Ice packs
If you had a c-section, consider putting ice on it immediately or as soon as that dressing comes off. Your first 8-12 hours after surgery tend to be fairly comfortable since you likely haven’t gotten up much. Ice early and often to keep your incision more comfortable.
If you had a vaginal delivery, ice may sound uncomfortable but it will help with the swelling and can help to numb any tears or cuts. Make a sub sandwich for your vag: put down a large pad, then a perineal ice pack, then line that with round tucks pads, and finally spray it with dermoplast. Put that in your underwear and feel the sweet relief. You can also put ice into a diaper. Just pull apart an open diaper from front to back and fill it with ice. Use the tabs to close it up.
2. Poop juice
Hear me out on this. Even if you don’t need stitches, you may likely have small tears. Do you really want to be straining to poop? Take colace at least once a day, and twice a day if you’re taking Percocet, and keep it up, even after that first one happens. It is normal that you might not poop before you leave the hospital but if you feel like you need to, remember the poop juice recipe. 1 each of the hospital juices: apple, cranberry, grape, and prune. Warm it up and chug. I credit an old co-worker with this recipe.
Get up and move! I know you’re sore, and your butt hurts, and so does your back. Getting moving will help. It will help keep fluid from settling and reduce swelling. It will alleviate some pressure on your back. Plus it helps you feel more human to move around a bit. Test out the chair and/or couch for a change of position too. If you had a c-section, it is crucial to your healing and health to get up and moving.
4. Heating packs
Ask your nurse if there are any warm packs. These are a huge life saver, especially if you don’t want to take Percocet. Use them on your uterus for cramping, your back if your epidural site is sore, on your neck and shoulders (those will be sore from pushing). Labor and delivery is one big workout, so expect some major soreness to hit after about a day or so.
5. Hug me
Need a hug? If you had a c-section ask for a hug me pillow! You can use a long blanket folded up and taped around to make a stiff “pillow” that’s about 12 inches by 6 inches or so. Use that to hold tight to your incision to splint you when you get up, cough, or change positions. A little extra support never hurts. If you’re also a c-section mama, take your pain medication! You might not feel like you need it. You might even be surprised how good you feel for the first 24ish hours. But trust me, that pain is coming and if you wait until you’re really feeling it, it’s like playing catch up and hurts a lot worse.
Bring donuts for your nurses. I’m kidding (but kind of not). You may find that it is really sore to sit directly on your bottom no matter how much you adjust the bed. Your boppy pillow makes the best donut for your bottom and you will probably find it more useful for that than for actual breastfeeding in the immediate postpartum period!
7. Booty jacuzzi
If you had a 3rd or 4th degree tear you NEED a sitz bath. But even if you didn’t, a sitz bath can help a ton with healing and comfort. The warm water increases blood flow to the area and you can add essential oils in to help speed healing and comfort. A patients husband one time called it a “booty jacuzzi” and I can’t think of a better way to describe anything.
When you get home, if you still need ice packs (or something for hemorrhoids), make padsicles! Soak a pad with lavender witch hazel and put it in the freezer and voila. You can also make homemade tucks pads with cotton rounds and lavender which hazel.
9. Love your vag
It probably goes against your instinct to aggressively rub “down there” after a baby. I always say “dab or pat dry”. But you can also use a hair dryer to dry off! Just make sure you put it on the cool setting!! Another tip for comfort is to use adult diapers. Sounds sexy, I know. But you might find them easier to change out and more comfortable than using pads, especially if you have stitches.
10. Lanolin or nipple cream
Start this early and often. This can save your nipples! You can also ask for nipple shells (different than shields!). Shells offer a protective bubble around your nipples if they’re really sore. Or just go all out and be shirtless/braless while you breastfeed. I always recommend to use a nipple cream before and after every feeding, as well as before and after the shower. Even when you have a good latch, breastfeeding will probably be uncomfortable while your body adjusts. Unless your nipples were already used to that on a regular basis..
11. Ice again
This time for your boobs! Use cold packs (and Motrin) to relieve engorgement pain and gentle hand massage to express only enough milk for a bit of relief. Your body will even out in just a couple of days so let your baby set the pace. Be prepared for your boobs to just be like leaky faucets so have lots of nursing pads handy. A cut up baby diaper will work in a pinch. If you don’t plan to breast feed, put broken cabbage leaves in your bra. This will help dry your milk up.
12. Babies second night
I think what to expect with a baby deserves its own post but here is a link to babies second night. Remember babies can only communicate by crying. It doesn’t mean you’re doing a terrible job. Those first 3-5 days with a newborn can be brutal while you adjust to breastfeeding, and your baby adjusts to being a baby. This perfectly describes how hard it can be. Remember to take a break if you need to and give yourself as much love as you’re giving to your baby.
13. Say no
It is okay to say no to visitors. You don’t have to entertain. I actually highly recommend you don’t even tell people you’re in the hospital because it gives you time to truly rest. Feel free to set a time limit as well. Let your husband or nurses be the enforcer if you need a break but feel uncomfortable saying so. This time is solely about you and your baby. You don’t owe anything to anyone else.
Accept help. Let your husband take the baby for a walk while you relax. If family insists on coming over, excuse yourself for a nap. If someone offers help, LET THEM. Let them bring you a meal, or vacuum your floors, or pick up groceries for you. From personal experience, I tried to do it all and “keep up.” I wanted to show how good I was at being a new mom. It doesn’t work like that friend. It’s not a competition. So rest and heal. You will feel so much better if you do.
And a few bonuses. Take what you can from the hospital. They will likely give you mesh undies, dermoplast spray, ice packs, nipple cream, diapers, peri-area squirt bottles, and pads. Take it home with you to have on hand for the first few weeks. Take advantage of the hospital nursery if there is one, even if it is just for an hour or two so you can nap or shower. And set aside some quiet time at the hospital and at home where you let the pressure off yourself to entertain. People want to see that baby, and you might feel guilty telling well-meaning visitors “no”. Set those boundaries for yourself and do not worry about others. Or better yet, have that talk up front with your partner and make them run interference with visitors so you get the time you need.
Be patient with yourself. This is all new. Random bouts of crying (for you and baby) are normal. Leaking milk and sweat and blood is normal. Feeling weirdly empty but more full of love than ever is normal. I once heard “take it 2 weeks at a time”, because by then things will be different. It’s so true. I’m rooting for you mama, you’ve got this.