There I was, 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I was totally set for the baby to arrive. The nursery was ready, we had registered for a pediatrician, we had a baby shower and we had all the essentials needed for baby! Little did I know, the next day my water would break and 19 hours later I would be snuggling with the little preemie who had just been kicking from the inside day before. We all know babies don’t just POP out leaving our bodies back to where they had been 9 months prior. Having a baby and the after effects will be uncomfortable and everyone has a different experience. Whatever your experience, be prepared. Take the time you need to recover and read on for a few tips, tricks, and a shopping list of essential items for recovery.
Vaginal bleeding after birth is completely normal. Doctors and nurses refer to blood and vaginal discharge after birth as lochia. This is much like a very heavy period and will slowly decrease over the course of the week. The nurses or post-partum doulas will provide you with super-sized maxi pads and disposable underwear while you are in the birthing center, but you will want your own supply of super and regular maxi pads for home. Do not use tampons or anything else other than pads for at least 6 weeks and when cleared by your healthcare provider. You may also want some high-waisted cotton underwear at home. You can keep wearing the disposable underwear for a while by hand-washing and hanging them up to dry if you want.
Your perineum (area from your vagina to anus) will be very tender and sensitive after birth. The birthing center will most likely supply you with a sitz bath or a perineum cleansing bottle (“peri bottle”). Use it with lukewarm or room temperature water every time you use the bathroom and follow with Dermoplast spray. Line your maxi pad with 3 or 4 overlapping Tucks pads. Take Advil or Motrin or medication prescribed by your doctor as needed. If all else fails, use a soft ice-pack for 10-12 minutes. But avoid long term use of ice as it can diminish circulation needed for healing.
Try to sip plenty of water throughout the day and eat a healthy amount of fiber in your diet. The last thing you want is constipation. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of chia seeds or ground flax in your yogurt or oatmeal to add a bit of fiber to your diet. You know your body best, take the Colace if needed. Check out this fantastic recipe for Lactation Oatmeal cookies. Speaking of nutrition, plan a few weeks’ worth of dinners for you and your spouse. Purchase or prepare freezer meals ahead of time or get the word out to family and friends to bring dinner over throughout the weeks after birth. Something as simple as sub sandwiches and cookies can feel like a life-saver when you are tired and hungry.
If you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, your breasts will need some attention either way. At first, you feel like you can’t make milk and then literally overnight your breasts fill up and swell up like firm melons. This is called engorgement and is not comfortable. Also, babies can have a difficult time latching on when the breasts are so firm. Pumping can relieve some pressure. Wearing a supportive bra can help with overall comfort. Save those pretty little bralettes for later. You will want to wear nursing pads in your bra for a while or at least until you get the hang of ‘let down’ – yes, your breast will sometimes spurt milk spontaneously. You can also purchase cool gel soothing breast pads or use cool cabbage leaves for tenderness. Have lanolin cream on-hand for nipple soreness.
A note about cramps – as your uterus shrinks back down to size, you will experience abdominal cramping. Each mom’s experience can vary, but the cramps can be intense at times, although brief. They most often occur during breastfeeding. A mildly warm heating pad and some deep breathing can help you get through them.
Prepare for those late-night feeding sessions. Make yourself a designated feeding area – maybe a rocking chair in the baby’s room or your bedroom. Stock the area (within arms reach) with water, easy snacks, chap stick, earbuds, a heating pad and anything else you think you may want in the wee hours of the night.
- Super Maxi pads
- Regular Maxi pads
- High wasted cotton underwear
- Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray
- Tucks Medicated Pads (also used for hemorrhoids)
- Chia seeds or ground flax
- Fiber supplements
- A water bottle to keep with you or extra bottled water
- A heating pad
- A soft, but supportive nursing or exercise bra
- Lanolin cream
- Breast pads for leaks
- Cabbage Leaves
- Cool gel breast packs (Lansinoh Soothies)
- A breast pump
- Chap stick
- Extra ear buds