As a Doula, I knew that I needed some very important items to help me heal after childbirth, but my experience preparing mothers for this important transition period has shown me that postpartum healing for mothers is an overly neglected area.
Too often, the focus is on what a baby needs when it's born, but truly, besides a few things like diapers and onesies, all the baby needs is it's Mother! So the true focus should be on what the MOTHER needs!
So, what are some things you MUST have for healing postpartum?
- ADULT DIAPERS - I can't tell you how much nicer these are than huge underwear with pads! As one mom said, "Who wants to sit on a brick after childbirth!?" Adult diapers are comfortable and give you full coverage, because, yes, you will be leaking a lot of fluids after birth!
- Making "Padsicles" You can put some witch hazel in the 'pad' part of the diaper and freeze them. You can also get some thinner pads, wet them with witch hazel, freeze, and then stick them into the diaper.
- Note: depending on the amount of discomfort you have, try to only use cold in the first few days. Heat actually helps heal faster, so alternating between cold and heat (sitz baths) is better than *only* using cold. See below for Sitz baths!
- Hospital birth? Be sure to ask for a pack (or two) of these to take home!
- Cesarean surgery? You will still leak fluids and need to use something like a diaper or pad.
- PERI-BOTTLE - This helps you pee with less pain. You gently squirt the water as you pee. You should also use every opportunity to pee in the shower or bathtub (Sitz baths!) as it feels much better.
- You can fill this bottle with "sitz bath" mixture (see below).
- Hospital Birth? Ask for one of these to take home!
- TUCKS PADS - These are a brand of small, round, pads that have witch hazel and are flushable (this is a nice feature since you will sit on the toilet and it will fall in). They are great for healing hemorrhoids and other trauma to the anus/perineum. You can also just use witch hazel on your own pads/cloth, but it's hard to remember to remove it before you sit on the toilet!
- Place some in the fridge or freezer for some cool relief!
- EPSOM SALTS - These are for your Sitz Baths. You can purchase a small insert for the toilet that is a technical "sitz bath", but I preferred to just use my own bathtub. There are numerous products you can buy, or, herbal recipes for making your own Sitz Bath mixture.
- Sitz Bath water should be like a hot tub, as hot as you can enjoy without scalding yourself. The heat brings blood flow to the area and this helps speed healing.
- If you can't afford all the Sitz Bath products, or, the herbs to make your own. Then using Epsom Salts is enough.
- An herbal mixture is a GREAT GIFT someone can buy you for your baby shower!
- FLUSHABLE WET WIPES - There's a few different bodily fluids you'll have to wipe off yourself. The wet wipes make this process less daunting and more comfortable. Flushable just makes it nicer to wipe and drop in the toilet!
- Note: Most flushable wipes I've seen say to only flush one or two at a time, keep this in mind and give an extra flush if you need to :-)
- MAGNESIUM - It's likely that we are all deficient in magnesium, and this is one reason I use it instead of another "stool softener" product. This stuff works like magic, I've used it in pregnancy to help get a crampy poo out quickly and on my toddler when she needs a poo-boost!
- Follow the instructions! Too much will make your poo too loose and that's no fun, either!
- This works quickly on my family, so don't take it 30 minutes before a road trip, do it the night before ;-)
- SUPPORT - This comes in all shapes and forms, ask people to do what they are best at and what comes easily to them.
- Physical - Most people want a task to complete that helps them feel good about helping you. Make a list of things people can help with and the important info for how to complete that task (like where the dog food is). If a friend stops by, have them fill your water bottle, grab you a snack (or bring a meal with them!), and help you with any other things you've been thinking of while you sit under your baby.
- Emotional - choose a friend or family member (or a couple of them!) who's really good at lifting you up and ask them to send you messages, give you a call, and be responsible for lifting your spirits here and there. This is super important! You WILL feel exhausted, defeated, uncertain... this person is there to remind you what a good job you are doing and get you to laugh.
- Peer - This will be one of the hardest things for some of you, but find a group and go to a meeting! Getting out of the house is hard, but connecting with other mothers/parents is incredible and will help you feel less alone. Look for a local Family Resource Center, Library group, La Leche League, church group, etc...
Additional items to have on hand:
- Water bottle(s) - you'll need lots of water to recover from childbirth, pregnancy, and for breastfeeding! Make it a big water bottle so that you don't have to get up to refill it.
- Healthy snacks - simple things that you can grab/prepare quickly. A few dry snacks in a basket at your "nest"(see below, this is the place you will most often veg-out with your newborn), is great too. I like having Luna bars next to the bed and at my "Nest", which is the Lazy-boy in front of the TV!
- Frozen/already prepared meals - make a few and freeze them before the birth, also, ask friends/family to bring a meal to freeze for you too!
- Lavender oil for calming and helping you rest. I set up an oil diffuser next to my nest and one in the bedroom. Lavender oil is very safe, be careful with other oils if you aren't experienced.
- Face cleansing wipes. A quick wipe down can help you feel clean and refreshed when you don't get to shower every day!
- Stretchy wrap or ring-sling for baby-wearing. Baby-wearing has been shown to reduce crying (for baby AND mom!), reduce spit-up and gastrointestinal issues for baby, increase breastfeeding success and breastmilk supply ... skin to skin is amazing for baby, mom, dad, basically anyone who does it! Babywearing is also a great way to hold baby close for short walks outside - going outside is great for healing! Try to get out for at least 10 minutes a day.
- Pillows - you likely already have a bunch from being pregnant, make sure you've got easy access to a few extra in the bedroom and at your nest!
My home-made belly binding wrap!
- Belly Binding Wrap - this can be an actual wrap (I made my own by tie-dying a plain bekung belly binding wrap I bought from Etsy), or a velcro one from a baby store/amazon. Be sure to read the instructions and learn how to use properly! You need to pull your "insides" upwards from the bottom of your pelvis towards your ribs, to help prevent uterine prolapse... pushing downward towards your vagina can risk your uterus being pushed into/through the vagina. This is rare, but make sure you read about how to use whatever you decide to use.
- Something to watch! Netflix, movies, save a few of your favorites for cuddling with the baby and relaxing to an entire 7 seasons of your favorite show.
- Electric heating pad - You will have lots of aches as your body recovers, as you hold your baby all the time, and as you breastfeed. I placed my heating pad on the back of the lazy boy and would click it on whenever I sat down. The heat on my back was so nice - I had lots of tension and soreness from laboring on my hands and knees for 12 hours and then nursing for 31.5 hours a day.
Recommended by others on my Facebook page:
- Grape juice came highly recommended by a few moms!
- OJ is rough on your stomach and apple juice isn't as flavorful.
- One mother recommended: "Young living Claraderm spray, you spray it on your nether regions, it's a major soother and healer! Seriously magic stuff... it is expensive but 1000000000% worth it"
Preparing your "Nests" for postpartum recovery:
*This will look a bit different for everyone. For some, you may only have one nest, in the bedroom. For others, you may have a couple areas in the house that you want to prepare as a nest.
- Bathroom - place all your bathroom supplies in the bathroom you care most likely to use. Your adult diapers, Tuck's pads, flushable wipes, peribottle, and Sitz bath materials should all be in one, easy-to-reach place in your bathroom. I had a little basket with all my supplies right next to the toilet.
- Bedroom - Keep a couple dry snacks (granola bars, crackers, etc) by the bed in case you get the munchies and don't want to get up. It's also good to have a water bottle, extra pillows, and an oil diffuser with some lavender oil set up. Make everything as easy for yourself as possible - if you might forget it in one place, then have one in each place! One water bottle in the bedroom and one at your "nest"!
- Living/TV room - This was my biggest nest as I spent a lot of time sitting in the lazy boy, nursing, and watching Netflix with my newborn. I had a water bottle, dry snacks, pillows, TV remotes, oil diffuser with my favorite oils, a few washcloths/rags for spit up/spills, heating pad, and a book. I also left my laptop plugged in here sometimes too.
- Kitchen - Throughout pregnancy and postpartum, I had all my herbs, prenatals, and supplements in a little area. I had Nettles for nettle tea (great for Iron), Raspberry tea for uterine health, Magnesium supplement (see above), and prenatal vitamins. *I added a few things here that I didn't list elsewhere, there will be more blog posts on the herbal teas coming soon!
Remember, babies have a "Fourth Trimester". Here's a great article to learn more about what to expect during this 3 month period: Why Your Baby is Only Happy in Your Arms
What other items would you recommend!? Let us know in the comments below!
~Randi McCallian, MPH, IBCLC, CD(DONA)