15 Items You Need to Survive Postpartum Recovery
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I survived 42 weeks of being pregnant and then a 36 hour labor… the hard part is over! Right?
Wrong! Labor felt natural, educational, and empowering! Postpartum, well, it hurts. Motherhood is the most rewarding job out there, but there’s no shame in admitting that the physical recovery can take a toll on you, and personally, I don’t think enough people talk about it.
After being discharged from the hospital, it took me weeks of wearing frozen diapers to sit or walk right again. Everyone’s journey is different, but on average, women take 1-6 weeks to physically recover from a vaginal delivery (even longer if you have a C-section). I knew I would need time to rest, but I didn’t realize the extent of what that rest would look like.
My “plan” going into postpartum was to take a ton of supplies from the hospital (as many people do). That’s it. I would stock up before I left, and thus no need to buy anything for myself. Unfortunately—even with the nurse’s help—the supplies I left with would only last me a few days, not a few weeks! The day I got home from the hospital, I found myself on Amazon ordering things, in need of a one day delivery.
Here is a list of items that were well worth the money in order to survive my postpartum recovery for a vaginal birth:
15 Items You Need to Survive Postpartum Recovery
After birth, you will have some heavy bleeding. After a few days, the flow will lighten up, but it still can last weeks, so have pads handy. I prefer the extra long ones to save myself from a mess.
I also used maxi pads as ice packs; soak the pad in water and throw it in the freezer for a couple hours. This will help ease your pain, especially if you have stitches.
They are a little more expensive than witch hazel alone, but I like the convenience of the pads.
At the hospital, the nurses gave me Tucks Medicated Cooling Pads, so I made sure to buy more. These pads are good for hemorrhoids, but they also help cleanse your vaginal area and relieve discomfort. I would just place a couple on top of the maxi pad I was wearing and voilà!
This is another hospital goodie. One of the most painful aspects of postpartum to me was the burning sensation during urination. Any urine that grazed over my tear really hurt.
Dermoplast Pain and Itch Spray temporarily numbs the area but also helps prevent infection.
Contractions, sore muscles, bleeding nipples, OH MY!
Here are some of the reasons you will want to have Motrin and Tylenol in your house. Both drugs relieve pain, but Motrin is also an anti-inflammatory drug; my nurses had me switching back and forth between the two when I was in the hospital.
- Your vagina is probably swollen and your uterus will soon be contracting back to its original size. This means you will have mild contractions which feel like menstrual cramps.
- After giving birth, your whole body will ache. Pushing a baby out is a full body workout. My biceps, shoulders, abdomen, and legs were all sore the next day! Additionally, my back was sore from the epidural injection.
- If you’re breastfeeding, the first week is rough. Your breasts will be engorged with milk and your nipples may bleed or crack. Both you and your sweet baby will get passed this first stage, I promise (though there is no shame if you decide to switch to formula).
I know it’s like, “WTF, this sounds awful!” ...but HANG IN THERE. This too shall pass.
Everyone dreads the first bowel movement after giving birth, usually for fear of the pain. Colace is an OTC stool softener that is recommended, even if you’re not feeling constipated. It will make your bathroom trip way more comfortable and hopefully subside any concerns you may have been having.
It’s true, breastfeeding makes you thirsty! Breast milk is 90% water and that water is coming from you! This means, if you don’t replenish, you will become dehydrated. The previous idea that you should drink 8 cups of water a day now looks more like 12 cups of water a day. Carrying around a water bottle will remind you to just keep drinking, just keep drinking.
Lanolin is a cream used to soothe and heal dry nipples from breastfeeding. It moistures your nipples and is safe for your baby to ingest. As mentioned before, breastfeeding can start as a painful process. If you stick it out, it does get better and Lanolin will help you build nips of steel in no time.
Comfort is key when recovering postpartum. The mesh undies are great, but their shelf life is less than ideal. Instead of buying more mesh undies, get a few pairs of cotton briefs—undies that can actually be put in the washing machine! Grab one of those 8 packs from your local pharmacy and make sure to upsize, so they are not too tight.
If you don’t own a robe already, I highly suggest investing in one. I spent the first two weeks walking around my house in a robe and undergarments. It was much easier to breastfeed and stay comfortable this way.
- Phone Chargers
Since being home with a newborn, I quickly realized I am at the mercy of my baby. Feeding, changing, rocking, pumping, sleeping, can take place anywhere in the house and you can’t always up and move whenever you’d like. My husband and I decided we needed a couple extra chargers around the house to keep in the living room and family room so we don’t have to keep running back and forth to the bedroom. It’s the little things that help!
- Loose Cloth Bra
Although I bought some great nursing bras, they are tighter than I needed them to be for just lounging around the house. You actually want to avoid wearing a bra that is too snug if you are breastfeeding because it can weaken your supply and may cause plugged milk ducts (which can lead to infection). I suggest an easy to remove bra with no wires or clasps.
- Donut Cushion or Pillow
I became so accustomed to my soft hospital bed that I didn’t realize how much my bum would hurt sitting on a non-cushioned surface. You don’t need to invest in an expensive pillow if you don’t want, but they do make “donut” and “waffle” cushions specifically to make sitting more comfortable. It may seem silly, but you want to have a soft pillow in the house to put down on your dining room chair or even your couch depending on the firmness.
If you are having pain in the perineal area, you should try taking a Sitz bath. It will help relax your muscles and bring temporary relief or soreness you may be facing down there.
Don’t put your prenatals away just yet. If you are breastfeeding, doctors recommend that you continue to take prenatal vitamins. This ensures your bundle of joy is getting all the necessary nutrients required to be healthy and strong.
With a newborn, time will start to feel like a social construct. You are probably facing irregular sleep patterns and possibly sleep deprivation. The good news is you can start to incorporate more caffeine in your life even if you are breastfeeding. Only a small amount of caffeine actually passes through to your breast milk, so as long as you are drinking in moderation, it is not considered harmful. Hopefully that extra cup a day will help you stay alert while adjusting to life with your new baby.
You should have received a peri bottle, or perineal irrigation bottle, at the hospital if you did not have an at-home birth. If so, there’s no need to buy another one unless you want one in each bathroom, in which case, go crazy, they are pretty inexpensive!
Try not to get too caught up in the postpartum misery and remember your little one will only be this little for so long. Soak up the time you have together and CONGRATULATIONS on being a total warrior!
- Samantha Colandrea