Postpartum Recovery Essentials: 16 Must-Have Postpartum Essentials
Looking for ways to make postpartum recovery easier? These 16 tips will help you get back on your feet–advice from a mom of four.
POSTPARTUM RECOVERY ESSENTIALS
“OMG, why didn’t anyone tell me postpartum recovery was so rough?!!” I received this text from my friend who had just had her first baby. I felt awful. As much as we talk to women about labor and delivery, we share practically zero about postpartum recovery. So here I am laying it all out on the line…including the embarrassing parts like peeing my pants.
Giving birth to my children is the hardest thing I ever did. But postpartum recovery is nothing to sneeze at either (and too few people talk about that!) But, there are lots of things that you can do to help you heal faster. Take it from me–after four unmedicated vaginal births, I know what to skip and what’s essential with postpartum healing. And for the record, I tore a small amount with each kiddo (no one talks about that either.)
Now each person is different, and I am not a doctor; but, these products helped me recover each time. And I was up and at it days after giving birth–I took Brooke (our third) to zoo at only five days old. And Caroline? Well, she was at our neighborhood pool at three days old.
Did we go for a long time? No! Was I pushing myself to physical exertion? No! We went out for an hour, and I had a big ol’ pad on underneath my shorts. But I wanted to get out and walk around so I did. Listen to your body–it’s the best barometer of how you are healing–and don’t be afraid to sit down and take some time for yourself.
I did what was comfortable for me. Because I had older kids (2, 4, and 6), I wanted to get up and be with them. But, the most important thing is listening to your body and taking care of yourself. I know it’s hard as a mom to put yourself first (I struggle with it every day); but, with postpartum recovery, you really need to give your body time to heal. Even a “textbook” labor is tough on your body–it’s like running a marathon? So give yourself a break and pamper yourself postpartum.
MY POSTPARTUM RECOVERY JOURNEY
MY FIRST CHILD’S BIRTH
In some ways, my recovery after Bowe (my first) was the hardest. I had labored for over 24 hours and was in “active labor” for about 10. I then pushed for four hours (I arrived at the hospital at 9.5 cm and then pushed for four hours.)
It was brutal.
That was my roughest recovery because my pelvic floor was so exhausted, and I tore. Postpartum, I battled incontinence (peeing myself) for the first three months as well. I’ll never forget when Bowe was two days old, my husband had run out to the store to pick up something and I had to go to pee, so I put down Bowe tried to get to the bathroom as fast as I could, but ended up slightly peeing myself before I got there. I was so ashamed and I felt broken. When my husband came back, he found me and the baby both crying. It was temporary but it was very real and my hormones made me an emotional mess.
It was only then that it hit me…postpartum recovery is real. Thankfully, my pelvic floor strength returned and the incontinence was only temporary. But I’ll never forget feeling so broken and dejected.
SECOND, THIRD, AND FOURTH LABOR AND RECOVERIES
With births 2, 3, and 4 (Jack, Brooke, and Caroline,) I didn’t have such bad pelvic floor exhaustion after giving birth so the incontinence was better (but still present to some extent.) For a year after Jack (my 2nd born), I had to wear pads when I ran. And the same with Brooke (3rd born.) I suffered from normal diastasis recti with each pregnancy. Afterward, I had to work on strengthening my core muscles again which helped a lot.
But since the labors were so quick and I only at longest had to push for 20 minutes (Brooke was sunny-side-up), my recovery was much better. I don’t think my body was as exhausted.
What was harder with births 2, 3, and 4 was the postpartum cramping as my uterus shrank.
It went away within a couple of days, but it was definitely harder the subsequent births, which made having my Motif Postpartum Recovery Support Garment even more important (see why I really liked it below.) I had worn Motif’s Pregnancy Support Band during my pregnancy with Caroline which helped my lower back pain (see more reducing lower back pain during pregnancy here.) It also helped me feel just more supported overall.
With my second, third, and fourth pregnancies, I carried so low it was nice to feel “held up” by something. And the constant pressure felt good on my hips.
POSTPARTUM ESSENTIALS SURVIVAL KIT
1. Postpartum Recovery Support Garment
The first thing you want to make sure you grab postpartum is your Postpartum Recovery Support Garment. I tried a few and my favorite is the Motif Medical Postpartum Recovery Support Garment. It’s designed by healthcare professionals to help new moms heal and recover by delivering gentle compression to prevent swelling in the legs, and reduce postpartum bleeding, swelling, and pain following natural (vaginal) childbirth. My OB recommended it, and it really helped me get back on my feet and back to everyday activities more quickly.
The postpartum recovery support garment is snug and secure but isn’t tight–it actually feels good to feel supported. It has little silicone grippers to prevent it from riding up, so it stays in place. It’s also really nice to feel covered up when you are nursing (because after you have a baby your tummy feels like jello for a little while.)
But isn’t it hot? Because Caroline was a summer baby, I was originally a little hesitant to wear a postpartum support garment. I was worried I would feel constricted and (well, hot!) But it is seamless and was very comfortable under clothing. It is made of lightweight breathable fabric that didn’t encumber me even on the hottest days of July.
What about C-Section births? Motif Medical also offers a C-Section Recovery Support Garment specifically designed for recovery after a c-section. But since I don’t have direct experience with that, I won’t speak to it here; but, it comes highly recommended.
HOW TO GET A RECOVERY SUPPORT GARMENT COVERED BY INSURANCE THROUGH THE MAIL:
- Use Motif’s Health Insurance Lookup Tool, just select your state and your insurance company.
- You will be matched up with a medical supplier that carries the Motif Compression Band and works with your insurance company.
- Select their link and fill out their form–the medical supplier reps will get in touch with any additional information they need.
- Wait for your support garments in the mail!
2. Water Bottle
Drinking enough water is so incredibly important postpartum. Your body is thirsty for more water because you are now making milk–a lot of it! But it’s hard to remember to drink enough water, hence the need for a large water bottle with a straw (the straw is key for when you nursing!) As a new mom, your mind immediately goes to taking care of everyone else. You have to remember to take care of yourself too!
3. Feminine Pads
Ahh, feminine pads! Yeah, I know. It’s not the most exciting thing to have; but, believe me, it is necessary! If you can, make sure to grab extra from the hospital before they release you. Those are the best ones because they are super absorbent! Otherwise, look for overnight pads with wings that are the highest absorbency. Overnight ones are generally longer in back, so they will be helpful for when you are napping during the day.
4. Topical numbing spray
Yeah, another one of those “I never thought I could love something so much” purchases. The hospital will likely send you home with either Dermaplast, Tucks, or instructions on how to make your own anti-inflammation wipes. They slightly numb you down there which helps with the swelling and skin irritation down there (very helpful if you tear.)
5. Nursing nipple covers
When your milk comes in, you may find that you are leaking all over. It’s not fun; but, it’s a good sign that things work! Don’t fret, just stick one of these nipple covers in your bra on either side. I’ve tried a lot of brands over the years, and Motif Medical’s are my favorite because they have a contoured fit, are adhesive on one side (so they stay put), and are breathable.
6. Stool softener
Yes, you are going to want this, especially if you had any kind of tearing down there. This isn’t a laxative, it just softens it, so it’s easier. And yes, I made my husband had to go to the pharmacy to pick this up for me after each of the births! I figure I was the one who just went through labor…LOL.
7. Ibuprofen/ Acetaminophen
Like I said above, there’s a lot of cramping and swelling that happens after giving birth. The good thing is that most of the cramping goes away within a few days. But those early days, you are going to want your pain relievers. Get the correct dosage from your doctor and set alarms on your phone (or your husband’s) to make sure you are taking them on schedule. You’ll thank yourself later! For me, the cramping was always the worst when I was breastfeeding. It’s natural for your uterus to contract when you nurse (it helps you recover faster), but it doesn’t feel good. This helps that!
8. Granny panties
You can call them whatever you want, but you are going to want the biggest, comfiest, underpants that you don’t really care too much about. Boycut undies work particularly well for fitting those hospital size pads in.
9. Perineal Cold Pack
At the hospital, they will likely give you one of those huge ice packs to stick in your underwear. Ask for extras! They help the most in the first 48 hours according to my labor and delivery nurse, but they also help with pain relief in the following week. If you run out, consider buying some online. Believe me, I speak from experience–you don’t want to try to DIY this. We attempted to DIY it and it was NOT comfortable!
10. Nipple Ointment
Newborns nurse a lot. Reduce the likelihood of getting chapped nipples by being proactive about applying nipple ointment. Whatever brand you choose, the important part is moisturizing them upfront and getting ahead of a potential problem. Be vigilant about it before it becomes a problem.
11. Hospital Mesh Undies
Some people hate them, some people love them. I fall into the latter category. While they aren’t attractive, they are highly useful for the first week when there is the most bleeding. I keep them folded up in my postpartum essentials kit (shown above right), and I can wear them without a problem under my postpartum recovery support garment (shown left above).
12. Peri Bottle
Postpartum, you are not going to want to wipe down there for quite some time. Instead, your health providers will recommend you rinse off with a peri bottle. They will supply you with one from the hospital. Have one in each bathroom you frequent–it’s an inexpensive way to make your life easier.
13. Hand Sanitizer
Before your baby comes, you are going to want to order at least one hand sanitizer dispenser. We prefer the all-natural ones. Having it out on your counter is a visual reminder to ask guests to sanitize their hands before they hold the baby. It’s also a good thing to have at each diaper changing station!
14. Protein Bars
I found it really useful to purchase protein bars, but you could always make some yourself too. Having a protein bar that was easy to eat one-handed which I could snack on while holding the baby was really helpful. For some reason, my kids always woke up around meal time (I swear they could smell dinner and wanted to eat!) So having protein bars as snacks was a lifesaver. Stash a few in your breastfeeding basket or at your pumping station.
As much as I love wearing yoga pants, I do not like wearing them right after giving birth. First off, I usually have a big ol’ pad on, and I’d rather that not be visible. Secondly, my tummy feels like jello right after I give birth, and I prefer looser tee-shirts that are easy for nursing, and comfy sweat pants or shorts. Postpartum, you are going to spend a lot of time nursing, sitting, nursing, sitting, so you may as well be comfortable! Invest in a pair of cozy slippers, some soft sweatpants, and a cozy cardigan that you can wear over your nursing tank tops. You’ll be most comfortable that way! Have a robe you can pull over your chest when you have visitors or a nice pair of pajamas. You’ll feel pulled together and comfortable.
16. Heating Pads
I can not overemphasize how much heating pads helped me during both my labors and my postpartum recovery! I swear, it’s the only thing that helped me get through the intense back labor with Brooke (she was posterior), and the cramping postpartum. The heating pads they have at the hospital are amazing; but, not available commercially. So do the next best thing and grab an adjustable temperature heating pad for your house! You’ll use it more than you expect!
POSTPARTUM RECOVERY TIPS
Ultimately, your postpartum recovery will be dictated by how your body feels. With some women, they bounce right back. And with other women, it takes a lot longer. Be gentle on yourself, your birth experience, and what you need. Every birth is different (even with the same mom) so give yourself a break!
The best thing you can do is listen to your body, listen to your healthcare provider, and be prepared with the right gear.