The Importance of Postpartum Care
Great job mama! You did it! You had your baby; but now what? Most mamas are never really educated on postpartum care, especially first time moms! I remember during my first birthing experience at a birthing center no one said anything to me about how to take care of myself after the birth. It wasn't until I began working with a midwife during my second pregnancy that she began to teach me all about postpartum care. And boy! Was there ever a lot to learn! I hope that some of these postpartum care tips, tricks, and secrets are helpful to you in your recovery process!
That being said, PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a doctor, or health care professional! This is NOT medical advice! I highly suggest doing your own research. And also speaking with your health care provider before using any of the supplements or methods I recommend below. Personally I researched extensively on my own and made the most educated choice for me. I understand that not all of the things I will share about are right for everyone.
(*THIS POST CONTAINS AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS. I HAVE LINKED SOME OF THE PRODUCTS THAT I USED DURING MY RECOVERY FOR EASY SHOPPING ACCESS!)
My First Postpartum Experience
Let's rewind a few years. Three pregnancies ago, when I was a first time mom just learning the ropes I did tons -and I mean tons- of research about birth. I quickly decided that I wanted a natural birth if at all possible and that a home delivery or birthing center were my best options in pursuing that. At the time we couldn't afford a home birth, so to the birthing center we went! Come delivery day everything went smoothly, I had my baby, and not 6 hours later my husband and I were in the car with a brand new baby and no idea what we were doing. I was tired, sore, armed with my peri bottle, and had a few padsicles in the freezer. That was about the extent of my postpartum knowledge.Even though I'd done vast amounts of research on labor, delivery, breastfeeding, and baby, it never really occurred to me that I should also research postpartum care. Crazy right!? Maybe not. I'm actually finding that many young mothers have never been told much about postpartum care; what to expect, how to take the best possible care of themselves, etc.Because I didn't know any better, I did way too much those first few days. I had heard that mamas should just "bounce back". Not sure what that meant I thought I was expected to be up and about and ready to be out in the world right away. I also had no idea why I still looked 6 months pregnant and had a flabby belly...News flash! Postpartum ain't pretty folks!Thank goodness during my second pregnancy I had a very experienced midwife who introduced me to some of the best kept secrets of postpartum care that have helped me to recover quickly and experience very few issues if any at all.
Under a Midwife
Things were much, much different after having baby number two! Although she had told me some of the basics, I was not fully prepared for the intensity of my postpartum care routine under a midwife. I realized very quickly that I had a lot to learn! But, I can truly say that I healed better, faster, and felt more myself a lot quicker under her care than when I just tried to get right back into the swing of things after my first birth.Birth is an incredibly taxing experience and takes a huge toll on a mother's body; I mean it is called labor after all! I think our standards for mamas need to be lowered drastically. Instead of pushing mamas to be "up and about" we should be telling them to sit back and relax! She just had a baby for heaven's sake! Treat that mama like the queen she is and wait on her hand and foot!But how do we make that happen? Well, for starters, get yourself a midwife who understands the importance of good postpartum care! She'll whip everyone into shape quickly and make sure that you get the rest your body needs and deserves! Also, make sure that you have conversations with your husband, family, and friends beforehand so they know what to expect (or not to expect) from you in those days immediately following your delivery.
Postpartum Care Tips
So let's dive into the meat of this post; and let me just say, it could get lengthy! Postpartum care is a very serious topic and there is a lot I've learned during my three postpartum experiences that I hope to be able to share with you!I'm not going to be sharing a lot of the "normal" tips like "use your peri bottle", why? Because I'm pretty sure you've heard those before! Instead I want to do my best to share a thorough report of my self care routine that has helped me get back on my feet faster; but also without my health suffering.
GET YOUR REST
First and foremost on this list needs to be; REST! And no, I'm not talking about the "sleep while baby is sleeping" crap, I mean yeah, do that, but I mean legitimate rest. Don't go anywhere, don't do anything for 7-10 days after that baby comes. Stay in your bed, lay or recline as much as possible, and let everyone take care of the rest.Your body just went through a very intense process and also expelled a large object that was once holding your organs in certain positions. Your body is trying to rearrange things and put everything back in it's place. Also your uterus is shrinking back down to it's normal size and settling back where it should go. This all takes time and the best way for your body to be able to get back in order is if you lay.I know this tip sounds super old fashioned and most moms roll their eyes at me when I even suggest it. Trust me, I did the same when my midwife told me she expected me to lay around for 7-10 days. But wow. I've realized it is so helpful and important! The more I did, the more my body hurt, and the less recovered I felt. Normally around the 7-10 day mark you'll start to feel more yourself again and regain a bit of energy.
DON'T RESUME BUSINESS AS USUAL
Don't cook, don't clean, don't do busy work. Again, please seriously take into consideration the above step; I believe it is crucial to postpartum recovery. This one can be especially hard if you already have a few kids. I highly recommend asking family or friends to help care for your children the first few days after the baby comes so you can rest and also bond with your new little one. Obviously you'll also need someone to be with you almost 24/7 during this time. For me that was my husband. He did an amazing job taking care of me and my babies and I think he actually liked the brief challenge of taking care of the house while I was resting.The sooner you resume business as usual, the sooner people will stop catering to you and expect you to get "back to normal". So keep that in mind and try to stay off your feet as much as possible. I like to buy a nice robe and maybe a new set of loose jammies to wear during those first few days. To me it's my lounge clothes, but I also feel it's a good reminder to people that this isn't a "normal" time.
KEEP IT CLEAN!
Well here's another really fun one that you've probably never heard before. Part of my midwife's postpartum care routine is to have the mama shower 3 times a day for the first 7-10 days. Whaaaaaat? Yep, my thoughts exactly. Because you basically have an open wound down there, it's best to stay as clean as possible!Take a short shower or sitz bath 3 times a day for optimal benefits. I like to shower in the am, take a short bath in the afternoon, and another quick shower before bed. Don't use soap or anything that is not specifically designed for postpartum care to make sure you don't irritate your nether regions.I know this one sounds like a lot, but it is very important to stay clean and fresh down there to help avoid infection; which is seriously the last thing you want.
AIR IT OUT!
Oh man, here's another fun one. While you're just lying around during those days after baby, try to let it all hang out as often as possible. Open air helps speed recovery time so the more it's out there the faster you may heal! Now I know you're probably still bleeding at this point -oh goodie- but you can easily buy some bed pads to go under you. (I highly recommend having a pack anyways just for sleeping on during those first few nights! They're part of the home birth kit I purchase while preparing for baby.)Think of it like a bandaid. You know when you let a bandiad get wet and then it sits on top of the cut and the water soaks in and the cut gets all nasty again? Yep. Keeping your lady parts under wrap all the time can actually cause things to get worse down there. So let them see the light of day as best you can.Normally I take the afternoons all to myself. I shoo everyone out of the room, ask that no guests come to visit between 1 and 4pm and nap with baby. I feel more comfortable knowing no one will barge in on a very awkward and personal moment! But I also believe this has really helped me with the recovery process!
This one can be really hard and I feel is up to each individual family to decide. Some people do really well with company, others want to be more private. I think the main thing with this one is not to overdo it and again; get your rest! The best advice that was ever given to me was "it's easier to ask someone to come than to ask them to leave". This is especially important if you live out of town and are considering having someone come stay with your during those first few days or weeks after baby. You need to seriously consider your personality, their personality, wether it'll be a good fit, and wether or not you feel that the individual will help speed your recovery process or add stress.When we had our first baby, my husband and I lived 8 hours away from our family. I am a strong introvert, so we had some very serious conversations about who we felt we should ask to come, for how long, and if we should offer accommodations. It wasn't easy, and my husband had to have some hard conversations with family members, but, in the long run I am very grateful for how we handled everything and that I didn't overwhelm myself.
ARRANGE FOR A MEAL TRAIN
Ahhhhhh. This is one of my favorite things about having a baby! Having hot meals delivered to your door! Woot woot! Mama gets a break from cooking! #momwinI highly recommend either asking someone to put together a meal train for you or doing it yourself. It's super simple and there are tons of websites out there that help you do it for free. Basically you gather a few emails, add a picture or two, share your food preferences, and that's it. Then when baby arrives an email is sent out asking friends and family if they'd like to participate and you can also share to your social media pages. People can easily reserve a day to bring you a meal to help lessen the load for you and your family.I always feel so blessed by each person who stops by with food and so appreciate the break from cooking! Even when I'm starting to get back on my feet again it's helpful because it's one less thing I have to worry about while trying to adjust. I usually let to meal train run for 2-3 weeks after baby. Normally not every night gets filled, but that's okay. Even having a break 2-3 nights a week is helpful!
Even if you are arranging for a meal train I suggest preparing a few freezer meals ahead of time. That way is dinner isn't arranged for one night you can easily pop ones of these into the oven and have something ready. Also these come in super handy when normal live resumes. If I'm having a stressful day as I try to adjust and get back into my mom routine it's helpful to know that at least I will have a hot meal for my husband when he comes home.There are many freezer meal ideas if you just type it into Pinterest so I'm not going to take the time to write any out. Choose a few that sound good and whip them up while you're bored and waiting around for baby! It's not like they're going to go bad anytime soon so if you don't use them right away they'll be there whenever you need a meal.
GET A GOOD MULTI VITAMIN
Obviously we are all aware that we should be taking a prenatal vitamin; no surprise there. But usually once they run out, or the baby comes, we stop. Why? Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding is just as important of a time as pregnancy! Your body is still going through major changes so supporting your healing through vitamins and minerals are important! If you have prenatal vitamins left, finish them up! But once you do make sure to buy a good multivitamin or postnatal vitamin too! I take my B vitamins from Young Living and diffused a blend called Joy and it was amazing!
Postpartum Care Tricks
I wouldn't say any of these are necessary, but some things are just helpful! Here are a few tricks I've learned along the way. Some of these are specifically geared towards mamas who already have children. Getting good postpartum care can be even more challenging when you have littles who need you!
PREP YOUR BEDROOM
If you're following my care routine even a little bit, you'll most likely be in your bed -a lot. So prep your room ahead of time! Make sure anything you need is within reach. I like to prep a little changing caddy for baby with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, diaper cream, etc. Then eave it on the night stand so I don't have to get up to change baby.I leave a box of granola bars by my bed side for those first few nights. Hunger can hit at anytime! I had one or two scary nights where I woke up feeling like I was going to faint because I was so hungry. It was totally unnerving for me and I was afraid something was seriously wrong until I realized my body was most likely just depleted from breastfeeding. I barely had the energy to wake up my husband and ask him for help. So since then I have learned to be prepared and just have something ready.Also, make sure you have a large glass of water. You'll want to be drinking lots and lots of fluids! Every time you feed that baby make sure that you drink 8-16oz of water to help replenish your body.Warm blankets, cozy slippers, a robe, a new book, your camera, and computer are all other things I would suggest. Basically just plan to move your whole life into your bedroom for awhile! Try to think ahead of anything you may need or want while you're hanging with your baby.
STOCK YOUR BATHROOM
You'll probably want a few different size pads for right after the baby is born. Some larger-than-life overnight suckers, medium ones, and some light pads for when things start to taper off. I stock a box that I leave on the back of my toilet for easy access.Also in my little box I like to add a perineal spray and witch hazel pads. These handy-dandy items can be helpful in relieving some of the pain you may be experiencing right after baby. They also can help in the case that you get hemorrhoids. Young Living also has a spray called Claraderm spray -I used it during my 4th postpartum recovery period and it was amazing! Soothing, healing, and calming, I highly recommend it!
BUY THE DIAPERS
Just do it. You'll thank me later.I refused to buy the adult diapers for my first two deliveries but for my third I caved. I figured if I didn't use them it wouldn't be a big deal. But wowza! These bad boys are awesome! Yes, I wore adult diapers for a few days; and you'd better believe I rocked those suckers!For my first two deliveries I just purchased a pack of granny panties a size larger than normal and planned to throw them away afterwards. Those worked just fine and I have no complaints, but the ease of the disposable underwear just can't be beat! Plus, they now come in "designer" looks lol so you can be functional and stylish. Ha ha ha, as if there is such a thing during postpartum!
HELP YOUR KIDS ADJUST WITH A FUN GIFT
We decided during our second pregnancy that we wanted to do something fun for our son to help him not feel left out when his new sibling arrived. We decided to go big and buy him his first bike; from the baby of course. 😉 We also took him to the store and let him pick out baby's first stuffed animal.The tradition stuck and during our third pregnancy we did the same for our two older children. We buy them nice toys to help ease the transition and offer a distraction if necessary. This ended up being especially important this time around because my husband needed to go back to work a few days after baby was born and my 2-year-old stayed home with me alone. We bought her a large dollhouse from the baby and left it in our room so she could play while I laid in bed. It ended up being the perfect distraction!We also really liked this fun tradition because it helped our kids to instantly like the baby. Sounds silly, but when baby takes up so much of mama's time right away it can be hard for the older siblings. So starting off on a sweet note is always good!
LOAD THE IPAD
My husband was working over-nights during the arrival of our second child. So I knew I might end up alone with my two-year-old and the baby quite a bit.To help prepare I researched a bunch of fun learning apps and even downloaded a few extra movies on my iPad. I knew I'd need to be in bed more than normal so I tried to find quiet activities to help amuse my son while mommy was being "boring" lol.I don't normally do a lot of TV or iPad time for my kids, but those first few days after baby are not "normal" in my opinion. To me it was more important to make sure that I was well rested and able to be a good mommy to both my babies than worry about a little extra screen time. You could also have a stash of new books in your room or consider buying a quiet book if you want other quiet options.
SIT AND SWISH
This piggy backs off my earlier tip about keeping things clean down there. When you take a bath now and again, don't forget to swish some water down there! Often we just sit and don't think about actually moving the water around. So while you're getting clean take some time to swish water towards your lady parts. I wouldn't recommend touching or "scrubbing" that area until you're at least a week out (or feeling more healed); do this instead! You don't want to irritate anything or accidentally transfer germs down there.
If you don't have time to make your own padsicles, then you'll probably want to stock up on a few cold packs! I've heard that hospitals will send a few home with you, but being a home birth mom I stock up on everything myself.These packs are awesome, you just crack them and they get cold! They're nice because you can leave them by your bedside and don't have to worry about running to the freezer or anything. And if you’re looking for something even more amazing check out this recipe for all-natural postpartum padsicles that use herbs to help you heal faster!
LEARN THE SIDE LYING POSITION
This. Is. Life for me during the early days! I cannot tell you how helpful I find this breastfeeding position! It took me a long time to get comfortable with this my first time around. But I started using the side lying position with my second and third baby almost immediately. It allows you to breastfeed while lying on your side so you can snooze, lay flat, rest, whatever!One of my tips if you're having trouble with this is to put baby on a receiving blanket. I like to fold the blanket in half, lay the baby on their side on top of it, and then use the blanket to maneuver the baby. That way if baby needs to be moved down or up a little I can just tug on the blanket to reposition them. Also, having a blanket under the baby can help keep things clean if they leak a little. Actually, that should be a whole other tip in itself...
LET YOUR BABY SLEEP ON A RECEIVING BLANKET
So I'll admit it upfront; I'm a co-sleeping mom. It works for me during those early months and helps me get a lot more sleep. I don't have to fight to stay awake during late night feedings or loose precious sleep during those feedings. Again, I understand this is not for everyone, but it's been wonderful for our family.Even if you choose not to co-sleep, I'd recommend having a bunch of receiving blankets on hand and putting baby to sleep on them. I fold them in half so they're a bit thicker, and then if baby spits up, or has a poop explosion the blanket normally catches it. That way I don't need to worry about my sheets in the middle of the night but can just swap out the blanket.
Postpartum Care Secrets... well not anymore!
I'm pretty well aware that most of the information I'm sharing may be new to you. But I also feel like I've uncovered a few secrets along the way. How do I know they're secrets? Well, usually when I start talking to mamas about after baby is born they are completely floored by some of the information I share. Because postpartum care isn't a focus in the US, I feel like a lot of age old remedies and practices have been forgotten. So here are a few things you may not know about postpartum or practices that I think may be helpful in speeding your recovery.
AFTER CRAMPS ARE A B*TCH!
Ohhhhhh man! Ouch! No one really talks about the afterbirth. The fact that after baby comes out you still have work to do! Lol, it's not really that big of a deal. After pushing out a solid object, the placenta will be a piece of cake. It'll squish out in a gross blob and you'll be done; or will you? Hello retraction cramps! Ugh!Pretty sure these little buggers were worse for me than the actual labor cramps because at that point you should be DONE! They are seemingly purposeless since you're already holding your baby so working through the pain is annoying to say the least. After my first birth I hardly noticed the cramps as my uterus began the arduous process of shrinking back down to size. But with my second -wow!- I feel like I got b*tch slapped by these suckers! (No really, can you tell how much I hate them!?)So my suggestion is to start taking approved medications ASAP! You can take 600mg of either Tylenol or Ibuprofen (since you're not pregnant anymore) every 5 hours to help lessen the pain.
If you are more natural minded and would rather not use Tylenol, clary sage is awesome! I used a blend of clary sage, geranium. and copaiboa essential oils after my fourth baby and couldn’t believe how much it helped! I put 5-10 drops of each in a roller bottle and topped it off with fractionated coconut oil and would rub it on my abdomen anytime I felt cramping. I only ended up taking Tylenol for the first day and then was able to completely stop by using my roller bottle blend!
Alright, I'm aware that everyone and their mother has heard of padsicles at this point; nothing new there right? But this takes it a whole step further. With my first baby I did a lot of research and made my own padsicles. But with my second, under the care of my midwife, the padsicles were trumped for wonderful homemade herbal compresses! Part of the home birth package that I order in preparation for baby's arrival includes a host of dried herbs. My midwife uses them to make these compresses and peri wash that goes in your peri bottle!
Arnica is a plant that is used for healing aches, pains, and bruises. My midwife recommends a small bottle of these awesome little homeopathic tablets. They're meant to help heal bruised and damaged tissue and I feel like they definitely help speed recovery time!You can take them every 4 hours. Put 4 tablets in the cap and pop them under your tongue to let them dissolve. Try not to eat or drink anything for about 30 minutes so they can be absorbed. Water is okay though. You'll want to take them religiously the first few days. Then as you begin to heal you can take them less often. You'll probably end up with quite a few left afterwards, you can save them and use them for when your kids get bumps and bruises too! Just lessen the dosage to 2 tablets a couple of times a day. Arnica also comes in a gel that you can use for similar purposes. Do not apply it to open wounds, but it's okay for bruising. I used this when my second baby developed a swollen breast bud. The arnica gel helped to drawn the infection out and heal her skin.
If you're not into natural or "crunchy" options, you might want to go ahead and skip this tip. I am well aware this one can be a little much for people. But to be honest, placenta encapsulation has probably been one of the most helpful elements of my postpartum care and recovery. This used to be a very common practice but has become a bit of a lost art.Now I know how it sounds; eating your own placenta!? Ew! Gross! But it doesn't have to be weird. The method I favor is to dehydrate the placenta, bring it up, and put it in capsules that are taken like any other vitamin. Some people turn it into a smoothie or bake it into lasagna or something; that's a bit much for me to be honest, so I go with the vitamins. Plus I think it's helpful to be able to take them over a period of time rather than all at once.You'll need to make sure that your birthing team is aware that you would like to keep the placenta. I'm not sure what hospital rules are, but at the birthing center we just let them know ahead of time. After they'd checked the placenta to make sure it was healthy and all the pieces were there we put it in a ziplock bag and refrigerated it.If you're not comfortable encapsulating your own (totally understandable since it looks like a murder scene) consider researching if there is someone in your area who knows how. A lot of doulas also offer this as part of their services for an additional price.If you'd like more information on the subject, you can check out these posts;Placenta Encapsulation Benefits: Why I Did it and How I Felt - PBFingersWhat You Need to Know About Placenta Encapsulation - Today's Parents
Postpartum Care: The Wrap Up
Well, hopefully you learned a few new things from this post! I hope that you now have a better idea on how to take care of yourself after the birth of your baby!Labor and delivery is such hard work, don't be ashamed to take it easy! But also, be aware that you might not need as much down time as other moms. Depending on personality, health, difficulty of the delivery, etc, you may need more or less time to recover. Also, some moms may do better getting up and out of the house sooner rather than later. There is nothing wrong with this, just make sure you're listening to your body and allowing yourself to heal.If you found this post helpful, please be a dear and pin and/or share this post! Not only do I think this is an important topic for new and expecting mothers; but it's so helpful to me in building my blog! So save it for later, pin it to your baby boards, and share it on social! Let's spread the word about postpartum care! And thanks in advance 😘
From a Healed & Self-Loved,