Bringing a baby into this world is tough work, and not easy on your body! When you first arrive home with your baby, all your attention is on caring for this new love of your life. It’s easy to overlook caring for your postpartum self. Compared to the United States, most countries around the world place much greater attention and priority to the recovery of the new mother. It takes about six weeks for a woman’s internal organs and tissues to heal after a vaginal birth. Therefore, non-Western cultures encourage rest for 30-40 days! In the United States, we are often encouraged (and sometimes pressured) to get up and out of the house right away. Your circumstances may not allow for much rest. You may decide that you don’t need/want rest. Or you may be fortunate enough to have people there to help allow you to get the rest you crave. Whatever your situation, don’t forget YOU!
In addition to everything listed below, keep a big jug of water with you at all times. You’ll need to stay hydrated, especially if you are nursing. This is my list of recommended products for recovery from a vaginal birth because that is my experience. However, most (or all) of these will definitely apply to cesarean recovery as well.
one: Disposable Mesh Underwear ∙∙∙
Your nurses will give you amazingly comfortable magical mesh underwear at the hospital. They are boy-shorts so they hold the ginormous diaper-like pads in place. And if you bleed onto them, it’s okay because these are disposable! Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a cesarean, everyone agrees that these are wonderful! Take as many home as you can fit in your bag! The second time around, I took several more from the hospital before I headed home. When I got home I bought extras on Amazon.
two: Perineal Spray ∙∙∙
The hospital gave me a generic bottle of lidocaine spray after my second delivery. I bought this spray online when I got home since it is made with safe natural ingredients. If you had an episiotomy or vaginal tear, the wound might hurt for a few weeks (or more, or less… it varies so much for each person and each delivery). This will help relieve the pain associated with tears and hemorrhoids that are common from all the pushing.
three: Pads ∙∙∙
The hospital will give you really thick, terrible pads. You’ll need them the first few days, but eventually, you’ll want to wear leggings and feel like a somewhat normal human being again (who is still healing “down there”). A friend recommended these and they are AMAZING! They’re so thin and absorbent, they don’t even feel like pads. Get the supers/heavies/overnights for when you’re first recovering, and then the regular ones for later. If you have a vaginal birth, you’ll probably have heavy bleeding for 1-3 weeks, and then light bleeding or spotting will typically continue until 4-6 weeks post-delivery. If you have a cesarean birth, you won’t bleed for quite as long, but you still will bleed and you will need pads at home.
four: Witch Hazel Cooling Pads ∙∙∙
Witch hazel is a safe and natural way to treat and soothe the post-delivery pain and swelling. These are especially helpful if you tear or get an episiotomy, or if you get hemorrhoids from the pushing during labor. Tip: Keep these in the fridge. They feel even better when cold!
five: Squirt Bottle ∙∙∙
The hospital will send you home with one of these peri bottles. This filled with warm water will help alleviate the sting you’re likely to feel when you pee post-delivery. It also helps clean the area if you’ve had stitches and can’t really wipe at first. If you have more than one bathroom at home, go ahead and buy another one so you have this available no matter what toilet you use. Depending on your delivery, you’ll need this for about 1-3 weeks after a vaginal birth. This one is a step up from the standard peri bottle. It has an ergonomic design, continuous pressure and includes a travel bag because you will want to bring this with you everywhere you go!
six: Stool Softener ∙∙∙
You will need this. Trust me. The first time you have to go #2 post-delivery is terrifying! A stool softener will help ease that fear and discomfort. This is particularly important if you have a vaginal birth with any tearing.
seven: Ice Packs ∙∙∙
How many you need will depend on your personal delivery story. The first time around, the ice packs supplied by the hospital lasted me a day or two after I got home and that was sufficient for me. The second time, I had to purchase more to have for another week at home. And the third time, I didn’t use any once I left the hospital. You can just use what the hospital provides, stock up on extra ice packs, or get these maxi pads with built-in cold therapy. The one downside of the perineal ice packs is that they won’t absorb blood. So if you are still bleeding a lot, you may want to consider turning a baby diaper or thick maxi pad into an ice pack.
eight: Freezer Meals ∙∙∙
This is, perhaps, the most important one! Hopefully, you will have some friends and family bring you food because convenient meals are one of the best gifts to a new mom. If possible, I recommend trying to fill up your freezer in the weeks or months before the baby’s expected arrival. Freeze them in a variety of portions since sometimes you will just want lunch for you. Breakfast and snacks are good to have ready as well. If you are breastfeeding, make some lactation cookies as well. I have a FoodSaver vacuum and it is the best thing ever! There are many different models, here is one with a few more bells and whistles.
nine: Belly Bandit ∙∙∙
I didn’t get a belly bandit, but I regret it. I’ll definitely get one for baby #3.
The previously mentioned items are pretty universally helpful for recovering from a vaginal delivery. Other things many people find helpful:
• Sitz Bath ∙∙∙ Your hospital may provide you with one to bring home. A sitz bath is a small tub that sits on top of your toilet. You can comfortably sit on top and soak in warm water to help the healing process down there. Epsom salts are commonly added to the warm water. Some people add essential oils as well. Use caution when adding essential oils, and check with your doctor to see which ones are safe for your specific situation.
• Inflatable Donut ∙∙∙ Wait to purchase this only if you need it. Some people need it, but many others will never use it.
• Breast Gel Pads ∙∙∙ Whether or not you are nursing, your breasts will be sore at first. If you are breastfeeding, check out this list of breastfeeding essentials.
• Leggings ∙∙∙ If you are nursing, I love these nursing leggings. They are highwaist and conceal your belly if you lift up your shirt to nurse. They provide a gentle and soft support. If you just want something with more suction to help keep your loose skin and belly a little tigher (for comfort, not because you need to hide anything!)
Postpartum Bathroom Basket
I found it helpful to have a little postpartum basket in two of our bathrooms. Each basket included the items I needed every time I used the bathroom. A basket with a lid helps keep it a little more discreet if guests will also be using that bathroom.
Built your own postpartum care kit, or buy a postpartum recovery kit that has many of the essentials all together for you.