Your baby is here and now you get to soak up all the snuggles you’ve been dreaming about, breathe in that glorious new baby smell and stare at their precious little fingers and toes till your heart’s content. Of course, while you’re doing all of this you’ll also be dealing with a body that is recovering from birth, which for many women is the most physically challenging event their body has gone through. And recovery isn’t always a walk in the park. So often, your providers are so focused on making sure you know how to care for the baby, they aren’t always on top of making sure you know how to care for you, which is just as important.
A few things you may deal with in terms of postpartum recovery are bleeding, stitches, soreness and pain. Of course there are a number of other things you’re probably experiencing as part of this postpartum period but these are the main things going on in terms of physical healing. And these things are going to be pretty standard no matter how you deliver, they just may manifest slightly differently in different people. So let’s just do a quick rundown of these things before I give you some tips for a smooth recovery.
You’ll experience vaginal bleeding for up to 6 weeks after your baby is born. For many it doesn’t last this whole time but just know it can be totally normal if it does. Everyone will likely experience at least around 2 weeks of bleeding with the first few days to a week being quite heavy and then it will begin to lighten as the days go on.
If you had a C-Section you’ll have stitches from your incision and if you had a vaginal delivery you potentially have stitches from tearing or an episiotomy though not everyone will. The amount of stitches and location will vary person to person but obviously a wound involving stitches is going to need some time and TLC to heal up.
You will probably have muscle/bone/joint soreness. I remember being surprised at how sore parts of my body were that I didn’t necessarily associate with pain from childbirth prior to this. Much of this can be attributed to the positions you choose to labor in or the intense effort you put into pushing and also just your baby moving its way through your body.
In addition to general soreness you will likely also have some more acute pain. This could be related to your stitches, your incision, post-surgery pain, after pains (did you know you may continue to have contractions for a few days?) or other birth related pains.
This all sounds so fun, right? Nope. Not at all. But worth it for that sweet baby you’re holding! So how do you make the recovery a bit more manageable? Because let’s not forget you’re going to be recovering while also learning how to care for your little one.
1. First things first… Make postpartum kits ahead of time
These are little baskets/bins with all the postpartum recovery items you’ll need. And you can make one for each bathroom in your house you intend to use during your recovery so that everything is right where you need it as soon as you get home. In my recovery kits I included the following: various sized pads, dermoplast spray, tucks pads, peri bottle, Fridamom products.
Now the hospital will likely give you things like the dermoplast and the tucks if you’re delivering there but I decided to go ahead and purchase some myself to be prepared (and then still took the hospital provided ones too). I will tell you, if you’re worried about waste, for the dermoplast I used both what the hospital gave me and also what I had bought so you don’t need to feel like things purchased ahead won’t get used.
2. FridaMom gets it
Their postpartum recovery products are great! They have premade padsicles (I’ll talk more about those in a minute), they have a perineal cooling foam, their own version of tucks pads, disposable underwear and a great peri bottle (who knew they weren’t all created equal?). You can even buy a recovery kit from them that comes with a box to set everything up in! So if you want to make things simple ahead of delivery or you don’t have time to make your own kits grab some items from Fridamom and you will not be disappointed. I even added some of the items to my registry!
You saw me mention them as a product Fridamom has. The premade ones from them are great BUT you can also make you’re own which can be a bit more budget friendly and give you more of them to use. A padsicle is basically a pad that you add some delightful cooling/healing items to and then freeze. So it acts as both a pad to address bleeding and also a medicated ice pack for pain and discomfort. There are loads of tutorials for making them online but here is a simple option:
- Buy large, thick pads.
- Open the pad but leave it in the plastic (don’t peel it off).
- Put aloe and witch hazel all over the pad.
- Fold the pad back up.
- Put in freezer
4. The peri bottle… use it!
The bathroom can be a scary place for a new mom, what with everything that has gone on down there. The hospital will most likely give you a peri bottle but if for some reason they don’t or if you didn’t birth in a hospital be sure to get one. I love the fridamom one because the shape makes it easier to use. But it will basically be your best friend for those first couple weeks. While it will be super helpful in staying clean during trips to the restroom, I also recommend bringing it into the shower in the early days because it is much gentler than using a washcloth on sensitive areas.
Bonus Bathroom Tip: In addition to the peri bottle you want to go ahead and buy yourself the softest, most luxurious toilet paper you can find. This is not the time to be skimping and buying store brand. I personally bought myself the fancy TP and only kept it in my upstairs bedroom bathroom so it wouldn’t get wasted by guests, ha! You’re welcome to share yours but I promise you’ll be glad you have it. Another good option is the flushable wipes- you could add a pack to each postpartum kit!
5. Pads, mesh underwear, diapers, disposable underwear, reusable underwear, where to start?
Moms have differing opinions on the most effective option to manage the bleeding, particularly at the beginning when it is at it’s heaviest. Some moms swear by an oversized pad inside the mesh undies from the hospital. If you think you want to go this route, ask your nurse at the hospital for all the mesh undies she can give you! The hospital underwear is super comfy but the one downside to these that I found is they have very little structure so I didn’t feel like everything was as secure as I wanted it. Some people prefer to go the adult diaper route. It’s one piece with the absorbency built right in, they’re disposable and can definitely help you feel secure.
Fridamom includes disposable underwear in their postpartum kit and they are awesome! They still require a pad unlike a diaper but are more fitted than the mesh underwear so they help you feel like everything will stay put. They also come up pretty high which is great for a c-section mama who doesn’t want something pressing on her scar! Or some people prefer to go the reusable underwear route, like Thinx period underwear. I think this would be better for a little later in your recovery when bleeding has slowed but could be a good option to put under a pad in the beginning.
My bonus tip in this department is no matter which route you start with, I highly recommend buying a pack of underwear you don’t care about that is a size suitable to accommodate a pad. That way when you navigate away from the mesh undies or the diapers or whichever, you have underwear you’re not upset about ruining if there are any unexpected leaks later on.
6. Take all the things!
This tip isn’t as helpful if you’re not birthing in a hospital setting, but if you are then listen up! I’ve talked about a lot of different products and you’re probably thinking “wow, do I have to go buy all this stuff?” Well this tip is to tell you…take all the things! It may vary hospital to hospital in terms of what they will give you, how many of the different things, for free or for a charge etc. But here’s my thought, even if they charge for it- you’d have to buy it anyway and this saves you a trip to the store!
And believe me you don’t want to be running off to the store two days into recovery because you’re out of something crucial like pads or dermaplast. And you probably also don’t want to put your partner in charge of going and finding the right thing- we all know there are too many choices in the feminine hygiene aisle for them to navigate.
So if your nurse is offering it to you- take it! I brought home a peri bottle, a sitz bath, dermaplast, tucks pads, and some of the sheet protectors. That last one is a score- it’s the pads they put under you in the bed to catch any leakage, and while I didn’t have many issues with leaks at home, I felt so much better sitting on my cream colored couch or laying in my bed with that under me for a few days and I was so glad to have a handful. Once I stopped using them I started keeping them at the end of my bed for late night diaper changes so win-win!’
7. If you’re using pain medicine to manage your pain, stay ahead of it
You should work with your doctor to figure out the best pain management plan for you and your individual birth situation. But if you are using medication like motrin or advil to manage your pain, you want to be sure to stay on top of your doses so the pain doesn’t get ahead of you and harder to manage. Same goes for things like ice packs and heating pads if those are helping you with your pain. Don’t wait until the pain is too much, try and stay ahead of it!
I don’t think anything is more important for your body’s healing than resting and not overdoing it. Now, I know, you have a newborn, what is rest? Please note, I didn’t say sleep. Although you should definitely sleep as much as you can. But rest doesn’t have to just mean sleep. Resting may mean sitting/laying on the couch while your partner or helpful visitors make dinner. Resting may mean staying in bed after the morning feeding for a bit longer even if you have a house full of visitors. Rest may mean saying no to visitors to give yourself plenty of space for recovery. Don’t push yourself too hard, don’t overdo it with being up and out and about too much. Listen to your body and rest when needed.
Recovering from birth can feel like a lot. It’s messy, it can be painful, and you’re doing it on top of learning how to be a mom or while managing a newborn AND your older children. Remember it is a season, it won’t last forever and you WILL begin to feel better and back to yourself. You’ve got this mama!