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Over the last nine months, you have been busy. Not only are you growing a baby, but you have thought of baby names, decorated the nursery, picked out the safest car seat and stroller, and purchase the cutest clothes for your little one (maybe too many? We’re guilty, too.). You have diapers and wipes, blankets, and swaddles. Your hospital bag is packed. Labor and postpartum essentials for the baby – check! All that is left to do is put your feet up and wait for baby to come… right?
Hold up mama — there is someone you forgot to think about. You! Now that you have finished getting everything ready for your baby, let’s get you set up.
Postpartum can be a beautiful time for new parents as you are getting to learn and bond with your baby. Your body will also go through a lot during birth, and setting yourself up with essentials for when you get home will help you ease into motherhood.
Whether you have a vaginal or c-section delivery, there is a lot going on—down there. Don’t worry, it does get better. Here is a list of all of the things you need postpartum to help your vagina heal and provide relief when and where you need it most.
The first thing you need to stock up on are pads. We are talking about overnight pads that absorb a lot. You may even think about getting the type of pad that one would use for incontinence.
After delivery, you will experience vaginal bleeding—lochia—for around 24 to 36 days. It won’t be heavy the whole time, but you will want to be prepared for the first week or two. Once the bleeding slows a bit, you can go back to a smaller pad.
During this time, make sure to stay away from tampons or menstrual cups. Your vagina is still healing internally, even if you don’t feel anything different. It is best to wait to use tampons after your six-week postpartum check-up. Once you get the all-clear from your doctor, you can start using tampons or menstrual cups again.
The first few days of postpartum the postpartum bleeding can be unpredictable. In the hospital, they will likely provide you with disposable mesh underwear.
These are far from the cutest things you have ever worn, but you will be grateful for the large, comfortable undies that you do not have to worry about. You can also buy these for home, as well. The disposable underwear you buy usually has more support than the ones given at the hospital.
A peri bottle looks like a sports water bottle. The kind that you pop open the top, and when you squeeze, water comes out. This bottle will be your best friend in the bathroom. The hospital should provide you with a peri bottle, but there are also some you can buy that have a better angle to them.
Before you use the bathroom, fill the bottle with warm water. Once you have gone, use that water to spray on your vagina and bum to clean it. You can simply use toilet paper to pat it dry.
Whether you had a vaginal delivery or labored for a long while and had a c-section, your vagina and everything around may be a bit sore. If you had an episiotomy, a cut made along the vagina opening to prevent tearing, you would not want anything touching you down there for quite a while, which will help you stay clean while still healing.
Hemorrhoids—if you know you know. Hemorrhoids are not the most pleasant thing about pregnancy and birth, but you are not alone. An estimated 35% of pregnant women will get hemorrhoids during pregnancy.
Witch hazel pads are a lifesaver. They help to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of hemorrhoids. They can also provide relief to vagina, especially after an episiotomy.
The hospital will likely provide these pads for you, but take it from us, you’ll want to have more on standby.
During the healing process of both a vaginal delivery, specifically with an episiotomy, and a c-section delivery, washing may be a bit of a challenge. Making sure your vagina is properly cleaned is important, but it can prove to be difficult. A sitz bath can help, especially in the first couple weeks.
A sitz bath is a shallow bath that you can soak your perineum—the area between your vulva and anus. You can buy a sitz bath that is a plastic tub that fits on your toilet. Fill the tub with warm water. You can let your bottom soak in the tub to help clean and soothe the area. Make sure to very gently pat dry.
Postpartum constipation is very common. Over 41% of postpartum women report that they experience it. Stool softeners can help reduce constipation. Eating a diet high in fiber and staying hydrated can help constipation, as well.
In addition, make sure to discuss any medications with your doctor.
There are a few essentials that are specific to recovering from a c-section. If you are having a planned c-section, you should buy these beforehand. If you are not planning for a c-section, it is good to know what you may need, if a c-section becomes the safest way to deliver your baby.
Many women swear by an abdominal binder. Abdominal binders are used to help reduce discomfort, support core muscles and protect the area. An abdominal binder looks similar to a corset, but they are specially made to help with abdominal surgeries.
You’ll want to bring this binder to the hospital with you. You will likely be able to use it soon after delivery. If you have any questions on how to use it, the postpartum nurses will be able to show you how to use the abdominal binder properly.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to purchase a couple of pairs of high-waisted, full-bottom underwear—proper granny panties. You want to make sure they go high enough to not interfere with your incision.
There are a few postpartum essentials that are specific to vaginal delivery. You’ll want to give extra support to your healing vagina and the areas around it.
Whether you have an episiotomy or not, you will likely be sore from pushing and delivering a baby. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to have ice packs on standby. These should be flexible or gel ice packs.
There are even ice packs specifically made for postpartum healing. Ice packs can bring relief in the first few days of postpartum. You can use them as needed for ten to 20 minutes at a time.
Similar to witch hazel, a perineal spray can provide target discomfort and itch relief to your perineum. Keep this in your bathroom with your pads, peri bottle, and witch hazel pads. Once you have gone to the bathroom and cleaned using the peri bottle, you can spritz your perineum with this spray to provide extra comfort.
If you have decided to try breastfeeding, there are a few things you will want to have on hand. This will help you stay comfortable while you navigate the ins and outs of breastfeeding.
In the first few months of nursing, your boobs may leak breast milk. This is completely normal. For some, this leaking only lasts the first few months. For others, it can continue throughout the entire time of breastfeeding.
You can buy disposable or washable nursing pads. There are even nursing pads that collect the leaking milk. They basically sit in your bra and help catch any milk that may come out, and you can save this milk for later feeding.
When your milk really comes in, usually around day two or three, your breast can become engorged—very large and swollen. Using heat can help the milk come out.
Heat is good right before you feed. Meanwhile, cold soothing pads help stop the production of milk. You can use the cold once you are finished nursing.
Once you and your baby get the hang of breastfeeding, it can be a great experience. However, in the beginning, when you are learning, and your baby is learning how to latch properly, it can be uncomfortable for your nipples. Nipple cream helps your nipples heal between feedings, so you will want to have a tube on standby.
Nursing bras are great additions to your nursing wardrobe. They look like regular bras, but they have flaps over each breast that is clipped. When you are ready to nurse, all you have to do is unclip your nursing side, and there is easy access. Nursing bras should fit comfortably and not be too tight.
If you have decided to bottle feed, you will want to make sure you are all set up and ready to go before the baby comes. Being prepared will help you focus on your postpartum healing and take care of that sweet baby of yours.
It is hard to choose the “right” bottle. There are many different types out there. You may want to buy a couple different types, and see which one fits the needs of you and your baby. Make sure you have the smallest nipple flow size for your newborn.
It is important to have formula ready to go before you come home from the hospital. Do your research and pick the formula that fits your needs and budget. You may find that your baby needs a specific type of formula, so don’t buy in bulk just yet.
In the first few months, especially, your baby will be going through a lot of changes. It is important to keep those bottles clean so bacteria doesn’t grow in them. Have a specific baby dish soap, a bottle brush, and a dedicated drying rack ready to go.
If you wash your bottles in the dishwasher, have a small basket made for bottle parts or a small mesh laundry to hold all of the little pieces. You don’t want them getting lost in the dishwasher.
These essentials are all about your comfort. Postpartum is about letting your body heal and bonding with your baby. Making sure you are comfortable is important and can help make even the not-so-pleasant parts of postpartum a little easier.
What you are wearing will be the last thing on your mind during the first few weeks of postpartum. That is not to say you can’t feel good in what you are wearing. Buy yourself a couple of clothing items that are cute and comfortable.
Lounge pants, loose tops, and cotton dresses are all great options for postpartum. Many women, especially if you are nursing, spend the first few days—weeks—with little clothing on, so a robe is nice to have if you need to cover up quickly or get a little cold.
Staying hydrated is very important, especially during postpartum. Water can help with mental clarity—help reduce brain fog, constipation, and support your physical healing.
Your own water intake may take a back burner to your baby’s eating schedule. Having an insulated water bottle nearby can be a reminder to get that water in.
If you are nursing, you may notice you are incredibly thirsty right after you start breastfeeding. Having your water bottle close will help quench that thirst.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, a feeding pillow can save your arms and back. While there are many different options out there, these pillows look like a larger neck pillow. They are made to wrap around your front so when you are feeding, your baby is in a comfortable spot. You’ll be spending hours of the day feeding your little one—might as well get comfortable.
You don’t have to go out and buy a comfortable chair just for postpartum, but you should have somewhere in your house that you are comfortable. Maybe a couple of places in the house, because you probably won’t leave too much in the first few weeks, you’ll need some changes in scenery.
In the weeks leading up to birth, test out areas that are most comfortable to you. Make sure you have a spot where you can easily get in and out of, is soft enough for your healing body, and has a table next to it for all of your water bottle, phone, snacks, and anything else you need right next to you.
From one mom to another, take the help. You may be tempted—especially if this is your first baby—to want to do everything alone. And, while you probably can do it all alone, it is so much better and less stressful with help. In fact, we always-always-always tell new moms and moms-to-be that help is one of the most important postpartum essential.
If this is not your first postpartum experience, you may have loved ones offering to take your older kids to the park or out for ice cream. Maybe grandma has offered to take them for the night so you can get some quiet time with the new baby.
As long as you are comfortable, take them up on it. Your big kid will love getting to go on an adventure, and you can watch your own shows—reality television, anyone?
Postpartum looks differently for everyone. Whether you have a c-section or vaginal delivery, breastfeed or bottle-feed, these essentials can make your recovery a little easier. Setting yourself up before the baby comes can help ease into motherhood.
Expectful is here for you at every part of your motherhood journey. Postpartum care is important, and we are here to provide you with real-life, science-backed support through this time.
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