Every woman who gives birth will deal with postpartum recovery. Despite the universal nature of this time in our lives, we seem reluctant to talk about the realities of what happens and what we need to be more comfortable. Here are a few items and tips that you won’t regret preparing before the birth of your baby.
Pads and Diapers
Of course you need some kind of diaper for your baby, but unbeknownst to most women is how helpful grown up diapers are for mom. Women lose blood immediately after birth and it continues on for weeks. The time and heaviness of postpartum blood loss (or lochia) varies from one woman to the next and is often heaviest with the first baby.
Typically, blood loss will be heaviest in the initial days following birth and slowly decrease until it is mostly or totally gone by about the sixth week. Having a wide variety of pads (and yes a few pairs of mom sized diapers) on hand is a wonderful idea and one which will save your partner the awkward moment of trying to figure out what feminine products you might want during a midnight trip to the corner store.
Having an extra sheet folded and placed under your side of the bed for the first few weeks can also be helpful and save you from needing to wash all your linens each morning . Giving birth can produce a lot of fluids.
As mentioned above, there will be blood loss. (We recommend the diapers because they tend to ensure that blood won’t get on your bed.) In addition to blood loss, the first days of milk coming in can involve a lot of leaking, particularly at night. If you are practicing some form of safe co-sleeping or just have your baby with you intermittently in the night, there can also be spit-up in your bed. In addition to that, newborn diapers can, occasionally, be explosive. Sleeping with an extra flat sheet (folded in half or in quarters) can make it easy to just throw that in the laundry in the morning, when necessary, rather than stripping the entire bed.
With their tiny, ping-pong ball sized tummy, a newborn baby needs to eat frequently. You, by necessity, will spend a lot of time sitting and feeding that sweet and hungry little baby. Having a special “station” reserved and set up for just that can really relieve some stress. A basket full of your nursing necessities is a wonderful idea, as it can be easily moved wherever you end up feeding the baby.
Some things to include in your nursing station basket might be:
- Diapers and wipes for your baby. Babies often have a bowel movement after eating. Did I mention their little tummies?! Having something set up means that if you need to change them after they nurse on one side then you won’t have to get up and fumble around in another room for what you need.
- Snacks and drinks for mama. Every time baby eats, you lose some calories. And while it may be true that in our weight obsessed society, postpartum women are often pressured to lose weight immediately, you will need healthy calories, frequently. Stashing some healthy snacks can curb your cravings and help you avoid junk. Don’t forget the water- nursing takes a lot of your fluids and gives them to baby, so stay hydrated! You will feel better and it might even help with your milk supply.
- Lip balm. For some reason, sitting and feeding that baby can really make your lips feel dry. Having some lip balm on hand can make you more comfortable.
- TV remote, phone, or a book. Staring into the eyes of your fresh babe is a wonderful pastime and one not to be missed! Sometimes, you might want have some reading material, a show to watch, or even just have your phone on hand to communicate with others, when you do have the downtime that nursing requires.
For some women, breastfeeding is as natural as eating. For others it can be a bumpy road, especially in the early days. For this reason it can be incredibly important to have on hand some resources so that you have help when you need it most.
Books such as “The Breastfeeding Book” by Dr Sears, “Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding” or “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League International, are all wonderful resources that you can turn to in the middle of the night.
Local resources like the numbers for your local La Leche League, lactation consultant, or even some good friends who successfully nursed their babies will be invaluable. Never underestimate the help that a trained and experienced woman can do for your nursing relationship.
We also highly recommend our DVD, “Breastfeeding: the Ultimate MRE” because of it’s professional quality, fabulous interviews, and in-depth information from IBCLC, Mellanie Shepherd. This DVD is of amazing quality and can answer many questions, in case you don’t have typical local resources available to you. Not to mention, that video can make great entertainment while you sit and nurse! You can find our breastfeeding DVD on Amazon.
While your typical postpartum lists include only things that a baby won’t even remember like shoes, changing tables, and matching nurseries, you might find some more practical items to be even more helpful. A few, easy to put on, outfits for baby, like buttoned footed sleepers or sleep sacs can be great for those early days when baby sleeps and needs to be changed a lot. A baby carrier such as a sling or soft shelled carrier can keep even a fussy baby content while, at the same time, freeing up your hands for other work you need to do. Other than that, your baby won’t have many needs that don’t directly involve your love and attention.
A safe place for your baby to sleep is a necessity too, but needn’t be an expensive crib. Babies are often happier (and can stay closer to mom and dad) in a bassinet, a sidecar, or a co-sleeper. What is most important is that baby is safe, on firm bedding, and feels loved.
Nobody wants to listen to that sound advice, “Sleep when baby sleeps,” but it really is a good idea. Some comfortable clothes can really help you be able to snatch sleep when you need it. A few things that have some stretch and can be worn as your body returns back to its pre-pregnancy state really come in handy. Getting yourself a couple things that are both stretchy and make you feel cute might be a lovely investment.
The sage advice from experienced midwives to “Dress so that people won’t stay too long at your home,” might also be important to listen to so you don’t get too overtired in the first weeks when you really need to rest.
Figuring out who will do what in those initial weeks is incredibly reassuring. A house still needs to be run and kept in serviceable order so that everyone can eat and function, but mom should not be wearing herself out doing it, especially in the first few weeks. Whether dad, a close friend, grandma, or a postpartum doula helps out, make sure that the things you need are covered. A simple list of what needs to be done can be found in the final chapters of your Birth Boot Camp Field Guide. Fill it out. You won’t regret it.
When you have a baby, there is recovery involved. Being prepared for the things that nobody ever talks about can help you mentally, emotionally, and physically in the early postpartum period. Your health and happiness will make that transition from woman to mother that much easier.
It might sound a little messy, but the early days with a baby are short, intense, yet indescribably beautiful. Enjoy and prepare for them!