During pregnancy, you may find yourself completely focused on your little bundle of joy that is on the way and not at all concerned with the postpartum recovery period following the birth of your new baby! It's a very long, yet exciting 9+ months waiting for your little one to arrive, but no one really tells you what you will need immediately after your sweet babe is born to care for your baby and survive the first 4-6 weeks postpartum. Here is a list of my top essential items for the postpartum recovery period to help you care for yourself as well, because let's face it - you cannot take care of your newborn if you don't take care of yourself too!
I'll start by saying that this is a very personal post, which I don't normally do, but I think motherhood does that to you (makes you feel more vulnerable and open) and I know I would have liked to know what to expect when it came to postpartum recovery and caring for your newborn and yourself! This is not an exhaustive list and every one (every momma, every baby, and every postpartum recovery) is different, but I hope my experience can help you prepare for life with baby. And always remember to trust your gut and do whatever works best for you and your sweet baby!
Caring for a newborn is a LOT of work! I knew this going into giving birth, but my world was still rocked when my sweet boy finally arrived (in the best, yet most exhausting way possible). I quickly realized that the act of actually giving birth takes so much out of the momma and that makes newborn care even more challenging. As a fitness and nutrition expert, I must say that eating well and exercising regularly before and during pregnancy will most definitely make labor, delivery, and recovery SO much easier! But I will save my preaching about good nutrition and regular exercise pre, during, and post-pregnancy for another post!
Let's dive in to my TOP Postpartum Essentials:
- Postpartum selfcare items (because you WILL be sore and need these items asap after giving birth)! The hospital will provide you with most of these items and you can take them home with you from the hospital, but I also suggests having them on-hand at home because you will need these items for roughly 4-6 weeks).
- Dermoplast (the BLUE cap that is Hospital Strength and has aloe in it), Tucks pads, and a gentle squirt peri-bottle will all be lifesavers for your lady parts after using the restroom and/or changing your gigantic Maxi pad and sexy mesh grandma undies (yes, you will need to wear these diaper-like pads for the first few days since your bleeding will be quite heavy)! The hospital will provide you with all of these essentials so make sure you stock up before you leave and take them home with you (especially the peri-bottle because it is hard to find at most common stores). Others may recommend making a "Pad-sicle" with the Tucks pads, but I honestly didn't have time to make them throughout the day or want to bother with the mess of the ice melting and mixing with all the other bodily fluids going on down there (sorry, TMI).
- Speaking of Maxi pads, I highly recommend buying a pack or two of Ultra Thin Maxi Pads with Wings (the super long kind) in levels 5, 3, and 1 for absorption as your bleeding lessens over time.
- Sitz Bath basin (the hospital should provide one for you and you should take it home with you because you will want to continue to use it daily (especially after going to the restroom, ahem, going #2).
- Speaking of #2 (something I was honestly terrified to do the first time postpartum), be sure to use Colace (or another approved stool softener) to make the experience less painful and scary. Again, the hospital will provide you with Colace... take it whenever they ask if you would like some and have a bottle or two at home to take twice a day to help you become more regular and ease any pain associated with "going" post baby.
- Prescription strength Motrin, which will also be provided by the hospital and you will be sent home with a prescription to continue taking the pain medicine as needed once you are home. I continued taking the prescription strength Motrin for about 1.5 weeks after leaving the hospital. Caution - be sure to take the pill with food to help ease any stomach pain or nausea.
- Postpartum clothing / support (for your new beautiful body) because your postpartum body will be different than your pre-pregnant body (and that IS O.K.)! You will want to buy looser-fitting clothing and breastfeeding-friendly clothing if you plan to breastfeed (which, as a Dietitian, I highly recommend)!
- Slightly larger high-waisted undies (to hold your Maxi pad in place and be gentle on your lady parts and hips). I absolutely loved my Kindred Bravely High Waist Postpartum Underwear (so soft, supportive, and still sexy) and A Pea in the Pod postpartum undies (also comfy and has a little lace to spice things up), but you can easily buy High Waist Cotton undies in a size or two up from your normal size.
- Loose fitting, dark colored pajama pants / athletic pants and shorts to wear at the hospital and while hanging around the house with your little one. As a personal trainer, I usually live in tight workout leggings, but trust me when I say you will NOT want to wear tight pants for a couple of weeks post baby. I bought some cute cotton shorts and a pair of stretchy jean shorts that were one size up from my normal size at Target and felt like a real woman again when I wore "real" clothes out in public.
- Breastfeeding-friendly clothes (if you plan to breastfeed) - think nursing bras (from Kindred Bravely, BAOMOSI, Target, and A Pea in the Pod) and nursing sleep bras (from Medela ), nursing tank tops (from Bralido, A Pea in the Pod, and Target), and nursing dresses and tops (A Pea in the Pod, Destination Maternity, and Motherhood Maternity). Most importantly, give yourself GRACE and don't beat yourself up over the differences you see and feel in your body. Your body needs time to heal and you WILL be able to reach your healthy body weight with time, good nutrition, and daily activity. For now, appreciate how amazing your body really is (I mean you created, carried, and birthed that beautiful baby after all!) and go on a shopping spree (or online shopping spree) for some new cute in-between clothes to make you feel like the hot mama that you really are!
- Postpartum Belly Band!! This last one truly is a lifesaver and I am so glad I decided to order a postpartum belly support band at the last minute before my baby boy arrived. I was shocked by how weak my core was immediately postpartum and I had a little diastasis recti. This belly band really helped tighten my abdominal muscles back up and strengthen my core during the recovery process and I know I couldn't have done that as quickly on my own with out the supportive band (with adjustable straps to tighten the band as your uterus shrinks back down to normal size). After the first two weeks of wearing this belly band, I started wearing the simple belly band from Target when wearing tighter clothes out of the house and it provided just enough support without being noticeable.
- Miscellaneous essentials (especially for the breastfeeding mamas out there):
- Coconut oil (pure extra virgin) and lotion for your whole body (to help moisturize and tighten your skin back up) and for your nipples in between feedings (to help with the cracked skin and sore spots in the early days of breastfeeding).
- Mother Love Nipple Cream - this stuff really works and immediately sooths sore nipples while also being completely safe for you and baby. This cream is much better than Lanolin, which actually dries out the already sore and sensitive skin.
- Disposable nursing pads - these are so much more convenient and less noticeable than the reusable kinds and definitely came in handy in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding.
- Dry shampoo (I like Dove's Refresh) since you really wont have much time to wash and blow dry your hair with a newborn around.
- Amazon Prime - as soon as we got home with our sweet baby boy, we realized how quickly we will go through household paper products (like bath tissue and paper towels), burp clothes, diapers, and wipes and Amazon came to the rescue. We signed up for Amazon Prime and it has been the most convenient way to get everything we need quickly without having to leave the house with a newborn! Plus, it's so easy to buy your little one adorable new outfits at 2:00am (haha, oops, sorry hubby)!
And last, but not least, I highly recommend you stock up on easy meals and SNACKS!! All the snacks! Especially those that are easy to carry with you and eat with one hand, can sit out on your night stand and be eaten in the middle of the night while breastfeeding, and are jam-packed with wholesome nutrients to keep you (and your baby) fueled. You need energy (in the form of good quality, nutrient-dense calories) in order to take care of your baby, especially if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns an additional 500 calories (or more) and if you are underfed you will have a very difficult time breastfeeding and may suffer from low milk supply. Have no fear! I have a list of my favorite healthy snacks and meals for new mamas and they all include wholesome ingredients that provide energy and naturally increase your milk supply (like Oats, Flaxseeds, and Brewer's Yeast). Side note: I also recommend eating a variety colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you will need to help with the healing processes (especially foods high in Vitamin C).
- Oatmeal cookies with flaxseeds (Alyssa's Healthy Oatmeal Bites)
- Kind Breakfast Bars, Rise Bars, RX Bars, Lara Bars and Lara Bites, BoBo Bites...
- Perfect Bars (perfect for longer lasting energy as you are running out the door and late for a doctor's appointment!)
- Quaker Overnight Oats (add in 1 tsp Brewer's Yeast for extra milk-boosting properties)
- Simple Mills Banana Bread Muffins (add in 1 tbsp. milled Flaxseeds for extra milk-boosting properties)
- No Bake Lactation Bites
Now don't those look tasty!? And if you need some more ideas for healthy and easy snacks during the first few months of motherhood, check out this long list of other Make-Ahead Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms from the fabulous The Lean Green Bean !
I hope you found my Top Postpartum Essentials post to be helpful as you navigate your way through postpartum recovery and caring for your newborn baby. This is a very exciting, yet exhausting time, but being a mother has been the best job I've ever had (and I've only been a mom for 4 short weeks)! Just remember that each phase will pass and the time will fly by! Enjoy the precious moments with your little one and be sure to take care of yourself first!
Again, I know this is an unusual post for me and Fuel for the Soul... but I wanted to be real and raw with you all and hope you enjoyed reading. Please let me know if you would like more to see more (personal) posts from me here and I will be happy to share my journey from pre-pregnancy through postpartum life with my sweet little boy!