Giving birth is one of the most magical and surreal moments in a woman’s life! Contrary to popular belief, the discomfort, pain, even complications you had in pregnancy won’t last in your memory as the highlight of your delivery. As soon as your fresh baby is in your arms, the world magically becomes a different, brighter, more hopeful place. Some women report that they had the courage to change their lives, finish college, or work towards a dream job once they became mothers.
Babies have this incredible power to inspire us to greater heights.
However, we don’t recommend leaving the hospital and going straight to college the next day!
Recovery from birth takes about 6-8 weeks. This time is known as postpartum. Besides allowing your body to heal, you will use this time to get into a routine, learn how to nurse (if you are breastfeeding), get your baby into a sleeping routine, and get to know your baby. Physically and mentally this is a lot of work.
But you don’t have to dread postpartum! With the right mindset and the proper planning, it can be a wonderful time to rejuvenate and snuggle with your new bundle of joy!
The key to a successful recovery is self-care.
Physically, your body is undergoing Herculean changes during postpartum, which is why TLC is so important. Here are a few things going on with your body:
1. During this time you will experience a light period for about 4 weeks (it’s normal however if some women bleed longer.) Medically, this is not a period but is called “lochia.” It's the way your body sheds the extra blood and tissue in your uterus that helped grow your baby.
2. During the post-partum phase, your uterus will shrink back to pre-baby size. This can cause some mild cramping or even mild contractions at first, but breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink quicker because of hormone release.
3. Another physical change your body experiences is the sudden drop of progesterone and estrogen. Once the placenta is out, there is no need for your body to make high doses of these hormones to support your baby. This is one of the contributors of “postpartum depression” as well.
4. While all this is going on, your body is making nutrient-rich milk to feed a mini-human!
Your body is an incredible (and busy) powerhouse!
The challenging part of postpartum is that new babies are not known for sleeping through the night. Your body has to heal while losing sleep, on top of the other things mothers have to do in their day to day life (like cooking.)
Below we suggested 6 self-care ideas to help you have a smoother recovery, show your body some love, and enjoy these 6 weeks to its fullest!
1. Listen To Your Instincts
We love doctors and the team of specialists at the hospital. They are a storehouse of information and you should use their knowledge and help to the fullest!
Sometimes, however, you will face a choice that only you can (and should make.) No one should make the decision for you to breastfeed or not, for example. Other choices first-time moms make are co-sleeping versus crib sleeping, going back to work or staying home, bottle feeding or not, pacifier or not...the list is endless. Often, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even judged by those around you who mean well. But the best way to alleviate stress and make faster headway in your new routine is to listen to your instincts.
Baby’s might not come with a manual, but you come with instincts! Listen to them--most of the time you already know what to do.
2. Ask For Help
It’s okay to ask for help! It does not make you weak.
If someone offers to help you, say, "Yes, thank you!" Even if they just wash your dishes or walk your dog or let you take a 60-minute nap, allowing people to help you is the best way to save your sanity and gives you a break to heal. It's the little things that add up into big things.
3. Premake Freezer Meals
Taking pictures of your new baby is fun. Slaving over a hot stove is not.
Usually, friends and family like to bring you food when a new baby comes. However, it’s not likely that people will be donating food for more than 2 weeks. If you can, try to assemble healthy pre-made meals for the freezer in your third trimester. Use disposable foil pans if possible, to pop into the oven (or crockpot.) This will be a time and energy saver and give you more time to post baby pictures! Look on Pinterest for great freezer meal ideas!
4. Prep Clothing And Get Your Hair Done
This might sound non-essential, but psychologically a woman will feel better if she feels beautiful. It’s very difficult to feel good about yourself if you don’t feel good about the way you look. Even if you have bags under your eyes, and your tummy is saggy, and you waddle around, women still need to maintain a sense of self. One of the best prep things you can do is to make sure you set aside post-partum clothes that are comfortable, clean, and cute. This will prevent you from digging around for an outfit every day. Make sure you have enough nursing bras too, as you will need to wash them often.
If you have time, get your hair done before giving birth. Color it or get a hair cut that is low maintenance. This will make you feel better about yourself on days you feel off or struggle with depression, or if people come to visit the baby unexpectedly.
5. Healing Sitz Bath
With all your body is doing physically, its common for your lady parts to be sore, itchy, and swollen. One of the best things you can do to aid healing is to sit in a shallow Epsom salt sitz bath (if your doctor has cleared you to do so.) The temperature of the water can help with blood flow to the affected area which aids in healing. This is also a great way to relieve Hemroids, cleanse the area, and give you a few minutes to relax.
There are many fancy herbal recipes online you can try as well, just make sure your doctor is aware. Add a little witch hazel for extra healing properties or some essential oils. Also, make sure someone can watch your bundle of joy so you can have some uninterrupted time!
6. Self Care Box
This box ideally should have all of your essentials in one place so you aren’t digging around for medicine or a pad in the middle of the night. Most mothers put this box next to their nursing chair or by their nightstand. You can even split it into two boxes, one for your chair and one for the bathroom. Here is a list of items you should have in your postpartum box, but feel free to add or subtract and get creative!
Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray
The hospital usually gives you a bottle, but it’s good to have an extra on hand. This will numb you up and make you feel less sore "down there."
This is great to relieve pain on your lady parts and it also helps with hemorrhoids, too.
These provide instant relief!
Epsom Salt, Essential oils/herbs
This is for soaking in a sitz bath.
Heavy-duty Overnight Pads
It’s not recommended to use tampons or menstrual cups during postpartum. Pads are the best option. Usually, after the first few days, the flow of blood will be like a light period, and the overnight pads offer full coverage and support throughout the day and night.
Because you deserve something sweet to make you feel better.
It’s common to feel hungry when you are breastfeeding, so having granola bars or trail mix you can grab while nursing is helpful.
Nursing Pads/Nipple Cream
You can get either disposable or fabric pads. Not all mothers need them, but it’s good to have a few on hand just in case. Organic nipple cream or lanolin cream is not expensive and will save cracked/sore breasts.
Hair Ties, Dry Shampoo
You won’t want to go looking for hair ties in the middle of the night so having them on hand is a must. Dry shampoo will also help you look and feel more put together on days you can’t shower or do your hair.
It’s always good to have these close by your nursing chair for burp time.
Breast Gell Pads
You can get these at Walmart or on the website you order a breast pump from (sometimes the hospital has them.) The cooling effect feels great for the first few days of nursing.
This is great to sit on, or put over your cramping uterus, or use for back pain.
You don’t want to be digging for Advil or Motrin at 4 o’clock in the morning when you need something to take the edge off.
Even if you plan to breastfeed it doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes you don’t realize that breastfeeding isn’t for you until it’s 2 A.M. and your baby is screaming for food. This is why you should make sure to have a small can of formula and a bottle on hand just in case of emergencies.
Prenatals And Shakes
Just because you aren’t pregnant anymore does not mean you should stop taking your prenatal vitamin. Your body is undergoing lots of changes, including a baby who is drinking nutrients from your storehouse. Lots of moms like to have nutrition shakes or protein shakes on hand to give them an extra boost in calories, energy, and vitamins, as well.
Last but not least, taking care of yourself can drastically help stave off postpartum depression. One of the things you can add to your self-care box is progesterone cream. (Ask your doctor first, of course.) Many women love this cream to help balance out the sudden drop in hormones. You can get this cream at some grocery stores or a health food store.
Remember that having a baby is a lot of work and can seem scary and overwhelming at times, but your body and instincts will guide you. Time flys quickly. Your body is strong. And you will pass from postpartum into the next phases of motherhood thankful for every moment you get to spend with your baby.