We’re all familiar with the rules airline stewards announce prior to takeoff – fasten your seatbelt, put your tray table up, stow your laptop, etc. – but if you pay close attention, they also provide some recommendations for what to do in emergency situations. One specific piece of advice offered is in the event of a change in cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting those around you… including your own children!! While you might quickly judge this seemingly counterintuitive instruction as cruel, the advice is actually quite sensible. If you don’t get your oxygen mask on so that you’re conscious and coherent, then you will be of no help to your family or fellow passengers. The experience of caring for a newborn is (thankfully!) quite different from the circumstance of emergency cabin pressure changes mid-flight, but an important lesson can be borrowed – it’s nearly impossible for a new mother to care for her baby without some basic self-care.
You probably already know that the postpartum recovery process will involve some pain and uncomfortable moments, but having select products on-hand can dramatically improve and expedite the healing process. Remember, when your needs are met and you are comfortable, you’ll be able to better focus your love and attention on baby! The recovery process is different for every mother, but below is a list of products that you might consider gathering prior to delivery.
- Maxi pads – It’s totally normal to experience vaginal bleeding for up to 6 weeks postpartum, even if you’ve had a c-section. During the first few days you can use the large pads provided by the hospital, but you’ll want a supply of maxi pads in various levels of absorbency for when you return home. You can even put pads in the refrigerator or freezer prior to use for double-duty cooling relief. Avoid tampons for at least 6 weeks postpartum.
- Topical pain relievers – Soreness is expected after a vaginal delivery, and topical pain relievers such as lidocane spray and witch hazel pads can offer some temporary relief. If your pain reliever comes in a liquid or foam form, just add it directly to your maxi pad.
- Oral pain medication – Although it’s not a given that you will need or want something stronger than topical pain relievers, it might be a good idea to have a bottle of ibuprofen on-hand. The medication is an anti-inflammatory, which can alleviate postpartum bleeding, cramping, and pain. If your doctor writes you a prescription for something a bit stronger (i.e. an opioid painkiller for a planned c-section, or just in case one might occur), then it’s a good idea to get the prescription filled well before baby is expected to arrive.
- Spray bottle – Going to the bathroom can cause serious stinging and burning, especially if you experienced tearing during delivery. A plastic spray bottle, sometimes called a peri bottle, can be used to spray water during urination and in the place of toilet paper to avoid painful friction caused by wiping.
- Stool softener – The first post-baby bowel movement is dreaded by many. The idea of pushing anything else out of the general vicinity of where baby just arrived is unpleasant and maybe a little scary, and long labors without food, constipating pain medications, and c-sections can really throw a wrench in even the most “regular” woman’s routine. Stool softeners make your stool less dense, so you don’t have to push as hard to pass it. Lots of fluids and a diet rich in fiber are also recommended.
- Nursing supplies – If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, consider:
- Nipple cream – Getting the hang of breastfeeding can take weeks, and in the process you might experience dry, sore, or cracked nipples. Allergies, sensitivities and preferences for ingredients found in nipple creams vary from mom-to-mom, but there are lots of options out there that are safe for baby and will help ease your discomfort.
- Nursing pillow – Although it’s certainly not required, a pillow specifically designed for nursing can help make the breastfeeding experience much more comfortable for you and baby. Mothers who have had a c-section might find these especially useful, because the pillow will help support the weight of the baby and protect from incision contact.
- Nursing pads – Let-down can occur in response to your baby’s cries or even spontaneously, and pads that can be inserted into your bra will help keep you dry.
- Water bottle(s) – Many women experience extreme thirst in the days and week after delivery due to fluid loss during delivery, the dry air in hospitals, and breastfeeding. Having water bottles at various stations throughout your home (on your nightstand, a side table where you nurse, etc.) will help remind you to drink plenty of water and stay well-hydrated.
- Comfortable clothes – Your body has been through A LOT! You might be psyched to get back into your prepregnancy clothes, but you might not want to pack up your maternity wear just yet… It can take up to 2 months for your uterus to shrink back to its normal size, so pants with a stretchy waistband and loose tops will keep you comfortable postpartum. Remember – baby doesn’t care about fashion!
- Favorite healthy snacks/meals – When you’re short on time and sleep deprived from caring for a newborn, it can be very tempting to make a meal of chips, candy, or other grab-and-go foods in your pantry. To avoid consuming a diet full of processed foods (which is important for all moms, and especially breastfeeding moms!), stock up on healthy snacks in advance, and make and freeze some of your favorite nutritious meals. If you’re fortunate to have friends or family who ask how they can help once baby arrives, ask them to bring you fresh produce or healthy meals.
Many mothers spend hours deliberating what to pack in their hospital bag before baby arrives, but devote very little or no time assembling a stash of products at home to assist in postpartum recovery. Although it’s certainly more fun to pack a hospital bag full of adorable newborn clothes, collecting some crucial postpartum recovery items for yourself can eliminate some of the stress and pain from your healing process. Once you are finally home with your new baby, the last things you’ll want to do is make an emergency run to the store for a self-care product. Consider having the products listed above on-hand before you deliver, so your energy and attention can be focused on your new baby.
Did we miss anything? Help out other moms-to-be and tell us about any items that helped you with your postpartum recovery in the Comments below!