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It’s natural to be very focused on your baby during pregnancy — after all, it feels like there’s so much to learn before they arrive! Your excitement (and maybe apprehension) to meet your baby can be all-consuming.
There are endless classes to help prepare you for the birthing process, and books galore about caring for your newborn. But what about how you’ll care for yourself after you give birth?
Do you just snap back to normal in the midst of no sleep, diaper changing, and learning to feed a baby? Not usually. However, there are some simple things you can do to help smooth your road to recovery.
Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a C-section, there will be a recovery period for any new mom. And depending on your age, overall health, and how long or difficult your labor was, this recovery may be fairly quick or may take a while.
During the recovery period, you will experience any or all of the following:
- Vaginal bleeding. Called lochia, most new moms experience bleeding for 1 to 2 weeks, and then lighter bleeding for several days to a month after that.
- Stitches. If you have a C-section, you’ll have an incision with stitches (or staples or glue). If you deliver vaginally, you may also have stitches if you experienced tearing or had an episiotomy.
- Swelling and discomfort. You’ll be sore “down there” for anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks.
- Sore or cracked nipples. If you’re breastfeeding, you may experience this for a time. You may also experience breast tenderness as your milk comes in and your milk supply regulates.
- Fluctuating hormones. It’s totally normal to have some very high highs and very low lows in the early weeks postpartum.
Everyone’s postpartum recovery looks different. For some it feels much easier than being pregnant, and for others it’s a very difficult time.
It’s completely normal to feel that recovery is either harder or easier than you expected. A few tips to help you navigate this time include:
- Be patient and kind to yourself! Keep your expectations low and focus on rest and time with your baby.
- Keep taking your prenatal vitamins, particularly if you’re breastfeeding.
- Get good nutrition. Prep healthy freezer meals, have friends set up a meal train, use a meal delivery service, or take up friends and family members on their offers to bring food.
- Pay a house cleaner if you can swing it, or let family and friends help you!
- Stay hydrated. Water is a key player in your overall health.
- Take short walks as you start feeling able — it will do a lot to boost your mood and speed your recovery.
- Follow up with your OB as scheduled.
- Talk to someone! Your significant other, a mom friend, a midwife, a lactation consultant, your therapist, or whoever you’re comfortable with. Postpartum can be a tricky time emotionally and talking to a supportive person usually helps.
- Sleep as much as you can. You’ll be back to your normal routine soon, so don’t feel guilty taking the recovery time you need.
Having the right equipment on hand can help alleviate stress during the postpartum period, and can make you significantly more comfortable in the days following birth.
For these picks, we considered reviews from new moms, personal experience, and brands we know and trust.
Read on for some top mom favorites that will keep you healthy and happy as you get to know the new little person in your life.
- $ = under $15
- $$ = $15–$30
- $$$ = $30–$40
While many hospitals will send you home with a peri bottle (literally a bottle for squirting water on your perineal area), this ingenious bottle from Frida Mom is angled to more easily reach your undercarriage and gets rave reviews.
Rinsing with warm water each time you go to the bathroom helps keep you clean and avoids irritating delicate tissue that has already been through a lot (you’re probably not going to feel like wiping down there for a few days at least).
Another great way to help heal your lower regions after they perform the marathon feat of birth? Warm sitz baths, which may promote healing and decrease pain.
You can certainly use your bathtub as a sitz bath, but some women (particularly if they had stitches) find it painful to get in and out of the tub.
This bath seat is sized for, as the manufacturer says, “all butts” and can be placed right on top of your toilet, making it much easier to sit on if you’re uncomfortable.
Magnesium and herbs such as yarrow, calendula, and comfrey may help soothe and heal your perineal area following childbirth.
Many women find great relief from doing one or two sitz baths each day with this herbal mix.
Cold packs are a must-have — seriously.
There’s going to be some swelling and pain or discomfort in your lower regions following birth (it’s just not easy to push a human head out of an area that small!), but cold packs are miracle workers when it comes to reducing pain and swelling.
These disposable cold packs also act as an absorbent pad, since you may be having some bleeding as well. If you’d rather make these at home, check out our how-to guide to padsicles.
I was warned that new mom life involved a lot of sitting and feeding the baby, but no one mentioned that sitting might HURT for a week or two. Uhhh… what?!
If you experienced tearing, had an episiotomy, or just have a lot of pain following delivery, these donut cushions are a lifesaver.
This soft donut cushion from FridaBaby allows you to sit while taking some pressure off sensitive areas. Some hospitals provide a disposable version of this cushion, so you can always ask your hospital what they provide to new moms for postpartum care.
This nipple butter from Earth Mama Organics is made with 100 percent USDA certified organic and GMO-free shea butter, beeswax, cocoa butter, olive oil, and calendula seed extract.
Moms love that it’s not sticky, doesn’t have a gunky texture and, since it’s labeled safe for ingestion, most don’t wipe it off prior to breastfeeding. It’s another one of our holy grail products for new breastfeeding moms.
Price: $ (sold in packs of 20)
Yep, we’re “down there” again. You’ll most likely experience bleeding (like a heavy period) for some days or weeks after delivery, regardless of whether you have a vaginal delivery or C-section.
While you’ll probably get a few ginormous pads from the hospital, it’s usually a good idea to have a package on hand at home. You can’t place anything (like a cup or tampon) in the vagina for 6 weeks postpartum, so these mega-absorbers are what you’ll need.
Since you may not want to ruin your silk undies with blood stains, disposable underwear are a great idea for a couple of weeks after birth.
These are softer and hold pads in place better than the mesh granny panties you’ll get at the hospital, and are high-waisted so they won’t press on your incision if you have a C-section.
Your breasts may be sore and uncomfortable as your milk supply regulates, so a soft and comfy nursing bra is a must. There are plenty of nursing bras with cups and underwires that feel more “normal” once you’re out and about, but a comfy sleep bra is the best for the early days, and for nighttime.
This soft cotton bra from Kindred Bravely provides some support, is comfortable enough to sleep in, and easily pulls aside to breastfeed (no clips to mess with at 2 in the morning).
Staying well hydrated is an important way to boost your recovery and maintain your energy levels as you focus on your little one.
This giant tumbler (50 ounces) will keep you from having to get up for refills too often, and will keep your drink cold for hours.
While you should definitely talk to your OB-GYN or midwife before taking any type of supplement (particularly if you’re breastfeeding), many moms swear by this herbal supplement for helping regulate their mood postpartum.
The “baby blues” are very real, and this mix of vitamins and herbs may help as your hormones regulate during the weeks and months following birth.
If you find that you have sad or hopeless thoughts that continue beyond the first few weeks, reach out and talk to your OB or a mental health professional.
Birth itself, hormones, and pain medications are a recipe for constipation. Constipation + a sore undercarriage = no fun.
Your doctor may give you a prescription stool softener, or may recommend a gentle over-the-counter stool softener such as MiraLAX. You’ll want to start taking it right away and continue for a week or two postpartum until your perineal area is somewhat healed and your bowel movements are regular and soft.
Do. Not. Skip. This. Really — if you’re directed by your doctor to do so, just take ibuprofen every 6 hours for the first few days (or weeks) to take the edge off the swelling and discomfort.
If you have any underlying health conditions, or concerns about taking medications while breastfeeding, definitely talk to your doctor.
The early days with your baby are precious, and taking care of yourself can help you enjoy them more fully.
You have just achieved a major accomplishment, and while there will be some discomfort as your body and mind recover, there are many resources available to help keep you comfortable as you heal and transition to motherhood.