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- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
- Best peri wash bottle: Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle
- Best sitz bath: Soothic Sitz Bath
- Best cold packs: Medline Perineal Cold Packs
- Best donut cushion: Frida Mom Perineal Comfort Donut Cushion
- Best maxi pads: Amazon Basics Extra Heavy Overnight Maxi Pads with Flexi-Wings
- Best disposable underwear: Frida Mom Disposable Postpartum Underwear
- Best nursing bra: Kindred Bravely Nursing Sleep Bra
- Best water bottle: Reduce Tumbler with Straw
- Best remedy for constipation: MiraLAX Laxative Powder
- Best pain reliever: Amazon Basic Care Ibuprofen Tablets
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 giving birth?
Do you snap back to your routine 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 anyone who’s given birth. 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.
From an OB’s perspective, you’ll have a follow-up appointment about 6 weeks after birth to check everything out and clear you for most activities (usually including sex) — yes, 6 weeks is a long time! If you receive your care from midwives, especially in a birth center or home birth setting, you will likely get more extensive and frequent postpartum care. But either way, it’s good to know what to expect!
During the recovery period, you will experience any or all of the following:
- Vaginal bleeding. Called lochia, most people experience bleeding for 1 to 2 weeks after giving birth, and then lighter bleeding or spotting for several days to a month after that.
- Stitches. If you have a C-section, you’ll have an abdominal incision with stitches (or staples or glue). If you deliver vaginally, you may also have stitches if you experienced perineal 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 or chestfeeding, you may experience this for a time. You may also experience breast tenderness and engorgement as your milk comes in and your milk supply regulates.
- Fluctuating hormones. It’s totally natural 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. For others, it’s a very difficult time.
It’s completely natural 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. Prenatal vitamins are particularly important if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
- 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 and is extra important for having a good milk supply.
- Take short, easy walks as you start feeling able. It’ll do a lot to boost your mood and speed your recovery.
- Follow up with your midwife or OB-GYN as scheduled.
- Talk with someone! Your significant other, a friend, a midwife, a lactation consultant, your therapist, or whoever you’re comfortable with. Postpartum can be a tricky time emotionally and talking with a supportive person usually helps.
- Sleep as much as you can. Sleep is so important for healing and for mental health. But most babies don’t have a regular schedule for at least the first 4–6 months. Don’t feel guilty taking the recovery time you need and resting whenever you get the opportunity.
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 parents, personal experience, and brands we know and trust.
Read on for some top favorites that will keep you healthy and happy as you get to know the new little person in your life.
- $ = under $15
- $$ = $15–$30
- $$$ = over $30
Best peri wash bottle
While many hospitals and birth centers 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).
- angled design for easier reach
- easy to squeeze
- comes in bright, happy colors
- can be difficult to control pressure
- nozzle may be too short for some
Best sitz bath
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 people (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.
- fits any size toilet seat
- wide seat accommodates all sizes
- deep bowl keeps water warmer longer
- some reviews mention spilling and needing to keep a towel at their feet to use
- might not be comfortable for long use
Best cold packs
Price: $$$ (for one pack of 24)
Cold packs are a must-have — seriously.
There’s going to be some swelling and pain or discomfort in your vulva 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 will be having some bleeding as well. If you’d rather make these at home, check out our how-to guide to padsicles.
- included adhesive strip keeps the cold pack in place
- doesn’t need to be stored in the freezer
- some reviewers have trouble activating the cold packs
Best donut cushion
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 giving birth, these donut cushions are a lifesaver.
This soft donut cushion from FridaBaby allows you to sit while taking some pressure off sensitive areas. Some birth facilities provide a disposable version of this cushion, so you can always ask your midwife or doctor what they provide to new parents for postpartum care.
- easy to store and take on the go
- included cold pack helps with soreness
- removable and washable cover
- auto-inflate system can be tricky for some users
- need to re-inflate after each use
Best maxi pads
Price: $ (for four 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 birth or C-section.
While you’ll probably get a few ginormous pads from the hospital or birth center, it’s usually a good idea to have a package on hand at home. You generally should not place anything (like a cup or tampon) in your vagina for at least 6 weeks postpartum, so these mega-absorbers are what you’ll need.
- good value for the price
- lots of pads in a pack to keep you stocked
- provides 10 hours of leakproof coverage
- adhesive could be too sticky for some underwear fabrics, causing the pad to rip when taken off
Best disposable underwear
Price: $$ (for one pack of 8)
Since you may not want to ruin your silk undies with bloodstains, 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 if you give birth in the hospital. They’re also high-waisted, so they won’t press on your incision if you have a C-section.
- soft and breathable fabric
- stretch to fit
- only two sizes available (regular, which fits waist sizes 28 inches to 42 inches, or petite, for waist sizes 23 inches to 34 inches)
- some users report that the material is flimsy and rips
Best nursing bra
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 bamboo fabric 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).
- no clips or clasps for easy use and comfort
- comes in a range of sizes and colors
- comfortable for sleep, but can also be worn under clothes during the day
- may not fully accommodate larger breast sizes
Best water bottle
Staying well hydrated is an important way to boost your recovery and maintain your energy levels as you focus on your little one. It’s also crucial for maintaining a good milk supply. And if you are breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you will be thirsty all. the. time!
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.
- keeps your drink cold for over a day
- no need to constantly refill
- comes in cute colors
- dishwasher safe
- difficult to take on the go since it won’t fit in some cup holders
Best remedy for constipation
Birth itself, hormones, and pain medications are a recipe for constipation. Constipation + a sore undercarriage = no fun.
Your doctor or midwife may give you a prescription stool softener or may recommend a gentle over-the-counter stool softener such as MiraLAX. If you need it, 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. Staying well hydrated and eating fruits and vegetables can also help prevent constipation and keep stool soft.
- prescription-strength formula
- easy to mix into hot or cold beverages
- may trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastrointestinal distress for some people
Best pain reliever
Do. Not. Skip. This. Really — if you’re directed by your doctor or midwife 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 or chestfeeding, definitely talk with your healthcare professional.
- effective pain relief
- 500 tablets per bottle
- bottle can be hard to open in the middle of the night, according to reviewers
What should I buy for postpartum recovery?
Since you may not know if you’ll have a vaginal birth or cesarean delivery, it may be worth waiting until baby’s arrival before stocking up on some of your postpartum supplies.
You can make a list of items that you think you’ll need and use the convenience of a delivery service to have your supplies on hand by the time you arrive home.
The hospital or birth center may have essentials for you to take home and get you through the first few days of recovery. For a home birth, your midwife can help guide you on what you’ll need.
Some must-haves to consider may include maxi pads, disposable underwear, and ibuprofen.
How long should I rest after giving birth?
Try to rest for as long as possible and take as many opportunities as you can to nap and relax. If you’re able, try not to busy yourself with household chores. Instead, focus on your newborn and yourself. You deserve this time to rest.
Generally, people who truly take it easy for the first 2 to 3 weeks after giving birth feel significantly better once that 6-month milestone rolls around.
What helps postpartum recovery?
In addition to the products above, having support from a partner, family member, friend, or someone you trust can be greatly beneficial. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have someone watch your baby so you can get the rest and recovery you need.
But often, it’s even more helpful to let other people take care of the daily household chores so that you can rest with your baby.
The early days with your baby are precious, and taking care of yourself can help you enjoy them more fully.
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 into this new phase of your life.