A practical list of essentials for your tender post-baby body
As you prepare for baby and carefully consider all that your new little one will need, don’t neglect to prepare for self-care! Consider gathering some of the following items to have on hand for your comfort and relief after your baby is born:
1. Peri Bottle
You will likely be given a peri bottle if you give birth in a hospital or with midwives in either a birth center or at home. Filling this bottle with warm water and squirting it on your perineum while you urinate can help encourage urination and take the sting out of urine on sore tissues. Once your bladder is empty, fill the bottle with warm water and squirt again to clean the area, and then gently pat dry. Plan to have a peri bottle in each bathroom and bring one in your baby bag if you’ll be away from home in the early days after your baby is born.
2. Sitz Bath
A sitz bath is a small plastic tub that fits into your toilet rim and you can use it as a mini bath for your bottom. This also keeps the area clean, can encourage urination, and help with healing. Many women find sitz baths offer much relief and comfort for sore tissues. Your hospital may have one or you can find them at any pharmacy. Dermaplast is an over the counter cooling, numbing spray that can ease the irritation and discomfort of a sore perineum or stitches. Ask your caregiver for their recommendations if you still feel sore after trying these.
Vaginal or Cesarean Birth:
3. Witch Hazel or Tucks pads, Padsicles
Witch Hazel is an astringent, useful for helping to shrink hemorrhoids and soothe sore bottoms. You can gently apply witch hazel on a cotton ball, or buy ready-made wipes or pads, like Tucks. You can also apply witch hazel to maxi pads and freeze them to make icy cold “padsicles”. Many women find these very soothing for swollen and sore parts.
4. Doughnut pillow
Some women experience tailbone (coccydynia) or pelvic floor pain after pregnancy and birth. A doughnut shaped pillow can help to relieve this discomfort. Most pharmacies have pillows, or you can try a DIY with a pool noodle formed into a ring with duct tape.
Ibuprofen is preferred by most caregivers for pain relief, afterbirth cramping, inflammation and soreness. 800 mg every 8 hours is the typical prescription, but check with your caregiver for their recommendation if it doesn’t seem to be working well enough for you.
6. Colace (stool softener)
To ease those first few postpartum bowel movements, you may want to consider a stool softener, no matter how you delivered your baby. Pain medications can make your bowels more sluggish, and Colace can be taken as needed to help keep things gently moving. It does not cause intestinal cramping, is generally well tolerated, and is available over the counter.
7. Maxi Pads
You’ll want extra-long or overnight with wings. Initial postpartum bleeding can be very heavy, at least for the first few days. Bleeding, called Lochia, is normal for several weeks following the birth of your baby. It will be very heavy and red at first, tapering off to brown and then more yellowish. During this time, you’ll need to use pads rather than tampons or cups, and not introduce anything into the vagina until the bleeding has ended.
8. Mesh (granny) panties or Depends, a belly binder
If you give birth in the hospital, you will be given mesh panties after your baby is born. They are snug and high waisted, which many women like because they tend to hold your loose belly in. You can tuck a pad or ice pack inside. Some women like to wear Depends disposable undergarments for the first few days of heavy bleeding, again with a maxi pad, ice pack, or padsicle tucked in.
After your baby is born, it takes some time for your abdominal muscles to return to normal and your belly and back muscles will feel a bit loose. Some women like the way an abdominal binder or Bengkung belly binding helps them to feel more held together as they regain core strength.
9. Nursing pads –Disposable or reusable
When you nurse your baby, you will experience a release of milk from your breasts called a “let down.” Sometimes when you nurse from one side, the other breast will leak, and when you hear your baby cry, you may also leak milk. Nursing pads tucked into your bra will catch the leakage and keep you from needing to change your shirt multiple times a day. (Though that will probably still happen, babies can be so messy!) You might also like to buy a couple of nursing tank tops. These usually have a shelf bra and snap down sides for ease when nursing, they are comfortable and stretch for engorgement, and you can tuck nursing pads inside. If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you will still need pads for a little while and you may want to buy a head of cabbage, as the leaves tucked into your bra will help with engorgement.
10. Nipple Cream
Sometimes your nursing baby will cause your nipples to become sore. A cream like Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, or a lanolin based ointment like Lansinoh can soothe and protect sore nipples.
Finally, you’ll need support. Have you made a list of friends or family you can call? Have you connected with our local postpartum or baby groups? Do you have your doula’s number in your phone?
Experienced parents, what would you add to the list?