When I was pregnant, during the first two trimesters, all I could think about was pregnancy and birth. I was dedicated to my yoga practice, I was doing all the yummy self-care things, I was getting my registry ready for the baby showers and ceremonies. But I hadn't thought much about the postpartum stage. When I realized this my focus started to shift. Thankfully, I had felt pretty comfortable with all things pregnancy and birth by the time the third trimester rolled around, so I was ready for my attention to shift.
I realized I knew even less about that immediate postpartum stage than I did about birth! What would it be like? How would I feel? Would I get diagnosed with postpartum depression or anxiety? How would I care for myself? All of these questions I wanted answers to and if I couldn't have the answer I wanted to be prepared. I again went to work asking the experts, taking the courses, reading the books, doing my own searches and utilizing the skills I am good at, like organization. I go ga-ga for some good organization! I also believe that knowledge is power and that it is never too early to start thinking about the postpartum period. Here are some of the things I did to prepare as well as the resources I have found extremely helpful:
What I Did to Prepare:
- Took a postpartum course through Blooma. They offer these regularly in their workshops calendar. This course was very helpful to give me a foundation of some of the things to expect for myself and my baby and ways to nourish us both.
- I looked at what I could task others with. This is a big one! I do not like asking for help but I realized I would need to. People love helping; whether it is bringing food, cleaning the house, holding the baby so you can rest. Ask for help and take all the help you can get. Another example I'll share: I have a ton of plants in my home and I wanted to follow my doulas suggestion of the 5-5-5 rule (5 days in bed, laying down with minimal time out of bed, 5 days on bed, could be sitting up more but again the focus is spending time healing and 5 days near the bed, could get out for a bit but the bed is close if rest is needed). So, I needed someone to water these plants! But some of my plants are a bit extra and have specific care needs. In order to make this clear for my plant helper, I purchased small chalk board tags and wrote the needs of the specific plants on the tag and then attached the tag to the plant.
- I created a postpartum binder. In this binder I had my favorite restaurants listed with which meal I would want. I had a list of contacts I could reach out to if I needed some support for house cleaning, a shoulder to cry on, people I'd trust to walk my dog, things like that. I had directions for how to launder our cloth diapers. I also had a note to myself with positive affirmations and techniques I have used to calm an anxious mind or body. I never used this but it was helpful for me to again think of things I could task others with and it was a comfort knowing I had this tool, just in case.
- I labeled my sons dresser. I wanted my support team to be able to come in and support us. For me, that meant that these people needed to be able to complete a task without having to ask me how to do it or where something was.
- Frida Mom Postpartum Essentials Recovery Kit
- Sitz bath. I purchased two pre-made sitz baths. I also made my own bags so that I could enjoy a sitz bath every days for the first 4 weeks. Stay tuned for a future post on how to make your own!
- Reusable pads. I used witch hazel and aloe gel to create a soothing pad that I stored in the freezer.
- Honey Pots postpartum pads. If DIY isn't your thing this was a brand that was recommended to me. I purchased a few packs to have on hand.
- Epsom salts. I turned my sitz bath into a daily bath and added Epsom salts to heal my sore and tired body.
- Adult diapers. I can honestly say that I loved the adult diapers. I did have some disposable underwear with the big giant pads but that was uncomfortable. It felt like it just shifted a lot and the undies stretched so much. I felt like the diapers were leak proof and provided just the right amount of support. They in no way were compression or tight but they didn't sag like the thin disposable underwear and bulky pad.
- New, cozy pajamas. Totally needed ;) If I was going to be in pjs all day I wanted to have them cute and comfortable.
- The First 40 Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother. This book has it all. Information about the 4th trimester and other cultural norms, great recipes and helpful tools to nourish and heal after birth.
- Sweet Sleep. Sleep is such a big topic! I got a lot of advice on how to handle sleep. Some of this advice included sleep training and some of the advice just didn't seem to apply to my baby. Combine that with the fact that I wanted to breastfeed my son and it just felt like none of these "solutions" were applicable for the breastfeeding family. This book is all about bedsharing - the science behind it, how to do it safely and how to make it work for your family. We started bedsharing with our son around the 2 week mark. A more in depth post on how we bedshare will come soon!
- Breastfeeding Made Simple. I never read this book because by some miracle nursing came very easy to Silas and I but I have heard it is incredible.
- The Motherly Art of Breastfeeding. I also never read this book but again have heard it come up in many conversations around nursing.
Postpartum Healing & Fitness:
- Vagina Whisperer - Dr. Sara Reerdon
- Pelvic floor specialists! If you have any concerns about urinary incontinence or the strength of your pelvic floor reach out to a specialist. They are there to help you and just doing Kegels often isn't actually what is needed.
- One Strong Mama. An online resource for postpartum workouts that you can start before week 6. The first few weeks are all about stretching and tuning into the pelvic floor muscles. It really is gentle enough to start right away and the stretches are really yummy!
- FIT by Larie on YouTube
- Chiropractic treatments for you and baby by a Webster certified chiropractor! If you are in the Twin Cities, I would highly recommend Active Health Chiropractic. They know their stuff and are so accommodating, understanding and friendly.
In those immediate weeks that followed birth my daily rituals were minimal. I focused on eating warm, nourishing foods, resting in bed, holding my baby as much as possible and the three items below.
- Daily sitz bath
- Washed my face and brushed my teeth
- Sat outside for 20 minutes
- Kellymom.com. This site has tons of info, from breastfeeding to parenting and beyond. Another great tool with evidence based information.
- Le Leche League. Everything breastfeeding, just tab this page and reference it when you need to.
- Aviva Romm
Miscellaneous Things I Learned:
- Most insurance companies cover lactation consultants
- Pelvic floor specialists are a thing! Although urinary incontinence is common it is not normal and can generally be resolved.
- First postpartum poo is scary but take a stool softener for at least the first week and it will be okay!
- Your own breast milk makes a great moisturizer for chapped nipples, irritated baby skin
As I said in the Pregnancy Recommendations and Resources post I would just like to end by sharing that these are some of the things that worked for me. They might not resonate or work for you, and that is okay. My only hope is that you feel empowered to find the solutions that work best for you. Knowledge is power and feeling empowered is something we all deserve!