Postpartum plan, part 1 – Essentials for post birth care
We often spend months in pregnancy deciding about nursery essentials, we have multiple shopping lists for baby gear, baby cosmetics and toys, but somehow the mom’s postpartum list is the last one and not very long.
So what is really necessary, what is nice to have? Here are a few tips for a comfortable postpartum.
Depending on where you give birth there will be different supplies available. In some places, the hospital will provide some products you can take home or at least use in the hospital. In other places or when you give birth at home or in a birthing centre you will have to prepare all the supplies yourself.
I love organising and storing the postpartum essentials in baskets and spreading them around the house, some in the bathroom, some by your bed, some at various breastfeeding or baby changing stations.
So let’s start from dealing with the postpartum bleeding – called lochia.
No matter how your baby is born, vaginally or via cesarean birth, this will occur. The amount and time of bleeding will vary from person to person and will be very much influenced by how much you rest! So really do listen to your Hebamme (midwife) and take it really easy in the first days and weeks after birth.
You will need some comfortable and preferably really big pads. They come in different sizes, so you can get a variety, bigger for the first few days, then smaller, more regular pads. Do not use your menstrual cup nor tampons for that time, they pose too much risk for infection. It’s good to find a brand that is relatively breathable and made out of cotton for example. There are some great ones out there – also plastic free, chlorine free, perfume free, biodegradable ones, but you might have to look for these more eco-friendly styles online. You could use cloth pads if you like, or even go pad free and pants free and use absorbent disposable underpads (Matratzen-Auflage in German) instead – air access is crucial to healing and bacteria love warm and moist environments so keeping things airy is great.
Underpads on your bed are actually also a very good idea for the first few days generally, even if you do wear a pad – just in case of leaks, you will not have to worry about your bedding. They are great for in-bed nappy changes as well. If you would like to avoid buying these, you can use a folded towel instead.
Almost anyone who tried them once will tell you – get some mesh underwear! Some are single use, some are washable. They are usually nice and big and very stretchy, and that’s great! You will love how easy they feel. They can cover quite a bit of your belly without putting pressure on it, they can even cover any dressing you might have on if you had a cesarian birth, or stay lower, under your belly. They will hold the big pad in place and if they get stained you can just throw them away. Really, there is nothing more comfortable! You might want to buy some comfortable cotton underwear, think granny panties, for later stages of the postpartum. They should be the soft, no seams, cotton, figure-hugging type, you will most probably have a bigger and rounder belly for some time after birth.
Another all in one alternative to postpartum bleeding are just regular adult diapers. I imagine if you are pregnant for the first time it all sounds a little extreme, but it’s just a few days and you will be definitely glad for being comfortable and style will be the last thing on your mind.
Change your pad regularly, at each toilet visit. It’s also great to rinse with water and maybe gentle soap regularly throughout the day. Depending on the setup you have, you can do that in the shower or over a bidet, or use a bottle with a sports cap or peri bottle to squirt some warm water or a herbal infusion over the perineum and anus while sitting on the toilet. There are also portable bidet bottles with an angled top available, so you can get the stream of water wherever needed easily.
Speaking of the peri bottle – you might want to use it not only for hygiene after toilet visits but also squirt water over your urethra and vulva while peeing – your skin might be very sensitive, and if you have any tearing urine might really sting! Diluting it with water can be a lifesaver. Another trick is to just pee in the shower.
A great idea is to use soft single-use paper towels for drying – patting the area dry, not rubbing. It’s gentle on your body and hygienic. Again, small pre-washed flannel cloths would work well too if you don’t like single-use products, the point here is to use a fresh one each time, make sure they are soft and don’t leave fluff and don’t rub.
Many recommend using DIY padsicles – menstrual pads soaked with a fluid of your choice (sitz bath herbal infusion, aloe vera, witch hazel, essential oils, or just water) and frozen – I never tried them myself, somehow the thought of something very very cold touching my vulva after birth was not very appealing. Chinese medicine practitioners would also have a few words to say about introducing cold in the postpartum, but I also hear people really loving them a lot. Remember to thaw your padsicle a few minutes before applying to your skin to prevent frost burns!
If you had some tearing and stitches you might benefit from something comfortable to sit on – a soft inflatable cushion ring is a possibility. Again, it’s really hard to predict if you will use it at all.
You might also suffer from haemorrhoids – for many they start in pregnancy, for some they will be a side effect of pushing. If you do get them it’s great to have a good haemorrhoid cream in your medicine cabinet, maybe some kind of cooling spray or special pads – but you might be the lucky one who doesn’t need any of that at all! On that same note, some like taking a stool softener, though a good diet with sufficient fibre and drinking plenty of water might be enough for you. And that inflatable ring for sitting might be useful for haemorrhoids as well.
If you haven’t yet heard of the squatty potty or a bathroom step stool of some sort you might want to check this idea out now! The basic concept is that human anatomy works this way that elimination is much easier and less strenuous when we squat than when we sit. Elevating your feet a little works wonders and it’s a lot healthier to use the toilet that way for every human at any stage of life. This can help to heal as well as avoid haemorrhoids in the first place, or at least lessen the risk of them happening.
Another useful tool is over the toilet sitz bath. Deep immersion baths are not always recommended by health care providers right after birth, mainly in case of cesarean birth, but also in case of higher degree tearing or excessive bleeding, for others, it should be ok to take baths anytime you want. Still, soaking your perineum in the sitz bath might be really soothing. The whole area might be really sore, and sitz baths, especially postpartum herbal sitz bath mixtures, can feel really nice and speed up healing and soothe haemorrhoids too. Take them anywhere from 1 to 3 times a day for 10-15 minutes.
Another possibility for post-birth care is wearing a belly bind of some sort. There is no scientific consensus on the effects of binding your abdomen in the postpartum period, but it’s a very common traditional practice around the world. If you are considering using one think about it more as support and a stabilising warm hug, not a way to get a flat stomach and a thin waist fast. If you wear something like the Bengkung wrap or a modern velcro and stretch material version, be mindful of your pelvic floor. Whatever you squeeze in in the abdominal area has to go somewhere, and the direction will be down. Your pelvic floor will be weakened from pregnancy, due to hormones and the weight, with possible added stress from a vaginal delivery. Take things easy and wear the bind tightly enough to provide support but loosely enough not to put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The wrap feels nice worn in bed actually because your organs will shift when the baby is no longer there and the uterus is shrinking back, leaving all this new space. When you get up, make sure not to lift anything heavy in the first days and weeks, and especially with a belly bind on. If you have a scar and stitches, wait with the wrapping until it’s healed and your doctor says it’s ok to start. You can massage your skin with lovely postpartum belly massage oils before putting on the bind.
The number one postpartum essential though is rest! Rest, comforting food and support are the ones that will really help you heal and take care of your baby. Prioritizing self-care and giving yourself time to adjust and gain strength should be on the top of your postpartum plan.
Postpartum support in Berlin
If you are in Berlin I can give you exact details about particular products and where to get them.
I also make Bengkung belly binds, herbal postpartum bath and sitz bath mixtures, postpartum care essential kits, yoga eye pillows with linen seeds and lavender, natural heat packs for you and baby, and provide postpartum doula services, so contact me if you would like more information on any of these.
That’s about all for this area of postpartum essentials, there’s more though, regarding breastfeeding and arranging a comfortable nest for you and baby – read here!