As a follow-up to my earlier Three Birthing Must-Haves, I thought I’d write about the other side; once you’ve done the work of getting the baby OUT, what are the absolutely most vital things that families need the most?
Since most of a family’s postpartum preparation revolves around getting ready for the baby, I’m going to focus on the needs for a new mom specifically and the new family as a whole. Besides, baby’s needs are really so simple: a diaper to catch the mess, a blankie to keep warm, and a pair of breasts to get fed. If you’re pregnant, it’s pretty safe for me to assume that you’ve already got one of those taken care of!
For Postpartum, I usually tell my families to try to get these three things:
Perineal Care Kit
I LOVE it when families tell me that Dad has taken some time off of work to just be home and take care of the new Mom. However, I don’t think everyone realizes what a huge, exhausting thing it is to add a baby to a family. Both parents may lose a night’s sleep during the birthing process, and a newborn in the house means broken sleep for everyone. I’ve done quite a few postpartum visits where the Dad is looking every bit as bleary-eyed as the Mom! Extra help for the whole family can ease a lot of stress and make all the adjustments smoother.
- If you have helpful, understanding family in the area, line them up for shifts.
- If you have one friend who is a natural planner/organizer type of person, have them be in charge of coordinating those shifts!
- If friends offer to take older siblings or pets, take them up on it.
- People bringing meals? Do it. In fact, set up a “Take Them a Meal” account NOW so that it’s easy to share that link and get everything taken care of.
- I’ve had families that really loved hiring a maid service for a few weeks.
- And one of the best ways to get truly helpful assistance is to hire a postpartum doula—someone who can show you mad swaddling skills, terrific burping techniques, can keep an eye on the baby while you finally just take a nap, perhaps do some light housekeeping or prep a simple meal, and generally make everything easier.
I love helping my families establish satisfying, loving breastfeeding rhythms with their babies. There are a few physical and informational things to have on hand to really make that whole process easier:
- A nice number of easy-to-nurse-in nightgowns and bathrobes. Don’t try getting dressed in binding or complicated clothes for a week or two. Just live in loose, easy-access gowns that can be washed quickly. Learning the dance that is breastfeeding is plenty to have to do; you don’t want to have to fuss over your clothes.
- An assortment of handy pillows. When nursing your baby, it’s important to get yourself comfortable, and bring the baby to the breast, not bend and twist yourself to get your breast to the baby. Once you’re comfortable, and baby is lifted into position, get pillows under your arms (but off of your tummy), so that you can rest, relax, and enjoy staring at your sweet infant.
- Your personal resource guide. I can’t stress how important this is to get in place BEFORE you have your baby. This may include a few good friends who have breastfed, a postpartum doula all lined up and ready to help, or your local lactation counselor’s office. In my area, these are the initial numbers I hand out to my clients:
- Lactation Services at Providence Hospital (425) 303-6545
- Pacific Wellness and Lactation, Everett (425) 322-4913
- La Leche League: Snohomish County LLL Helpline: (425) 610-8511 (number forwards to the home of a Snohomish County LLL Leader — if you don’t reach someone, leave a message and you will promptly receive a call back)
Perineal Care Kit
Allright, this isn’t exactly one thing. But care of the perineum is a HUGE thing when it comes to strong postpartum recovery, and how well you care for yourself can make a great difference in both how comfortable and how fast your recovery is. So, to help you feel comfy and heal fast, I recommend:
- Getting possesive about your peri-bottle. This “perineal irrigation bottle,” typically handed to you in the hospital or part of your birth kit, can be your best friend in the bathroom. For one, squirting warm water over your perineum can help trigger your reflexes to pee. After birth, those nerves tend to be in a little bit of shock, and might temporarily forget what they need to do so you can empty your bladder. In addition, you really don’t want to wipe after using the toilet; all of those tissues will feel a good bit tender. Just use some warm water to rinse off, and then gently pat dry with toilet paper.
- Consider ordering the “Momwasher” by Fridababy to replace the peri bottle. It holds a little more water, and it will work wonderfully at a really helpful angle.
- Have some sitz bath herbs on hand. I keep some available for families who take my class, or you can buy either pre-made bath sachets or bulk herb mix. You can create super-soothing “padsicles” with these, or a lovely, healing sitz bath to help everything be comfortable.
- Get a donut pillow. When I was early postpartum, that thing went everywhere with me–in the car, to church, to my mother-in-law’s house…everywhere. It’s important to keep pressure off of the perineum (no crossing legs!) while it heals, and the donut pillow allowed me to sit upright but still be giving everything space.
- Talk to your doctor about stool softeners. As we’re talking about keeping pressure off of the perineum, it’s important to think about internal pressure, too, and this includes the force of pushing out poo. Just like some nerves and muscles might be in shock and create issues with peeing for a few days, it can be a process getting the bowels moving regularly again. Having a plan or something on hand before you have your baby will just help to re-establish normal pooping habits!
Have a wonderful postpartum time. Take good care of yourself. This is the most precious, but also the most exhausting and possibly overwhelming time, and some tender, knowledgeable self-care will help it all go smoothly, so you are able to simply enjoy the transition into motherhood.