The moment you’ve waited and planned for has arrived! The first weeks with your newborn are a busy time, but it’s important that you find the time to take care of yourself. Here are some tips that will help with an easier, happier and faster postpartum recovery.
Rest! You’re recovering, and your post-pregnancy body is working hard to adjust. Don’t start off trying to be supermom because there is no such thing. Ask for help, and accept it when it’s offered. Stay in your pyjamas when you have visitors because it reminds people that you are recovering from birth and that you need help. On the other hand, when you don’t have visitors, sometimes taking a shower and getting dressed really does wonders psychologically.
Tend to your bottom. The condition of your vagina, perineum and rectum depends a lot on your particular childbirth experience, but regardless expect lots of bleeding and general soreness. Your peri bottle and sitz bath will be lifesavers in the coming weeks. Fill your peri bottle with warm water and squirt it on your perineum while/after you use the bathroom to keep yourself clean and help with the stinging you may experience when pee hits your stitches. Herbs such as comfrey root, witch hazel, calendula leaf and plantain leaf ease soreness and help with postpartum recovery. Steep the herbs in boiling water, let cool, then transfer the herbal infusion to your peri bottle.
Tend to your boobs. During your first week postpartum your milk will come in and your breasts will engorge. They may become bigger, tender and hard. Engorgement should diminish within a few days, but if you’re seeking relief in the meantime there are a few remedies you could try. Try a warm compress before nursing and a cold compress afterwards. You can also use your hand to express a little milk to relief pressure, but don’t express too much because the more you express the more milk is made. To ensure that all milk ducts are being emptied, alter the position of your baby at the breast and compress your breasts gently while nursing to help get your milk flowing. Lastly, have some nipple cream on hand in case your nipples get a bit sore. A little bit of soreness is normal, but if the pain becomes intense, seek help from your doctor, midwife or a lactation consultant.
Tend to your uterus. Your uterus was recently the size of a watermelon and now it must return to the size of a pear. You may notice some contractions and gushes of blood as your uterus slims down. You can speed the return of your uterus to its normal size by drinking red raspberry leaf tea, which acts by strengthening the uterus. Drink this tea daily, and your uterus will thank you. If you're breastfeeding, it will also help your uterus to contract down to size quicker, which makes postpartum bleeding end sooner too!
Drink lots of water. Drinking lots of water in the weeks to come is very important for you and your baby. Your body is recovering from possibly a long and tiring labour, and needs to be rehydrated. Also, diluting your urine by drinking lots of water may help reduce the burning sensation you feel when pee hits your stitches. Most importantly, you will need lots of fluids if you are nursing in order to stay hydrated while producing milk for your baby. Breastfeeding an infant is a round-the-clock job, so it’s important you take care of yourself. Always have a glass of water beside you when you’re nursing, as well as snacks. You could also keep a large water jug in the fridge and be sure to empty it every day.
Invest in some lube. Your low estrogen levels after delivery, and while breastfeeding, causes the thinning of your vaginal mucosa which can lead to dryness. So when you’re ready for sex, be sure to have some lube on hand, because you’ll need it!
Give yourself time. Your postpartum body is coursing with hormones, your uterus is returning to its normal size, your milk is coming in, and you’re likely not getting very much sleep. Try not to expect to feel back to normal right away, because you won’t. But give it some time, you will eventually.
Talk about your experiences. Pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum are all very overwhelming and life changing experiences. It helps to talk about your experiences. Join a support group, call your family or friends, or reach out and connect with other women in your community. You’re not the first mom to be overwhelmed, so get the support that you need.
Kiss-ass doula, pretty okay-ish mom, spreadsheet enthusiast, punctuality freak, ice cream addict.