Okay, okay—this can’t be a COMPLETE post-pregnancy list. But after four babies, I’ve got a lot of suggestions for things that may help during the transition home with baby. It can be hard stuff! You’ve got a new little one that you are getting to know. Plus your hormones and your body are doing their own kind of crazy thing. If it’s your first, you may be wondering: Is this normal? And sometimes even on number three or four, you’ll experience something different and wonder the same thing. (Read more of my thoughts on birth choices here.)
A little background on me and my births. My first two were planned to be at home, but ended up being hospital transfers. I was able to get a vaginal birth the first time (with an epidural, pitocin, and an episiotomy), but the second was a hasty c-section where I went under general anesthesia and woke up hours later wondering what had happened. The third I tried for a VBAC and ended up having a c-section due to concerns the doctors had about fluid levels and other things, and that meant the fourth was a planned c-section (that happened a few weeks early). None of my births happened as planned and some of them were really emotionally difficult as well as physically a challenge for recovery.
If you’re a home birth-er, most of these may apply more to those who have hospital births. I’d love to hear suggestions for home birth-ers in the comments! I’m also a breastfeeding mom, so some of the things might relate to breastfeeding and I’ll put a + by those. Also, for those related to a more surgical birth, I’ll put a *. Please feel free to share your own post pregnancy tips in the comments! (And if you need some summer pregnancy tips, read more here!)
The Complete List of Post Pregnancy Tips
Read Books on Both Sides of the Fence.
I feel like this is important both in terms of birth and baby care. Perhaps you think you’re firmly on the cry-it-out side of parenting. Then you suddenly have a crying baby and it won’t feel right to you. Or on the other side, you may be all attachment parenting until you start to lose your mind with a needy baby and want some baby-training to help you keep sane. If you read things from both sides, when you find yourself surprised by reality, you might choose something different than what you planned. Be well read.
Pack Well for the Hospital.
In addition to all the normal things people suggest bringing to the hospital, two things you might not think about bringing are a back scratcher and an extension cord. I found in two of my three births, I suffered extreme itchiness. I couldn’t make my mom or Rob scratch me ALL the time, so a back scratcher was totally a life-saver. Apparently this is a possible side effect of anesthesia or the pain meds, and it got so bad with Cooper I actually scratched scabs onto my face. The extension cord is great for your phone charger or computer charger. All those plugs are way behind the bed and it’s a big pain to keep getting up and down. (Thanks to my sis-in-law Lauren for this!) It’s also nice to pack a few weeks ahead and bring your bag to the last few appointments, just in case. You might find yourself having your baby at your 38-week appointment like I did.
Have a Hospital Advocate.
I loved my hospital…most of the time. There was one morning, however, where between 6am and 9am, I was visited by no less than 10 people. ONE OF THEM WANTED TO LOOK AT MY BUTT. I wish I were making this up. I wish my mom or Rob had been there to say, “Look, you’ve taken her vitals, looked at her incision, looked at the baby, done EVERYTHING, now leave and let her sleep.” I think it was a shift change and I got the last of one shift and the first of the other, but it was totally overwhelming. I also had issues with Cooper and a pediatrician who got really nasty with me. My mom witnessed it and suggested that I call the administrators and file a complaint. If I hadn’t, I would not have been allowed to leave the hospital with Cooper on time. When you have just had a baby and may be on drugs and in recovery, having another sane person there is a necessity!!
Utilize the Nursery As Needed.
Lately, hospitals have moved toward a more rooming-in approach. This is fabulous! I’m all about rooming-in! But there is a time for the nursery. That time is at night when you might need to sleep for a few hours’ stretch. Especially after having a c-section when it’s hard to get up and down. I gave the nurses SPECIFIC instructions that I wanted my babies brought back every 2-3 hours to eat whether they were awake or not. Mostly, they did a good job at this, which gave me the only real sleep I got in the hospital. I spent my days bonding with baby, but got a few nice stretches of sleep at night thanks to the nursery.
Lower Your Bed at Home.
Something you might not think about is how high your bed is at home. With all four, I needed some kind of help getting into bed. Apparently ours is super high. For one, we lowered the bed off the frame onto the ground. This made it super low, but was fun for all our other kids. For another, we added a step stool next to my side of the bed. Getting in and out can be painful or just uncomfortable no matter what your birth experience was, so plan ahead just in case and make sure you can get into your bed.
Use Lanolin before Showering. +
This and the next two deal with how to save your nipples when you’re breastfeeding and take a shower. Especially in the first few weeks. I love Lansinoh Lanolin and it’s great to rub a little on before showering. It protects and will cut down on the pain a shower can inflict. Yes, even a shower can inflict pain when you first start breastfeeding. (For more on my favorite post-baby products, read here.)
Adjust Your Shower Head. +
Something you might not think about before you start breastfeeding is how much water in the shower will sting your nipples. BUT IT WILL. Unless you change the shower head to a softer setting or replace it to be the kind of shower head that is adjustable. This was one of the things I had Rob do while I was in labor with Quin, waiting for an operating room to open up. Totally worth it. We bought one from Groupon, which was great because the ones in our house were short AND sting-y.
Use Your Towel from the Waist Down. +
This is that same stingy nipples category. The first time you get out of the shower when you are newly breastfeeding and you put that towel up around your body like you normally do, you just might scream. Pat dry, and then be like a man and tie that towel around your waist.
Ignore Your Tummy for a Few Days/Weeks.
People don’t do enough to warn you at how your stomach goes from giant and tight and round to something like a smush sack of saggy flesh. Really, it’s terrifying and depressing and kind of awful. I think the best thing is not to look at it. Realize that as your uterus contracts and things settle back into place, your tummy will constrict and look more normal. But don’t be alarmed if it’s doughy and flabby and awful for a few weeks. Just ignore it and you can work out and worry about it in a few weeks.
Ignore Your Diet for a Few Days/Weeks.
I have found with all four that I lose like 25-40 pounds in the first three weeks, even if I’m eating ice cream every day. There are a lot of things just shifting around and un-swelling. (I’m prone to higher weight gain and tons of swelling.) So if you plan to get that body back, give yourself a few weeks to just enjoy baby and NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT. Most doctors suggest waiting 6 weeks to exercise, so I think this is a great rule of thumb when it concerns your post-baby body. (Here are a few other tips about your post-baby body.)
Keep Layers Handy.
My temperature goes nuts the first few weeks after baby. I find myself soaking the bed in sweat one minute and then the next waking up with my whole body shaking and my teeth chattering because I’m so cold. I like to keep a thin bathrobe handy as well as thin sheets plus a warm blanket so I can adjust depending on which temperature I am. Sometimes I go back and forth from these extremes in one night, so layers keep me from having to get up out of bed.
Take Your Meds.*
I got a little scared that I might get addicted to pain meds after baby. They make you so nice and float-y! But NOT taking them can be really difficult, especially if you’re dealing with a c-section. You just need them. I find that I dip down the second week because I’m doing too much as I start to feel better. Then I feel bad again. I’m not saying don’t be aware of the threat of addiction, but don’t NOT take your meds because you’re afraid. If you want to space out how often you take them, do. If you want to cut them in half, do. But realize that you will have a much better recovery if you are managing your pain.
Stock Up Ahead of Time on Your Granny Panties. *
Because a c-section scar is intended to be low, it means that most of my underwear hits RIGHT at my incision. Perfect! They will send you home with some super-sexy mesh-y granny panties from the hospital, but you will eventually want to wear some real underwear, so go ahead and snag a pack of soft, high-waisted underwear.
Stock Up on Frozen Breakfasts.
Often, churches or friends help with meal ministry and deliver food for a few days or weeks. But I find (especially now with four kids), I’m always waking up and finding that I have nothing to feed people and the baby is hungry and I NEED MY COFFEE and it’s just crazy. A box of frozen kolaches or those great and easy microwaveable breakfast sandwiches are a lifesaver. Especially if you and your family love breakfast like I do. It’s also big to eat first thing if you’re breastfeeding.
Stock Up on Thank You Notes.
I find that I do much better if I keep up with my thank-yous from the get-go. Rather than buying those pack of 10 thank-you cards, think about one of those giant boxes of 50 or more. Usually they are cheaper per card (think $10 for a pack of 50 and $4 for 10) and available in the same aisle of Target or Tuesday Morning or Walmart. Have them handy and keep them out along with stamps so you don’t get behind.
Have a New Favorite TV Show, a Great Books, or a Fun App.
I love all three of these for those quiet moments when I’m just feeding a baby. It’s also lovely to just stare at your baby. But I love having a new book to read or a show that I can chain-watch or an app like Candy Crush that helps me wind down.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cry.
The baby blue shocked me, even though I had been warned about them. It was worse in the first two pregnancies, but I found myself crying for hours while saying, “I don’t know why I’m crying—I’m really very happy!” It’s totally a hormone thing. It wasn’t the same with every pregnancy, but is definitely a real possibility. Warn your husband in case frequent crying for no reason might scare him. This shift in hormones is NOT the same thing as post-partum depression, so keep your eye out for that, but realize that the random over-crying isn’t the same as depression. (If you do start to feel depressed, heavy, or like harming yourself or your kids, GET HELP.)
Don’t Be Afraid to Say You Need Help.
You WILL need help. But if you’re like me, it’s hard to ask! This is the time to get over that aversion to needing and asking for help. You will need it. Ask for it. Accept it when people offer. Be grateful, but don’t feel guilty.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No.
Sometimes people might ask you to do stuff right after you have a baby. Most people will know better. But just in case, feel free to say no to committee work, outings, help, babysitting, teaching Sunday School, or any other big favors people might ask of you UNLESS YOU REALLY FEEL UP TO IT. Otherwise, you have the best excuse ever to rest and recover and be with your baby.
Have Some Great Pajamas on Hand.
My absolute favorite brand of pajamas is the Gilligan and O’Malley brand from Target. They have some of the softest fabrics ever. I find that I spend a lot of the first few weeks in my pj’s at home, just nursing a baby. You will get spit-up on and pooped on, so having a few pairs of pants and nursing tanks will help keep you clothed even as you’re laundering your frequently dirty clothes. If you do have a c-section, watch the waistbands. You’ll want some that you can pull up higher on your body or that don’t have a constrictive waist that might hurt your incision.
Plan Some Mommy Pampering.
Whether a massage or a manicure or just a lunch alone, plan some time in the first few weeks where you can get alone and feel beautiful and a little bit free. That will totally look different for each one of you, so find what is important to you and maybe ask your hubby for a gift card or a night out or an afternoon free so you can feel a bit pampered.
Think about Encapsulating Your Placenta.
If you have a rough time postpartum with cramps and pain postpartum (even if you didn’t have surgery), consider having your placenta encapsulated. Bear with me for a sec if this is new to you. The placenta is ridiculously rich in all kinds of nutrients and has been used for years in ancient Chinese medicine. And by “used,” I mean eaten. This is totally outside the box and isn’t for everyone, but many women report that it helps with postpartum symptoms from pain to depression. I have friends who personally swear by it, though I haven’t tried it. Encapsulation is a process of putting the placenta into pill form and you can pay someone to do it for you. Read more about this here. Again, not for everyone! But something to consider if you struggle with post-baby issues.
Rest When the Baby Rests.
People always say sleep when the baby does, and this is great sometimes, but if you’re like me and require less sleep but are driven to do things, this resting might look like blogging or reading or doing something other than sleep. So even if you don’t sleep, do something RESTFUL.
Enjoy Your Baby.
Having two babies so close together (Cooper and Quinlyn are 14 months apart) made me realize just how much changes in a year. In one year the snuggly, tiny, squishy baby is a running, climbing, shrieking, babbling little girl. So even more now I am holding Quin and smelling her baby smell. People always say not to spoil the baby. While I DO think you can spoil older kids, I disagree that you can spoil an infant. They are tiny and new and getting used to life outside the womb. Hold him. Snuggle her. Do NOT worry about spoiling your newborn baby.
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