Congratulations! If you are reading this you are probably pregnant or have a new addition already at home. Or maybe you’re looking for a way to support a new mama. Welcome! Bringing home a baby is A LOT of work. It’s a wonderful time, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think anyone is ever truly prepared for the long hours, commitment, exhaustion, and the physical demand, all while healing from a physically traumatic experience (no matter the type of birth). Until recently, it wasn’t something that many people talked about publicly. Whether it was because they thought it to be taboo or ungrateful to share their struggles or if they thought it would scare other parents, talking about the nitty gritty of postpartum life was hidden. I am so thrilled more moms (and dads!) are sharing their personal experiences.
In my own personal recovery, I had to heal from a second degree tear (little man came fast), an initial oversupply of milk (not as great as it seems), and had increased physical demands – driving to and from the NICU 30 minutes away in the first month postpartum. Throughout my recovery, I found these products to be the most effective in my healing process. Remember to take care of yourselves, mamas. And if you have difficulty holding yourself accountable, assign it to your partner. Zach was integral in my recovery – he made sure I was taking care of myself, if not doing it himself.
In no particular order…
- Frida Disposable Underwear
- Let’s be real. After you give birth, you need underwear that is breathable, stretchy and forgiving, comfortable, AND disposable. There’s a lot of stuff happening “down there” after you have a baby (for vaginal and c-section deliveries alike). Disposable undies are the way to go. The last thing you need to/should be doing is loads of laundry when you bring home your baby. These are soft, expandable, and easy to put on/take off during those first couple weeks. Buy way more than you think you will need!
- Rael Overnight Pads
- Absorbent and fragrance free. While you may not need to change your underwear multiple times throughout the day, you will need to change your pad quite frequently. These pads are made from organic cotton and are non-irritating, especially great for sensitive skin.
- Frida Ice Pads
- If you take anything away from this post *LET IT BE THIS*. Ice is essential, especially in the first few days following delivery, to calm inflammation and swelling. Don’t mess around with leaky ice packs or messy DIY freezer pads- they’re not worth it. These ice “pads” are cushioning, cooling, absorbent, and just feel good. Especially if you know you have to go somewhere or do something that could cause discomfort (baby’s first doctor appointment), these can ease your pains (quite literally).
- Witch Hazel Pads
- Calming, soothing, and cooling. These are a must in your postpartum recovery.
- Witch Hazel Foam
- I found that this foam from Frida created instantaneous relief, whereas the witch hazel pads were longer lasting.
- Earth Mama Perineal Balm
- When you get further along in your postpartum recovery, this perineal balm can help heal and nourish torn tissues. While I wouldn’t recommend using this balm for the first couple weeks (since you have to apply it manually), it can be a real game changer in your physical healing.
- Stool softener
- When you are discharged from the hospital, you will be encouraged to take a stool softener to relieve pressure and prevent straining. Do NOT stop taking it after you’ve had your first postpartum poo! While your body works its way back to equilibrium, you may find your digestion and elimination schedule isn’t what it used to be. To prevent discomfort when you go, take a stool softener for the first few weeks, if not the first couple months, after you deliver. Some women prefer to continue taking them for longer, especially if they developed postpartum hemorrhoids. By taking a stool softener, drinking lots of water, and eating plenty of fiber, you can ensure your postpartum poos are not a stressful encounter. A good probiotic can help, too!
- Compression socks
- When you labor and deliver in a hospital setting, you may receive hydration through the IV in your arm. On top of that, the significant fluctuation in your hormones can cause you to retain lots of fluid, often dependent in your legs. While this may be unavoidable, you can reduce the discomfort by wearing compression socks. Since most women have decreased mobility in the days and weeks following delivery, compression socks can also help prevent the formation of blood clots by promoting circulation. I wore these ones during my pregnancy and postpartum.
- Frida spray bottle
- While the hospital may provide you with a perineal spray bottle, this Frida version is just simply better. The nozzle points up when you hold the bottle down. No messy spray back! It’s rather genius.
- GoHydrate Electrolyte supplement
- After giving birth to Leo, we spent long days in the NICU. I struggled to make sure I was getting enough hydration. I really wanted to avoid drinks like Gatorade with lots of unnecessary ingredients and didn’t love the added sugar content of Liquid IV. GoHydrate tastes yummy, has Vitamin D, is low in sodium, and has no added sugar! I keep a couple sticks in my diaper bag and still enjoy a GoHydrate a couple times a week when I haven’t had enough water during the day (mocktail hour!). The mixed flavor boxes are a great place to start to find your favorite flavor. I’m sipping on a Cherry Limade flavor as I write this!
- GoMacro bars
- If you choose to breastfeed and/or pump, you will be hungry… Very. Hungry. I used to joke with Zach saying “I finally know how you feel”, since he commonly tells me that he’s always hungry, even after a full meal. Feeding and caring for baby while trying to heal, sleep, and feed yourself is tough freaking work. I love that these bars are plant based, high in protein, high in calories, organic, and based in… WISCONSIN! I love supporting home-town companies. Are they more expensive than other bars? Yes, undoubtedly. But when I was ravenous in the middle of the night, these quick and easy bars provided me with the calories and nutrition I needed. I carry a couple of these bars in my diaper bag at all times. Look for sales! And when they go on sale, stock up. My favorite flavor is “Everlasting Joy”- almond butter, coconut, and chocolate chips.
- Earth Mama Nipple Butter
- While clinicians may refer to colostrum as “liquid gold”, this nipple butter is equally deserving of the name. It is incredibly nourishing, healing sore and cracked nipples. And because the ingredients are super safe, you don’t have to worry about wiping it away before feeding your baby.
- Kindred Bravely Nursing Bras
- When Leo was born, I hadn’t thought I would need anything for breastfeeding for another 2 months! Out of convenience I got a pack of nursing bras from Amazon – BIG mistake. If you have chosen to breastfeed or pump previous children, you know that comfortable and supportive nursing bras are essential. I ended up ordering a few different models from Kindred Bravely – Ultra Comfort Smooth Classic Nursing Bra, Simply Sublime Nursing Bra, Organic Cotton Nursing & Sleep Bra, and the Sublime Hands-Free Nursing & Pumping Bra. All of the bras are breathable, comfortable, stretchy, and convenient. They also hold up well in the washing machine/dryer. Mega win!
- Boppy Nursing Pillow
- While I don’t have experience with any of the other nursing pillows on the market, I don’t have anything bad to say about the Boppy pillow, other than the Boppy covers are mediocre. Instead, I found a super soft Boppy cover on Etsy and I love it! At first, I didn’t need to necessarily use a nursing pillow because Leo was so small. I used two pillows under each of my arms for support. As he grew, I am SO thankful I got into the habit of using it- your back and neck will thank you.
- Burp Cloths
- After caring for a little baby with pretty bad reflux, trust me when I say *the bigger the better*. Don’t waste time with small burp cloths; they will, quite literally, do nothing for you! Burp cloths are another baby item that are easily underestimated. Don’t scamp on these- get extras!
- Hospital Grade Pump
- Similarly to nursing bras, I was severely underprepared in the pump department. I had only done minimal research and wasn’t close to deciding on a particular model or brand. Luckily, Labor and Delivery units stock breast pumps for patient use. They provide you with a new pack of parts that you can attach to their (sterilized) bases. Once I was discharged from the hospital, I was even able to keep the pump I was using in Leo’s NICU room. Initially, I was exclusively pumping. Until Leo developed his suck/swallow/breathe reflex, he was being fed through a nasogastric (NG) tube. Around that time, there were lots of marketing campaigns on Instagram for the Elvie and Willow breast pumps, wireless and hands-free models. How perfect! Instead of being hooked up to a base I could do *xyz* WHILE pumping. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that convenience doesn’t always equal efficacy or dependability. While the Elvie or the Willow are great for circumstances every now and again (when you’re running errands or at an appointment – I pumped while getting my hair done!), they are truly not made with the same strength or consistency as a medical grade pump, such as a Spectra or Medela. I yielded greater outputs, had more comfort, and pumped more quickly using the hospital provided Medela than with my Elvie. And, because I was using my Elvie at home instead of a hospital grade pump, my boobs were like “what the heck?!” I developed clogged ducts and nipple blebs – no fun. I also noticed a very unpleasant pinching sensation while using the Elvie, despite different sizing and positioning, that forced me to lower the suction, causing me to pump longer and have lower outputs. Another important thing to mention is that not all insurance plans will even cover a portion of the Elvie or Willow, but many will cover Medela or Spectra pumps. I ended up getting a Spectra pump through insurance following consecutive clogged ducts. Will I use my Elvie? Yes, especially if I am running errands or I am away from Leo and need to quickly pump, especially since he is primarily breastfed. Would I use it as a primary pump in the future, no, especially if I am ever exclusively pumping again.
- Now, if your heart is set on an Elvie or Willow AND you plan to personally purchase one, let me at least tell you how to save some moolah. First, purchase your pump at Target. As you know, Red Card members get 5% off. Secondly, if you create a baby registry account and purchase it from that list, you will get an additional discount.
- Manual Pump
- I don’t know what initially turned me off from getting manual pump. Maybe because I thought it would be weird to physically milk myself?? But after almost 10 months of breastfeeding and pumping, I have to say my manual pump is my favorite pump. It is simple, effective, and gets the job done. No need to charge anything or carry a base around and you’re not plugged into a wall! A manual pump is also a great option for traveling if you don’t want to deal with the plethora of parts. I like this one from Lansinoh. Manual pumps are also inexpensive. If you don’t pump frequently but want a pump option, this would be a great place to start.
- Hot tip – if you develop a clogged duct, take your manual pump into a hot shower. Alternate between gentle breast massage and manual pumping while standing under the stream of water. I will do this a couple times a day to help dislodge and expel the clogged duct.
- Sunflower lecithin
- Another clogged duct discovery! Sunflower lecithin prevents fatty milk buildup inside of your milk ducts. It helps the fatty components leave the duct in the milk instead of getting stuck behind. It works to “emulsify”, or prevent stickiness, in the milk. When I have a clogged duct, I take 1 gel capsule 4 times per day until the clog is resolved. Otherwise, I include 1 gel capsule in my handful of vitamins, including a prenatal , Vitamin D3, and a probiotic. I like this brand which can be found on Amazon and in Target.
Instagram accounts to follow for postpartum and breastfeeding
- Karrie is a Postpartum RN. She takes care of mamas and their babies in the first few days following birth before going home. She is a fantastic source of information regarding all things baby, postpartum, and breastfeeding. She even has a course you can take with your partner so you feel better prepared before welcoming your baby(ies) into the world. So many amazing tips and tricks!
- Courtney is an IBCLC and an RN. This means she is a breastfeeding/pumping PRO. If you have any questions or concerns about either, her account is the place to go. Obviously, if you need hands-on support, I highly recommend you ask your OBGYN or pediatrician for a lactation consultant recommendation. IBCLC is a designation for lactation consultants who are board certified, meaning they have chosen to highly specialize their knowledge base.
- The ultimate support group for moms. Amy and Krystle are sisters based in Wisconsin. They professionally identify as a physical therapist and a RN/doula. Not only does this dynamic duo provide pregnancy/postpartum safe workouts and modifications for daily activities, but they also have created a community where mamas can feel seen and validated. Women in this community will submit their struggles, wins, positives/negatives of mama life, family dynamics, relationships, mental health experiences, etc to their Motherhood Community question boxes. The answers are anonymously shared bringing a sense of “I’m not the only one going through this”. Amy also has a podcast with another woman entitled “Herself Podcast”. A great dive into motherhood and the ins and outs of conquering life not only as a mom, but as a woman.
What are your favorite postpartum items? What was your healing process? Let me know in the comments below!
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!
Photos by Meg Newton Photography