After delivering a baby, a woman’s body needs time and care to recover. Birth is an amazing and natural process but is very demanding on the body. The following 15 steps will guide a new mother in how to care for her body as it recovers from delivery.
The body had 40 weeks to slowly adjust to the growing baby. The abdominal muscles were slowly stretched, the uterus expanded, and the joints relaxed.
Immediately following delivery, the body begins the process of returning to its original state. The uterus contracts and slowly begins to shrink. The abdominal muscles also shrink and begin to return to their original position. The pelvic bones move back into their original location.
The female body begins the process of using stored fat to create nutrient rich milk for the baby. Hormones begin to rebalance in the body.
The process is incredible and complex. The body’s ability to return to its pre-pregnancy state is phenomenal. A woman’s body is already coded to heal, repair and return to a state of balance. As the body does this incredible work, the new mother can aid in the healing.
The following 15 steps will help the new mom to recover as safely and quickly as possible. But the process does take time. Being patient with baby and herself, the new mom will learn to listen to the cues from baby and her own body.
The process takes time, but little by little the new mom will begin to feel like herself again. The quiet peaceful times after delivery are special moments that allow mom and baby to bond and also allow mom’s body to heal. Take heart that these moments are fleeting and find peace in the new pace of life.
15 Sleep Like Sleeping Beauty, If Possible
Rest is a must for the new mom. For several reasons, new mothers should rest as much as possible. First of which, your body has gone through the incredible event of birth. Even under the most normal of deliveries, labor is traumatic to the body.
Your body needs as much rest as you can give it while caring for a newborn (and possibly other children). Rest will help your body to recover faster and more completely. It will allow your uterus to shrink and your pelvis to return to its normal position. It will also allow any perineal tears or incisions to heal.
If you start to feel like doing more and notice an increase in bleeding, your body is telling you that more rest is needed. Make sure to listen to your body and what it needs.
Although newborn babies require a lot of care, they also sleep a lot. Take the time they are sleeping to rest yourself. Take help when it is offered by friends and family. Make your needs known to those who care about you. You’ll probably have lots of people who want to visit you and the baby after the birth.
Make sure to let them know how they can help you and specifically what you need. Of course everyone wants to hold the baby but let them know it would be really great if they loaded the dishwasher. Your closest confidants will be ready to help you in any way they can.
14 Use Ice To Chill Those Lady Parts
For the first few days after giving birth, ice will be a great relief. It will help to ease the pain of a vaginal delivery and will help to reduce swelling. Often, delivery nurses will give you a diaper filled with ice. And some moms have gone and filled condoms or rubber gloves with water to freeze so the ice can reach those...hard to reach places.
Yes, that is a baby diaper filled with ice. Ask for one as often as you feel necessary while you’re in the hospital. You might even want to ask them to show you how to prepare one so that you can use them for your first few days at home.
Ice can help to ease the pain of perineal tears or episiotomies. After vaginal delivery, swelling often occurs. The severity of the swelling will depend on the woman and the specifics of each delivery. Ice will be essential to helping to reduce the swelling. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider about specifics of how often and for how long you should use ice for pain and swelling.
13 Dump Some Sitz Into A Bath
Keeping the perineum clean after vaginal delivery is essential. Using a sitz bath or a warm, shallow bath in the first few days to weeks after delivery can also help to relieve pain associated with tears or episiotomies. The warm water can also increase blood flow to the affected area and speed healing.
Make sure to check with your healthcare provider about this first. Some healthcare providers warn against a bath for risk of infection. Others, though, conclude that it helps to keep the area clean and to aid in healing. Some even recommend using essential oils like tea tree and lavender to aid in the healing.
Since the severity of tears or incisions vary widely based on the woman and the delivery its essential to get advice for your particular situation. If you do use a bath, make sure the tub is clean before you run it. Under the right circumstances, it can be a great pain reliever and help the new mom to relax.
12 Do NOT Exercise Too Soon
Exercise is not recommended for new moms usually 6 to 8 weeks after delivery, once they have been cleared by a physician. The body has undergone so much trauma during pregnancy, labor and delivery and needs time to rest before returning to exercise.
Many new mamas want to shed the baby weight as soon as possible. It would be great to return to work looking like you did before you were pregnant. But the body just isn’t made to bounce back that quickly.
Women exercising too early may actually permanently change their bodies in ways they didn’t want to (much less risking injuries). The abdominal muscles have slowly been stretched in the 10 months that the baby was growing. They need time to slowly return to their original position.
When a mother starts exercising too early (or chasing older children around too much) she may actually train the abdominal muscles to stay further apart than before she was pregnant. The muscles will slowly come back together until they are side by side near the belly button.
If they are trained too early, they may not come all the way back together at the belly button. Give your body the time it needs to heal; it knows what it’s doing!
11 Put Some Leafy Greens In That Face
A new mother’s body has done the incredible work of growing and delivering a baby. That put a lot of strain on the mother’s body. While the baby was in the womb, mom’s body would take nutrients from her and give it to her baby. If mom wasn’t getting enough calcium through her diet, her body would take it from her bones and teeth to give baby everything it needed.
Now that mom isn’t growing a baby anymore (except maybe through breastfeeding) her body needs to replace to vital nutrients. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet will help the body to replenish nutrients lost during pregnancy and delivery. The body will be able to recover faster and more fully with a balanced diet.
For breastfeeding women, it is even more important. These mamas need to give their bodies the resources to heal and also the resources to make nutritious milk for the baby.
Extreme diets to lose the baby weight are not recommended. Give your body time to slowly drop the weight. It will take 6-9 months for the body to return to normal. Stay positive and encourage yourself along the way. Your body knows what it’s doing. Just give it the resources it needs to do its job.
10 Don't Stop Taking Those Prenatal Vitamins
Vitamins are just as essential after delivery as they were during pregnancy. For breastfeeding women, vitamins are needed to produce nutrient rich milk. Prenatal vitamins should be continued to give baby everything it needs as it is breastfed.
For all mothers, pregnancy can be a drain on vitamins and nutrients in mom’s body. The body may have even taken from mom’s reserves to give baby what it needed. Now that pregnancy is over, mom needs to replenish the vitamins in her body.
Check with your healthcare provider if you should use a multi-vitamin or prenatal (especially for breastfeeding women), or other types of vitamins.
Some healthcare providers may recommend other supplements like iron after delivery. Especially for women who had a large amount of blood loss, an iron supplement may help the body to replenish the lost blood. Vitamins can help to give your body what it needs to recover.
9 Use Creams For Here There And Everywhere
The hormonal changes that happen during and after pregnancy can cause nipples to become sore and irritated. Especially breastfeeding mothers will probably have sore, dry or even cracked nipples as they adjust to nursing a baby. Nipples can get so dry and cracked that they bleed when baby tries to nurse.
Try to avoid the problem getting this advanced by using a nipple cream. The nipple cream can help to soften the nipples and stop them from becoming so dried out that they crack.
A safe, all natural nipple cream will keep nipples from becoming too dry and cracked. Most creams can be applied after a feeding and don’t need to be washed off before baby nurses again. They are made from safe ingredients and are safe for baby. Double check with your healthcare provider about which brand to choose.
Many hospitals recommend a certain brand and will even send you home with samples.
8 Definitely Use A Stool Softener
For a woman who gave birth vaginally, one of the scariest aspects of postpartum recovery is passing the first stool. Often times the idea of it is scarier than the actual act (thank goodness!).
Using a simple stool softener might help to have bowel movement with little pushing or pain. Check with your healthcare provider before taking one as every situation is different. Too much stool softener could lead to loose stool or stomach cramping. Proceed with caution so that you don’t cause your body any more discomfort than it’s already in.
If you or your healthcare provider aren’t sure about using a stool softener, make sure your diet is high in fiber and that you’re drinking enough water. Fiber and water will both help the stool to be softer and to pass more easily. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and help to give your body the nutrients it needs after delivery.
7 Wear Milk Absorption Pads
A few days after giving birth, the body changes from making colostrum to milk. When a mother’s milk first comes in, the breasts may become enlarged and overly full.
Whether or not the mom is breastfeeding, the milk will come in. The body is preparing to feed the baby even though the mother may have different plans. Once the milk comes in leaking will take place (for both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women).
For women who are not breastfeeding it may take as long as several weeks for the milk to dry up and stop leaking.
For women who are breastfeeding, it may take a couple days to a couple weeks for the body to adjust to baby’s needs. The breastfeeding relationship works on a supply and demand principle. The body will supply as much milk as baby demands. If you are leaking a lot, it will take a little while for the supply and demand to even out but it eventually will.
Pumping to take out the excess milk will only increase demand because it is telling the body the baby needs more milk.
Having a supply of nursing pads will help to protect from leaking through bras and shirts. Pads are made in disposable and washable options.
6 Drink Lots Of Water
After delivery, your body has lost a lot of water. Through the amniotic fluid and possible blood loss water has been removed from your body. But your body probably still has more water than it needs since you needed a higher blood volume during pregnancy. Your body will work at getting rid of the extra water and also give you signals that you need more water.
Many women find that they are very thirsty postpartum. For nursing mothers, the body is working to produce milk and needs more water.
Your body will also be getting rid of the extra blood volume. One way of doing this is sweating it out. You may wake up to find you’re drenched in sweat. Most of the time, this is normal. Your body is just pushing out extra water that it no longer needs.
Your body will still need to remain hydrated as hormone levels even out, milk is produced and recovery takes place. Keep a glass of water handy during your recovery.
5 Get A Compression Wrap For That Post Baby Bod
A postpartum compression wrap or belly band can help the abdomen to return to normal. The postpartum wrap also gives the mother a feeling of stability in the abdomen where it is lacking stability. It can also help to provide a slight pressure to help the uterus shrink and improve mom’s posture.
Some of the compression wraps even extend down over the hips. This can help to pull the hips back in while they are still flexible. A few weeks after delivery, the hips and pelvis will become inflexible again. Wherever the hips are is where they will remain (unless there is another delivery in which the process will begin again).
This is one reason for the widening of the hips that many women experience after childbirth (which will make it easier to birth children in the future).
Talk to your healthcare provider about this. Some hospitals provide them upon request. If yours doesn’t, many companies sell them online.
4 Freeze Cabbage Leaves And Wear Them In A Bra For Chest Pain
A few days after giving birth, your body will change over from producing colostrum for the baby to making milk. When this happens, the breasts usually become very hard and full of milk. This is also referred to as engorgement or being engorged.
If you are very uncomfortable, you can put cold cabbage leaves on your breasts to reduce engorgement. This cold compress may be very helpful for women not planning on breastfeeding. For new mothers who are breast feeding, nursing the baby as much as possible will help to relieve pressure in the breasts.
Cabbage can also be used for relief for the breastfeeding mothers. Some women have found that it reduces their milk supply. The body will eventually even out as it learns to produce only enough for baby. The milk supply is dependent on how much baby is nursing and demanding from mom.
The more baby nurses, the more milk will be produced. Pumping milk also creates a false demand that will make the body increase supply. This will work to the mother’s advantage if she is trying to create a reserve of breast milk for future use.
3 Use Fresh Super-Sized Pads For Post Baby Bleeding
You may have enjoyed 9 months without a period but once baby comes you’ll need a supply of feminine pads. Postpartum bleeding will last for up to 6 or 8 weeks after delivery. Postpartum bleeding happens for both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. The postpartum bleeding and discharge is also called lochia.
The bleeding may be heavy at first and slowly taper. You may notice that after too much activity the bleeding increases. This is your body’s way of telling you to slow down.
A supply of different absorbencies of pads is recommended for the weeks after delivery. Bleeding levels will change so you might be comfortable with different absorbency pads at different times. Tampons are not to be used during postpartum recovery. If bleeding suddenly increases, includes large masses or seems too heavy contact your healthcare provider right away. Too much bleeding could be the sign of a serious problem.
2 Freeze Witch Hazel On Some Maxi Pads
Witch hazel pads or spray can help with perineal pain and recovery. It can also make hemorrhoids less sensitive.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent made from the leaves and bark of the witch hazel plant. It dates back to the Native Americans who recognized its medicinal uses.
Don’t worry, the witch hazel doesn’t cause a burning feeling. The witch hazel actually gives a cooling effect and pain relief. It’s also safe to use while nursing. Make sure to always check with your healthcare provider for your specific situation.
The witch hazel wipes are to be placed on the perineum or dabbed on the perineum. One brand of witch hazel wipes are called Tucks. This does not mean you are to actually tuck the pad into your vagina. Nothing should be put into your vagina during your postpartum recovery (unless you’re instructed to do so by your healthcare provider.
1 Use A Water Bottle Instead Of Toilet Paper
Toilet paper could be very uncomfortable to use after a vaginal birth. Instead, use warm water in a squeeze bottle and dab dry with toilet paper after using the bathroom. Hospitals usually provide the bottle to use. Make sure to take it home with you to use once you leave the hospital. Keep the bottle handy by the sink.
Fill it with fresh water each time you use it to reduce the chance of an infection.
Warm water instead of cold water will be more comfortable to use. The warm water will help to keep the area clean and can help to soothe the pain.
Keeping the area clean is especially important if there was a perineal tear or episiotomy. Some practitioners recommend putting witch hazel in the bottle along with warm water. This will help with any pain or discomfort. Check with your healthcare provider first as each situation is different.