As you're studying up on the art of child rearing in the months leading up to birth, you'll find plenty of advice about items you absolutely need for after your baby. Companies provide you with catalogues and websites filled with high-tech gear, as well as strollers, slings, diaper bags and other accessories you'll need to get your baby around town.
There are also plenty of products that you'll need for your newborn to wear. A layette is a collection of clothes already organized in coordinating colours, and you'll definitely need one of those when your kiddo's born. You can find lists of things you'll need for the birth, for the nursery, for who you should call when the blessed event occurs.
But what will you need for you? In all those descriptions of what you'll need in the coming days, have you read anything about what you'll need to keep yourself comfortable in the days following childbirth? Chances are, you've heard nothing about that beyond the necessary nursing underwear.
In the week following the birth of your child, you will have plenty of needs of your own. Your body will be recovering from a lot of hard work and some tissue damage, and you'll be embarking on a whole new adventure in your life.
But there are things that can make this trying time easier. Among them is an extra set of helping hands. Be sure to have a girlfriend or two lined up to hold your baby and do some chores so you have some time to rest.
But there are some more tangible objects to have on hand, too. Read on to check out some of the most useful products you can get for yourself to make the week postpartum go smoothly.
7 Doughnut Pillow
Maybe you've never seen a doughnut pillow, or don't know what one is. Maybe you think they're only for truck drivers or old people with piles or other hind-end medical problems. But sister, let me tell you, there's no better time to sit on a doughnut pillow than your first week post-partum.
There are a myriad of reasons you may be sensitive this first week following childbirth, though you've problably never been warned of any of them. So let me clue you in, sitting down is touch-and-go after having a baby.
A doughnut pillow is pretty much how you'd imagine it: a circular pillow filled with air. Sitting on one puts the weight of your body squarely on your bum cheeks, which are likely to be unscathed from the perils of childbirth. You can buy them at drugstores, and here's why you may need one:
- First, if you've had an episiotomy, you will have really sensitive tissue on your bottom, and some really sore stitches. Luckily, the soreness doesn't last too long, but you may find sitting down pretty tricky if you've had an episiotomy.
- If you've gotten through vaginal childbirth without an episiotomy, you should count your blessings, but that doesn't mean you won't be sore in the nether regions. Passing a baby causes some residual aches and pains that may make certain positions and movements painful. Doughnut pillow to the rescue!
- Now, if you have a C-section you may think you'll be off the hook, but not necessarily so. Many women spend hours of labour pushing before they go into surgery. As if all that work is not enough of a downer, the pressure you put on your behind may cause hemmorhoids.
Particularly if you will be going on an extended car ride or sitting on a hard chair, a doughnut pillow is a wise investment.
6 Nipple Cream
Why would I need nipple cream, you ask? You may be confident you and your baby are going to master the ancient art of nursing the first day he's on the planet, but here's a newsflash: babies have to learn to do everything, and that includes eating. Sure, babies are born with an instinct to suckle – some over-achievers practice this way ahead of time, sucking their thumbs in mummy's tummy. But pacifying oneself on a thumb and coaxing milk out of mom's breasts are two different things. Your wee one has to learn the correct latch before all will go smoothly for the two of you.
Breastfeeding your baby is well-recognized as an important step in giving him a healthy start. But there is a serious learning curve you and your baby have in to conquer first.
An incorrect latch will mean your newborn is putting all of his considerable sucking power directly on your nipple, instead of on the surrounding tissues. Ouch.
When done correctly, nursing pain should be minor, but there are bound to be hiccups in the learning process you and your wee one go through.
As such, you may experience some chapping on your nipples or areola during this early period as your baby learns a correct latch.
Because you and your newborn will be nursing again and again throughout the day and night – little babes only have very small stomachs, and need lots of comfort – what begins as minor irritation can get a lot worse, very fast. Some women get a little bit red and swollen and then the problem works out, but others experience their nipples getting so sore that they crack and bleed – life is not fun with bleeding nipples.
You want to avoid getting so that it hurts each time your baby latches, and you hold your breath to get through the pain of nursing. You are going to want some intervention before it gets that bad, so nipple cream may very well be the product that makes or breaks your first week post partum.
As an aside, most communities have resources for nursing moms – there are clinics that make themselves available for drop-in visits so you can get help nursing. Don't be shy on this point, because one good nurse can make you and your newborn much more comfortable and happy and on the road to successful nursing.
5 Giant sanitary pads
You know childbirth itself is a messy process. You probably consider yourself well-informed about the water breaking, the bloodloss, and the possibility you'll throw up on your medical team.
There are few human experiences that can compare to the volume of blood and bodily fluids that are seen in the delivery room – think Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you'll be in the right stratem of yucky stuff.
But women talk a lot less, and are less prepared for what happens after the baby is born.
Your body has just gone through a whole lot, but whole ordeal isn't over yet. The best kept secret about the time directly following the birth of your baby is this: you will have a really heavy period-type flow of all the goop that relates to your baby and placenta's exit from the womb. This discharge is known to the medical world as lochia, and has some blood and uterine tissue in the mix. The heavy stuff lasts about 3 or 4 days, but you probably won't stop bleeding down there for close to a month – or more!
The first few days, you're going to feel like you peed your giant granny underpants everytime you move. Plus, you will likely pass some medium-sized clots during that time (up to the size of a golf ball is considered normal in the first couple of weeks).
In order to keep this stuff in check, what you're really going to need is very, very large sanitary pads. The hospital has been known to recommend incontinance napkins (read: adult diapers) for this very issue, thus giving you an idea of the flow we're talking about here.
Although these pads are so big they can be a bit uncomfortable, it's better than worrying about leakage all day long, so it's worth it.
Here's a tip: buy just a small package of these, because you won't need them long, and then you'll want a regular feminine hygeine type product and nothing more for the duration of the time you experience the discharge
4 Breast pads
About two days after the birth of your baby, just as the rest of your body is making moves to healing up, and the blood flow slows down, you will be thinking you're on the road to recovery. Even your big tummy is starting to lose some of its volume. You're starting to feel a bit normal again.
Just when you think you've got a handle on things, that's when your milk will start to come in, and start leaking all over the place.
The milk replaces the colostrom that your baby's been eating since birth in very small amounts. Comparatively, the flow of breastmilk is a lot more – like enough to squirt a good distance across the room, or wet nice little circles on the front of your bra and shirt. You are going to get pretty comfortable with breast milk. You're going to learn how to express it (in other words, to milk your own breasts) any time you have to leave the little tyke for more than an hour, and you're going to read in baby books that it's the cure-all for everything from baby's eye goop to cradle cap (just squirt some on the defenseless baby, and you're good to go!)
Since we've already discussed the unexpected guests that will invite themselves in to your home, having soaked spots down your front is not desirable. Milk down your front also dries crusty.
What you need is a pair of breast pads. You can buy disposable or reusable varieties of these neat absorbant circles that line your bra and keep you looking dry.
You will probably need these for as long as you nurse your baby, so consider the timeline when you're deciding what to buy. Some women release so much milk when they think about their babies, they even leak through the breast pads. Those ladies usually need to find more absorbant options, like cloth diaper liners. If you're prone to leakage no matter what type of breast pad you use, you might want to consider what type of tops you wear. For instance, you can spot a wet spot much more easily on a solid-colour top than on a patterned one, and cotton dries a lot slower than some synthetic fabrics.
3 Bath salts
There are a couple of reasons that your bathtub will be your best friend just after you've had a baby. First, a full bathtub is like a warm hug. As a new mom you'll be giving far more hugs than you receive (babies aren't known for their bear hugs) so the soothing feeling is nice. Baths are relaxing (if you try not to notice the grunge on the bathroom floor you missed last time you cleaned).
A bath provides a few minutes to yourself. If you haven't figured it out yet, once you have a baby time to yourself is a rare and highly desirable commodity – you'll probably even start considering toilet time as precious in your day. So forget the sitz bath that everybody recommends you sit in, and go for a full-on tub.
Baths are also crucial for helping your body and your sore bottom end to heal. Water is highly underrated as a healing property. If you have lots of helping hands around to hold the baby and do your dishes, you can even find time to have a couple of baths a day. Water will keep your perineum clean, and take away some discomfort you might be feeling.
You can run a bath with warm water alone, but there are some bath additives that can help you relax, heal up your skin faster, or just smell really pretty. Some natural products include oatmeal, which has long been believed to having healing qualities. If it's chunky it's handy to have a cotton bag to keep them in, or they can make your tub a mess. It's worth checking out what's available in drugstores and health stores nearby.
Epsom salts added to the bath can calm skin ailments. However, if you prefer not to feel quite so grandmother-y, you could try adding witch hazel or baking soda or other herbs. Check with your doctor so you don't cause more harm than good.
2 Stretchy pants
Let's face it, ladies: the week following the birth of your baby is not the easiest time to be fashionable.
Pregnancy afforded you an excuse to get a whole new wardrobe, with big belly panels to accomodate a growing belly, and flowy styles with ties and bows. And that was great – for about eight months. Now you're sick of maternity clothes. You're ready for real pants with a real waistline (and a botton closure!) and you long for your old body back.
Sorry, it's not coming back yet. Not for a long while. But your belly no longer looks like a beachball under your shirt - it has gone down quite a lot, even within the first day or two. You don't need such billowy tops, now, or bottoms that reach halfway to your armpits.
Though your times out in the wide world are probably limited during this time, you want to go out and show the world how great you feel now that you're finished your pregnancy. Realistically, you're probably not back in prepregnancy jeans, with or without button closure, so you're going to need some intirim styles to get you through. The best bet? Pants with lots of stretch. Something that doesn't make you feel bulky, but doesn't expect too much with a stiff fit either.
The trick is to find something comfortable that look nicer than your pyjamas. Putting on sweatpants is not going to do a lot for your mood at this particular point, so aim higher than that. You can put the bathrobe back on as soon as you get home, if that's what you like. For now, get dressed.
It will do wonders for your mood to get out, and look good doing it. So stop trying to guess the size you'll be after your baby's born, and just get soemthing that'll fit no matter what. Around day three of sitting around your house watching movies (see below) you will be ready for some normalcy. Get out to some fresh air in non-pregnancy clothes that feel great!
1 Some good movies
There are times in your life when you have to make it a priority to do as little as possible. This is one such occasion.
It is considered pretty normal to feel overwhelmed just fulfilling the basic needs of your new bundle of joy. All the baby books will recommend you have meals stowed away in the freezer and helpers at the ready to come hang out your laundry and buy your groceries – and for good reason. You haven't yet reached the stage of motherhood where you can vaccuum, cook, and help a kid with homework, all while burping a baby. That will come.
But, like countless kung fu movies have taught, you need a training montage. In this case, you need to watch actors portray training montages while you sit on your duff (on a doughnut pillow).
You and your baby have been through an awful lot – both of you will be exhuasted, a bit anxious about your new role, but blissfully happy. You will need something relaxing and very non-taxing to do for the first week post partem. You will have enough challenges to tax your brain, it's not that you'll be bored – between nursing, changing diapers, and figuring out how to line up the twenty-four snaps on a newborn sleeper, you will have lots to keep you busy. You will also experience the annoyance of having people drop in to your house to see your bundle, all while you're half-dressed and leaking breast milk all over your shirt.
But when everybody's gone, baby's changed and sleeping nicely, and you're sick of laying in bed, it will be really nice to have some great movies all cued up to watch.
Take advantage of your partner, your parents, or your friends who are willing to wait on your every need for this very short time.
Snuggle down with some good snacks and enjoy the relaxation of a baby that doesn't want much besides you.