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Everyone talks about preparing for a new baby. Baby gear, diapers, wipes, toys, everything you need to keep your new bundle happy and healthy. Sometimes, in all the new baby excitement, it’s easy to forget about another important piece of the puzzle. The new mama! Whether it’s baby number 1 or baby number 5, every new baby means a new beginning. Your life is forever changed in totally new and profound ways with each new addition to your family.
Just like every pregnancy, and every birth, every postpartum period is totally different. Taking care of your emotional needs postpartum is a whole other blog post! However, you can begin to prepare yourself for the postpartum experience by having a few things ready to go before you go into labor.
If you’re type-A like me, you have no intention of slowing down. When my first baby was born, I thought I was going to come home and whip up a Thanksgiving feast for my visiting family. Yeah right. My first birth was difficult. I was exhausted and I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up really overextending myself physically and emotionally. I didn’t know how to slow down, I didn’t now that I needed to take care of myself. I felt responsible for taking care of this new human I created. I didn’t even think of myself for a moment. I ended up sick and exhausted with a serious mastitis infection. With my second baby, I vowed I would do things differently. I certainly wasn’t going to lay in bed for six weeks, that’s just not me. I was however going to plan ahead, and take the help that was offered to me. Most importantly, I was going to take this opportunity to relax, and enjoy my beautiful new baby.
First things first, you need food. Have someone set up a meal train for you, join a freezer meal exchange, plan ahead and freeze some meals yourself, or just stock up on restaurant gift cards and prepare to eat out. Have food easily accessible and ready. Trust me. It seems crazy, but someone at some point will have to remind you to eat a meal. You need to stay healthy and keep up your strength. And between the crying babies, well-intentioned visitors, and complete exhaustion, you’re going to need a hot meal. Ever heard the saying sleep when the baby sleeps? Well, eat when the baby eats. Which is always.
Industrial size maxi pads. Buy a ton of these. Regardless of how you gave birth, there will be bleeding. This is normal, and it’s actually good. No really, your uterus is returning to it’s normal self. Embrace it. After giving birth you might also want to make yourself some frozen ice packs, affectionately referred to as “padsicles”. I used Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Bath Herbs for mine. They are a great natural pain reliever for anyone who had a vaginal delivery. Just brew your bath herbs, pour them over the pads, freeze, and voila!
A peri-bottle and witch hazel pads. You might get these in the hospital, but trust me you can never have enough. Tucks pads are like the franks red hot sauce for postpartum women. You will put that s&*T on everything. If you have any tearing or if you had an episiotomy, going number 1 (and don’t even get me started on number 2) can be stressful at first. A peri-bottle helps to relieve the sting and helps you go in comfort. The witch hazel pads are cooling and I just put them right on top of my nice cold padsicles. I also really like Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray and Bottom Balm. I didn’t have any tearing with my second, so I didn’t end up using the balm, but it was a wonderful relief that first time around and the spray is cooling and smells nice. Worth the investment! A must have for any new mama.
Buy stock in nursing pads, and invest in Milkies Milk-Savers to save up all that extra leaky milk (don’t waste liquid gold!). With my first baby, I was totally unprepared for just how intense it would be when my milk came in. It’s an ongoing joke that the women in my family are part Holstein. It’s not a funny joke. It’s not funny because I was honestly prepared to produce milk for a small village, and that sounds awesome, but it’s really very painful! Nobody sent my boobs the memo that my little 8 lb baby didn’t need a gallon of milk a day, so they could chill out a bit. For this, you are also going to want EMAB Booby Tubes. I like these because they are gel and chemical free, organic, and can be both hot and cold. Warm helps to encourage milk flow and prevent clogged ducts and mastitis (trust me this is bad), cold helps to relieve the pain that comes along with engorgement when your milk first comes in. Finally, stock up on a really good Nipple Cream to help sooth cracked and sore nipples from those first few weeks of nursing. Make sure it is one that is safe for your baby to ingest so you don’t have to constantly be cleaning your nipples every time you nurse. That is why I love Earth Mama Angel Baby Non GMO Natural Nipple Butter. Breastfeeding can be really challenging at first, but I found that being prepared and informed about what is going to happen helps mamas to realize that the not so awesome parts pass quickly, and before you know it you will be on to that beautiful breastfeeding relationship you envisioned.
Finally, you need support! My second birth was wonderful (no really it was!) and because I was prepared for my postpartum experience I didn’t feel caught off guard. I really felt relaxed and comfortable. I still struggled with major engorgement (and eventually that dreaded mastitis) but I was prepared and I was ready to take care of it before it was able to drag me down. Most importantly, I felt confident in asking for the help I needed, and preventing the “help” I didn’t. I knew I didn’t want a ton of visitors. I wanted to relax, spend time with my immediate family, and get to know my new baby. I was grateful to have both of my moms and my husband around to help with the baby and keeping my energetic toddler happy and in is routine. Most importantly, I was grateful to be able to get back to MY routine as soon as I could. Anyone who is type-A will understand how stressful it can be to feel like you can’t keep up with your normal daily activities. I’m so grateful for the positive postpartum experience I had that allowed me to get back to normal as quickly as I could, while still allowing for the relaxing downtime I really needed. For me this also meant getting out of the hospital and back home to relax as soon as humanly possible. For someone else, this might mean taking more time in the hospital to get help. Allow yourself the freedom to decide what is best for YOU and your family.
Ultimately, the biggest lesson I learned was that expectations on new mother’s need to be adjusted, and usually this means the expectations we have on ourselves. As moms we sometimes feel like we have to do it all, and take care of everyone around us. Postpartum is the one time every mom NEEDS to remember to put on her own oxygen mask first! Don’t believe for a second your pregnancy is immidatly over once your sweet baby arrives. The fourth trimester is a time where both mom AND baby to adjust to their new world. Make the fourth trimester what YOU need it to be mama!