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I am 36 weeks pregnant and I haven’t packed my hospital bag, let alone washed the baby clothes or gotten the baby items down from the attic…! It dawned on me the other night when I was experiencing a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions and crampiness (likely from a lack of water) and my mind went down a rabbit hole of “what if…?”
Which brings me to this post! I did unpack some things today and start putting together a list of things to put in the hospital bag. The first time around I barely packed more than clothes and I honestly did not feel unprepared. The hospital supplies you with A LOT of the things that you’ll need for baby (namely diapers) and down-there care. The following are things that I have ready for immediately after L&D or would recommend for any mama (new or experienced).
Also, some of the physical and emotional changes that happen immediately after and even within the several weeks after delivery may come as a surprise to new moms since it is so rarely talked about. I’m going to be as honest as possible regarding my own experiences and what I have heard from other moms.
It is standard practice for hospitals to give you a dose of pitocin after delivery in order to speed up the shrinking of the uterus. This is to reduce the chance of hemorrhage (from the now-exposed location that the placenta was attached to). If you breastfeed, you will also be getting naturally dosed up on oxytocin, which will also stimulate uterine contractions.
With sequential babies, your uterus is a better at contracting, read: they will hurt more. After my first baby, the after-birth contractions ranked at about a three on the pain scale. With the second baby they were about a six. The doctor/midwife will prescribe some high strength pain killers, but if you do not want to mix those with breastfeeding or just want natural alternatives, these are a great option. They don’t relieve ALL of the pain, but they will take the edge off and are much cleaner than the conventional stuff. The AfterEase didn’t help me as much on the first day or so when the cramps are more severe, but it did take the edge off thereafter.
Pooping can be awful after delivery for the majority of women. Don’t hold it in either, that will make it worse! Most doctors/midwives will prescribe a stool softener and/or make you start taking one while still in the hospital. Take those bad boys! If your provider does not prescribe them or the hospital does not provide them, make your partner go get some ASAP. Instead of the OTC stool softeners, you can take magnesium (start with a 1/4 dose if you’ve never taken it before). Be careful in regards to “overdosing” on magnesium because it will cause diarrhea.
- Depends FIT-FLEX (FSA/HSA eligible!)
- FridaMom essentials kit (or here’s the one with the socks and hospital gown)
- Disposable Underwear by FridaMom (included in the FridaMom kit)
- Maxi Pads (the bigger the better)
Your normal menstruation is from about 2-3 weeks of built up uterine lining being shed. It has now been nine months since you shed that lining! The first few days to first week will involve some intense bleeding. It will taper off over the span of the next few weeks. Yes, WEEKS. I bled for 5 weeks straight with a couple of relapses in the weeks following with my first.
Your pelvic floor and urethral sphincters (the muscle that holds and releases urine) will be SHOT. I remember about 3 days after delivery, I was changing my baby’s diaper and uncontrollably started to pee. I didn’t even realize that I had to go! Depends are awesome for catching those leaks. Not to mention that it’s basically underwear WITH a pad inside. Less items to mess around with and you get to change the briefs more frequently instead of changing just the pad and sticking with the same dirty underwear.
If Depends are not your thing, then the FridaMom disposable underwear and maxi pads will be your best bet. The FridaMom kit has all of the important things for down-there and the items are very high quality and designed with functionality in mind. The hospital will provide most of the same things as in the kit, but they are cheap quality (but free!) and less flattering (as far as the disposable mesh undies).
Perineal stretching, tearing, swelling and Hemorrhoids
- Perineal Spray by Earth Mama Organics
- Perineal Balm by Earth Mama Organics
- Herbal Sitz Bath by Earth Mama Organics
- FridaMom essentials kit (or here’s the one with the socks and hospital gown)
- Witch Hazel Foam by FridaMom (included in the FridaMom kit)
- Witch Hazel Pad Liners by FridaMom (included in the FridaMom kit)
- Ice Maxi Pads by FridaMom (included in the FridaMom kit)
If the baby comes very fast, then that increases the liklihood of tearing. It is not standard practice to perform an episiotomy anymore but you should still insist that they DO NOT do so in your birth plan. That simple snip will more than likely turn into a serious tear. Think of a piece of fabric, if you snip the edge of the fabric and pull the fabric apart on either side of that snip, the fabric will very easily rip apart. Ow! Along with the tearing, everything down-there will be inflamed and don’t be surprised if you end up with a hemmy or two from all that pushing.
The Earth Mama perineal products are my favorite and they help immensely. I would highly recommend these two products at the very least. They were a life saver! They provide a cooling sensation to relieve the pain, help bring down the inflammation, and support healing for both the outer vaginal area and hemorrhoids. Alternatively, FridaMom makes a foaming witch hazel “lotion” to apply to the perineum and anus. FridaMom also has witch hazel pad liners that I opted for in substitution of the standard Tuck’s pads. The Tuck’s pads are small three-inch circles that you need to line up and down the pad that shift around. The new FridaMom liners are the size of a small wipe so you just lay the one item over top of your pad and are good to go.
Sitz baths are very helpful for healing and inflammation, though I have not tried it myself. Many moms rave about it, but I’m a little intimidated by the idea of sitting in a bowl of tea while I have babies to care for–inevitably they always need you right when you start something like this!
C-Section incision site
I don’t have experience with this, but I have heard that these items are helpful. The scar sheets help with healing, scar minimization, and protecting the incision site, so win-win-win!
To all of you C-section mamas, you are one tough cookie. Not only do you have a baby to take care of, but you just had major abdominal surgery. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or less than about your delivery.
Breastfeeding Tools to Get Through the First Few Days
- Hydrogel Pads (FSA/HSA eligible!)
- Nipple shield (FSA/HSA eligible!)
- Silverette cups
- Nipple cream (Motherlove, Bamboobies, Earth Mama Organics are all good options) (FSA/HSA eligible!)
- Bamboobies organic Washable Nipple Pads
The first 24 hours may not bring much in the way of breastfeeding as baby is sleepy and recovering from L&D. The next day is pretty hardcore though. Baby will “wake up” from his/her daze and start cluster feeding to catch up on the calories that are not automatically being pumped into his/her belly like before. The first night, I sat with my daughter glued to my boob for over two hours straight. My nipples were destroyed. They hurt so bad I couldn’t even nurse her the next day and I tried to avoid her (horrible, I know). The pediatrician told me that after about 10 minutes, the baby isn’t getting any more milk anyway, so to stop nursing in order to preserve your nipples (remember this!).
While your nipples are building calluses, the hydrogel pads will provide some comfort and soothing relief. Until my nipples healed up, I used a nipple shield as a buffer (this was a game changer for my lacerated nipples). Some warn against using nipple shields, but I feel that if it is only used temporarily, then I’d rather save myself the nipple pain. Otherwise Silverette Cups help speed up healing and are all natural. I’m pretty tempted to grab a pair this time…
Lanolin or other nipple creams don’t make the biggest difference in my mind aside from coating the nipples so that they don’t stick to your bra/nipple pads from the residual, dried breast milk, which is a painful unsticking process when they are already sore.
You will likely leak like crazy the first month or so while your supply regulates but even then, don’t be surprised by let-down leaks when you hear a baby cry or feel really lovey (it’s that oxytocin). Stock up on nipple pads to save yourself from the embarrassment of t-shirt leaks.
Check out my post on breastfeeding tools and resources for long-term breastfeeding help.
Alopecia (Hair Loss)
- Collagen Powder (Grass fed, Pasture Raised)
- Innersense Organic Beauty Hair Products – Use WELCOME for 10% off
- Mane Magic by Organic Olivia (not suitable for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding)
Unfortunately, that lack of hair loss during pregnancy does eventually catch up with you. The hair loss can persist until well beyond six months postpartum but mine eased up after about four months of intense shedding. By intense shedding, I mean that I was throwing two fistfuls of hair in the trash after my shower and still finding hair all over the house–it was bad. My hair line receded and thinned greatly, though as obvious as it was to me, others did not notice it.
I started taking collagen pretty soon afterwards and switched to a more natural shampoo and conditioner to support scalp health. I cannot say that these things definitely made a difference because who knows if my body was just done shedding at that point anyway. Innersense is by far the cleanest hair product line available and they follow the standard shampoo, conditioner routine instead of the “mud” philosophy of some other clean brands. The Mane Magic is a super clean herbal tonic that I recently stumbled on, but it sounds amazing if you won’t be breast feeding!
- Prebiotic, magnesium deodorants and pre-/pro-biotic sprays by Honestly pHresh
- Prebiotic body wash by Aleavia
Your body is intentionally trying to be as smelly as possible during this time. Of course the hot flashes don’t help either. Baby can hardly see anything outside of 6-10 inches away from his/her face (the distance from mom’s boobs to face), so by being extra smelly, baby can tell that it’s you. Thank you mother nature! More sweat = more stink because of the bacteria on your skin.
Both Honestly pHresh and Aleavia are prebiotic items that will support the growth of good (non-stinky) bacteria to keep the bad (stinky) bacteria in balance. The Honestly pHresh deodorant also has magnesium, which is great for fighting smell and is a fantastic mineral to be supplementing with anyway–especially transdermally like with deodorant. Honestly pHresh also carries pre-/pro-biotic body sprays that smell GREAT!
Physical healing and support
- Pelvic floor physical therapy
I found MommaStrong when I was about 5 weeks pregnant with this babe and I have done it weekly, if not daily most of the time. I am now an “exercise-addict” thanks to Courtney and her easy approach to health. Not only does she have amazing exercise programs for postpartum pelvic floor and abdominal healing (only 5-15 minutes long for just $5/month!), but the community that she has cultivated (BAMs!) is by far priceless. MommaStrong has some fantastic programs for specific issues like prolapse and diastis recti but there are also pelvic floor physical therapists to help rehabilitate your muscles down-there in a one-on-one setting or when you need a little more TLC.
You pelvic floor and abdominal muscles may take a beating from pregnancy and L&D but caring for a newborn takes a huge toll on your back from the constant hunch of holding and feeding the baby. Take care of your back during this physically taxing time by seeing a Chiropractor.
- Postpartum Depression support groups
- Ask for help
- Baby blues mood support herbal tincture by WishGarden
Life with a new baby and being pinned to the couch with a bottle in hand or a boob out is extremely isolating. Be sure to talk and get out of the house as much as you feasibly can. Some women will experience postpartum depression (PD), if you do: it is imperative that you realize that it is not your fault. It is a biological manifestation of the fluctuating hormones within your brain. Talking about it helps to dispel the shame around it and shame exacerbates PD, so don’t keep it in!
Moms have a tendency to take on a “I can/should be able to do it all” mentality which is not healthy. Ask your partner or a friend/family member to help you. Order delivery. Let the dishes sit for just a bit longer. Go to a friend or family member’s house for a bit. It is so much easier said than done, but if you can force yourself, you will be thankful!
This is a simple foundation list that I think applies to everyone. There are tons of baby and new mama products on the market, some of these may or may not be your favorite and that is okay. Similarly, with all the products out there, don’t get sucked in and feel like you need them all.
Please help me keep this list relevant! Leave a comment if there is something that you think that I should add. Thank you!