Having a baby is magical, exciting and scary all wrapped into one. It can be one of the most beautiful things a mother experiences. It can also be one of the most challenging, painful and, yes, pretty darn messy.
Many things will likely change after giving birth — lifestyle, relationships, sleep and, without question, your body. Certain parts might sting, swell, leak, crack and simply refuse to work for a while, and new moms aren’t always warned about what to expect and what can help.
We asked women — some who have just had their first child and others who parent a small gang — what they wish they had on hand before heading to the hospital to deliver their little bundles of joy. Here, they share their top 10 post-baby basics that will make your life easier and your body more comfortable.
10 things new moms should have on hand for post-baby recovery
- Loose, comfortable clothes. Don’t throw out those maternity clothes the minute you’re home from the hospital. While you may have sworn you’d never look at — much less wear — generous, flowing tops and wide, elastic-waist leggings again, they’ll likely be your go-to outfit for at least a few days postpartum. Style can go out the window for a while to give yourself the gift of comfort.
- Comfortable underpants. Bleeding and discharge — sometimes heavy — can continue for a while after birth. Be prepared with a stock of comfy panties, postpartum mesh underwear from the hospital or adult incontinence underwear along with ultra-absorbent maternity pads to place inside.
- Topical pain relief. You can purchase postpartum cooling pads or maternity pads, aloe vera gel and alcohol-free witch hazel – which you can freeze or refrigerate before using — to offer much-needed relief for the pain that often follows vaginal delivery. Perineal cooling and pain-relieving spray with benzocaine, menthol, aloe and lanolin can also help ease the aches.
- An irrigation bottle. Cleansing after using the bathroom can cause discomfort. A postpartum perinatal irrigation bottle helps you gently and properly wash yourself and can also be used while urinating to decrease uncomfortable burning. You may receive one in the hospital that you can take home.
- A sitz bath or shallow basin. Another option for providing good hygiene while also easing the pain and promoting healing is a sitz bath — a shallow basin that can be bought online or at your local drugstore. If you haven’t purchased the portable basin, you can do the same treatment in a bathtub with a few inches of warm water.
- Breastfeeding supplies. Lanolin cream and silicone gel pads, which can be refrigerated for a cooling effect, are a must to care for potentially painful nipples when breastfeeding. Disposable absorbent nursing bra pads, which help prevent leaking, are also helpful. A nursing pillow can also make feeding time easier, whether baby takes a bottle or breast.
- Comfortable tops for breastfeeding. Nursing tank tops and bras make feedings easier for breastfeeding moms. Having some on hand pre-birth will save you a shopping trip when you may not be ready to leave your house after delivery.
- Warm or cold compresses. Most postpartum moms will experience some breast engorgement, which can be extremely painful. Have a heating pad on hand (always set to low) or warm, moist compresses to relieve breast engorgement before nursing. After nursing (or whenever needed), apply cold compresses — frozen peas wrapped in light fabric will do the trick — to the breasts to reduce swelling. You can also talk to your doctor about whether it’s appropriate to take ibuprofen for pain and swelling relief.
- Natural stool softeners. Constipation after birth is common, both with vaginal and cesarean deliveries. Stool softener, prune juice, high-fiber foods and lots of water can be your best ally in getting things comfortably moving. Try to move yourself around a bit, too. A leisurely walk around the block with proper hydration can help.
- Other new baby essentials. While online shopping has made preparing to parent easier, it doesn’t help when you run out of must-haves in the middle of the night. Stock up on all the supplies you’ll need for your new family. You can never have enough diapers and wipes for baby, and easy snacks and prepared meals for everyone else. If you plan to formula feed, and even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, it’s always wise to have some formula at the ready.
Beyond these 10 basics, all mothers agree that it’s most important to have an abundance of patience and be prepared to toss out some of your premade plans. Allow yourself grace, make sure you’re getting quality nutrition and sleep, and always accept help when offered, especially if meals, laundry or diaper changes are mentioned.
Learn about postpartum bodily changes and how to recognize symptoms of common postpartum conditions, as well as receive guidance on how to safely return to exercise without causing injury, at Sharp Mary Birch’s Fourth Trimester Workshop.