Postpartum Essentials + What to Expect After a Natural Birth

When I first started looking up articles on postpartum care and recovery, I was shocked and terrified. I read posts where women talked about how horrible it was bleeding out for 6 weeks and wearing massive diapers that wouldn’t’ even hold it all, bathroom trips that hurt worse than labor, the seemingly bazillion products they were using just to make it bearable, and my brain just wanted to check out of anything postpartum related.

Postpartum recovery

Actually, it did. It was two days before my due date and I had nothing for postpartum. No nursing bras, pads…nothing. Zilch. Nada.

If I didn’t think about it maybe it wouldn’t be that bad, right? Honestly, I’m really bad at taking care of myself sometimes. My life motto seems to be grin and bear it, and I hate buying stuff for myself most of the time.

{ I actually have three life motto’s… the one mentioned above, fake it til you make it, and, when in doubt, park way out. Those are the three main motto’s I live by. Anyway…}

That day I went and bought bras and pads. I was set. Or, so I thought, and then little peanut came along, and I had a 4th degree tear thrown into the postpartum recovery mix. Thanks for that, schnookums.

Obviously everyone’s recovery is different, but I can tell you this…6 weeks sounds like forever, but it goes fast, and your body was meant to do this, so it will heal if you’re smart and don’t overdo it before you’re ready.

It wasn’t a fun process, and because of how Amiya’s birth went I couldn’t do anything for myself. I had to have a stool to get in bed, My husband shaved my legs for me, and I couldn’t even bend down to pick up a q-tip when I wanted one. I survived that though, and I’m hoping it will make recovering from a normal birth seem much easier.

For you overwhelmed mamas, these are some of the products I used, and my thoughts on them, and even a few things that I had and didn’t use like I thought I would.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission from purchases made from them, at no additional cost to you.

1: Depends adult diapers

This is one I literally didn’t think I would need or want. When I left the birthing center this is what they put me in though, and let me tell you…

These highly attractive undies were amazing.


You can say goodbye to your more snug fitting clothing during the postpartum period, so it’s not a problem that these are a bit on the bulky side.


I liked that I never had to worry about leakage, and they were far more comfortable than having a giant pad.


Do yourself a favor and just grab two packs. You might not need them all, but better safe than sorry. I went through a pack and a half, and got a medium which fit great for my 5’1″ 130lb frame.

I had purchased regular large pads from walmart and ended up never even touching them because the Depends were so much better!

The hospital will send you home with massive pads and snazzy mesh underwear, but those drove me nuts so I stopped using them about a day into it.

2: Dermoplast spray

This wasn’t something I expected to use because I didn’t buy it and didn’t think I’d end up at the hospital, but when I went for my stitches they sent me home with two cans.


I’m so glad I had it! It’s for relief for burning and itching, and I used it liberally after every bathroom trip/Depends change.


If you’re using a hospital they should send you home with some, but if they don’t just ask for it. If you run out, or are doing a birthing center/home birth you can find it on Amazon for pretty cheap.
For me personally it would have been worth every penny, and if you’re on the fence, just do it.

3: Tucks Cooling pads

This was also something that the hospital sent me home with. You line up two or three like tomatoes on a sandwhich on your pad, and honestly I didn’t like them.

I used them off and on for a bit when I was feeling extra sore and wanted to do aaaaaall the things for relief, but I found them more irritating than anything. They kept bunching up and sitting in places that didn’t feel good, and sometimes it almost seemed like they made my swelling worse.

They gave me two containers of them and I only used half of one.
They’re worth a try if they give them to you, but they just weren’t my thing personally, and it’s not something I’ll probably have on hand after my next birth.

4: Peri Bottle with Herbal perineum rinse

This stuff. This was my saving grace.


Again, The hospital gave me a peri bottle, and my mom made up some herbal perineum rinse to help with healing down there. She made a big pot of it, and kept the extra liquid in a mason jar in the fridge so I could refill my bottle as needed.

Some people might not like squirting cold liquid down there and may want to find a way to keep it lukewarm, but I loved that it was cold. I did this after every bathroom trip/pad change as well.


Out of everything I used, this stuff and the dermoplast spray were my favorite.


It was a mixture of Chamomile, Calendula, Comfrery, Lavender, Epsom salt, and Lavender essential oil.

If you’re super ambitious you could make your own mix, or if you’re lazy like me you could buy pre-made stuff online.


If you don’t know where to look, you can contact Kelly Menne at The Nurtured Mother and tell her you’re interested in a peri-bottle blend.

5: Padscicles

Just like it sounds…Frozen pads. They have a mixture of Witch Hazel, Aloe Vera gel, and usually Lavender.


A friend gave me some and I used a few.


While I enjoyed the coolness it offered, the size of the pad was just a bit too big and bunched up too much which irritated my stitches. Definitely worth trying if you make them ahead of time, or know of someone who would do them for you. Just be sure to pick a comfortable pad size.

Haley over at Let’s Mama has a super easy tutorial on how to make them so definitely check that out, and also look through the rest of her blog for other Postpartum tips!

6: Sitz Bath Bags

Also something given to me by a friend. I used one for a bath, stayed in for all of 4 minutes and got out of the tub.

I’m really just not a bath person and got bored. I didn’t notice any amazing relief from that, so Instead I used one of the bags to refill my peri bottle.
Some people swear by Sitz baths, but not me.

7: Colace

This is a very important one, and if you’re on the fence, stop now and just go get it.

Yep. The stool softener. I remember reading one gal saying that first postpartum poop was worse than birth. After getting stitched up it was highly recommended I take it to avoid possible issues, especially since I was already so swollen, and I’m so glad I did. I only took one, or occasionally two a day, and I had no issues whatsoever with painful bowel movements.
Get yourself some, and have one less thing to deal with.

8: AAAAAAALL THE SNACKS!!!

Maybe not what you’d originally think about for postpartum care, but stock up on as many easy snacks as you can. When you’re tired and in the middle of nursing, or crawling back in bed at 3 A.M, out for your postpartum check up, etc, youre going to want something quick you can grab. Just like everyone says… breastfeeding leaves you starving and parched.

Some of my favorites to have on hand are the Lenny & Larry’s cookies, namely the double chocolate chip. They’re vegan, which is great for those who eat that way, have a decent amount of protein, and are a yummy way to get those calories in while nursing.

Postpartum snacks

I really struggled with eating after having Amiya, so I like this for a more substantial snack. Plus they’re incredibly filling. Follow the link and use the code BA124613 for 20% off your purchase.

Some other great options are…

Nature Valley Granola bars (I like pretty much all of theirs)
– Quest Bars
-Kind Bars
-Lara Bars
-Cliff Bars
-Almonds
-Peanuts
-Homemade energy balls
-Fruit
-Lunch meat & cheese
-& Greek yogurt cups

I keep my diaper bag and cupboard continously stocked with some kind of bar because I always have the munchies. They can be kind of pricey so keep an eye out for coupons, or check your local Grocery Outlet or bargain store for snacks. They usually have them for a fraction of the cost.

9: Mother’s Love Nipple Cream

For Amiya and I, nursing was incredibly difficult. My milk came in hard and fast two days after birth, and I was ridiculously engorged. I cried a lot, suffered (and once swore) through painful nursing sessions, with my teeth gritted and toes curling.

One time I just cried and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”
She would leave my nipples cracked, blistered and creased, and I would feel so defeated.


I had to start pumping and syringe/bottle feeding simply because she had caused so much damage that I couldn’t handle her nursing anymore. Even showering became painful…


Once I started using this cream religiously after every single pumping/feeding they healed up really fast.
So many people told me nursing would get better and they were right…It might seem like it will never get there, but hang in there!

For me it took seeing a Lactation consultant, a Chiropractor who specializes in infants, lots of jaw and neck exercises for baby, seeing an oral specialist in Portland, and finally going to Dr. Ghaheri who specializes in tongue tie for a tongue revision just to get things working right.

Hopefully you won’t have to go through all that, but if you do, I’ve been there! It’s not fun, but you’ve got this mama!
If you have questions about my experience with a tongue tied baby, feel free to shoot me a message!

Postpartum recovery after a natural birth

If you’re like me, you’ll look at this and start to feel overwhelmed all over again, and wonder how and when to use everything, so I’ll share my “routine”.

I kept everything on a shelf right by the toilet for easy access.
I also had a cup on the shelf, and everytime I went to the bathroom I would fill it with luke warm water, and rinse.

Some people have a burning sensation when they pee, (I didn’t), and the water can help with that, or just feel good in general.


After using the bathroom I would liberally use the herbal peri-bottle water all over the sore areas.


I would then spray the Dermoplast down there, and if I was using the tucks pads I’d get fresh ones.

Compared to what some people shared it was easy and quick. I wish I could say painless, but…birth.

If this is TMI, I apologize, but this is what I was wishing someone would have shared when I was researching postpartum care.

What recovery from a 4th degree tear was like for me:

The first two weeks were by far the worst.

When I walked it felt like someone tied a string from my sternum to my pelvis and I literally couldn’t stand up straight. I opted out of the stronger pain meds they prescribed me, and just took Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

Everything was so sore and swollen down there and I can’t even really describe what it felt like. Just like a jumbled up puffy mess that hurt.

There were only a few places I could actually sit comfortably. The couch and bed. Forget the rocking chair. Getting in and out of a moving chair without a ton of discomfort was impossible, and it’s hard to slowly raise yourself from a rocking chair.


I basically couldn’t do anything, and had to rely on other people for everything. All my meals were made for me, my pain meds were brought to me, and I couldn’t even refill my water bottle.


I just sat and snuggled my baby and pumped, with the occasional shuffle to the bathroom, which is basically what you should do postpartum, but I physically couldn’t do anything more than that.

Actually, funny story… The day after I gave birth I was trying to nurse at home, and it was so hot in our house I couldn’t handle it anymore. My mom and I walked (or rather, shuffled) next door to my in-laws house so I could sit in the air-conditioning while my hubby got ours installed.

My midwife was horrified when I told her I had done that. After that I did a much better job at staying down…mostly.

I also had someone staying with me 24/7 for the first two weeks. All things considered I healed really fast, and I credit it to all the people who stayed with me and did every little thing I asked.

By week three I was pretty much walking normally and was super happy to not feel like my stitches were always about to rip like something from Winnie the Pooh. Still moving slow, and trying to stay down as much as possible, but doing a few things around the house each day. My bleeding had also basically stopped and I was just using a tiny sports pad

I started getting out of the house around week three, which made a huge difference, because I get major cabin fever.

Still didn’t do anything crazy, but I was able to drive myself to the frisbee field, and went on my first solo trip to walmart with a baby. That felt like a major accomplishment considering the week before I could barely get off the couch.

For me I feel like week 4-5 was when I started to really feel more like myself and started going on a daily walk.


I’m now 8 weeks postpartum and am feeling pretty good, but I still have some occasional soreness, and have started a really gentle workout plan that I’ll be sharing soon.

Postpartum recovery looks different for everyone, but For those who have a birth with no complications, it will look much different than mine.

What can you expect postpartum to look like?

-Soreness in your perineum area, and some swelling.

Despite what some say, it’s not the worst thing ever.

Just stay down as much as possible, ignore the fact that your rug needs to be vacuumed (better yet, ask someone to do it for you), and be prepared to shuffle.

With a 4th degree tear, I had to painfully scoot my bottom in and out of bed, and even just getting situated on the couch was super hard, but if you don’t tear, this won’t be nearly as much of an issue.

-Difficulty with bowel movements

But if you take Colace or some other type of laxative, it’s not a problem.

You probably won’t have one for a day or two, which is normal, and you should avoid anything that could cause issues, especially dairy. I know, it’s hard…especially with people loading you up on cheesy lasagna.


Keep your diet pretty boring and healthy to help avoid issues.

-Bleeding (go figure).


It will be heavy for a few days, (but shouldn’t soak more than a pad an hour. If it does, contact your midwife/OB), and will lighten up then turn into something more like spotting here and there. Some articles led me to believe that I would be bleeding out heavily for 6 solid weeks, but it’s nothing like that.
Like I said, mine pretty much stopped by three weeks, but I continued to wear a tiny pad for the random spotting that happened here and there.

-Cramping


This is one thing I don’t remember real well about those first few days postpartum. I remember having bad cramps, but they mainly seemed to come on while nursing. Which, with my nursing experience, was awful. Breastfeeding was already so painful, and then throw cramping into the mix and it’s no wonder I was a crying mess.
This only lasted a few days though for me. It wasn’t 6 weeks of cramps, hallelujah…

-Aaaaaaall the emotions


I was a complete wreck for a while. I was tired of being in what seemed like 52 different kinds of pain, and watching other people go on with their normal lives.

Meanwhile I could hardly even scoot up in bed to nurse.

Combine that with sleep deprivation, pumping and bottle feeding every two hours which basically feels like having twins and missing my family who lives almost three hours away, it’s a wonder I haven’t cried my eyeballs out.

-Exhaustion


No matter how long your labor is, it’s crazy hard work. I was so tired, but for me it wasn’t that “so exhausted I couldn’t function” feeling.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to feel super weak, shaky and out of breath just walking to and from the bathroom.


My tired brain couldn’t understand why I felt like that, and then I went, “Duh. You lost a lot of blood yesterday, as well as went through something ridiculously painful, you ding-bat!”
Honestly, this was one of the hardest things for me.

Postpartum Essentials to help you survive the postpartum period

Is the postpartum period hard? Yes. Absolutely. Is it the worst thing ever? No.

In the moment it might feel like the world is ending. I had occasional moments like that, but rest lots, hydrate well, snack often, and nap like your life depends upon it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need, let yourself heal from what your body did for 9 months, and enjoy snuggling your tiny human, because it really does go crazy fast and they’re only tiny for a short while.

What are you most nervous about postpartum?

Posts you may like:

Amiya’s birth story: My experience with a natural birth

Prenatal stretches for back and hip tightness

Fit in 15: Full-Body Burner {Pregnancy Safe}

Core Strength During Pregnancy

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