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Five Postpartum Essentials…For Mom

May18

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHello Amalah!

About a year and a half ago you gave me some great advice about what should be on my pre-baby bucket list. I stayed up late, slept in, enjoyed a lot of quality time with the husband, and am now about 6 weeks away from becoming a mom for the first time. (Yay! Eek!)

In my frenzy of nesting and preparing, I’ve loved your guidance on what should be in my hospital bag(s) and what should be on my baby registry, but there’s one area where I’m totally clueless – is there anything I should have on hand for me in those first few weeks postpartum? I know it will be a magical time, but it also sounds like it will be emotional, painful, and sticky (I’m feeling a little traumatized about The Grossness). What should be in my new-mama arsenal that will help me feel comfortable and prepared, or at least avoid crying hysterically at 2 a.m. because I don’t have the right nursing bra/nipple cream/feminine hygiene product?

Thank you!
Mama-to-Be

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that one person’s Completely Magic Baby Item of Miracles is almost always another person’s Most Useless Piece of Crap Ever. I think the same is true of anything you can buy for the early days postpartum. It depends. And there’s a lot of trial-and-error (particularly re: nursing bras and other accessories) and specialized circumstances that crop up that you just can’t always prepare for. C-section? Vaginal birth but with a tear or episiotomy? Hemorrhoids? Antibiotics upping your risk of thrush? (Probiotic capsules!) Oversupply? (Cabbage leaves!) Undersupply? (A hospital pump and Mother’s Milk Tea/More Milk Plus/Fenugreek/etc.!)

Two bits of general-ish comforting advice, though:

1) ROB YOUR HOSPITAL ROOM BLIND. And by “rob” I mean “help yourself to everything that is not nailed down, because it is legitimately yours to take anyway.” A lot of this stuff will be for the baby, but even more of it is for you. Feminine pads (in multiple sizes!), bed pads, mesh underwear, hemorrhoid gel, nipple cream samples and that gloriously big plastic grown-up sippy cup from your nightstand. Take it ALL. If you don’t need it or love it, fine. It was free anyway. (Well, kind of. Thanks, insurance!)

2) YOU CAN AND WILL LEAVE THE HOUSE. No matter how well prepared for baby you think you are, you’ll likely make at least one or two trips to a store in those first few days. So if you realize that your nursing bras don’t fit or you don’t like your nursing pillow or craving some specific food or it’s time to downgrade from the industrial-sized maxipads, you can go buy all of those things and more. (And don’t let anyone give you crap about taking your baby out of the house to TARGET, OMG, or wherever.) Personally, we’ve always piggy-backed shopping trips or errands onto the well-baby or lactation visits.

Now, having gone through the postpartum…thing…two times now, there are a few things I have used and depended on both times and have stocked up on again. Please note that your mileage will very likely vary:

1) Nipple stuff. I always start off with basic ol’ lanolin, then get the first person I see in a white coat to write me a prescription for some All Purpose Nipple Ointment. It’s a pain because yes, you need a prescription for it and you need to get it filled at a compounding pharmacy, but it is the BOMB. The BEST STUFF. It will clear up any problem you encounter, from scabs to fungal infections. I didn’t get a prescription for it the first time until I was running into real, torn-up nipple trouble from bad latches, so the second time I asked for a script almost right out of the gate from our pediatrician. (Good thing, too, because Ezra was tongue tied.) As far as nursing pads and inserts, I’m a huge fan of the Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads for when things get a little rough and uncomfortable during the nipple-toughening-up process. Once that stage is over, I’m opting for cloth nursing pads this time.

2) Sleep bras and nursing tanks. You’ll want to avoid buying underwire or super-structured nursing bras, at first, but you still want to keep things supported and contained, and you DEFINITELY want easy, easy access. During my first pregnancy, I was told to not bother with any nursing bras at all until afterwards — just go with some sports bras until you know what size you’ll need! Pfft. I dunno what kind of sports bras other people wear, but mine were NOT designed for easy access, and they were incredibly uncomfortable to get on and off and around my tender boobs. I quickly switched to soft, stretchy “sleep bras” (available at maternity stores) and nursing tanks and…ahhhh. Sooooo much better. And available in straightforward Small/Medium/Large/etc. sizes, so it’s easier to guess at what size you’ll need before you need it.

(And yes, there are lots of nursing pajamas and stuff, which are very nice and make EXCELLENT GIFTS, BY THE WAY, but…they are very expensive, honestly, and not all of them actually have supportive tops so you’ll want the bra or tank on anyway. And with The Grossness and The Night Sweats and The Leakage, you might end up changing your jammies or lounge clothes more than you’d expect…so I tend to go with a lot of cheap stretchy stuff from Target rather than investing in one $60 pair of specialty nursing pajamas.)

3) Pillows. So many pillows. Yes, yes, a nursing pillow is great, though you’ll never reach a consensus on which one (Boppy, Breast Friend, Balboa, etc.) is the best, and you might never actually make up your own mind either. (It TOTALLY DEPENDS on your baby’s size and your own anatomy and nursing position.) But other pillows are so very handy. Something to support your back or arms/elbows while you master nursing sitting up in bed or on the couch. Something to hold against your c-section incision if you cough or sneeze or laugh. One of those airplane neck pillows for when you’re nursing in the middle of the night sitting up before your baby is big enough to master the side-lying-down nursing position. Pillows, man. Pillows.

4) Water. I already mentioned the Hospital Cup, right? The big 30-ounce grown-up sippy cup thing? Doesn’t hurt to get yourself something similar if you aren’t sure your hospital will provide you with something like that, because staying hydrated is SUPER IMPORTANT while your milk supply amps up, and it’s hard to do if you’re dependent on someone else to keep refilling your average-sized water glass. Get something big and convenient and keep it by your side at all times.

5) A Partner On Timer Duty. So apparently you can buy fancy baby timer gadgets that alert you to just about everything on your average newborn’s schedule, from feedings to diaper changes. And I think they also work as a log, too? I don’t know. I don’t own one. I’ve always tasked my husband and his cell phone to keep track of 1) when I was supposed to take my pain medication and 2) when the baby needed fed. It’s easier with smartphones now — I’m sure my husband will find some app for this job, this time around, but the important thing? Is to OUTSOURCE this job, one way or another, spouse or fancy gadget or egg timer. You’ll have enough to think about, and there’s nothing worse than waking YOURSELF up from the rare block of sleep because you’re worried you’re missing a feeding or pumping session or whatever.

Beyond this Very Practical Stuff, I’d also say to up your Netflix subscription and have a lot of funny movies or TV shows on hand. Snacks. Lots and lots of good, easy-to-eat-with-one-hand snacks. Recognize that it’s okay to cry or be stunningly disgustingly happy or both, at the same time. And that yes, YES, you can actually go to the store and buy ANYTHING IN THE WORLD you forgot or didn’t realize you’d need. And if not right then, at 2 am at the 24-hour Target or grocery store, then in just a few short hours, and you will survive those hours and it will be okay.

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If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amazon Mom

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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51 Responses to “Five Postpartum Essentials…For Mom”

  1. Katie May 18 at 5:40 pm Reply Reply

    Medela makes a great, great, great sleep nursing bra. I lived in it during the early days, combined with super stretchy v-neck pajamas. That, or nursing tanks, if I couldn’t pull down the neckline of my top. Always super thin are great for pads–but if you have an episiotomy, you will appreciate the extra padding of old school kotex. Also, in case of total and massive boob failure–it is not poison to have a can of formula and a couple of bottles. Just sayin.

  2. Alissa May 18 at 7:00 pm Reply Reply

    Also handy if you’re nursing is some kind of do-hickey so you can remember which side you nursed on last.  They make boob bracelets or something.  Or use your own bracelet.  Or have your outsourced person write it down.  Or, as I did, just twist the hook closure of your bra so it’s hooked on backwards.  It’s not uncomfortable, and you can look down at your bra, wonder why the hell that one side is twisted, and then remember “Oh!  Yeah!  That side goes first.”
    And, also, beer.  I recommend beer.  :-)  Or, you know, wine.  But wine makes me hella sleepy, and that’s really the last thing you need at that point.
    Good luck!  You will kick ass, I am sure.

  3. IrishCream May 18 at 7:19 pm Reply Reply

    When at home sans company, I lived in cotton T’s with v-necks deep enough to easily expose a boob. In public or when my milk first came in and I had giant achy boobs: nursing tanks. Cheap ones from Target. I still wear them almost every day, because they are so awesome for discreetly nursing in public (and pumping at work without feeling weird and drafty, topless in a conference room). Pull your top layer up over your boob, and pull the flap of the tank down under it. Voila! Minimal exposure of either your breast or your postpartum stomach. YMMV, and my stomach was a bit on the squishy side even pre-pregnancy, but I’d rather flash my whole boob than have anyone get a look at the flab.

  4. Leigh May 18 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    My two week old second child is sleeping in the carrier as I type.
    I love the Majamas sleep bra and Target nursing tanks for at night or any time you feel dressed in pajama pants.

    Make sure to grab the ice pack pads from the hospital. Best combination ever. I went to overnight pads next, then regular.

    Earth Mama Angel Baby Mama Bottom Balm is the the bottom equivalent of APNO for hemorrhoids and stitches so buy some if you know you will be there, or source it out so you can get some quickly. Kandoo sensitive wipes are also wonderful with the hemorroids.

    My mum was making up a big jug of lemon water in my fridge so I could keep track of how much I was drinking. It was less boring than just drinking water. Beer was best, but you can’t drink that all day.

    Trixie Tracker is my favourite baby tracking app/web thing. Free trial too as I recall.

  5. Erin May 18 at 8:11 pm Reply Reply

    I’ll second the Soothies pads! Those things were a godsend when my daughter’s shallow latching was creating lovely little lines of blisters all across my nipples. Ow.

    What to Expect has a free iPhone app that you can used to track feedings, diapers, etc. There’s also one called Baby Feeding Log that I personally used — there are tons that are really complicated (BabyGeek) but the WTE one and Baby Feeding Log are free and super simple.

    My stupid hospital didn’t give me the Big Awesome Cup of Awesomeness. I got a stupid pitcher thing that I didn’t even take because it was so cheap and spilled every time I poured out of it. I bought one of those Camelbak bottles and carry it with me everywhere because it doesn’t leak in the diaper bag.

  6. Rachael May 18 at 8:25 pm Reply Reply

    Chuxx from the hospital!!! OMG! I *WISH* I had stolen those buggars. I leaked SOME kind of fluid pretty much every night (industrial pads or no)… towels did not cut it with my breast milk oversupply either, let me tell you. I wound up needing to wash the sheets WAY more often than I wanted to (which was basically not at all, hello I just had a baby!)
    Also, nursing tanks. From Target or Motherhood. Those were what I went with til The Girls were ready for some professional holstering (ie Nordstrom Bra Lady).

  7. Kari May 18 at 8:25 pm Reply Reply

    I have an almost five month old, so I was just there. Two things that I would like to mention that were very helpful for us:

    There are apps for nursing (as well as other baby related things) and that was very helpful for me to know how long he’d been going and which side was last, etc. 

    Ron Swanson. Seriously, I watched every episode of Parks and Rec while on maternity leave and I cannot recommend it enough. (I also watched Downton Abbey for the delicious dramatics. Get some good TV, is what I am saying.)

    Also, call in all those favors. If you like going out, do it, but it was January and I was COLD and I didn’t want to bundle the baby up. So I actually took my friends up on their offers to run errands for me instead of saying, “No, we’re fine!” 

  8. Christine May 18 at 8:38 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with a lot of what was already said above.  I had 4 big packs of overnight Always with wings ready to go, I knew hubby wouldn’t want to go and pick them up for me.  Lanolin, soothies and the sleep bras are all musts.  
    When my milk came in it was pretty hard for my daughter to latch on, I couldn’t get the pump to work, and OMG it hurt!  My mom ran out to Target and picked up a nipple shield (http://www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/products/breastfeeding-devices#nipple-shields), which allowed my daughter to latch on to nurse and made it much less painful to nurse her.  I have a lot of friends and relatives that didn’t feed through this period and just gave up breast feeding completely.  I think my mom saved me from giving up by buying these for me.

  9. Jen W. May 18 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    The app you’re looking for is called baby geek. We used it for our twins, kept track of nursing times, which side, syncs between iPhones for mom and dad to share data, also keeps stuff like growth data (and calculates the percentiles too) so you don’t have to remember where you put that darn slip of paper the ped gave you with Jr.’s weight, what shots he got, etc. Heck, you can even keep track of wet/poopy diapers, if you want to micromanage to that level. We use cloth, so we just figured that if the wet bag was full, we did our job feeding the babies. Baby Geek also lets you export and email your data, so you can keep records. My kids had a terrible time gaining weight so they had a weekly weight check. I have them all stored in my app, and just updated it with their 18-month stats this week. Those adorable classic paper baby books? Untouched. But I can tell you which kid last nursed on which side. Yup. Baby Geek indeed. 

  10. Wiley May 18 at 9:05 pm Reply Reply

    Definitely not perfect, but trixietracker.com has worked for us. Big plus is works well on my iPhone, my husbands android or from a full computer. Exports to excel well if you want to play with the data more.

    First two weeks are free and then there’s a charge if you want more than diapers (which is the one part we tend not to use well).

  11. Kathy May 18 at 9:34 pm Reply Reply

    This sounds crazy (a lot of new motherhood does, come to think about it) but aloe vera gel with lidocaine – yep, the kind you put on a sunburn – smeared on your lady parts is a godsend if you have to have stitches in the hoo-hah.

    And I agree that chux pads are the bomb – get a package of puppy training pads in the pet aisle and they’re basically the same thing. I was paranoid my water was going to break in bed or in the car and screw cleaning that up. I slept with one under my bed sheet the last 2 weeks of pregnancy and kept one in the car just in case ha ha. (They broke my water for me at the hospital. Go figure.)

  12. Meg May 18 at 9:42 pm Reply Reply

    I second the sleep bra over sports bra statement.  I wore my two Medela sleep bra’s until they started ripping apart.  They’re really comfortable and easy access and provide just enough support so that you don’t feel all bouncy and out of control.  Later on you’ll figure out what tops, bras, etc work well, but for starters just go with easy access.

    I also bought a 6 pack of some cheap-o cotton panties (I think Fruit of the Loom).  Those granny panties came in handy! They’re comfortable as hell and don’t press on your episiotomy and fit your pregnancy sized butt, but they’re also cheap and you can just toss them if they get a bit stained during those first few weeks.  

  13. Kimberly May 18 at 9:49 pm Reply Reply

    Tea diapers! Brew some iced tea, pour into a few newborn sized disposable diapers, and freeze. Very soothing for the lady bits (especially if you tear) – use them like a maxi pad; they fit well in the giant mesh panties. My hospital keeps these on hand for new moms. My poor dad was charged with making the diapers when I got home from the hospital! Next time around, I’ll have a stash in the freezer waiting for me! Good luck!

  14. Samantha May 18 at 10:02 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to say that I used the cloth breast pads, and found them to be wonderful, but they didn’t work at first. The first few months I would leak so strongly that they’d quickly soak through. So I used the disposable stick-on kind with the plastic backing. But once things settled down I was able to start using the cloth ones and used them for ages. 

  15. Julia May 18 at 10:25 pm Reply Reply

    Oh hell yes on the APNO. Also, food you can eat with one hand. Think high protein. Almonds, string cheese (ew, I know, but you’ll be so hungry you won’t care). The Husband made me a bunch of “fried” (really baked) chicken drumsticks that I could just grab and gnaw on and they were excellent cold. Or maybe they weren’t, see earlier bit about being so hungry you won’t care.

  16. Brooke May 18 at 11:51 pm Reply Reply

    I found stool softener to be absolutely necessary. And a Kindle is great because it can be worked one-handed, much easier than trying to turn pages in an actual book.

  17. Olivia May 19 at 8:17 am Reply Reply

    I wish I had had my Nook when my first was born. One handed reading is the bomb. Also good tv/movies and a foot stool. I second having some stool softener on hand and check with your midwife/doc on dosage safe for breastfeeding. I was not prepared for the constipation I had afterwards. And, you don’t need to buy puppy pads. Chux pads are sold in stores by the adult diapers.

  18. Brittany May 19 at 8:22 am Reply Reply

    Yes don’t forget that trouble pooping is included in The Grossness… milk of magnesia was a necessity for me!

  19. Brianna May 19 at 9:34 am Reply Reply

    I have a 6 month old, so I was there just a little bit ago! For the keeping track stuff…if you have an iphone the app “total baby” was my lifesaver! Kept track of which boob you fed with last, you hit start and stop when you’re feeding to track how long they feed for, and you can also keep track of the diaper changes and sleep times if you want! Pretty cool and I believe it was under 5 bucks. Beat my chicken scratch on that pad I could never find. 
    Oh, and some cheesy books on Stanza so I could read in the middle of the night while the baby was eating. I either have too small boobs or just no coordination to do the lying down feeding thing. So to keep from passing out while sitting up on the couch I read.  I got through almost all of the Percy Jackson books that first month or so! : )
    I also used a manual hand pump for those times I was so engorged that Xander couldn’t latch. I didn’t have my big pump set up yet and who really wants to hook that up in the middle of the night anyways….hmmm what else. Oh, I know lots of people say you bleed for like ever…but I have to say my experience was only for about two weeks and that was it. I was on regular pads after two days or so, it wasn’t bad at all. I’m sure everyone’s different.
    Good Luck! You’ll do great : )

  20. Corie May 19 at 10:12 am Reply Reply

    I also highly recommend the Medela sleeping bras. I lived in those things from my first trimester (they helped with the newly pregnant, super sore when unrestrained boobs at night) through the time I quit pumping.

    I know nothing about c-sections, but if you deliver vaginally, I recommend the spray-on lidocaine stuff for your hooha, especially if you tear or have an episiotomy. And don’t forget the bottle they give you to clean that area, too – it’s a lifesaver so you don’t traumatize that tender area with repeated wiping (you spray yourself off, then just dab dry with toilet paper). (Just remember that hot water and cold water really aren’t comfy – if you can get it warm, that’s best.)

    I think someone else recommended overnight pads – I much preferred them to the hospital pads, which seemed to chafe my legs because they were so wide. And the cheap undies are a great idea, too.

    The nurses in my hospital recommended using ice pads for only the first day to help bring down the swelling. They recommended using witch hazel pads (think Tucks pads for hemorrhoids) on top of my maxi pads for soothing after that point. (Yes, there was a bit of an ick factor there because they kept getting wedged in my nether regions and had to be fished out, but they really felt good and helped soothe things when I’d been overdoing it.)

    If you need help with nursing, talk to the Lactation Consultants. Some of them are kinda pushy, but some are great. Nipple shields can really be helpful if your baby doesn’t have a very strong suck, but you still want to nurse. Lanolin can be a lifesaver if you’re nursing or if you’re pumping (although it tends to coat the insides of the pump flanges, and it can be hard to get off). If you wind up pumping full time instead of nursing (it can be done!! I did it for 7 months full time and started weaning once I had a good freezer supply and my son was well established on solids) I highly recommend getting at least 2 sets of pump parts so you’re not constantly washing them, and a handsfree bra so you don’t have to just sit and hold everything up.

    Ok…I think that’s it on my list. Good luck!

  21. @Adelas May 19 at 11:26 am Reply Reply

    My naughty husband loves those grown up sippy cups so much, the second time I delivered, he took it home the first night, so they gave me a second one the next day. Which we also took home.

    That was a bit shady. However, the reason all this stuff is “free” is that once it’s “open” they can’t give it to anyone else. Like at the restaurant, once they drop a set of silverware on your table, even if you OBVIOUSLY don’t unwrap it from the napkin, they can’t put it on anyone else’s table until they unwrap and wash it.

    My three favorite things from the hospital were:
    1) the first time when I tore really bad, the ice-pack menstrual pads. I still don’t understand how you could have an absorbent ice pack, but I still sigh in relief thinking about how good it felt on my ouchies.

    2) the rinsing bottle for down there. lukewarm water – not hot, not cold – will feel SO GOOD when you REALLY GROSS but are afraid to wipe because you might touch your stitches.

    3) the nipple shield that the lactation consultant gave me. There’s a big discussion about nipple shields somewhere here on alphamom, but in my own experience, it was a great thing, ESPECIALLY when my milk came in, to use TEMPORARILY until the baby(ies) and I got our act together.

    I also suggest buying a head of cabbage ahead of time and leaving it in your fridge, so that if you’re engorged and in pain 3 days after giving birth, you just slap the leaf in the bra and voila, feels better soon. Cabbage will keep for a LONG time, so even if you buy it 2 weeks ahead you should be okay.

    I was also terrified to poop after the time I tore; I just KNEW it was going to hurt terribly. They gave me a stool softener and amazingly enough, my stool was soft (shocking, right?) and didn’t hurt. I was very thankful.

    Also? put your phone charger out in a public area. I nursed both babies (and slept) in the living room during the first days, so that my husband didn’t wake up (during baby 2, he was commuting 2 hrs EACH WAY so it was important that he not lose sleep) and I often found I’d left my phone somewhere out of reach. My life was happier if I took that extra 3 minutes to verify that everything was within reach (phone, pre-opened water bottle that I could open with one hand, fresh towel, camera, bathrobe/extra blanket) so that once I sat down to nurse, I didn’t have to get up until we were done.

  22. Bear May 19 at 11:57 am Reply Reply

    I just also want to say, in the non-physical realm: the 4-6 weeks can be pretty brutal, depending on the kid. We did /not/ have the kind that sleep 18 to 20 hours a day, we did not have a “fourth trimester”, and we did not have a babymoon. We had a lot of being awake all night, is what we had, and I spent a great deal of time marching briskly around the kitchen at two am in my underwear, wearing our son in the Moby wrap, singing Hebrew folk songs to him until he went to sleep – which took hours. He would be quiet and happy, while being worn, if there was motion and singing. Otherwise, disaster. We started referring to him as the demanding little stranger. I learned about microsleeps, and had to quit driving for a few weeks.

    I mention this because we felt like the shittiest parents in the history of parenthood the whole time. Other people kept saying “Oh, isn’t it magic!?” and certainly we adored our little boy like crazy but also, honestly, we were broken from lack of sleep and trying to learn how he worked all the time. So in addition to being bewildered and exhausted, we also felt incredibly guilty about it, and it wasn’t until I asked a friend if he ever just got overwhelmed with the first few months he finally admitted that yeah, it was pretty brutal for them too. No one talks about it, and the worst of the hard part passes, but yeah. 

    So I am just putting this out there. There’s nothing wrong with you if you are not transported by joy in the first monthish, especially if yours is full-bore gangbusters right away like ours was. They chill out a little, and you chill out a little, and everyone starts sleeping a little more pretty soon, and then the fog lifts and it’s brilliant. We now have a gorgeous, healthy happy wonderful sixteen month old, and he is the best thing ever, and I do not regret a minute of hours bouncing endlessly on the damn exercise ball in the dark, singing prayers of blessing on an endless loop for him so he’d be okay. It passes. You survive and then you thrive. But I sure remember how, in the moment, it was really hard and I felt alone, so: you’re normal and everything will be fine. Good luck.

  23. Bear May 19 at 11:58 am Reply Reply

    I just also want to say, in the non-physical realm: the first 4-6 weeks can be pretty brutal, depending on the kid. We did /not/ have the kind that sleep 18 to 20 hours a day, we did not have a “fourth trimester”, and we did not have a babymoon. We had a lot of being awake all night, is what we had, and I spent a great deal of time marching briskly around the kitchen at two am in my underwear, wearing our son in the Moby wrap, singing Hebrew folk songs to him until he went to sleep – which took hours. He would be quiet and happy, while being worn, if there was motion and singing. Otherwise, disaster. We started referring to him as the demanding little stranger. I learned about microsleeps, and had to quit driving for a few weeks.

    I mention this because we felt like the shittiest parents in the history of parenthood the whole time. Other people kept saying “Oh, isn’t it magic!?” and certainly we adored our little boy like crazy but also, honestly, we were broken from lack of sleep and trying to learn how he worked all the time. So in addition to being bewildered and exhausted, we also felt incredibly guilty about it, and it wasn’t until I asked a friend if he ever just got overwhelmed with the first few months he finally admitted that yeah, it was pretty brutal for them too. No one talks about it, and the worst of the hard part passes, but yeah. 

    So I am just putting this out there. There’s nothing wrong with you if you are not transported by joy in the first monthish, especially if yours is full-bore gangbusters right away like ours was. They chill out a little, and you chill out a little, and everyone starts sleeping a little more pretty soon, and then the fog lifts and it’s brilliant. We now have a gorgeous, healthy happy wonderful sixteen month old, and he is the best thing ever, and I do not regret a minute of hours bouncing endlessly on the damn exercise ball in the dark, singing prayers of blessing on an endless loop for him so he’d be okay. It passes. You survive and then you thrive. But I sure remember how, in the moment, it was really hard and I felt alone, so: you’re normal and everything will be fine. Good luck.

  24. April May 19 at 12:24 pm Reply Reply

    For tear/stitches recovery, the 2-3 warm baths I took a day were a godsend. Not only did it make everything physically feel better, but it was 10 minutes of “me” time. I treated it like a mini spa break.
    Target brand witch hazel pads (generic Tucks) lined up down the middle of the maxi pad were great for the first week postpartum. Also I had this motherlove nipple cream whose main ingredient was olive oil. Worked much better than the lanolin (however, the lanolin has been great when my daughter has dry/chapped skin on her face or hands)

  25. Angela May 19 at 12:26 pm Reply Reply

    I just want to re-emphasize, underline, bold, italics, capitalize the WATER thing. I get frustrated reading lists of crazy alternative strategies for upping milk when I’m guessing many people Really just aren’t getting enough water. I had to drink THREE HUNDRED ounces of water a day the first two weeks after delivery in order to be hydrated/have to pee/make milk. I am now 17 weeks pp and back down to 100-130oz, but if I have a busy day and drop below 100oz, my supply disappears. Seriously. Waaattterrrrrr.

  26. Jess May 19 at 12:39 pm Reply Reply

    Epsom salts and witch hazel essential oil!

    I tore when I had my son and was so swollen during the first few weeks postopartum. The combination of the epsom salts and the witch hazel helped more than I can say. Next time I’m definitely having them on hand.

    Epsom Salt
    : three cups of epsom salt disolved in a nice, warm bath; you can get big containers of epsom salt for really cheap at Target.

    Witch Hazel: buy a small bottle of witch hazel essential oil and add a few drops to a peri bottle. Squirt on your “area” after you go to the bathroom. It’s such a huge help for the soreness and swelling. I noticed a diference immediately.

  27. The Momdane May 19 at 1:02 pm Reply Reply

    So that water cup – it should have a straw AND a handle if you can find one. In SoCal Poquito Mas has them. Drink the Mother’s Milk tea in the hospital regardless. The sports bras should be cheap or old so they will stretch off your boob easily. The pads should NOT be the generic Always, they should be the real deal – even for cheap-ass me. When you steal from the hospital room, grab that squirty bottle they use to hose you off prison-style when you go to the bathroom (don’t be scared, it actually works wonders).
    Everything you cook for the next few weeks, make double and put the extra in the freezer. Google lactation cookies and make and freeze a batch – they are delish even if you don’t need the help.
    Try on the Moby wrap and get the hang of it now.
    Don’t let visitors come empty-handed – either they bring lunch or they clean it up. Preferably both.
    And I have to respectfully disagree on having the formula on hand IF you want to bf – it can be too tempting when you are trying to get the hang of it. But if you want to formula feed, but all means, ask for double! Believe me, you are paying for it.
    It is scary and tiring and like nothing you’ve ever done before. But, yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

  28. Amelia May 19 at 1:17 pm Reply Reply

    Before I gave birth to my son, someone told me to have a long-handled basket or tote that I could just grab and take with me everywhere.  This was a great idea because I could keep it filled with snacks, nipple cream, breast pads, a burp cloth, the remote control, cellphone, a book, whatever, and I could take it with me when I moved from the couch to the bed to the nursery.  I was grossly hesitant to move the baby when it was nursing/sleeping in those early days, often neglecting my own hunger or thirst, so having a basket with backup supplies and the book for when the baby fell asleep in my arms was fantastic.

  29. VG May 19 at 1:39 pm Reply Reply

    My mom recommended using witch hazel/water mixture if you get stitched after a vaginal birth. Make sure you steal the squirt bottle thingy. Mix a few ozs of that with warm water. So soothing… I did that for the first two weeks after birth and helped with the healing. Hope everyting goes well :)

  30. Vic May 19 at 1:42 pm Reply Reply

    Tell hubby to get you some witch hazel if you have a vaginal birth. My mom recommended it for me to help with the healing process if you get stitched up.
    Here’s what you do: 1) Steal the squirt bottle they give you at the hospital. 2) fill a 2-3 ozs of witch hazel in it. 3) double that with warm water, not too hot. 4) squirt on your nether regions after going to the bathroom. It was the best idea and so soothing. Hope it all goes well!

  31. KelleyD May 19 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    On the “robbing the hospital room blind” note. Don’t be shy about asking your nurses for more stuff! I learned with baby #2 to ask for the things to take home. Some of the uber-mega pads AND the ice pack pads. They were a MUST HAVE for me. Tucks pads, mesh panties, diapers, baby shampoo, sitz bath etc etc. You ask for it, generally they will happily bring it to you! {within reason of course}

  32. Laura May 19 at 1:55 pm Reply Reply

    I loved the soothies as well!! I used the iPhone app milk maid to keep track of feedings and poops which was very helpful when you’re so tired.

  33. tasterspoon May 19 at 3:03 pm Reply Reply

    Nthing one-handed snacks. Not only were they invaluable during nursing sessions, but you’ll find time is so short sometimes when you’re rushing out the door you won’t even eat unless you can stick a granola bar in your bag to eat in the car.

    Another item I hadn’t thought of but we ended up getting a bunch of? Night lights! For the baby’s room, for your room, for the hallway, so you can go to the bathroom and change into dry PJs without shocking yourself into complete awakeness. I might also suggest a TV tray, but that’s optional.

  34. tasterspoon May 19 at 3:18 pm Reply Reply

    Clothingwise, I’ve gotten a ton of wear out of long sleeved shirts from Old Navy that have buttons down to your navel (all but the bottom four are decorative). I just button two alternating buttons on the bottom for quick access. They’re soft but slim fitting so you look trim and you don’t have to worry about shaving your pits as with the tanks.

  35. rocketspice May 19 at 3:45 pm Reply Reply

    Adult Diapers – sorry, not the sexiest thing in the world, but great if your water breaks at home (cause it just keeps on coming – eww) and great for post partum. Also, Lilypadz…

  36. Cecily T May 19 at 3:58 pm Reply Reply

    Here’s my bestest post-partum secret for ladies who have stitches in their girl parts: A satin pillowcase. It is NO fun to scoot anywhere with stitches down there, and you will NEVER have both hands free to help bear some weight while you get off the couch/chair/bed etc. A satin pillowcase or some other thing with slippery material to put under your bum enables you to slide right off without that painful scooting.

  37. eva May 19 at 4:32 pm Reply Reply

    As far as #1 goes, it doesn’t really apply in Canada since private insurance doesn’t foot the bill for our health care.  I got two pairs of mesh underwear and some huge pads, and around 4 newborn-sized disposable diapers that I could take home.  Oh and a peri bottle which I didn’t use since I had c-sections with both kids.  I am curious about this “grown up sippy cup” – sounds lovely!

  38. Heidi May 19 at 8:30 pm Reply Reply

    I’m surprised that no one ever mentions this, but Motrin…make sure you have Motrin in your medicine cabinet!!!
    My husband and I hardly ever use medicine and so when I woke up the day after getting home from the hospital and realized that my belly and lady bits were much more sore feeling than I expected, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a nurse bringing me Motrin every 8 hours.  I promptly went to my medicine drawer and the bottle of Motrin only contained 3 pills that expired 6 months prior!!
    Other than that, I have LIVED in the Target nursing tanks and stretchy pajama pants and APNO was fantastic when my nipples got mangled during a case of thrush.
    The one thing though that has been invaluable are good friends and the prior knowledge I had from reading various things and witnessing friends go though situations with their babies.
    Lastly, if anyone offers to bring over dinner or help or anything…take them up on it!  I’m a month out from having my first baby and I have had at least one meal a week provided by someone else and it has been spectacular!

  39. Pogita May 19 at 10:14 pm Reply Reply

    Have someone there for you. I could NOT remember to get water, pump parts, pillows, stool, radio on, etc for nursing sessions. I needed someone to bring me those things.My awesome husband did! I also only had two outfits that fit comfortably and my baby threw up all over me all the time. There was a lot of laundry. My husband totally took care of it. I don’t think I could have even operated the dial on the wash machine. You need someone there all the time to take care of you. And if your husband’s work even THINKS of calling him to come back to work since he isn’t really on vacation and they have just laid off a bunch of people – well you get to freak the F out. Anyway – make sure you have someone around to fetch things, do the laundry, cook dinner, etc.

  40. Britt May 20 at 1:18 am Reply Reply

    I see my must-haves have already been mentioned but my top recommendations were:

    Peri Bottle (stolen from hospital) VITAL. My daughter’s almost five and I’m sort of sad I don’t have it any more
    Witch hazel wipes – which I later self-made with dilute witch hazel and paper towels and wore as a pad
    One of those hemorrhoid pillows if you think you’ll have a vaginal birth great for any regular sitting on non-beds (due to swelling/tears, not necessarily hemorrhoids; could keep receipt if you’re not sure you’ll need it)
    Stool softening tablets immediately after childbirth through several successful postpartum trips to the restroom

    Yes yes yes to water. I was craving water for the first time in my life and went through pints and pints a day. Like one before and after each feeding.

    Wow – We’re making it sound like the first couple weeks are pretty gross. The gross and the embarrassment were my two biggest fears about childbirth and postpartum and, honestly, it was like some switch flips temporarily and lets you go through all that stuff without humiliation. Sogginess, yes. Humiliation, no.

  41. hodgepodge May 20 at 7:46 am Reply Reply

    If you have a VBAC, a thousand times “yes” to the peri bottle. What a wonderful little invention.

    A couple of weeks before your due date, take a little trip through the house and check on staple items (paper towels, toilet paper, pet food, that kind of thing) and make sure you stock up. Running to the store for some baby-related thing you didn’t know you’d need is one thing. Running to the store because you’re out of toilet paper three days post-partum is the kind of thing that just might cause you to sob uncontrollably in the car the whole way to the corner store. Just sayin’.

    Best of luck with your delivery!

  42. YaChun May 20 at 9:05 am Reply Reply

    More so than things – the phone number of a lactation consultant and/or LLL leader. And the schedule for the next LLL meeting. I would also recommend going to a LLL meeting before you deliver – I didn’t now this was possible and wish I had done it.

    Also, be sure to wash that big adult sippy cup – I am sure that is how I got thrush – in our exhaustion we just kept filling it up.

    As for nursing PJs, I got button down PJs from Target – still use them over a year out. I also liked cotton nursing pads better than the disposables – they felt nicer against the nipple.

    I also found a chiropractic adjustment useful.

  43. julie w May 20 at 10:00 am Reply Reply

    If you have a vaginal birth, make sure you take home that sitz bath contraption and use it every day for the first week or so! The silly prebirth class lady pooh-poohed it…saying that the spray bottle was sufficient. So I didn’t use it for the first 2 days…but the nurses at the hospital were insistent. THANK YOU LADIES! What a difference a twice daily sitz bath can make.

  44. Meredith May 20 at 2:15 pm Reply Reply

    I have to comment on the All Purpose Nipple Ointment, and to echo that it is insanely amazing. I had a lot of trouble nursing my first (pregnant with my second now). We fought through, and lasted 10.5 months, through torn nipples, scabbing, etc. It was so bad at one point, that I would make everyone who was willing (my mom, my husband, the OB, friends) begrudgingly examine my raw nipple. I don’t know why, but that seemed acceptable at the time. A lactation consultant recommended I get a prescription for “Dr. Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment.” When I called my OB, he thought I was crazy and said he’d never heard of it. He wrote the prescription anyway. Be ware — it may not be covered by your insurance, and you’ll probably have to get it at a homeopathic pharmacy, but it was the best post-partum $70 every spent. Think about it if you’re having trouble nursing and feel like giving up!!

  45. The best thing I ever did was set up a “station” next to the couch where I had my laptop (full of ANTM episodes), water, nipple cream, C-section pain meds, nursing pads, hair clips, camera, BlackBerry, and burp cloths (for the buckets of spit-up). I was glued to the couch for what felt like FOREVER, nursing around the clock, and that little corner of the couch was my whole world.

    The best thing my husband did was prepare little baggies of snacks before he left for work. They were all things I could grab easily and eat with one hand, like pepperoni slices, cheese and crackers, peanut-butter crackers, apple slices, grapes, etc. It was all I got to eat in those early days!

  46. Jessica May 23 at 8:17 pm Reply Reply

    My absolute favorite nursing bras came from… Walmart. They were $10 and were probably more of the “sleep” variety but I had a fall baby (and will have a winter baby this time around) and so I was always covered enough. They were easy to pull down, super comfortable and I MAY still wear them around the house at times. MAY.

    The Target nursing tanks are great too.

    I was one of the people who HATED wearing the hospital gowns. I wanted my own clothes on. Hit up consignment sales – lots will have nursing pajamas and stuff for really cheap. I found a pair recently for $3! THREE DOLLARS! I’d rather be in my own pants and an old shirt and feel okay than in a hospital gown, but again… my preference.

    I second the granny panties. Cheap and you can throw them out. I bought two sets (so like 12 total) because I didn’t want to do a lot of laundry. Looking back, DAMN they were gigantic. But they were comfy, they stayed up and if I got grossness on them I just threw them away.

  47. Heather May 24 at 1:09 pm Reply Reply

    I got a bunch of cheap sleep bras from Motherhood and they softened up nicely in the wash and have held up for 9 months now.  Definitely keep some nursing pads on hand (I liked the medela kind) so you’re decent for visitors.  I’d also second the comments on having Colace, lanolin and lots of water on hand.

    The nurses at the hospital also showed me an awesome trick.  Take one of your baby’s diapers and pull it apart at the end, making a little opening.  Fill with ice and put it in your mesh panties (don’t be shy asking for extras of these!  and you can wash them out and reuse them a couple of times…much better than staining all of your regular undies).  The ice is great for soothing and reducing swelling, and the diaper absorbs the water as the ice melts, so there’s no mess.  Genius!

  48. bhn May 25 at 11:14 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t have any bright ideas that the previous commenters haven’t already mentioned. I think you’re in good stead.

    I just want to reassure you, in response to the comments about how much your lady bits hurt, and episiotomies/tears, and sitz baths and hemmorhoid pillows, that it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. I delivered my firstborn, almost 9 pounds, over a totally intact perineum. Not a scratch on me. Yeah, it was a bit swollen down there for a couple of days but nothing horrific. The afterpains (uterine contractions) were far more significant.

    If you use physiologic pushing techniques (i.e. not holding your breath and then pushing as hard as you can), take it slow, don’t let them give you pitocin, stay moving, don’t get the epidural until you absolutely cannot stand it anymore, and don’t push flat on your back, you can absolutely give birth without tearing.

    Best of luck, mama!

  49. Kate F May 30 at 6:58 am Reply Reply

    Total Baby is the app I used and it was so awesome. You don’t need to outsource because it’s so simple.

  50. Lauren Oct 27 at 8:27 pm Reply Reply

    While I would say that yes, you certainly CAN go out, if your stitches hurt and your need isn’t urgent, try amazon.com with a prime subscription or diapers.com for free next day or at most, two day shipping. My first week home from the hospital I had packages arriving nearly every day with random stuff I needed. 

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