Five Postpartum Essentials…For Mom
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?
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.!)
2 Bits of General-ish Comforting Advice
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 you are craving some specific food or it’s time to downgrade from the industrial-sized maxipads to something less like a twin mattress, 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.
Amalah’s Personal Must-Haves
Now, having gone through the postpartum…thing…twice, there are a few things I have used and depended on both times and have stocked up on again for Baby #3. 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, My BrestFriend, 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.
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]
Published May 18, 2011. Last updated January 23, 2018.