There is often a great deal of excitement and preparation for the labour and birth of a baby, but much less planning goes into the care of the new mother. It is very difficult to predict what sort birth we will have, but whether it was straight forward or otherwise, as a new mum you deserve as much care and support as the baby you are responsible for. This is as important for a mum of three (or more) children, as a first time mum.
As a first time mum I was completely unprepared for the time it would take to feel ‘normal’ again. Even after a text book natural birth (and a 2nd degree tear) I felt physically pretty beaten up. Breastfeeding was a challenge that I never expected – the pain in the first two weeks was toe curling. With both subsequent babies I felt more prepared – the challenges were the same, but experience told me that to look after my baby, I needed to give myself the best possible care and gather people around me who could support me to do this.
Postpartum preparation is as important as packing your hospital bag for labour and birth – and I want to share my tips to help you along the way.
What You Need for ‘Down There’!
There’s no getting away from it, if you have a vaginal delivery you will have a fair amount of bruising, swelling and general discomfort in this region. Keep a jug in the bathroom and fill with warm water, then when you go to pee, pour the water over your sore bits – take my word for it, instant relief.
If you find yourself with stitches, which will need bathing every day, add a couple of drops of lavender and tea tree essential oils to an eggcup full of milk and add to your bath. These essential oils have incredible healing properties, and the milk helps the oils disperse effectively in the bath water. Pat the area dry gently.
Stock up on some large, super absorbent cloth pads suitable for postpartum – I used Minivivi and found them perfect for the job – comfortable, and highly absorbent. To help with healing and swelling I put a teaspoon of YES water based lubricant on my pads and kept them in the freezer until I needed them (take them out 5-10 minutes before you change your pad). The aloe gel in the lubricant is fantastic for soothing and healing bruising and stitches, and the cooling effect of the pad will reduce inflammation – you may want to check with your midwife first. You will need to change your pads at least every four hours initially, either rinse them in cold water before storing the used pads in a nappy bucket or wet bag, or wash them with a cool prewash.
The top half
Breastfeeding is a whole subject in itself, but let’s just say you are hoping to give it a go, at least initially, and see how you get on. Get as much support as you can from your midwife, health visitor, breastfeeding consultant, breastfeeding friends – it can be a bumpy ride and you and your baby deserve as much time and support as you can get. When your milk comes in, 2-4 days after birth, your boobs can get engorged, painful and leak. Combined with the affects of hormones it can make you feel very down – it isn’t always a pleasant experience, and I find its best spent in your pjs on the sofa with lots of rest, tea and a good book/film. This will pass (though always check in with your midwife if it doesn’t).
You will need plenty of breast pads – I like the close parent breast pads – and muslins. If you have a forceful let down (I do) use muslins to capture the milk from the other breast – you can never have too many muslins with a newborn!
Your nipples can get very sore from all that sucking – protect them with nipple balm to prevent any cracking. It takes about two weeks for the skin on your nipples to harden up – once this happens (and your baby has a good latch) breastfeeding generally gets a lot easier.
For night time feeds I love to have my Klean Kanteen filled with chamomile tea, or Weleda Nursing tea. It will stay hot until the morning, will help you get back to sleep, and keep you hydrated. Linked with this is headaches, which can be a problem if you are not getting enough to drink, especially if you are breast feeding, so drink, drink, drink, and try Mia and Dom headache remedy if you are staying off the painkillers.
Never feel that self care is an extravagance – it is a vital part of raising babies and children. Having a baby is the most amazing, life changing experience, and with a bit of planning and preparation for your own health and well-being, it will give you the best chance of enjoying that precious time with your new baby.
Thank you Hannah for sharing your thoughts, experience and recommendations xx