Everyone tells you about the long sleepless nights, the crying, the endless diapers, but when people are inundating you with the not-so-joyous parts of postpartum life, they usually fail to warn you of what you can expect from YOUR body, and some people only ever hear about how to care for their bodies postpartum from their nurse in the hospital right before they leave with baby!
Trust your familia: preparation can make postpartum a lot easier as you heal, that way you can focus on bonding with baby and getting the hang of taking care of your little one.
So, here's the truth:
Truth #1: Your external vaginal area and labia will hurt.
You know how if you ride a bike for the first time in a long time, your crotch hurts for a few days afterward? It’s kind of like that on steroids. Super sore muscles from stretching and working and sometimes (eeek) tearing.
Even if you have a C-section, your downstairs is still likely to be very swollen, and unfortunately, you don't get a pass on all the fun bleeding afterward either, which totally stinks because you also have a surgical scar to tend to!
Not only was it totally worth it to get your sweet baby earthside; it’s not for long: two weeks tops, unless you’ve had some major medical problems below deck.
I had a second degree tear and felt back to normal after two weeks and felt pretty normal after only one week. It wasn’t as horrific as everyone made me think it was going to be. Honest. And these products really made a HUGE difference in the comfort and speed of healing.
What you may not realize is that from the moment baby comes out, your bathroom routine changes drastically for a few weeks. It even has a fancy name: peri care. Peri is short for perineal, meaning the perineum, or the area that includes your labia and the area between it and your anus (not to be confused with perennial care, which will get you drastically different search results on Google).
Your new best friends will be things that pamper your perineum.
- Use a peri bottle with warm water to rinse after you use the bathroom and only dab with toilet paper or better yet cloth wipes.
- Embrace those mesh panties they hand out at the hospital (ask for extra to take home if you like) and use mammoth sized disposable pads or treat your bottom dollar to super comfy cloth postpartum pads by Pink Lemonade (size 13"). Grab a Lalabye Baby Quick Trip wet/dry bag to hang next to the toilet to store cloth pads/cloth wipes in until wash day. There's a pocket for clean and another for storing the soiled items!
- Ease the sting down below if you were stitched or stretched with Earth Mama Organics Perineal Balm. Stick it in the fridge between use, and apply 2-3 times a day to soothe, cool and relieve so you can be sitting pretty in no time.
- Grab yourself a few boxes of the Earth Mama Organics Sitz Bath sachets. You can use these three ways:
- Give yourself a Sitz Bath, which is basically soaking your nethers in a large bowl of cool, soothing glory.
- Create cool, soothing compresses using the sitz bath sachets to stick right up against your sore lady parts in your underwear between you and your gigantic pad.
- Create your own padsicles to ease the swelling and pain resonating from your lady bits. You can do this by lightly soaking your cloth pads or disposable pads in sitz bath steeped water and freezing them before use. If you run out of the fabulous sitz bath sachets, use alcohol free witch hazel for your padsicles in a pinch until your next order arrives from Fluff & Familia.
- If you had a c-section, get yourself a big ol' tub of CJ's Shea Butter Balm. It provides deep healing moisturizing relief if you gently apply it to your healing c-section surgical wound (we recommend using the unscented version if using it for this purpose). It keeps things moisturized, which prevents itching and flaking later on. It's also great for rubbing onto areas of your body where your skin has stretched and scarred during pregnancy (back of upper arms, breasts, thighs, ankles, feet, calves, belly, back, bottom, etc).
Truth #2: Your breasts will hurt.
Nursing is a beautiful thing. It creates an incredible bond, but it can also make your breasts undergo a great many uncomfortable changes.
You will feel like a blue ribbon dairy cow when your milk comes in. Your breasts will be swollen and hard and painful and leaky. Oh, and ITCHY and veiny. Sometimes you even get fevers when your milk supply comes in (I did- 103.7 fevers. SO fun). If you nurse and baby doesn’t have the miracle perfect latch (very few do) you’ll also have the pleasure of experiencing sore, raw, cracked, bleb-ridden nipples. (I'm sorry that you are now having to Google what a bleb is.)
Just like the perineal pain, this goes away as your milk supply regulates (or dries up if you choose not to nurse). The veins chill out eventually, and you will not have Hulk boobs forever. Plus, we have just the products to help you through this swollen time.
Your new best friends will be products that soothe and comfort you and your breasts and help regulate your milk supply.
- The itching on your breasts and belly (and anywhere else) can be quelled by slathering on lotion like Earth Mama Organics Lotion. Just makes sure you don’t put it on your nipples. You can also use this lotion on your baby! Earth Mama lotion is baby safe skin care, blended with organic herbal ingredients to moisturize and protect sensitive, delicate skin. For babies of all ages - top to bottom, cheeks to cheeks.
- Reusable cloth nursing pads (like those made by Itzy Ritzy or Marley's Monsters) help with the leaking in an inexpensive way, while also not making you feel like you’re wearing your mother’s shoulder pads (circa 1995) in your bra.
- Soothe and protect sore, dry, and cracked skin after nursing or pumping by investing in some excellent nipple cream. I loved both Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter (my fave for daily use; it smells great, too) and CJs Best Boobie Butter (also great for chapped baby cheeks) to help relieve temporarily damaged nipples. These creams are made from food grade ingredients, too, so there is no need to wash off prior to nursing. (Trust me, the less you have to touch your nipples outside of nursing, the better.)
- I recommend applying the CJ's right before you get in the shower because it is very thick, and it will melt slowly while protecting your nipples from the razors (also known as water droplets) coming out of your shower-head.
- We recommend getting at least two containers, if not three. Put one in each place you normally nurse/plan to nurse, and on in your diaper bag or purse for on-the-go relief.
- Support your newly sized breasts in fashion and comfort with nursing/pumping bras. Remember, tight fitting bras and underwire are NOT your friend right now. They can cause clogged ducts, which can lead to mastitis. (If you get a clogged duct, try the Lavie Lactation Massager to work out the clog. It's even waterproof, so you can use it in the shower while running your chest under hot water to help ease the pain.)
[caption id="attachment_2597" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Baby Jive's swaddles are perfect for all kinds of things, including nursing, comforting, and even decorating a nursery.[/caption]
- If nursing in public or in front of others is not your thing, feel safe and covered by using a Smart Bottoms Flannel Nursing Scarf or simply use a light swaddle blanket (like this one from Baby Jives) as you nurse.
- Keep your milk supply up by drinking plenty of water from your favorite water bottle, and if you need extra help, use Mother Love's More Milk Plus. This formula is designed to aid in the development of mammary tissue and support breast milk supply for women who did not increase in breast size during pregnancy, have had previous breast surgeries, or who are adoptive mothers inducing lactation.
- If you are not going to nurse and need to dry up your milk supply, cold cabbage leaves in your bra (sounds weird, but it works) and drinking Earth Mama Organics No More Milk Tea will help.
Truth #3: Your insides will feel sloshy.
Your belly will feel like a big empty squashy thing, kind of like a balloon filled with shaving cream.
This isn’t forever, either. However, when this feels back to normal is different for everybody because it depends on the state of your body before you delivered baby.
With my first, I didn’t feel completely whole and solid again until he was like a year old. When we went skiing at 11 months post-partum, I was terrified to fall because I felt like my insides were going to end up continuing down the hill without me. My very fit friend, however, felt good enough to work out like four months after her second baby was born, and she did 41 hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section. #beastmode
Best thing you can do?
Wait until at least six weeks post-partum before beginning any kind of exercise routine. Once you do, start slow, move how you feel comfortable, and give it time. Walk, swim, hike, do whatever floats your boat and doesn’t cause you pain.