Congratulations! You’ve given birth! You did it! Your little miracle arrived and you are beaming with pride. But now what? How do you recover? What do you need? Why didn’t anyone tell you any of this stuff was going to happen to your body after giving birth? Don’t worry. We have your back. We asked a new mom from Little Elm as well as our four winners of “Best Doula” from our annual Best: Moms & Babies survey what their top postpartum survival tips and tricks are. And they certainly delivered. (Pun intended.)
Kristin Walton, Early Intervention Specialist and new mom from Little Elm
I feel like postpartum can be touchy to talk about. Especially with social media screaming at us, making moms think they’re not doing things right (because their baby doesn’t have the latest and greatest baby gear or you’re not out running half-marathons five weeks postpartum). Having a baby is a marathon in itself, and everyone comes out on the other side a winner.
To me, these tips are extremely important to keep in mind:
- Everything hurts. You just pushed a human out of your body; nothing is like it used to be. Everything sags or makes noises, and just hurts. It hurts to use the bathroom, hurts to sneeze, it hurts to laugh. But, it will eventually heal and get better.
- Know your limits. After having a baby, your emotions are all over the place, and on top of that, you’re exhausted, sleep deprived and you have a human completely dependent on you. There are nights where you reach your max and the baby won’t stop crying. Know it’s okay to put the baby down and walk away. It’s okay for your baby to cry while you regroup or have someone else take over. And if you feel like there are more emotionally bad days than good, don’t be afraid to talk to your OB about postpartum depression.
- Arrange for some late-night entertainment. Download Netflix and Hulu on your phone—it’ll help keep you awake during those 3am feedings.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Before baby, [my husband and I] thought we wanted to do it ourselves, that we didn’t need our moms to stay with us after coming home from the hospital. Ha! Having their help was amazing (and they loved it too). Bringing a brand new baby home is scary, and it helps to have someone who has been through it before to help. Whether it’s your mom, friend, sibling, etc.—if someone offers to come over and do laundry, cook, bring dinner (definitely say yes to this; ain’t nobody got time or energy to cook!) just say yes!
- It’s okay to not always like your baby. Babies are needy. Sometimes it gets to be too much, and that’s okay! Have someone else hold your baby for a few minutes and go take a shower—you’ll feel like a million bucks.
- Know your personality type. For me, I knew that staying home by myself everyday with Scarlett would eventually drive me crazy. I enjoyed having people over to visit each day, or we would get out and go somewhere. I think that helped me avoid postpartum depression. Sure there were the baby blues, but I knew what helped me personally with my emotions before baby. Do what works best for you.
- It’s okay to cry. Tears will be shed. I remember standing in the middle of the bathroom crying over a Sitz bath because we couldn’t get it to work. Have patience and give yourself a lot of grace. You’re doing a great job.
- It takes a village. It truly does take multiple people to help raise a child. Find yourself a good village; they want to help and they want to love you and your baby. Yes, know your boundaries (it is your baby, after all), but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not less of a mom if you do reach out.
Melissa Espey-Mueller, North Dallas Doula Associates
- Hire a postpartum doula! A postpartum doula is specially trained and credentialed to not only help new parents with breastfeeding, but also help them get more sleep and have more confidence navigating the newborn phase.
- Placenta capsules! Encapsulating your placenta is on trend thanks to celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, but it’s also gaining hype due to the potential benefits of increasing milk supply and helping with postpartum hormones.
- Find a women’s health physical therapist. It is hard on our body to grow a baby and just as hard to recover. A women’s health PT helps identify reasons a new mom may experience pelvic pain, urinary incontinence or painful postpartum intercourse.
- Join a new mom support group. Baylor Dallas has a complimentary Mommy and Me group that meets every Monday from 10–11am. All moms are welcome regardless of where or when you delivered. Studies show that having peer support, or a “village,” helps decrease postpartum depression and increases breastfeeding rates.
- Look for breastfeeding support. Find a board certified lactation consultant or attend La Leche League meetings. Breastfeeding can be tricky, and having plenty of help in the beginning will set mom up for success.
Laura Fortner, North Dallas Doula Associates
- The number one item that I think is often overlooked is a postpartum doula. We plan so much for the birth, but I feel we really fall short in the postpartum period. A doula can help new families have realistic expectations, learn normal newborn cues, navigate feeding challenges and most importantly, get more sleep!
- Jumping off of that: An amazing lactation consultant can help new moms have a successful breastfeeding journey.
- I love the Frida Mom Recovery Kit (especially their instant ice maxi pads and the perineal healing foam). I also recommend having a soft wrap carrier to keep baby close in the first few weeks.
- Find a village! Have a tribe of women surround you on this journey through motherhood. You don’t have to do this alone, and you shouldn’t. Find your people and dive in with all your heart. They will get you through the tough, sleepless nights and share in your joys—there are so many!
Maria Pokluda, Great Expectations Doulas
- Know your risk of perinatal mood disorder. One in five women will experience this, and the risk is increased if you’re a woman of color or anyone who has ever experienced any episodes of depression or anxiety. If your risk is elevated, have a link for the Edinburgh scale handy and a standing appointment with a therapist set after your delivery date.
- Everyone can benefit from an appointment with a lactation consultant. If things are going well, then having someone tell you that and reinforcing the positive is awesome. If things are not going well, you get help. Win, win!
- Have a larger than average water bottle to keep up with the insane amount of water you’ll want/need.
- Buy easy-to-eat snacks and meals that can be eaten while nursing or holding your baby.
- Sitz bath—this is a bath that involves sitting in specially prepared bathwater that goes up to the hips. It promotes wound healing after surgery on the lower half of the body (or, of course, delivery).
- Padsicles. A padsicle is essentially a sanitary napkin or pad that can be chilled in the freezer. You place them in your underwear to relieve pain and promote healing after delivery. They also help with swelling, bruising and any discomfort from hemorrhoids and vaginal stitches.
- A peri bottle. (Peri being short for perineum.) This bottle is made to help cleanse and wash the perineal area.
- Nursing tanks and a reliable nursing bra. Don’t forget MotherLove nipple cream too.
- Consider belly binding—a professional can come to your house a few days after your delivery to provide support and guidance with belly binding, as the postpartum body is still full of relaxin. My agency offers this.
- A stretchy wrap to wear baby nice and snug, I like the Moby wrap; it helps baby sleep and allows you to do things as needed.
- Grab some olive oil. Use this to wipe on baby’s tush after diaper changes those first days while there is still meconium. It makes that sticky stuff wipe right off—this is great to bring to the hospital too, because that’s when the meconium really hits the fan!
- And a solid support team.
Tonya Buffington, Right Hand Doula
- I encourage my moms to have complete bed rest the first week of your new baby’s life. Your body has spent months growing a baby, then hours birthing a baby—it needs time to heal. My clients who do this experience a much better breastfeeding relationship, less exhaustion and less thyroid and adrenaline issues later on. They also are more rested when baby is awake and more alert around the three-week mark.
- Listen to your body, if you feel tired forget the vacuum and laundry. Sleep! Your body will thank you later.
- Ask for help! If you need help call on anyone who has offered.
- A few things my clients love are Happiest Baby books and products. They also love the SNOO bassinet from Happiest Baby.
- Bamboobies nursing pads and clothing.
- If you have questions about breastfeeding, get a lactation consultant. It is worth the peace of mind should you be struggling a little bit, or a lot. For Babies Sake is my favorite for lactation help.
Image courtesy of iStock.