You’re nearing the end of your third trimester, and by now, you probably already have everything ready for baby. Yay! Now, it’s time to make sure that Mama has everything she needs for after the birth.
Gathering your postpartum essentials can be a bit overwhelming – especially for first time mamas. But fear not: following a postpartum essentials checklist will help you gather all of the things you know you’ll need and all of the things you didn’t even realize you will need. As always, everything on this list is as natural as possible.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- The postpartum essential any natural mama will need on hand after birth
- Essentials for mamas who give birth vaginally and via C-section
- Essentials that promote physical and emotional healing
Physical Healing Essentials
First and foremost, mama will need a few essentials to promote a natural and peaceful healing of your physical body (don’t forget the baby first aid kit too!). Birth is a marathon, and even the most prepared body will need some TLC and time to recover.
1. Maxi pad options
No matter how you give birth, you’ll experience lochia for about 6 weeks after baby is born. Regardless of what products you used for menstrual bleeding (cup, cotton tampons, etc), you’ll need to use pads during the postpartum time. Don’t fret – just because you need to hold off on using your menstrual cup doesn’t mean you’re forced to use conventional pads. Natural mamas have a few options when it comes to pad options:
- Disposable pads: Unlike conventional pads, these pads are made of organic cotton and plant cellulose. Mamas who use these tend to comment that they are thinner than the conventional pads but just as absorbent.
- Mama Cloth: Made with a charcoal layer, these reusable pads offer comfort and function. Similar to a cloth diaper, these pads can be tossed into a wet bag until it’s time to wash them. Mamas who use these comment that they don’t feel the same irritations that they get from conventional pads.
2. Not-Your-Standard Peri Bottle
There’s a good reason hospitals give out those peri bottles! They are E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A-L postpartum. Using a peri bottle can help gently clean Mama’s sensitive areas while promoting the healing process. Peri bottles are especially comforting for mamas that needed stitches.
Of course, the standard peri bottle will work, but moms are raving about the Fridet MomWasher (the same people that made the Nose Freida for your little one!) because of its ability to control the water pressure and direction with much more ease.
3. Sitz baths
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath designed to help heal the perineum after birth. Why should you add sitz bath to your essentials list? Haley-Elise Stewart, doula and founder of Tranquility by HeHe says:
Sitz baths can also help relieve pains of healing and soreness that can follow the birth of your little one. This is a wonderful time to connect with your body and also indulge in a few minutes of self-care time to simply be with yourself.”
You can use a portable sitz bath (usually sold at medical supply stores) or you can turn your regular bath tub into a sitz bath. Note: It is important to wash your sitz bath (or regular tub) before every use to keep infections at bay during this delicate healing time.
As if a sitz bath couldn’t get any better, take your bath to the next (healing) level by adding herbs. Again, Haley-Elise cannot stress the importance of herbs enough to her clients: “Herbal sitz baths are amazing for postpartum healing. There are so many gentle herbs out there that can aid the body in fighting infection, inflammation, restoring blood flow and promoting faster healing. Always ask your healthcare provider before using any herbs, but a few of my favorite postpartum herbs are lavender, calendula, chamomile, and witch hazel.”
Jennifer Nelson, a nurse of 17 years and midwife of 5 years, also shares her herbal wisdom:
At a bare minimum, I recommend comfrey, sea salt, and uva-ursi. I highly recommend adding yarrow, calendula, lavender flowers, plantain, and marshmallow root. To bypass the time involved in doing the sitz bath, and encourage frequent use of the herbs, I have our clients make a quart of tea from 1/3c of the herbs. They keep this in the bathroom and fill their peribottle up ½ way with tea, and the other half of the way with warm water. This is used each and every trip to the bathroom and gives us EXCELLENT results.”
4. Bottom spray
If you don’t have the time to prepare an herbal sitz bath, you can still benefit from healing herbs with a bottom spray. Whether you purchase a pre-made spray or make your own, look for recipes that include witch hazel and gentle essential oils like lavender, geranium or citrus.
Speaking of witch hazel, witch hazel pads are a must-have addition to your postpartum essentials because the witch hazel soothes the tender perineal area as well as helps to shrink those pesky hemorrhoids.
5. AfterEase herbal tincture
This stuff is worth its weight in gold! Whether you give birth vaginally or via C-section, you’ll be sure to experience after pains– aka the mini contractions of your uterus shrinking back down to the proper size.
Did you know that breastfeeding can also stimulate the uterus to contract? The AfterEase herbal tincture is good to keep on hand to get some relief from those pains. The key is to start right after birth and continue on the tincture for several days postpartum.
6. Water bottle with a straw
This is a standard item on many postpartum checklists for a good reason: hydration is oh so important during this time for mama’s healing as well as milk production. It’s easy to become dehydrated being so busy with a newborn that these bottles will keep you accountable. Look for glass or stainless steel options.
7. Constipation busters!
Constipation can be a very scary word to a new mom, but it can happen as your body is responding to the “trauma” of birth. The key is to stay on top of your bowel mobility right after birth.
I remember the hospital staff wanted to start me on harsh stool softeners and herbs like cascara sagrada. I found they just created lots of gas and discomfort! Instead, try these gentler options:
- Magnesium: Start right away on Natural Calm. Be sure to also include magnesium-rich foods in your diet.
- Dried fruit: Prunes and un-sulphured apricots are just two examples of fruits that keep you regular. Bonus: stick these in your trail mix at your breastfeeding station. I’ve had great success with pears, too.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: You guessed it- keeping hydrated helps your body avoid the constipation zone.
8. Belly Support
Did you know that a new mom’s hormones might not regulate until at least 6 months postpartum? That means certain hormones – like relaxin – are still present in mom’s body even after birth. Because of that, a belly binder or wrap can help encourage the body to return to its postpartum shape. Wraps also support the ab muscles while reducing swelling. Belly wraps also help keep pressure on a C-section incision, which make sneezing or laughing a little less … well… painful.
Some moms find binding their belly very comforting, while others don’t like the feeling. It can be actually detrimental if you have prolapse issues so be sure to talk to your midwife, doctor or physical therapist to see if belly binding is right for you.
9. Ice Packs
Ice packs can be such a relief for new moms. The cooling sensation will ease pain and help reduce inflammation. Many hospitals offer disposable ice packs to moms, but you can also make your own in advance and stock your freezer.
DIY Padsicles: A super soothing item, the padsicle – half pad, half ice pack – can provide cooling and soothing sensations. You’ll have to make these ahead of time, but once your baby is born, you’ll be glad you spent the time making them.
Grace P, a mama who completed the Mama Natural Birth course, realized how important these pads are:
I also wish I had prepared padsicles or cold packs. I only came home with a few from the hospital and I tore pretty severely. I was not prepared for the pain to be constant and as bad as it was.”
The good news is that the healing ingredients in a padsicle can provide lots of comfort for a new mama.
At its simplest, spritz witch hazel and aloe gel onto an organic cotton pad. You can also add essential oils like lavender or frankincense. Dampen the pad, but don’t soak it! Wrap your pads back up and store them in the freezer.
10. Meal prep and food service
Nutritious food plays a big role in mama’s recovery, but heading off to the kitchen to make a meal is the last thing a new mama has time to do! Meal trains are great, but they might end before Mama is ready to be back in the kitchen. During your third trimester, stock up on homemade, nutrient-dense freezer meals. Aim for meals with a balance of protein, fat and good carbs to keep your energy (and milk supply) up! Store meals in this glass set so there is no need to freeze in those aluminum trays.
11. High-waisted granny panties
It may not make a fashion statement, but having high waisted undergarments on hand is ideal. Not only will these be more spacious allowing for the padsicles and ice packs to fit, but the high waist will not cause any irritation on possible incision sites. I LOVE these full coverage panties because they’re made of organic materials, which is important because of the raw state of your lady parts 🙂
A note on postpartum healing: What to do after the first six weeks?
Once your midwife or doctor clears you for intimacy, you may find that sex is painful or even unappealing – that is totally normal! Some moms find that maintaining a routine of arnica and ice or heat and sitz baths help relieve the inflammation and discomfort.
Also, give yourself time. You may feel like your body has been taken over by a nursing baby and postpartum wounds. Your dramatic drop in sex hormones can also affect your libido. Trust that it will balance out in time. Find new ways to connect with your partner until you feel back to your old self.
Emotional healing essentials
As you transition from woman to mother, emotional healing is just as important as physical healing. Below are the necessary items for emotional healing during the postpartum period.
1. Remedies for anxiety and / or depression
Many moms think, “This will be the happiest time of my life – I won’t feel sad or weepy!” Unfortunately, the massive fluctuations in hormones post-birth can make mamas feel a little blue.
Cynthia Mason, a Certified Nurse Midwife, offers her advice when it comes to postpartum moods:
“I usually recommend for most of my birthing mommas Bach Flower (Rescue Remedy) to help decrease anxiety or racing thoughts. Exercise and meditation are also mainstays of postpartum mood regulation.”
Other remedies for anxiety include:
- Placenta encapsulation: Find all you need to know here.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in some seafood and cod liver oil
- Natural sunlight (or a sun lamp)
- Homeopathic remedies: Many people know about Arnica 200 for afterpains / cramps, but homeopathic remedies can be used for many, many postpartum issues including anxiety and weepiness. You can check your symptoms here.
A note on postpartum moods
While the baby blues are normal, there is a big difference between the blues and Postpartum depression. How do you know which one you have?
Cynthia Mason, CNM, weighs in on the topic:
The difference between baby blues and Postpartum Depression (PPD) is that blues are “normal” mood fluctuations that occur up to 2 weeks after delivery as Mamas hormones are coming back to normal range. PPD is a mood change that persists after delivery past 6 week’s postpartum or whose onset occurs after 6 weeks postpartum up to a year postpartum.
Mamas should always seek assistance if they have thoughts of harming themselves, others or their newborn. Mamas should also feel free to seek attention at anytime! Anything that interrupts the ability to get through your day or complete you daily activities deserves attention. Mamas and families should feel free to be proactive in seeking out attention and help.”
2. Get extra helpers
Having a little help can be a huge boost for emotional health! Whether your help comes in the form of a postpartum doula, a grandma, a friend, a sister, or even a housekeeper, having someone to offer assistance during those first few weeks is important. Maybe your sister comes over to tend to your baby while you shower. Or you hire a housekeeper to tidy up your bathrooms and kitchen to allow you to rest more.
3. Sleep when baby sleeps
While you might resist this like the plague, I cannot stress enough the importance of sleeping when baby sleeps. In the first several months postpartum, your body is healing after a marathon event called pregnancy & giving birth. On top of that, your baby will most likely get up several times a night to feed. As a result, you need to get your rest when you can; and the easiest way to do this is to sleep when baby sleeps.
Postpartum nursing essentials
Even those breastfeeding is oh-so-natural, there can be a bit of a learning curve. You can make the journey easier by stocking up on these essentials.
1. Comfortable nursing clothes
You just bought maternity clothes, and now you need another wardrobe line? It doesn’t have to be fancy, but nursing clothes can make the breastfeeding experience much smoother! Think easy access button up shirts, tank tops or bathrobes to make the first days of nursing even easier.
2. Nipple care
Many moms-to-be are told to stock up on the required items of lanolin, organic reusable nurse pads, and warm cold rice packs. However, Sophie P, another Mama Natural birth class grad, takes this list to new heights with her recommendation of NipplEase Silver Cups – silver cups that rely on the healing properties of silver to soothe nipples.
3. Support your milk production
Be sure to drink a lot of liquids. (I know we hear this all the time but it really does makes a difference!) Shoot for at least 12 – 8 oz. glasses a day or drink to thirst. For nutrition, many moms have boosted supply by eating galactagogues like oatmeal, barley, millet and quinoa as well as spices like fennel, ginger and turmeric. Brewer’s yeast, flaxseed, almonds, and sesame seeds can boost your supply.
Try my delicious lactation cookies, which contain many of these pro-milk foods! Of course, Mother’s Milk tea, the herb fenugreek (learn more about fenugreek here), and moringa powder are wonderful for your milk supply, too. Be sure you are eating enough to keep up with the demands of nursing. For exclusive breastfeeding, you’re going to need at least 500 calories more a day.
4. Breastfeeding station
During the first few weeks of baby’s life, you’ll spend a lot of time nursing. Create a cozy station in your home where you can easily reach drinks, snacks, and entertainment. Perhaps set up a nightstand next to your couch and stash it with:
- Blankets and a portable fan (to deal with hormonal hot flashes)
- Pillows or a Boppy
- Burp cloths
- A good view!
- Books, kindle, remote for TV access
- Snacks and water bottles
5. Easy snacks
During marathon nursing session, you wont’ always have a lot of time to prep snacks. Stock your kitchen and pantry with quick, healthy snacks that mama can grab easily: homemade trail mixes that are pre-portioned, sliced veggies and hummus, organic blue corn chips with guacamole, or overnight oatmeal already prepped in the fridge are just a few ideas.
A massive increase in hunger during breastfeeding is normal! When exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you’re burning an extra 500 calories a day!
6. Breast pump
Even if you don’t want to pump immediately, having a pump on hand is not a bad idea. Pumping (even just a bit) may help reduce some engorgement if baby is having a hard time latching onto an engorged breast. You can learn all about pumping here.
Other natural mamas’ most essential postpartum items
I asked the moms on my Facebook page what was their most essential thing to have on hand postpartum. Here are some of their responses:
- A good nursing bra and comfy panties!!!! Once I got those it made life so much better. -Robyn H.
- A snack basket. New moms are starving all the time and having healthy snacks you can grab quickly makes life so much easier. My basket had trail mix, peanut butter crackers, protein bars, pretzels, nutrigrain bars, and some chocolate. -Lauren T.
- Oh, and a giant water tumbler (40oz) with a silicone straw. Can’t mess with a water bottle one-handed. –Andrea P.
- Immediate postpartum: It’s a tie for me between MamaNatural Bum Love Spray and an herbal rinse in perineal bottles […] the herbal rinse was healing, gentle, fast, and easy. The spray not only helped heal me and keep things clean, it’s wonderful aroma helped me feel less icky and kept my spirits lifted. –Chelsea B.
- Padsicles!! I had a friend make me some. I had no idea how much I would need them! -Allie Michele M.
- Chapstick!!! I really needed it when breastfeeding. I didn’t realize how dehydrated you could get. Also nipple balm and a breast pump which I needed when too full and baby was learning to latch on correctly. -Emily L.
- I will continue to sing praises about the FridaBaby brand Fridet: the MomWasher. So much easier to use than regular peri bottles. That would be my number one. –Miranda R.
- A postpartum team! Just like I needed my birth team, I need my people around me several days postpartum so that I could rest without feeling guilty. My mom and husband were so gracious during the first 5 days at home just allowing me to stay in bed or on the couch with baby. This allowed me time to heal physically before I was thrown back in to taking care of the house, and a two year old! This help was the most important thing for me! –Paige B.
- Lactation consultant. –Crystal A.
- I lived in nightgowns with the breastfeeding snaps! –Jamie R.