There are countless articles with everything you need for your new baby, but what about the new mama? What about you and your new body? What about your postpartum?
You can prepare yourself for postpartum and your new baby at the same time. Because honestly, our needs are similar to our babies. And, taking time to prepare yourself for your needs is essential.
Mamas, we can’t be last on the list. You must take care of yourself, too.
To make it easier (because we all know life needs to be) here are the main categories to help you prep yourself and your baby for postpartum life:
Baby will need a new, properly installed infant car seat (most hospitals offer free safety checks) and a mirror on the headrest behind the car seat so you can see him/her from your rear-view mirror. Also, if you live in a sunny climate or it’s summer, you may want to hang sunshades on the windows.
Mama, what’s your mode of transportation during labor and home from the hospital or birth center? Where will you sit in the car or be most comfortable? What will you need; space to spread out or a pillow? On the ride home from the hospital, you may want a pillow behind your back, a donut pillow to sit on (for vaginal birth births) or a pillow to hold against your stomach (for C-section births).
Baby feeding, however you do it—bottle, breast or both—means you’ll need burp cloths, a pillow (like the Boppy pillow) and pads to catch leaking breast milk. If you plan to bottle feed, you’ll need bottles, nipples, maybe a bottle warmer, a bottle brush cleaner, and a drying rack. If you’re pumping or breastfeeding, you’ll want to have nipple cream, soothing nipple gel pads, nursing bras/pumping bras and a nursing/pumping cover.
Mama, caring for a newborn makes meal prep and grocery shopping a challenge. Think about what you need to nourish your body. Two ways to help with food: 1. Streamline anything you can (like grocery delivery services, ask friends to make meals, etc.) 2. Stock up on food that is shelf stable or that can be frozen ahead of time. Don’t forget to think of snacks as well as meals- parenting makes you ravenous! Also, stay hydrated. If you don’t have a big water bottle with a straw, now’s the time to get one. Preferably something that holds 32 ounces of water, so you don’t have to refill it every 30 minutes.
Baby needs diapers, diaper cream, wipes and a diaper genie or trashcan to dispose of their little gifts. Also, it’s helpful to have a designated changing station; like a changing table or a changing pad secured to a dresser. Finally, you’ll want a diaper bag to store their changing supplies when you’re out of the house, and add some toys, an extra outfit, and pacifiers.
Mama, whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, you’ll need your own disposables. This means extra absorbent pads, high waisted undies, (the hospital will you mesh ones) ice packs and Tucks pads. Don’t forget a peri bottle, which helps keep your vaginal area clean and soothed while you’re bleeding post birth.
Baby can be washed in a special sponge for the sink or a tub for the bath. Make sure to have some gentle baby soap on hand, washcloths, and a hooded baby towel.
Mama, warm water can be so soothing on that achy back and those tense shoulders that are exhausted from feeding baby. It also feels amazing on tender breasts and a sore vaginal area. Have your favorite body wash, shampoo, facewash and lotion in the bathroom. Also, consider soaking in Epsom salts or other healing herbs during a bath; it can feel like heaven on your bottom if you gave birth vaginally.
Baby’s needs are basic—onesies and sleepers with zippers are easiest for those early days when spit up and blowouts cause many outfit changes. Hats and socks are also good to have as babies lose a lot of heat from their heads and feet. You’ll also want to have a swaddle and blankets to keep baby warm and help them sleep.
Mama, when it comes to clothes, comfort is queen. Some women like to wear their maternity clothes postpartum because they’re worn-in and handy. Others like to have separate clothes for their postpartum body. It could be sweats or shorts, high-waisted leggings or jeans, maxi dresses, nursing tanks, etc. Dress for you, your body, and your comfort.
Rest & Routines
Baby’s routine is to wake, feed, play, sleep, and repeat. Newborns feed every 2-3 hours and sleep in between feedings, while 3-month-olds feed every 4-5 hours during the day and usually start to sleep for longer stretches at night (potentially up to 8 hours). But every baby is unique.
Find what works for you. Some people don’t like the term “sleep training” or they prefer a more relaxed schedule. After spending months in the pits of sleep deprivation, I was anxious to start a sleep training schedule with my first baby. I wanted a rhythm that I could lean into and focus on. But that’s me. Whatever you prefer, some type of routine will be helpful for you and baby.
Mama, rest can mean sleep, watching a show or reading a book. It may also be taking a hot shower, getting dressed in clean clothes, going for a walk, getting coffee, a meal or a drink with a good friend, checking in with your counselor, or simply being by yourself. Whatever relaxes and refreshes you is what’s best. Finding a new routine for relaxation will help you, as an individual, feel recharged.
Babies have a set schedule of visits with their pediatrician; from the first couple days after birth, to the 1 month, 2 months, 4 month and 6 month visits etc. (Here’s a full schedule if you’re curious.)
Mama, in the United States, we’re still working with that one, meager, 6-week-postpartum visit with our OBGYNs. But that’s not enough care or attention for a woman who’s given birth. Ask your doctor for a referral to a pelvic floor therapist, who can guide you through recovery from a vaginal or C-section birth. If your OB doesn’t have someone they refer to, you can use this tool to find a pelvic floor therapist near you.