Prepping For Your First Postpartum Day Home with Baby: A Top 15 List
Strollers, baby’s layette, a stocked baby changing station, the infant car seat, breast pump, baby bath, swing. Perhaps you’ve noticed, most lists focus on what baby needs (which is important! Essential, even). They’re easy to check off lists and can be fun to buy as we dream about our baby. But are these the most crucial ways to prepare for those early postpartum days?
You’ve probably even talked to your friends with babies, and they’ve pointed you to some parenthood hacks like having a sound machine in baby’s room, as well as blackout curtains; you’ve got a co-sleeper for your bedroom and you know which are the best swaddle blankets and baby sleep sacks. You have a stack of newborn diapers with the umbilical cord cut-out, and your video baby monitor is already set up and pointing at baby’s crib. You even have an extra car seat base for any additional cars baby will ride in. Are THESE the most useful ways to prepare for your early postpartum days?
These things are great. But they’re things. Just things. Some you’ll use, some you won’t, some you’ll hate, some you’ll love.
But what if there were another way to prep for that first day home with baby? What is it that you really need to know, as the healing mother, that nobody is telling you?
As a doula, or a person professionally trained to support parents through pregnancy, labor and postpartum, my perspective takes on a different flavor. My focus is first and foremost on the mother, the person who has just given birth. One of the hardest pieces about becoming a new mother is that lack of consideration for ourselves, by ourselves and others. We want what’s best for our babies, and so does everyone else. We often begin our journey into motherhood paddling upstream against ourselves, convinced that nothing much has changed and that we just need a day or two of rest and we’ll be fine. Really! We say. We’re fine.
As doulas, we know. We see you. We know that all of the uncertainties from the past 9 months have not magically disappeared and that there are just as many uncertainties in the postpartum period. We know that your bottom hurts, or your incision hurts, or sometimes both. We know your nipples hurt. Your back aches. That going to the bathroom is an ordeal that becomes steeped in little rituals just to get through the most primitive of activities. We know you are tired, even if you say you’re getting some sleep. We know that there are tens of things that happen every day after baby arrives that you wonder if anyone else does or has to do?
We want to give you some pre-baby support to help those first few days go a little smoother for YOU, to be a little more comfortable for YOU, to support YOUR healing.
You are an amazing empowered individual, fully capable of your own healing and fully equipped to care for your baby. We give our clients a lot of autonomy around here and yet we know that the earliest postpartum days require a bit of extra TLC for mom. And there are a number of things you can do now, to prepare yourself for those first days with home baby. Here’s a list of our favorite fifteen ways to prepare for your first day home with baby. (Checklist is available below).
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TOP 15 WAYS TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST POSTPARTUM DAY HOME WITH BABY
1. Portable basket of essentials. You’re going to be spending a lot of time feeding your baby even when other people have gone on with their day. Make sure you have your essentials in one spot so you can grab them and move to another spot in your house. There’s nothing worse than feeling “stranded” in your own house, hungry, thirsty and with chapped lips while your baby sleeps on you! In your basket you may include breast pads, an extra receiving blanket, nipple cream, chapstick, ponytail holder or headband, small unrefrigerated snacks like chocolate almonds or dried fruit, a small water bottle, extra burp cloth and phone charger. Now you can easily move from your living room to your bedroom, or wherever you’ll be doing most of your feeding.
Goldenseal. This tip was gifted to me by my midwives for my 2nd birth. As baby’s umbilical cord starts to detach, it may be smelly and bleed and you’ll start to freak out. After you clean the cord stump area daily, you can sprinkle some goldenseal powder on it to aid in faster healing as it absorbs excess moisture and has antibacterial properties.
A boppy and an inflatable O-ring AND an extra pillow to sit on. If you’ve just had a vaginal birth chances are you’ve had some tearing to some degree, stitching, or both. Even without a tear, the perineum is usually swollen and generally doesn’t feel pleasant to sit on. Take that boppy that you’re not using and sit on it! It will give yourself some “lift” and keep you off of those sensitive perineal tissues. You can also try an inflatable O-ring (or a kid sized pool inflatable ring) to sit on, or this donut pillow. When all else fails, at least sit on a pillow. Keep a few on hand so you can sit down in more than one spot without too much effort being made.
Dinners for the first 14 days already planned and prepped. Postpartum nutrition is so crucial for your healing, and so we want to focus on nutrient-dense food for you. By 5:00pm you are likely to be tired, and not focused on your nutritional needs. Perhaps your partner feels equipped to handle dinners and you find this advice dispensable, but I have yet to meet a family who was regretful at having 14 dinners planned and prepped in advance. You can prepare freezer meals in advance, or even better you can ask a friend to organize a Meal Train with your other trusted friends, relatives and neighbors. There are websites for this purpose which are easy to create, navigate and share, and you’ll never wonder if or when a meal is coming. Can’t bring yourself to ask a friend for this kind of support? Put your partner on the task or set up a Meal Train yourself! It’s ok to ask for support, we are not meant to do this alone. On your first day home, grab one of your prepped meals and throw it in the crockpot for later. Then see who is on day 1 of the Meal Train and let them know that tomorrow would be a great day for them to drop off their meal.
Giant pads with wings. Get them in advance. You’ll need them right away and there never seems to be enough.
Frozen padsicles. You may have heard of these but feel intimidated by the idea. Don’t be! There are lots of “recipes” for these but mine are old-school simple. You’ll want to work in batches and have a Tupperware on hand that you can place the pads in. Unpeel any stickies that are on the top of the pad or wings. One at a time you’ll squirt Witch hazel onto the pad. (You can find Witch hazel at many grocery stores by the skincare and cosmetics and drugstores by the first aid aisle or here on Amazon). Replace the reusable sticker cover and stack the sprayed pads in the Tupperware container. Once you make a batch of 5 or so, stick them in the freezer and cover. You’ll use them Day 1 back at home, to help with inflammation in the perineal area. Replace every time you go to the bathroom. You’ll probably need to make another batch or two as needed.
Peri bottle. This is that long bottle with a sports cap they will give you after your birth. The idea is to use it to spray your bottom while you urinate to dilute the urine, so it doesn’t sting as much. They are a little awkward to use but can offer sweet relief when you are struggling to pee the first few days after birth. I’ve heard good things about the Fridet by Fridababy which has a curved-like shape to it to make spraying your bottom less awkward. No matter what you use, be sure the water is room temperature to warm. Trust me on this one!
Steeped herbs for your peri bottle. There are different healing properties in many herbal remedies, and lots are available for purchase online like this one. You can steep these herbs in boiled water and keep them stored in glass jars in your refrigerator for easy access during those first few days of healing. These can help with reducing perineal swelling, helping to get rid of hemorrhoids, and healing any superficial tears. When you arrive at home, pour the refrigerated steeped herbs into your peri bottle and let them come to room temperature before use.
Epsom salts. Forget about sitz baths, you won’t do it. Well maybe you will but most don’t. Instead, get some Epsom salts that you can soak in an actual bath. Epsom salts help with inflammation and swelling, reduces infection and encourages healing. Bonus tip: have someone hand your baby to you while you bathe; this can be a favorite nursing location for some harder-to-nurse babies. They seem to relax in the tub as you relax, and sometimes “forget” that they were trying so hard to latch. Magic can happen in the relaxed environment of an Epsom salt bath! Make sure you have someone on hand you can safely hand the baby to when it’s time to get out and dry off.
Low light lamp or salt lamp. Once baby is asleep in the evening hours, you’re going to want to help them learn that evening is the time for sleep. One easy way to do this is to keep the lighting dim even during nighttime feedings and diaper changes. I don’t advocate for baby sleep training during the first 3 months and it’s absolutely out of the question during those first few days and weeks. We can encourage healthy sleep patterns. I like the salt lamps like these because they seem to emit the perfect amount of lighting and some are even adjustable. As a bonus, salt lamps also are said to cleanse and purify the air and improve your mood.
A few eBooks downloaded to your phone. Take some time while you still have it and find a couple of books that can occupy your mind while you rest with your baby. Maybe you’ll use this time to read a book on new parenthood, or 4th trimester healing, or some juicy fiction from Liane Moriarty (my current favorite).
Headphones. Maybe you’d rather listen to an audio book, or some music, or a meditation app. If baby’s sleeping, you can still enjoy.
*If planning on breastfeeding* Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Teresa Pitman. This is a great resource to have in-hand, because you’ll refer back and forth to different sections of the book. There’s a short week-by-week section that is really nice to refer to as you need it, without having to plan to far into the future. This can reduce your potential feelings of overwhelm as you learn and navigate feeding with your baby. *It’s really hard to read a breastfeeding book while you have a hungry baby in your arms! Start planning for breastfeeding during pregnancy, including securing your in-person support network.
Babywearing options. Once you work up the courage, you can watch some tutorials and learn how to wear your baby. But you’ll need to have the babywearing device on hand in order to practice using it! Plan ahead. I enjoyed a pouch type sling for my newborns like Hotslings, and soft wraps like the Moby (this one is too cute, I dare you not to fall in love with it!). There are so many available, you’ll have to try a few to see what you and your baby like. As they get older, you may enjoy a soft structured carrier like a Tula.
Sign to "remove shoes and wash hands". Your germs are welcomed, but if you wish to keep others’ germs from mingling with yours you can set up a cute sign on your front door. And if they still don’t get the hint, you can keep some essential oil hand sanitizer on hand before anyone holds your baby. What’s even better? Wear your baby when visitors come, to keep baby close to you (where they really want to be, anyway). Most visitors won't be so bold to ask to hold your baby if they are in a baby carrier.
Consider yourself told! You now have 15 tips you can plan for today to help you prep yourself, your house and your space before you bring baby home. It’s a great list to share with your partner too, so they can begin to wrap their heads around what your healing may involve and how they can help. Maybe they’d like to create the sign for your door, or help pick out a baby sling, or learn how to make padsicles for after you’re home.
16. I couldn't finish this list without the most essential tip, and that's focusing on your breath. When the moments of uncertainty continue, when those moments of chaos arise at 3:00am, when baby is screaming while your partner sleeps and it's your responsibility to calm them, the first and most crucial thing to do is to focus on your breath. Your breath is rooted in the present moment and as I've learned from my husband who doubles as a Psychologist, worry and anxiety cannot exist in the present moment (those reside in the future, mainly). So slow down your thoughts, find your breath, and notice where you feel your breath in your body. That's called "Breath Awareness" in Birthing From Within and it's a tool we teach not only for labor, but also for life. It's a tool you can use in everyday parenting, and I suggest you begin today. Try it now. Focus on your next outward breath, and then do it again. Tell me what you notice?
When we show this consideration for ourselves, we are teaching others that we matter, that our healing matters, and that we respect ourselves as we put ourselves first in order to compassionately care for our bodies, our baby, and our family.
Share this post with your friends and family who need to see this message today. And if you’re looking for 15 more tips, give us a call to talk about our Postpartum Doulas and what we can do to even further empower your postpartum healing.
Love the list? For a printable checklist, shoot me an email and I'll send it your way via PDF file.
My doula best,
Christine Ghali is a Certified Doula and Childbirth Educator with Birthing From Within for the past decade. She's the owner of Mindful Birth Services and Doula Care and sits on the Board of Directors for Birthing From Within International and Heritage School of Midwifery in North Port, FL. She's been guiding parents with the Mindful Birth Doulas since 2018 and would love to guide you in your birth preparation, too. When she's not mentoring her doulas and pregnant parents, you'll find her with her three kids (15, 12 and 5 years old) or working on perfecting her handstand.