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10 Ways to Survive Postpartum {The Fourth Trimester}

We need to talk about the postpartum period more.
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Many new Mom’s prepare for pregnancy and prepare for the birth but often do not prepare for postpartum or know that they should!

With this being my third baby, I’m all about getting ready for the fourth trimester.  A few things I learned after having my other two babies:

1. It’s not just 6 weeks.

For some reason our country has adopted this “You’ll be right back to your normal self in six weeks” attitude.  That’s crazy.  Even if your recovery really is a breeze and your baby is a dream…your life is still nothing like it was pre-pregnancy.  I once attended a birth of a woman that had recently moved to the US from Canada (and had previously had babies in Canada) and as I was reviewing postpartum instructions she stopped me and asked “You keep saying 6 weeks.  Six weeks from when?  Six weeks from when the baby was born?  Are American women expected to return to work and life at 6 weeks!??”  She was appalled.  Obviously many parts of your life have to resume, especially if you have other children, but as far as expecting yourself to be back to 100% it’s important to be forgiving.

From an excellent Cosmo article: “Childbirth is one of nature’s most wondrous but biologically brutal feats. For nine months, a woman’s muscles and bones bear the increasing weight of a baby that isn’t even slightly ergonomically positioned.  Sometimes, pelvic bones crack under the duress.

> “[R]esearchers from the University of Michigan likened childbirth to running a marathon — only before a marathon, you train — after giving 68 women MRIs seven weeks after birth. The MRIs showed that 29 percent of them had evidence of fractures they never even knew they had in their pubic bones, while 41 percent had undiagnosed tears in their pelvic floor muscles, which wrap around the vagina and anus.”

Your body needs some gentle loving care after having a baby and 6 weeks just doesn’t cut it.  Plan on taking it easy and listening to your body as you recover!

2. Organize the Village

Say yes to help.  If anyone offers to take your other children, allow them to.  With my first baby my Mom and husband both took the week after she was born off and helped…and then they both left me!  It was shocking and scary that second week to suddenly be completely alone.  With my second baby I staggered my Mother and my husband so that my mom was here for the first week and my husband stayed home for the second week-it gave him the opportunity to tie things up at work and gave me 2 weeks of help. You can also consider a Postpartum Doula.  Postpartum Doula’s come to care for you, help with housework and care for your older children.  Right now I’m making lists of things my older kids can be doing, activities that they can be a part of and friends they can go play with-that way I’m not searching for these things after.  Anyone that is offering to make meals or help with anything I’m just tucking my pride away and saying YES!  Thank you!  

3.  Prepare for Breastfeeding {or not}

I highly recommend learning everything you can about breastfeeding before you have the baby.  Often we are so focused on getting the baby here that we miss crucial information in many of the pregnancy books and childbirth education classes about breastfeeding.  I was incredibly grateful to have been on WIC with my first baby because their lactation consultants contact YOU and I believe it was because of that extra help I received that I had a successful breastfeeding journey my first and knew what I was doing with my second.  Ask your care provider about what lactation resources will be available to you after you deliver and if additional help is available in the weeks following the birth.

I also recommend investing in a breast pump.  I was so grateful to have a single hand pump initially and if you’re planning on being home full time after the birth of your baby, that’s really all you need.  They are perfect for softening your breast before a feed if you’re engorged and for pumping extra here and there to store for a few hours away from your baby.  When I returned to work full time after my first child I realized I needed a double electric and thankfully now most insurance companies cover one!

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It’s also a good idea to stock up on nursing pads and Bamboobies makes the loveliest reusable nursing pads!  They pretty much carry all of the most amazing breastfeeding goodies your heart could ever desire.  I love these soothing therapy pillows-they can be hot or cold and for sore boobs and nipples they are heavenly!

With both of my girls I’ve also done a few things to boost my milk supply-eating being the most important.  Many mothers get a little obsessive about losing the baby weight and immediately start dieting after their babies are born-it is so important not to restrict calories initially!  I’ve also found that staying well hydrated is extra important while nursing!  I really like this tea from Pink Stork that helps promote milk production and I recommend finding one that you like.  I keep lots of juice and coconut water on hand to mix it up when I get sick of water.

If you are choosing not to breastfeed, study up on milk suppression and stock up on needed supplies.  Cabbage leaves for inside your bra, sage tea and peppermint oil are all great ways to suppress milk production and make for an easier transition.  Knowing ahead of time how to help suppress it will help prevent difficulties like mastitis.

4.  Re-Vamp Your Wardrobe

I’ve known women that have packed pre-pregnancy jeans to the hospital to wear home.  They were sorely disappointed when that didn’t work out so well.  Postpartum is rough because maternity clothes make you look like you’re still pregnant and normal clothes typically don’t fit yet.  And personally I am so sick of my maternity clothes by the time I have my babies that I can’t look at them any more.  I recommend finding some high-waist yoga pants, some “boyfriend” style tees or nursing camisoles and a new pair of pajamas.  I’m also pretty in love with Dwell + Slumbers house dresses-they’re nursing friendly and darling!

Along with your new jammies, you’re going to want new bras as well.  Cake Lingerieamazes me with the sizes and styles that they offer (they go from 30A all the way to a 40K!).  I worked helping women fit nursing bras and it’s often HARD to find sizes.  Their nursing bras are buttery soft, supportive and so pretty!  I recommend getting a few to sleep in and a few to wear during the day.  I get nervous ordering online and everything I have from them was true to size!  Having good nursing bras is a must.

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5.  Stock your Fridge/Freezer

Focus on nutrient dense foods but don’t think about weight-loss right now.  I love this article-it’s all healthy meals you can make and freeze all at once before the baby comes.  I was amazed with my other two how hard it was to cook for myself!  I was always so hungry but struggled to sit down and eat unless someone put food in front of me.  Gathering up favorite take-out menus isn’t a bad idea either.

And be sure to steal that giant hospital cup they give you with the straw.  Anything that will make eating and drinking easier is a good idea!

6. Stock your medicine cabinet

A few medicines that are a good idea to have on hand: Stool Softener, Ibprofen, and Tylenol.  I had miserable after-birth cramps with my second and staggering Ibprofen and Tylenol with a good heating pad really helped me survive.  Stool softeners have never worked well for me, but many women swear by them.  I do my best to stay well hydrated and drink lots of apple juice.  Know that if you’re pain/constipation/other ailments are too much to handle you can always ask your care provider for something stronger and you should always consult with your care provider about any medications you’re taking while breastfeeding.  Also-keep taking your prenatal vitamin!

7.  Take Care of your Undercarriage

Speaking of buying new bras…you’re going to want new undies as well.  These aren’t as fun to shop for because I’m talking about Depends and panties large enough to accommodate large maxi pads.  While you’re at the hospital be sure to fill up your bag with as many mesh panties and pads as they will give you.  If you need more you can always check out a homebirth kit supplier and grab more-the mesh panties are my fave so I stock up after delivery.  

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Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some of my favorite things to take care of your lady bits after delivery.  Their Bottom Balm and Bottom Spray are incredibly soothing and assist with healing after delivery.  They also make a C-Mama Healing Salve for c-section mamas!  I’m very much looking forward to my postpartum herbal bath with my new babe.   I’ve also whipped up a batch of padsicles for after delivery and made a few homemade ice packs using alcohol and water (they stay flexible).  My vagina will be well taken care of after this birth.

After the majority of healing has taken place, but lochia is still flowing I’m really looking forward to using my THINX panties!  If you haven’t read up on our favorite period panties, you need to here.  THINX did not exist when I had my first two children and I am so excited to have them for this one!  No more wearing pads for a month!!  Once I’m past the initial overflow I’m switching to my sexy period panties.

8. Feather your nest

Before I had my first baby my husband insisted I sleep on a waterproof pad for the last few weeks of my pregnancy.  His instincts were good because my water did break while I was laying in our bed and I was very grateful not to saturate our memory foam mattress with amniotic fluid.  After the birth I continued sleeping on a waterproof pad-every part of me was leaking!  Between milk leaks and night sweats I saturated that pad often and was so glad not to be washing all of my sheets as often as I was needing to wash that pad!  

I also recommend stashing care kits around the house with snacks, nipple balm, nursing pads, wipes, etc. anywhere you plan on nursing.  It’s much easier to care for yourself if everything is within arms reach, especially initially.  Six months out you will be making dinner while nursing and doing kegels like a pro, but for those first few months it’s nice to make life easy.  Many moms love donut cushions,  nursing pillows, and other comforts to make life easier.  I love having a wrap to put my babe in so I can do things like dishes while still holding them close.

9. Exercise

Once again, this is not the time to be focused on weight loss.  That is not the season of postpartum.  Postpartum should be about healing because if you focus on healing now, things like weight loss go much better later!  Gentle, easy stretching, pelvic floor setting, yoga and short walks outside are a great way to begin physical activity again and can help with things like baby blues and postpartum depression.  Another thing to consider is Perineal Re-Education.  We’re not good at taking care of our pelvic floor after delivery here, but France is amazing at it!

With my first I dove back into work at 6 weeks, ate whatever I could and did not take care of myself.  I stayed heavy and was often sick and ended my first year postpartum a MESS.  My body had used up every last nutrient it had and my hair and nails were thin, I couldn’t kick infections and I was exhausted all of the time.  I started taking care of myself and eating better and by my second pregnancy I saw lots of improvement.  After my second I allowed myself the space to heal and focused on eating nutrient dense foods and loving my body.  I eased back into exercise gradually and easily was able to lose weight during that first year and stay healthy while doing it.  The fourth trimester is a time of healing, all of the other things really do come later IF you allow yourself to do that.

10. Research Contraception

During late pregnancy is a good time to start talking about contraception with your care provider, with your significant other and for yourself.  There is something about knowing I won’t have another baby for awhile that helps me sleep better at night during those first few postpartum months.  Many women are surprised that this is the main topic of conversation at their 6 week check-up and I find it’s much easier to go in with your mind mostly made up about what you would like to do instead of starting the discussion then. 

What helped you survive postpartum?


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