Typical articles on the postpartum period are geared toward a long hospital stay, with nurses and cooks and childcare. But a homebirth or a quick return to home requires even more foresight and preparation. When you are so focused on your new baby (as you should be) or you have a busy household with other children, you might overlook the steps you need to take in order to ensure a healthy recovery. Getting on your feet again is, of course, a primary focus so that you can fully enjoy your new baby with energy and strength. Here are some tips to consider while pregnant to help make your postpartum period more comfortable.
SUPPORT PERSON: Secure your husband or mother or close friend to be with you for at least a few days to a week after the baby is born. This is probably the most important step in having a speedy recovery. Make sure this person will be staying with you. Get someone else to do errands!
CLEANING AND COOKING: Some nutritious meals in the freezer can be a lifesaver. Make sure to have some really simple foods for your older kids on hand and plenty of fruit and juice for yourself. Make sure your homebirth cleanup is as easy as possible, using disposable shower curtains and dark colored towels. You don’t want to be up trying to get stains out of white towels on day 1 of your recovery.
GET PLENTY OF REST AND SLEEP: This advice sounds logical enough, but if you are like me, it is difficult to remember your own needs in the wake of a new baby. You must have people with you who can help with baby, household, your children, and yourself AND you must allow them to do it for awhile. Childbirth is like running a marathon and your body needs to recover, especially is you’ve been up all night in labor. It is during sleep that your body does most of its healing, so get all you can so you will get well faster. If you don’t, as I found out, you will not recover very well until you are getting adequate sleep. And getting enough rest cuts your chances of having postpartum complications.
AFTERPAINS: What I have learned about afterpains is that if you have them with the first, you will usually have them every time and they get worse with each birth. Make sure to have on hand the strongest pain reliever you can safely take. Be sure to check with your doctor and/or a breastfeeding and medications book to see what you can take for the pain. Have a hot water bottle or heating pad on hand too to press against your belly during pains. And keep in mind, they will be the worst while nursing because nursing stimulates the uterus to contract. At other times, lying on your stomach may help.
PERINEUM CARE: Whether you have stitches or just skid marks, your perineum may be sore. Use the squirt bottle of warm water with peroxide every time you go to the bathroom. This really cuts down on infection. Take showers instead of baths for at least several days. Start doing kegels as soon as you can to strengthen the muscles in the area.
ENGORGEMENT: Be prepared for this to take place between 2 and 5 days after baby is born, depending on how frequently and vigorously she nurses. Take a hot shower at the first sign of engorgement. Have a heating pad and cabbage leaves on hand. Express a little milk to relieve pressure.
THE BLUES: Expect to have a little postpartum blues a few days after delivery. Partly hormonal and partly coming down after the big event, it helps to talk about your feelings to someone who understands that you don’t have to have clear, logical reasons for feeling down. You may find that a good cry releases tension. Things may not have gone how you expected. You’re probably exhausted and likely still uncomfortable. Be easy on yourself. Let go of some expectations.
RECORDING THE MEMORY: As soon as you feel up to it, plan to write down the story of your labor and birth. It’s worth the effort when you want to look back on this special day. Take plenty of pictures and video as well.