Six years ago after the birth of our daughter I found the postpartum recovery to be rather ass-kicking. (Talk about the one thing that no one adequately prepares you for when you’re pregnant!) Last year when I gave birth to our son, we resolved to do things differently. Here are some things we incorporated right away after giving birth. I’m happy to report that it made a HUGE difference.
1. Apply Lanolin — for the first few weeks after each time we breastfed, I covered my nipples and areola in lanolin. Even having breastfed previously for two and a half years didn’t prepare me for having sore nipples this time around. People say that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt initially. That may be true for some women, but for me I found breastfeeding to be extremely uncomfortable for the first two weeks or so (at times being excruciating since I had a cracked nipple due to a poor latch one night). After each and every session I put lanolin on my nipples and suddenly one day breastfeeding stopped hurting. My nipples got used to it, my son mastered latching, and ta-da! Breastfeeding success. He put on six pounds in the first six weeks and after three months weighed more than his sister did at one year. Phew!
2. Dry Off With a Hair Dryer — who would imagine a hair dryer to be essential after giving birth?! Well, it is. During the first few weeks when you’re using your peri bottle to rinse your you-know-what after each time you pee, dry your bottom with a hair dryer set on the lowest setting. It’s even more fun if you leave the door open to the bathroom and do a little dance while you’re drying to crack up your five year old and husband. True story. (Don’t judge me.)
3. Use Comfrey Salve — our midwife made this so I don’t know the exact recipe, but a quick Google search turned up a number of diy recipes. I slathered this on my you-know-what after drying off with the hair dryer after peeing. Magical healing herbs moisturizing that area works wonders. (You can also purchase comfrey tea to drink or add to sitz baths.)
4. Get Sunlight/Adequate Vitamin D — after giving birth, get yourself outside. Even if you haven’t showered in days and are wearing pajamas, you’ll feel better with the sun on your face and taking a breath of fresh air.
5. Use Ultra Soft Toilet Paper — when you’re done using your peri bottle, you’ll want to be gentle down there. We forego our usual recycled toilet paper in favor of the softest toilet paper available for a few weeks. (Bonus: your visitors and house guests will love it too.)
6. Take Pain Medications – No, really. I may have given birth without medication (twice), but recovery is not the time to be stoic! Taking ibuprofen afterwards made a freaking huge difference. After labor I was sore, swollen, and cramping (as my stitches healed and uterus shrunk). Taking away even some of that discomfort is essential. It’s so much easier to focus on and enjoy your new baby when you’re not hurting so badly. So talk to your doctor or midwife about what dose they’d recommended and medicate away.
Taking these steps dramatically reduced my postpartum recovery time between my first and second births. Instead of taking around six weeks to feel like myself (as it did with my first baby), this time the recovery took a matter of days. What an incredible difference!
(By the way, I wrote this post last spring and am finally publishing it now, eleven months later. I’m just a tad bit behind with my to-do list. Welcome to life with kids!)
Those of you who have given birth, what else would you recommend? I’d love more tips for the next time. ;)