Today marks four week’s since Halo was born and already I can’t remember what life was life before her! I knew to expect a steep learning curve on becoming a parent. But what I expected less was what my postpartum essentials checklist would look like. As it turns out, babies themselves need very little other than their mamas in the first few weeks. It’s the mamas themselves who need lots of TLC—since their entire existence is now devoted to keeping a tiny human alive!
I’ve spent the last month refining my thoughts on what served me best in these early days with a newborn. My biggest takeaway is what a messy time it is. There’s lots of “fluids management”, as Ivan puts it! Here’s a roundup of things I’ve used on a daily basis for healing, comfort, and cleanup. Many of the items here are specific to a vaginal delivery and breastfeeding, but others are relevant no matter how you birthed or are feeding baby. It’s a great postpartum essentials checklist to use if you’re about to become a mama yourself, or if you know someone who is. (Hello, care package!)
1. Postpartum Belly Band: On my midwife’s orders, I’m wearing a belly band for 40 days after the birth. Not just for aesthetics, it helps internal organs displaced by the growing uterus to reposition themselves. It’s also a comfort thing. After giving birth, I felt floaty and discombobulated; the belly wrap helps me feel contained and held-together. I do two layers. First, I wind a wide gauze bandage around my lower torso. Then, I apply a more structured piece like SKIMS shapewear, which is handy for smoothing beneath clothes as well as compressing. I’ve got a video of me putting my belly band on in this Instagram highlight!
2. Nursing Sleep Bra: I’ll admit, I was totally unprepared for the ups and downs of nursing. Case in point? I had only one nursing bra for sleeping, and I was skeptical about how much I’d even wear it. (Sleep? In a bra? Weird!) Fortunately for me, it was this ribbed cotton Belabumbum nursing sleep bra, and three days postpartum I was loving it so much that I ordered 4 more. As it turns out, wearing a bra to bed while you’re nursing is pretty key. Breasts that are heavy with milk and sensitive from baby’s mouth appreciate a soft, stretchy, supportive bra—even during the night! Plus, if you leak a lot at night like I do, you need something into which you can place your nursing pads. Pro tip? Get multiples of your fave, since they’ll inevitably be covered in milk and spit-up and you’ll want to have clean ones on hand!
3. Upside-down Peribottle: Real talk, people. Your downstairs bits understandably feel pretty raw after giving birth! In the two weeks after labor, the soothing spritz from this Frida Mom Peribottle was very welcome indeed. The little arm on this one reaches all the nooks and crannies! I used it whenever I’d go to the restroom, so it really helped with below-the-belt cleanup at a time when things were too sensitive for toilet paper. (Told you this was real talk!) Now, in these times of COVID-19 toilet paper shortage, even Ivan is riding the peribottle train!
4. Nursing Pads: I randomly added these Lasinoh nursing pads to my baby registry and thank goodness I did! Leaking milk is definitely one of the “fluid management” issues that Ivan refers to. Especially in these early days, when baby is still finding a feeding rhythm and milk supply is still regulating itself, wet spots that seep through my bra to my shirt are a common occurrence. And never mind how it looks, it’s chilly and uncomfortable to be sitting around in damp clothes! I keep these nursing pads in my bra at all times. They’re super absorbent!
5. Organic Nipple Cream: Even for those who get a smooth start, breastfeeding is tough on the body. (And if you have a rocky start, it’s even more challenging!) Nipples are such a sensitive body part to begin with, then add in a nursing baby and you’ll be tender for sure. A nipple cream with clean ingredients is a must—you want one that’s safe for baby’s digestion. A friend in Canada sent me this organic nipple cream by Matter Company and it really soothes immediately. I’ve heard good things about the Lasinoh nipple cream too.
6. Lots and Lots of Towels: The first weekend after Halo was born, we went through our entire supply of towels in the linen closet. There were diaper change accidents (both mine and hers), as well as milk spills, sweaty bedsheets, and lots of sitz baths. So I immediately ordered 12 of these inexpensive white cotton towels to prevent future laundry emergencies! Like I said, it’s a messy time! Get prepared for the cleanup and your life will be that much easier.
7. Lightweight Cardigan or Robe: Days and nights nursing a newborn are long, and you definitely want to be as comfortable as possible. I’ve been wearing this June & January cardigan nonstop. In fact, just like with the nursing bras, I ordered three more shortly after Halo was born because it was such an essential! It’s buttery soft and just the right weight to be warm but breathable. Plus, it’s perfect for nursing because the fabric can easily be pushed aside to allow baby access to her lunch! A $27 apiece, the stock-up price can’t be beat!
8. Essential Oil Deodorant: I was warned that the hormone changes after giving birth would result in changes in my body odor. Yet I was totally shocked by how truly horrible I smell. My normal deodorant is no match for my stink! I played around with a variety of solutions (witch hazel, tea tree oil, etc) but then happened to try a product that was sitting in my bathroom drawer and it’s the only thing that’s worked! The product in question is True Botanicals Muscle Release. Don’t ask me why its effective (maybe the coconut oil base is antimicrobial? maybe it’s the magic blend of herbal oils?), but it’s the only thing that leaves me smelling fresh. Plus it already comes with a handy rollerball applicator!
9. Food Grade Moisturizing Oil: Those postpartum hormone swings can leave skin feeling dry and irritable. A good moisturizer is a necessity! My midwife recommended almond oil or coconut oil—basically anything safe enough to eat—since whatever’s on you will be on (and in) baby. I found this bulk bottle of almond oil on Amazon for a great price, then decanted some of it into smaller pump bottle. We keep it in the bathroom and it’s lovely to slather on after a bath or shower. When you’re ready to start using products on baby, it’s safe and lovely for some infant massage. Everyone deserves self-care, after all!
10. Herbal Sitz Bath: My midwife’s postpartum orders included 3-4 sitz baths per day. I was lucky to get one in during the week after Halo arrived, but that one was a lifesaver! We used Wishgarden Herbs AfterBirth Sitzbath for its wildcrafted ingredients. My mom steeped this healing blend of botanicals like you would a tea, then we’d put a couple cups of it in the tub with a few inches of warm water. Heaven, I tell you!
11. Chux Pads: Oh boy, we’ve gone through two packages of these absorbent bed pads in the last month. I put them beneath me in the early days postpartum to prevent leaking onto the sheets. Halo had a bit of jaundice after she was born, so we’d set her on one while we let her get sunlight through a window. And we use them now when we’re airing her out after diaper changes. Basically, anywhere you have uncontrollable fluids (there’s that word again!) and need more protection than a towel can provide, these do the trick.
12. Baby Washcloths: Same as with the cotton bath towels, we started out owning 10 of these Just Born baby washcloths and bought 20 more immediately after Halo was born. They’re inexpensive, soft, and versatile for all manner of little cleanup jobs. You’ll go through them quickly, so you’ll want lots in your backup supply! Now, we use them for bath time, toss them into the diaper bag for on-the-go care, and keep them handy by the changing table too.
13. There are a few things I didn’t put on this roundup board but that you’ll definitely need to have on your postpartum essentials checklist! Adult diapers are an unglamorous necessity, both for postpartum bleeding and any bladder issues that may arise. Maternity pads (which are longer and thicker than regular pads) also come in handy; soak them in witch hazel, store them in the freezer, and tuck them into your diaper to soothe swollen parts.