Postpartum recovery kit, you say? But aren’t those early days all about baby? Well, sort of. What’s best for baby, though, is a mom whose needs are well catered to—especially as she navigates what can be the most stressful days of her new life.
I was driving to my first postpartum appointment with my three-day-old baby, our first child and one who came into the world slowly and painfully. He hadn’t fed in 48 hours. He was jaundiced, and I was worried.
I know I should have stopped at the yellow light but I accelerated a bit to get through—he was screaming in the back seat. My breasts leaked, my episiotomy stabbed, my heart felt everything was wrong as I couldn’t hold my child in what was his time of need.
Punch it through the light—but not too fast—baby on board. I was probably going 5 MPH BELOW the speed limit. Too scared to drive faster, after all.
I saw the flashing blue lights behind me and a pit rose in my stomach. It was my first time being pulled over in my 32 years. He handed me a $100 ticket with the parting words “Drive safer next time, ma’am, you have a baby on board”.
We’re leaving moms behind
Having a baby is a huge milestone in the lives of many. And while those squishy cheeks and newborn smell are intoxicating, there is a silent crisis surrounding new and seasons moms alike. Once discharged from hospital, it become all about baby. Is baby sleeping? Eating? Happy, healthy and fully taken care of? In the whirlwind of baby-comes-home, a storm begins to build inside the mother.
She’s recovering from childbirth.
She’s back to wearing diapers.
She had an episiotomy and winces in pain when she rises from feeding the baby.
She’s told to sleep in a certain way.
She’d better be breastfeeding, or she’s a failure.
Her breasts are bursting, her nipples are clogged.
Maybe the milk isn’t there at all and she feels she’s failed.
She welcomes visitors who handle the baby, oogle and leave.
Or perhaps she has no time to bond with baby as family rush in to help.
She can’t talk about the darkness with this new light in her life.
She’s told to embrace stretch marks but her body is forever changed.
She’s stretchmark-free, others say, “count yourself lucky”.
It was a traumatic birth.
There’s a prickle of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Let’s not forget about the mothers who experience childbirth while simultaneously suffering loss, or perhaps worrying constantly about their child not within arms reach, battling for their own lives after what was a birth they had differently imagined.
What are we told? Buy these diapers, natural wipes only. Baby-led weaning, this swaddle, that pacifier. Sleep when baby sleeps. Self-care. What should we be hearing? Fill your prescription. Here’s a lactation consultant. What do you need? How can I help?
I’m sick of hearing about the fluff
I’m tired of fairyland birth plans and scented candles, sleeping when baby sleeps, finding the perfect pacifier, WiFi baby monitors and $600 cribs.
I want to hear about the 6 months spent sitting on a donut pillow, uterine prolapse, sitz baths, diastasis recti, mastitis, postpartum depression. You know: The stuff we experience, but we aren’t allowed to talk about.
Every woman’s postpartum recovery timeline is unique, and so is the feeding journey each woman has with her child. I respect and understand this. I was eventually able to breastfeed both of my children, so some of these recommendations are breastfeeding-focused in part due to my own personal experience.
Here is my list of essentials for new moms postpartum recovery kit. Built with purpose, not perfection, and focused on the healing journey experienced after childbirth—physically and emotionally. We need to be putting our own oxygen masks on first, moms. Let’s begin.
Must-Haves for Your Postpartum Kit: Feeding
While this may be classified as a baby item for your postpartum recovery kit, a solid feeding pillow is not only useful but an essential to maintaining proper posture, especially for those late-night feeding frenzies. Boppy didn’t really do it for me. I had much more luck with My Brest Friend, which features extra back support I truly needed.
Lactation Tea during postpartum recovery
I loved Mother’s Milk Tea to help my milk come in the first few days. I know a lot of women don’t struggle for supply, but because with my first feeding got off to a horrendous start, my supply was pretty low. Word of warning, don’t overdo it. This tea can really make your milk come in fast. I drank a couple cups and found myself with clogged ducts pretty quickly so just go easy and see what one cup does. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you’ll make, so I’d recommend prioritizing your feeding style with the help of a lactation consultant before turning to the tea to ensure you’re both getting the hang of it.
Vibrator or lactation massager
Buy a lactation massager or simply use a vibrator to stimulate your milk ducts. This can come in handy when you feel a lump/clogged duct that needs massaging.
More helpful additions to your postpartum recovery kit
Breast therapy pads
If you’re building a postpartum care kit, breast comfort is important. Before I had our first, I was thinking breastfeeding would be this magical unicorn fairyland. I know everyone’s experience is different, but for me it was basically a carefully curated level of hell for the first several days. These pads really saved me a few times when mastitis was looming, helping milk flow more freely and unclog my poor boobs.
Nipple cream can come in handy in early days when your newborn is going hard. It’s also super important to realize the latch may be off if you’re experiencing a lot of pain and swelling, so be sure to get in touch with a lactation consultant if this is the case.
Breastfeeding moms, a solid lactation consultant should be part of your postpartum recovery kit! I enlisted the services of The Milk Meg when I was breastfeeding our first child. She’s actually based in the area of Australia where I used to live with Adam! You can book a consultation online and she’ll walk you through your breastfeeding troubles.
Must-Have Postpartum Items: Recovery
HOW DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT HEMMROIDS AFTER BIRTH?
Ok, so this is where my Boppy came in handy. I used to sit on the Boppy for relief, but any donut pillow would do. I had hemorrhoids after birth and literally couldn’t walk properly for months. It was a godsend, especially when working at home.
The hospital gave me some sort of cooling mist that propelled a brief arctic blast to my nether regions and I wasn’t in to it. Earth Mama was my go-to for a perineal spray – you might love it too, it’s soothing and not as reminiscent of a winter’s day.
Reusable perineal cold packs
I loved these cold packs which are reusable and provided quick, cooling relief after my episiotomy. Definitely add these to your list before embarking on that postpartum healing journey.
The Honeypot Postpartum Pads
Aloe, mint and lavender postpartum pads can help soothe you after birth.
Depends underwear for postpartum bleeding.
I’m sorry, but screw maxi pads for postpartum blood flow. They bunch, they itch, they stick and they’re generally just the worst. If you can, invest in a few packs of Depends. I found them at Costco and used a couple of packs before the bleeding finally subsided. They were comfortable, too. I have been told these work for c-section deliveries, too, and that the location of the elastic doesn’t irritate most scars.
Postpartum Essentials: Mental Health
Refills for your prescribed medication
If you’re currently on medication to manage your depression and anxiety, the most valuable item in your postpartum kit for mental health is going to be a refill for that prescription. There’s so much going on in those early weeks of becoming a new mom, mental health can fall to the wayside. Ensure you’re taking your medication and have your refill ready to go so you don’t have to worry about having it on hand.
Mental health appointments for mothers
When I had our first and second children, I suffered from varying degrees of postpartum depression and anxiety. At the time, therapy appointments were only offered in person. These days, as you may know, virtual visits are a big thing. Make an appointment with a therapist at least 4 months before giving birth. This gives you the opportunity to build a rapport with your provider, change to another if you don’t vibe well, and get some postpartum appointments scheduled. The time to schedule mental health appointments is before baby is born.
Postpartum Recovery Kit: Stop scrolling
Prepare to be bombarded with Instagram ads detailing how to lose baby weight. You’ll see the smiles of seemingly well-adjusted new moms sinking into their aesthetic nurseries to effortlessly breastfeed their sleeping baby while the white noise hums and their toddler makes their own snacks. TURN IT OFF. If you need to scroll for a bit during a late-night feed, try listening to a podcast or reaching out to friends via text message. Texting friends is esepcially helpful if you have friends in a different time zone – they’re awake, and you’re awake when you should apparently be sleeping!) I might go so far as to find stay off social media (if possible) to give your mental health some preventative care.
Postpartum Recovery Kit: Body
I’m not talking about body improvement, I’m talking about ways to cope with what’s going on in the best way possible. I remember glancing down at my postpartum body for the first time. After birth my bellybutton stretched out and looked like a teddybear face. If I poked my belly button, I swear I could touch my spine. So yeah, we go through stuff and things, but these items made self-care a bit more “fun” with all the changes going on during postpartum recovery.
Breastfeeding made me stinky. Like, yay, I just gave birth and now I smell like a trash can. I loved and used these deodorant wipes often to keep myself feeling less stinky (note the careful use of “less”, as they didn’t eliminate the smell entirely, lol. I used to feel so bad for my daughter when she was nursing and wondering if core memories were being made about how mommy smelled those first couple of months. For me, the temporarily masking the hormonal BO was a mental thing).
Meals and treats
A decent meal is definitely self-care. I lived off chicken pot pies from Maui Pie during the pregnancy and postpartum period. Stock up on goodies to snack on to keep your body feeling as good as it can. Freeze meals if possible. My favorite, SUPER easy go-to lasagna recipe showed up on our plates so often I can’t look at it any longer.
Last but not least… caffeine 😉
I didn’t quit coffee when pregnant or breastfeeding, like for me it wasn’t an option to quit, so I enjoyed it in moderation. Mommee Coffee worked well for me because it’s low acidity and has different caffeine levels (decaf, 1/4 caf, half caf) if you need a little pick-me-up.
Whether you’re a new or seasoned mom, there are endless products out there that are available to make your transition or continuation of motherhood easier. I’d be curious to hear what you found helpful, so send me an e-mail and let us know so I can pass this on to someone who might find the information useful.
Hi, I’m Shawn, a Maui-based photographer and business owner and part of the picture at Love + Water Photography.
As a mom of two young children, I have battled with postpartum depression and spent the earliest days of new parenthood without a village present. I recognize the struggles new moms and parents face, the expectations we pressure ourselves to meet.
My inbox is a safe space, so never hesitate to reach out no mater where you are in your journey. Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from (or photograph) you soon!
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