I started writing this shortly after Rio was born, but newborn life took over and here I am months later! With this being my second rodeo, I thought I knew what to expect but the first few weeks of recovery hit me like a truck. With a different pregnancy and labor, the aftermath was a little different too. There was the pain, the hemorrhoids (such a sexy souvenir from birth), swelling and night sweats. The tears from breastfeeding, and the misery of trying to go to the bathroom while also peeing myself from postpartum incontinence. Throw in the typical sleep deprivation and emotions from newborn life… and yet, somehow, 5 months later all of this has faded into a distant memory.
While I’m much more tired with 2 little ones now, I’m less stressed and anxious. I’ve learned to lower expectations, roll with the punches (and spit ups, and blow outs!) and celebrate small victories like getting out the door for a walk. I’ve learned to set expectations with my partner (esp for those late night duties!) and ask for help – the support from our parents has been the biggest gift. I’ve learned that sometimes, ignoring Google and “experts” and nursing my baby to sleep or rocking him asleep for hours is totally okay.
For any mamas in the thick of it right now, I know how hard each day can feel. Remember to give your incredible body some grace and that this is just one season of life. Of course if something does not feel right to you, always trust your gut and talk to your doctor.
Postpartum Recovery & Nursing
Sore or Damaged Nipples
I nursed my first baby for a fairly smooth 15 months … but different baby, different experience! While breastfeeding is now pain free and something that I treasure, the first 2 weeks I was in tears just anticipating the next nursing session and had to bite down on a towel for the pain while latching.
- Proper latch: It’s normal for nipples that had been living a stress-free life to be in shock when a baby starts chowing down on them over 10 times a day. Getting a deep, proper latch is the #1 priority so your nipples can start healing and toughening up until it’s hopefully pain-free. If you’re struggling, try seeing a lactation consultant and/or have your baby checked for tongue or lip tie by a specialist.
- APNO: For open wounds on nipples, the infamous All Purpose Nipple Ointment was a godsend. It contains a bit of steroid and requires a doctor’s prescription, but many mamas will not need something so strong (over the counter nipple balm worked fine for me first time around!). Also, APNO can be hard to obtain in a pinch since it has to be mixed at a compounding pharmacy, so talk to your doc in advance in case you’ll need it after giving birth.
- Silver cups: Many of you raved about silver cups as a natural and effective remedy, and if needs be, using a nipple shield. I haven’t used a shield before and there are mixed opinions, so talk to a lactation consultant if unsure!
- Breast warming / cooling pads: so soothing those first few weeks. Can buy online but a few of you said it’s an easy DIY using the foot of stockings filled with rice or flax seed and tied off in a knot. Microwave for about 30 seconds (not too hot!) and insert in your bra for relief.
Postpartum Diapers & Night Sweats
- Postpartum bleeding: If you don’t want to stack a thick maxi pad that shifts around on top of mesh undies, many mama recommended Always discreet postpartum underwear with built in absorbency. Buy just a small pack first in case bleeding subsides within your first week home.
- Postpartum night sweats: I slept on top of 1-2 large absorbent liners from the hospital (or puppy pee pads) to avoid having to change drenched bed sheets in the middle of the night.
Mastitis & Clogged Milk Ducts
A few weeks in I found myself with a fever, chills, body aches and would’ve feared I had Covid if it weren’t for the lump and throbbing pain in my breast. Sure enough it was the dreaded Mastitis from a clogged milk duct. I managed to kick it, but definitely talk to your doctor if you don’t feel well and antibiotics might be needed.
- Taking a hot shower and massaging the clogged area with an electric toothbrush before nursing
- Massage the affected breast using a warm, moist compress like a towel or the aforementioned microwave warming pads before feeding on that side
- Taking Sunflower lecithin daily to help prevent clogged ducts again.
- Pumping once a day after my morning feeding (when my breasts are most full) to really drain them well, especially if your baby is a lazy nurser.
A new one for me this time around, and an interesting Google search! Apparently, hemorrhoids (aka engorged veins that bust out of your rectal area) are common from pregnancy due to the amount of internal pressure, and from labor due to all the pushing. Some will “rectify” themselves on their own, but boy can they be uncomfortable!
- Tucks medicated pads stored in the fridge and kept inside postpartum undies
- Sitz baths and using my trusty Frida Mom bidet bottle with warm water
- Eating prunes & a high fiber diet starting a few weeks leading up to labor
Postpartum Swelling / Edema
I felt bigger the first week postpartum than my last week of pregnancy! Postpartum swelling is common from the body’s retention of excess fluids from pregnancy as well as residual fluids from IVs.
- Compression socks and leggings kept the blood circulating, and can also help with pregnancy swelling.
- Avoid sitting in one position for too long and elevate your feet with pillows when sleeping or sitting
- Use a foam roller to massage if you have one and avoid high sodium foods
Your C-Section Recovery Tips
I can’t speak to this from personal experience, so tapped into the wonderful community of mamas on IG for C-section recovery tips! These were some of the ones that kept popping up in responses again and again:
- Pillows: for pressing over your incision area when you cough, sneeze or laugh and for support when sitting or standing up. The My Brest Friend nursing pillow was also suggested for keep baby’s weight off the incision while feeding (I’m still using this pillow 5 months in!).
- Compression garments:
- Belly band / binder which most birthing hospitals can provide and you can ask your doc about. I liked this belly binder and sized up to size S/M.
- High rise compression leggings to wear over the scar and keep circulation going
- Scar care: Once it’s safe to do so, massage your scar and use a scar cream (the one by Earth Mama came up often) and silicone scar strips to help with healing.
- High waisted underwear that sits above the incision. Your birthing hospital should provide disposable ones, and for non-disposable underwear, KB postpartum undies (also on Amazon) were a reader fave. I got these and found them to be very comfy yet pretty and didn’t scream “postpartum.”
- Pain meds: if you need them, stay on top of taking your pain killers by setting an alarm.
- Postpartum vaginal bleeding: be aware that this will likely happen, same as with a vaginal delivery.
- Walking: start walking as soon as you can, even if it’s a few laps around your room.
- Baby bassinet beside your bed, one that you don’t have to bend over very far to reach into or get out of bed for. We got this Halo bassinet (see ours in this post) which folds down on one side.