Preparing for the birth of a new baby is always an exciting time, but it's hard to understate the stress and anxiety that comes with it too.
A new addition to the family marks a massive upheaval and involves big changes to daily life, relationships and self-concept, on top of a major physical recovery for the birthing parent.
It doesn't help either that a lot of the advice for new parents can suggest that becoming a mum or dad is an adventure you just have to strap in for.
But while that might be the case for parenthood itself, postpartum recovery is something you can prepare for.
Many peer-reviewed studies suggest that having a solid plan not just for the birth but for the weeks that follow can be a proactive intervention that provides structure and support, and lessens maternal stress and the risk of postpartum depression.
So we've got your back! Our postpartum recovery checklist will give you the tools to feel fresh, prepared and ready for this vulnerable, transitional time.
What do I need to prepare for postpartum care?
No two parents are the same and your needs during those first few weeks after a baby is born are going to come down to many different factors, from whether you had a vaginal birth or a caesarean, to your home environment, to what services and resources you have easy access to.
That said, there are many postpartum recovery essentials that you can prepare that are going to ease pain and discomfort, and make your experience easier. In particular:
- Having supportive clothing and accessories on hand is a must. From elastic-waisted pants and leggings to mesh underwear, nursing bras and nursing pads.
- Sanitary products to help with postpartum bleeding including postpartum pads or maxi pads. If you usually use tampons or a menstrual cup for your periods, make sure you wait until your six-week postnatal check-up and talk to your doctor before going back to them.
- Hygiene aids such as a peri bottle or a squirt bottle and sitz bath salts.
- Pain relief aids such as paracetamol, stool softener, ice packs, nipple cream, lidocaine spray, perineal spray or witch hazel pads.
- Healthy snacks such as trail mix, fresh fruit, plant-based dips and crackers.
Your postpartum essentials aren't just about preparing your body though.
Getting your housekeeping in order before you give birth is crucial to creating a safe environment for you to bring your baby home to, as well as your own physical and emotional healing.
The last thing you want is to be balancing your own recovery and a new baby while trying to reorganise your bathroom.
- Prepare your house by making sure you have a space to bring your baby back to, and tidy or rearrange to ensure you have easy access to the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.
- Stock up on toilet paper, paper plates for when dishes prove an insurmountable task, nappies and your postpartum supplies.
- Organise to have a range of frozen, pre-cooked meals for when you and your partner aren't able to cook.
- Make sure your car is ready to get you to the hospital. Check that your registration's up to date, that you have a full tank of petrol, oil, and air in the tyres.
- Identify your route to the hospital.
- Install your car seat to bring your baby home.
- If you have other children, organise babysitters who are prepared to be on standby.
- Make sure both you and your partner keep your phones fully charged and topped up with credit if prepaid.
What should I do before going to the hospital?
After preparing your house and your transport, you need to make sure you have a hospital bag ready to go.
This means that when the time comes, you can move quickly and get to the hospital with no added stress. In this, you will need:
- Your Medicare card
- Your birth plan
- At least a couple of changes of clothes
- Maternity pads or maxi pads (these can be purchased at the supermarket)
- Disposable underwear
- Your toiletries including toothbrush, soap, hair ties, etc.
- A large bottle of water (it's important to stay well hydrated).
- Nappies for the baby
- Baby clothes
- And a baby blanket
What should you wear directly after delivery?
Whether you gave birth vaginally or via caesarean, your comfort is a top priority.
Maternity pyjamas or loose-fitting loungewear is always a good way to go, and matching that with a nursing bra with breast pads and disposable undies with a maternity pad to catch post-birth bleeding is ideal.
Regardless of the season, packing a cosy cardigan or robe and some bed socks are a must too.
What should I do in the first week postpartum?
The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne recommends three key steps for the week after your baby is born: Rest, ice and compression.
- Rest by lying flat for 30 minutes twice each day. This will help to reduce swelling and take extra weight off your lower pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. As a result, this should help to minimise discomfort around your vagina.
- Ice is essential to reducing perineal pain and swelling and helping your perineum heal. Using an ice pack (or one of Kin's Soothing Padsicles!) for 20 minutes every two to three hours is the best way to manage this particular postpartum pain.
- Compression is best achieved through firm, supportive underwear such as Kin's Mesh Panties. These will help support your perineum and lower abdominal muscles, keep giant pads and soothing padsicles in place and assist with postpartum recovery.
In those first few days, you should also talk to your lactation consultant about breastfeeding, try skin-to-skin contact with your baby, utilise ice packs to reduce swelling, and get as much rest as you can.
How long does it take to recover after giving birth?
While postpartum recovery is generally considered to be up to six weeks after giving birth, many studies suggest that those first three months after delivery are the fourth trimester.
Understanding and listening to the needs of your body during that time is pivotal to postpartum recovery and wellbeing, and allows for a more realistic grace period to encompass all birthing parents.
New parents aren't a monolith after all, and so understanding that your body, your environment and your circumstances contribute to your transition to parenthood, and your physical and emotional recovery is essential.
Be generous with yourself, and ask for help if you need it.
What does postpartum care include?
Postpartum care has a broad scope that encompasses everything from rest, diet and exercise to your postpartum period, breastfeeding experience, milk production and time nursing, personal hygiene, body recovery and emotional healing.
While we've talked about some of this already, the next two sections are going to take you through our postpartum checklist and our postpartum recovery essentials.
Postpartum essentials checklist
Those first weeks postpartum are always hard on the body for a new mum, from exhaustion to sore nipples to perineal pain, your body and your mind need the time, space and support to heal.
Having these items on hand gives you a postpartum kit that's ready for use in the weeks and months postpartum, ensuring you have the best resources to care for you and your baby.
Kin's Postpartum Recovery Kit is designed to have some of the core items you need to begin your postpartum recovery.
- The Peri Bottle is ergonomically designed to delicately clean your vagina and perineum without painful pressure. You can even mix it with the healing foam and warm water to create an effective healing cleanser for the perineum or caesarean incision.
- The Mesh Underwear has been created specifically for postpartum mums. You'll get a pack of eight breathable, stretchy, comfortable panties that are perfect for slipping in a disposable pad or a soothing padsicle.
- The Soothing Padsicles provide instant cooling relief for your perineal pain, while also catching your postpartum bleeding. Just crack it like a glowstick and slip it into your mesh underwear for instant relief.
- The Healing Foam is built on a witch hazel base making it ideal for postpartum care. It reduces swelling, fights bad bacteria, and is ideal for topical application to pregnancy haemorrhoids, stitches (including caesarean stitches) and perineal tearing. You can use it on its own or with a peri bottle for a range of effects.
Other helpful items for the postpartum period include:
- Painkillers and stool softeners for when your body needs a helping hand.
- Ice packs are great to have in addition to soothing padsicles as they can help with painful nipples or swollen breasts before or after breastfeeding, as well as ease perineal pain.
- Kin's Sitz Salts are also a must for any tender and sensitive skin during postpartum recovery as they can soothe stretched skin, haemorrhoids or a torn perineum. You can use them in the bathtub or a custom-sized Sitz Tub that sits on the rim of the toilet.
- Spare disposable pads for postpartum bleeding.
- Nursing bras are crucial to breastfeeding your baby, and breast pads can further stop any leakage from marking your clothes.
- Similarly for breastfeeding, nipple shields and nipple cream will help prevent and treat cracked nipples.
- Kin’s Postpartum Vitamins are incredibly important for addressing postpartum depletion and supporting the daily energy needs of a new mum. Giving birth strips your nutrient stores, leaving you without essential nutrients during an incredibly physically and emotionally demanding time. The Postnatal Vitamins helps support your nutritional needs, assists with immune function and helps you feel supported and alert.
Postpartum recovery checklist
Your recovery is about more than just your postpartum kit.
Meal planning, organising your house, and transport management is going to be the key prep points for those first few weeks, but the fourth trimester involves more than just logistical preparation.
- Rest where you can, as much as you can.
- Try to eat well and think about your nutrition. Freezing meals in advance will assist with this, but especially as your body recovers and as you breastfeed, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial to your healing.
- Attend all your postnatal visits and don't hesitate to ask questions of your doctor or midwife when you have them.
- Care for your perineum and don't rush recovery. From taking a sitz bath to using peri bottles to making sure you get in and out of bed on your side as the Mater Hospital recommends, there are a lot of ways to give your perineum and lower abdomen the support it needs.
- Doing gentle exercises to rebuild strength. Mater Hospital recommends doing gentle pelvic floor 'pulses' as soon as it's comfortable to do so, and also suggests some postural stretches sitting up in a well-supported chair.
- Listen to your body and to your mind. Up to 80 per cent of women experience the baby blues around three days postpartum. This is normal, and caused by hormone changes, tiredness and pain. Rest, talk to your partner or a friend, postpartum doula, or call one of the numbers listed below.
- Be aware of the emotional and physical danger signs: If you have postpartum depression, increased vaginal bleeding, clotting, fast or difficult breathing, fever, severe headaches with blurred vision, or calf pain, redness or swelling, and if you experience any, please talk to your doctor immediately.
Numbers to call:
- ACT: Parentline ACT 02 6287 3833
- NSW: Parentline NSW 1300 130 052 and Karitane Careline 1300 227 464
- NT: FACES Family Support Line NT 1800 999 900 and Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 686 268
- QLD: Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline 1800 882 436
- SA: Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline 1800 882 436
- TAS: Parentline Tasmania 1300 808 178
- VIC: Maternal and Child Health Line 13 22 29 and Parentline 132 289
- WA: Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline 1800 882 436