Right. So you’ve had your baby. Now what? Breathe, mama. We’re going to take you through the postpartum essentials. Read on.
Postpartum essentials: because nobody tells you these things.
You’ve got a name picked out, the nursery set up, and the car seat installed.
But have you thought about what you might need for your own recovery after birth?
Settle in — we’re going to talk about postpartum essentials that aren’t very glamorous (hi there, big stretchy underwear!) but will definitely help you settle into life as a new mom.
What should I wear immediately after delivery?
What should I avoid after giving birth?
When am I going to feel some semblance of normal again?
Okay, mama. Breathe.
Yes, this is intense. Yes, other mamas feel this way. No, we don’t talk about this nearly enough.
So let’s get down to the basics.
Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a friend or relative who’s about to have a baby, you can’t go wrong with our list of postpartum must-haves.
In this article: 📝
- What do you give a postpartum mom?
- What do you put in a postpartum care package?
- What’s postpartum recovery like?
- What do I need for postpartum care?
- Postpartum must-haves for breastfeeding mamas
- When should I buy postpartum essentials?
What do you give a postpartum mom?
As you’re putting together your box of postpartum essentials for yourself or for a friend, ask yourself a few questions:
- Will this make her feel cared for?
- Is this going to make her life easier?
- Will this make her smile?
We have some great ideas, but it’s always good to make your care package personal and tailored to the mama-to-be’s favorite things.
What do you put in a postpartum care package?
The best postpartum care packages combine practicality with pampering.
Postpartum essentials include basics like nipple cream and Epsom salts (keep reading for our full list).
But it’s also nice to give the new mama some luxury touches like a rich body butter or a box of herbal tea.
Postpartum must-haves for your care package aren’t only found at the store.
To let the new mama know you’re here for whatever she needs, including a few homemade “coupons” for things like a home-cooked meal, a load of laundry, or help with the vacuuming.
What’s postpartum recovery like?
Here’s some of what you may experience in the postpartum period, so you know you’re not alone.
1. You may be depressed
It’s really common to feel sad and isolated after giving birth—yet we still don’t seem to want to talk about it that much.
The majority of new mamas experience some version of the “baby blues”.
(Yes, it’s a euphemism. Yes, it sounds too cutesy for what it is. Yes, we should do something about that name.)
This requires support and attention.
You don’t have to just get through it.
Then there’s the more serious condition called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be really debilitating and requires treatment. Symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, and emptiness that do not go away.
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness that don’t go away.
- Sleep trouble.
- You just don’t love things you used to love, from passion to the sight or smell or sound of something beautiful.
- Serious fatigue.
- Suicidal thoughts.
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Talk to whoever you feel like you can talk to—a friend, a partner, a counselor, a doctor.
Even just saying it out loud can help you take steps toward recovery.
2. You may have perineal pain
You may feel pain in your perineum (between your vagina and your butt) if you gave birth vaginally.
Sometimes there are tears there.
Sometimes your doctor does an episiotomy (incision in this area) to help the process along.
And when you have a pain in the ass, you’re allowed to be a pain in the ass.
Cold packs do wonders here. (Not frozen, just cold.)
3. You may have itches in your stitches
If you had a c-section, you may experience some itching when those stitches start healing.
Also, let’s backtrack for a moment.
Pre-itch, you’ll likely be in pain.
We often underestimate just what a procedure a c-section is.
Totally normal for you to be feeling out of it for a while.
One thing that might help is a postpartum support band, like this one by Lola&Lykke, to support your muscles (they’ve been through a lot) and help relieve back pain.
4. You may have vaginal discharge
This is likely the mucus membrane that once formed the lining of your uterus.
But if you notice a smell that worries you and/or have any flu-like symptoms, check in with your doctor.
This could be an infection.
5. You may be bleeding
Some bleeding is normal over the first three-ish days.
Stock up with pads (not tampons—keep things out of there for a while).
If after a few days, you have a lot of blood, it’s still really bright in color or you notice very large blood clots, get in touch with your healthcare provider.
It may be a sign of hemorrhaging.
Other signs include chills and fever, blurred vision, nausea, and dizziness.
6. You may need to give your vagina a little extra TLC
Peri bottle. Sitz bath.
These exist to help out with the soreness and swelling you may be feeling postpartum.
- A peri (as in perineum) bottle is a little bottle that helps you clean and soothe your vagina after birth. Using it is as easy as squirting warm(ish) water in the right direction when you need to.
- A sitz bath is a little bath with a very specific purpose: to clean your perineum. The warm water can promote healing and help with pain, itching, and irritation. Check in with your healthcare provider about what you can add to your sitz bath. There is a range of options that can be very soothing—from ant-bacterial meds to baking soda.
7. You may have postpartum cramps
Yes, you may have postpartum cramps, whether you gave birth vaginally or have a c-section.
Your body is busy getting your uterus back to its retro pre-pregnancy style.
Abdomens may get hurt in the process.
8. Your breasts may be tender and sore
Especially as you figure out this whole breastfeeding thing.
Get a comfortable nursing bra, stock up on nipple cream—and if you’re having any difficulty getting a good latch, get in touch with your doctor.
They might put you in touch with a lactation specialist.
There are also a few breastfeeding essentials kits, like the popular one by Lola&Lykke that take the pressure off of getting everything you need if you’re planning on breastfeeding.
9. You may be constipated
A gentle stool loosener can go a long way if that’s the case.
10. You may have hemorrhoids
We know. Nobody tells you this.
If you get a case of hemorrhoids, pads soaked in witch hazel are pretty soothing.
There are also various creams and sprays available—just check in with your healthcare provider first.
11. You may pee all over the place
Fine, fine, fine.
Pelvic floor exercises are pretty awesome in helping you here.
12. You may be at the mercy of your moods
Crying in commercials, laughing at, well, nothing at all, and violently cursing the weather forecast?
Your moods may take you everywhere.
There is postpartum mood support in pill form if that helps —but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements at this stage.
13. You may be sleep-deprived
Remember the era when you used to sleep for extended periods of time at roughly the same hour every night? Ha. Ha. Ha.
So yes. Sleep is a challenge.
Nap when your baby naps—guilt-free.
Napping IS productive.
14. You may find getting into a routine tricky
Having a baby is a serious shakeup.
Everything may feel out of sync, upside down, messy, and confusing.
It’s a great lesson in letting the small stuff go.
Listen up: you will find a new routine—but for now, if you can, breathe into the chaos.
15. You may be parched
Keep liquids close.
Especially if you’re breastfeeding.
And your body has been through the most intense of experiences.
16. You may not feel like eating a nutritious diet
Βut keep trying to eat well if you can.
And keep taking your vitamins.
It’s a tougher journey on an empty tank.
17. You may not feel like moving
Βut it’s helpful (if your healthcare provider agrees) to walk very gently, stretch, point, and flex.
Nothing too strenuous, though.
Rest is key.
18. You may fall in love with your granny panties
Maybe. Either way, wear pure cotton or hospital numbers for the first while.
Good for comfort and staving off infection.
19. You may not want to have sex
You’re in recovery mode so this is totally normal.
Your doctor will likely advise you against penetration for the first few weeks anyway.
20. You may gain some weight
This is common, and nothing to worry about.
21. You may have night sweats
This is the hormones again.
Light sheets and a cold compress can go a long way.
22. You may need to avoid exercise and heavy lifting for a while
You’ll probably get the all-clear for this at about the 6-week mark, but ask your healthcare provider for sure.
23. You have a whole entire human to look after
So there’s that.
And this massive responsibility is coupled with navigating your own healing.
It’s an awful lot.
24. You may need to reach out for support
This is one of those postpartum essentials that feels like it’s said so often it’s become cliche.
But even with its popularity as a piece of postpartum advice, it’s still so hard to do.
Lean on family and friends.
Chat to your healthcare provider.
You absolutely are allowed to have the support you need.
25. You may need to be patient with yourself.
It takes time to get used to this new life, mama.
Even if you’ve already had a child, each postpartum period is different.
Be easy on yourself, you’ve been through a lot!
What do I need for postpartum care?
Each mama’s postpartum experience is different.
Reading about what you may experience physically and emotionally after your little one arrives will help you choose the right care products.
Some or all of these items will help ease you through the recovery period of postpartum life.
Let’s dive in.
26. Postpartum pads
Extra soft and extra long, postpartum pads soak up the uterine discharge known as lochia — think an extra heavy period — after you give birth.
Doctors recommend avoiding inserting anything into the vagina in the early postpartum period, so you won’t be able to use tampons or menstrual cups during this time.
Here are some of our Peanut mamas’ favorite postpartum pads from Amazon.
27. Disposable underwear
Yep, you’ll need big stretchy underwear to hold those big postpartum pads.
(We know, so stylish!)
You might be sent home from the hospital with disposable mesh underwear, but having some at home too is a good idea.
The Always Discreet postpartum underwear is a top pick for our postpartum Peanut moms.
28. Peri rinse bottle
After a vaginal birth, your perineum can feel stretched and tender, and if you’ve had stitches, it’s important to keep them clean.
This handy squirt bottle, like the popular Cynpel one, lets you spray water over your perineum when you pee to ease any stinging sensation.
29. Witch hazel pads
Hemorrhoids, stitches, and general stress on your most tender parts are some of the realities of giving birth.
Even if you’ve had a c-section, your nether regions will still need some extra care.
Witch hazel pads sit on top of your postpartum pads to create a soothing extra layer.
These Frida Mom ones are a favorite.
30. Perineal spray
A soothing antibacterial spray — DermaRite is a popular brand — keeps things clean and numbs any itching or burning pain you’re likely to feel around your perineum after the birth of your baby.
31. Sitz bath
This shallow bath lets you clean your perineum and provides relief for the swelling and stinging sensation that often follows birth.
Fill the shallow basin with lukewarm water, place it over the toilet seat, and soak your perineum to relieve pain.
32. Epsom salts
Adding Epsom salts, like this lavender-scented one by Pink Stork to your sitz bath will relieve pain around your rectum and perineum.
They’re also perfect for soaking away muscle tension in a warm bath at the end of a long day.
33. Stool softener
Having your first trip to the bathroom after giving birth can be intense.
Your rectum, perineum, and vagina are still swollen and sore.
And if you had a c-section, you might experience constipation from the surgery and from any pain relievers you might be taking.
Taking a stool softener, like Colace, after giving birth makes this first trip to the bathroom a lot less daunting.
34. Pain relief tablets or capsules
While your body recovers from birth, you might feel pain in your back, hips, uterus, abs, and other parts of your body.
Pain relief tablets — like Advil and Tylenol — can ease the postpartum journey.
While these are generally safe, it’s best to speak with your doctor before taking them.
Postpartum must-haves for breastfeeding mamas
If you plan to breastfeed your newborn, you’ll need a few supplies!
These postpartum essentials will make learning to breastfeed easier and more comfortable for you and your baby.
35. Nursing bra
If you plan to breastfeed your baby, nursing bras are definitely postpartum essentials for moms.
These specially designed bras provide gentle support while making it easier to feed your little one.
Having a stock of about five to seven bras will ensure you’ll always have a clean one.
36. Nursing pads
Even if you choose not to breastfeed, your breasts might leak milk.
Sticking absorbent nursing pads in your bra will protect your clothes from getting soggy.
37. Nipple shields or shells
Some mamas have flat or inverted nipples, which can make breastfeeding difficult.
If this is the case for you, nipple shields can make breastfeeding easier by drawing the nipple out through the shield’s soft plastic tip.
You can always ask a lactation consultant or your baby’s pediatrician if you’re unsure whether nipple shields are right for you.
Nipple shells, on the other hand, are used between feedings.
These create a comfortable barrier between sore nipples and the fabric of your nursing bra or tank.
Your sore nipples will thank you for this postpartum essential!
38. Nipple cream
Cracked and sore nipples are a reality of early breastfeeding days.
Stocking up on nipple cream, like this top-rated Medela one before you begin breastfeeding can prevent nipple discomfort.
39. Nursing pillow
Nursing pillows bring your baby closer so you put less stress on your back, neck, shoulders and arms while breastfeeding.
My Brest Friend is a popular one.
40. Hot/cold breast packs
Especially in the early days of breastfeeding, your breasts can become engorged — i.e. swollen and painful — as they try to figure out how much milk to make for your baby.
Heat and cold packs work to naturally relieve some of the pain.
Gel packs can be heated in a small bowl of boiling water or cooled by placing them in the fridge.
When should I buy postpartum essentials?
It’s worth being prepared for baby’s arrival and the aftermath.
So we recommend getting your postpartum necessities anywhere from 34 to 38 weeks of your pregnancy ‒ just in case!
There you have it — our list of favorite postpartum essentials!
Preparing some postpartum essentials will ease your mind and make the first few weeks of life with a newborn a whole lot easier.
Don’t worry if you forget something on this list.
Every new mama’s postpartum period is different and these items are sold in most supermarkets and drugstores.
Good luck mama, you’ve got this!