After two babies, I’ve got a handle on exactly which products are postpartum essentials. These are things you just gotta have BEFORE baby arrives. Hats off to you if you’re organized enough to be reading this then. (I love the idea of planning, but well, mmm, let’s just say, mmm, no more….)
You don’t want to be all shoulda, woulda, coulda about that trickiest opening chapter of your new life, the “postpartum period” (officially the first 6 weeks after delivery). Popping a baby out is one thing, recovering from the ordeal is quite another. (Neither are for sissies.)
There are several rather unpleasant postpartum symptoms you’re likely to experience (sorry, no sugar-coating here). This is why you need to prepare a postpartum care kit – often called a postpartum recovery kit or survival kit. The clue is in all and any of those titles.
All the best postpartum products mentioned in this post, plus some other bits and bobs, also postpartum essentials, will go into this kit.
These are vital to your recovery and postpartum healing.
The postpartum essentials and care kit recommended are geared toward vaginal deliveries of full-term babies and recovery after normal delivery. C-sections will be referred to occasionally, but that’s not the focus of this post.
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Postpartum essentials vs. postpartum “maybes”
Now, I don’t like buying unnecessary cr*p, excuse my language. Both from a waste and a financial point of view. Plus, if you’ve started on the more exciting parts of preparing for baby, like buying cute baby clothes (or collecting just-as-cute hand-me-downs) and organizing them in the nursery dresser or closet, you know just how quickly all the baby stuff accumulates. Into mountains somehow, in a matter of minutes.
Then you have the arduous task of getting rid of all this stuff, for years to come it would seem…
So while some products are definitely postpartum essentials, others are less so.
These postpartum “maybes” you may or may not need depending on which delightful after-effect you’re hit with post-delivery. As long as you know about these things, you can simply add them to your Amazon shopping basket or be sure that your pharmacy has them in stock. Then you’ll know exactly what to get and where to find them if and when you need.
Of course, if you don’t want to take anything to chance, if online delivery is a little sketchy where you live and you’re far from a pharmacy then you may just want to get everything on the list.
Postpartum essentials for all the “down there” messiness & discomfort
Stingy, swollen and sore, like you’ve been rugby tackled in your private parts is probably a bit of an understatement to how it’s going to feel down there. All the pressure of pushing your baby out can also give you hemorrhoids, itchy swollen veins that often bleed. (With particularly stubborn afterbirths both times, I suffered these big time.)
Oh, and there’s all the postpartum bleeding, or “lochia”, to deal with too…
#1 Alcohol-free witch-hazel and maxi sanitary pads to make witch-hazel padsicles
A padsicle is a cross between a pad and a popsicle; you guessed it, it’s a frozen maxi-pad. The witch-hazel adds to the cooling and healing since it’s a natural astringent and cooling agent.
Simply douse some maxi pads in witch-hazel water (not too much, as the pad still needs to absorb blood), wrap in aluminum foil and freeze.
This is the number one postpartum essential for good reason. They are the absolute best for dealing with all that soreness in the vaginal and perineal area. And also for those pesky hemorrhoids. I’d stash your freezer with at least 20 to cover you for the first week or so. Then be prepared to make more if you need.
#2 More maxi sanitary pads for normal use + lighter flow pads for a few weeks down the line
Postpartum bleeding (lochia) normally lasts around 6-8 weeks, starting off very heavy and then easing off after 2-3 weeks (It’ll go from bright red…to pink…to brown…to yellowish-white.)
Of course, every mom is different. I was lucky enough to stop needing pads altogether after 4 weeks but I could well have been the other end of the spectrum at 8.
I’d start with a plentiful supply of maxi pads for the first week or so, knowing you can easily buy more if you need, and a few weeks worth of lighter flow ones.
Some people swear by disposable undies like these, like the ones you can get at the hospital, but for me, they only makes the “maybe” section. Giant, dark-colored granny pants are a definite for the postpartum essentials list. It’s likely it’ll take you several months to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight so these will be very comfortable until then.
I went for some cheap-as-chips black knickers, 2 sizes too big. Now, they actually reach to my belly button they’re that giant! Dark is crucial, since getting light colors to stay light will be a task and a half.
An absolute essential for your postpartum care kit are some regular strength pain killers. There’s going to be all sorts of soreness all over and painkillers are never something that will go to waste anyway, so a plentiful supply is a no-brainer.
(Naproxen (e.g. Aleve, Midol or Flanax) can only be used for short-term use if breastfeeding while aspirin is a big no, since it’ll put your baby at risk of Reye’s syndrome.)
If a normal dose isn’t strong enough you can effectively “double-up”, by taking both in rotation, just as they do in hospital. Ask your doctor how to do this.
Of course, if you’re not breastfeeding, the world is your oyster when it comes to painkillers.
#5 Sitz bath ingredients
What’s a sitz bath, you may ask? It’s just a shallow bath of warm or cold water (depending on what’s most comfortable) that you sitz in to clean, cleanse and ease that soreness down there.
The two main ingredients to aid your postpartum healing are:
- Epsom salts – helps reduce swelling, prevent infection and aids the healing process
- Lavender essential oils – for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (and a wonderful smell!)
For a detailed how-to, check out this post on postpartum sitz baths.
#6 Peri bottle
A peri bottle is basically a fancy squirt bottle, for effective postpartum cleansing (aka giving all your sore bits, particularly around your perineum, a good clean after you’ve been to the toilet). This means you don’t have to worry about wiping, cos that’s going to hurt.
You can also spray while peeing – this dilutes the strength of your pee and takes away a lot of the sting. For maximum pain relief, use warm water with a dash of that alcohol-free witch hazel you used to prep your padsicles.
There are some over-priced peri bottles with hooked squirters, but this pack of 3 basic peri bottles will do the job just fine, plus then you can have one for each bathroom and possibly even a spare.
(They also make great bath toys for when your babba reaches toddlerhood!)
Another postpartum essential that will work on lots of different areas to ease pain and discomfort, with a potential lifespan way beyond postpartum recovery. (Having used a bag of frozen peas or hot water bottle in my pre-baby life, I really wish I’d invested in one of these gel hot and cold packs a lot sooner!)
THESE are the mother of all postpartum products and an absolute staple of your care kit – inexpensive and going to save you from a world of pain, both mental and physical. Because you need to be ready and prepared for postpartum constipation.
I do have a friend who breathed her way through labor and delivery but I think those experiences are few and far between (I read a book on hypnobirthing, but let’s just say I was demanding pain-relief after about
hour minute number one – as an aside, whatever you put in your birth plan, be prepared to want to change it when baby starts her descent!)
So if, like the majority you end up using some form of pain-relief or pain blockers (i.e. anesthetics), postpartum constipation is pretty much a dead cert. (They slow down your bowel movements and block you up.)
The very last thing you want to do is have to strain, with all that pain and soreness down there. Enter the stool softener. Need I say more?
Postpartum essentials for your boobs (if you’re breastfeeding)
This is both to prevent and treat cracked nipples. The key is to put it on frequently (at least after every breastfeed) before any cracking even starts, because prevention is way way better than cure.
Trying to nurse with cracked nipples is a sure-fire way to quit earlier than you might want to. Not that I’d know (she says smugly) because I used this amazing Lanolin-based nipple cream after recommendation from a good friend. A little pricey, but worth it’s weight in gold and another staple for your postpartum care kit.
I’d recommend one for your regular nursing station at home and one for your diaper bag – you just don’t want to EVER forget to put that stuff on!
As a side note, breastfeeding should only be painful for those first few powerful sucks, which will probably make you wince, NOT for the entire breastfeed. If it is painful all the way through, it’s highly likely your baby hasn’t got a good latch, which is not uncommon while you’re both trying to figure it out.
For info on how to recognize the signs of a good and poor latch and tips on how to get a good one, check out Golden Rule no. 1 in this post on how to ensure a successful start to your breastfeeding journey (the link should jump you straight there).
#10 Frozen cabbage leaves
These are to relieve breast engorgement which will happen whether or not you breastfeed. Expect your breasts to feel huge, sore and rock-like as your milk comes in. Oh and then there’s the bright blue veins all over them.
The soreness and discomfort should go away after you start feeding baby frequently. If you’re not breastfeeding, it will last until your breasts stop making milk.
Either way, a frozen cabbage leaf tucked into each bra cup are just the ticket for cooling and soothing.
(No, I’m not mad, promise! They really are effective in reducing discomfort, as concluded by this research.)
Take a few individual leaves off a white cabbage, put in a ziplock bag and simply freeze. Or if you have tons of freezer space or just a small cabbage you can freeze the whole thing and peel off leaves when you need.
#11 Nursing pads
Breast pads are one of the few postpartum essentials that have little to do with healing and recovery but are necessary all the same, to soak up all that leakage. When your milk starts to come in and for several weeks after as your supply builds quickly, you will often find yourself leaking. All. The. Time.
Not pleasant when it’s coming through your top and you’re anywhere but home! So breast pads are a must for your postpartum care kit as well as your diaper bag, so you’re never caught short.
Essential postpartum clothing – for comfort & practicality
So you’ve got the granny pants – here are some other comfortable and super practical clothes that are a must for your aching postpartum body. Plus one must to aid postpartum healing – the infamous belly band!
#12 Nursing bras & tanks
These nursing bras really are the business. They’re not expensive, super comfortable and very versatile – you can adjust the strap at the back for different tops, perfect for nursing in the summer months or when you want to actually dress up a little bit (occasions probably few and far between but nevertheless!).
I also recommend some of these nursing tank or cami tops, which means you can skip a bra altogether for all those days at home on the couch in the early days. Even if baby is arriving in the depths of winter, becoming a mega milk factory makes you hot! And you can always add a cardi on top.
This is no more than an ordinary nightgown with thin straps. Just like the Granny pants, you want to go for one 1 or even 2 sizes bigger so you can wear it through the 3rd trimester as well as during labor and even delivery.
The reason it needs to be on your postpartum essentials checklist is for those middle-of-the-night feeds. You can get special “nursing” pajamas and nightgowns, but will then have to fiddle around with clips and straps which honestly you just won’t want to bother with when half asleep. So an oversized nightgown is the way to go. Just pull the strap down over your shoulder you’re done.
I got one of these postpartum recovery belts or “belly bands” in a whole bunch of hand-me-down baby and postpartum recovery stuff. It’s something I never would have thought to buy, even if I’d known about them, but now I’ve used one I do believe it’s an absolute must for your recovery kit.
It’ll make you feel a lot more human when your baby bump is not there but you’re a long way from being back to normal shape or weight wise (expect to look around 6 months pregnant straight after delivery with a “postpartum pooch”). Plus, holding all those wobbly bits in will also aid the recovery process. There’s good reason wrapping up the pooch is an ancient old tactic – luckily we’ve moved on from corsets to something slightly more sophisticated and comfortable!
Postpartum “maybes” (have on standby for your postpartum care kit)
So the few things on the list are things you may be able to do without. Pop them into your Amazon shopping basket and there will be there if you need.
One of my personal least favorite postpartum symptom was Hemorrhoids. I had a fair few, but never used any cream. Witch hazel padsicles, cold packs and postpartum sitz baths were enough to ease the itchiness and discomfort and aid healing.
But if you feel the need, this cooling and soothing healing cream hemorrhoid cream is the thing to use, but perhaps just a “maybe” for your postpartum care kit for now.
These are a store-bought version of your homemade witch-hazel padsicles, providing 20 minutes of cooling therapy without the need for a freezer. Ideal for when you’re out and about, or if you don’t quite get around to your DIY versions in time…
These are the alternative to your giant granny pants for the postpartum period. You might want to go with these for the first couple weeks after delivery when postpartum bleeding is at it’s heaviest, but I was happy with just the granny pants.
Because I used that amazing lanolin-based nipple cream early on, I never had the need for nipple shields. These were another hand-me-down item in the box of postpartum care and baby stuff, but these I didn’t use.
They can help the pain of nursing with cracked nipples, as well as with difficulties latching. You can read all about nipple shields here.
At this stage, it’s good just to know about them but for most, nipple shields aren’t a postpartum essential.
They’re a “maybe” for your postpartum recovery kit because a healthy balanced diet should be all you need to aid your recovery after delivery… But, despite your best-laid plans, your freezer stocked with nutritious meals and your cupboards bursting with healthy snacks, life happens…
There is certainly no harm in ensuring your body has everything it needs with a good postnatal vitamin like this.
Other essential postpartum preparation
Aside from preparing your postpartum care kit, there are a few other things you can do to make those first few weeks and months a lot easier on yourself. Getting all and any admin you foresee coming up during the postpartum period done and dusted before baby comes is a good start.
Next is to see what you can do to minimize day-to-chores, which probably means doing a lot of batch cooking and filling up the freezer with healthy meals that you can simply defrost and stick in the microwave or oven. It may seem a lot of work now, but trust me, this will make the world of difference to your postpartum recovery.
For a whole bunch of other must-do pre-baby tasks, check out this preparing for baby post.
So we’re all done; 15 postpartum essentials and a few to have on standby for your care kit, depending on what’s what after delivery. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for you so you can make the most of your new baby.
In addition to getting your postpartum care kit together, if you’re feeling brave, check all you need to know about what to expect from your postpartum body here, with tips for a speedy recovery.