It’s really easy to talk about pregnancy and a baby on the way, but though the conversation is growing, I don’t think there’s nearly enough about postpartum care and recovery. There’s no doubt in my mind that no matter how your birth and delivery goes, the postpartum period isn’t going to be easy, and though it’s hard not to pour all of your love and energy into your new babe, it’s important to save some of that love and energy for yourself. It’s the basic airplane mask principle: put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, even your own children.
In my mind, postpartum care starts with packing yourself the most indulgent, stocked up hospital bag (bags?) you can dream of, and ends with whenever you personally feel fully healed and ready to take on the world back at home. Many would say the first three months, also known as the “fourth trimester” are the most integral when it comes to postpartum healing and taking care of you. I’m a day shy of 3 months in, and I couldn’t agree more – giving my body, mind and heart extra love, care and tenderness has been so key on my path to becoming the best mother I can be.
Almost everyone these days has some semblance of a birth plan, but I’m all about the post birth plan! It’s not easy to predict what your baby will need from you in those first critical months, but you can absolutely prepare what YOU will need from you. Of course I never could have guessed how trapped and impatient I’d feel with my body and healing post-birth, but those hurdles just made me all the more thankful that I had put extra comfort measures in place to make the difficult days a little bit easier.
Here’s a guide to how I prepped for the postpartum period, and what really worked for me!
Pre-Birth Planning //
When it came to postpartum I was always planning for the worst but hoping for the best. Vaginal or c-section, you never know what state you’ll be in physically or mentally, and I believe it’s best to cover your bases and give yourself as much time and space to heal as possible – if things go better, you can always take on more!
Some of my key services to have set up were:
Birth Boss – my doula Rhiannon (aka Birth Boss) was integral in my postpartum planning, because honestly without her I wouldn’t have planned much! She asked lots of great specific questions about what makes me feel safe and supported, who I might want to visit right away and who should hold off a couple of weeks. Had it not been for her I likely would have had way too many people coming out that first week home, and I’m so glad that instead I took some quiet time to cuddle and fall in love with my baby as she suggested! She also walked me through the need to ask for help and say no, two huge lessons in motherhood, and she even suggested making a list of ways that friends can help out if they come over for a visit and ask for a task! She really gave me the confidence I needed to recognize and ask for what I needed.
I also booked her for a postpartum visit that I ended up using one afternoon when I was SUPER sick with a fever 5 weeks post, and she was such a lifesaver, providing some precious healing hours so I could get back to being a full-force mama.
Meal planning – a bunch of my friends pitched in to make me a whole bunch of frozen meals, and I’m STILL living off of them now when days get too busy for anything else. This is a great way to call on your community when they offer to help! I also use Fresh City Farms constantly because they deliver local, organic groceries, plus pre-made meals in glass jars and meal kits if you have some spare time to cook (not likely, but you never know!)
Mental Health – My mom suffered from really terrible postpartum depression and though I haven’t had any issues postpartum I definitely struggled with a lot of anxiety and depression throughout my pregnancy (especially the second trimester, which funnily enough is supposed to be the best one!) When I started to feel low I asked my doctor for a referral to the Women’s College Hospital Reproductive Life Stages Program, a really amazing resource here in Toronto. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be seen until the very end of my pregnancy due to wait times, so I suggest getting on this list as early as possible if you think you may need extra mental health support in your pregnancy or postpartum. I have also heard a LOT of amazing things about Healthy Babies Healthy Children, a program that matches you with a public health nurse who makes home visits to help you get the best start possible!
Set up your Sanctuary – I get cabin fever really fast, so the days following birth when it’s best to rest and recover were always daunting to me… and then I had a c-section. In those first few weeks I mainly camped out in my bedroom, the sunniest room in the house, surrounded by plants and colour, on what I liked to call “bed island”. Having all of my creature comforts nearby in a room filled with things that make me feel happy was a total saving grace during those pain-filled days with minimal mobility, and I highly recommend setting up a special space for yourself with candles, books, plants, art – whatever makes you feel happy! I’m sure there’s some science out there proving happy people heal faster.
Other ideas I wish I had set up – A dog walker! Getting Mylk out on the colder winter days was a huge source of stress for me with a new baby, especially after my family had left and I was on my own. I’ve heard great things about Paw Theory and I’m hoping to test them out soon!
Hospital Packing //
I put a lot of time and thought into my hospital packing because I HATE being caught somewhere without something I really need. When we rolled into the hospital it was literally so over the top it was hilarious – bag for me, bag for baby, pillows, blankets, a fancy robe… I really went all out!
Mombox – I ordered my Mombox as soon as I knew I’d likely be having a c-section (they make a special kit for that!) and it arrived just in time. This ADORABLE pink box is stuffed with helpful goodies, covering the less fun items like extra long pads and immune supplements in the cutest way possible. I can safely say I have used every single thing included, and I plan to order one for all of the mamas-to-be in my life for years to come.
And a little TMI note: you may think you don’t need the constipation relief, and resist like I did, but trust me, you do haha.
Ban.do Sippy Cup – a friend recommended Ban.do’s cute cups to me after her beautiful home birth and no matter where you end up birthing your baby I cannot stress the importance of a good sippy cup enough! I used this nonstop at the hospital and I credit my intense hydration for my quick recovery and discharge. I also used it at home nonstop too, and I still do – I got this glittery one for good measure.
Lactation Snacks – I had a lot of fears surrounding breastfeeding because it didn’t work out for my mom with either of her babies. As a way to combat my anxiety I started in on the lactation teas and snacks the whole week leading up to my birth and still continue to use them now. I ended up having my milk come in very quickly, especially for a c-section, and if anything I overproduced! I plan to do a whole post about my breastfeeding experience with an oat milk recipe soon, but for now let me say Booby Boons lactation cookies are a total essential – they actually taste good and come in so many fun flavours. Beer was also a big help for me, but you can’t really pack that for the hospital!
Comfy clothing – This is one situation where comfort is not to be overestimated, and considerations like easy boob access and waist height (for a c-section you don’t want anything that will rub on your incision) are not to be forgotten. My lounge set from Soft Focus was so perfect, especially the robe which I could easily slip on over my hospital gown when I was still too weak to fully change. I do wish I had chosen a darker colour so I wasn’t as worried about getting blood on myself in those early days, but luckily I somehow managed to avoid any stains.
Ban.do Eye Mask – it’s hard to tune out and get some rest at the hospital, but a good eye mask can help.
Dotted travel bag by Logan and Lenora – I love this bag for longer days out with Summer or overnight trips. It’s waterproof, washable, and you can order matching change pads and clutches to help stay organized.
Other items you might want to add:
-peri bottle with a bit of witch hazel to mix with water at the hospital
-herbal tea bags
-diapers for you and baby (pads are just not enough for the first little while)
-many pairs of socks or slippers you don’t mind ruining
-breastfeeding pillow (I swear by my BB Hug Me nursing pillow!)
Scroll down for more!
The After Birth //
Kensington Midwives – I was so thankful I went with midwifery care my entire pregnancy, but especially in the weeks following Summer’s birth when they came by for home visits to check on the both of us. It was so comforting to have non-invasive healthcare that took my personal needs and preferences into account, and I really felt like I made only fully informed consensual decisions from start to finish. It was also really special to remain in my safe space in the days after surgery while still having assurance that Summer was healthy and doing well.
Placenta Encapsulation – I have a lot of friends who had positive experiences with ingesting their placenta after birth, and though I wasn’t about to chop it up, freeze it and add it to a smoothie, I was super curious to try encapsulation. I went with placenta specialist Amelia Rebolo for the process and I’m so glad I gave it a shot! Basically you text Amelia when you go into labour/confirm you’ll be giving birth soon, and if you’re giving birth in a hospital let your nurses know you would like to keep the placenta. After the placenta is delivered (vaginally or via c-section) you put it in a zip-lock and the nurses will put it on ice in a cooler bag (YOU need to bring the cooler bag and zip-lock, they provide the ice) until Amelia can come pick it up. The whole transaction was quick and easy, and the hospital staff had no issue facilitating. A few days later she dropped off my placenta pills (each placenta makes a different number depending on how big it is!), plus a tincture, salve, postpartum herbs, and prints of my placenta (SO crazy).
The Placenta is an organ your body builds from scratch just for baby, and it holds a lot of the nutrients and hormones that you lose when your baby is born, so the idea is you’re re-ingesting those nutrients and hormones to balance your body postpartum. I have friends who said the noticed a significant difference in mood on days when they forgot to take the pills!
Now I’m no scientist, but I took my 3 placenta pills every day without fail and I really did notice a lot more stability in my mood than I had expected. I only had one major meltdown the day my milk came in (which happened to be the same day we picked up Honey’s ashes from the vet), but otherwise I felt energetic and positive, a world of difference from the extreme lows I experienced while pregnant. I can’t vouch for what my postpartum experience would have been like without the pills, but I’m really glad I chose to take them and would definitely do it again! Amelia was a dream to work with, and I just loved the little kit of placenta goodies she made up for me.
Woo Woo Lab – I wasn’t able to use much of anything product-wise until my incision was healed up, but after six weeks when the area was a bit less sore I started using Woo Woo lab’s products (they sent me the Mama bundle). I especially love the Womb Stick, which I’ve been using to massage the scar (called scar release, a technique I’m learning more about with an expert next week!) I highly recommend stocking up on Woo Woo before birth, or gifting them to friends and family with new babies – they will thank you!
Further reading // I highly recommend The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson when shaping your own personal postpartum survival guide!