Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

I have been writing this post since well before sweet Mara was born. I want to be as helpful as possible to all of you lovely ladies out there {new moms, seasoned moms and those who are hopeful that motherhood is in your future}! So grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because I’m about to tell you everything I know about Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom…after having four kids!

When planning for the arrival of a new baby, a mother’s mind usually goes to diapers, wipes, a car seat {we need to bring our babies home right?!} and all the things that her sweet baby will need. However, many people forget that the person who will feel the changes of having a new baby the most is Mom.

Seriously, your baby will survive {and thrive} if they’re well fed, well snuggled and well loved {no fancy stroller or wipe warmer required}…plus, they won’t remember any of it.

But as a new mom you will experience and feel things that are completely foreign and totally overwhelming…and you….you will remember all of it. 😉

So, whenever a new momma-to-be asks me what they should expect when their baby makes his or her way into the world, I always make sure to address how life will change for her and what she will need to make her postpartum recovery and the first few weeks with her new baby the absolute best it can be. You don’t want to be running out to the store in the middle of the night for pads, right?! Didn’t think so! 😉

Since I’ve had four babies in the last 6 years, I thought I would share my experiences with all of you lovely ladies, hoping I can help you in some way! So we’ll be chatting about two different topics today…. 1) What to expect postpartum & how to cope with it all {and enjoy it}  and  2) Postpartum Essentials for mom!

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

But first, I want to take a moment and tell you my #1 piece of postpartum advice {and a theme you will see going through this post}…

embrace all of it.

 The newborn phase is gone in a blink of an eye, and I’d hate to see any one of you miss even one moment of it. Every time you have a baby your life changes, forever. You will never go back to having no kids, having only one kid, or in my case this last time, having three kids. And truth be told, you won’t want to. YES our lives are WAY different now than they were before we had a baby {or four} but we would never, ever, want to go back. Ever.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wish Ritch and I could just pick up and fly to Hawaii whenever we want {hello how I feel at the very moment I am typing this}, but I choose my kids over Hawaii. I choose being a mom over a desire for “freedom” {whatever that is}?! I choose my family. I choose to savor every moment. I choose Bethany. Gabe. Naomi. Mara. Joyfully and without hesitation.

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

So moms, when you’re tired. When you’re sore. When you feel like you’re entire body is leaking fluid. When you can’t sleep. When you don’t fee like eating. When you just want a hug. Remember, having children is a gift. Being a mom is a blessing. Stop, breathe in their newborn scent. Feel your baby’s warm body as you rock her to sleep {or rock her when she refuses to sleep} and remember to cherish every moment…the sweet ones and the hard ones.

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom

Look your baby in the eyes. Study his face. Feel her soft skin. Talk to her. Put your finger in his hand and feel his tiny fingers wrap around it. Snuggle her a little longer after she’s fallen asleep in your arms. Soak in his involuntary sleepy baby smiles. Revel in her innocence. Enjoy being needed. Marvel at the pureness of the love behind her smile and coos. Embrace every moment because every one is beautiful. Every one is irreplaceable. And every one is building the foundation of love for your child.

Ok…now on to the more practical side of newborn life…

What to expect & How to Cope:

Here are a few things that you should expect will happen to you after delivery and the ways I have found to cope with them!

Soreness

You just did the most physically demanding thing you will ever do in your entire life…giving birth to a child. Chances are your entire body will be sore, especially the area where your baby’s grand exit was made. There are so many ways to help your body heal and make yourself more comfortable, here are a few!

  • Take lots of baths. I’m not kidding when I say I bathe in some way two or three times a day the first few weeks postpartum. No matter what, I always start the day with a shower and end it with a bath. Making sure you are clean will lower your chances for complications like mastitis. And soaking your stitches will help them heal much faster
  • Take pain medicine. You all know I’m an au natural kind of person. I had all four of my babies without any pain medication during labor and delivery. However, as soon as they are born and I get wheeled up to the maternity floor I ask for ibuprofen and Tylenol {stat}. I find that it helps take the edge off of the post-delivery pains, especially those contractions that happen when you’re nursing…ouch.
    • True Story: After I had Bethany I absolutely refused to take pain meds of any kind. I had sciatica so bad that after delivery I couldn’t even walk to go to the bathroom. The nurse kept telling me that a low dose of ibuprofen would help with the pain & swelling and I’d be able to get up and move around….she was so right. Once I finally consented and took some I was able to actually take care of my baby instead of being taken care of! I wish I listened to her hours earlier!
  • Ice ice baby. Seriously, those diaper icepacks are your BFF. Ask your nurse for a fresh one every time she comes in to check on you! Keeping it cool down there helps the swelling go down and eases the post-delivery pain and discomfort, especially if you tear! I even sit on ice packs when I’m home for a day or so because it feels so good!

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

Night Sweats

This is something no one told me about. So, when I woke up absolutely drenched in sweat after I had Bethany I thought something was seriously wrong with me. My doctor told me it was totally normal, and since then it has happened to me after every one of my babies!

And I’m not talking about a little bit of dampness…I’m talking my sheets, my pillow, my down comforter…everything that was near my body was completely soaked. Thankfully this only lasted for a week or two, but during that time I was super glad to have lots of PJs, an extra set of sheets, and plenty of laundry detergent on hand!

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

Sleepless Nights

This seems obvious, but really moms…your baby will not sleep 8 hours the night you bring her home from the hospital. You wouldn’t want her to…she needs you more often than that! My advice, embrace it.

During the first few weeks I actually miss my babies when they go longer than 3 hours without eating! I remember, many times, waking up and watching them on the baby monitor just waiting for them to wake up to eat so we could snuggle! It lasts for such a short time, even if it may not feel like it in the moment. There are two things that I think make this phase easier {and shorter}

1. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Now is not the time to stay up until midnight watching Netflix. I fed each of my four kids around 8 PM, and was in bed and sleeping by 9. This is where having a supportive husband is absolutely wonderful {take notes men}! I feed the baby then pass her to Ritch to rock her to sleep. If she wouldn’t go back to sleep I knew he had it taken care of so I could get as much rest as possible before I had to nurse her again.

Side note: ear plugs are a wonderful thing. You are not a bad momma if you feed the baby then make yourself dead to the world for a couple hours {as long as your husband is on duty}! You need to rest as much as you can when you can.

2. Get on a schedule. Read this book...Babywise. Do what it says. All 3 of my girls were sleeping 8 hours (8 PM to 5 AM) by the time they were 6 weeks old. Enough said.

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

Nursing will hurt {at first}!

Nursing is like riding a bike, once you have had one baby it gets easier with each successive child! One thing I will say though, is that the contractions that come on when your baby latches get more painful the more children you have. But they are only painful for 3-4 day post-delivery and then things become easier.

But you need to expect that your body will need time to adjust to this new function it’s performing. The soreness usually subsides after a few weeks. During that time to soothe any soreness that comes from nursing I recommend baths (see above), lanolin cream, and these soothies!

Your Body Will Look Different

You just had a baby. Your body did amazing things to accomplish that, and it may never be the same again…and that’s ok. It takes a while for your uterus to shrink back down to it’s normal size {like a couple of months}! You may have stretch marks. You may have loose belly skin. You will almost definitely have a few extra pounds. Again I say, embrace it. Learn to love your body during this season.

There will be time to “get back in shape” but now isn’t it. Now is the time to love on your baby and get as much sleep as possible. Not to worry about the way you fit {or don’t} into your jeans. Leggings are a beautiful thing. 😉

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

True story: this was not an easy thing for me. Even though I bounce back pretty quickly postpartum, I still struggle with the way my body looks and feels. When I had Naomi I had to gain 10 lbs just to get pregnant, so postpartum was extra hard for me. I remember standing in my bathroom in tears when my husband came in, wrapped his arms around me and said, “You are so beautiful and you look amazing. Please don’t even think about losing one pound.” I just melted into his embrace and realized that the only earthly opinion I care about is his, and he loves me just the way I am. I realized I needed to embrace the fact that my husband thinks my motherhood is beautiful, and I need to also.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a real thing. I have experienced it to some extent with all of my kids, but most notably with Naomi. I could go into a long excursus here, but I won’t. I will just say that I don’t believe in taking medication for this issue. I know it is hormonal, and the only external factor that has worked to completely heal this part of my postpartum journey has been to quit nursing, which I won’t do until my baby is about one year old.

So, since I know this is part of my story every time I have a baby I have learned a few ways to cope and still have joy!

Know your limits.  I am an introvert by nature and become increasingly more so after my babies are born. I’ve learned to stop playing the comparison game and just be me. If you want to stay home for a couple months and soak in those baby snuggles…then do it. Obviously the more kids you have the harder it is to just be still and enjoy your new baby. But I have found that when I allow myself space to do this I am much more joyful and content than if I try to do too much.

Ritch and I joke that my “preverbal plate” is the size of a dinner roll, and his is a platter! I have learned to communicate the way I feel more effectively postpartum so that we can scale back our family commitments so I am able to thrive. This means saying “no” to a lot of good things, but to me, it’s worth it. There’s literally nothing on the planet I rather do than spend time with my family, especially when we have a new baby…and I have learned to embrace it and be 100% unapologetic for it!

Let yourself be vulnerable. Be real with your spouse and at least one close woman friend about your postpartum journey. Vulnerability is important so you don’t feel alone. There were many times when just letting myself cry made me feel a million times better. We’re called to bear each other’s burdens, so let people in.

This time around I called in all my prayer warriors to pray for my postpartum journey since the day I conceived Mara. I asked them to pray that it wouldn’t hit me as hard, and that if it did I would be able to handle it well. Those prayers have been answered in such a huge way I can’t even begin to tell you! I feel so joyful and content. And even though I still sometimes cry for no reason and it’s hard for me to get out of the house, I am loving every sweet second with my family of 6.

Postpartum Essentials for Mom! {Must Haves}

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

Ok, onto the tangible “stuff” that makes it easier to deal with all of the above situations I just mentioned! These are my absolute must-haves after I have a baby. It’s a relatively small and simple list, but they all help so much!

#1) Belly Bandit

Ok, I know this seems like a silly thing to put as #1, but I literally couldn’t live without my belly bandit postpartum. It is the first thing I pack in my hospital bag, and the first thing I put on after delivering. It seems gimmicky but it’s SO NOT. Think about it, you are used to your belly being super tight and full of your sweet baby. After you deliver you feel squishy and empty {LOL, but seriously}.

I wear my belly bandit  every minute of every day for at least a month. I’m not joking either. When I take it off for more than 20 minutes I feel it. It helps hold everything in and support your back. I also think it really aids in shrinking your uterus back to it’s normal size.

If you have had multiple babies it takes the edge off of the painful contractions after birth {yes, the more babies you have the more painful they become}. I seriously would be lost without this. I don’t even like washing it because I don’t like not wearing it.

#2) Pads

This one seems self-explanatory, but please don’t forget to stock up on pads before you have your baby. I highly recommend getting the ultra-thin, extra long, super absorbency variety {like these}. Whatever you do, steer clear of the super thick, diaper-like pads. After birth, especially if you tear, you will be very sore in your lady region for a couple weeks. The thinner the pad, the comfier you will feel.

#3) Ice pack

If you don’t have a great ice pack, get one! Especially the first few days after coming home, it will give you sweet relief! I love the ACE ice packs, I have many different sizes and use them all the time {it’s my catch-all solution when any of my kids get hurt lol}!

#4) Ibuprofen

A low dose of Ibuprofen for a few days post delivery will help take the edge off and allow you to function as a normal person {read my experience above}! I always get a prescription for extra strength Ibuprofen from my doctor and have it filled at the hospital. That way my insurance covers it and I don’t have to make a special trip to the pharmacy!

#5) A large cup with a lid {YETI}!

You will need to drink a lot of water. A LOT. Your body is working overtime to make milk for your sweet baby, so you need to be sure to stay hydrated. I drank from the cup I got in the hospital for  1.5 years after I had Naomi…and then I got a Yeti. Consider my life forever changed.

I have the 30 oz tumbler and I can’t even tell you how much I love it because there are no words in the English language strong enough to express how I feel. I loathe lukewarm water. I prefer my water to be the temperature of the polar ice caps. So before I got a yeti, when I woke up to my babies crying in the middle of the night, I would have to go downstairs to fill up my cup with ice and water while my baby screamed for food. I hated hearing them cry but I needed cold water.

Enter the Yeti. It keeps water cold and ice unmelted for basically an eternity. I just make sure it’s full before I go to bed and I’m set for a night of feeding. They make off brands that I think are just as good {check out this article from Hip2Save} and a fraction of the price. But I recommend every new momma {or woman who loves cold water} owns one of these!

6) Glider/Recliner!

You will spend a TON Of time in your glider. Even if you don’t nurse you will be rocking your baby and feeding her bottles in the middle of the night. The reclining feature of this model is absolutely critical!. It has saved my neck and back SO MUCH.

I know it’s SO expensive…the priciest item I have included in this list…but you should definitely try your luck finding one secondhand! I bought an older model of this glider from a friend  after I had Gabe and I have lived in it ever since! Best money I ever spent. 

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

7) A robe or sweater to nurse in

When you wake up in the middle of the night dripping in sweat you will be freezing. I recommend every new mom have a designated robe or sweater that you keep by your bed to toss on as you stumble into your baby’s room to feed her!

I bought this one before I had Mara and absolutely love it! I like that it’s lightweight enough to not get in the way, but substantial enough to keep me warm! I do wish it had a pocket for my chapstick though! 😉

The next section is for nursing moms: 

If you are planning on nursing your sweet baby, there are a few things that will make your life so much easier. Because what no one tells you is that your milk can start flowing at any time of the day or night.

#8) Sleeping Nursing Bras

You will leak milk the most at night, so if you’re used to sleeping in the buff you will likely need to change that habit {for a little while}! I sleep in these nursing bras lined with nursing pads.  I size up because I do not like to sleep in tight clothes.

#9) Nursing Bras {regular}

Nursing does a number on your bras! So if you have some favorites that you don’t want to get stretched out or milk-stained, I recommend putting them away until your baby is weaned and investing in some nursing bras! I have purchased all of mine from Motherhood Maternity because they’re both reasonably priced and comfortable!

TIP: wait until your later in pregnancy to see how big your boobs get, and remember they’ll get a bit larger once your milk comes in. You don’t have to get bras that are specifically for nursing, although they are nice. Just make sure you get some that you can easily move to the side to feed your baby.

#10) Breast Pads/Lanolin Cream

Here’s something you might not know, your milk can come in without your baby’s help. Any little thing can make it happen…hearing your baby cry, getting close to the next feeding time, a change in  temperature,  getting scared {this has happened to me lol}! You don’t want to be out and about and have your milk come in without being protected!

I put lanolin cream on after every time I nurse for the first couple weeks. It really helps if you have any soreness from being cracked or drying out! Plus it’s totally safe for baby!

I use the lansinoh disposable nursing pads for the first couple of months. I love that I don’t have to worry about getting milk on my clothes (and thus saves me from doing a million loads of laundry). Once my baby is sleeping through the night and my milk supply is more consistent, I switch to reusable/washable pads when I’m staying home, but always wear disposable ones when I’m out and about.

#12) Nursing Cover

This is a must, especially for first time moms. I love this one because the wire keeps it open so I can see the baby, but now one can see me {if you know what i mean}. Now that I’ve nursed 4 babies I can do it just about anywhere and cover up with just about anything {and have}! LOL! But this cover was an absolute lifesaver with my first two kids especially!

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

In Summary

Being a new mom brings so many beautiful yet terrifying changes to your life and body! These are just a few ways I have found to make life easier postpartum so that I can enjoy snuggling my sweet baby all day long !

Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

Question! What did I miss?! What’s a postpartum must-have or must-do for you? What questions do you still have?

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Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!

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Thriving Postpartum: What to Expect & Postpartum Essentials for Mom! What I've learned as a mom of four kids and items I couldn't live without postpartum!