• Maria Varvoutis, MPH, CD, PCD

Survival Kit for the Birthing Person’s 1st Month Postpartum

You've heard countless rumors, you've experienced it, or your neighbor Sally has told you every nitty gritty detail of her birth story--what really can we do to prepare for the 1st month after giving birth?

Let's start at WEEK 1:

  • Jot down in your phone any notes/thoughts/or feelings you have towards your birth experience. This will mean ALOT when you finally want to hash through all those thoughts when you feel mentally ready.

  • Get a baby app, like one of these, to start following all of the feeds, diapers, and sleep that you can until your first doctor appointment that will occur 3-5 days after your baby is born. Trust me--they will want to know all of these details and sometimes newborn, caregiver brain doesn't want to keep it all straight. In all reality you will be back at the doctor's office within a day or two of getting home!

  • Forget about fitting into your cute pre-pregnancy clothes just yet. Give your body time. For now keep those comfy 2nd trimester/bed clothes around that don't hug in all the weird places. Many birthing people complain of clothes not fitting right around the ribs and hips. This is because both of these things most likely expanded to accommodate the growth of your baby!

  • In the beginning of the breastfeeding journey your breasts may be out--a lot. Breastfeeding tank tops are a #1 go to, combined with a comfy zip up or open sweater. It is recommended to stay away from any underwire bras at this time as you do not want any pressure on your breasts that could be minimizing your breast flow. Any wire-free bra that can allow your breast to be slid out with any clipping is a BIG help in these beginning weeks when you and your baby are figuring out the breastfeeding process.

  • Allow it may not be tempting, truly try to pick the healthier options for your postpartum food sources. Fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, and whole grains are your friends right now. What a great excuse to start tackling that sushi!

  • Take it slow with bathing/showering. Things may be sore, swollen, and need time to heal. Postpartum sitz baths are not absolutely necessary, but they sure do feel good and have heaps of benefits for your healing body. From personal experience I would have to say it gives you some great 'me-time' too. You can keep it simple with Epsom salts, or buy various kinds of postpartum sitz baths pre-mixed. Be careful getting in and out of the bathtub though! You may have experienced abdominal separation during pregnancy and need an extra hand getting up from such a low surface.

  • The hormonal shift after giving birth is extremely dramatic and can lead to intense levels of emotions, sweating, body odor changes, and hair loss. This does not happen right after birth for everyone, but is something you should be aware of. Some people use pee pads underneath them while sleeping at night in order to not soak their beds.

  • Please continue to take your prenatal vitamins, or switch over to a postpartum version. At the very least consider taking magnesium, Omega 3's, Vitamin C, and D. Whole leaf raspberry leaf tea is also VERY good for helping to strengthen your uterus after giving birth.

  • The birthing person can take some things 'off of your plate' by: holding the baby for a nap, taking a walk with the baby, doing the grocery shopping, holding the baby while you bathe, help with diaper changes--you name it.

  • Practice deep, low belly breathes while feeding and/or pumping. This relaxes your body, and is slowly teaching your pelvic floor that it is needed too!

  • FIRST POOP: sitting on the toilet, knees higher than hips (using a stool, trash can flipped over), pillow in between your stomach and legs to help brace your body--Your goal for this is to try to stay as relaxed and calm as possible through this process. Please consider taking laxative or magnesium supplements to help with this process. Many of my clients have also found relief by using this tea.

WEEK 2


Yay! You did it! You survived your first week as a caregiver!!

  • Figuring out the sleep and feeding patterns of your newborn may be becoming more of a priority for you at this point. Please fight the urge to fly down the rabbit hole on sleep training just yet. For now try to remember that you can set up healthy sleep habits through nighttime routines and making bath time fun and relaxing. Focusing on learning your baby's feeding cues are critical at this point to help you feel more relaxed and confident through each feeding session.

  • Your baby's umbilical cord may be falling off, or has already fallen off at this point. Here's your chance to take a bath with your newborn! This can help the bonding process between both you and the baby, and can nurture your breastfeeding relationship.

  • Schedule your consult with an IBCLC or CLC if you having any pain, concerns, or questions surrounding how breastfeeding may or may not be going. I promise you it's worth it and will help give you a peace of mind.

  • Carve out some 'me time' moments. Whether it's letting baby cuddle on you for some day time naps while you watch TV, or soaking up some more bath time alone--DO IT. This is essential to helping you feel like YOU. If you continue to prioritize yourself your family will reap the benefits too.

  • Start catching all that beautiful let-down flow from the opposite breast that you are feeding or pumping off of. Haakaa's are great tools for this and can be found small enough to fit into your tank, or require you to have both breasts out. They can also be used to manually pump when perhaps your baby decided to stretch out their feeds and you need relief! They also can be used when you're on the go and away from your pump! :)

WEEK 3

  • Now is usually the time family has left and you need to figure out how to do some things while holding a baby, navigating feedings, etc.--#1 utilize a soft wrap like this shirt, wrap, or carrier.

  • If you have not already done so, set up a baby feeding station in your main sitting area that you can use to hold water, nipple cream, bottles, pump, pump parts, Haakaa, breastfeeding pads, and/or your iPad and phone holder when you're balancing your baby and all the moving parts. An easy holder for this is this IKEA shelf. These shelves also make great diaper changing stations too!

  • Meals can be a STRUGGLE. Please, please, please try to follow the recommended whole foods based diet. Your body will thank you and you will feel the difference in your energy levels when you implement bone broths, beets, dark leafy greens, and all of the other essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to recover and rebuild during the postpartum phase. How? Throw meals into an InstaPot, and remember that frozen vegetables are still vegetables too. :)

  • Postpartum mood swings are a real thing and deserve to be addressed. A fantastic psychotherapist and Mom, Erika, has a postpartum prep worksheet that walks you through the emotional preparation that is NEVER too late to think about while battling the emotional roller coaster of being a birthing person and caregiver. She also has an amazing podcast that I cannot rave enough about. Her voice is so nurturing and comforting, and is a joy to listen to.

WEEK 4


Your baby is now almost ONE MONTH (eek!) and now you have two new people in the world--yourself, and your baby!

  • You may not have had the desire up until now, but now is the time to start thinking about taking an occasional walk. This walk can help alleviate postpartum mood disorder symptoms, is good for your baby's outlook on life, and can distract you from the uphill struggle to do anything for yourself outside of feedings. This doesn't have to be big, and don't worry about how you look. This is for YOU.

  • Your lochia, or postpartum bleeding may be almost done as it completely tapers off usually around 4-6 weeks postpartum. No more diapers on you! Whoop!

  • It can be extremely refreshing to talk to other new caregivers about their successes and woes. 'Mom & Me' classes are often held at community centers, and there are MANY virtual groups that you can join as well. Find your niche, and start asking questions. Believe me, they have been there before too and know what it's like. No question or concern is too big or too small.

  • Please consider finding a pelvic floor therapist now to schedule out an appointment after your six week appointment with your medical provider. Even if you are feeling phenomenal and fantastic, physical symptoms can come back years after giving birth because they were never addressed when you were initially postpartum. If there is one thing you do for yourself during your first year postpartum--go see a pelvic floor therapist. It is something just for you, your health, and your body.


There are SO many other things, people, and postpartum recovery tried and true tips out there so thank you for reading this far. If all else, remember to BREATHE. This is a new chapter of your life and thus the body can fight adapting to this new journey. When you lean into this your world becomes fresher and brighter. I promise.


If you are looking for a postpartum doula to help you on this journey please do not hesitate to reach out and contact me. I provide virtual and in-person support in Monterey and Santa Cruz County in California.


All the best,

Maria



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