Postpartum Lessons + What's in My Postpartum Kit

Friday, August 18, 2017

The greatest lesson I learned from giving birth to my first baby was that birth is not the hard part. Birth is a finite thing - that baby is coming out one way or another. What really got me long term, physically and mentally, was postpartum.

Postpartum was a drop kick into deep water that first time around. I went from having regular appointments with my midwife, to the office not even having my file available when I called them about potential PPD within the first six weeks. "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative" meant that I came home from the hospital incredibly sleep deprived. I had no idea what I needed much less how to get my needs met.

The prep classes from the hospital were about the process and tools for getting through labor, with a nod to postpartum at the end. In fact almost all of the pregnancy books given to me/that I found at the library focused on getting through labor as smoothly as possible, but completely missed the gravity of postpartum care needs.

Once I was postpartum, and in desperate need of help and care, it seemed like the general response of both the medical system and my community was to stop their ears and shut their eyes. The recent study regarding maternal mortality rates was oddly comforting. It's not just in my head, postpartum nurses are ill informed about postpartum dangers and consequently do not respond adequately. The difficulties I went through with my first postpartum experience are not normal and should not have been ignored, but they were.

Hopefully I am now a better advocate for myself in the postpartum period, but frankly that is not something we should be demanding of postpartum mothers! It should not be the job of the suffering, bleeding, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed to get those in authority to do their jobs properly. Period.

I do things drastically differently now.

I am very upfront with my providers regarding my concerns about postpartum, and I don't let non-committal answers slide.

My husband takes at least two weeks off from work if at all possible.

We plan out meals and resources. The time to search for a babysitter, mental health provider, lactation consultant, etc. is NOT during your postpartum. Trust me, get those names and numbers written down and available now.

I educated myself about what true normal is and what it is not.

I learned about myself. The truth is there is a wide gulf of grey between "immediate medical emergency" and "still not ok". It's in that grey space that far too many women spend their postpartum. But it does not have to be so! With my last two babies I have learned the things that get me out of the grey into the light zone of "doing ok".

Nothing here is a magic bullet, but everything in here has been a help to me. Maybe it will help someone else!

Here are the top seven things I keep in my postpartum basket.


The scents that I associate with being calm and supported can make me relax and slow down so quickly! These are the same scents I use in labor, and frequently when having a recovery day during intense dance or theater times.
I have this pod diffuser, but generally prefer to do a drop or two on a cotton ball for the smell. That way if it's not working for me that day, I can just put the cotton ball back in the baggie and it's gone.

Spiritual Support

I completely forgot about the importance of spiritual support in my first postpartum. Prayer and connection to the wider Church is a great way for me to combat the feelings of isolation in those first few weeks. This small crucifix and bottle of holy water live on the dresser next to my bed during postpartum. There will also be a rosary, but it's currently living in the labor kit.


I have a taste in tea that will make real tea lovers cringe. My other favorite is Orange Spice...cringing yet?
But this is what my coffee-lover heart likes when I want something hot to drink but should really be cutting down on the caffeine for a bit. Whatever says homey comfort to you, put it in the postpartum kit!

Cloth Breast Pads

Breastfeeding will likely not be long lived again, but I like to have these cloth breast pads in the postpartum kit just in case. I find the cloth pads much more comfortable than the disposable version. When everything else in your body is a little achy, I believe in upping the comfort level where ever possible!

Belly Wraps

It was a shock to me to try and sit up in bed after my first was born. I couldn't do it! Those poor abdominal muscles have just been through a multi-month stretch and they are plum tuckered out.
Starting about day two or so I like to start gently wrapping my belly. I use a super long wide cotton muslin for wrapping at home, and a Velcro one from Target when out and about.
It makes a big difference for retraining all of my muscles what straight feels like when I've gotten sway backed and off during the final weeks of pregnancy.

Cloth Pads

I'll be honest, I thought it would be a lot grosser to use cloth pads than it is in reality. They are fantastically more comfortable than wearing the giant disposable ones for weeks. The less I can feel like a small child in a diaper the better.


Both of these herbal tinctures are now requirements for my postpartum kit!
After pains were not explained well at all before I had my first, and holy cow they don't get any better with later babies! Taking the AfterEase with ibuprofen did wonders for being able to take the edge off the pain in those early days. I find the ibuprofen works longer, but the AfterEase works faster. Faster is important!
I have learned that the most dangerous time of day for postpartum me is evening and night. ReBalance taken with my placenta pills before bed helps calm the hormonal swings of night wakings and sporadic sleep. (Sleep is still extremely important though people! Do not skimp on the sleep!)

Not in the kit but prepared and ready in the house:

Freezer meals that can mostly be thawed and dumped in the crockpot.

Cookie dough is an accidental addition to our postpartum traditions, but having some fresh baked cookies in those early days has turned into a sweet way to welcome a new member of the family.

Maternity Tea is something I drink all through pregnancy and through my postpartum. I mix up my own infusion herbs from bulk. My recipe is very similar to this one.

Sitz Herbs for healing. I've never torn (knock on all the wood) but sitz bath herbs are still soothing during the recovery period.


For a little background about why I care so much about postpartum care:


What are some of your postpartum must haves? What have you found to be a helpful addition to your postpartum?

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!


  1. I'm so similar in terms of how I approach postpartum, (and I'm lol-ing at the "less I can feel like a small child in a diaper the better"... so so true). My other add would be sitz sprays/baths and a fantastic nipple balm (cream?) that isn't lanolin, someone to entertain the other children, and supportive pillows. :)

    Praying for you as you enter the final days of pregnancy!

    1. Oh man I forgot about the sitz baths and non-lanolin creams! Lanolin just did not help me. My midwives are providing the sitz herbs this time around (just comes with the package) but I liked Wishgarden's version with my last baby.

      This is my first pregnancy when I finally broke down and ordered a body pillow. Supposedly it will function well for helping me sit up, hold baby, and do all the relaxing in those early postpartum weeks.

      Thank you so much for your prayers!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing! I'll keep this in mind for the future.

  3. The belly wrap was so helpful!

  4. I suffered from depression after my first three, and an herbal remedy called Happy Camper really, really helped me.

  5. I also found Rescue Remedy to be helpful, both in labor and postpartum... kind of like your aromatherapy but in a herbal tincture form. Thanks for these ideas!


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