Our family’s postpartum preparation, Part 1: the physical recovery.
September 18, 2012

This post is intended to clarify how my family is preparing for the postpartum RECOVERY after the birth of our second child.  It is probably overkill, but I’m okay with that.  Better safe than sorry!  (I plan to follow this up with our plans related to food, community reliance, and what we have lined up for Charlotte.)

Postpartum pads

After I delivered Charlotte I used disposable pads provided by the hospital.  When I was six or seven weeks postpartum, I made a postpartum check-up appointment wherein I mentioned to my OB that I was still bleeding quite a bit and experiencing quite a bit of pain.  Part of the problem was that I had accidentally ripped out six of my twelve stitches (ouch), but my OB theorized that the other part of the problem might have been the disposable pads and he recommended looking into cloth pads in the future.

I did.  And I never looked back.

As a result of using cloth pads during my menstrual cycle and having used cloth pads (plus prefold diapers) in the aftermath of a complicated miscarriage, I had a pretty good idea of what I would need for postpartum coverage.  I bought a pattern for postpartum cloth pads from BabyMoon and purchased the materials I would need (PUL, elastic, flannel, and organic French hemp terry) from Kids in the Garden.


Charlotte insisted on being in this photograph.  I guess her head does give you a general idea how enormous the BabyMoon Pattern A pads are…

Then I recruited my neighbor to help me out.  We made a few small adjustments to the BabyMoon patterns to customize the pads to my body and my needs, and then we spent an entire weekend stitching away.  In total, we made three sizes of postpartum pads to accommodate different stages of postpartum recovery and we made enough of each size for me to only need to launder the pads every other day.

It sounds odd, but I am genuinely excited to see how the cloth pads hold up.  I hope they are more comfortable than the disposables were and that they will be sufficient for the amount of blood flow involved in even the earliest postpartum hours.

Witch hazel pads

I set aside a dozen of my regular-use cloth pads (from Epicerma, which in my experience are comfortable, easy to launder, and consistently absorbent without leaking - but on the downside have a high rate of snap failure; I remedied this by sewing on buttons and elastic loops) and purchased a pack of six Willow Pads (much thinner and less absorbent than the Epicema pads, definitely not something I would use for regular flow days on my period, but should do just fine as frozen goods) on sale.  I also tracked down alcohol-free witch hazel from The Homestead Company and I always keep aloe gel on hand.  I picked one bottle of witch hazel with no fragrances or additions and another with lavender and chamomile.

My plan is to dampen the eighteen cloth pads with an aloe-witch hazel blend (1 tablespoon witch hazel and 1/2 teaspoon aloe per pad) and to freeze them on a baking tray for later use.  My witch hazel came with a pack of one hundred small cotton pads (which I believe are probably typically used for make-up removal or face cleanses).  We found a glass jar in our pantry that is short and stocky and we will be using that to store small quantities of the cotton pads soaked in witch hazel in the bathroom for general use over the first couple weeks.

Perineum spray

Earth Mama Angel Baby produces four-ounce bottles of something called “New Mama Bottom Spray.”  Our local natural parenting shop carries it, so I picked some up when Charlotte and I were there last month.  In addition to this, I have a peri-bottle that will be maintained with warm water.  I have heard of adding lavender essential oil or aloe gel to the water as well but I think that I’ll probably just go with the Earth Mama Angel Baby spray and the water first and see how I feel.

Herbs

Earth Mama Angel Baby also produces postpartum bath herbs for use frozen to alleviate pain and swelling – and for use in warm sitz baths later.  I’ve never tried this before and neither has anyone I’ve talked to about it, so I have no idea what to expect.

In addition, this post on Passionate Homemaking discusses taking saltwater baths with essential oils to help heal postpartum muscles and keep any wounds from labor infection-free, something that is also mentioned in a variety of postpartum resources I’ve come across over the years and recommended by my midwife.

That said, I am not a bath person and never have been, so I don’t really see myself jumping in the tub until the heaviest bleeding has subsided a couple weeks postpartum.  We’ll see!

Postpartum mood

Although I did not have postpartum depression with Charlotte, I did experience mild depression after my miscarriage last summer which puts me at a higher risk of postpartum depression with this birth.  Naturally, I have spent quite a bit of time looking into holistic means of addressing this possibility through diet, exercise, herbs, and the like.  I talked to my obstetrician, a nutritionist friend, and my midwife about different ideas.

The dietary advice was unanimous: intake more of some things (folic acid, dark leafy greens, vitamin B, iron, vitamin D3) and less of others (processed foods, sugar, white flour).

My buddy also suggested: blessed thistle infusions, raspberry leaf tea, and eating licorice sporadically, all of which seem to be somehow correlated with positive moods.

My OB also suggested: lemon balm (which he had read about, but was unfamiliar with the use of), small quantities of bee pollen (to boost energy), focusing on connecting with and relying on my community (socialization generally being beneficial as well as helping take the load off new mothers while they are healing), aromatherapy, and spending as much time as possible outside and taking leisurely strolls.  He also suggested massage with essential oils known to enhance moods; his explanation was that pleasurable physical contact not only helps relieve aches and pains, it also helps women release oxytocin and other happy hormones in addition to the effects of the oils.


Lavender oil on the right, from the local health food shop.

As well, because I will be breastfeeding (an activity associated with lower risk of depression and one which always gives me the warm fuzzies emotionally), I will also be continuing to take my prenatal vitamins, which may help.  Since I will be expressing as much milk as possible in conjunction with several other women in my mother’s group, I will also probably be increasing my intake of foods and teas that can boost my supply.

The next few weeks are going to be devoted in large part to learning more about how to make these recommendations a reality.

Placental consumption

I still have not decided whether or not I want to eat the placenta.  I have read everything I can get my hands on about the topic and from what I can determine, there is very little knowledge about the practice and very little evidence in support of either the pros or cons people have listed over the years.

If I decide to proceed with placental consumption, we have located the resources we need in our area to make it happen.  Chances are that I will not make the final call on this for a few weeks yet.  Because I cannot swallow pills, if I choose to consume the placenta we will be hiring a local postpartum doula to dehydrate and powder the organ.  I can then add placenta to my green smoothies or mix it with homemade truffles (organic, fair-trade, dark chocolate using berries or fruits to sweeten instead of sugar).

Books

There are three books specific to the postpartum period that I have found particularly helpful.  I wish I had known that these books existed when I was postpartum with Charlotte, but instead I found them at the library several months later.  They are each excellent resources and far more informative than that tiny ten-page section on postpartum health included in most pregnancy books.

The Year After Childbirth: Enjoying Your Body, Your Relationships, and Yourself in Your Baby’s First Year written by Sheila Kitzinger can be found at Better World Books by clicking here and at Amazon by clicking here.  In my opinion, this book provides a solid overview of postpartum life, but I think the real gem of the book is the perspective Kitzinger takes on mother guilt being a Western invention.  This a fascinating concept to me.  The rest of the book really just gives a rough overview of postpartum considerations and discusses the wide range of “normal” for postpartum women in emotional, physical, sexual, and other realms of life.

After The Baby’s Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women written by Robin Lim can be found at Better World Books by clicking here and at Amazon by clicking here.  This is, hands-down, the best postpartum resource I’ve come across…but it’s also pricey.  I recommend hunting an older edition down used.  I have heard some valid complaints about certain aspects of the book, such as Lim’s opinion on how quickly a mother should or will lose the baby weight, but I think that as with all books it’s important to remember that you do not need to look favorably upon everything the author says in order to have a positive experience with it.

Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness written by Aviva Jill Romm can be found at Better World Books by clicking here and at Amazon by clicking here.  As a disclaimer, I am a HUGE fan of Romm’s books, so I’m not the most objective reader.  I love her focus on herbal and holistic information and in this book, I particularly enjoy the discussion about how mother-care exists in other cultures (which has given me a host of ideas when friends of mine have delivered babies).  I also find her resource lists to be thorough and helpful.

(Alternatively, you can check WorldCat to see if a library near you stocks a particular book.  Not all libraries are included, but it can be helpful nonetheless.)

I also found it useful to have entertaining and interesting reading on hand both when I was postpartum with Charlotte and when I was dealing with my miscarriage last summer.  I will probably make a library trip when I am 38 or 39 weeks pregnant to pick out a few fun books, which I will be able to renew online twice before returning.


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  1. By Lindsay on September 18, 2012

    The Earth Mama Angel Baby products are so, so, so amazing.

  2. By on September 18, 2012

    wow, you ARE prepared!! I had my doula dehydrate & powder my placenta. She filled 200 gel caps with the powder and i took 3-5 (or more..) per day. I felt like they made me hot (literally hot & sweaty) but i kept taking them and hoping they would help with my already bad anemia & balance my moods swings. I have no idea if they made a difference, but i ate my placenta over two months. And i lived to tell about it. Good luck to you!

  3. By Karen on September 18, 2012

    Thank you for this information! I’m sure I’ll be returning to it again and again in the weeks before my baby’s birth. I had a lot of trouble with milk production with my first child and had to supplement which I believe led to his dairy allergy. This time around I plan to have my placenta encapsulated to help with milk production. Should that not be enough I now am aware of the Human Milk 4 Human Babies milk sharing network. Last time around I was helped by some herbal concoctions available to boost milk production (Mother’s Milk Special Blend and Goat’s Rue capsules). I’d be interested in learning more about the foods and teas you plan to use to increase your production.

  4. By Sarah Christensen on September 18, 2012

    Karen - In addition to Human Milk 4 Human Babies, there is another informall milk-sharing group that operates on Facebook called Eats on Feets!  It’s pretty active too =)

  5. By on September 18, 2012

    I have a silly question, but what’s the name of the toy Charlotte is playing with in the last photo (the animal train like thing)? I think my son would be into that, and I remember similar toys from when I was a kid, but I’m not sure what to call it and can’t find it!

  6. By Sarah Christensen on September 18, 2012

    Marissa - They are made by Nuchi Toys and are called “Farm Animal Train” or “Circus Train”.  They fit on standard wood train tracks.  We love them!  I wanted her to have alternatives to standard train toys that were wooden and fit on tracks and could be used in conjunction with trains, and they fit the bill.  We bought them from a toystore in the local mall, but you can also purchase them online at places like Trains Galore (http://www.trainsgalore.com/Farm-Animal-Train-By-Nuchi-P3685C337.aspx)  There are insect ones too, I believe.

  7. By Alicia S. on September 19, 2012

    I just have to say how much I love that picture of Charlotte. That is all :-P

  8. By missjoules on September 19, 2012

    I know that I am completely missing the point of this post, but can you tell me where you got those wheely magnet animals in the lavender oil photo? They are just too cute!

    Also, you are super prepared. Super. I hope it all goes smoothly for you!

  9. By on September 19, 2012

    thank you for that post, i have been preparing a list of “good advice” for my sister who’s due in a month !

  10. By on September 19, 2012

    Holy crap… You are so well prepared. I hate to tell you that I hope you wasted your time when it comes to preparing your kit… But I really do hope you don’t have to use any of the extras (being the frozen witch hazel pads, etc).

  11. By Sarah Christensen on September 19, 2012

    Miss Joules - They are Nuchi Toys animals - they’re wooden train toys.  We bought them from a local toyshop, but you can also find them online if you google “Nuchi Toys farm animals train” (or circus animals, etc.)

    Cynthia - I hope I wasted my time too!  A few people online here have mentioned that their second births were much easier to recover from than their first, so FINGERS CROSSED!  If I don’t end up needing what is prepared, I’m sure I can find someone else who might =)

  12. By Christine J on September 19, 2012

    My midwife ordered me to bed for 1 week and then 1 week in the room and by week 3 I could be up and walking around.  BEST ADVICE EVER!!!  I stopped bleeding by 2 weeks and hubby and I were back to being intimate by 3 weeks(ya I know).  I will be following those rules for all my next children.

  13. By on September 20, 2012

    I was way more prepared for Baby #2, just in terms of what to expect and how to trust my body.

    I think a midwife makes all the difference… They trust you to know your body well enough to do what you need to do. Jenson’s birth was pure joy. Good luck!

  14. By rachel - even one sparrow on February 19, 2013

    The list of recommendations are great, and I’ll be referring back to it after baby comes (38 weeks currently).  I wish I had known more about reusable pads.  I don’t sew - do you know of any place to buy them?

    I was briefly considering placenta consumption too, but the evidence isn’t strong enough for it.  Even my midwife seemed a little wary, so when I saw that, I decided against it.

  15. By Mrs. Stiles on April 17, 2013

    I am very early in my pregnancy (7wks tomorrow) and this information SCARES THE SHIT RIGHT OUT OF ME!  OMG!!!

    it does look like helpful information though, so I think I will come back and try reading it again in a couple of months - hopefully I will be less squeamish by then.

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