While I was pregnant, I spent so much time on the future needs of my baby that it took up as much time as a second job would have. My spreadsheet of needs was impeccably thorough and it looked like I had thought of everything.
The problem was, I hadn’t thought of anything that I would need for myself.
If you invite me to a baby shower, you can expect me to ignore your registry and, instead, show up with a care package of all the things you really need for YOU. I had to learn about these necessities as I went along; but, it would have been wonderful to have had these items already stocked and ready for me when I returned from the hospital. Now, you can be more prepared to take care of yourself than I was! Disclaimer: a handful of these items have to do with breastfeeding; so, you can ignore those items if you are not planning or able to do that.
- Witch hazel pads: you will probably get these at the hospital to take home with you; but, if you deliver vaginally, you’ll probably need more than they provide! I didn’t know these things existed prior to giving birth. Pop one of these in your underwear every day/hour after giving birth to help with the soreness. Sitting on the Boppy was also a necessity, since sitting directly on anything felt impossible; so, even if you aren’t going to breastfeed, maybe grab a Boppy anyways just for your sitting pleasure.
- Mesh panties: the hospital that I delivered in had these for me; but, they only came in one XL size. Now, this was still perfectly comfortable for me, but would have been better if they fit a bit more snuggly. This was the only type of underwear that felt comfortable for the week after birth. Plus, since they are disposable, you don’t have to worry about your postpartum bleeding.
- Along with that, be sure to stock up on massive maxi pads. This item is altogether hilarious and disturbing; but, wow, you will need to wear them consistently for a few weeks after a vaginal birth.
- Facial cleansing wipes: it won’t be easy finding the time (or interest) to shower or even just to wash your face after birth; so, use these to feel refreshed. Also, they are great to use DURING birth for a quick moment of comfort.
- Water bottle (with time and amount markings): Just like during pregnancy, you will need to be extremely hydrated to recover (and to breastfeed). For me, having a water bottle with the amount I needed marked directly on it helped me be accountable. Also, I love having the time goal markings on the bottle so that I know when I’m falling behind in my hydration needs.
- Easy things to eat (preferably with one hand): You’ll feel like you’re stuck on the couch or bed most of the day with the baby, or stuck walking around to get them to fall asleep. I seriously malnourished myself because I couldn’t eat anything that required the use of two hands to prepare. Stock up on nourishing items that you can grab with one hand to snack on (and start each day already having them in bowls around the house) and on food that is already prepared/just needs to be microwaved.
- Colace: pooping after birth is a frightening task. This will help you with your inevitable constipation!
My must-have breastfeeding items:
- Soothing gel pads: these were so necessary during the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding. Pop them on after a feeding – they will bring such relief! Just make sure to rinse off the residue before your next feed.
- Nursing pads: you will leak while breastfeeding. You will need to use them everyday until your milk flow calms down. I used reusable ones that you could wash in the washing machine (and had about twenty so that I didn’t have to do laundry every day).
- Nipple shields: I know some people do not enjoy or even need these; but, it won’t hurt to have a pair around just in case! I used them often during the first few weeks of breastfeeding anytime my nipples were too sore to feed my baby. Technically, it’s a little harder for the baby to get the flow going and they get the milk at a slower pace (which can sometimes be a good thing!); but, I didn’t experience any problem using them – she took right to it. They provided me a day of nipple recovery when I needed a break. Without these, I might have stopped breastfeeding.
- Lanolin: use nipple cream daily! Again, this is another big help for “breaking in” the ladies. I also know someone who used coconut oil. Either way, it’s safe for the baby to ingest and a huge relief for you!
- Breast therapy pads: these are reusable pads that you can stick in the freezer and then on your breasts to use when they are swollen and engorged, or that you can stick in the microwave for 10 seconds to use right before nursing to help your milk flow get going.
- Nursing bras and clothing: I totally thought this was a gimmick and didn’t want to pay for these items. Thank goodness my mother thought differently and forced them upon me. I wore nothing else for months! To have clothing and bras that you can just unhook quickly for easy access feels luxurious. Also, stretchy maxi dresses were my favorite. My baby didn’t let me put her down very much, so I often only had seconds to put clothing on. This style allowed me to do that and the stretchy material was great for breastfeeding.
- A subscription to a streaming service: If you don’t already have Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, etc., make sure to arm yourself with one before giving birth. The first couple of months will consist of most of your days looking like this: hold baby, feed baby, and maybe take a walk. You will not be productive; so, let go of that expectation and just see the time as your chance to veg out on the couch for days/weeks. Something to binge on while you do that will make the experience more enjoyable.
As you prepare for the baby, don’t neglect to prepare for yourself, too. You will be in recovery for weeks and it’s easy to forget to see yourself that way. Most importantly, arm yourself with the mentality that taking care of BOTH of you will be the only thing you should focus on during the day. Also, start getting excited for all the shows and movies you’re going to get to catch up on.