Congratulations on your baby! And welcome to the postpartum recovery period.
(It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.)
You made it through a long 9 months of pregnancy and hours of childbirth and now you’re moving on to the postpartum recovery period. (Still pregnant? Learn how to prepare for your natural childbirth, here.)
It is vital that you take proper care of your body after you give birth, and learning some postpartum recovery tips will go a long way in the healing of your body after birth.
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How long does it take to recover after giving birth?
If you’re expecting to feel like yourself again a week after giving birth, I have some bad news for you.
It takes about 6 – 8 weeks for your body to recover after giving birth.
You may be wondering, “How long do you need to rest after having a baby?”. To which the answer is, at least 6 weeks.
By 6 – 8 weeks postpartum you should be feeling more like yourself again and the aches and pains of pregnancy and delivery should be mostly gone. But don’t be surprised if you still don’t feel 100% the same as you did before childbirth, because for your body to fully recover after giving birth it can take up to several months.
You’ll want to keep in mind that each pregnancy, delivery, and body is different, and it will take some moms longer to recover after delivery than others.
Though it can take your body up to a couple months to recovery, it’s important that you take it easy and get LOTS of rest those first 6 – 8 weeks after delivery. Those are the weeks when your body is doing the big changes and adjusting back to life without a baby in the womb.
Not only did you just go through 9 long months of pregnancy, but you also went through a delivery where your body got stretched, cramped, and strained to its absolute max. On top of all of that, before delivering your precious baby your body experienced a hormone high, and after delivering your hormones crashed down to an ultimate low.
So, when the doctor tells you to take it easy for at least 6 weeks postpartum, they aren’t kidding. Your body has gone through a lot – give it the rest it deserves. Don’t worry about cleaning the house right now, don’t worry about cooking fancy dinners (frozen pizza, anyone?), and certainly don’t try to jump right back into the activities that you were doing pre-delivery.
The only thing you need to be worrying about right now is taking care of that beautiful new baby of yours and focusing on postpartum care.
Even though postpartum recovery can take months, there are a few things you can do in the weeks after giving birth to help speed up postpartum recovery and ease some of the discomforts.
How can I speed up my postpartum recovery?
Here are a couple postpartum healing tips you can do to speed up your recovery period and give your body a break from all the aches and pains after delivery. Use these postpartum recovery tips to heal faster postpartum and cope with the pain and discomfort.
1. Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water is a crucial part in the health of your body, whether you have a baby or not. Many people aren’t drinking enough water, and it’s important that you drink plenty of water – especially if you’re breastfeeding.
On average, people are supposed to drink 8 (8 ounce) glasses of water each day, and a breastfeeding mom should be drinking 4 more cups than the average person. Which means breastfeeding moms should be drinking about 12 cups of water a day.
(This amount could vary from person to person, so it’s important that you ask your doctor to get the exact amount that you should be drinking.)
2. Relax and accept help
I know how hard it is to relax and just do nothing after having a baby. Especially because your whole life has just been flipped upside down – it makes sense to want things to feel normal again. I tried far too hard to do allthethings after having my son, and that resulted in me being extremely sleep deprived (because I refused to sleep when he slept) and miserable.
I wasn’t enjoying having a new baby at all – and it was because I was trying to be Super-Mom and do everything that I did before having a baby. It IS okay to slow down. Take a month or two to just veg out.
Don’t worry if the house is a mess. Don’t worry if you’re eating pre-made lasagna for the 3rd night in a row. Don’t worry if you’re getting nothing done.
Your body feels like it got ran over by a train – give it time to heal. (And if someone offers help, don’t be too proud to accept it. If no one offers help, don’t be too scared to ask for it.)
3. Take a sitz bath
A postpartum sitz bath is used in the early stages of postpartum recovery and helps with healing and cleansing after birth.
A sitz bath after birth also helps decrease inflammation and itching of the area (which are two major contributing factors to being extremely uncomfortable postpartum).
4. Treat hemorrhoids
If you got hemorrhoids (another glorious part of labor and delivery that no one talks about) while delivering, you can treat them by taking a postpartum sitz bath or you can use this cream to ease the discomfort and help them heal faster.
5. Eat fiber-rich foods
Your first bowel movement after delivery can be terrifying, so to make the experience a whole lot less traumatic, there are a couple of things you can do. The first is to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods (these include bananas, oranges, apples, raspberries, beets, spinach, potatoes, carrots, beans, whole grain bread). Staying active also helps keep you regular, but for the first 6 – 8 weeks postpartum the only exercise you should be doing is walking. If need be, you can also take a stool softener to keep things running smoothly.
6. Do kegels
You were likely doing kegels throughout your pregnancy, and now that you’ve delivered it’s more important than ever that you keep on doing them.
Kegels are a pelvic floor exercise that strengthens the muscles of your pelvic floor (making postpartum sex more enjoyable and giving you back control over when you pee).
7. Use peri bottles
Your whole downstairs area is going to be quite (very) sore after giving birth, and the last thing you’re going to want to do is rub rough toilet paper across it every time after you go to the bathroom. Peri bottles allow you to spray the area after going to the washroom then all you have to do is pat it dry with toilet paper.
The hospital may provide you with one peri bottle, but if you have more than one washroom in your house you will want to purchase a couple more bottles so you can keep one in each bathroom (these are the ones I used).
8. Help heal your breasts
If you’re breastfeeding, cracked and sore nipples are something you get to look forward to. I used this cream after having my son to help ease the pain from breastfeeding, and within two days of using it my cracked and blistered nipples were back to normal and I wasn’t having any pain when my son nursed anymore. (Make sure the nipple cream you get has lanolin in it, like this one does).
You can also hand express some milk and rub it on your nipples to help them from becoming dry and cracked.
9. Keep eating
You might feel like dieting to lose the baby weight, but that’s not a good idea right now. Right now your body needs lots of calories so it can work on healing, healing, healing. If you’re breastfeeding you will also need some extra calories (about 500 a day) to keep your milk supply up.
Don’t worry – you can focus on losing the baby weight later. For now, you should just be focusing on doing what needs to be done to help your body heal.
10. Use postpartum underwear
There will be a lot of bleeding going on for the first couple of weeks postpartum, so you can either use some big undies paired with these pads, or you can opt for the easier solution and use these postpartum underwear.
You likely won’t be leaving the house very much for the first few weeks, so wearing depends while you’re at home will be less hassle, cause less chance for leakage, and more comfortable for the first little while.
11. Wear a supportive bra
Don’t cheap out in the bra department after birth. Your breasts are about to go through some MAJOR changes, and they’re going to be pretty uncomfortable for a couple of weeks. With everything from breast engorgement to cracked nipples, a good, supportive breastfeeding bra can ease some of the pain.
12. Ease cramps while breastfeeding
Your uterus grew to the size of a watermelon in 38 short weeks (or less), but it will return to its pre-pregnancy size of a pear in just 6 weeks after giving birth. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in there right now (another reason why you should be taking it easy).
It’s normal to experience cramping pain while your uterus shrinks back down in size, and if you’re breastfeeding, this pain will often occur while you’re feeding your baby. When breastfeeding, your body releases the oxytocin hormone – which is the hormone that triggers your milk letdown. This hormone also causes uterine contractions, and these are the contractions that are going to be happening while your uterus works on shrinking down in size.
13. Help heal your c section incision
If you delivered via c section, here is how to speed up your postpartum recovery c section. For starters, don’t lift anything heavier than your baby for your recovery period after a c section. Lifting heavy objects can cause damage to the incision and cause healing from a c section to take a lot longer.
To speed up c section postpartum healing you will also want to gently clean your incision with warm water and some soap daily, patting it dry with a clean towel (unless advised otherwise from your doctor).
14. Heal your perineum
A healing spray like this one can help take away some of the pain you’re experiencing in your perineum after birth. If you tore or got an episiotomy during delivery, you likely have a number of stitches which will make healing time take a bit longer than someone who didn’t have to get stitches.
Either way, you can bet on your perineum being pretty sore. This perineal spray will help numb the area and ease the discomfort.
Vaginal bleeding after birth – what’s normal?
You might be wondering “when should I worry about postpartum bleeding?”. It is completely normal to have heavy bleeding for up to 10 days postpartum. After the 10 day mark your vaginal bleeding should start to slow down and become light bleeding.
It is normal to have light bleeding for up to 6 weeks postpartum. If you continue to bleed past the 6-week mark, you should contact your doctor. Or, if your bleeding doesn’t start to slow down after 10 days, you should also contact your doctor.
The lochia – vaginal discharge containing blood, uterine tissue, and mucus – will most likely go from red to pink in color, ending in brown to yellow in color.
Postpartum recovery kit
If you’re wondering “What should I buy for postpartum care?” and what you should put in your postpartum recovery kit (and yes – you should have a postpartum recovery kit ready before your baby comes), I have a list of everything your postpartum care kit should include, here.
I would advise you to go out and buy everything on the list at least a month and a half before your due date, so you can hopefully have everything at home and ready as soon as your baby comes. (Because nothing’s worse than limping around a drug store with a 2 day old baby looking for nipple cream. Trust me, it’s just not fun.)
The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit (everything your kid should be stocked with for a fast postpartum recovery – ultimate postpartum care for mom).
What not to do after giving birth
There’s so much talk about what you should do after giving birth, but if you’re wondering “what shouldn’t I do after giving birth?”, let’s go over a couple things you won’t want to do shortly after giving birth.
1. Don’t stop your kegels
If you were doing kegels throughout your pregnancy, now is NOT the time to stop. If you want to be able to have bladder control and have a say over when you go pee (instead of leaking in the supermarket checkout lane), you’ll want to continue doing your kegels after giving birth.
2. Don’t use tampons
After giving birth, you have an open wound where the placenta was attached to the uterus, and you may have various other tears or cuts in, or around, your vagina. So, putting anything inside your vagina (even tampons or menstrual cups) could increase your risk of getting an infection.
Wait until 6 weeks after giving birth before using tampons, and be sure to get the OK from your health provider, first.
3. Don’t diet
Right now is not the time to start dieting to lose the baby weight. Right now your body needs extra calories (if you’re breastfeeding). And this doesn’t mean extra calories in the form of junk food, either.
Eat healthy food and eat when your body tells you it’s hungry. You need calories to replace the blood you lost during delivery, produce breastmilk, and heal.
Don’t expect to look like you did 9 months ago 2 months after having your baby (it just takes time).
4. Don’t do hard exercise
Getting out for a short walk after having a baby is a good way to get some fresh air and get out of the house. But don’t go ahead starting intense exercising right now. Give your body LOTS of time to heal, and make sure you get the OK from your health provider before starting regular exercise.
(Doing too much too soon could put you at risk of increased bleeding postpartum.)
5. Don’t stop taking prenatal vitamins
Your body needs lots of nutrients since it’s working extra hard to get back to its pre-pregnancy state (and healing the damage delivery did). These pre- and postnatal vitamins are perfect for pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy.
6. Don’t ignore postpartum emotions
While you were in labor your hormones were some of the highest they’ve ever been, and after delivery you experience an all-time hormone low.
It’s no wonder you’ve been so moody lately! (Well, that and a lack of sleep.)
Don’t be too embarrassed to reach out to your spouse, a trusted friend, or a family member to talk about how you’ve been feeling. And, if you are having signs of postpartum depression that last for more than two weeks postpartum, call your doctor.
Baby blues and postpartum depression
Your hormones are all over the map, so being sad and mood are completely normal for this time in your life.
But, if you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing the baby blues or struggling with postpartum depression, here are a couple ways to tell.
Symptoms of the baby blues:
- Feeling sad
- Mood swings
- Crying and not knowing why
- Troubles sleeping
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Being irritable
- Inability to concentrate
- Appetite changes
Baby blue symptoms should last no more than 2 weeks after giving birth. At this time your hormones should start to stabilize and you should start to feel like yourself again. If you find your symptoms continuing past the two week mark, there is a chance you may have postpartum depression, in which case you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Excessive mood swings
- Not enjoying usual activities
- Loss of energy and overwhelmingly tired
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and usual activities
- Loss of appetite, or
- Eating far more than usual
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, and guilt
- Inability to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions
- Panic attacks
- Severe anxiety
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby or thoughts of suicide
Postpartum depression, when left untreated, can last for many many months. It’s important that you contact your doctor RIGHT AWAY if you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help – you and your baby deserve it.
How to take care of your body after giving birth
Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are a whole whirlwind of emotions, hormones, and stress. Take care of yourself after giving birth by taking plenty of time to rest. If you can, sleep when the baby sleeps and relax on the couch for the rest of the day.
Spend time reading and learning how to balance life with a newborn. Most importantly, enjoy this time with your newborn. But don’t feel guilty if you don’t enjoy every moment of it (I wasn’t a huge fan of the newborn stage. Once my son hit the 2 month mark I started enjoying life a lot more. By two months we had both gotten the hang of breastfeeding, we had a routine, and life just wasn’t quite as stressful).
Don’t feel guilty for focusing on yourself and your baby for a few weeks. Ask your husband to take the baby for a bit so you can get an extra hour of sleep or some time to yourself. And, most importantly, make sure you do routine postpartum care so you can heal as quickly as possible after birth.
Postpartum recovery checklist
Here’s everything you’ll want to have ready for your postpartum recovery period. Create your postpartum care checklist with the items below. You’ll want to grab these items to fill your postpartum care kit while you’re still pregnant with plenty of time before your baby comes.
- Tylenol to help with the pain, aches, and discomfort you’ll be feeling after birth.
- A supportive nursing bra – again, don’t just get any old bra. You’ll want one that offers lots of support to help keep your breasts as comfortable as possible.
- Lanolin cream to help with sore, cracked, nipples. (Make sure it has lanolin in the ingredient list.)
- Maxi pads for the 6 weeks postpartum when you’ll be bleeding a lot. Be sure to get the thick pads with wings for the first 10 days of heavy bleeding (or grab a package of depends).
- Silver gel for perineal healing
- Sitz bath which also promotes perineum healing (and eases the pain)
- A hot water bottle to put on your stomach to help with the cramping
- Ice packs (or perineal packs) to help soothe your perineum
- Witch hazel pads to help soothe vaginal pain and heal hemorrhoids
- Peri bottles – you’re going to be very tender. Using a peri bottle to clean yourself after going to the bathroom will eliminate pain
- Nursing pads – if you’re planning on breastfeeding (even if you don’t plan on breastfeeding, you’ll likely need these for the first few weeks) you’ll want to have a bulk box of nursing pads on hand to keep your leaky nipples controlled
- Stool softener so you don’t have to strain with your first couple bowel movements (you’ve done enough straining already)
- Postpartum recovery belt – this is completely optional, but if you decide to use one this brand is pretty popular among new moms
Want the complete postpartum care kit checklist? Grab it here.
Phew – that was VERY long winded, but now you can go into your postpartum period knowing you’re READY and prepared for anything postpartum throws at you. (Because it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Not even close. But it isn’t all bad, and these postpartum products will help make your recovery period a whole lot more enjoyable. Promise.)
Now I’d love to hear from you! What are some postpartum must haves that you couldn’t live without? What are some things you didn’t think you’d need postpartum but ended up using? Feel free to share them with other moms below!
When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? (and all your other breastfeeding questions answered)
The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep On Their Own Without a Fight
13 Ways to Manage Labor Pain Naturally in Childbirth