I can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since little Kate was born. It has been a big adjustment in our household, but we are in love and soaking in this sweet stage. We are just taking it day by day and enjoying the slowness this season calls for. I had planned to have this post out last week, but life has been a little crazy. As I’m in the thick of the postpartum experience, I included everything I know about the 4th Trimester through my own experience and research. I hope you find this post helpful as you prepare for your baby and recovery.
Every birth and postpartum experience is different; my sister wrote a guest post about her experience after having a c-section for those in the same boat.
NUTRITION + SUPPLEMENTS
Nutrition during postpartum recovery is crucial to avoiding depletion. The body goes through a lot after growing and delivering a baby. Once the baby is born, your body is working overtime to continue nurturing the child while simultaneously healing. It’s essential to make sure your body is adequately replenished.
Eating a wide variety of food high in iron, fiber, vitamins, and minerals offers body support during postpartum recovery. When planning meals to prep, freeze, and stock the fridge, my sister and I worked to pick a healthy balance of the following foods to offer the nutrition needed to heal.
HIGH IRON + HIGH PROTEIN FOODS – slow-cooked meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, lentils, black beans (some might suggest organ meats and incorporating them into stews and soups)
OMEGA 3-Fats – nuts, seeds, eggs, seafood, beef, oils (avocado, olive, and coconut)
COLLAGEN, ELECTROLYTES, AND LOTS OF MICRONUTRIENTS – bone broths, stews, soups, and curries.
IODINE -RICH FOODS – fish, seafood, eggs, prunes, greek yogurt, non-fat milk
HIGH-FAT FOODS – pork, butter, fatty fish, nuts/seeds
COOKED VEGGIES (esp those rich in vitamins A + C) – bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potato, kale, and spinach
FRUITS RICH IN VITAMIN C – guava, papaya, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, pineapple
COOKED GRAINS + STARCHES – oatmeal, rice, sweet potatoes, plantains, quinoa
PROBIOTIC RICH FOODS – yogurt, kefir, kombucha. I also supplement Mary Ruth’s probiotic drops.
Along with a well-rounded diet, taking your supplements is also crucial to ensure your body gets what it needs. Continuing to take a prenatal is typically what’s advised, and if any additional accessories are required, your health care provider will (or should) give you further instruction. An excellent prenatal should offer the following vitamins: folic acid, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin E, zinc, iron, and iodine. I recently switched over to Mary Ruth’s Prenatal + Postnatal, which includes magnesium (read all about the benefits here,) ginger, and other powerful antioxidants.
I found this article particularly helpful when it comes to learning more about postpartum nutrition, and it includes a lot of great meal suggestions and storage tips.
A Few of the dishes my sister prepared and I have been enjoying:
My sister made her excellent BONE BROTH from scratch one of these days. I will have her write it down, but for now, here is a great recipe. This is great to have frozen and on hand to incorporate into other meals and dishes.)
WHAT TO EXPECT + EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO HEAL
Ive only have had vaginal deliveries, so this is all I know. For some tips on what to expect after a c-section, see my sister’s guest post here. The following are some of the discomforts you may experience when recovering from vaginal delivery and everything you need to heal. The hospital will send you home with some items, but I always like to have backups on hand.
Vaginal Soreness and Bleeding – There are different degrees of tearing that may happen during a vaginal delivery, and you may likely have a stitch or two (your body will eventually absorb) along with a lot of swelling. These Perineal Ice Packs are excellent for easing the pain and swelling. The body will continue to expel extra tissue and blood from the uterus for several weeks after delivery, so you will also need Peri Bottle to help keep the area clean and free from infection. Finish up by lining your Mesh Panties with a pad, Dermoplast, and Tucks. Once bleeding subsides, I like to replace my mesh panties with this Postpartum underwear. You might be a little taken back by the amount of blood, and it’s hard to know what’s “normal”; this is a helpful guide for the different stages of bleeding.
Afterpains, aka more Contractions (yay!) – I was a little caught off guard after my second child when I experienced contractions while nursing (I thought that pain was done with lol ), and they lasted for a few days after delivery. It’s not something I remember having with my first, but it apparently gets worse with subsequent children. It’s your uterus shrinking, and when you breastfeed, your body sends out chemicals making your uterus contract. Motrin (with Tylenol the first couple of days) and a heating pad helped relieve some pain.
Breast Swelling + Soreness – In the first few days, your body will produce, and the baby will drink colostrum (aka nutrient-rich fluid-filled with all the good stuff that boosts babies’ immune system.) Then your milk comes in, and if you are like me, it comes in strong, leading to engorgement and sometimes latching problems (which can cause your breasts to become blistered, making nursing extremely painful.) If you are experiencing latching problems, meet with a lactation consultant to resolve and/or identify further issues. Ease your sore nipples with some Nipple Balm and if necessary, use a nipple shield.
If you experience an over-production of milk and engorgement, the following hot/cold therapy is crucial in avoiding mastitis (an infection of the breast, and is not a pleasant experience and often needs to be treated with antibiotics)
-Once you are finished expressing the extra milk, apply a cold compress to your breast to help take the swelling down.
Constipation, Diarrhea, and Hemorrhoids – One of the many not-so-glamorous parts of postpartum recovery. You often hear women afraid of the first bowel movement after delivery because everything is a little out of sorts. If you are experiencing constipation – Drink lots of water, take Colace (or some type of stool softener), and eat fiber-rich foods. Frequently women have the opposite problem due to rectum muscles and tissue being stretched out during delivery; your doctor may prescribe medication depending on the cause. Avoiding certain foods (fatty foods, dairy, artificial sweeteners) and Kegel exercises can also help diarrhea. When it comes to hemorrhoids, drink lots of water, fiber-rich foods, and for relief, cold compress, witch hazel pads, and topical ointments (consult your doctor.)
Mood Swings – After you have a baby, your body undergoes a significant hormonal shift, causing you to feel all the feelings – including anxiety, fatigue, and worry. Many refer to this phase as the “baby blues,” but if you’re feeling like this for longer than a few weeks, then it may be time to talk to your doctor. Postpartum depression and anxiety are common and treatable, do not be afraid to reach out for help. For information on regulating hormones after pregnancy, check out Lynzy + Co’s Blog post “Your Hormones After Kids and What You Can Do About It.”
Hair Loss + Skin Changes – Hormonal changes may cause some hair loss and skin issues. When it comes to hair regrowth, the only success Ive had is with Collective Laboratories Regime, and I also love it because I can go 4-5 days in between each hair wash. As for skincare, the product all depends on what issues you are facing. I always experience hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and the only success Ive had in fixing most of it is with Rodan + Fields Reverse Regime, in addition to drinking a lot of water and wearing sunscreen daily.
OTHER POSTPARTUM GOODS
Large Washable Bed Pads – Hormones are a little wild postpartum, sometimes causing night sweats, so I lay these down to sleep on. Also great for protecting my bedding from leaking milk and spit-up. I like to have a couple on hand downstairs for changing diapers as well.
EXERCISE + HEALING YOUR TVA & PELVIC FLOOR
The healing process depends on how your labor and recovery go – it’s unique to each person. There is so much that goes into the healing of the TVA (transverse abdominis- the deepest of our ab muscles), and pelvic floor that’s is not often talked about in women’s postnatal health and, when properly addressed, fix many issues that are just tagged as “normal” for after having kids (incontinence, painful sex, pelvic pain, lower back pain, and stomach pooch -that’s not extra weight.) I honestly did not know about many repairs and potential issues with having a baby until after my second baby; I started experiencing pelvic pain that did not go away until after my third baby! About 6 months after having my third baby, I had heard a podcast about postpartum health with a pelvic floor therapist as the guest speaker, and from there, I discovered her youtube channel. I did her videos and the movements practiced were a great start with my pelvic floor healing. They made me realize I needed additional care, so I booked a few physical therapy sessions that resolved my overall recovery.
When it comes to movement and exercise right after labor, I try to get in little spurts of walking, starting a few days after delivery, then eventually work up to 10-20 minutes a day of walking in addition to my usual puttering around the house. Once I start feeling better and a little more like myself (usually week 2 or 3), I try to incorporate breathing exercises and work on my posture to rebuild a strong foundation for working my deep ab muscles and pelvic floor. Once cleared at my six-week appointment, I like to start with low-impact workouts and pelvic floor exercises.
If you are still having complications after six weeks or if it just doesn’t feel right, then talk to your doctor and look into pelvic floor physical therapy; I can’t recommend it enough! To learn more about pelvic floor recovery (and what pain and signs to look for), check out this article and podcast.
Here are a few exercise programs that I’ve done postpartum and genuinely enjoyed.
This program offers extensive information and instruction on repairing the pelvic floor and TVA, giving you all the whys and hows.
Another excellent program for pre and postnatal workouts is low impact and helpful instruction on safely activating the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles.
If you are unsure where to start and where to begin to check All Day Huang, she can help figure out what best suits your fitness needs.
Technically not a “postnatal” program, but the workouts are very low impact (pilates-inspired), and her whole philosophy behind these short workouts makes moving your body an experience of self-care and relaxation (which is much needed in this season of life!)
There are also loads of free postpartum workouts on youtube and Instagram!
The Fourth Trimester was a term made popular by Dr. Harvey Karp and is known as the transitional period between birth and 12 weeks postpartum. Essentially babies (as well as parents ) are adjusting to this new way of being. They are no longer in the coziness of the womb, and the outside world is not as comfortable or familiar. With their nervous system and brain still developing, a lot of adjustment and growth happens in the first few weeks. There is lots of crying, feeding, and soothing. Below are some ways to embrace and help your baby with this sweet but challenging stage:
-Interacting with your baby through holding, rocking, talking, singing encourages brain connectivity
-High contrast pictures and baby books (black + white) help with sight development and focus.
-Tummy time helps them gain the strength to hold up their heads.
-Lots of feeding – amount depends on baby (as long as the baby is steadily gaining weight, peeing, and pooping consistently, then they are getting what they need)
–Soothing with the 5 S’s to help baby slowly adjust to life outside the womb through swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging motion, and sucking. Favorite Swaddle, Pacifier, and swing.
-Babywearing – I can go on and on about the benefits of babywearing, but ultimately it’s soothing for them, and it’s good for both you and baby. And if you have other little ones to take care of, it is incredibly convenient for getting stuff done. My favorite carriers are the Ergo, Wild Bird, and Solly Wrap
-Everything you need for baby, go to my post MINIMALIST BABY LIST
Accept help, and line it up!
Especially if you have other kids, this is essential. If you have people in your family and community offering and willing to help, now is not the time to decline. We have been extremely fortunate to have such supportive friends and family, and I dont know what we would do without them. My cousin reached out and asked if she could set up a meal train, I almost so no because Andrew has a nice amount of time off to help, but I’m so glad I didn’t. We have been blessed with families in our community bringing us dinner, and it has taken a load off of our household, making our evenings much more calm and relaxing. Whether setting up childcare or having a friend line up a meal train, you will be glad you accepted the extra help.
Give yourself time to rest and repair.
I’ve made the mistake of overdoing it too soon after having a baby, and it was like taking one step forward and three steps back, physically and mentally. Give yourself time to lay low and recover. Dont be in a rush to visit, get back in shape, or whatever else bombards your mind. Allow your world to stop for a bit and soak in your new baby. My friend told me the other day, “-listen to your body and take whatever time you need. The kids and the house and everything will still be there. Dont feel guilty for taking care of yourself right now.” Sometimes you just need a friend to remind you, so this is my gentle nudge to you – now is the time to give you, your body, and your baby that extra love.
Listen to your body.
A lot is going on during postpartum recovery – mentally, physically, emotionally. If it’s your first time, you may be caught off guard and unsure what’s normals (and what’s not.) Talk with your doctor and nurses about any concerns; they typically will give you information on what to expect for recovery and guide you on when there is cause for concern. If you are unsure or feel that something is not right, then dont hesitate to call your health provider.
Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods.
Replenish and refuel your body! The sweet cravings are always intense postpartum. Nursing turns me into a ravenous animal, but I know if I’m fueling my body with nutritious and hearty foods, I’m going to heal a lot faster feel better. Especially if you’re nursing, make sure you are drinking and eating enough for both you and the baby.
Be patient with yourself.
It takes months to fully recover, and it may take a minute for you to feel like yourself. After I had Amelie, I tried too hard to be back to how I was pre-baby, and I think it distracted me from the transformative experience of motherhood; embrace the new version of yourself. It wasn’t until my 2nd child that I truly appreciated the shift and change motherhood brought into my life. Be patient, and you will eventually recognize and feel the old pieces of yourself, along with many new and beautiful ones.
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