It’s a shame you only get good at having babies once you are really, REALLY (no, you mean it this time) done.
After my fourth baby, instead of using my knowledge for really dialing in number 5, I’d rather pass along all my tips, tricks and things that make it easier — not just for the first few days or only in the hospital like a lot of postpartum guides, but for the first six months.
Postpartum Survival Guide: Must-Haves From The Hospital To 6 Months After
Everyone has their favorite assortment of immediate post-birth aftercare setups. Some people prefer to bring their own, but I’ve always appreciated the combination of giant hospital-provided pads and mesh underwear. They’ve never left me wanting.
The one thing no one talks about, though, is what to do with the baby in the first eight hours. I swear every baby does this — right after birth, they sleep. Then, for the next 24, they eat. During my first three kids, in the first eight hours, I kept waking them up to nurse, but by my fourth, I slept. That first feeding marathon was much easier after having a nap. So, after you’ve showered and eaten and the baby is sleeping? Sleep.
Over my span of 14 years having children, I’ve come up with a Postpartum Survival Guide of sorts. So first-time mamas, this one’s for you.
Postpartum Survival Guide: Hospital + First Week
These are the essentials I’ve found most helpful for those first few days.
1. Breathable Cotton Clothing
I’ve tried a variety of in-hospital or after-birth clothing, and my favorite are coordinated men’s cotton boxers (the old-fashioned kind) and extra-large cotton T-shirts. Cotton just breathes best for milk and birth hormones, and I like having things I don’t mind throwing away if it gets too messy. Once I move out of mesh underwear, I like to go with cheap, all-cotton postpartum underwear and a cotton-gauze robe like this or this one.
2. Postpartum Pads
Over the 14 years I was having children, there’s definitely more on the market now for postpartum care — however, the one thing I really liked was postpartum pads. Mixing them up with the regular pads (these are my favorite) prevents irritation.
3. Quick & Easy Foods
At home, my favorite postpartum meal to have on hand is thanks to one of my Korean friends who went grocery shopping with me before the birth of my last baby and put it in my cart. Bibigo miyeok guk (Korean seaweed soup) along with sliced rice cakes — it’s super-easy to heat up, and something about the seaweed and broth is amazing for your recovery. The rice cakes make it filling and satisfying.
4. Postpartum Bath Salts
Finally, at home, these postpartum healing bath salts are phenomenal for both the herbal benefits and the moment of reprieve in those early days. This can be used for a sitz bath but also for a regular salt bath.
Pro Tip: Stop the padsicles after 24 hours. A nurse told me that for my second child, that while they feel so good, they actually inhibit your healing because the ice reduces blood flow. I cry every time, but she was 100% right and I’ve healed quicker each time.
Postpartum Survival Guide: Weeks 1 to 4
For my first three babies, I tried to get back to my routine immediately, thinking it would give me a sense of normalcy and stability. For my fourth, I tried the 10-day rule: 10 days in bed, 10 days on the bed, 10 days next to the bed. I wasn’t super-strict about following it exactly, but it meant when I faced the choice of doing something, I would choose bed and a good television show or book to rest instead.
During that time, I healed faster than in my 20s and mentally felt better than I had in prior experiences. The point really is, do what feels good for you, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be different than what you expected.
Another key part of this time period is restoring connection to your pelvic floor through breathing exercises. Focusing on connection with your new body rather than some kind of immediate excavation of your former body is so much better for your overall experience. And while seemingly small, these exercises had a huge impact on my ability to regain my strength.
1. A Good Water Bottle
Finally, in this time period, make life easier on yourself by scattering diapers, wipes, blankets, a change of clothes and water bottles (I prefer CamelBak because of the bite nozzle making it one-handed, but a straw is fine too) for yourself everywhere you gravitate toward. I put these things into several small baskets and scattered them around the house. I also keep a basket in the car with several sizes of things, because I never seem to remember to switch things out.
2. Grab-&-Go Muffins
Pro tip: Make these oatmeal muffins to keep in the fridge. They’re perfect to grab and go, help your milk supply, and actually make it easier to lose weight without any adverse side effects on nursing.
Postpartum Survival Guide: Months 1 to 3
At some point in this time period, you’ll need to start getting dressed again. I do not recommend hard pants — or even sweatpants. May I introduce you to the shirtdress?
1. Loose-Fitting Clothes
Brands like Quince and Everlane offer great versions of a basic shirtdress. The buttons make it nursing-friendly and the lack of waistband makes it a sure fit postpartum. I love the ease of dressing them up with nice flats or down with sneakers. Plus, the linen and cotton offerings make it easier to manage the milk and hormones. That said, if you must wear pants, I would go with a soft, breathable knit like these Athleta pants or these Old Navy flares.
2. Unscented Moisturizer
If you’re nursing, you’ll need moisturizer! This Illiyoon ceramide cream is my favorite. Not only does it work really well, but it also has no irritating scents or dyes, so I don’t worry about the baby being in close contact to it.
3. Delicious Meal Prep
Food-wise, I continued to keep those oatmeal muffins on hand, and discovered that a big batch of ratatouille that could be eaten cold from the fridge, or warmed up with some bread and goat cheese, was the greatest thing during this time period. I added white beans to mine to help with extra protein and fiber.
4. Water-Based Lube
Your hair will start falling out now, and there will be a point where you’re extremely sweaty, very mushy and going bald. IT WILL PASS. You’ll feel a mess just in time to start having sex again, so buy lube beforehand.
5. Luxurious Shampoo & Conditioner
Pro tip: Don’t cut bangs. You’ll want to because your hair is falling out. But it’s OK. Buy yourself really lovely, expensive shampoo and conditioner instead. I loved the Briogeo SuperFoods Hair Pack this time around.
Postpartum Survival Guide: Months 4 to 6
At this point, you’ll feel so much further along in recovery than you actually are. It’s important to keep reminding yourself that there hasn’t been enough time for your body to complete its healing. Your shape will be all disorganized, even if you’ve lost the weight. You’ve got baby hairs starting to grow back — even while your hair is still falling out. You’ll feel caught between the person you once were and the person you’re growing into as a mom to this new little person. Even if it’s your fourth, you become a “new mom” with every single birth. I really enjoyed this video about bouncing forward rather than bouncing back.
1. Soft & Woven Baby Carriers
One of the things that really helped me navigate this time period were walks. Being outside really does uplift your mood, babies typically enjoy the experience, and it is such gentle, effective exercise. I’ve used a wide variety of carriers or gear and prefer now to mix it up. Soft baby carriers like the Ergobaby Omni 360 make it super-easy to pop on the baby and go; but beautiful woven wraps like this Oscha provide a snuggly, custom fit and made me feel so beautiful and brightened to use.
Exercise-wise, at this point, I’ve always introduced planks to continue the work of restoring my core. I’m short-waisted, so there’s always some diastase happening, but slow plank progression has always fully recovered that part of my body, as well as recovering my pelvic floor. (I never pee when I sneeze or laugh!)
Babies this age start actually playing with toys, and here’s my advice after four kids: Get them a set of TV controls without batteries, an old phone or phone-like thing, a broken video game controller, etc. Obviously, monitor their play, but this way you don’t have to fight the constant grabbing for whatever you have, and you can hand them their own version. (My child is currently playing with a broken doorknob…and I’m not exactly sure where it came from.)
2. Everyday Jewelry + Clothing
At this point postpartum, you’ll also find yourself wanting or needing a few more pieces of clothes. I highly recommend updating your underwear. Nothing fancy, but mainly to get yourself out of the maternity underwear because that doesn’t help anyone feel better. I love Uniqlo’s, Pact’s or Quince’s basic cotton offerings. I try to create a small postpartum capsule wardrobe to wear a uniform that feels good and is thoughtless for a little while.
This is a great time for thrifting (new pieces, low investment for a changing body, experimenting with style in a new phase) and shoes (no size or body hang-ups). I also like to update my everyday jewelry or makeup options at this point. All these little things add up to help you feel as good as possible in a time where it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
What would you put in your postpartum survival guide? Leave us a comment, below!