When I first became pregnant, friend after friend started giving me their (sometimes unsolicited) advice. There were tips about breastfeeding, the baby registry, and how to get frisky if I was ever in the mood. But the most valuable piece of advice I received was about how to prepare for postpartum recovery.
Recovering from giving birth is different for every woman, but what we all have in common is that we DO have to recover. Our bodies go through nine months of intense hormones, stretching and growing and changing. And that’s before the actual labor. As I approached the fourth trimester, I wanted to be prepared.
So, I made myself a postpartum recovery kit. I included mother’s milk tea (an herbal supplement to increase a mother’s milk supply, which ultimately did not work for me), a peri bottle (a perineal irrigation bottle that helps you clean up, ahem, down there and is not something any woman who delivers a baby vaginally should be without), nipple cream (which helped to heal my very cracked nipples), a breastfeeding nightgown (that I honestly never ended up wearing because I was much too hot), fuzzy socks (ditto on the being too warm), and a really great moisturizer for my exceedingly dry pregnancy skin.
I got most of these goodies in a Mombox—I couldn’t see myself running around town trying to find all of the various things I wanted to buy last-minute for my postpartum recovery. After all, I had my baby in the middle of a pandemic, so the less I needed to leave the house, the better.
Knowing how much my own postpartum recovery kit helped me, I asked a variety of doctors, midwives, and doulas for the items they recommend for new moms. From super comfy sweatpants (How did I miss this one?!) to padsicles, here are 11 expert-recommended items to stock in your postpartum recovery kit before you head to the hospital.
1. Super Comfy Sweatpants
All I ever wanted in those early postpartum days was to be comfortable as I dragged myself from bed, where I breastfed, to the couch, where I breastfed, to the kitchen table, where I ate. That’s why a pair of comfy sweatpants is so crucial for new moms, says Cassie Shortsleeve, an integrative health coach who specializes in maternal health and the founder of Dear Sunday, an online platform that helps women adjust to motherhood. She recommends that you get one in a size or two too big because “no one wants to wear leggings in those early days.”
Out From Under Kya Fleece Jogger Pant
$44.00, Urban Outfitters
Mango Knit Jogger-Style Trousers
Breastfeeding can be really challenging so having the right tools can help save your sanity. “The Haaka is something I recommend to every mom that plans to breastfeed,” says Talitha Phillips, a labor and postpartum doula. The Haaka is a nifty little gadget that attaches to the breast to help “catch” any excess milk. “This is especially great for moms with an abundant supply of milk but also works for other moms,” says Philips. ”Unlike a breast pump, it doesn’t stimulate the breast to produce more. This means it can be used much more frequently and especially when your milk is coming in, the baby is small, and they can’t often drain you completely.”
Haakaa New Mom Starter Kit
3. Clean Hands Kit
Until you have a kid, you can never imagine just how many times a day you will be washing your hands. You think the coronavirus pandemic means extra hand washing? Try having a newborn who poops and splits up all day. That’s why the Clean Hands Kit—which includes a hand sanitizer spray, hand soap, and body butter—from Organic Bath Co. is the top recommendation by Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a board-certified OB GYN and minimally invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center. “Their great products are organic and include bar soaps, hand sanitizers, and body butters.” I personally also love their sugar and coffee scrub. After all, new moms want to be clean…and smell pretty, too.
Clean Hands Kit
$42.00, Organic Bath Co.
Java Jolt Organic Sugar & Coffee Scrub
$27.00, Organic Bath Co.
4. Nipple Cream
If you are planning to breastfeed or pump, make sure to stock up on some quality nipple cream to help with mild soreness, like the organic one recommended by Amy Lewis, a doula, certified lactation counselor, and childbirth educator. This is the cream that saved my cracked nipples in the early days and, a few times, helped to protect my nipples when they got chaffed during a particularly vigorous day of pumping. “Remember though, pain isn’t normal!” Lewis says. “Get help from a certified lactation counselor.”
If you had a c-section and are worried about the scar, the FasciaBlaster might help, says Courtney Virden, a pelvic floor trainer and creator of an online pelvic floor and core program. “In many surgeries, such as a c-section, our fascia is cut into and this creates scar tissue and adhesions,” she says. “It can impede nerve pathways (including our pelvic floor) and create dysfunction throughout our entire fascial system.”
Ashley Black FasciaBlaster Myo-Fascia Massage Tool
$89.00, Urban Outfitters
6. Perineal Comfort Pillow
Also known as a donut pillow, no mom should start her postpartum journey without one of these babies. Even though I experienced a not-too-bad second-degree tear, I was still plenty sore down there the first few weeks postpartum. That’s why a donut pillow is highly recommended by Dr. Christine Carter Sterling, an OB GYN who specializes in helping moms navigate pregnancy and the postpartum period. You definitely need one of these, she says, “because vaginal lacerations and hemorrhoids are no fun to sit on.”
Frida Mom Perineal Comfort Cushion
7. Oat Cleansing Facial Polish
It’s no secret that all of the hormones of pregnancy and postpartum can mess with skin. I was extremely prone to acne and my skin was very dry all throughout pregnancy (what glow?) and it got even worse after giving birth. A good facial cleanser and moisturizer are essential postpartum tools. Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist, loves the Naturopathica Oat Cleansing Facial Polish and Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream. “They saved my skin postpartum,” she says. “The major estrogen drop [in the postpartum period] can cause major skin changes like dryness, acne, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea.” Both formulas are safe to use while breastfeeding.
Naturopathica Oat Cleansing Facial Polish
Naturopathica Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream
8. Expectful Meditation App
Although having products in the postpartum period is important, another “item” that every mom needs is “practical tools to support our emotional recovery postpartum,” says Dr. Ashurina Ream, a licensed psychologist and certified perinatal mental health provider. That’s why she recommends that women work on their relaxation skills with a meditation app like Expectful, which is specifically designed for fertility, pregnancy, and parenthood. I personally used Expectful to heal from my miscarriage last year and deal with the anxiety surrounding my new pregnancy—it helped me a lot.
Expectful Meditation App
9. Postnatal Vitamins
“Because most women lose blood during delivery, they need supplements in the postpartum period,” says Dr. Zaher Merhi, a board-certified OB GYN, fertility expert and Director of IVF Research at New Hope Fertility Center. He recommends keeping up with Iron and Vitamin D pills, along with postnatal vitamins that support mental health since “a lot of women are prone to postpartum depression.” Personally, I loved my Smarty Pants chewable prenatal vitamins and will continue taking them for months to come.
SmartyPants Prenatal Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin
A padsicle is basically what it sounds like: the combination of a pad and a popsicle. While the might sound gross, it’s actually extremely necessary for helping with swelling after giving birth. Mandy Major, a certified doula ad co-founder/CEO of Major Care, recommends that her clients and friends “create a stockpile of padsicles in the freezer during your last month.” “It’s all about soothing and tending to your perennial area, which has gone through the ringer,” Major says. You can make them yourself or you can pick up a packaged version like the Frida Mom Instant Ice Maxi Pads. “In addition to those padsicles, you’ll want to have the biggest maxi pads you can find and stretchy mesh underwear specifically made for postpartum,” she adds.
Frida Mom Instant Ice Maxi Pad
Fridababy’s Fridet the MomWasher
$15.99.00, Simply Birth
11. The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
What you really need during the postpartum period is to understand just what is going on, which is why I read this excellent book—and why Carrie Murphy, a full-spectrum doula who provides virtual postpartum planning assistance to clients around the country, recommends it too. “This book is the 360 holistic approach to postpartum—the voice of wisdom and kindness that empowers you to prepare for, embrace, and thrive in the fourth trimester,” she explains. “Covering everything from the pelvic floor to your relationship with your partner, Kimberly’s book has practical advice and useful framing for this giant transition of mind, heart, and body, one that is so often minimized in our culture’s urgency to ‘bounce back.’”
“The Fourth Trimester” by Kimberly Ann Johnson
Originally Appeared on Glamour