Postpartum Necessities

So, once you have a Little like the one above, what do you need? As I began to see the whites of my due date’s eyes, I searched in every nook and cranny of the internet for the answer to that question. What I found was disheartening: endless product reviews and tired lists of the stuff everyone thinks of (nursing pads, onezies, diapers, ect). What I wanted was the stuff you didn’t plan on having around but couldn’t have done without. The “I happened to have this in my cupboard and it saved my life” list. I could not find such a list. I determined in my heart that I would keep an inventory of the things that were especially useful to me in the weeks immediately following Theodore’s birth, and so make my own list that might help some future mama-to-be.

So without further ado…

  1. Hard boiled eggs-These have been a dark horse nutritional resource for me. I’d hard boiled a dozen eggs the day before going into labor in preparation for a meal later in the week. Even though that meal never happened, I was grateful for the eggs. They provided a much needed protein source that was easy to prepare in advance and kept well in the fridge. They are also infinitely adaptable. They can get chopped up on salads or toast, made into deviled eggs, or eaten straight out of the fridge during the 76 seconds you have before the Little starts crying again.
  2. Netflix Instant or audio books- I had a long reading list prepared for all the down time I was going to have while nursing in the first few weeks. The day after Theodore was born, I sent Mr. Quotidian off to the library to pick them up for me. He left them in a neat stack next to our bed… and there they sat for weeks. Not for lack of desire, I assure you. I’d been looking forward to this reading spree for months. The problem was that nursing turned out to be a different kind of animal than I was expecting. I had thought it would curl up quietly in my lap, moving only to nuzzle into me contentedly. Instead it wrestled itself into my arms, snorting grumpily all the way. It took both my hands and my full attention every 42 seconds, leaving little for book holding, let alone sentence reading. Therefore Netflix Instant entered the picture– hands free entertainment. I found it’s best to watch either something a bit fluffy in subject matter or something you’ve already seen before. Then you’re not dying of suspense when the Little takes your full attention every other scene.
  3. A gentle husband-I don’t have any advice about how to come by one of these; I only know how valuable they are.
  4. Nursing camis- I bought several of these on the advice of a friend, and they’ve been the best clothing purchase I’ve made since a maternity dress. When clothing is required (and it’s not always), these are the best. My only additional advice is to buy at least a size larger than you normally would. I personally normally wear a small or medium and bought an extra large. You just don’t want anything remotely constricting.
  5. A baby carrier- There are articles everywhere covering the benefits of babywearing, so I won’t clog the search engines even more with another one. However, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s worth your time to Google “babywearing.” I also don’t want this to be a review of different styles of carriers. Everyone, including the babies, has their own opinion about which style is the best. So, be willing to experiment in finding the kind that is least likely to turn your baby into a back-diving octopus.
  6. A bendy straw- This is a necessity for the same reason that Netflix is- a lack of extra hands. I was thirstier than a sun baked terracotta pot the first couple weeks after giving birth. I regularly was caught in the crossfire between the finally (but delicately) asleep Little and a nearly debilitating thirst. If I shifted him too much by reaching for and bringing a glass to my lips, well, you can imagine what could happen. But at the same time, not having that gulp of water produced a panic in me worthy of some great poetry. (Trust me, everything is more dramatic when you measure your sleep in 45 minute increments.) While a bendy straw doesn’t entirely bring peace to all the land, it does allow a treaty to be reached. I don’t have to move quite so much to get a drink and the Little finds a whimper enough to communicate his displeasure.
  7. Experienced friends-Like a gentle husband, I don’t know where you can get these if you don’t already have them. They answer questions about your baby’s possible overbite without making you feel stupid or like a helicopter parent. The good ones also make sure you have everything you need even when you say “We have everything we need.” (Thanks Jed and Theresa!)
  8. La Leche,, and The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding by Jack Newman- If you plan on breastfeeding, you can lost in the maze of self doubt, worry, and fear. While these may only be alieved by the constant reassurance of a veteran breastfeeding mama, these resources (two websites and a book) will at least slack your thirst for information.
  9. A lamp with adjustable amounts of light- There is probably a more succinct term for this, but you know the lamps I’m talking about? You tap them once for a dim light, twice for a medium light, and three times for a full amount of light. I’ve needed light for a whole host of things during the night, from making sure Theodore is still breathing to reading to diaper changes to the ever almost-but-not-quite-attainable Latch. The adjustable lamp means I can keep the light on for as long as I want without worrying about disturbing Mr. Quotidian.
  10. A blind eye towards housekeeping- This one needs little else said. Let it go.
  11. Several changes of sheets and many, many, many washcloths and towels- I used to be the kind of person who kept only two sets of sheets– one for summer and one for winter. And two sets of towels per person. We live in a small space and I didn’t want to give up valuable closet space to linens that would just sit there. However, for various reasons, I’ve amassed at least three extra sets over the past months and numerous towels and wash cloths. And I have learned to be grateful for them. Wash cloths are hot currency because they are so versatile. One minute they are sopping up spit up, the next they are clogging the Leak which used to be quite a normal boob, thank you very much. And you’d be surprised how quickly sheets can feel dirty when you live on the bed. Frequently changed sheets (without having to wash them) are just enough of a luxury to freshen my unshowered spirits.
  12. A sense of humor-My decision to cultivate a sense of humor carried over from some advice my doula, Kristen of Mama Sense, gave us concerning birth. She said the two things that she sees making the most difference to women giving birth is a sense of gratitude and a sense of humor. While I can see humor being important for labor, it has been essential for me post-partum. I don’t know what bodily fluid that is running down my belly and making a spot on the sheets- pee, poop, sweat, or breast milk. The Little, who’s been sleeping peacefully for tens of minutes,  cries just when I’ve snuggled up to Mr. Quotidian. There’s a trail of breast milk from the bed to the changing table to the bathroom. These are just a few of the things that have become normal since May 22nd. As Mr. Quotidian is fond of saying: It makes it better if you imagine a studio audience laughing at you.
  13. Epsom salt- Whether your taking a sitz bath to soak your nether regions, a full bath to ease your new nursing injuries, or a spa like bath to just escape for a few minutes, epsom salts are essential. While their actual benefit lies in easing weary muscles, I love adding them to my bath for the little feeling of extra TLC. It makes all the icky things of early motherhood more bearable.
  14. Swaddle cloths-Like babywearing, the benefits of swaddling are documented and much more thoroughly discussed in other places, so I won’t waste keystrokes on that here. However, my banishment of uni-taskers in the kitchen extends to baby care. I don’t like the made for swaddling blankets with velcro, zippers, or snaps. What do you do with them when the baby outgrows them or doesn’t like being swaddled anymore? Even if they swaddle well, they’re only good for swaddling. So there’s the unitasker mentality, but also because of my personality I wanted to learn to swaddle the old fashioned way- with just a cloth. When doing this, it helps to have an appropriate cloth. Receiving blankets don’t really cut it. I like muslin cloths (in as big of a size as you can) as muslin breathes well, meaning the Little stays warm but won’t overheat. The large size gives you enough extra at the end tuck in so the swaddle stays in place. When I’m not swaddling, these cloths are used as plain old blankets, sun shades, and spit up mops. A savvier mom than me could probably get long lengths of the stuff at a fabric store and not pay the “You’ll pay anything cause it’s for a baby!” price.
  15. Ocean “Music”-Mr. Quotidian cringes when I call it this because it’s not technically music. It’s just ocean sounds. By accident I discovered that the Little is quieted by the sound of running water. Because of this revelation, I spent several nights leaning against the tub and depleting the earth’s clean water supply. Eventually I wised up (woze up? wizened up?) and dug out my old Ocean Moods cd that I was obsessed with in middle school and downloaded the file to my phone. Theodore’s ocean now travels with him everywhere. It still startles me how instantly comforting it is to him.
  16. Hope- “This won’t last forever” is the refrain I keep repeating to  myself. Even already at seven weeks postpartum I’ve experienced that to be true. Gone are the days where it takes us ten minutes to get a good latch. The feeling of having no control over my days is fading as we settle into some kind of rhythm. So even on our very bad days where swaddles and pacifiers lay discarded on the floor and Theodore and I finally collapse into each other mutually exhausted from 14 hours of failed communication– even on those days I manage to find the barest teaspoon of hope.

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Posted in Uncategorized 12 years, 5 months ago at 6:23 pm.


4 Replies

  1. Oh Jana, my dear, it is wonderful to see how you are growing into the role of motherhood.

    As you noted, everyone has differences in what the necessities of the first weeks are (a discussion that is continually debated throughout the rest of your kiddo’s life). But you have gathered a great list! I would totally agree with many of the things on your list, items I had forgotten about when you asked for ideas on FB before the Little was born.

    I love the Netflix’s idea. I too remember trying to read and being quite unsuccessful. Plus, there isn’t much on TV during many of those nighttime feedings. Also, I remember my mom showing us how to swaddle with a regular blanket. A fantastic skill to have as a new parent, if I say so. I’ve heard that kiddos enjoy sounds like ocean “music” since especially during those precious first months, it mimics the sounds of the womb.

    I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying your time with the Little. It does fly by too quickly. I can hardly believe my little one is already 2! I look forward to hearing more of your adventures as you dive into motherhood. :)

  2. Shawn B Jul 12th 2011

    ocean “music” was my favorite one!

  3. Kathleen Jul 12th 2011

    Jana, as always, a delightful read and great information! Love ya, AK

  4. Rachelle Jul 14th 2011

    Way to go, Mr. Quotidian! Gentle husbands are a great treasure. I will remember this list whenever my time comes.

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