Your postpartum recovery kit: Feel your best after a C-section or vaginal birth

What’s normal, what’s not—and what to buy to help you recover faster.

Your postpartum recovery kit: Feel your best after a C-section or vaginal birth

Giving birth is one of the most incredible and physically demanding experiences of your entire life. But the process doesn't end once baby is born—it actually goes on for weeks after birth, generally while you're at home bonding with baby.

We're sure you (and everyone else) will be busy attending to the baby's every need. And while that's great, we also want to make sure that YOU are being taken care of as well.

As a midwife and mom, I've cared for thousands of women healing from childbirth. Here's what you need to know (for vaginal and cesarean births) to have the best possible postpartum recovery.


What normally happens after birth?

Women typically bleed for about 6 weeks after birth (check out our bleeding warning signs at the bottom of this article).

The bleeding will start heavy and taper off over the course of a few weeks. Call your doctor if you experience heavy bleeding that fills a pad in an hour or two, if you have multiple blood clots or if you have a blood clot the size of a golf ball.

You can wear pads just like when you have your period (no tampons until you get the green light from you provider at around six weeks). Alternatively, many moms choose to wear disposable absorbent underwear, like these. Sometimes a pad can bunch up and be uncomfortable (especially if you've had stitches), but the disposable undies don't!

Your belly will be larger than normal for months to come.

Be prepared for it. A swollen belly is completely normal as your uterus slowly shrinks back down to its pre-pregnancy size.

Many cultures around the world practice belly binding, the art of wrapping fabric around a woman's abdomen after she gives birth. This has nothing to do with “looking trim" and everything to do with comfort: Many moms find that belly binding relieves back pain, helps with their posture and simply makes their midsection feel more secure. If you don't have access to a belly binding expert, you can ask your provider if they can offer you a Belly Band, or you can check out these.

Your breasts may be sore.

Whether or not you are nursing, your breasts are probably pretty tender these days. We love gel pads for comforting your hardworking postpartum breasts, and nipple ointment for soothing irritated nipples.

You may have hemorrhoids.

Ah, hemorrhoids, everyone's favorite “congratulations on having a baby" gift. Whether you got them from pushing or simply from carrying around a growing baby, you now likely have them, and possibly some discomfort as well. So let's talk about how to make it all feel better.

Preparation-H makes wipes specifically for new moms to help reduce flare-ups. We also LOVE Tucks pads for relieving hemorrhoid discomfort.

And just a word on hemorrhoids: Make sure you're drinking lots of water and eating foods with fiber so you don't have to strain when you go to the bathroom (that makes hemorrhoids worse). If you're taking iron for anemia, know that it can cause some constipation, so ask your doctor for a stool softener to go along with it.

Your vagina may be tender.

Sitz baths feel great on swollen vaginal areas: This is mostly for the vaginal-birth moms, but also the C-section moms (because you may have pushed for a while before your surgery, which leads to some swelling). If you didn't get one from your provider, you can buy one here. Essentially, it is a whirlpool for your bottom. Place it on the toilet seat, fill the bag with warm water, sit, and let the water gently soothe your sore parts. Plain water is fine, or you can get fancy and try a special soak like this one.

Vaginal birth recovery kit

Maxi pads or adult diapers

Oversize undies

Sitz bath + soaking salts

Spray bottle

Tucks pads and/or padsicles

Belly binder or support wear

Breast pads

Nipple cream

Tucks pads work great on parts made sore by stitches. We also love making padsicles; here's what you do:

You'll need large pads, aloe vera gel, witch hazel and little lavender oil if you want. Open the pad (but save the wrapping) and add about a tablespoon of aloe, a teaspoon of witch hazel, and a few drops of lavender to the top of the pad, and blend it together. Re-wrap and stash it in your freezer. And when you're in pain, you have a super-soothing solution ready to go!

Wiping your vaginal area can be uncomfortable after you've given birth. If that's the case, try the Frida Mom Washer. Fill it with room-temperature water and gently spray your vagina while you pee and afterward. The counter-pressure can feel great.

C-section birth recovery

Comfortable underwear is key. It can be hard to find underwear that doesn't rub your incision. Thankfully, these lovely undies exist! UpSpring has created underwear specifically for you: They're high-wasted, so nothing rubs your incision, and they offer just enough support to keep your insides feeling secure.

Breastfeeding after a C-section can be tricky: It's hard to get the baby positioned in a way that doesn't put pressure on your incision. Nursing pillows can be especially helpful for you in this case. We like the squishier versions because you can slide them around to your side (again, so there's no pressure on your belly), and still be able to lean backwards comfortably against the pillow. Our favorite for C-section mamas is the Boppy.

What isn't normal

We hope your recovery is totally uneventful. But just in case, here are some big things to look out for. If you notice them, call your doctor or midwife right away (even if it's 2 am).

  • Multiple blood clots, or a blood clot the size of a golf ball
  • Heavy bleeding that fills a pad in 1 to 2 hours
  • Lower-belly tenderness
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling or green/yellow vaginal discharge
  • A severe headache
  • Blurry or spotty vision
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Sharp pain in an area of your body (usually the leg) accompanied by warmth, redness and hardness (i.e., a blood clot)
  • Sharp or shooting breast pain, especially if accompanied by a hard spot, redness and/or a fever
  • Feeling very sad or anxious, disconnected from your baby, not enjoying life, feeling excessively tired or worrying about things often. If you feel like you want to hurt yourself or the baby, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Seeking help is the most loving thing you can do for both of you in that situation.

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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