11 Practical Postpartum Tips to Help New Moms

There are so many things I wish I knew before having a baby, but these are all the ways I wish I would have prepared for postpartum recovery.

Published July 24, 2023
Mother embracing her baby girl while sleeping

When you're expecting a baby, you spend a lot of time decorating the nursery, washing those little baby clothes, and preparing for the birth. What isn't encouraged quite so much is preparing for the postpartum period.

But being prepared for postpartum and birth recovery is important. That way, your post-birth experience can be as positive as possible -- and you can focus on snuggling that sweet little babe.

Understanding Postpartum

Officially, postpartum is understood as the period after childbirth, also referred to as the fourth trimester. While there isn't an exact consensus on the length of the postpartum period; it is generally considered about six weeks after birth. During this time, the body is healing from birth and the uterus is starting to return to its pre-pregnancy state. Hormones are fluctuating and you're learning all the nitty-gritty details of being a mom.

There are differing thoughts on just how long postpartum -- in the sense that you don't feel entirely like yourself -- lasts. Many women feel fairly normal within those first six weeks, while some may take up to 18 months to finally feel they are fully recovered.

Technically speaking, you are always postpartum once you've given birth, since the Latin root of the word translates as "after childbirth." But those first weeks are most certainly the most difficult while also being the most rapid part of the recovery process.

Need to Know

Postpartum and Postpartum Depression are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Every woman experiences postpartum, while some may also be diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. If you think you're experiencing signs of Postpartum Depression, it's important to talk to a doctor or counselor right away.

How Preparing for Postpartum Could Have Helped Me

I spent so much of my pregnancy preparing for my daughter's birth that I didn't think too much about the period of time that would follow her entrance into the world. It's easy to get caught up in meeting your child, fearing the unknowns of childbirth, and longing to no longer be pregnant.

I was so focused on those things that once she was here, I was shocked by just how hard the postpartum process was. In the midst of learning how to be a mom and discovering this little human I loved, I was also struggling with the physical and emotional rollercoaster of the postpartum experience. Having a better understanding of how things could play out, and how I could prepare to care for myself, would have made the postpartum experience less stressful for me.

Though postpartum is not an easy thing to experience, those sweet baby snuggles and meeting the new member of my family was worth the journey.

11 Postpartum Tips I Learned That Could Help Other Moms

I spent a lot of my post-birth recovery thinking about all of the things I would have done differently. I could clearly see all the gaps in my birth preparations and had a more realistic idea of what postpartum recovery looked like.

Now that I can look back, I can see all the ways I wish I would have prepared for postpartum and how I would prepare today if I found myself approaching the birthing process again.

There is a lot of advice for new parents out there, but maybe not as much about the practical aspects of postpartum. These postpartum tips could help you in your recovery.

1. Do Lots of Meal Prep

This was one of the biggest postpartum obstacles for me. Nutrition and eating enough is important for so many reasons after you give birth. I underestimated how tired I would be, how difficult it would be to stand after a C-section, and how busy I would be with my newborn.

If I were to go back and do it all over again, I would have prepared more meals for my freezer, requested more meals from family and friends, and even arranged my own meal train.

2. Make a Nursing or While-Feeding Basket

This one I was actually told, but didn't realize its benefits until after giving birth. In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, my nurse midwife advised me to make a nursing basket. She explained that I would need some sort of easily accessible basket or bin near the area I planned to nurse most often. This basket would be filled with water bottles, snacks, and any other items I might need while trapped by a nursing newborn or unable to walk easily after a difficult birth.

This is also a great idea for moms that are bottle-feeding; to take care of your baby, you need to take care of yourself too.

I should have listened to her! Pridefully thinking that I would be a trooper, recover quickly, and have enough energy to properly make a meal for myself was a big mistake. If I ever find myself pregnant again, I plan to have a huge basket near my chair that's overflowing with things to nourish my body.

3. Get (or Register for) Comfy Loungewear

young adult mom walks with her baby girl

The appeal of no longer needing maternity clothes can overshadow the reality of how your body actually feels after giving birth. If I were to do it all over again, I would invest in (and even register for) comfy loungewear that fit my postpartum body and help me feel somewhat put together during the day or when visitors drop by.

4. Consider Nursing or Lactation Classes if You'll Nurse

Here's the truth I discovered only an hour after having my daughter: nursing for the first time is really hard. I thought so much of it would come naturally but it didn't. I had my daughter in 2020, during the pandemic, and lactation classes were not offered or possible during that time. If you're planning to breastfeed when your baby is born, getting education and instruction on nursing can serve you well in the postpartum period.

5. Learn About Lactation Support Supplements

This is another breastfeeding detail I wish I would have thought about. Instead, I sent my exhausted husband out late at night when our daughter was only a few days old to find any lactation support teas or supplements he could find. I was trying desperately to support my supply and wish so badly I would have stocked up on all the teas, cookies, and supplements I could find.

6. Get Some Comfortable Undergarments

Comfort is something I sought as often as possible while recovering from giving birth. I recommend investing in the most comfortable nursing bras, cotton underwear, and mesh panties you can find. The hospital will provide some mesh underwear for you, but that supply might run out before you feel entirely comfortable in your other undergarments again.

7. You Might Need a Stool Softener

Another one to list this one under "all the things my midwife told me to do that I should have done." Whether you have a vaginal birth or a cesarean, you're probably going to need stool softener. Just trust me on that one.

8. Make Sure to Hydrate

You know that huge bottle of water you carry around while pregnant? You're going to want to double that in the postpartum period. Hydration is so important for your recovery (and for your milk supply if you're nursing). The thirstiest I've ever been in my life was during those first few weeks of postpartum recovery and nursing. There didn't seem to be enough water in the world to quench my thirst.

9. Ask Other Moms About Postpartum

You've probably talked to other moms about parenting styles, pregnancy symptoms, and birth stories. But there are so many things that happen during postpartum that other moms can share with you.

If they are willing to open up, ask as many questions as you can about what their experience was like. Knowing what other moms go through can help you prepare for your own postpartum experience.

10. Make a Recovery Cart

I'm so passionate about this one, it's become my go-to baby shower gift for friends. A small cart with wheels -- think of a crafting cart -- is perfect for storing all of your recovery items. You can wheel it from your room, to the nursery, to the sofa throughout the day. Here's what I would include:

  • Snacks and water bottles

  • Diapers, wipes, and a small changing pad

  • Extra blankets, pacifiers, and clothes for your baby

  • Nipple cream, nipple guards, chapstick, and extra socks for yourself

  • Any medication you or your baby are taking regularly

  • Incision or birth healing items like a peri bottle, belly band, a heating pad, witch hazel, and pads.

11. Prepare for a C-Section (Even if You Aren't Planning One)

You may not go into your birth with a C-section in mind, but being prepared for one will help should the event occur. I was not at all prepared for my c-section and wished so badly I would have looked into all the details that come with a cesarean recovery. If I would have been more prepared for the possibility, the recovery may not have been so overwhelming.

Things I'm Glad I Did to Prepare for Postpartum

Alert baby makes eye contact with mother

Surprisingly, there are a few things I did in preparation for giving birth to my daughter. Though I had no real understanding of what postpartum recovery would be like, I'm so thankful that I did these things and had these plans in place for a smoother and more comfortable recovery.

  • Invested in a comfy chair: My sister-in-law, also a mother of 5, insisted that a comfortable and reclining chair would be necessary for catching a few moments of sleep in those late night hours. She was right!

  • Bought a bassinet: A lightweight bassinet with adjustable height made it easy to have my daughter sleeping nearby so I could easily reach her from my position in bed.

  • Set work boundaries: Once my daughter was born, I took the maximum amount of leave from work and completely disconnected from communication about my job.

  • Had a strict visitor policy: After my c-section, I set a strict visitor policy once we returned home from the hospital. I asked for a day's notice from visitors and absolutely no kids in tow without warning. Was it frowned upon? Yes. Was I glad I set that boundary? Absolutely.

Soak It All In

In the midst of recovery and crazy hormones, soaking in the newborn days can feel particularly challenging. But it's worth doing. With all the right preparations, you can spend more of your postpartum time snuggling with your baby and breathing in that new baby smell.

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11 Practical Postpartum Tips to Help New Moms