There is a lot of information out there on how to prepare for birth (and I have a whole post about how I prep here!), but I feel like a huge aspect of getting ready to welcome a baby is getting ready for the incredibly beautiful and simultaneously challenging postpartum period. Here are the supplies I stock up on and how I prepare for the fourth trimester.
Plan for Rest
The most important aspect of postpartum recovery for me is rest, and I plan as much of it as I can after baby arrives. Ethan will have two weeks of paid paternity leave which we are incredibly grateful for. My mom is going to come visit for a week or so as well, and then my older sister has graciously said she will come spend a week with us. This will give me approximately one month of rest and/or help. If we did not have this much help from family available, we absolutely would have worked side jobs to earn the income to hire a mothers helper or postpartum doula.
There is a lot of pride in bouncing back quickly in American culture, and we are not good as a society in honoring the body’s need to really heal from birth. Sadder still is the breakdown of tight knit community and family circles that prevents many women from getting the rest they so richly deserve after bringing a baby into the world.
I love the term “4th trimester,” because it honors the fact that even though baby has come outside after the 3rd trimester, the entire process still has not come to an end. There is healing, bonding, resting, adjusting, and learning that needs to happen still, and this idea of a 4th trimester really honors that mama isn’t supposed to get back to the daily grind immediately.
A large wound was left behind where the placenta was attached to the uterus, and in the case of a c-section, mama has gone through abdominal surgery! Whether or not a birth was natural, women need rest after such a physically demanding event. There is also a far increased chance of organ prolapse issues when women do not give their bodies time. If I can invest in my body with time resting on the front end, I will heal much faster and feel so much better in the long term.
One of the biggest things I do to prepare for the 4th trimester is meal prep.
We will be having Peanut’s godparents and their daughter joining us a few days after birth, so I will have some big casseroles and soups in the freezer that can just be reheated for us to all eat together. On top of that, I will freeze as many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners as possible in advance.
For breakfasts I will prep hearty breakfast burritos or casseroles with lots of eggs, sausage, and veggies, as well as some treat type things like some sourdough cinnamon rolls or banana bread.
For lunches I will bulk cook some nourishing bone broth based soups, as well protein heavy but simple meals like tacos.
For dinners I am making extra portions of our favorite dinners that we are already eating each week and freezing them. We may need to supplement meals with some roasted veggies, bell peppers and hummus, fruit etc. but just having the main part of the meal all made and ready for reheating is such a help!
With Philomena I literally cooked a month’s worth of food in about three long days in the kitchen. With Zelie I did it in a much more spaced out fashion, which is how I am tackling it this time as well. I pick out one or two things a week to work on in bulk and the deep freezer is slowly starting to fill up!
We didn’t have hardly any support with meals in Ohio, and even though we are part of a much more active church community here in Nebraska, I know we will still appreciate these meals after any that are so generously given to us by friends are gone.
I have a whole post (it’s one of the first posts that I ever put on the blog!) about bulk meal prep here.
Buy Disposables for the Kitchen
I’m the queen of all things reusable most of the time, but the one time I toss this to the wayside is for the first few weeks postpartum. Every time I go to the grocery store now, I buy some disposable plates, cups, napkins, or bowls. This slowly building stash will save Ethan from having to do many dishes while running the house, which is one of our more time-consuming chores.
Clean/Declutter/Organize/Check Off To-Do’s
The nesting urge is pretty common for most women, and I definitely get a crazy urge to clean before baby. We are already pretty minimalistic – (You can read here about our family getting rid of over half of our possessions 1.5 years ago here), but still there is always an accumulation of stuff to pare down. I’ve been going through our closets, cupboards, bookshelf etc. throughout the pregnancy to get the house extra ordered and reset, and doing deeper cleaning like spot cleaning walls, washing windows etc .
I will get the girls’ fall and winter clothing purchased and switched over in their dressers, assemble their All Saints Day costumes, and tackle any other projects that I know have to happen anyway this fall . The fewer projects to tackle and the less physical objects we have, the easier it will be for Ethan to maintain the house while I rest!
Plan for Tears
I am a crier – I always have been. Add in the wave of emotions that accompany the postpartum phase, caring for a new human, and temporarily feeling alien in my body, and I will absolutely shed some tears!
Something that really caught me off guard when Philomena was born were these baby-blues. It was definitely not actual postpartum depression, (and if you ever suspect you are struggling with PPD, please speak to your midwife for resources to help you), but it was an off and on weepiness in between so much joy and happiness. When I brought it up to other moms, almost all of them said they had experienced it too. Since any mention of issues after baby always seems to focus on actual PPD, I never knew about these very mild but real waves of emotion after a baby.
Now I fully expect some baby blues in addition to the great excitement and joy when this baby comes. I acknowledge it and know that at least thus far, it has always passed in the first few weeks. Ethan also understands that I will feel this way, and he can empathize with me and support me while my hormones regulate.
Products for Healing and Pain
There are a few products I keep stocked for postpartum to aid in healing and pain relief.
I have a belly binder similar to this one here on Amazon that I love postpartum.
It helps support your ab muscles which have just gone through a lot of stretching and are very relaxed. Check with your doctor or midwife if you have serious organ prolapse issues postpartum.
If you are a first time mom, you likely will not need to worry about afterbirth pains, but most women find that they continue to have contraction-like pain in the hours or even days after subsequent births. This is because it takes longer for the uterus to contract down to it’s previous size with each pregnancy.
After Ease, found here, is an herbal tincture I use that really does help with the pain. I was stunned at the intensity of my after pains from Zelie’s birth – I was glad I had purchased this in advance and have a bottle ready to go for this baby.
I haven’t had any major issues with nursing pain, but I do still love to keep a bottle of Earth Mama Organics lanolin-free natural nipple butter found here around when I first have a baby.
It is wonderful if your nipples become irritated/cracked/dry while breastfeeding, and is wonderful to use if baby has any dry skin, as a lip balm for yourself etc.
(You can find my recommendations for nursing clothing, bras, and more here)
My homebirth midwives in Ohio included these peri cold packs from Precious Arrows in their birth kits and they are *amazing*.
Don’t get me wrong, homemade cold packs made from menstrual pads frozen with witch hazel are nice, but cracking one of these cold packs and using the self-adhesive backing to hold them in place in a regular or disposable pair of underwear will feel like heaven.
This is embarrassing, but I will be blunt – I got diaper rash after Philomena was born. I had some disposable pads to line disposable underwear that actually had a plastic-y type film on top. I’m sure that they had all kinds of nasty chemicals, but on top of that they weren’t breathable.
I was in so much rashy pain! Before Zelie was born, I invested in my reusable cloth menstrual pads with glorious, breathable cotton and didn’t have any of that discomfort.
Smooth Move Tea or Prune Juice
Finally, the last thing I like to have on hand is some Smooth Move Tea from Traditional Medicinals, or some 100% prune juice.
Even without any stitches or much tearing, there was still discomfort for me having a bowel movement, and using these helped make them as easy as possible. I drank prune juice pretty hard for the first few days after Philomena was born, and she was fine with it. I tried it with Zelie and it upset her stomach, so I switched to Smooth Move with her instead and that settled her tummy right away and still helped me.
Postpartum is a beautiful, fleeting, raw, emotional time of bonding with this new human that God grew within you, healing from birth, and adjusting to a new phase in your family. You can never fully prepare for all that the 4th trimester brings, but I think that basic prep work in advance can help immensely with the challenges it holds.