17 things I did not expect about postpartum recovery and care

Postpartum mom with baby

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Before I had my baby, I tried to be as prepared as I possibly could, but in all reality, you just can’t be fully prepared for something you have never experienced before. Even though I was somewhat aware of the different aspects regarding postpartum recovery and care there were still plenty of things I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t even expect to deal with.

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When I was in that home stretch stage of pregnancy, I was just anxious, excited and nervous all at the same time. That is all pretty normal, so if you are feeling those same emotions, I can promise you are not alone.

Now before we dive into the nitty-gritty, I want you to remember one thing.

Whether you just had your baby, or you are still pregnant, remind yourself how amazing your body is. You grew a tiny human for 9 months! It is pretty crazy to think our bodies can do that.

Birth is exciting, painful, scary, beautiful, overwhelming and one of the best experiences you can endure. So, with all that being said, remember to give your body time to fully recover after having a baby.

Postpartum recovery is a process and does take time, love and care. Also, enjoy every newborn moment and snuggle, because they grow up too fast!

17 things I did not expect about postpartum recovery

Ok, now let’s get to the good, the bad and the ugly…..

1. Postpartum Bleeding – There is lots of it

I was somewhat prepared for this but then again, I didn’t really have a concept of how much blood I really would be dealing with.

I am not a huge heavy bleeder when I have my period, plus not being able to use tampons or a menstrual cup makes everything seem messier and heavier.

So, the amount of blood I experienced was quite significant and a bit of a shock. Although with that being said, I didn’t experience postpartum bleeding for too long. After a week or so, it lessened significantly.

At the hospital, they fully equipped me with GIANT pads and postpartum underwear. When I say giant pads, I really mean it. Like for real, I kind of chuckled thinking, “there is no way I will need a pad that big”. Low and behold, those postpartum pads were exactly what I needed.

Even though I felt like I was a newborn wearing diapers, they are really essential in my postpartum care.

Along with the pads, I really did like the underwear the hospital provided. I just wish they had given me a million more pairs of them. But don’t worry you can by easily find packs of 5 or packs of 10 on Amazon. Check them out here.

I tried a few different types of postpartum underwear, but I found those ones the most comfortable and the best for housing those whopping pads!

2. Peeing isn’t an easy task

I did not realize peeing was going to be so uncomfortable and a time consuming process. I have a couple of tips and tricks that made this whole process manageable and pain-free.

Going to the bathroom is something that is going to happen multiple times a day, so I got quite the system down and it made everything easier.

A peri bottle is going to be your BEST friend. I seriously could not have lived without it. I made sure I had my bottle filled with water before I sat down on the toilet.

Postpartum woman on the toilet

Squeeze the peri bottle right on to your lady parts while peeing. This part is essential, you have to use it while you go. It will prevent the stinging and pain you will get when peeing. I used warm water and it was heaven sent.

3. Postpartum swelling

I swelled during pregnancy, but I did not expect to swell even MORE during my postpartum recovery.

I seemed to swell everywhere.

My face, legs, the netherlands (down below) and of course my belly didn’t shrink down in one day either. This is all to be expected and I expected to still have a tummy because I did have a baby stretching it out for 9 months.

But for some reason, I didn’t expect to be so swollen everywhere else.

My face and leg swelling went down within a few days. My other parts took a little longer but when you think about what came out of that part, it is bound to take some time to go back to looking normal.

Ice packs were used constantly those first few days. Along with the massive pad, throw an icepack in there too and you will be good to go. The ice pack really helped with the swelling and any discomfort.

You can even find some icepacks that are pads as well. It is like a 2 in 1! I had no idea about them when I had my baby, but there are on my list for my next pregnancy.

Also, keep your feet up as much as you can and rest, rest, rest. Lots of rest will allow your body to heal and for the swelling to go down.

4. You will be a leaky mess

Yep, it’s true! Everyone who tells you, that you will just suddenly start leaking milk, they aren’t lying!

I would feel myself leaking at all random times of the day.

Especially if I heard my baby or any baby for that matter cry, and in the shower or bath I would leak like crazy! Sometimes I would be taking my own milk bath…..

With all that leaking milk, breast pads are your only option here.

Without them, everyone around you will know when you are leaking, so it is best just to make breast pads part of your life during postpartum recovery.

5. Sore nipples

Your nipples will hurt, be sore and crack.

You know the feeling when you have really dry, cracked lips and they just scream for something to soothe them?

That is how your nipples will be. In those first newborn days and weeks, it feels like you are constantly feeding your new baby.

This means your nipples are constantly getting wet from your baby’s mouth and will be sore from all of the breastfeeding.

This is something your nipples aren’t used to or haven’t done in a while so just expect some discomfort and pat them dry after each feed, then lather them up with nipple cream.

6. The first poop is scary

You would think after pushing your baby out of a tiny opening, it would make you invincible and ready for any challenge. Well, while that might be true, that first poop is still as scary as heck!

The good thing is, that you WILL SURVIVE. I promise. And it gets better each time. The best advice I can give is to keep those stools as soft as you can and DON’T strain.

7. Sleeping is still uncomfortable

I slept terribly during pregnancy.

I just thought once I had my baby, I would go right back to sleeping like a rock again! Definitely wrong about that one.

While pregnant, I had a hard time being comfortable while sleeping. I finally dialed it down and figured out a good system that involved some pregnancy pillows and certain positions.

I HATED the feeling of my belly feeling suspended and in limbo, so I always need something propping my belly up.

Although I expected to deal with this during pregnancy, I did not expect this to be the case when my baby was out of my belly. For a week or two postpartum, I still had to resume my pregnancy routine of sleeping.

I tried a couple of the big pregnancy pillows but my favorite by far was this smaller pregnancy pillow that was just the perfect size and was the most comfortable to sleep with. Plus, my husband was glad it didn’t take up our entire bed like the other ones did!

8. Nursing bras are the best

Having a good nursing bra is going to be your bestie during your postpartum care and recovery.

They are comfortable, easy and convenient to use and just make everything so much better.

I don’t know why all bras can’t be as comfy as nursing ones. Do yourself a favor and pamper those girlies with a comfortable, supportive bra.

9. Cramping while breastfeeding

One thing I was always worried about while being pregnant was breastfeeding.

My main worry was that I wouldn’t produce enough milk, but I did not even think to prepare myself for the terrible cramps during breastfeeding.

I experienced this for the first few days and it was seriously SO painful. It was like period pain on steroids. This was something completely unexpected for me and I found it difficult to deal with.

While trying to figure out how the heck I was supposed to breastfeed this tiny newborn and get him latched and sucking, I then had shooting pains cramping my uterus, which made the whole experience not relaxing or enjoyable.

Postpartum woman breastfeeding

Thankfully the cramps were only for those first few days and didn’t stick around forever. So I was happy about that, but I guess it is just one of those postpartum experiences that you have to deal with.

Hopefully, this will give you more of a heads up than I got.

10. Discomfort, smelly and itchy

Yep, all those three things are what I experienced down in the lady part region. I had an episiotomy which resulted in a “3rd-degree tear” so things down below were a little sensitive, to say the least.

I did expect the whole labor and birth process to be painful (which it was, to give it an understatement) but I didn’t expect the discomfort to last for quite as long as it did afterward.

Along with all of the blood and the healing from the episiotomy, smelliness and itchiness was kind of inevitable! Something that helped combat both of those things for me was my own peri essential oil blend.

I got a spray bottle and filled it with water and a couple of my favorite healing essential oils and would spray up there, after every time I used the bathroom. I would do about 8 drops of each for every 10 mL of water.

This really helped everything feel more comfortable down there and I felt like it combatted the smell of blood and the itchiness I had around my stitches.

Plus, the essential oils are powerhouses for healing too! You could also try Earth’s Mama Perineal Spray, which is said to work wonders too!

Last but not least, a sitz bath will be helpful in aiding you in those three areas. I love taking baths on a regular basis anyway, so bathing during my postpartum recovery was essential for me and really helped me in so many ways.

11. The dreaded hemorrhoids

I didn’t experience hemorrhoids while pregnant but postpartum they hit me like a freight train. The constant pressure and pain in my bottom was excruciating.

There were days I could barely function. I think my long labor and heavy pushing didn’t help my cause, but hemorrhoids haunted me for months and months.

You can try sitting on a donut to help relieve the pressure or using tucks pads. These both offered some relief for me. When I really was in a pinch, I tried the hemorrhoid cream along with suppositories.

The biggest thing is to keep your stools soft and avoid being constipated (my biggest problem). Also, staying off of your feet and resting as much as possible will avoid your hemorrhoids getting bigger and more painful.

12. Anxious feelings and depression during milk let down

I had an interesting breastfeeding journey, due to my baby boy having a tongue and lip tie so I spent most of my journey exclusively pumping for him.

So with that being said, I spent a lot of time attached to a breast pump. My body got pretty affiliated with my pumping schedule and became very predictable.

I started to notice, like clockwork that when my milk would let down, I would get the worst feelings of postpartum depression, anxiousness, and agitation.

I really didn’t understand what it was and never expected to experience those feelings during the same exact moment while pumping. They would be short-lived, but I did not like it at all. I did a little research and I guess I wasn’t crazy, and it is something that a small percentage of women experience.

It is called “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex” (D-MER). Thankfully those feelings didn’t last long and would only be for 2 or 3 minutes, but it is something that I was never told about or expected during postpartum recovery.

The thing that I found the most helpful when I would experience D-MER was a distraction. Talking to someone or reading or watching something, helped distract my mind and I felt like I didn’t experience those feelings for as long or as prominent.

13. Postpartum hormones

After having a baby your hormones go all out of whack. It is very typical and should be expected but I was surprised at how hormonal and emotional I really was.

I would cry at the silliest of things and get upset and angry at things that shouldn’t create those feelings.

Accepting and understanding that you will go through some crazy hormone changes can help this process.

Also, being open, honest and upfront with your husband and sharing some ways with him where he can give you his best support can be helpful and also help him be more mindful of you, your reactions and emotions.

14. Prepare for constant hunger

I thought I had crazy constant craving while being pregnant, but after pregnancy, it hit a whole new level.

I think it is because your body is still working hard to produce milk for your baby and is also recovering in general. So, make sure you take good care of yourself.

Indulge in good healthy foods that will support your body and milk supply.

Don’t get on the bandwagon of trying to avoid lots of food because you want to get back to your normal pre-pregnancy body.

There will be time for that later but give your body a break and feed it the food and nutrients it needs. That is the whole point of postpartum recovery, you have to give your body time to recover. It is not a race, so don’t make it one.

15. Postpartum hair loss

Postpartum hair loss is real and kind of scary. It didn’t happen for me right away but around the 4-6 month mark of having my baby, I suddenly started noticing it!

My hair would just come out in handfuls. In the shower, when I would brush it. I felt like I was going to be bald before my baby would see a year old.

Woman dealing with postpartum hair loss

I noticed a significant loss in hair when I decreased my supplements I was taking for pregnancy and postpartum.

The supplements that I used were DoTerra’s Vitality supplements but if you can find a good supplement that is plant or food-based and not synthetic like this one, it will really help with any postpartum hair loss you might experience.

16. Your boobs will hurt

It takes a few days for your milk to fully come in but when it does, you will know about it. I remember experiencing the strangest feeling I had ever felt.

I felt like my chest was going to burst wide open.

One thing that I found helpful was taking a hot shower or bath, it really eased the pain when my milk first came in or if I was feeling engorged.

I also loved to have hot/cold pads on hand that I could just slip into my bra when needed.

17. You are going to want to continue nesting when you should be resting

I know I was a big “nester” before my baby arrived but for me, it didn’t stop there.

Once my baby was here, I constantly felt the urge to be cleaning, organizing, folding laundry and making sure everything was perfect.

Thankfully I had a lot of help from family which made those things pretty minimal, but I still wanted to help them help me. Well, truth is, you need to remember you just had a baby, so you need to take a seat, sit back and let others help YOU!

I know it is hard, trust me, but you need to let your body rest at every opportunity you have.

If you don’t have any outside help, that’s ok. The laundry and dishes can wait.

Communicate with your spouse and share any concerns or wants with him.

I am sure he is going to be more than willing to help and support you in any way you can. Even though I could have been better at it, I did try to relax, rest and nap when my baby was sleeping but some days I overdid it and then felt the consequences of doing so. You have nested plenty, now make sure you get plenty of rest!

There really is no way of truly being prepared for your baby and postpartum recovery and care, but I hope these things helped you. It is always good to learn from other people’s experiences to be more prepared for your own.

What are some postpartum recovery tips that you think will help you? How is postpartum recovery and care different from what you thought it would be? Comment below and let me know.

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