The postpartum period, especially those first 6 weeks after birth, are a very important time for you and baby. It is a time full of love and bonding but can also bring about some challenges.
Your body is experiencing many changes while you’re trying to navigate life with an infant such as:
Healing the wound in your uterus where the placenta used to be attached.
Creating the milk that can feed and nourish your baby.
Your uterus is beginning to return to its usual size.
Healing vaginal tears/swelling or cesarean incisions.
Rebalancing hormones to transition from a pregnant body growing a fetus to a healing postpartum body feeding a newborn.
Learning about the 6 B’s of Postpartum can help you manage and take care of yourself through this beautiful process of learning to be a mother. The B’s include Breasts, Belly, Bleeding, Bottom, Bladder and Bowel.
As your milk comes in around day 4, your breasts may begin to feel engorged and tender.
Here are some strategies to help support your breast health and potential feeding goals:
Make sure you receive support so you’re comfortable identifying and responding to your baby’s feeding cues soon after birth. One way is to meet with a lactation consultant during the early postpartum period to help support a successful and enjoyable start to your breastfeeding journey.
It is important to feed your baby frequently, at least eight times in 24 hours to establish a good milk supply.
Make sure to avoid giving your newborn any supplemental feedings (with formula) unless your doctor has stated a medical need for them.
Ensure your baby is feeding well, you have no pain with the latch and that your breasts feel more empty after feeds.
If you find that you are having difficulty with latching (which can be completely normal):
Try to massage or manually express your breasts to help the milk flow before feedings. Apply warm compresses to your breasts before the massage for extra comfort and to improve your milk flow. The Haaka Silicone breast pump is AMAZING for this.
Use both of your breasts at each feeding - If your baby does not feed on the second side, you can manually express enough milk to achieve comfort.
Wear a supportive bra that is comfortable and not restrictive or too tight. You want your breasts to be comfortable and not in pain.
Apply ice packs or cold compresses after feeds to help to reduce any swelling and/or pain you might have.
Don’t be alarmed if you experience any cramping or contractions in the postpartum period as you begin to heal. Cramping and contractions of your uterus are common and are referred to as afterpains. This is how your uterus completes its process of involution (returning to its pre-pregnancy state) and also controls your bleeding.
Afterpains are commonly more painful with a second or subsequent pregnancy compared to your first pregnancy. You may notice that your afterpains are even more obvious when you’re breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin which causes the uterus to contract (much like it did during labour).
If you find the cramping difficult to tolerate - over-the-counter (OTC) medications like Tylenol and Advil are usually safe to consume – take them before breastfeeding to help with pain control. And if you’re worried, ask your doctor for support.
Bleeding will happen after either a vaginal or cesarean birth and is normal for about six weeks after you give birth.
Your bleeding will initially start like a heavy menstrual period. The colour will be bright red and may have a few small (grape/dime size) clots, which can occur if you are laying down or relaxing in the same position for a while. You may also notice a small gush if you stand up after being seated for some time.
After a few days, your bleeding will become lighter red/brownish in colour.
Around 10 days postpartum, you will notice that your bleeding becomes more of a pale pink colour and then a whitish-yellow discharge. This can last for several more weeks until around week 6 postpartum.
So how can we manage bleeding?
First, you can wear pads and disposable underwear. You will also want to maintain good hygiene by cleansing the perineal area and changing your pad each time you go to the bathroom.
You should avoid tampons as they can increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome and introduce bacteria into your vagina and uterus as they heal from your delivery.
Your vagina goes through a lot in order to bring your bundle of joy into the world. But it has an incredible ability to bounce back. So what can you expect from your vagina after delivery? Most likely, some bleeding, soreness, bruising and swelling.
Here are some strategies to help support your perineal healing:
Our #1 tip → Ice packs are very helpful for reducing swelling, inflammation and pain. Ice packs offer great relief in those early postpartum days. Make sure to only use an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time and wrap it in a towel instead of putting it directly on your perineal area.
Witch hazel is an excellent product for reducing inflammation as well. You can use witch hazel pads to line your pad to support your healing.
Peri-bottles are your friend (hopefully, you were able to take some from the hospital). Make sure to spray lukewarm water on your perineal area when you urinate to help reduce any stinging or pain.
Sitz Baths can also help soothe your perineal area and support healing.
Take OTC medications prescribed by your provider which may include Advil and/or Tylenol.
Use unscented products to help avoid irritation and choose wipes or witch hazel pads instead of dry toilet paper when cleansing your perineal area since these tend to be much gentler.
Finally – Rest is crucial!lthough it can be tricky with a new baby, try to prioritize your rest as much as possible!
You may experience a burning sensation in your bladder during postpartum, but you can do these simple things to make it more manageable:
That peri-bottle we mentioned above, comes in handy here. It is a great tool to dilute your urine to prevent burning. All you need to do is squirt room temperature water on your vulva and perineum as you urinate. This dilutes your urine, washes it away quickly from the sensitive area and cleanses your vulva without the need for toilet paper that can be abrasive.
Make sure to thoroughly dry the area when you are done, using a patting motion with a soft cloth or wipe.
Hemorrhoids are a common symptom of both pregnancy and delivery.
You can take a daily stool softener and use a Squatty Potty. Bothare excellent ways to ensure you are not straining with bowel movements. You can also use over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams such as Preparation-H to soothe discomfort.
The first bowel movement after birth can make many women feel nervous, especially if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy. You want to be gentle, avoid straining and aim for as little pushing as possible. Ensure you talk to your doctor or midwife to help reduce your anxiety and provide support if you need it.
Another helpful tip is to keep your fibre intake up with foods like prunes, bran products, apples, figs and berries and drink lots of water. This will keep things soft and flowing naturally.
While there are a lot of things that happen to your body during the early postpartum days, there are strategies for everything!
Be sure to accept and seek extra support when you need it and remember, you are not alone - Mamas all over the world are going through the same changes as you are, and we are here to help!