MY POSTPARTUM RECOVERY UPDATE & C-SECTION HEALING TIPS

I started writing this post shortly after I gave birth to Baby O’, but newborn life soon took over and well, here I am months later. Having given birth the second time round, I thought I knew what to expect but those initial first few weeks of recovery somewhat hit me like a ton truck. As the saying goes, each pregnancy and birth is different and with that, so is the postpartum phase or the fourth trimester. There was swelling, pain that comes with having a second caesarean. Alongside the night sweats that leave you drenched from head to toe and endless tears from breastfeeding, the nipple pain and the misery of trying to go to the bathroom with a dinner plate sized wound.

Throw in your typical sleep deprivation and emotions from newborn life… some 4 months later, it has all but faded into a distant memory. Even though I’m much more tired with 2 little people that are keeping me on my game, I feel as if I am learning from my experiences or at least, trying to improve my thoughts on such topics. I tell myself daily that it’s okay to lower my expectations, roll with all of the punches (particularly when it comes to spit ups and blow outs by the mass) and celebrate all or any small victories. Any victory can include getting dressed for the day, brushing my teeth/hair and drinking that cold coffee. Even making all of our beds and doing a load of washing is a win.

As the motto goes: it takes two to tango and therefore, it takes an army to raise children. I have learnt to set expectations with my Husband and to not feel ashamed for asking for help, because I’m coming to realisation that I’m human at the end of the day. Therefore, are not some Wonder Woman with mind-melting abilities and its completely normal to make mistakes and hopefully learn from there. I’ve chosen to ignore Karen’s Facebook expertise (not that I’m one to listen to Karen’s thoughts) and raise my children the way I see fit and if this means, nursing or rocking my little babe to sleep for hours than that’s 100% okay with me.   

For any mamas, who are in the thick of that 4 month sleep regression, newborn phase or someone dealing with postnatal depression like yours truly…. I know exactly how hard each day can feel. We just need to take a few moments for ourselves and remember to give our hardworking and much needed body some TLC because this is just one phase of our lie. Also, if something does not feel right to you than its always best to trust your gut and talk to your doctor.

POSTPARTUM RECOVERY & NURSING

I really wanted to share a few things that aren’t readily discussed in the fourth trimester and they’ve really helped me this time round with postpartum self-care and wellbeing.

SORE OR DAMAGED NIPPLES

I nursed Blake somewhat smoothly for about 6 months before he decided it was time to transition to solids… but different baby and completely different experience! Although my breastfeeding experience is now pain free and something I treasure as I got to bond with my baby, I can honestly say the first 3 weeks were spent in tears. Tears as I was fearing the next nursing session as my nipples felt like they were going to drop off at any second, the pain was worse than what I experienced with Blake and I really hated it. 

There were a few times I seriously contemplated becoming a mama who exclusively pumped and fed baby via a bottle but the stubborn side of me wanted to persist. Even if it meant, biting down on a towel for the pain while latching Baby O’Chunky. So here’s what helped with my sore and slightly damaged nipples: 

  • Proper latch: It’s completely normal for nipples that have been living a stress-free and good life to be in shock when a baby starts wolfing their food down over 10 times a day. I discovered getting a deep and proper latch is the #1 priority. Not only so your nipples start healing and toughening up until it’s hopefully pain-free but it also helps with the formation of mouth’s palate; as well as keeping your nipples in proper shape so they aren’t deformed that can lead to complications later on. If you’re struggling, I suggest seeing a lactation consultant and/or have your baby checked for tongue or lip tie by a specialist.
  • Nipple Balm: For open wounds on nipples, Gaia’s nipple balm was truly a godsend. It contains goodies like organic avocado oil, organic evening primrose oil and a few other ingredients and it melts like butter upon application. Or, good ol’ breastmilk squeezed from the nipple its self and applied to the wound with a very clean finger does the treat as it has enzymes and antimicrobial bacteria. I found smothering my nipple/s in the nipple balm goop and popping on a gel disc or letting my breasts air with the breastmilk on them, soon assisted with healing.
  • Aqua Gel Breast Pads: as the younger millennials say these days, these aqua gel are “the OG” of breast pads. Compared to my first introduction to Rite Aid’s hydro gel breast pads and not particularly being a fan of them as they didn’t stick my nipples properly and would slip and slide all over the place; I opted to try New Beginning’s Aqual Gel Breast Pads and oh boy…. they are to die for! There is something refreshingly cool about applying these bad boys to sore as nipples and upon immediate application, your nipples sing a harmony. I noticed after applying and reapplying these aqua gel pads after each feed, my nipples were less sensitive and within 72 hours of changing these pads daily, my nipples were ¾ healed. Definitely worth the $8.00 in my mind!

POSTPARTUM DIAPERS & NIGHT SWEATS

  • Postpartum bleeding: There is something unappealing in my mind about sticking a thick maxi pad that isn’t comfortable in the slightest and spending a majority of your time, having to shift it back into place as it won’t stay put. After learning from my past mistakes, I recommend to any expecting mama to buy some Depend underwear for ladies and wear them for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before swapping over to a maxi pad with wings. 
    I’m allergic to aloe vera and most feminine hygiene products are filled with aloe, so I had to research period products and I came across Tom Organic Maternity Pads. All I have to say is: imagine a pillowy white downy cloud moulded into a pad and it screams comfort, softness and pure perfection. These maternity pads are pure perfection and something that I will continue using for my period because if my ovaries are writhing in pain, I want my vagina to be comfortable at least!
  • Postpartum night sweats: I slept on top of a really thick beach towel as I wanted to avoid having to change drenched bed sheets in the middle of the night. For times I would wake up in the middle of the night drenched from head to toe, I always kept a spare breastfeeding friendly shirt and pair of postpartum undies (Depends or undies with a Tom Organic Maternity Pad) so I could get dressed into fresh clothes. There is nothing worse than lying in sweaty, yucky clothes. 

MASTITIS & CLOGGED MILK DUCTS

A few weeks into my second breastfeeding experience and I found myself experiencing a fever, chills and body aches that I simply put down to postpartum sweats and my body beginning to heal. Except when my milk supply tanked in my right breast, there was a good sized lump and pain exploding, I had a feeling it was mastitis and time for to go to the hospital for care. I needed to be administered into hospital for IV antibiotics as it was beyond my expertise on how you can prevent a clogged milk duct. Since then, I’ve had a few milk ducts that have become clogged and this what I’ve done to prevent mastitis again: 

  • Take a hot shower and with the water beating down on your chest, massage the clogged area with the heel of your hand in circular motions down towards your nipple. Or, if you have a battery operated boyfriend/toothbrush than with the back of the toothbrush or the tip of B.O.B, do the same thing from your clogged duct to your nipple. 
  • Massage the affected breast using a warm, moist compress like a towel or the aforementioned microwave warming pads before feeding on that side. 
  • Taking Sunflower lecithin daily to help prevent clogged ducts.
  • Pumping after each feed from my right breast assist with really draining my breast well until my milk supply was established and now I pump both breasts. Also helps with building that little freezer stash too. 

POSTPARTUM SWELLING / OEDEMA

There is something about the first week of postpartum that makes you feel as if you’re a beached whale and a bowl of jelly, all at the same time of course. Second time round, I felt slightly bigger than what I did with Blake’s postpartum recovery and its absolutely normal for postpartum swelling to occur. As the body retains excess fluid from pregnancy, residual fluids from any IV given during labour/birth and any other fluids you’ve drunk after giving birth. I found these things to be incredibly helpful for any excessive fluid:

  • The hospital compression socks are beyond all comprehensive levels of ugly but, they are the most comfortable socks you can wear! The hospital recommends keeping them on for 6 weeks after having a caesarean/vaginal birth as it helps eliminate any risk of a clot developing in your lower legs. 
  • Compression leggings are hands-down amazing! I brought the Homma Premium Thick High Waist Tummy Compression Slimming Leggings (after reading and hearing the reviews) and after 24 hours of giving birth, I popped them on and felt immense relief. Not only did it feel as if I’d been sucked back in, my stomach and lower abdominal muscles were supported and it helped with how swollen my legs were. Even now, 4 months after having had Baby O’… I’m still wearing these bad boys and I’m going to buy another pair in the size down. 
  • Avoiding sitting in one position for an increased amount of time is best.
  • Elevate your feet with pillows so they’re above heart level whilst sleeping or sitting will help with shifting that excess fluid/oedema. 
  • Drink plenty of fluid rather than cutting back as you are encouraging that pesky excess fluid to be shifted back towards your kidneys, and you’re flushing your system out as well from any residual birthing medications. 
  • Think foot massages are just for pregnancy? Think again. Get your partner or someone to rub your feet and lower legs. Not only does it feel hands-down amazing, soothing and relaxing… it also helps with removing that fluid too. Your friendly Registered Nurse recommends this!

YOUR C-SECTION RECOVERY TIPS

  • Pillows: for pressing over your incision area when you cough, sneeze or laugh and for support when sitting or standing up. Any breastfeeding pillow (my Brest Friend, Boppy) or even a boomerang shaped pillow are simply amazing as they keep bub’s weight off the incision whilst feeding. Plus, they have a ton of extra uses besides using them for breastfeeding/feeding such as tummy time and helping bub sit up when able to do so. 
  • Compression garments: High rise compression leggings (like the Homma listed above) are great to wear over the scar as they keep circulation going and don’t rub against your fresh wound.
  • Scar care: Once it’s safe to do so, massage your scar with Bio Oil or Vitamin E capsules (just pop a needle prick into the capsule and go to town) as it’ll help with healing.
  • High waisted underwear that sits above the incision. I got your generic based grandma panties from my local clothing store and while they’re ugly… they hold everything in and don’t rub on your wound. Also found second time round, wearing spanx like underwear for a few hours three weeks into recovery has also helped with recovery.
  • Pain medication: if you need them, stay on top of taking your pain killers by setting an alarm. For me, I interchanged my pain medication every 4 hours from Panadol to Nurofen as it helps with pain and also has, anti-inflammatory markers too. For those who live internationally, use whichever medication you prefer.   
  • Postpartum vaginal bleeding: be aware that this will likely happen, same as with a vaginal delivery.
  • Walking: start walking as soon as you can, even if it’s a few laps around your room. When you’re up to it, start increasing your distance daily. I started with walking around my room to walking the hospital corridors whilst maintaining Covid-restriction practices (safe distance, mask if applicable and hand hygiene). When discharged from hospital and I felt comfortable, I went for a small walk daily around the block as it got both myself and a rather active toddler out of the house. 
  • Baby bassinet beside your bed, one that you don’t have to bend over very far to reach into or get out of bed for. I recommend getting one that can be slotted next to your bed and has the ability to lower one side down, for when you slot bub back into his/her bed. A co-sleeper is good as it has this ability and it doesn’t take up much space for those who have a small master bedroom like Mr. Darcy and I do. 

I hope this has helped any expecting mama out there, who has a scheduled caesarean or a mama who is recovery from a c-section. Just remember mama, it’s not a race but a marathon when it comes to healing. So, just take your time and enjoy the simplest things in life. 

If I’ve forgotten anything or anyone has any helpful recovery times for a c-section or vaginal birth, than leave them down below so we can enjoy them. 

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