Giving birth is a major event, and it takes your body a while to recover. Here are eight things you need to know about recovering after birth, from engorgement to pelvic floor exercises:
1. Get plenty of rest.
You’ve probably heard the advice “sleep when your baby sleeps,” and it’s true. You should get as much rest as you possibly can. Sleep is your body’s way of healing itself, and it definitely needs some healing after the event of giving birth. In the first couple of weeks, you might not be able to do anything beyond sleeping, eating, and care for your baby — and that’s totally okay! Infants are very demanding when they’re awake, and they don’t sleep through the night, which makes it tough to get the sleep you need. Do what you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help with household chores and other tasks.
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2. Pamper your breasts.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, your breasts will likely be tender and sore after birth as your milk comes in. If you’re not breastfeeding, don’t express the milk or pump, which will encourage your body to make more. Instead, wear a supportive sports bra and try to keep them as comfortable as possible while your milk dries up. If you are breastfeeding, regular feedings will help minimize engorgement. You can place hot or warm compresses on your breasts in between feedings to help ease swelling and pain. If your nipples become cracked or sore from feeding, a nipple cream will help keep the skin moisturized and promote healing.
3. Take care of the delivery site.
If you delivered vaginally, you’ll be rather sore down there, and you might have experienced some tearing as well. Sitting on a pillow or a padded ring can help cushion the area, and periodically cooling the area with ice packs can help as well. Using a squeeze bottle to pour warm water over the perineum while urinating will also ease discomfort. Sitting in a warm or cold sitz bath (a bath just deep enough to cover your hips and bottom) for five to 10 minutes can also soothe the area. For a C-section, change the dressing at least once a day, and whenever it gets dirty or wet. Wash the area with mild soap and water to keep it clean. Don’t scrub the area or soak in water, as this can loosen the stitches.
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