*Note: I already published this post over at Babble last week, but I wanted the information to live here permanently on my blog as well.
Last month I wrote a post sharing all of my pregnancy essentials, and now with birth and postpartum in the not-so-far-away distance (like I may actually have a baby by the time this post is scheduled) I thought I’d do a post on all of my essentials for birth and postpartum…both for mama and baby. The items for baby are just the basics that I find necessary right away, but I’ll also be doing a more comprehensive baby gear favorites posts in the future as well! For now we’ll stick with birth and postpartum so I don’t overwhelm you with too many things.
Just like last time, this will be a long post. I made it easy for you to skim it by numbering everything, but if you’re looking for my real thoughts on all of these items, I’ve laid them out for you with a blurb about each product and why I love it (plus links of course). I’ve broken the essentials down into categories: essentials for birth, essentials for health & healing (postpartum), essentials for breastfeeding, essentials for baby, and essentials for mama (i.e. postpartum mama style essentials).
Before I get going too far, I wanted to share my recommendations for a solid care providers during labor and delivery as well as during the early postpartum days. These are midwives, doulas, pediatricians and lactation consultants who are local to the Portland area, but it’s a good idea to do research and round-up your own great care team before you have your little one no matter where you live. BUT… for Portland mamas, here are my recommendations…
WONDERFUL CARE PROVIDERS:
This is the midwife I will be using for my home birth with Clive. She was the apprentice midwife during my delivery at the birthing center with Fern and I just love her. She’s a good balance of hippie zen and being proactive. I appreciate that she always errs on the side of caution, but does so in a way that doesn’t freak me out. I also love that she makes herself very available for all my questions and concerns. I know I can text her with anything and she’s always really quick to respond. Basically she’s great.
Carrie was the midwife I had at Andauz birthing center with Fern. She was great at knowing just what I needed and keeping me calm when I began to become fearful during labor. I love that she has a range of perspective when it comes to birth – her first daughter was born with midwives in the school bus where she was living at the time and her second was born via c-section. She is confident and funny and I would definitely recommend her.
Echo happens to be a really good friend of mine, but we actually first connected because I wanted to pick her brain about birth. During my pregnancy with Fern I planned on having a hospital birth for the first 18 weeks and as such considered hiring her as my doula. In the end I transferred to a birthing center and felt like it might be superfluous to have a doula and midwives, but I have other friends who have used her as their doula and have had wonderful experiences. She is incredibly knowledgable about birth and has a wonderful calming presence.
– Lacatation Consultant:
I cannot say enough good things about Meg. I had a terrible time with nursing and after meeting with four (yes FOUR) other lactation consultants, I finally found Meg and she helped us figure things out and get things on the right track. In addition to meeting with her for lactation consults, I also attended the weekly breastfeeding support group that she led for a few months and I truly believe she made all the difference in my nursing journey.
*Dr. Monique Pritchard
Dr. Pritchard was recommended to me by quite a few friends who take their little ones to see her. Everyone loves her and I am no different. I love that she is so wonderfully balanced – a perfect blend of East meets West when it comes to care. She’s not quick to push traditional medications and will often suggest homeopathic options, but she definitely recommends antibiotics or more aggressive approaches when necessary. She is incredibly respectful of parents and their right to make choices for their children regarding immunizations, circumcision and the like. She will share her expert opinion with you if you ask, but she’s never pushy. She really is phenomenal.
OK…now on with the essentials…
ESSENTIALS FOR BIRTH:
Unless you’re in a hospital and they tell you otherwise, snacking during labor is a great idea. You’re about to experience a physical marathon and you’ll need fuel. One of my favorite snack picks are Larabars (particularly the banana nut one!), but there are plenty of other great foods for energy that you can eat. Nuts, fruit, smoothies, coconut water…whatever strikes your fancy. It’s probably a good idea to have a few small and quick energy options available in case you don’t feel like eating much during labor (which many women don’t).
If you plan to labor in a tub at all you may want a swimsuit top or a sports bra – something that will go from wet to dry quickly. I have this one from ASOS and I really like it.
If you’re giving birth at a hospital I’m pretty sure they won’t let you use candles (maybe one of those meltable Scentsy verions instead?), but if you’re at home or at a birthing center where they’ll allow it, you may want to consider bringing along a favorite candle. Scent has such a strong tie to memories and I love the idea of having a specific scent tied to the birth of a child. I forgot to do this with Fern, but I really want to have a “signature scent” this time around and I think this candle would be perfect – it’s even called “Clive”!
Even if you’re at a hospital where they have gowns you may still want to consider bringing a robe of your own. I had one during my labor with Fern and it was nice to be able to take on and off as I got too hot or too cold and also nice since I was getting in and out of the tub to labor. It was a nice way to feel a little more covered up, but still comfortable since I’m not a nude birthing kind of girl. I highly recommend black…for obvious mess-related reasons.
During labor my temperature changed wildly and a fan would’ve been a nice option to have available. We recently got this fan, so it’s already set up in our room and ready to go, but you could definitely find a smaller option to bring along to the hospital or birthing center as well.
I’m just getting started with learning about essential oils from Young Living with my friend Amy’s help, but there are plenty of great ones that can aid in labor discomfort (valerian is one) and help keep you calm as well as many that can help postpartum with milk supply, stress, healing, etc. I’ll be sure to update this as I decide for sure which oils to use during my birth/postpartum.
ESSENTIALS FOR HEALTH & HEALING:
This is a great homeopathic remedy for trauma and swelling of which I had a lot post-delivery with Fern. This stuff helped a ton!
2. Sitz Bath
Sitz baths are great for healing during the days and weeks following birth and this concentrated version from MotherLove looks like a great option. I used an herbal version that looked like tea and had to steep and it was great, though perhaps a little less convenient. The great thing about sitz bath herbs is that you don’t have to just use them in the bath. I used mine in a peri bottle to give myself relief after every bathroom use for quite a few days and you can also soak pads in the sitz bath herbs and freeze them to use for extra soothing for your swollen lady bits.
3. Monster Pads
Speaking of pads…you’ll be wanting some super, jumbo monster ones for after you give birth. I couldn’t find the ones I used online, but these look really similar. Basically just remember you’ll want pads that are bigger than you think and you’ll want something with a natural cotton fiber. None of those synthetic, plastic pads because they will stick to your healing parts and then hurt like a mo-fo when you have to change them. Don’t do it. Also…I preferred the ones without wings since I was a super leaky mess postpartum, but maybe that’s just me.
4. Peri Bottles
If you’re having your baby at a hospital or a birthing center, they’ll probably be sending you home with these. You can use them to squirt yourself clean bidet style after peeing during those early days (because Lord knows you won’t want toilet paper coming anywhere near your business) and also for your sitz bath herbs.
5. Placenta pills
I would like to preface this by saying that I’m not totally sold on the fact that these really do a lot, but I have friends who swear by them and I think it’s definitely worth a shot. I had my placenta encapsulated with Fern to try to help with my low milk supply and to help level out my hormones. I took about half of them and I didn’t feel like there was a noticeable difference, but it was my first pregnancy so I didn’t really have a lot to compare it to. I still have mine from last time so I’m going to take them this time and see what I think. It definitely couldn’t hurt though. If you are local to Portland, my midwife does encapsulation and you can contact her here.
See essentials for birth above.
ESSENTIALS FOR BREASTFEEDING:
Buy these stat. Your sore boobs will thank me.
Your nipples will also be sore (hello understatement of the century) and this little purple tube will become your B.F.F. Trust me.
3. Breast Pump
I had one of those big monster breast pumps with my daughter and it was a huge pain to take anywhere so I just ended up giving up on pumping. I’ll be using this Lasinoh version this time around and I’m super excited. It’s so much lighter and seems like it will be way better to travel with. Anything to make pumping less awful I am definitely on board with.
Your boobs are going to undergo some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes during your pregnancy and you’re probably going to have to size up on your bras. While your first thought might be to just run out and buy your usual bra in a bigger size, but I highly recommend purchasing some nursing bras instead. Why nursing bras when you’re not actually nursing yet? Well, in the event that you don’t have a massive milk supply like I did, or once your girls shrink back down a bit, you might find yourself in one of those pregnancy size bras and wouldn’t it be nice if you already had a nursing version in the size you needed? The maternity bras I bought during my pregnancy with my daughter actually ended up being the right size once my milk supply settled in so I was definitely glad I already had the right bras equipped with nursing clips. I really like Bravado’s nursing bras. My favorites are the Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra (great for night time, but let’s be real, I totally where this during the day too because it’s so comfy) and the Bliss with Lace Nursing Bra (a little lace always feels pretty). I tend to avoid underwire bras for nursing because I have an irrational fear of clogged milk ducts/mastitis, but they also carry those too. Also, the Essential Embrace Bra is a great option for moms who aren’t sure how much their sizing will change post-baby since the bra has this special 4-way stretch fabric that grows with you. I’m in between sizes so mine doesn’t actually fit yet, but I have one one hand for when my milk does come in. The fabric is also quick drying which is super convenient for those obnoxious milk leaks.
5. Placenta pills
See Essentials for Health and Healing above.
These nursing pads pretty much saved my life. That said, I also didn’t struggle with oversupply. If you are a mama with oversupply issues you may want to invest in some washable nursing pads. But for me these were wonderfully comfortable and convenient.
I tried a variety of nursing teas and tinctures and remedies to help boost my milk supply for nursing and this one by MotherLove was the best by far. The only one that I felt made a noticeable difference on my supply. Definitely worth buying.
ESSENTIALS FOR BABY:
Diapers are an obvious essential and I definitely suggest getting ones that will be good for sensitive skin like these ones from Huggies. You’ll want newborn size with the notch cut-out for the umbilical cord. I wouldn’t stock up on a ton in case you have a giant baby, but have at least one package, because most babies start out in newborn size.
Having some type of co-sleeper for your little one to room-in with you is a great option. A moses basket like this is convenient for moving your babe from room to room. A couple of other good options that we’ve tried are the Fisher Price Rock & Play or the Halo Bassinet swivel co-sleeper.
These adorable little knotted newborn hats will be totally cute in newborn photos, while being functional and keeping that tiny baby head warm. As for socks…they are definitely an essential, but I’ve yet to find a style that will stay on well. Feel free to add suggestions for those in the comments.
4. Baby Wash
Babies don’t actually need soap very often since they don’t get very dirty, but when they do it’s nice to have some good smelling natural body wash on hand. This one by The Honest Co. smells lovely and is perfectly gentle for newborns. Choose your baby body wash carefully, because it is a smell you will forever associate with your tiny little newborn. Make it a good one!
I can’t recall the science behind this, but get a red lightbulb for your room or nursery (wherever baby will be sleeping). There’s something about red light that won’t wake you (or Baby) up quite as much making it easier for you to get back to sleep after those middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings. It definitely helped us.
Newborn gowns are the best thing since sliced bread. No more dealing with buttons and zips during middle of the night diaper changes. Simply pull up the gown, change the diaper and you’re done. Brilliant. These ones by Paige Lauren are the coziest and so cute!
7. Arnica Gel
Post-birth your baby may have some bruising and Arnica is a great homeopathic topical cream that you can apply to help with this. My daughter had a head that was so squished and bruised that we applied this stuff to her forehead multiple times a day for a good week. It’s also good for sore mama muscles postpartum.
You could go the minimalist route where swaddling is concerned and opt for the classic swaddle blanket (these are our favorites), but if you want to save some time and make life easier for yourself, I highly recommend some of the the easy swaddle options that are already mostly folded up for you. A few of our favorites are the Woombie Mod Sleeper, the Miracle Blanket, Ergo Swaddlers and these ones by SwaddleMe’s by Summer Infant. The SwaddleMe version is definitely the budget version so they’re wallet-friendly, but I will say that they are my least favorite because the velcro gets really worn with washings.
9. Baby Wipes
I swear by Huggies Natural Care Wipes. We tried a ton of brands with Fern and these were great on her skin, but still a great value. You can get a massive box (1,120 wipes!) at Costco for $29.99.
10. Olive Oil
Olive oil might seem like an odd thing to have on this list, but it’s great for squirting on Baby’s bum during those early days post-birth when their poopy diapers are a tarry, sticky mess. Applying olive oil after each diaper change will make things infinitely easier come clean up with the next diaper change. Trust me. Dump some in a peri bottle and leave it on your changing station.
*11. Diaper Rash Cream
Diaper rash is miserable, so while I typically tend to stick to more “natural” items when it comes to baby care, I don’t mess around when it comes to diaper rash cream. Desitin is hands-down the best and the only kind I will ever buy. The teachers in the infant room where I taught preschool swore by it. They had tried every diaper cream under the son and told me that this was the only stuff that really worked and worked quickly. As far as prevention, you could always slather on coconut oil or a more hippie diaper cream after diaper changes, but for serious diaper rash, you’ll want the Desitin.
ESSENTIALS FOR MAMA:
I’ve never been a huge fan of most nursing-specific clothing. There are definitely some exceptions, but for the most part they have clips and cross-overs and ties that just look awkward to me. I much prefer to stick to loose tops that I can wear a cami under so I can easily lift and nurse. Also, loose tops will be your best friend postpartum as your uterus shrinks back up and you still look very much pregnant. These tanks from H&M are a great option and they usually have them 2 for $10!
2. Loose pants
God bless harem pants. Stretchy waistbands and a drop crotch that will allow you to comfortably wear those monster pads during the healing process? Yes please!
You’re probably going to have a lot of visitors after your little one arrives, so it’s nice to have some cute and comfy loungewear to wear for the occasion. While nobody will blame you for wearing sweatpants and ratty gym tees, you may want something a little bit cuter for seeing guests and for taking photos with your new baby. Belabumbum has some great loungewear options and most are nursing friendly. I have this nightgown and robe from Belabumbum all ready for my postpartum close-ups with my little one.
Infinity scarves are brilliant for on-the-go nursing. One minute you’re wearing a scarf and the next minute you’ve got a baby snuggled up in there nursing and no one is the wiser. Way less conspicuous than those nursing covers with the massive metal hoop in them.
See Breastfeeding Essentials above.