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C-Section Aftercare: What Every Mom Needs to Know

Maxi Pads

The most important thing you can do to prepare for your baby, your health, and sanity is having your home ready before you arrive with your little bundle of joy. Considering the fact that over 29% of live births in the U.S. are by Cesarean, it would be wise to prepare yourself for that possibility.

Although you may feel like you will be ready, and can take on any challenge, it is important to note that you are having three major changes happening just to your body alone:

1. You are having a baby.

2. You are having a major abdominal surgery

3. Your body will be healing from the trauma of childbirth, surgery, and preparing for nursing! This is not even mentioning the newest member of your family you are bringing home, your baby!

Before you freak out, now is the time to plan accordingly. Here are some tips and truths I only wish I had known about before I had my C-Section. Hopefully they will help you navigate this scary yet exciting event that will forever change your life.

Preparing Your Home

Just because you’ve been nesting for the last month, chances are your home is not up to code for C-Section recuperation. Of course, having plenty of diapers, wipes, and baby formula is wonderful, but if you don’t think of yourself, you will really be caught unprepared. After you deliver, you will come home from the hospital with stitches, staples, and a baby. You will need some aftercare supplies you may not have thought of. Some necessities include:

  1. Over-the-counter pain reliever (like Tylenol). While you’ll be sent home with a prescription pain reliever, they have a tendency to make you very tired and loopy. If you breastfeed, it (approved medications) will cross over into your milk, and make your baby sleepy too. Once you can stand it, and with your doctor’s permission, switch over to an OTC, and you may be better able to stay awake.
  2. Breast pads, lanolin ointment, and nursing bra. Even if you don’t plan on breastfeeding, your body will begin to produce milk. In the past, women were given hormones to stop this process, but this is no longer done. Many women find by binding their breasts, it eases the flow and uncomfortable feeling, but at the very least, keep some breast pads in your bra, and you will be fine. And if you are going to breastfeed, you will need the lanolin ointment for cracked nipples (it doesn’t need to be washed off between feedings). As far as nursing bras go, most women would do better to wait a few weeks to see what cup size they will need (breast size during pregnancy is no real indication of what it will be once you nurse), but if you want, you can pick one up a size or two bigger beforehand.
  3. Full size briefs. For obvious reasons, having a surgical incision right above your bikini line makes wearing bikini and thong underwear out of the question. I immediately dispatched my husband to the store for granny panties as soon as we got home. They were a size bigger than I wore, but in fact, I found this to be very comfortable, as it did not cling to my incision.
  4. Fiber supplements, stool softeners, and laxatives. Oh yes, the embarrassing topic. While I read that pain meds will constipate you, and that you need to eat high fiber foods in the hospital, no one tells you just how bad it really is. Depending on your hospital, you may have to only pass wind to go home, or have a regular bowel movement. Most doctors will give you stool softeners in the hospital, but you are still taking pain pills at home! So yes, have your home ready with fiber, stool softeners, witch hazel pads (for hemorrhoids) and drink as much water as you can.
  5. Truly nutritious and filling food. I thought I would have this one covered, but I found myself turning to the takeout menu more times than I would have liked. Whether you want to cook or not, stock your home with plenty of high-fiber, high protein, REAL nutritious foods. Bran cereal, granola bars, grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and snacks like peanut butter will give you energy to parent, nurse, and help you to heal. And be sure to get enough liquids, especially if you are nursing (a glass per nursing session is perfect), and not sugary sodas. Juices, milk, and water will help keep your skin hydrated and keep your milk production up.
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Preparing your Travel Bag

I am sure you have plenty of baby supplies, like clothing and diapers, but what are you packing for yourself? While some hospitals provide more amenities than others, it is essential you have everything you will need.

  1. Elastic waist pants. Even though you won’t go into to the hospital with your old pre pregnancy jeans, a pair of soft, elastic waist pants (in a dark color) make the best clothing options while in the hospital and for your trip home. They are comfortable; they don’t bind, and can expand to accommodate the suitcase sized maxi pad you will be wearing. And the dark color is so slimming too! Bring a pair or two for your stay.
  2. Industrial size maxi pads. Although the hospital will provide you with some, it is a good idea to bring your own to wear home, and make sure you have plenty at home too, as you will bleed for several weeks after you give birth.
  3. Healthy snacks. The hospital will provide food yes, but what kind of food you get is anyone’s guess. With all of your pain meds, you need fiber rich snacks to help you to, well, to go. And if you nurse, the cafeteria is closed for that 3 a.m. feeding. So resist the urge to send your partner to the vending machines, and pack your own healthy treats, such as cereal bars, nuts, bran cereals, etc.
  4. Comfortable shoes. This may not be a problem for women who had swollen feet before they got to the hospital, as you may have been wearing flip flops beforehand. For everyone else, be sure to pack a comfy slide on shoe (no lacing required) or sturdy slippers you can wear home. If you were laboring for a long time or had an IV for any period of time, you will be shocked at how your legs and feet will swell postpartum.
  5. Bedroom pillow. If you forget all else, be sure to include this one. It can help you prop your little one for nursing as it keeps the pressure of the baby off your incision. But the real help is the bumpy ride home. No matter how nice your roads are, every little bump is like a huge pothole to your tummy. Press your pillow across your lap to help cushion your incision.
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Things to Remember

There are some things I didn’t know until after I had my daughter, and I wish had known beforehand. So, in the spirit of motherhood, here are some things to remember after your C-Section:

  1. Your milk may take a few days to come in. When you deliver via Cesarean, your hormones take longer to realize it’s time to produce milk. Your baby can survive on your colostrum, regardless of what your nurse, mother-in-law, or anyone else might think.
  2. Be sure to tell all nursery staff if you are breastfeeding. If you want to keep your little one off the bottle, you need to tell everyone you speak to that your baby is breastfed only. Let them know you will feed whenever your baby needs to, and that you are getting enough rest. I know some well meaning nurses who want to let you sleep and will give your baby a bottle while you sleep. You must be firm about your baby’s feeding choice, and make sure your spouse or partner knows this as well.
  3. Utilize the hospital’s lactation consultant. If you hospital offers one, be sure to meet with her before you leave the hospital. A lactation consultant can help you with positioning your baby for nursing, how to nurse preemies, and offers a wealth of information on proper nursing techniques for common nursing problems. Some lactation consultants also come out to your home postpartum to help. If you live in a rural area, try to find a local Le Leche League chapter, and go to a meeting or two before you give birth. Having a LLL member on speed dial to help you can truly make all the difference.
  4. Don’t forget your spouse/partner. While you may be drugged up on the good stuff, basking in the glow of motherhood, take care to remember your labor coach, who is probably exhausted and hungry too. Make sure they get a decent meal, and thank them for all of their care during your labor. And don’t forget, they are there to express your wishes to your medical personnel, if you are unable, so be sure they know what your wishes are before you go into Labor and Delivery.
  5. You did a great job. It may sound simple enough, but some moms are so disappointed in their birthing experience, they feel like they did something wrong after a C-Section. The truth is, you are a mom; you carried a child and did what was necessary to bring a healthy baby into the world. So give yourself a pat on the back, and remember this really isn’t a contest. And if it were, you would still be a winner, just by being a mom.
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