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Postpartum planning: Updated

** This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of these links I receive a small commission at no charge to you. It helps to support my doula work.

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The postpartum period is a subject close to my heart. It's such a crazy time. Mom is trying to heal and figure out nursing, while bonding with baby and trying to stay present for any older siblings. Dad is figuring out his role and is still reeling from the birth as well. All the while everyone is exhausted, but people want to visit the new baby and help out the family. While it feels like life should pause for a while it seems to do the opposite. 

One of the most visited posts I have here at the Living Heart Doula blog is A Postpartum Checklist, and dives in to some facets of planning for postpartum. It also includes some really great slides on new babies and their families. 

Having a few things prepared, friends signed up for meals, and extended family ready to serve can make a huge difference for a new family. I’m updating the list to share new products, as well as services that can help a postpartum family.

1) Postpartum Doula Services- Having a postpartum doula is indispensable. They can start as early as the day you get home from the hospital or birth center, or you can hold off until your partner has returned to work. A postpartum doula can also do an overnight shift, so mom and partner can sleep. She can bring baby to mom for feedings, or bottle feed based on your preferences. The doula also helps with house hold chores like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and helping older siblings. Their knowledge of breastfeeding, newborn care, and postpartum healing can be a huge help. Service prices can vary, and may be billed as hourly or as packages. Add services to your registry and have friends and family chip in! Living Heart Doula will be adding postpartum services this spring. Be on the watch for more news!

2) Earth Mama Organics- I love their products, and their postpartum items saved me with my last birth. Some must haves include perineal spray, perineal herbal packs, and organic nipple butter. They also have their own Lying-In plan for postpartum families you can find here:

Earth Mama Organics Cyber Monday

3) Takethemameal.com - Free sign up service to organize having meals brought to the family. Super easy to use and share over email and social media. The service also has a function where friends can order a meal to be delivered if they are unable to cook. Having meals covered takes the burden and logistics of food preparation away from the recuperating family.

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4) Depends - An option aside from typical menstrual pads. Wearing Depends during the first heavy days of lochia can be helpful, because the whole thing acts as a pad. No more worrying about leaking on to undies or sheets.

5) Natracare Wipes and Pads- An all natural organic option, wipes can be used for both mom and baby. The organic pads are super absorbent and keep the skin feeling dry instead of sticky like with plastic pads. However, they are not especially large. Save them for when bleeding has become more manageable.

6) Boobytubes - Awesome product by Bamboobies, these beaded tubes can be put in the freezer to help with engorgement, or in the microwave to help with a clogged duct. Can also go along the neck and shoulders to help with aches and stiffness.

7.) Ecocentric Mom Box- You can check out all the goodies I got from my subscription box here. Receive a box full of natural goodies for mom and baby, ranging from snacks to awesome hair care products. Subscriptions can vary from one time to a full year, and make a great gift for new moms. Ecocentric Mom offers a nice self-care pick me up, and a way to find some new clean products.

Ecocentric Mom box

8.) Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy - This subject really needs its own post, but I’ll give you an introduction here. In other countries, especially Europe, women receive physical therapy after they have a baby. Your back, hips, pelvis, vagina, perineum, core and bladder can all be affected by pregnancy and birth. This includes both vaginal and cesarean births. Experiencing pain, incontinence (snissing, anyone?) or diastasis recti is common, but is NOT NORMAL, and can be corrected by physical therapy. What makes it different than just doing kegels until you’re cross eyed, is that the specific muscles and tendons that are strained, weakened, and overcompensating can be identified, and you are taught how to properly release and strengthen the affected areas. Body mechanics are applied to help correct diastasis recti and ease pain as muscles recover. It can be life changing. With 50% of women experiencing prolapse in their lifetime, it’s worth the investment.

9.) Get a baby carrier- Baby wearing was how I managed to do life with both my girls. Babies want to be held and snuggled. This allows you to keep baby close, get breakfast made, and the dog walked. Moby and Boba wraps are great for newborns, and as baby grows soft structured carriers like Boba are great for getting baby on and off easily, as well as place in a back carry. You can learn more about carriers here.

10.) Sitz Bath and accessories- I’m a little bitter no one taught how to do a sitz bath when I had my girls. Available at drug stores like Rite Aid or CVS, it’s essentially a large basin that fits in the toilet. Fill with warm water, Epsom salt, or herbs. Place in your toilet, and simply soak. It’s great for hemorrhoids and perineal tearing. It also relaxes the pelvic floor muscles so you can actually go #2. No one said postpartum was glamorous.

11.) K-Tape Services Frederick Birth Center- K-Tape is a cotton elastic adhesive, with therapeutic properties that can be applied to ligament function, muscle applications, corrective postures, and lymphatic drainage. During the postpartum period, K-tape can help with numerous issues, including swelling, engorgement, diastasis recti, and mastitis. Mom’s who have had a cesarean birth can benefit from lymphatic drainage. The scar tissue can disrupt neurological pathways and the drainage of lymph in the lower body. K-tape can support the return of menstruation, and can ease uterine cramping. Gynecological issues like prolapse and incontinence can benefit from K-Tape. While I’ve focused on the benefits of K-Taping for women, anyone can come and get taping at the Frederick Birth Center! Contact the staff at FBC for an appointment.

12.) Like Neighbors- This is a service that allows friends, families, and neighbors to help in your time of need while being across the country. Services like lawn mowing, house cleaning, dog walking, gift cards and meal delivery can all be added. It’s a great way to have support and let people know what your family’s needs are.

13.) Postpartum belly binding- Beng Kung belly wraps, Mama Strut, and Velcro girdles are all ways to support your core and back after birth. Your muscles have taken a vacation for at least six months, and having the support helps to engage them and maintain proper posture. This helps to prevent and correct diastasis recti, as well as the aches and pains we often feel while nursing for long periods and carrying carseats.

14.) Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU! by Katie Rope- This book breaks down all things postpartum, from healing, birth recovery, and mental health. Author Katie Rope shares stories from a wide variety of mothers, breaking down the mommy traps we can get sucked into. It’s one of the few books out there talking about postpartum in an open way, while not beating around the bush of how hard modern moms have it.

15) Placenta Encapsulation - Encapsulation is the process of steaming, dehydrating, grinding, and putting a placenta into pill form. Benefits include a boost in hormones, increased milk production, and faster recovery. The evidence is still anecdotal at this point, but you only have one shot at preserving the placenta to try. If you plan on having your placenta encapsulated, please use a professional encapsulator that is blood borne pathogen certified. I recommend Deborah Bailey of Doulas of Central Maryland.



What have I missed? What really helped your family in the postpartum period?







 

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Breaking Down Menstrual Products: What's New and What You Should Know

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 Back in sixth grade, our class was separated into two groups, boys went to one classroom and girls went to another. We all got the puberty talk, complete with embarrassing question and answer session. We were given the menstruation breakdown, shown pads and were told who to ask if we needed one.

 

While with our friends, we giggled and rolled our eyes when the teacher turned around, because how uncool was this? Most of us had been given some version of, “The Talk” by our mothers, or at least overhead the one given to our big sisters.

 

How much of that information we giggled at, have we used to take care of ourselves since those painfully awkward puberty years?

 

If you’re most women, you’ve been using the same pads and tampons for years. What do you know about them? How are the plastics made? The cotton? 

 

Truth is most of us don’t know, because feminine hygiene products fall under the classification of a medical device, so companies don’t have to disclose what ingredients are in their products. What we do know is that 90% of conventional menstrual pads are plastic. The plastics from pads and tampon applicators are not biodegradable, and will stay in landfills and waterways for hundreds of years. A few other ingredients we've found include poly-acrylate superabsorbents (SAPs), petroleum derivatives, synthetic ingredients, latex, and perfume.

That's not taking in to account the pesticides used in the cotton industry. 

Not cool when the vagina is a mucous membrane and will absorb the chemicals around it into your body.

 

With the number of women fighting endocrine issues and cancer, it's time to clean up our products and reduce the toxic load on our bodies. Simple switches can reduce our exposure, and improve the experience of our monthly cycles. 

Here’s a breakdown of the latest menstrual products on the market:

 

1)      Thinkx : These are undies that are absorbent in their own right with an antibacterial layer. Simply rinse and wash them in your washing machine. They are completely reusable. You can wear them alone or pair with a menstrual cup, sponge, or tampon. Pairing them with a menstrual cup means absolutely no waste products! Thinkx comes in different cuts and fits all body types.

THINX Period-Proof Underwear.

2)      Menstrual cups: Made of medical grade silicone, cups catch the blood by circling the cervix. A small learning curve is there in the beginning as you learn to insert it. Otherwise they come in multiple sizes and shapes, to fit all individuals. They can be worn for up to 12 hours, and then you simply empty the cup into the toilet, wipe out, and reinsert. Pair a menstrual cup with a pair of Thinkx and you have a waste free combo to cover you through your cycle. For more info on cups and how to pick the one that’s right for you, check out putacupinit.com.

 

3)      Mama cloth: These are washable, reusable menstrual pads. They secure around your underwear with snaps, and can be made with various materials, including bamboo, felt, velvet, and organic cotton. They come in all price ranges, and can be found all over the web from Amazon to Etsy. Some of my favorites are made by WAHM’s using beautiful upcycled material like Mama Scissorhands.  Some large companies like Lunapads, make an excellent pad with portions of sales going to provide hygiene products for girls in underserved areas. Often menstruation gets in the way of these girls educations, and Luna pads is doing something to change that.

Soft, absorbent, and free from endocrine disruptors.

Soft, absorbent, and free from endocrine disruptors.

 

 To clean your pads, you can store them in a wet bag, and when you have several ready to wash you can add them to a load of cloth diapers. If you aren’t cloth diapering, you can run them through a hot rinse cycle and add in a load of towels. Wash and dry as usual. A stash of 10-12  pads can last at  least  2 years, keeping tons of plastic waste out of landfills (and out of your body).

4)      Organic disposable options: While reusable options are awesome, it may not be a fit for every family. Plus, life happens and we need disposable options for times like vacations and busy seasons when one more load of laundry could be a deal breaker on the 'ole sanity. Some great brands using organic cotton and plant products include Natracare pads and My Lola.  Natracare caught my attention especially. Their pads are completely biodegradable, using 100% organic cotton tops, wood pulp filling for absorption, and corn starch. Even the wrapper around the pad is made of corn starch! This company gets the stamp of approval from The Ethical Company Organization and Vegetarian Society. They carry pads for all flows, include postpartum. 

5)      Sea sponges: Available in various sizes to absorb heavy to light flows, sea sponges are a cool alternative to tampons and cups. Simply rinse them out and insert; there are no tricks to learn and they last for several months before needing to be replaced. It has come into question though if there could be an issue with bacteria, sand, and other debris since they are sea animals. Risk for toxic shock syndrome is similar to tampons, but something to look for if you’re considering using them.

Sea sponges are soft and easy to use. A set will typically last three months.

Sea sponges are soft and easy to use. A set will typically last three months.

 

 

Resources for when something feels off with your period:

1)      Your OB-GYN or midwife: if you’re experiencing extra painful, irregular or missing periods talk to your care provider. They may request blood work and hormone panel to check thyroid, estrogen and progesterone levels. In some cases a transvaginal ultrasound may be needed to diagnose cystic ovaries and other pelvic issues.

2)      WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source by Alisa Vitti. This book blew my mind. Author Alisa Vitti breaks down how our endocrine system works to balance our hormones, and how we can wind up with a full hormonal breakdown. She explains the resulting issues like PCOS, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, unexplained infertility, and PMS. The best part: the book breaks down how to heal your body with food. I’m on this journey myself now, and am seriously amazed at how much better I feel. (More to come on that soon!) Alissa Vitti can be found at FLOliving.com and the My FLO app. 

3)      Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods by Lara Briden ND: Written by a naturopathic doctor, this book breaks down the hormonal balance that occurs in woman’s bodies, and what happens when it is disrupted. Facing the, “Birth control band aid” most patients were dealing with, she created natural solutions and a means of creating body literacy. It’s a great companion alongside Woman Code.

What products do you use for that time of the month? Questions? Comments?

Earth Mama Organics - Organic Periodic Tea

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