Chelsea Van Middlekoop
Area Partner Little Rock, AK

So, you just had a baby. You are sore, swollen, and have all kinds of fluids leaking from various places. And somehow, you still look pregnant. Allow yourself grace and time to recover. In the meantime, let’s discuss your physical self in these early postpartum days and what you can do to support your body in it’s recovery.

Some ask why do I still look pregnant? The answer is that your uterus expanded to about 500 times it’s pre-pregnancy size. It will take some time for it to return to normal. To add to that “still pregnant” look- you may be swollen as the body retains extra fluid during pregnancy.  If you received IV fluids during labor, you may be even more swollen due to the additional fluids you received. Your body rids itself of this fluid through urination and sweating. Make sure you are staying hydrated to assist your body in processing these fluids. Keep a fan close by for those postpartum hot flashes that you can experience related to fluctuating hormones!

Your breasts may also be engorged and leaking as they regulate the amount of milk they are producing. For breastfeeding parents, use a warm compress and massage to soften the breasts before feedings. Using a cold compress or ice pack can help to relieve pain and swelling. You may also hand express or pump just enough to soften the breasts. If you did not get a breast pump during pregnancy, I will share how you can obtain one during the postpartum period. Find out how to do that here.

For exclusively formula feeding moms, try to avoid any methods that stimulate or remove milk from the breasts. Use  cold compresses/ice packs to help ease discomfort. You can also express milk to relieve pressure, but only enough to bring comfort to avoid making your body think it needs to produce more milk.  One last tip that may sound a little crazy, try putting refrigerated cabbage leaves inside your bra.  You’ll be amazed that they actually help with comfort during this time!

There are also sore direct injuries that you may experience from childbirth like a sore bottom, perineal tearing, or a cesarean incision. For a sore bottom/perineal tear, try taking a Sitz bath, a very shallow warm bath that can relieve pain and encourage healing. Avoid submerging yourself in water (you just need a few inches).Other helpful things to keep on hand are witch hazel pads and ice packs. Use your peri bottle to cleanse after using the bathroom and avoid wiping, just gently dab the area dry. And, for the sake of pain avoidance, take your prescribed stool softeners!

For cesarean birth recovery, follow your physician’s incision care instructions. Typically this will include gentle washing daily with warm soapy water and patting dry. Support your incision site when you sneeze or cough, avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby, and keep an eye out for the following signs of infection – fever, redness, swelling, or pus at the incision. For any soreness, pain, or discomfort, you can take pain medications at your physician’s direction. You do have options available to you, even when breastfeeding.

You may also consider getting a postpartum support garment to make recovery a bit more comfortable. Depending on your Tricare plan, you may be able to get your postpartum support garment 100% covered. Contact a Military Mommies area partner to check your eligibility.

No matter how your baby came into this world, your body has gone through a lot! Take the time you need to REST (as much as possible with a newborn). If you feel up to it and your doctor has approved it, you can try light exercises right now – like walking, yoga, and pelvic floor exercises. Make sure you are nourishing your body with nutritious foods and keep hydrated. Rest may seem difficult to do, but it is so important for your recovery. Have your partner, close friends, family, and/or a postpartum doula around to support you.

Look at your body. Now, look at your baby. You did that. You are amazing!

You can contact Chelsea at cvanmiddlekoop@militarymommies.com
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