After working with Postpartum Moms for a few years now there are things that are ABSOLUTELY needed for postpartum... and things that definitely aren't. I am so pro team #notanotheronesie and pro supporting mama postpartum. I was interviewed on a podcast recently and was asked "What do you truly need for postpartum if you're low on income?" It got my wheels turning. What IS actually needed? So here is my list of what I think is actually needed for postpartum. You can ask for these things at your baby shower or when friends and family ask what you need for baby.
In Abigail Tucker's book "Mom Genes" she states that the number one reason for infanticide is the inability to afford diapers for baby. That completely blew my mind and stuck with me hard. So let's talk diapers for baby first and foremost. I prefer not having pre-bought diapers. You never know what size baby is going to be of how fast they grow. There are diaper banks in most major cities. They donate diapers to moms in need. If you birth at a hospital they have diapers there. You can always ask for extras for home. If you are cloth diapering you can ask for specific diapering supplies that you'll need on your registry. Don't forget the toilet sprayer! Some baby registries allow for a diaper fund instead of registering for specific sized diapers (like amazon).
Food postpartum is a necessity. And the number one reason mom's tell me they can't rest even one day postpartum. That they need to feed their families. Valid. So set this up ahead of time so nothing postpones your rest and healing. www.mealtrain.com is a free really easy way to get meal delivery set up for yourself. You can create the meal train and send it out to your facebook friends and email friends. People can even sign up if they’re out of town and door dash you food! If you have a bestie or a mother in law that really wants to help they can coordinate the website for you.
Another option is freezer meals to feed postpartum mama. One of my favorite “themes” for a baby shower is freezer meals! You can either have guests all bring a freezer meal premade for you (bonus if they’re in a freezer baggy with the instructions written on it). You can also have guests bring the ingredients (x2) for their favorite freezer meal and you can have a party of making them! The favors for these can be either taking home the second freezer meal or taking home a new recipe!
Pads/diapers for mom
You will bleed vagnially for 6 weeks. It will be more than a period. You will need overnight pads or even adult diapers (my favorite for the first week). If you birth at a hospital there will be pads available there. You can ask for extras to take home.
In the same vein, If you have a vaginal birth you will want a peri bottle to cleanse with warm water after you go to the bathroom. There are usually small abrasions (even if you didn’t tear) that can be quite painful when urine gets on them. Wiping is pretty much not an option for at least a week. If you birth at a hospital they generally give you a peri bottle to take home.
Childcare for older kids
You need rest. It is literally the only way you will heal. No matter how much you love your children it is hard to get rest in, especially in bed, and naps, if you have young kids around. I always suggest setting up childcare for you older kids. If it's during the school year, having them at school is helpful. If you have friends or family members that could pitch in with pick up/ drop off or set up play dates for the first 2 weeks to help out with childcare this can free you up to rest, sleep, and bond with baby.
The day I don't need to remind parents to set up their parental leave will be a day of rejoicing. Unfortunately, right now, the US does not have paid leave which makes things really tricky for mamas. Check as early as possible to see if you qualify for short term disability (or in some cases long term disability). Could you pay into something ahead of time to get at least partial pay during you maternity leave?
But there's more that goes into that. Where will baby go after maternity leave? If your leave isn’t at least 6 weeks long most daycare centers are unable to take babies. (which OMG how freaking ridiculous is it that mamas are expected to go back before they’re even done bleeding and there’s no where for their babies to go?) It's important to find someone trustworthy to watch baby.
The typical need for maternity leave is 6 weeks for a vaginal birth, 8 weeks for belly birth. That is typically what OBGYNs recommend. Some jobs will not give you that. If at all possible please get at least TWO weeks of complete rest and a modified schedule if you can. I realize even this is a luxury for some.
Baby feeding supplies
Make a plan for how you're going to feed baby. Do you research on it, get comfortable with it, and have your friends and family in on the plan so they can support you.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding... or if you plan on being home with baby and breastfeeding perhaps you may want an IBCLC prenatal appointment gifted. Especially if you had difficulty breastfeeding in the past or you don’t have any elders to show you the way.
If you plan on pumping either just at work or exclusively. You will need a breast pump (most insurances cover these), breast pump parts (extra phalanges that fit, extra tubing, and other parts) bottles for storage, storage bags, bottles for baby to drink from, cooler for breast milk at work, car charger, hands free pumping bra. Not all of that is absolutely necessary. But as a mom that pumped at work I used ALL of that.
If you plan on formula feeding you will likely need bottles, back up formula, and potentially different types of formula. With the recent formula shortage this has made things tricky. Make sure to get extra from the hospital and see if your pediatrician has extra samples they can give you.
Time with postpartum mama
Postpartum can be a really lonely time. Especially once partners go back to work. Stopping by (especially with food) and just chatting or being together can be a great gift. Make sure you check in that it’s a good time first!
Funds for postpartum doula
A postpartum doula can be a life saver when you feel like you’re drowning postpartum. If you have other things figured out then having guests pitch in toward that can be a beautiful gift.
Funds for an IBCLC
This goes a long with baby feeding. But some IBCLCs don’t take insurance, don’t take your insurance, or your insurance won’t cover IBCLCs. If that’s the case collecting funds for one ahead of time (or being gifted a prenatal IBCLC appointment) can be really helpful to a mama that plans to breastfeed.
If someone can book you a prenatal or postpartum massage it would be a very welcome gift. Allowing your body to completely relax is so helpful to healing and the whole postpartum journey. It can also really help you process any trauma throughout the pregnancy or postpartum time.
People can gift money toward a house cleaner OR they can come do some cleaning themselves! Doing a few loads of laundry during a visit, cleaning the dishes in the sink, or a quick vacuum can be super welcome for a mama. Especially one that really likes a tidy house! It can be one thing that falls off the list.
Honestly, what your baby needs is you. Your love, your touch, you being there. Most of the rest can get sorted out. But there’s only one you!
I hope this was helpful to kind of bust through the noise of postpartum and newborn marketing that is out there. You'll notice I didn't mention anything for sleep or outfits for baby. I feel sleep is very personal within the family. I encourage you to consume content around normal infant sleep that isn't from a sleep trainer ahead of when you bring home baby. And for you and your partner to come up with a sleep plan (and revisit it at 4 months). Follow the safe sleep 7 and do what is right for your family and your child. A pack and play makes an awesome basinette and crib and is much less expensive (so long as it's sleep rated).
As for clothes, people LOVE to buy baby clothes. Don't worry, you'll get them whether or not they're on your registry. I found I loved hanging out with my babies in just their diapers. and popping on some zipper jammies when we went places. Second hand children's clothing stores are a gold mine and will save you some serious money. (Also a great place to buy a stroller if you want one).
And lastly, baby carriers. There are baby carrying groups in many large cities and a lot of them have lending libraries of different carriers. That is also a great way to find out what kind of carrier you and your baby like without buying a bunch of them.
I just want to finish this article by mentioning that there are some government assistance programs - Like WIC - that can help with affording food (for you and baby) and may also have lactation support as well. You are a great mom already. Looking to plan the best life for you and baby. Be proud of yourself and be gentle with yourself. And most of all, tell off all of the marketing toward new moms. Our babies don't need gadgets, they need us.