28 self-care hacks for newbie parents

After the birth, there are oh-so-many ways your body will ache. We asked midwife Tracy Hydeman and other experienced parents for their soothing suggestions.

Photo: Roberto Caruso

1. When you’re breastfeeding, massage your breasts to ward off mastitis. You can also use warm compresses or take a hot shower.

2. Get hydrated with natural electrolytes (which help regulate nerves and muscles) by mixing water, sea salt and freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice.

3. Soak your bottom in an Epsom salt bath at least two times a day. Add herbs like comfrey leaf and witch hazel to help tears heal and reduce inflammation.

illustrated cabbage leaves

Illustration: Olivia Mew

4. Cabbage leaves are a “fantastic thing for engorged breasts,” says Hydeman. They cup the breasts naturally and relieve inflammation.

illustration of a pot of stew

Illustration: Olivia Mew

5. Eat a beef and barley stew—the beef is good for replenishing your iron, and the barley will help your milk come in.

6. If necessary, book an appointment to see a physiotherapist for pelvic-floor and diastasis recti physio ASAP.

Photo of a hand squeezing a peri bottle

Photo: Roberto Caruso

7. That little peri bottle you got from your hospital nurse or midwife? It’s a new mom’s best friend when it comes to keeping things clean down there postpartum. (Any tearing or incisions will make it difficult to wipe after delivery.) Simply fill it with warm water and squirt to cleanse yourself after using the toilet or squirt while peeing to dilute the urine if you have any burning or discomfort.

Illustrated directions for making a padsicle

Illustration: Olivia Mew

8. Homemade “padsicles”
– Spritz sanitary pads with water or top with witch hazel. Many moms also swear by adding aloe vera gel and lavender oil.
– Fold up the pad and insert it into a zip-top bag or seal with plastic wrap. Freeze. Place on the perineum for cold comfort.

9. If you have a supportive partner or help at home, take advantage of that by embracing the “babymoon” period. Try to stay in bedfor at least 72 hours after the birth.

10. Organize (or ask a friend or family member to organize) a meal train, which is a system in which people can sign up to bring you meals. Don’t be shy about mentioning any food preferences or allergies.

11.  Put a list on your fridge of all the chores that need to be done around the house—and put your visitors to work!

12. When your baby is up at night, just needing to be entertained, give the baby to your partner or any other support
person you have so you can sleep, which will help with your recovery.

13.  If you can afford to, give yourself permission for your older kids to stay in daycare. Keeping their routine consistent will benefit them and you.

illustrated steps on making a DIY pumping bra

Illustration: Olivia Mew

14. Make your own pumping bra
– Put on an old sports bra and draw a circle about ¾ in. around your nipples with a pen.
– Cut out the circles with good scissors. (Fabric scissors are best.)
– Make sure your breast pump parts fit nice and snug inside the cut-out holes.
– And you’re done! Welcome to the (easier) hands-free pumping life.

15.  “No one told me how much I’d love the hospital-issue disposable mesh granny underpants for my post-C-section tummy. They didn’t rub or cut across my incision but made me feel covered up. I wished I’d snuck more out in my bag.” —Lauren F.B.

illustration of tupperware filled with food

Illustration: Olivia Mew

16. “Making a lot of freezer meals before baby was born. Having so much food on hand allowed me to have one less thing to worry about!” —Kahla B.

17. “Get a rolling laundry cart. After my second C-section, I had a ton of pain in my hip and back, in addition to the healing wound. I could use it to help me walk around the house, as well as to transport laundry, toys and anything else I needed with two other kids at home.” —Kate B.

18. “I wore my husband’s pyjama pants. I rolled up the bottoms and hiked them up to my rib cage so nothing would rub against my C-section incision.” —Rachelle L.P.

illustration of a new mom 55 things nobody told me about my baby's first year19. “New dads: Make sure you get time alone with the baby, when mama isn’t looking over your shoulder. It forces you to find your own soothing techniques.” —Mitch B.

20. “I set up shifts with my partner. I would go to bed after the 7 p.m. feed, and hubby would stay up to do the 10 p.m. feed, which allowed me to sleep until baby needed to be fed again at 1 a.m.” —Melissa M.

21. “I wish someone had told me sooner how awesome and convenient formula can be. For the first six months, I stressed about pumping enough extra milk for feedings when I had to be away from the baby, but as it turns out, he was totally fine with the occasional bottle of formula. I felt pretty dumb for needlessly worrying so much.” —Ariel B.

22. “I used a doughnut seat or pillow to keep my bum up, just to relieve a bit of pressure.” —Becky B.

23. “I used a serving tray on my bed for remotes, water, lip gloss, snacks, etc. It was perfect for long nursing sessions.” —Amanda R.

illustration of a clean diaper

Illustration: Olivia Mew

24. “Make a soothing postpartum (and waterproof!) ice pack for down there by cutting a slit on the inside of a newborn diaper (the end with the tabs), adding ice where the fluff is and then using the tabs to seal the opening. (Google this one!)” —Rebecca H.

25. “Pull-up adult Depends. Yup, I said it. After a traumatic delivery and lots of postpartum bleeding for weeks, these were necessary and an absolute lifesaver.” —Sheena D.

26. “I put maxi-pads (cut up) in my bra for my leaking nipples.” —Lea B.

27. “I added a half-bottle of witch hazel to a box of wet wipes.” —Jemma D.C.

Photo of a hand holding a leash with a dog on the end

Photo: Roberto Caruso

28. “My dogs got me out walking daily with both kids, and they still are amazing floor cleaners.” —Katie M.

Read more:
The ultimate rookie dad guide to newborns
16 best baby apps for new parents

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