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Postpartum Essentials Every New Parent Needs

Keep our handy postpartum essentials checklist on hand—baby will be here before you know it!

Postpartum Essentials Every New Parent Needs

Liudmila_Fadzeyeva / Getty Images

You've got everything ready for the arrival of your baby: the best baby crib has been assembled, the monitor has been set up, and the onesies have been neatly folded. It's important to be prepared going into birth, but what about after? A checklist filled with postpartum essentials is just as important as a newborn checklist.

Whether you have a vaginal or C-section delivery or are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, there are postpartum checklist essentials you'll want to have on hand immediately following birth. Here's a list of items to get you started.

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Postpartum essentials for vaginal delivery

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  • Pain reliever: You might experience cramping or other uncomfortable pain immediately following vaginal birth, so it’s a good idea to have a solid pain reliever around to help combat it.
  • Stool softener: It can be hard to go to the bathroom after giving birth for several reasons. You might have hemorrhoids from pushing or you might have soreness or stitches around your perineum (the area between the vaginal opening and anus). A stool softener can help you pass painful bowel movements. Make sure to drink plenty of water to activate the stool softener.
  • Supportive postpartum underwear: Post birth your body is still releasing a lot of fluids, which will look similar to a period but might be different in texture, color and volume. Look for a pair that’s absorbent, comfortable and supportive so as not to irritate your skin or any incisions.
  • Pads: In addition to postpartum underwear, it’s a good idea to have pads to contain fluids further. These can be changed out more frequently than underwear to keep you fresh. Get extras, because your first postpartum period will be extra weird too. Check our our list of the best pads for heavy flow.
  • Ice packs: Ice packs can help soothe soreness around the vaginal opening and perineum. You may also like alternating these with a heating pad.
  • Peri bottle: A peri bottle is essentially a portable bidet that you can use to rinse yourself after going to the bathroom rather than wiping, which can be painful. These squirt bottles also feel soothing on your irritated and sore vaginal skin.
  • Compression socks: Depending on how you gave birth, it might be a while before you are up and moving around. Compression socks can help with blood flow and prevent clots.
  • A breastfeeding or pregnancy pillow: Even if you’re not breastfeeding, you might want to rely on a pregnancy pillow post-birth. They can be contorted into different positions to help you sit upright or sleep more comfortably.
  • Belly binder: Your belly and pelvic floor will be weak after birth. As you try to get your body put back together, a belly binder can help hold everything in.
  • Sitz bath: A sitz bath can help soothe and relieve pain in your vaginal and anal areas. It’s a shallow plastic bath that you can fill with warm water and sit in, either in the toilet or in the tub. Make a sitz bath just by adding a few inches of warm water to your bathtub and lowering yourself into it, although that might be difficult immediately following birth. Consider having witch hazel pads on hand as well.

Postpartum essentials for C-section delivery

  • Stool softener: You might have hemorrhoids from pushing or you might have soreness or stitches around your perineum (the area between the vaginal opening and anus). A stool softener can help you pass painful bowel movements. Make sure to drink plenty of water to activate the stool softener.
  • Pain reliever: You might experience cramping or other uncomfortable pain immediately following birth, so it’s a good idea to have a pain relief option to help alleviate any pain. It can also help with the pain of a C-section which is, after all, a major surgery. This is an important part of postpartum care.
  • Supportive postpartum underwear: Post birth your body is still releasing a lot of fluids, which will look similar to a period but might be different in texture, color and volume. (Yes, even if you have a C-section.) Disposable postpartum undies can help with leakage. You’ll want to look for a pair that’s high-waisted and will clear any incisions. They need to also be absorbent, comfortable and supportive.
  • Belly binder: Your belly and pelvic floor will be weak after birth. As you try to get your body put back together, a belly binder can help hold everything in while your abdominal muscles heal.
  • Pads: In addition to postpartum underwear, it’s a good idea to have pads to contain fluids further. These can be changed out more frequently than underwear to keep you fresh.
  • Silicone scar sheets or cream: You’ll want to take care of your C-section scar by applying a silicone sheet or cream to help the healing process.
  • Compression socks: Depending on how you gave birth, it might be a while before you are up and moving around. Compression socks can help with blood flow and prevent clots.
  • Ice packs: Ice packs can help reduce swelling and soreness around your incision.
  • A breastfeeding or pregnancy pillow: Even if you’re not breastfeeding, you might want to rely on a pregnancy pillow post-birth. They can be contorted into different positions to help you sit upright or sleep more comfortably
Woman giving medicine, vitamin D and supplements to a 10 days old newborn baby Stefan Tomic/ Getty Images

Postpartum essentials for breastfeeding

  • Nursing pillow: A nursing pillow can help get your breast in the right position to feed your baby, as well as make you and the baby more comfortable during the process.
  • Breast pump: If you are planning on supplementing breastfeeding with pumping, you’ll need a pump. You can get one from your insurance company, rent one from the hospital or buy one retail online. It's one of the most important postpartum essentials for Mom if she's planning to nurse.
  • Nipple cream: Cracked, dry nipples are often an unpleasant side effect of breastfeeding. Look for a nipple cream with soothing lanolin. Your nipples will hurt if you're breastfeeding, so make sure you add this to your postpartum recovery kit.
  • Breastmilk storage bags: If you’re pumping, you’ll want to have breastmilk bags around to store fresh milk. They come labeled with the number of ounces so you can see how much is going into what bottle. Keep a permanent marker nearby so you can label the bags with the date. Check out everything you need to know about breastmilk storage here.
  • Nursing bra: Nursing bras make breastfeeding easy. They have openings you can pull aside or straps that drop down to give your baby easy feeding access.
  • Button-up or zip-up pajamas: Those who are breastfeeding will want uncomplicated button-up or zip-up pajamas or nightgowns to allow for easy access to feedings.
  • Manual breast pump: Sometimes, a manual pump is better at extracting breastmilk than an electric one. It’s nice to have both options, and you can put the manual pump on the opposite breast while you feed to catch any additional milk.
  • Nursing pads: Nursing pads are soft cotton pads you put in your bra to help prevent leaking milk. They can be changed frequently.
  • Nipple shield: Your baby might have trouble latching. A nipple shield is a small piece of plastic that covers your nipple and can help them until they get the hang of it.
  • Burp cloths: After every feeding, a baby will burp—and in some cases, spit up. Have plenty of burp cloths around to catch messes. (Pro tip: you can even use cotton reusable diapers as burp cloths. They’re super absorbent!)
  • Breastfeeding cover: If you think you’ll need to breastfeed in public, you might want a breastfeeding cover to do so. It’s a large piece of fabric that provides privacy for you and your baby.
  • Extra flanges: If you are pumping, you’ll want extra flanges around to make the process go smoothly. A flange is a plastic shield that suctions onto the breast. They can lose their suction over time, so keep backups.
  • A permanent marker: If you’re pumping, keep a permanent marker near your pump or breastmilk bags to mark each bag with the date.
  • Large water bottle: Breastmilk is made up mostly of water, so it’s important to stay hydrated so your body can make food for your baby. Breastfeeding also burns a lot of calories, so you might be super thirsty while breastfeeding. Check out this beloved Stanley Cup dupe that's affordable and easy to use.

Postpartum essentials for bottle feeding

  • Bottles: Bottles come in a variety of sizes, depending on the ounce requirements for your baby’s age. Look to get a few different bottle types to see which your baby likes best before committing to one brand. Check out these glass baby bottles.
  • Nipples: The nipples on the bottle come in different sizes that correspond with milk flow. Younger babies need smaller nipple sizes. Get a few sizes to determine which your baby likes best.
  • Bottle brush: You’ll be doing a lot of dishes with a bottle-fed newborn, and a bottle brush can get into all those tight nooks and crannies to make sure your baby’s bottle is squeaky clean.
  • Drying rack or mat: Bottles can be difficult to dry with a cloth so a drying rack or mat can help bottles air dry quickly.
  • Bottle sterilizer or bottle sterilizer bag: A machine called a bottle sterilizer can deep clean your baby’s bottles. A bottle sterilizer bag is a bag that can go in the microwave to help sterilize your bottles. They’re often reusable so you can get a few uses out of them before you need to dispose of them.
  • Dishwasher bottle holder: If you are dishwashing your bottles, they’ll go on the top rack. A dishwasher-safe bottle holder can keep all the little pieces in one place.
  • Burp cloths: After every feeding, a baby will burp—and in some cases, spit up. Have plenty of burp cloths around to catch messes. (Pro tip: you can even use cotton reusable diapers as burp cloths. They’re super absorbent!)
  • Formula: You’ll need to choose a formula for your baby, which you can discuss with their pediatrician. Be sure to check the expiration dates as well! Not sure where to start? Check out our list of the best formula for breastfed babies.

Postpartum essentials for every new parent

  • Portable phone charger: Whether you’re using your phone for entertainment, to Google things or to keep track of feedings, you’ll want a charged phone bank nearby as a backup in case your phone’s battery runs low.
  • Large water bottle: Staying hydrated is important for postpartum recovery, even if you’re not breastfeeding. Keeping a large water bottle on hand (hospitals often give them out) can keep you from having to get up to get more water.
  • Slippers: A pair of slippers can feel like a small little luxury when you’re housebound with a newborn for a few weeks or months.
  • Comfortable pajamas: Comfortable pajamas will make a huge difference to birthing parents who are recovering. Look for soft cotton, viscose or blend styles to keep your body free from irritation.
  • Ready-made meals: There’s no time to cook with a newborn, even if it’s something you enjoyed doing before you gave birth. And new moms, especially those who are breastfeeding, will want to eat constantly. Ready-made meals make mealtime easy.
  • Breastfeeding or pregnancy pillow: A breastfeeding or pregnancy pillow can be configured in many ways to help with sitting up and sleeping.
  • Baby carrier or sling: Newborns love to be close to their parents. A baby carrier or sling can help keep your baby close to you while keeping your hands free to do other things. Check out our guide to the best baby carrier.
  • Robe: A robe can be handy for extra warmth or for when people stop by to visit the baby. Instead of changing for them, just throw on a robe.
  • Diaper rash cream: Babies make blowout messes in and their skin is extremely sensitive. Use a barrier cream or zinc oxide-based formula, depending on preference and what your doctor suggests. We like this baby ointment.
  • Entertainment: Having a newborn can make your days super repetitive. Have entertainment such as movies, TV shows, books, games or other distractions around to help pass the time.
  • Car seat: Every new parent needs to take their new bundle either home from the hospital or to early doctor appointments. You need a car seat ready to go for the big day! Check out our list of the best convertible car seats on the market.

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