When you’re pregnant it’s easy to spend all your time planning for the birth and baby’s first clothes, but completely forget to plan for your postpartum recovery.
Recovery after birth takes time and extra thought if you want to do it naturally and with as little waste as possible.
Most postpartum essentials lists involve far too much landfill fodder for my liking so I thought I’d round up my favourite natural, eco friendly products to get in for your postpartum kit.
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Reusable maternity pads
Postpartum periods are a case of skipping nearly a year’s worth of periods and then having them all at once!
I highly recommend Pussy Pads postpartum pads from Etsy as the greenest postpartum option. After having a baby I didn’t want to go straight back to my Organicup, so took a look at the reusable cloth pads options around. These are the most comfortable towels I’ve found and there’s a whole range of different fabrics, lengths and absorbencies to suit you. She’s just one woman making cloth pads though so you need to order a couple of weeks in advance, but they’re well worth the wait and I continue to use them every month.
In the first few days postpartum, however, I couldn’t face the laundry that goes with reusable towels so I used Natracare maternity pads at first. Nothing is 100% biodegradable in landfill so these do have an environmental impact. They’re pretty ethical as far as disposable pads go and are very reasonably priced for an organic product.
Reusable bed pads
One of the most wasteful items usually on a postpartum recovery essentials kit is disposable bed pads. It’s good to have something to protect your bed and sofa from leaks, but I couldn’t stand the idea of all that waste.
Instead I bought two second hand cot mattress protectors from an NCT sale, one to wash and one to use. They’re the perfect size for popping under your bottom while you take it easy and snuggle your lovely little newborn and come in handy later on too during potty training, if you can think that far ahead!
Witch hazel pads
When I was researching the best postpartum recovery essentials I often came across Tucks cooling pads. They’re disposable pads soaked in witch hazel to stick in your pants and soothe postpartum swelling after a vaginal birth.
They looked great but not particularly eco-friendly or economical, so I just made my own. I simply soaked a pile of organic cotton pads in a jar full of witch hazel I got from my local pharmacist and hey presto – Tucks pads at a fraction of the price.
You could go one step further and use organic witch hazel with reusable pads such as these from ImseVimse and wash them with your cloth maternity pads.
Postpartum recovery bath herbs
I initially gathered together a collection of postpartum recovery herbs in order to make that perennial Pinterest favourite, padsicles. If you haven’t come across them yet, they’re maternity pads that have been soaked in soothing herbs and frozen.
I had made a batch of padsicles using a postpartum herb recipe when I was still pregnant, but when it came to actually using them they were a huge disappointment. They were WAY too icy for my fragile undercarriage and even if I made it through the initial YIKES! moment and waited for them to warm up a bit, I just ended up with cold soggy knickers. Not a good experience.
However, all those little muslin bags I had made did find a good use both in my postpartum recovery and beyond. I used the herbal mixture in a peri bottle and for my first mum-and-baby bath. I also use it in Ursula’s baths whenever she goes through a sleep regression or teething trauma. The mix of herbs is physically and emotionally soothing and I recommend it for all postpartum mums, whether you had a vaginal or abdominal birth:
postpartum herbal bath recipe
1 part dried chamomile flower
1 part dried comfrey leaf
1 part dried lavender
2 parts dried marigold (calendula)
1 part pink Himalayan rock salt
10 drops tea tree essential oil
Mix and distribute into small organic cotton drawstring bags, filling each bag about ¾ full. Soak each in 1 litre boiling water for at least 4 hours. Batch make the mixture in the early postpartum days, freezing any excess for later use.
Uses & precautions
They are physically soothing, provide antiseptic qualities (due to the tea tree) and offer emotional comfort during the postpartum phase
- Use in a perineum bottle or sitz bath to aid vaginal birth recovery
- For an abdominal birth, use in baths (wait until 6 weeks after surgery) to ease discomfort or tightness around the scar
- Soak reusable pads in the mixture, freeze and place in maternity pants
- Use in postnatal mother-baby baths to facilitate crucial skin-to-skin bonding time and ease colicky babies in their fourth trimester
- Use in baby’s baths any time they are having difficulty sleeping, particularly during the 4 and 8-10 month sleep progressions (aka sleep regressions)
Do not use if you are allergic to any of the ingredients
Being a plastic item, this isn’t technically 100% eco friendly but this company do at least use eco friendly packaging. I did want to include it though as the perineum bottle (in combination with the herb recipe above) was absolutely essential to my postpartum recovery.
If you’re having a natural birth, you’ll need a bit of help getting through those first few painful trips to the bathroom. In particular, it’s much less hygienic and more painful to use toilet paper for the first week-ish, so the perineum bottle is a lifesaver.
Despite being an out-and-proud hippy mama, I don’t generally advocate for homeopathy due to the lack of evidence that it actually works.
There are two exceptions, however: Nelsons Teetha granules, which genuinely seem to give Ursula relief from teething pain, and arnica.
My experience with arnica, which I’ve taken for various bumps and bruises since childhood, has been generally positive and it’s a staple in our first aid kit. I took it every 2-4 hours for a week after giving birth and, along with postpartum herbs, it was extremely helpful for my physical recovery.
Bengkung belly wrap
This isn’t something I’ve tried myself but, given that I still have a mum tum 18-months postpartum, I wish I had!
Bengkung belly wraps are traditional postpartum recovery aids from Malaysia. They support your core and give you a helping hand in getting all those loose abdominal muscles back in order.
If you don’t mind ordering from the States you can get some beautiful ombre coloured wraps that use 100% vegan, natural dyes.
Water bottle/cup with straw
If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, you’ll be drinking a LOT of water as it’s super thirsty work.
For both my home birth and postpartum recovery, I couldn’t have survived without my water bottle with a straw. It makes a massive difference being able to sip water from any position, especially if you’ve got a baby attached to your boob.
Mine is plastic and I bought it before I started boycotting Amazon so I don’t want to recommend the one I have, but I found these lovely stainless steel ones on Etsy.
Frugi nursing clothes
There’s an argument that you don’t really need to buy many nursing clothes – you can do a lot with a simple nursing vest under any top you already own. It’s also nice to get back to your pre-pregnancy wardrobe and say goodbye to the endless Breton stripes you find on most maternity clothes.
Personally though I found it helpful to have a few nursing tops and dresses, as I was more self-conscious than I thought I’d be about breastfeeding in public. Nursing tops offer discretion as well as easy access and it was great to be able to quickly reach inside my top, unhook my bra and latch Ursula on with minimal boob-sposure.
I am SO bummed out that Frugi didn’t release their nursing and maternity range in time for me to take advantage of it. Their organic cotton tops and dresses offer a much-needed splash of colour and personality to the monochrome world of maternity wear. Frugi prices mean the brand is always an investment but a small number of well-chosen high-quality nursing options will serve you well throughout your postpartum life and even into toddlerhood.
Organic nursing bras
Nursing bras are a must-have for anyone trying to breastfeed, but when I was researching this article I struggled to find organic cotton ones.
However, Etsy came to the rescue once again and I found these lovely organic handmade, custom nursing bras. They are available in a wide variety of fabrics, come with rave reviews for comfort, and are made by an independent seller, so definitely worth a go.
After my lovely home birth, my midwife told me that I should spend one week in bed, one week on the sofa, and then start gradually venturing outside.
I was more than happy to take this advice literally so I spent most of the first two weeks postpartum in nursing pyjamas and a robe.
Obviously if you have other children you might not get this luxury, but I still think being postpartum is a great excuse for new pyjamas!
Lily & Ribbon have some lovely soft bamboo cotton options available, including these nursing pyjamas.
Once you’re ready to say goodbye to the sofa and start getting back to normality, I really rate soft jersey trousers as a practical solution to the problem of postpartum clothing, a tricky transitional space from maternity wear back to regular clothes.
They offer the comfort of pyjamas but are stylish and acceptable to go outside in, and I love them so much that I still spend most of my time in soft jersey trousers. Once you’re running around after a toddler and picking alphabetti spaghetti up off the floor 50 million times a day they come into their own!
I love these soft GOTS organic jersey culottes from sustainable fashion company Thought. They feature a wide fold-over waistband, comfortable pockets and a wide slouchy leg, making them perfect for comfortable yet stylish postpartum life.
Reusable nursing pads
Nursing pads are a staple on any postpartum essentials list, but I’d advise you not to invest in them until you’re actually breastfeeding. Not everyone leaks and a lot of women find they can’t breastfeed at all, so don’t jump the gun and order these while still pregnant.
Once you do know you need nursing pads though, there’s no need to add to landfill. Imse Vimse are a fantastic brand and their reusable nursing pads are organic, vegan and cruelty free.
Postpartum life is an emotional rollercoaster and your hormones are all over the place in the days after giving birth.
I’ve always found Bach Flower Rescue Remedy to be a supportive emotional aid in times of distress. It does have a very low alcohol content but not enough to be of concern in terms of breastfeeding. The amount you would take per dose is absolutely minuscule, but if you want to stay completely teetotal while nursing there is a version called Rescue Remedy Kids which uses glycerin instead although I couldn’t find it from an ethical retailer.
I didn’t need nipple cream personally but Weleda is a fantastic brand with a wide range of products for pregnancy and postpartum recovery, including a fragrance-free nipple balm. It’s not vegan though due to beeswax, which is a common ingredient in natural organic nipple creams.
If you want a vegan option then try every crunchy-mama’s household staple, organic coconut oil.
Another recommendation for nursing mothers, fenugreek is a traditional herb used to help boost milk supply. It’s usually top of the list of lactation boosters for mums struggling to breastfeed, but I should mention that it has mixed results. Some mothers swear by it, others find it has a negative impact on their supply so make sure you pay attention to how well it is working. I highly recommend the website Kelly Mom for breastfeeding and nursing knowledge – she has an excellent blog piece on galactagogues (substances for increasing milk supply) that is worth reading if you are considering using them.
Mother’s massage oil
And finally, this one is for mothers who have had an abdominal birth. Obviously all mums in postpartum recovery need a good massage, but I added this gorgeous organic massage oil for women who want to reduce the appearance of their c-section scar.
It is rich in vitamin E and, when used carefully on the scar, can help aid skin recovery. Make sure you research how to take care of your c section scar and follow the advice of your medical team.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration in my eco friendly postpartum essentials list and are now looking forward to a relaxing and natural recovery from birth. While you’re here, why not take a look at my 19 Must-Have Eco-Friendly Newborn Essentials post to help you decide what to get your snuggly little newborn when they arrive!