Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Make your own soothing postpartum pads

Welcome to the February 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Do It Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants are teaching us how to make something useful or try something new.

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

After you've given birth vaginally, things can be rather … tender … down there. Possibilities include swelling, tears, stitches, hemorrhoids, and other fun things. What I wanted most after my births was (a) not to look and (b) to make the area feel better.

Enter frozen postpartum pads!

Also known adorably as padsicles and peri-pops (because they soothe your sore perineum), they're easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time by you or by a birth attendant if you've put it off till the last minute. They take just a few ingredients and whatever pads you can source.

I'll also give you a few other ideas for natural pain relief at the end.


Notes on the ingredients:
Obviously, skip anything you're sensitive to. Some people are sensitive to lavender oil or witch hazel, for instance, so test a bit beforehand, and discontinue use if anything feels irritating.

Ideally, the witch hazel should be alcohol-free to avoid any stinging. The kind I have (Safeway brand, because I'm super swanky like that) is 86% witch hazel and 14% alcohol, and it was fine for me, but I don't want anyone to make the owies any worse.

The aloe vera should be 100% pure gel and not a liquid extract. The kind I use is somewhat liquid-y, though, which was actually great to make mixing and spreading easier.

The pads can be almost anything you've got handy. Ideas: Cloth or disposable menstrual pads, postpartum pads, or panty liners; cloth diaper doublers and liners; cloth or disposable newborn diapers, such as preemie prefolds; washcloths folded in thirds.

Frozen pad ideas, both cloth & disposable

You might find you want a broad length and width to cover more area, or you might prefer a more targeted approach. You probably want to err on the larger side if freezing in advance, or make an assortment.

I appreciated the extra absorbency the frozen pads gave me postpartum, but keep in mind that these padsicles, pre-saturated as they are, are for pain relief, not absorbing all the lochia on their own. Place them inside whatever postpartum pad you're using for mess containment (of both the lochia and any drips from melting).

My stash of postpartum pads & panties

Some people eschew using disposable products for postpartum healing, particularly name-brand and/or chemical-laden pads. I made the switch to reusable menstrual products several years ago and had some leftover disposables to use up, so I did freeze quite a few disposables for after Alrik's birth and had no problems myself. But there are anecdotes of disposables being more prone to stick to stitches (ouch) and delay healing, so if you have a choice, I'd recommend soft cloth pads of one sort or another instead. Generic washcloths, for instance, are nice and cheap and can be bought in packs of 12 or 24 and used for other purposes after such as heat therapy (see below). After Karsten's birth three months ago, I had several more disposables to use (most from my birth kit), but when I switched to cloth again, it was so much more comfortable and not a bother for me to wash — I just spritzed them with Bac-Out and tossed them in with our regular laundry, washed in cold, and they came out clean. That said, if what you have on hand is disposable pads, I'm not going to discourage you from giving them a go, since they didn't impede healing for me. Plus, depending on your laundry situation (what facilities and assistance you have available to you), having disposables might be some people's best option.


  • Mix in small bottle or bowl:
    1. Half witch hazel
    2. Half aloe vera gel
    3. 4-5 drops lavender essential oil
  • Spray or spread onto the pad.
  • Layer the pads with aluminum foil to keep them from sticking to each other.
  • Freeze.

My midwife had the genius idea of freezing them in a shallow bowl to achieve a womanly curve that doesn't have to be cracked into place. Since our freezer space is at a premium, I used a small bowl to help me shape the pads, and then froze them on their side, still curved.

Use a bowl to help curve them gently. (Note: A bigger bowl would give a better curve; I stretched mine back out a bit after since my big bowls were in use!)

Then spoon them together, foil in between, to freeze.

If you're freezing disposable pads with their own adhesive liners, you can stack similarly sized pads on top of each other and put aluminum foil only on the top. Wings can be folded back in.

Disposable pads can be kept on their disposable liners, with any wings folded back over for freezing.

The liners will offer protection between pads. Only a small sheet of foil need be placed on the very top in that case.

When frozen, pop the padsicles into a freezer baggie to keep them clean, and remove one at a time for use.

To avoid any adherence to your stitches or tender bits, let the pad thaw a few minutes, or work it between your hands a bit before placing inside your undies.

I like replacing them often the first few days — I'll ask Sam to grab me another the next time I'm using the restroom. (I am not afraid to ask for help! For the first several days, I go back and forth from bed to bathroom, and that's it.)

I froze about 24 padsicles, and that was more than enough. After the first few days, I was preferring heat on the area (see below), though I did use up all the padsicles I made! I'd make at least 12 so you can have four a day for the first three days, or six a day for the first two. More would be a bonus! If you have a helper or are able to move around on your own and you need a replenishment, you can always get some more freezing before you run out — I left my supplies gathered together in a handy spot (witch hazel, lavender oil, extra pads, small mixing bottle, with the aloe vera in the fridge) in case I needed Sam to whip me up a few more in a pinch.

Bonus icy soothers:

If you want something to tuck in a little more intimately — note I do not mean inside your vagina (keep everything out while you're healing!) but tucked further up into your vulva folds — you can use the same formula to freeze a tampon. I emphasize again, this is to be used horizontally, not vertically, but it can be a more direct application of the cold to the sorest spots.

Spooning the gel mixture into a tampon before Alrik's birth.

Another ice pack option that's comfortable enough to sit on is a frozen condom. Hear me out! You're going to use a couple condoms to make a condom slushy. Fill a clean (do I have to say this?) condom with about an inch of rubbing alcohol (or, really, any kind of alcohol) and then to the top with water. Don't overfill; you won't want it full to bursting. Tie it off like a balloon. Tuck it inside another clean condom. (Easier said than done, I realize, but do your best.) Tie that one off as well. Tuck your condomsicle inside a cardboard toilet paper tube and freeze. The alcohol will keep it slushy rather than a hard tube of ice. Again, this is to be used externally only.

It ain't pretty, but it works! Tiny bit of alcohol, fill with water and double bag, then freeze in a tube.

Warmth for healing:

After the first couple days, and sometimes sooner, you might find you prefer warmth to cold or want to switch back and forth between the two. Heat can bring blood flow to the area and promote healing, besides feeling very soothing in itself.

My favorite is a warm bath, and a bonus is including sitz herbs in with you. You can purchase herbal preparations or make your own. Your baby can join you in the bath if the water is equally soothing to your little one. (My boys loved floating and kicking while held in my arms; I think it reminded them of the womb!)

To make the herbs more potent, use an actual sitz bath or large bowl, or fill the tub only enough to slosh up to your privates and then add the herbs. You could do this before or after a regular bath as you wish.

You can purchase postpartum herb pads, such as these from Earth Mama Angel Baby, steep them, and then let them cool until they're a safe temperature to place against your skin.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Herb Pads — can be frozen, left warm, or used in a bath

You can wet pads (see above for pad suggestions) with warm water individually, or keep a crockpot on low with up to a dozen or so steeping at once. (Washcloths and small cloth diaper inserts work especially well for this.) If they're hot to the touch, let a pad cool to a comfortable temperature before placing against you.

You can wrap small gel heat packs or microwaveable rice packs in cloth (such as a washcloth) and tuck them between your pad and you. If the heat is too intense, you can add layers of cloth as needed.

An easy external way to add heat is to sit on a soft electric heating pad on low, with it tucked between your legs, over your clothes. I found that one of the most convenient and adjustable options after Karsten's birth.

Keep that area hydrated:

One thing that helped me immensely, both physically and psychologically, was to spray my skin with water every time I peed, while and after I peed. That way, there was no urine sting on the tears since it was so diluted. I'm not even sure if urine would have stung, I sprayed so religiously. You can use a bidet (like my beloved seat attachment — I highly recommend it, for all sorts of reasons), a portable bidet, or a peri bottle, a squeezy bottle with a squirt cap. (One might have come with your birth kit if you had a homebirth, or been sent home with you from the hospital or birth center. If not, they're easy to come by at drugstores.) You can fill it with plain water (very warm water is lovely; I liked mine nearly hot) or with a soothing remedy, such as steeped postpartum herbs or witch hazel with a few drops of lavender essential oil. I like spraying with water liberally, wiping gingerly (might I recommend family cloth for ultimate comfort?), then following up with a smaller squirt of an herbal remedy.

There are prepared sprays available for purchase, such as Earth Mama Angel Baby's Bottom Spray. You can spritz it directly onto your parts, or onto a pad as well, particularly if you didn't manage to freeze any in advance.

After I made an EMAB Postpartum Pad to freeze (which I then subsequently used in a bath — oh, thrift!), I used the steeping water to pour into an extra peri bottle. I squirted this postpartum herbal tea after wiping for an added boost of healing to the area.

Above all, follow my previous midwife's sound advice: Take it easy, and keep your legs together. All this freezing and retrieving and steeping? Have someone else help you out if at all possible. ("Farm boy, fetch me my padsicle!") Things down below will knit together and feel better, so enjoy that sweet newborn and let these ideas give your bits some healing love.

What did you appreciate most for postpartum healing?

Hobo Mama, despite her impressive-sounding name, is not a doctor or midwife or much of a professional anything. Because everyone has different birth experiences and recovery needs, you should check with your healthcare provider when determining your postpartum care.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon February 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • DIY: Homeschooling — Have you considered homeschooling but aren't sure how you could make it work? Kerry of City Kids Homeschooling offers some do-it-yourself encouragement in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Super Easy Berry Freezie — Tracy at Raised Good shows how to make healthy, delicious, dairy-free ice-cream for toddlers and their families in under 10 minutes.
  • How to Get Kids to Behave in Church — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she's been able to participate in religious activities that mean a lot to her, without being separated from her kids.
  • Valentine's Slippers — A sneak peek at Life Breath Present's crochet process with some slippers for Hun for Valentine's Day this year!
  • DIY Nursing Bra Conversion — Holly at Leaves of Lavender provides a quick tutorial for how to convert your favorite regular bra to a nursing bra.
  • Make your own soothing postpartum pads — Lauren at Hobo Mama shows you how to freeze padsicles for perineal comfort after birth, plus bonus healing options.
  • Beginning Knitting Project for Kids: Knit a Pikachu — What do you do with all of those practice squares you knit when you are a beginner? Turn them into Pokemon! Kieran, 7-year-old son of Dionna at Code Name: Mama, brings us a video tutorial for this awesome knitting project for kids and adults.
  • Name Creations: An Inspiring Project that Builds Self-Esteem — Children love their names. Learn easy instructions for children, tweens and teens to put a dramatic name on their door or room wall from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., at Parental Intelligence.
  • Water-Bead Sensory Bottles for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares a tutorial for making a rainbow of water-bead sensory bottles along with ideas for using them with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.


Kendall said...

Ahhh a peripad!! I used a different formula to make mine before Baby Boy was born, then I didn't get to use them until I was already kinda healed (away from home for a week unexpectedly and they didn't make it into the 'go bag'). Anyway, this formulation looks super easy to do! And I love the idea of an herbal sitz in a bottle!!! I'll definitely have to remember that when we prepare for birth again. :)

Holly Scudero said...

This is such a fantastic idea!!! And I am totally storing it away to share with friends as they near the end of pregnancy. I kept my (regular, disposable) pads in the freezer, because the cold felt so good, but I would have never thought of adding healing agents to them before freezing. I have learned so much in the 3 years since my son was born! But at least I can pass information like this on to others.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I didn't like the frozen pad the midwife put on me immediately after stitches--the wetness felt icky, and it made my whole body unpleasantly cold. I wouldn't have used them at home if I'd made any. But to each her own!

I have to mention that witch hazel on open wounds can trigger a horrible allergic reaction even in a person who previously used it on the skin with no problem. This happened to me a few years ago, and it was miserable--eczema and fever--so I'd hate for anyone to suffer it postpartum. Internet says it's rare, but my doctor had seen it before. My advice: If you want to make these pads, first swab witch hazel on your arm, and then if you don't react to that, give yourself some pinpricks and put witch hazel on them. If you get eczema, then at least it's only on your arm and you don't yet have a newborn to care for!

Or you could just leave out the witch hazel; I'm sure the aloe would be soothing by itself.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

But . . . but . . . this would be such a great way to REUSE condoms! 3R's, Lauren, mind your 3R's! ;)
I loved my cold cloth pads postpartum. I used some of these tricks, but I wish I'd had them all! Great tutorial.

Anonymous said...

I will be giving birth in exactly 62 days (not counting or anything!)... so I will most definitely have to keep this in mind for myself. THank you so much for sharing with others who wouldn't have even THOUGHT of this otherwise!

Gingi said...

I am SO using this recipe, not even joking! I am due in about 4 weeks, and I wince just thinking about the postpartum pain with my first born! Great post!

Anyhoo, I found your blog through a fellow blogger, and just thought I'd drop by and say hi! It would totally make my day if you did the same - or better yet! - keep in touch! <3 - www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Morgan Lipton, MA CCC-SLP said...

27 weeks pregnant with twins here and in the mood to visualize a vaginal birth. Think making some padsicles sounds right up my alley. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thank you SO much for posting. This is really helpful. Do you know if I can use aloe from my aloe plant, as opposed to purchasing aloe gel? Thanks!

Lauren Wayne said...

@Caitlin Kyse: Absolutely! It should be the same consistency and nice and fresh. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you!!
I had so much pain after my first baby birth and now am expecting second in few days. I have worried for coming pain, but definitely I should try this way. So glad to find your post.
By the way, how long were you able to have frozen pad on? Frozen might be all melted after 10 mins?
I am thinking to use both cloth pads and disposable pads. But little confused with where to put frozen pads if I use cloth pads...

Lauren Wayne said...

@Unknown: Glad this can help you! Congrats on your upcoming second birth — hope all goes very well.

I don't remember exactly how long the freeze lasted, but I'd say it was nice and cold a good bit longer than ten minutes — maybe not frozen still precisely but still comforting. I didn't change them except when using the bathroom, which was frequently enough. They didn't melt all over the place, but anyway, I was plenty messy down there as it was. :P

I put cloth pads against my underwear with the frozen pad on top. Is that what you mean? Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

Love the idea of freezing wet washcloths for icing sore parts! I imagine even just water would work (might be a must-do for anyone with super sensitive skin)

But the absolute BEST advice I got for postpartum healing (especially since both of mine included entirely too many stitches): skip the soft fluffy chair. The soft cushion stretches the skin around your stitches and makes the area more sore than it already is, and takes longer to heal.

If you just can't stand the idea of sitting on a hard kitchen chair all day every day, sit on a large hardcover book (one you don't care about b/c it'll be warped by the time you're done!) on top of that comfy chair. You'll feel better in no time!

2 days into healing and I was soooo sore around my stitches, on day 3 I sat on the book and felt so much better

Unknown said...

I have some concerns... I'm due in 6 weeks with my first born. I've heard that the first month or so is supposed to be, like, a period on steroids! My concern is: if you're using a pad that has soaked up all the witch hazel and aloe, how can it still soak up all the blood?

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