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4 Ways to Prepare for C-Section Recovery with a Toddler

It’s hard to believe that my baby boy will be a year old this month. It feels like he was just in my belly, and I remember the ups and downs that came along with my second pregnancy. I love being pregnant and have such fond memories of both of my pregnancies, but, while my first time carrying a child was full of nothing but excitement, the second time around, there was an equal amount of joyful anticipation and worry. Most of the worry centered around my c-section recovery.

Seeing that it would be my second cesarian, I knew what to expect in terms of my c-section recovery, but what I did not know was how to handle c-section recovery with not only a newborn baby, but also a toddler. My daughter was just over two and a half years old when my son was born. I spent more nights than I can count during my pregnancy wondering what I could do that would help her cope with what was to come.

C-section recovery is like recovery from most major surgeries. You can’t lift anything heavier than your newborn, which means that lifting a toddler is out of the picture. Of course, you must also be careful with bending, stretching, or doing anything that might cause distress to your incision. My daughter still relied on me for so many things, and I was worried about how I would manage taking care of myself during my c-section recovery, while also continuing to meet her needs during a time that was already full of so many changes for her.

C-Section Recovery with a Toddler
C-Section Recovery for Toddler Moms

It is normal to be worried about how your toddler will cope with your limitations during c-section recovery and I’m sure I’m not the only mom who had these concerns. There will be things that you simply cannot do, and your toddler will have to adjust accordingly. While you cannot plan for everything and need to mentally prepare yourself for some hard moments of having to put your physical health ahead of your toddler’s desires, there are 4 things that I did to get my daughter ready for what was to come that helped tremendously.

4 Ways to Prepare Your Toddler for Your C-Section Recovery

Make the Switch from a Crib to a Toddler Bed

I was blessed to have a child who never tried to climb out of her crib. My daughter has always been a great sleeper, so I was reluctant to change up her bedtime setup at all and quite honestly planned to leave her in her crib as long as I possibly could since she wasn’t trying to escape. However, since you cannot lift anything heavier than your newborn during c-section recovery, I quickly realized that I would not be able to get my toddler into and out of her crib on my own for 6 weeks. I decided to switch her to her toddler bed so that she would be able to get in and out on her own. Switching your toddler from a crib to a big kid bed before your new baby comes is one way that you can prepare for c-section recovery. Make the switch at least a few weeks (preferably a few months) before your new arrival is born so that your toddler is not overwhelmed with so many changes at once and is already fully adjusted to their new sleep setup before the baby comes.

Find New Ways to Give Comfort Without Picking Your Toddler Up

A two-year-old is still very much a baby in a lot of ways. If your toddler is anything like mine was, he or she still often wants to be picked up, especially during times of distress (which, let’s be real, can be often with a toddler). During your pregnancy before your c-section recovery, it is important that you find other ways to comfort your toddler that do not involve lifting. Late in pregnancy, you probably shouldn’t be lifting your toddler as much anyway, so finding new ways to connect is necessary and helpful. Before the baby arrives, start saying things like, “Mommy isn’t going to pick you up, but I am going to sit on the couch and let you climb in my lap and cuddle with me,” or “How about I get down on the floor and give you a big hug instead of picking you up?” Finding new ways to comfort your toddler will help prepare them for your c-section recovery so that when you can no longer lift her up, it won’t come as a shock and she will be accustomed to connecting with you in different ways.

Practice Independence at Bath Time

Like lifting in and out of the crib is out of the question, you won’t be able to lift your toddler into and out of the bathtub during your c-section recovery either. When my son was born, my husband was away for the basketball season, which meant that, besides our amazing village of friends and grandparents, I was without a partner. That meant that I needed to prepare to be on my own some evenings for my toddler’s bedtime routine and thus needed to make sure that she was able to handle some parts with little assistance. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started teaching her how to get into and out of the bathtub safely on her own. I also started teaching her how to bathe herself as I knew that bending or kneeling to help might be uncomfortable for me for the first few weeks. Giving her an opportunity to practice and master these new skills before the baby arrived was helpful and these new skills came in handy during my c-section recovery.

Discuss What’s to Come

Just like giving your toddler an opportunity to practice any new responsibilities or skills you introduce before the baby comes is important, having open, honest, developmentally appropriately conversations about what’s to come goes a long way. You will be surprised at how much your toddler will understand, and toddlers, like all of us, like to know what to expect. Starting a few weeks before my scheduled c-section, my daughter and I discussed what would happen when I left for the hospital, who she would stay with, and what activities she would do while I was away. We talked about who would be coming home with be (that someone being her brand-new baby brother). I explained to her that I would have a boo boo on my belly that would be sore for a few weeks while it was healing and told her that we would need to be very gentle with it until it got all better. When I got home from the hospital, she asked about my boo boo, which let me know that she understood and had been listening. I think the fact that there were no surprises went a long way in preparing her, and having these discussions so your toddler is not caught off guard will help during your c-section recovery as well.

c-section recovery prep for toddler moms

If you’re a pregnant mama who’s worried about how your limitations during your c-section recovery might impact your toddler, I want you to know that you’re a great mom. The fact that you’re thinking about it shows just how aware you are of your little one’s needs. I also want you to know that while some of your worry is warranted, your toddler will surprise you. You see, just like you are aware of what that tiny human needs, he or she is more observant than you think and will be aware of what you need as well. I was blown away by how much my daughter matured seemingly overnight after her baby brother way born. In the blink of an eye, she became more independent and showed me that she understood what was going on with me physically more than I gave her credit for. I’m willing to bet your toddler will surprise you as well.

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