How to tackle the first few days after giving birth
Maybe your baby’s birth was exactly as you imagined. More probably, some things didn’t go exactly to plan and you’ve had to adjust your expectations of what this moment would be like.
But your baby is here now, and what a special moment it is! You’re able to count those tiny fingers and toes, gaze at that adorable face and nestle your little one in your arms.
Most mums get to enjoy these precious moments immediately after birth, but it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes, either you or your baby needs extra medical attention immediately after the birth and that must take priority. Remember that bonding with your baby is an ongoing process rather than a one-off event. You’re going to have plenty of time together.
Immediately after birth
As soon as your baby is born, the doctor or nurse will clear any mucus from its airways to help it breathe, and you’ll hear your baby’s first wonderful, mewling cry. Next, two clamps are fixed on the baby’s umbilical cord and the cord is cut between them. Then the doctor does a quick initial health check and confirms the baby’s gender.
The Apgar score is used to measure your baby’s overall health at one minute and five minutes after birth. It assesses your baby’s breathing, heart rate and colour, to measure how well they’ve transitioned from the womb to the world.
Your baby will probably be placed on your chest soon after you give birth, enjoying a skin-to-skin cuddle with you while covered with a blanket to keep warm. If you’ve had a caesarean, this skin-to-skin contact can happen while you’re still in theatre or once you arrive in the recovery room.
Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits for you and your baby. It helps you bond and soothes you both after the intensity of birth. It also encourages your baby to seek your breasts for that first feed and increases the likelihood that you’ll breastfeed successfully.
Doctors and midwives try not to interrupt this special time until after the first breastfeed or for at least an hour. Routine assessments can usually be done during skin-to-skin care or delayed until afterwards.
Newborn health checks
A routine newborn assessment is done before you go home or within the first 48 hours of your baby’s life. With your permission, a doctor will check your baby all over, measuring their reflexes, muscle tone, body length and head circumference as well as checking their heart, hips, movements and genitals. This is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have. It’s helpful to write things down as you’ll probably be feeling very tired.
Midwives will teach you how to change a nappy and bathe your baby. Hospital staff will also usually:
- Test your baby’s hearing
- Give your baby Vitamin K (usually by injection) to help their blood clot properly
- Vaccinate your baby against hepatitis B.
Hospitals should do everything they can to help you breastfeed. Ideally, your baby will be put to the breast shortly after birth. Babies often seek out the nipple during skin-to-skin care. Your midwife can help you learn how to attach your baby and teach you how to recognise early signs of hunger.
Your milk doesn’t come on strong until a few days after birth. At the very beginning, you’re making about half a teaspoon of colostrum (a thick yellowy fluid) at each feed, just right for your baby’s marble-sized belly. This encourages frequent feeding, helping to bring your milk in and get your baby’s digestive system working.
Bringing your baby home
Some new mums feel nervous about leaving the ‘experts’ behind and going home, while others feel more settled once they’re back in a familiar environment.
These are still very early days where you need to go with the flow if you can. You might feel daunted or overwhelmed by your new role, so try to celebrate your successes – you changed your first nappy, you kept hold of your slippery newborn in the bath, you’re getting used to feeding.
When you’re ready, go out with your baby, perhaps for a little stroll to your favourite park or café. Choose something small and manageable for your first outing. Your neighbourhood may feel quite different as you negotiate it with a pram for the first time. Be gentle on your healing body and get someone else to do the grocery shopping for the first few weeks – pushing a heavy trolley around may be harder than you think right now.
Sharing the care
Now you’ve given birth, your baby is no longer solely dependent on you. Other people can help! If you have a partner, encourage them to be fully involved, sharing the nappy changes, baths and cuddles. It’s OK if they do some things differently to you. Your partner’s growing confidence as a parent is more important than your baby’s mismatched outfit.
Looking after yourself
All mums need support. It might come from your partner, your parents, your friends or official support services like maternal and child health nurses. Sometimes you just need a sympathetic listener, while at other times you need practical help.
It’s good to have something in mind when people say, ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do.’ Treat these as sincere offers of help – ask them to help you fold laundry while they’re visiting, drop off a lasagne for dinner next week, or take the baby for a walk so you can have a breather.
Take the chance to catch up on sleep when your baby naps as it’ll help you handle night-time feeds. Everything feels harder when you’re tired. If you’re a task-oriented person, try to remember that you’re feeding, bathing, soothing and nurturing a whole new person – knock a few other items off your to-do list!
For some additional support while breastfeeding, Life-Space Breastfeeding Probiotic contains Bifidobacteria breve and Lactobacillus fermentum, which are naturally found in breastmilk. It also contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, which may help to reduce the risk of eczema in children with a family history, when taken during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in the first two years of life, and iodine, which helps to support a baby’s healthy brain development.
This premium probiotic formula also supports your immune and digestive system health and encourages good bacterial diversity, the hallmark of a healthy microbiome. Its fridge-free formula means you can pack a jar in your hospital bag.
For now, let’s just pause and marvel at the wonderful little person you introduced to the world. You will delight in watching them grow and getting to know their unique personality over the years ahead.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.