Finally, your pregnancy and labour is over and you’re a mum… but now you’re in charge of a tiny newborn and the round-the-clock responsibility can be daunting. This day-by-day guide will help you survive those first 10 days.
The early days of parenthood are incredibly intense – packed with highs and lows, happiness and tears. Chaos reigns even in the most super-organised homes and it may seem to you that life will be like this forever. The best advice is to go with the flow. Here are some practical tips on how you can survive the early days with confidence…
You – Depending on the birth you had, you’ll be recovering in a postnatal ward or at home. You probably feel happy, proud and relieved, but if the birth did not go as planned, may be disappointed.
Your baby – will be tired after his strenuous journey into the world and will fall into a deep sleep a couple of hours after being born. Try to catch up on the sleep you’ve missed.
Your body – Women who’ve had vaginal deliveries may feel sore and bruised. If you have stitches, pour a jug as you pee to prevent any stinging and keep the area clean; alternatively you can pee in a warm bath. Use ice packs (or a bag of peas covered in clean muslin) to reduce swelling and take Arnica tablets for bruising. Don’t be worried about opening your bowels in case the stitches burst – they won’t; but you can always hold a clean sanitary pad against the stitches for support if you like.
If you had an epidural, you may have a catheter in as your nerves are numbed at first and you won’t be able to tell when you need to go to the loo.
Caesarean mums are often prescribed antibiotics and will be taking painkillers. Most need help to sit, stand up or pick up the baby.
Tip:- Try to get up and walk around as much as possible to get your circulation moving, which will help your body recover more quickly from the birth. If you’ve had a caesarean, bend and stretch your legs in bed.
You – It’s normal to have a bloody vaginal discharge (lochia) after the birth.This will be heavy for the first 2448 hours, but will gradually lessen and change from bright to very light red, then sticky brown, then pale yellow. It lasts 2-3 weeks. If it increases, stays red, smells unpleasant or contains clots bigger than a 10 cent coin, tell your carer as these can be signs of infection.
Your baby – should be feeding every 2-3 hours now. If he’s sleeping for more than 5-6 hours and missing feeds, your carer may ask you to wake him. He needs to nurse often to build up your milk supply. If you’re not sure how to latch your baby to the breast, a breastfeeding consultant will show you. Caesarian mums will need special help to avoid putting pressure on their scar.
By now your baby should have passed her first bowel motion, a dark greenish-black sticky substance called meconium that lined the gut while your baby was in the uterus. After this has cleared, her stools will be yellow, if breastfed, otherwise browner.
Your body – Your baby’s sucking stimulates production of the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus contract to its normal size. Some women feel sharp “afterpains” when this happens, particularly while feeding. Afterpains don’t last more than a few days but if you can’t cope, ask your carer for painkillers. By six weeks the uterus should be almost back to its normal size.
Tip:- You’ll find you sweat a lot as your hormones settle and your body rids itself of excess fluid gained in pregnancy.”
You – If you suffered from any stress incontinence (leaking urine) during pregnancy, you need to start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles as soon as you can feel them – your carer will explain how.
Your Baby – For a couple of days your baby will be nourished by colostrum, a creamy, yellowish fluid produced by your breasts. It contains antibodies to help prevent infection. By day three or four, this changes to mature breast milk. Your breasts will grow and may feel hard and tingly. Ertgorg.;1 breasts (full of milk) are difficult for a baby to latch on to, so to avoid this, feed often or express a little before each feed to soften them.
Your Body – Breastfeeding takes of water over them about two weeks to become established (when your breasts are soft between feeds and only fill up when a feed is due). Until then, your breasts will feel heavy and may leak milk. Wear a supportive bra and use breastpads to soak up drips until your supply settles. If you’re bottlefeeding, your breasts will still produce milk for up to four weeks. A good bra and a cold washer occasionally placed over your breast will ease the discomfort. Never express, as it stimulates milk production.
Tip:- Drink a glass of water every time that you breastfeed as this will help prevent dehydration and constipation.
You – You should be up and about by now, but might not have left the house. If you had a caesarean, your wound may still be sore so take it easy. Don’t lift anything or strain your abdominal muscles.
Your Baby – New babies often have lots of little marks and blemishes, but most of these will fade in the next few months and should all be gone by his first birthday.
Your Body – Some women feel disappointed by their body after the birth. Your stomach will be wrinkly, flabby and swollen and the extra fluid you’re carrying might make your ankles puffy. Try to put your feet up. Pregnancy discomforts such as heartburn, constipation and varicose veins should ease up. You’ll probably start sleeping better and more soundly (when you have the chance!).
Most women suffer “baby blues” a few days after the birth, feeling weepy, moody and a little deflated. Discussing your feelings helps. But postnatal depression, characterised by insomnia and despair, can occur up to two years after the birth. It’s a serious medical condition that requires treatment from your GP.
Tip: – Accept ALL offers of help as people often don’t ask again, if you at first refuse. Ask them to assist with housework, so that you can concentrate on getting to know your baby.
You – A carer should have visited to check that you and your baby are well. It’s likely that she’ll visit about four times in the 10 days after the birth, before signing you off.
Your Baby – She’ll check the baby’s cord stump to confirm that it’s clew and free of infection. She’ll also weign your baby and give advice on feeding.
Your Body – Your carer checks your blood pressure, temperature and pulse. She’ll also feel your abdomen to check that the uterus is contracting normally and examine your stitches or caesarean scar to make sure they’re healing.
Tip:- When you put on a baby boy’s nappy, make sure his penis points downwards so he doesn’t pee onto his cord stump.”
You – It’s a popular myth that bonding happens instantly after birth; doctors now know it can be a gradual process. It can also be delayed by a difficult birth. The routine of feeding, bathing and changing strengthens the bond. If you’re worrieu you haven’t bonded, talk to your carer.
Your Baby – Around 60 per cent of babies suffer from jaundice a few days after the birth, giving their skin a yellowish appearance. Usually it clears up by itself, but if your carer is concerned, you may need to take your baby back to hospital to clear it up.
Your Body – If breastfeeding, your nipples may feel a little sore. Apply a medicated ointment to soothe them, or rub in a little breastmilk. If the discomfort makes you think about giving up nursing, talk to your carer or a breastfeeding counsellor.
Tip: – To boost the bonding process, give your baby lots of eye-to-eye contact and talk to him as much as you can.
You – The lack of sleep will catch up with you now. Around 11 per cent of new mums suffer from severe sleep deprivation and in a recent study those who had less than three hours’ sleep a night admitted they found even the simplest tasks tough. Sleep as much as you can during the day, while your baby sleeps. Forget the housework!
Your Baby – Your carer will give your baby the Guthrie test around now, taking a tiny blood sample from the heel to test for thyroid disorders and a disease called phenylketonuria (PKU).
Your Body – If you had stitches, your sore perineum will be healing itself and sitting down will be more comfortable. Drink plenty of water to prevent constipation which can cause painful straining.
Tip – If your baby is fretful, carry him in a sling. Your closeness and movement will help soothe him to sleep.”
You – By now, the days will blur into an endless round of feeding, winding, changing nappies and washing. Grab a quick bath while your baby is asleep, or put on some make-up to boost your self-esteem. If the weather is fine, take your baby out for a stroll.
Your Baby – He will enjoy the fresh air, new sights and sounds, and you’ll feel better after a stroll. You’ll probably be very protective of your newborn but don’t let this spoil your adventure.
Your Body – Your tummy will still be saggy but don’t worry about abdominal exercises too much. Those muscles are easy to firm up later. The pelvic floor is more difficult to restore if left to sag and the consequences of not doing so, far worse, so concentrate on exercising those muscles.
Tip:- If you’re upset in any way about how your birth went, talk over your feelings with your carer:
You – After more than a week of dealing with your baby’s needs, your confidence will have grown, making things easier.
Your Baby – Be warned that as you have to pack things, leaving the house will take a lot longer than it used to!
Your Body Women often laugh when their carers ask them just a few days after the birth what kind of contraception they plan to use. But youcan start ovulating just three weeks after the birth, so be prepared!
It’s a good idea to wait at least until your six-week check before resuming sex, so that any bruising, tears or stitches have healed properly. Many women find they lose interest in sex after birth for a least a few months.
Tip:- Hormonalchanges can make your vagina dry so try using water-based lubricating jelly.
You – As long as you and your baby are happy and healthy, your carer’s visits will come to an end.
Your Baby – You’ll now attend a baby clinic together, held at your local baby health centre.
Your Body – You still need time to recuperate, so don’t overdo it. Talk to your GP if you have medical concerns â€“ everyone recover at a different pace, but no mother should have to put up with enduring discomfort.
Tip – Try to plan a time alone with your partner – even just for a walk in the park.”
Jasmine is one of the owners of Mybaby.net.au, a WAHM and prolific baby and parenting writer.