You’ve spent nine months preparing for the birth of your child - picking a name, planning the nursery, buying clothing - getting ready to welcome him or her into the world. But, have you thought about what happens when your baby arrives? The reality for some – especially when you take your baby home for the first time – can be a scary experience. This doesn’t need to be the case. Here’s a short guide on what to expect – for you and your baby – during your first week as a mum.
Baby’s Sleep Pattern
Depending on the length of your labour, it will depend on the amount of time it takes your baby to adapt to their life outside. Generally you’ll find that for the first day or two that they’re recovering from their birth and will sleep, feed and be fairly settled. Once they’ve recovered from birth you may find that they become more unsettled, wanting to be constantly cuddled or feeding. They’ll be ravenous after the birth and be waiting for the two or three days when your milk comes in. It’s important when your baby does cry that you offer a feed, regardless of when they last fed.
Your Pain – Caesarean Wound or Perineum
You will have some level of pain following birth, and this is different for everyone. You can take paracetamol and ibuprofen whilst breastfeeding and you can buy this from your chemist before birth (just ask your midwife, GP or pharmacist if it’s suitable for you personally). Take pain relief regularly, and gradually reduce the amount you’re taking when you feel able. The mistake many women make is to avoid pain relief altogether leaving them tired, making moving difficult and recovery slower.
Hormone Crash – ‘Baby Blues’
During pregnancy you have many different hormones helping to keep your pregnancy healthy and to help you to give birth. Once your baby is born these hormones drop to your pre-pregnancy levels, however some women notice this change more than others. It’s called the ‘baby blues’ and usually starts a few days after birth and can leave you anxious, tearful and overwhelmed. It’s very common and usually only lasts a few days. If you find that you’re still feeling the effects of this after three weeks, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Bleeding – ‘Lochia’
Your midwife will call this your ‘lochia’ but you’ll know it as the bleeding that you have after birth. It’s similar to a menstrual period, only heavier. For the first few days you’ll find that you need to change your pads regularly and over the week the amount that you bleed will become less. You may find that if you’ve been particularly busy that the bleeding may increase again, this is normal. It’s important to keep your vaginal area clean during this time, so wipe from front to back to avoid contaminating the area . You can use water or Spritz for Bits, but do avoid baby wipes.
If you find that you’re soaking through pads in under two hours, notice any smells, have pain in your tummy that’s not related to normal cramping or feel flu-like symptoms, speak to a midwife straightaway. The delivery suite that you gave birth in or your local hospital will be able to advise you 24 hours per day.
You will find that your sleep is broken and the first week is extremely tiring. You’re adjusting to a new baby whilst also trying to recover from the sleep you lost during labour and birth. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping and resting. When you can, sleep, or just rest.
Help at Home
For the first week try to avoid any housework, including making meals. Your partner will also be tired so ask close friends and family to rally round and take care of your housework and meals wherever possible. Those friends and family that do visit can also be asked to help with washing up and any vacuuming that may need to be done.
Whilst family and friends visiting can be a highlight it may also be a step too far when you’re exhausted. Make it clear that you won’t be entertaining them and try to keep the first week to immediate family and very close friends, those that will help with the housework etc.
The Other Parent’s Feelings
They’ll be exhausted and may also be feeling overwhelmed, so they may need to sleep during the day too. They may want to be involved as much as possible, but equally they may not, for various reasons. It’s important that they feel included and that their experience of the birth is appreciated.
If you’re looking for further support and advice following the arrival of your baby, take a look at our blog where you can find out more information about what to expect after a c-section, how to recover after a natural birth to what happens in your fourth trimester.