Preparing for the first few days with a newborn
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
No doubt this heading makes you think of your perfect nursery, or corner of your room, those cute little outfits, just waiting to be worn. Staring into baby's eyes with love and this lovely, pink, warm glow surrounding everything and everyone. Wellllll... Sorry to break it to you, but it is hard. Like HARD. Probably one of the hardest things that you will ever do. Yes, I know you would have just given birth, and I take that into that account, because even if you want to do nothing, your body will continue with the birthing process, barring an emergency situation. You have professionals around you, and you have been preparing for it for months. You are READY for the birth. Now comes the hard part. For the next 18 or so years.
Let's start with just after the birth. You may, when seeing, your baby for the first time, have this overwhelming feeling of love and joy and sense of rightness and completeness. This is everything you thought it would be. Everything that the movies made it out to be, but just MORE. But then, on the other had, you may not. Various sources cites 20-60% of new parents don't feel that way, so you aren't alone. Don't worry! Just because you don't immediately and overwhelmingly love your baby, doesn't mean you won't ever, or love him/her less than someone in the first mentioned group.
Bodily fluids in every form:
- Lochia: This is the blood that comes after the birth. There will be lots of it. Prepare for this. Have enough postpartum or overnight disposable or cloth pads available. It will continue for about 6 weeks. It might get lighter for a few days, and then it might start up again.
- Milk: Your milk will "come in" on day 3. This means the nutrient dense thick first milk, colostrum, will be replaced with the mature milk, resulting in engorged breasts, leaking breasts and a crying baby (and/or mom). Have breast pads ready. You can try a silicone collection cup on the non-feeding boob to catch your letdown. Have a towel under you when sleeping, so you don't need to change your bedding every day. Your nipples will be sensitive and might even be painful. Invest in a good lanolin based nipple cream and a session with a lactation consultant. See her as soon as you can, it will be money well spent, and will serve you very well in the course of your breastfeeding journey.
- Poop: So much poop. It's runny and it goes everywhere. Ever heard of the term "poopsplosion"? It's a thing. A very real thing, any parent will tell you this. Blowouts do tend to happen less with cloth nappies, just something to keep in mind. And as a little silver lining, as long as your baby is on breastmilk only, the poop is water-soluble, so just chuck everything that got under fire into the washing machine.
- More poop: This time your own, or lack off. I've heard it being described as birthing a second baby. PLEASE don't let it get to that! Drink a laxative or use a suppository to get things going sooner rather like later. If nothing happened by day 2, do something to help it get moving.
- Spit-up: Some kids spit up quite a bit, some less. Keep a burp cloth ready.
- Pee: Don't think just boys can hit you on the shoulder with a golden stream. Just saying.
- Night sweats: Part of those lovely hormones trying to return back to normal and getting rid of all the built up excess fluid. Need I say more?
Sleep (or lack there-off). You will be more tired than you ever felt in your life. More than when you were studying and cramming for a test. More than when you were up partying every night and had to go to work the next day. T. I. R. E. D. If you think pregnancy prepared you for this, it did, to a small degree. That age-old saying "Sleep when the baby sleeps", if you can, do it. Newborns also tend to confuse day and night, meaning they sleep longer stretches in the day, and shorter in the night.
Hormones. The pregnancy hormone roller coaster might not yet be ready to let you get off yet. It takes a while for hormones to go back to "factory settings". What determines this is not your mindset or your strong ancestors or anything of the likes. Some women's bodies just takes longer, and it also okay. Read up on the difference between baby blues and postnatal depression. The biggest difference is baby blues doesn't last longer than two weeks, or start later than that. Warning signs of PND include not being interested in your surroundings, not enjoying things you used to, not taking care of yourself, not interested in looking after baby, loss of appetite or comfort eating, trouble falling asleep or feeling overly tired during the day. Please see your health care provider if you recognize any of these symptoms.
What can I do that will help during this first few days?
Limit visitors. If there is something positive that came from the Covid pandemic is that there is a higher reported level of breastfeeding success amongst new mothers, as there were no visitors, and they were able to just focus on their little immediate family and the new baby. No showing baby off, passing him/her around and messing with the breastfeeding and sleeping schedule.
Stay in bed with baby for a day or two, while just in your underwear and baby in nappy. Put on a heater if it is winter to make this possible. Not only will the rest help you recover from birth, but the skin-to-skin will produce oxytocin that will help establish breastfeeding and is theorized to help against post natal depression.
Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time, get ready made meals for the freezer or get takeout delivered.
Get a lactation consultant to come if you are not 100% happy with how breastfeeding is going. Some discomfort is expected, even a little bit of pain, if baby latches, or a pins and needles like feeling if the milk comes in, but it should go away not long into the feed. The sooner you get off to a good start, the better for your journey going forward. Even if she just tells you "Good job! Everything is looking, and going, great." the confidence that you will gain will be invaluable.
If you can, get a post partum doula or a loved one that can help out for a few hours if you feel you just need a shower and a nap. Even an hour or two of good sleep can make all the difference!
Not in the first few days, but after you got the all-clear from your gynae or midwife, go see a pelvic floor specialist/women's health physiotherapist. It helps to sort everything out "down there", comfort wise. She can give exercises to do, check if there's something that requires more attention and just help make sure everything is working like clockwork. This is especially helpful if you needed to get stitches. It will definitely be well worth every sent.
I know I make it sound horrible, painful and tiresome. It might be, I'm going to be honest with you. But it will get better. You will find your groove, and as soon as baby starts interacting and smiling at round about a month to 6 weeks, it suddenly becomes easier. Like someone said, you now get gratification for the hard work you have put in, and boy! Will it be worth it!! Those newborn snuggles, those tiny toes and sticklike newborn leggies, those milk-drunk smiles and content sighs makes your heart explode and sometimes, just sometimes, almost want to start having the next one immediately.