The first few days after you have a baby can be a very happy and exciting time for some parents, but others experience fear and anxiety about how they are going to cope with such a responsibility. You may feel exhilarated, relieved, joyful, exhausted, disappointed, relaxed, weary, or teary…
Everyone is very different. These feelings can be made worse by a difficult labour or birth, or if you or your baby are suffering with health issues.
Most women and some partners do have the “baby blues” at some point for a day or two, often starting on the third day or so after birth. You might feel like you suddenly can’t cope. Sometimes it’s a little thing that can make you upset. Talk it through with your midwifery team. They are used to listening with a sympathetic ear. Share how you’re feeling with your partner, family or friends. These feelings usually pass, but if they continue it’s best to speak to your midwife to arrange some extra support.
Asking your loved ones for help with practical things, like walking the dog or doing some washing up, will help you to enjoy time with your baby. If someone offers help, take it! It’s a good idea to think about what you need help with, so that when someone offers you can ask for something specific. Having someone take your laundry away and bring it back clean, or stock your freezer with a few home-cooked meals, can really help in these early weeks.
Some of you might not have much support from family or friends, and this can be really challenging. Bringing your baby home can be particularly emotional if you’ve lost a parent, or someone you’d expected to be a part of your baby’s life. If you’re struggling with things like this, it’s a really good idea to talk to your midwife about it. They can refer you for some support if you need it.
Getting to know other parents
Meeting other new parents and sharing experiences is so important, as you’ll be experiencing lots of the same issues. Your midwifery and health visitor team will be able to give you contact details for parent and baby groups. Reunions with your antenatal group can be great fun too. There are all sorts of groups out there for new mums, some are general meet ups, but you can also find classes for baby massage, baby weaning, baby yoga, buggy exercise groups, twin groups and more. Meeting other mums will help you make new friends and to realise that you are not alone.
There is lots of fantastic information on the Pregnancy and Birth Information Hub for Women about recovering after your birth and interacting with your baby
When you are ready to be discharged home from the maternity unit, the midwife who is caring for you will give you the relevant information and paperwork. A personalised care plan will be completed with you according to your needs. Make sure you tell them if the address/place you are staying or your contact numbers have changed.
Your baby needs to leave hospital in a car seat so make sure you have it brought to the hospital.
Any follow-up appointments for you or your baby will be discussed with you and sent to you by post if not already arranged.
Once discharged from the Maternity Unit, the remainder of your care will be given by the team midwives in the community, who will oversee your postnatal care and update your plan as necessary.
It’s really important that you look after yourself. Make sure that you eat regularly and drink lots of water – this is even more crucial if you are breastfeeding or pumping.
It’s best to take things slowly and not worry about anything other than you and your baby. This will give you time for lots of cuddles and skin-to-skin contact. Babies have a powerful sense of smell and touch, and they love being close to you. Your baby will recognise your voice, so talking or singing to them can really calm them down. They also love movement and being bundled up, so lots of rocking and cuddles are very soothing for them and lovely for you.
Your baby doesn’t know the difference between day and night, so try to sleep when they are asleep if you can. If you find your mind is too active to sleep, try a shower, read a magazine or just rest. Remember it won’t be so intense forever. In a few months, parenting will be a very different experience. Having a few minutes to yourself each day will help you to relax and enjoy being a mum. Just a shower or spot of makeup can make you feel heaps better.
Keeping yourself comfortable will help you to enjoy your baby more. If you are in hospital and you are in pain or discomfort, talk to the midwives. They can give you medication to help. If you are at home, follow the advice you were given on discharge. If the pain is unmanageable, please seek advice from your GP. Don’t forget you can contact your midwifery team for further help and advice. After pains are caused by the uterus getting back to its original size – this can feel like mild contractions for the first few days, especially when breastfeeding. This is a normal hormonal response and will get better in a few days. It might mean you will get into your jeans a bit quicker! If you’re concerned about the severity of this pain, talk to your midwife.