After nine months and hours of labor and delivery, the real job of parenthood begins. It's a tough job, but mom and dad have been preparing for it for months. After the trauma of childbirth, though, they may be a little fuzzy on the details, and that could make the first few hours an adventure.
Those first few hours after delivery are exciting and amazing. The baby is finally here, and the parents are doing all they can to get to know her and to get familiar with the monumental task of keeping the baby happy and well-fed and clean and dry. There are so many tasks on the to do list, and sometimes it can be hard to forget what should be on the not to do list.
There are things to think about for the baby, such as the timing on the circumcision and the first baby. And there are issues to consider for the mom's fragile body, including remembering that she needs some help for going to the bathroom or down the stairs. The list of what not to do can become as long as the list of what to do.
Here are 15 things not to do in the first few hours after delivery.
15 Don't Send The Baby To The Nursery
The first few hours of a newborn's life is the perfect time to support bonding. Unless there is a reason to interrupt that time because of medical reasons, a mom and dad should make every effort to spend a few hours with their baby after delivery.
Even if the baby is born at 1 a.m., birth releases endorphins in the mother that can give her energy even if she spent a day in labor. Dad may be exhausted, but the excitement can usually propel him through a few more hours. And the baby has no sense of day and night at this point, so it doesn't matter if it is a middle-of-the-night bonding experience. Newborns are very sleepy for much of their first few weeks, but the first hour or two they are usually pretty alert, so it is a great time to get a glimpse of those beautiful eyes and count those toes.
Plenty of parents who miss out on this first hours, whether because of a medical necessity after childbirth or adoption, still find that they can bond with baby, but if a family has the opportunity, they should take advantage of it.
14 Don't Freeze Out The Dad
As much as a mom wants to snuggle with her newborn after he enters the world, she needs to remember that she isn't the only parent that needs some bonding time. Whether the parents are a couple or not, the dad should be able to see his little one in the beginning of life, if at all possible.
It may be difficult to share but the baby will need his mom and dad to get along as best they can for the rest of his life, so they ought to start out as best they can that way. We understand if the couple wants to keep the rest of the family away for the first few hours, but that doesn't mean that the dad should be frozen out. He needs those moments, and so does the baby.
13 Don't Let Anyone Sick Near The Baby
Most babies are as healthy as they are ever going to be when they are first born. That is because of the protection of their mother's antibodies, which were transmitted through the placenta via the umbilical cord. But outside of the womb, the baby is susceptible to the germs that make all of us sick and even more susceptible to some.
Breastfed babies also receive protection through the rich, thick colostrum that is the early milk that mothers make in the first days after birth. But that only goes so far. Anyone who is showing signs of sickness should be kept away for a few months, and anyone who does come in contact with the baby should be sure to wash hands.
There have been many cases of babies getting sick from contact with carriers of disease who did not actually show symptoms themselves, so moms whose own children are sick should probably wait to visit the baby as well.
12 Don't Go To The Bathroom By Yourself
The first trip to the bathroom after childbirth can be a real doozy. After a vaginal delivery, things will be swollen and there may be stitches down there. After a C-section it could hurt the muscles simple to sit and stand. And for both, the lochia that empties out the uterus can make quite a mess.
A nurse should accompany the mom the first time to the bathroom. She can help her get there safely and get seated. Then while the mom goes about her business, the nurse prepares a squirt bottle with warm water, and creates the perfect undergarment. Every woman needs a pad to catch the discharge at this point, but for vaginal deliveries especially an ice pack and a witchhazel pad can go a long way to giving a little bit of comfort in a sore painful area.
11 Don't Rush To Bathe The Baby
A generation or two ago, doctors and nurses used to rush the baby out of the delivery room to get her first bath, spiffing her up to meet the family. But now we have learned there is no reason to rush.
Many times the baby can go right on the mom's chest, blood and all, for an immediate snuggle. Sometimes, the nurse or doctor will wipe off the baby with a blanket without anyone noticing, and the big bath can wait. In fact, one of the latest trends is to put the bath off not just for a few hours but for a few days.
In the second trimester, the baby covered with a white, cheese-like substance called vernix that protects the skin. It starts to wear off toward the end of pregnancy, but if the baby is born early it could still be covered in the substance. Some believe that the vernix still has a job to do to protect the skin and keep it soft. It doesn't hurt the baby, so it can be up to the parent as to how long they wait to wash it off. But they don't have to worry about getting it done in the first few hours.
10 Don't Circumsize Yet
Circumcision can be a touchy subject these days. It is a tradition that has been around for centuries, but in recent years there has been a movement where some people believe a parent shouldn't make the decision for their baby. There are medical, cultural and religious reasons to have a circumcision performed, and it is a personal decision for a family.
However, one thing is certain. The baby should be 24 hours old before the procedure is done. Usually circumcisions are performed when the baby is 24 to 72 hours, although Jewish tradition is for a baby to be circumcised at 8 days old. The delay on the first day gives health care providers an opportunity to see whether the baby has a medical condition that could make it more risky, such as an infection or a clotting disorder.
9 Don't Ignore Symptoms
The first few hours after childbirth can be a trying time for a new mother. As much as she wants to focus on the baby, she also has to pay attention to her health. There are normal postpartum symptoms such as after pain uterine contractions and night sweats, but there are other things that can come up that can be a sign that something is wrong.
Preeclampsia is usually cured after a baby's birth, but it could also come up after the baby is born. Postpartum bleeding could also happen, and if it doesn't get under control, it could be a real issue. Moms with gestational diabetes also have to be sure that their blood sugar is under control. A woman shouldn't ignore the symptoms that come up after the baby's birth, including shortness of breath, high blood pressure or swelling. It's better to talk to a doctor than to be sorry later.
8 Don't Get On A Scale
Between the baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluid, a woman drops about a dozen pounds during childbirth. But we don't recommend that she steps on a scale a few hours after the baby is born. It's way too early to worry about the baby weight.
A mom's goal for the last six months or so has been to eat enough calories to allow her baby to grow, and that should be the case if a mom is breastfeeding. A mom still needs to eat about 500 extra calories a day to produce an adequate milk supply. She may be tempted to start focusing on losing weight, but that could only lead to problems with breastfeeding and anxiety and it could contribute to postpartum blues.
Many times breastfeeding will help a woman lose the baby weight, but she should concentrate on getting used to motherhood first before giving a thought to a diet.
7 Don't Put On Any Nice Clothes
After laboring for hours — maybe even days — a new mom might want to clean up after childbirth. And while a shower can do a lot to help her feel refreshed and get rid of the sweat and blood, her body isn't done with its dirty work. She should probably wait before putting on anything other than PJs.
In the first few hours and days after childbirth, the body has to adjust. There will be lochia coming out of the vagina that is like a period and will last weeks. It's better to use the mesh panties provided by the hospital than to put on a fresh pair of your own. The breasts will begin to fill with milk, whether you plan to breastfeed or not, and it can leak out onto mom's shirt. And the body will sweat to get rid of the excess water retained during pregnancy. That doesn't even include the messes that the baby can make. For a few hours and days, it's best to stick to clothes that you wouldn't mind getting messy.
6 Don't Let Your Friends Post An Announcement Before You Do
Social media these days can be a blessing and a curse. It can help spread the word quickly about the good news, but if a family is hoping to make a social media splash, they need to be fast to beat other people to the punch.
We believe that parents shouldn't have to worry about announcing anything for a few hours. Instead, they should use that time to focus on bonding with the baby and recovering as best they can. But some friends and family can get upset if they see something on Facebook before the parents tell them the good news. We suggest enacting a social media policy for family and friends. Let them know ahead of time that you want to be the one to announce the baby's birth and ask them to refrain from tweeting anything before you. That way you can spend some time with the baby without worrying about its social media debut.
5 Don't Rush Home
Once the baby is born, some parents want to rush home from the hospital and get more comfortable. But that isn't always a good idea. Even with a home birth, the midwife will stick around for several hours to make sure that the mom and baby remain healthy. The first few hours after childbirth can be dicey for both, so it's best to rest and enjoy each other instead of rushing for privacy.
The mom and dad can also take advantage of that time with health professionals to lean a bit about caring for the newborn. Nurses and midwives are great at swaddling, so a mom and dad should take the opportunity to learn that skill so they can help the baby sleep at home. They have tips on feeding and diaper changing, and many hospitals keep a lactation consultant on staff that can help establish breastfeeding in the first few hours. Pretty soon, the family will be at home and on their own, but there is no reason to rush to it.
4 Don't Ignore Maternal Instinct
With all the testing that goes on during pregnancy, it seems like doctors should know all about the baby before its birth. But that just isn't true. There are plenty of ailments that don't show up on the testing and some cases where the tests weren't true.
In those first hours, a mom can learn a lot about her baby, from how fussy she is to which side she prefers to nurse on. Of course it can take a lifetime to learn everything, but a new mom needs to understand that her instincts are something that she should trust. As overwhelming as it can be to become a mother and as unprepared as a woman can feel, her maternal instinct can help clue her in on how to soothe her little one and so much more. Many times a mom can notice something small that can be a clue to a medical condition, and catching it early can mean a big difference in intervening. In those first few hours, a new mom shouldn't ignore her maternal instinct.
3 Don't Hold The Baby Standing Up
Adrenaline can be a crazy thing, and after the hormone rush of labor and delivery, a woman can feel like she could lift a Mack truck and win a gymnastics tournament. She may feel like she can conquer the world, but she should be extra cautious when it comes to her baby.
The immediate recovery for postpartum women can come in ebbs and flows. They can feel great one moment and shaky the next one. The body can take several hours before any symptoms can arise, so a woman may not know how she is doing. And she could feel weak without any notice It is likely that everything will be OK, but for a few hours at least, it's always better to play it safe and to only hold the baby if she is sitting down. No mom wants to risk an accident so soon after the baby's birth, so no standing allowed for now.
2 Don't Take The Stairs
In the same vein, a woman needs to be extra careful about all of her interactions for probably a day or so. The stairs are not her friend, even if she wants to get a leg up on achieving her postpartum weight goal. Lifting the legs and core up and down can be difficult after the work-out that is labor and delivery.
Stairs can be especially treacherous for a woman who has had an epidural or a C-section. The abdominal muscles can be sore for a couple of months for a C-section mom, and an epidural effects can take a while to shake. It's better to avoid the stairs and take the elevator down from the hospital. If she has to take the stairs, she should have a partner walk with her because the stairs could take a while and a woman's balance can be dicey for a while. Better yet, for the first few hours, it's best to stay in bed and rest.
1 Don't Worry About The Future
These first few hours with a baby are the most momentous and important of their lives, and they should be cherished. These moments, above all others, are important for a parent to be focused on the here and now. The pregnancy is over, and as much as it can be hard to shake it off, so is the delivery. Kindergarten and college can feel like they are eons away, yet some parents immediately want to focus on their children's future. In the first few hours after delivery, it's about bonding as a family and all the other things can wait.
Even for parents who know that their little one is not healthy and may not survive very long, the most important thing about those first few hours is loving the baby the best you can.
Some parents don't feel an immediate connection with the baby, and that isn't OK. They don't need to worry about their emotions in the moment. They just need to be in the moment and be assured that the love will come in time. The first few hours after delivery are precious, so live them the way that feels right and good.