A woman becomes a parent the moment that her baby is born — but things don't always feel real until after she and the baby come home from the hospital.
Even though a hospital stay is no walk in the park, especially when it involves labor and delivery, it can still have a lot of benefits that seem to end the moment that the mom and baby go home. While some moms can't wait to get home because they can't wait for the interruptions to their sleep to come to an end, they could also be concerned that the nurses won't be there to check on the baby and make sure everything is OK. They'll have to get their own supply of diapers, and there won't be an expert swaddler right down the hall. Once they get home, they can get comfy, but things can also get pretty messy pretty quickly, and once the family gets all settled in, the long, exhausting, 24-hour-a-day job of parenting begins. Lots of things happen once the mom and baby get home from the hospital — and there are some things that don't, even if moms expect them to.
Here are 15 things that happen when mom leaves the hospital (and five that don't).
20 24/7 Monitoring Ends
After a baby's birth, a woman may never feel more fragile — and yet so worried about another person's life. In a hospital, it's a relief to know that there is someone looking out for the baby's health and the mom's. In fact, nurses are around to monitor the situation 24 hours a day, and if the baby is in the NICU, he's strapped to things that beep if there is a problem.
At home, though, that 24/7 monitoring ends. There isn't a medical professional nearby, so it's up to mom and dad, and that can be intimidating. That can make leaving the hospital a scary proposition, but there are some over-the-counter products these days moms can buy to give them some piece of mind.
19 Longest Drive Ever
Once you leave the hospital, you have to get home somehow. For most parents, that involves the longest, scariest drive ever. Many times, moms strap themselves in the back seat beside the baby, while dad is up front, tense at the wheel.
Even the most responsible driver can be distracted by the precious cargo in the back seat. He's never more conscious of the drivers and dangers around him, and his lead foot is suddenly lighter than it's ever been. A new mom or dad is a very cautious and careful driver for the first drive home and probably for the first few months.
18 Swaddle Pro Isn't Around
The nurses are good for a lot things when you are at the hospital, not just the constant monitoring that helps mothers feel more secure in keeping their baby alive. They also have some mad skills that can help in those first few days with baby.
One such skill is swaddling — the tricky procedure that wraps the baby tight in the blanket and helps him feel secure. A good swaddle can be a blessing that can help the little one sleep like a champ, and once the master swaddler is gone, things can go very differently. We suggest you take notes from the nurse before you head home.
17 You Need Your Own Supplies
While moms-to-be might spend weeks deciding what to put in their hospital bag, the good news is that they really don't need anything for the baby while they are still in the hospital. All of the supplies are already there, waiting for the little one, including diapers, wipes, blankets and a thermometer.
But you will need your own diapers once you get home. We definitely recommend that you take the last of the stock in the baby's bassinet at the hospital, but that won't last long. Newborns can go through eight to 10 diapers a day, so you will definitely need your own supply once you get home.
16 The Endorphins Run Out
Ever wonder why you feel so great after a work out? Elle Woods explained it in "Legally Blonde" — "exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy." You know what else gives you endorphins? Labor and childbirth. After exerting all that energy to bringing a baby into the world, many women are on a natural high that gives them a burst of energy after they give birth. But about the time that they go home from the hospital, those endorphins run out.
Between the labor and the excitement of welcoming a new baby, many women don't sleep for 24 to 48 hours at a time. But when the endorphins run out, new moms crash hard. The exhaustion can catch up with them like jet lag has never done before. Sometime in that first week, moms feel the crushing weight of exhaustion, yet the baby still needs round-the-clock care. That's when motherhood gets real — sometime after the mom comes home from the hospital.
15 Routine Sets In
Moms might not even notice it, but nurses are really good at getting a baby on a schedule. In fact, it can happen in only 24 hours, since most moms are on their way home by then. In the NICU, things are even more regimented. Since babies need to eat every two hours at the beginning, it's easy for that routine to set in for mom and dad just as soon as they get home from the hospital.
Routine is good for babies. It means they are getting what they need, and can rely on the timing. In times of growth spurts, the baby will feed more frequently, and just about every day something will happen that puts the routine out of whack. But in general, new moms can set their clocks by the baby's schedule, pretty much from the moment that they get home from the hospital.
14 Getting Comfy
While the hospital definitely has its advantages, the truth is that it isn't easy to get comfortable in the hospital. Even for moms in private rooms, it doesn't feel like you can get comfortable and do all that comes natural, since people are in and out of the room and the time in there is pretty short. That's one reason that many women can't wait to get home, and once they do, they get comfy pretty quickly.
To help that along, a breastfeeding pillow might help, as can some special clothes such as nursing tanks. There are usually still a lot of visitors and things to do, but it helps to feel comfortable in your surroundings. As reluctant as a mom might be to leave the hospital, we assure you that she will be much more comfortable at home, and that can help the family to settle in.
13 Things Get Messy
There is one certainty to life with a newborn — it can be really messy. Between the dirty diapers and the leaking breastmilk and the spit up, moms can quickly get overpowered by the grossness of the situation. But with the baby's health at stake, we have to urge them to continue to lysol the house and make sure that the hand sanitizer goes to good use.
In the first few days at home, we recommend that women focus on the baby and their own health and not worry about tidying up the house. The baby's fragile health means she needs to take care of the fluids and such, but it's OK if the diaper pail gets a little overfilled before it gets taken out, as long as everyone can stand the smell.
12 Baby Sleep Situation
There aren't many parenthood decisions that moms have to figure out in the first few days after they get home from the hospital, but one of the biggest is the baby's sleep situation. The baby will sleep a lot from the very beginning, but moms need to designate a safe place right away so that the little one is safe while getting her rest.
While pediatricians are not keen on the idea of bed sharing, they encourage new moms to share their room with the baby. While the crib might be in the nursery, it can make the first few days of breastfeeding and bonding better to have a bassinet or pack and play in the mom's room so that the mother can respond immediately to the baby's cries, while getting some rest in between. Of course, the baby can sleep in his own room at times, but it doesn't take long after getting home from the hospital when he needs his own place to sleep, so it's best to determine it before the birth.
11 End To Meal Service
When a mom is doing her best to care for a newborn around the clock, cooking is the last thing on her mind. Luckily, the hospital provides hot meals three times a day — but unfortunately, most moms are on their way home after eating three of them.
We recommend women try to make some meals ahead of time, so she can just throw them in the oven when she is ready to warm them up. That's because a good meal is really important to keep up a new mom's strength. She needs the nutrition to produce milk and be her best as a mom. It's tough in those first few days after delivery, so it's best to plan ahead — or be thankful for the kindness of friends and family who help bring by a meal.
10 Taking Shifts
In the first few weeks at home with a new baby, many parents begin to divide their labor, and that often means taking shifts. Dad might take over after coming home from work while mom gets a nap. Then they arrange to get up at different times of the night, especially if the mom isn't breastfeeding. That can mean that they might seem to pass in the night at times, but even if they are pulling different hours, knowing that they both have the same precious goal in mind can still bring them together.
We recommend that moms and dads do what they can to stay close despite the strain. Working different shifts doesn't mean that they can't find time for each other too — and if they need to, grandmas are usually more than willing to take a shift so they can have a date night.
9 Motherhood Nerves
It may not happen the first day, but not long after the mom comes home, it's inevitable — there will be a moment of panic, maybe two or three. It's not just about the diapers and the breastfeeding, although those tasks can be a bit much, especially breastfeeding. But it's really about the incredible responsibility of keeping a little one alive and healthy and as happy as possible. When it hits a woman that she is a mom, it can hit her like a ton of bricks.
The postpartum hormones don't help the situation, and many moms' concerns can turn into postpartum anxiety or worse. If the feelings are too much, please talk to a doctor immediately, but if not, just know that it happens to all moms. You are not alone.
8 Closet Problem
If you thought it was hard to get dressed when you are pregnant, just wait until you get home from the hospital. No mom wants to go back to her maternity wardrobe, but those pre-pregnancy jeans are probably not going to fit for a few months. The close that you worse nine months pregnant can hang off like never before, and it can be a big problem to find anything in the closet.
We recommend that a mom plans for comfort after the birth A few nursing tanks and maybe a layer over the top is really all that you need. And on the bottom, maybe stick to the comfy maternity leggings or even pajama pants for a little while. Most moms need to stick close to home for the first few weeks after the birth anyway, so don't worry about needing a new wardrobe right away.
7 Pediatrician On Speed Dial
When you are a new parent, everything new can seem a little scary. And since newborns are so fragile, it can seem like an emergency in a flash. That includes a tiny sneeze, a little bit of infant acne or a change in the color of baby's poop. Many moms end up with their pediatrician on speed dial as they worry about each little issue.
The truth is that most pediatricians would rather be safe than sorry, especially if a newborn has the tiniest trace of a fever. But some moms might need to chill out or they will drive the doctor — and themselves — a little crazy.
6 Family Settles In
Older siblings can be really nervous about the arrival of a new member of the family, but at the hospital, it's usually all filled with excitement. The real test of helping the older children to accept their new brother or sister comes at home. That's also when any fur babies get to meet the little one.
It can take time for the entire family to get used to the situation. At first, the baby might be seen as something that gets Mommy's attention and makes a lot of noise and smells. But over time, the entire family settles in. Our only advice on this one is to give it time and to do all that you can to make sure that the older siblings feel loved. Pretty soon, they will love the baby as much as you do.
5 Baby Belly Doesn't Go Away
There are definitely a lot of things that don't end when you go home from the hospital. Despite what we see from celeb moms whose baby bumps magically disappear moments after the birth, the truth is that the baby belly doesn't go away by the time the mom gets home. It will go down, but mom is still likely to look five or six months pregnant the day or so after the birth.
It takes nine months for the baby belly to reach its peak, and it can take another nine months to a year for it to go down. Moms don't need to feel the pressure to get back in pre-baby shape right away, especially if they are nursing. It will take time, but it'll happen.
4 Family Drop-Ins Don't Drop Off
When you welcome a new baby, everyone wants to meet him. Some can schedule time to make it to the hospital, and others wait until you get home. That means that the visitors don't stop once you leave the hospital.
The truth is that hospital visitors are usually a lot more welcome than home ones. At that point, the mom wants to have more time to rest, and she may be self-conscious about the state of her house — not that she has any energy to clean it. New moms need to know when to ask visitors to give them a moment, especially if she and the baby need a moment to themselves to nurse. And hopefully visitors will be nice enough to fold some laundry while they wait.
3 Sleep Interruption Isn't Over
Getting sleep in the hospital is nearly impossible no matter what you are admitted for. That is true as a new mom, since the night nurses have to stop in and check on both the mom and the baby to make sure everything is OK, and nap time isn't any easier in the day time.
You may think that you can get more rest at home, but that's definitely not the case when you bring the baby home from the hospital. A newborn needs to eat every two hours, and even if dad has vowed to take a shift, moms usually don't get through four hours of uninterrupted sleep until some time has passed after the birth. It might be six months — or even a couple of years — before the baby sleeps through the night, and the mom can too.
2 The Healing Isn't Over
Childbirth is tough, and it takes a lot longer than a night or two in the hospital to finish healing from the experience. In fact, some of the pains and problems can take a couple of years to get over. When the mom heads home, she's just beginning the healing process, as well as the recovery from nine months of pregnancy.
The next six weeks or so is going to involve a discharge called lochia, and most moms have to deal with some stitches — both after a vaginal delivery and a C-section. It takes at least six weeks to feel normal down there, and some women aren't ready to get back in the sack at that point either. When they come home from the birth, moms are sore all over, and it can take months to feel back to normal.
1 The Support Doesn't End
When moms leave the hospital, they go from an environment where medical professionals are close and constant to feeling very alone as a new parent. But the truth is that the support does not end when they go home — but they have to be willing to reach out and ask for help.
Most insurance companies allow for women to have an appointment or a phone call with a lactation consultant, and nurses are a phone call away for questions about the mom's and the baby's help. The pediatrician and the obstetrician will both be on the look out for signs of postpartum depression, but they can only pick up on it when the mom allows them to. And family and friends are usually waiting in the wings to help. The support might not be as evident at home, but everyone wants to be there to help a parent succeed. The new mom just has to ask for help, and she will find it.
References: Kids Health, Mom.me