The third trimester can feel like a clock ticking backwards to the ultimate, exciting-yet-a-little-terrifying destination: giving birth. Once you become a mother, there's no going back. Your family will no longer just be you and your partner, but now you will welcome this child in for the rest of your life.
Childbirth is exciting yet terrifying, and although it is one of the most defining moments of your life, you'll find that it goes by so quickly. While a lot of what happens amounts to a little bit of intuition and a lot of medical attention, you may want to make sure that you don't forget to perform certain actions after the birth, as they can have lasting consequences for you and your baby.
Of course, you may remember some things up until the end of your third trimester, but whether you'll remember anything after labor when you meet your baby for the first time is impossible to predict. All you can do is prepare and hope for the best.Having all the important matters to take care of in the hour after childbirth can save you a lot of stress and regret in the long run.
This article provides 15 important actions for you and your partner to do in the first hour of childbirth. Don't stress if you can't do all of them (because although you'll be a new mother, you are still human and that's okay) but read through the benefits of each and decide which ones you feel are most important.
15 Hug Your Partner
You made it through the hardest hours of your life unscathed, and your partner was there to keep you centered and support you through it. Give yourself a pat on the back and then give your partner a big hug. Make sure you thank them for their support and let them know how much you love them. Odds are they already know and love you just as much, but everyone loves to hear how much someone cares about them.
This moment is about your baby and your health so make sure your medical or emotional needs are taken care of. If your partner looks a little ill or emotionally off, though, see if any medical assistance can help them. You are tired so take care of yourself, but it can't hurt to make sure your partner is okay.
14 Kangaroo Care
If you haven't heard of kangaroo care, read up on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact directly after birth. Your baby will be placed directly against your bare chest where you can rock, speak comforting hellos, and cuddle your baby close.
Even if your baby requires NICU care, your baby can still receive kangaroo care. In fact, NICU babies do much better if they receive direct physical contact from a parent after the birth. Their heartbeat and breathing regulates, they exhibit better sleeping patterns, and they are less likely to get infections. NICU babies who receive kangaroo care stay a shorter time on average in intensive care.
Benefits of kangaroo care for all babies involve strengthened bonds between mother and child and feelings of comfort and warmth for the baby. Childbirth was quite the ordeal on both of you, but now you have all the time you need to greet your new baby into the world. Make their first day on Earth one where they feel safe and overwhelmingly loved.
13 Get The Vitamin K Shot
We don't need to tell you why infant vaccinations are a good idea. Whether you choose to do so at birth, however, is completely up to you. Vitamin K deficiency is dangerous for infants and can result in internal bleeding and even brain damage in a disorder called Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). Although babies rarely die from HDN, this disorder can cause severe organ damage.
The Vitamin K shot boosts your babies K levels to encourage normal blood clotting and prevents HDN from developing. If your child experienced a preterm delivery or a low birth rate, they may be at an increased risk for low Vitamin K levels.
If you feel a little worried about the risk factors and want a little peace of mind, consider giving the doctors the okay to perform the shot. Better safe than sorry.
12 First Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a learned process. Your baby is born with a sucking reflex and hunger feelings, but they may need a little practice before they understand how breastfeeding works. You yourself may feel uncomfortable for the first few times until you and your baby establish a rhythm.
Yet breastfeeding is important to establish from day one. Early breastfeeding milk, or colostrum, provides antibodies and disease protection as your baby's immune system adjusts to life outside the womb. In addition, breastfeeding during the first hour after birth helps your uterus contract into a more natural position.
If, for whatever reason, you're unable to breastfeed, don't worry. Your baby can still get important nutrients through bottle feeding if necessary. The most important thing is that you feed your baby as soon as possible.
11 Dress The Baby
Most of the time during their stay at the hospital, your baby will be swaddled for their own comfort and safety. But, if you've been looking forward to dressing your baby since the day your pregnancy test showed positives, go ahead and bring in an outfit.
If you decide to give them a bath within the first hour (and there are pros and cons), go ahead and snap on the onesie afterwards. Putting your baby into their first outfit is an adorable and meaningful milestone.
Even though you may think you're being silly, give yourself the moment and enjoy this time with the baby. After all, this day is your child's first day on Earth. They'll want to look nice, right?
10 Decide What To Do With The Placenta
Oh, the things you can do with your placenta! Is this the title of a picture book by Dr. Seuss's questionable cousin or advice to consider? The latter... at least, we hope it's the latter. Your placenta is pretty dang amazing. After all, this gave your baby nourishment for the past nine months. Sure, it looks gross, but let's be honest: so does your baby, at first.
Some women choose to eat their placenta by putting it in capsules and taking it as a pill or grinding it up into food. Consuming the placenta may help ease boost breast milk supply, improve your mood after birth, and even balance out your immune system. If you can just get past the fact that it's, well, your placenta, you may be surprised at the benefits it can give you.
If the doctor asks you whether to throw out the placenta or if you want to keep it, think carefully. Nobody says you have to save your placenta, but you may appreciate potential benefits.
9 Take Newborn Pictures
Memories fade, but photographs remain crisp and as new as your baby is now. Take a couple in the hospital if you have a spare minute. Someday you might forget how the hospital room looked or just how tiny your baby looked in your spouse's arms after birth. If you know a photographer or want to snap a couple of pictures on your phone, do so.
Worried that your baby isn't exactly, well, "photogenic" following the birth? Don't worry. All babies are a little blotchy and funny-looking at birth. We love them anyways. Snap a few pictures. If anything, you can tease your child about their after-birth cone head for years afterwards. Think of all the fun!
8 Delay Cord Clamping
Once the baby is born, your doctor may rush to cut the umbilical cord right away. After all, once they're out, they don't need it anymore... right? As it turns out, the umbilical cord has one last trick up its sleeve.
When your baby's born, about one third of its blood is in the cord and returning back to the baby's body. If the cord is cut before the blood makes its way back, your baby may be at a heightened risk of anemia and lower stem cell counts.
Delayed clamping leads to long-term benefits for babies. Preemies who experience delayed cord clamping have healthier blood pressure levels, need less blood transfusions, and have a lowered risk of brain hemorrhaging. Just an additional three minutes with the umbilical cord result in slightly heightened social skills and motor abilities later on.
7 Give The Baby A Hepatitis B Shot
Another shot? Hepatitis B is a serious disease, and the last thing you want is your infant contracting it. Older children who carry this disease often do not show symptoms or let anyone know they were infected until the disease is passed onto the baby. Hepatitis B can cause liver disease, cancer, and organ failure in young children. For this reason, many doctors recommend administering the first shot at birth.
Like any shot, the Hepatitis B shot comes with side effects, but none are dangerous at even a fraction of the level that the actual disease is. Some babies who receive the shot exhibit a mild temperature or sore arm for several days following the shot, but these fade very quickly with time. Most babies show no symptoms after receiving the shot.
6 Let Your Partner Give Skin-to-Skin Contact
Kangaroo care is not just important for the mom. Your partner can develop a strong bond from birth with the baby if given skin-to-skin contact with them in the first hour. Your partner will be the ultimate support within the next few months as both of you adjust to parenthood. Give them a chance to say hello to their new child and get to know them on a personal level some day one.
In fact, if your partner is male, they may give your baby a hidden benefit that you can't quite give them: temperature control. Dads' body temperatures are usually higher and skin contact can be warm and soothing for an infant. The more comfortable a baby is, the stronger the relationship they make with you both during the first moments.
5 Turn Off Your Data
Once you get into the delivery room, your phone will be buzzing every second with a new text or phone call from loved ones. Naturally, they want to know if the birth went well and to see pictures of your newborn. You may even feel prompted to post a picture or status update on social media to commemorate this addition to the family.
It can wait, though. No matter who's calling or why, even if it's your mother, you don't need to pick up your phone in the first hour. Your loved ones will be there waiting for the rest of your life, but this hour of alone time between you, your partner, and your new baby, you may not ever get back.
Take advantage of it. Hold your baby. Hold your partner. Cry. Laugh. Bond with your family: from here onward, you have each other every step of the way.
4 Take A Deep Breath
After birth, you hormones may feel elevated and your emotions heightened. If you feel a little overwhelmed, congratulations: you're normal. No wonder you feel off. You just gave a human being the miracle of life. A new person just entered the world, and you both witnessed it and made it happen. Please, give yourself some credit, and know that you're feeling overstimulated for a reason.
That said, sometimes you may feel uncomfortable or even unexpectedly nervous or sad. Sometimes "baby blues" or even postpartum depression hits right after birth. For now, focus on calming yourself however you can, whether this is talking to your partner and the nurses or putting aside future worries for the moment. Take care of yourself. You have a human being in your hands now, and you won't be able to help others unless you help yourself.
If a few days pass and these feelings don't go away, you may be suffering from post-partum depression or another mood disorder. Seek help from your ob-gyn as soon as possible, as they can help you connect to resources and get help. You don't deserve to suffer in silence.
3 Try To Keep In The Present
When you're meeting your baby for the first time, you may only be able to dwell on the future. What kind of mother will you be. You hope you're a good one, but what if you're not enough? Should you enroll in classes at the community center? How will you and your partner adjust to this new baby, and what if... what if things don't go as planned?
Your worries are valid, but if you can manage it, push them aside for the first hour. Focus on your baby and your partner. These worries will be here for you when you get back, and you can tackle them with a fresh mind later on.
For now, take your baby in your arms and think only of the present. In the long run, this moment is all that does or will ever matter.
2 Delay The First Bath
Earlier, this article mentioned delaying a bath. Some opt to, some don't, but many pediatricians recommend delaying the first bath for an hour or two. Although most opt to clean their baby as soon as they can, delaying the bath could mean more health benefits for your baby.
When infants are born, they are covered in a white fluid called vernix. Vernix is made skin cells, and it contains anti-bacterial proteins. Leaving the vernix on your baby's skin prevents infections and boosts their immune system (which, if your baby's a winter child, you will appreciate).
Additionally, delaying the bath may improve maternal bonding and breastfeeding for newborns. Giving a baby an early bath can cause hypothermia, whereas skin-to-skin contact directly after birth improves the parent-child relationship. Bathing early can also delay breastfeeding, which can make it difficult once you try an hour later. It's best to breastfeed first and bathe second to avoid nipple confusion.
Last but ultimately very important, please get some rest. You don't have to be awake if you feel so fatigued that you can't keep your eyes open. After you've fed your baby for the first time and talked with your partner about life as you both know it, feel free to get some sleep. Your baby will be there for you when they wake up, and they may even appreciate the rest.
The next few months will be enjoyable and important, but they will also be taxing on physical and emotional levels. If you can manage it, take time to sleep now so you can emerge from the hospital rested and ready to adjust to life as a parent. You have time to worry about that, however, later. For now, get some much-deserved sleep.