The days after birth are blissful and hard, beautiful and challenging. It's not always easy to figure out how to care for a baby while also getting enough rest and self-care to keep going. Mom may have a hard time knowing or remembering what needs to be done in those first days post-birth, especially the first day after the baby makes an entrance.
There's no definitive list that mom has to follow, but there are definitely things mom can do that will help her survive and look back a bit more fondly on those early days. Unfortunately, it's easy to forget to do these things or to not know she needs to in the first place. Mom can end up without necessary supplies or people to help her out if she doesn't know to take care of these tasks. Even a successful breastfeeding relationship needs nurturing early on to thrive.
Coming off of the exhaustion of labor and the meds helping mom manage pain, the day after the baby is born can be a blur, and it's easy to become stressed out early on. This can be avoided to an extent if mom prioritizes taking care of not only the baby but herself. This isn't selfish; it's necessary.
20 Take Pictures of Themselves
There will be so many pictures of the baby from day one to forever, as there should be. However, mom needs to remember to be a part of those pictures. There is usually a picture of mom holding her newborn, but after that she is the one taking the pictures of the baby. It's important to have pictures of mom as she parents in those early days so she can look back on them. Her children will also want to see them one day.
Mom doesn't need to wear makeup or be back in her pre-baby jeans. Just make sure there are pictures of mom being herself from the very beginning.
19 Go Potty Easily
There are a lot of bodily functions involved in birth and recovery, and mom may actually forget some of the basics as she adjusts to adult diapers and post birth pain. However, she needs to remember that the earlier she can have a bowel movement the better. Adding constipation and hemorrhoids to recovery just adds insult to injury.
A doctor will likely prescribe mom a mild stool softener to help her go to the restroom, and it will likely be painful the first time. Drink some water, consume fiber, and just get it over with as soon as possible before it becomes even more difficult.
18 Ask for Help
No mom knows how to do everything right out of the starting gate. It's important that mom asks for help as soon as possible so she doesn't struggle unnecessarily. Unfortunately, many women don't.
The first days of being a parent are full of joy, but they are also full of sleep deprivation and pain from childbirth recovery. If mom doesn't line up help before the baby is born, she should do it as soon as the baby arrives. Family and friends can bring meals or watch the baby while mom takes a shower. Every little bit helps and will be appreciated.
Babies sleep a lot in those early days. The problem is they don't do it for long periods of time, instead sprinkling naps throughout the day and waking up frequently at might. While mom may be tempted to use the baby's nap time to do chores, it's better if she sleeps when the baby does so she can get as much rest as possible in those post birth days.
There's no chore that needs to be completed that is more important than rest. The sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn is intense, so mom needs to prioritize sleep whenever she can get it. Even resting an hour or so while the baby naps will make a difference.
16 Talk About Birth Control
It's hard to imagine thinking about birth control when holding a precious newborn, but mom does need to have that discussion with her partner and her doctor soon after giving birth. Though mom doesn't need to be intimate for weeks after birth, she can get pregnant as soon as she does have sex again, and most women don't want to be pregnant again that soon.
Having a plan for how to avoid pregnancy will help mom enjoy the early days with her newborn with less worry. Having pregnancies too close together can present risks to mom's health, and it's hard to care for two very young children at the same time.
15 Practice Self-Care
Self-care is not selfish. In fact, proper self-care, starting from day one, can make mom a better parent. It's hard to offer a child what he or she needs if mom is running on empty. However, many new moms consider self-care a luxury and don't take any time to recuperate.
It's not possible to practice lavish self-care in those early days, but a ten minute walk, a meal sitting down without holding the baby, or a solo shower can all go a long way to making mom feel like herself again. Neglecting small amounts of self-care usually leads to ignoring it all, and that often leaves women burnt out.
14 Ask for a Lactation Specialist
Breastfeeding is not something every mom chooses to do, but those who want to take the nursing route should ask to see a lactation specialist as soon as possible. An experienced lactation specialist can help mom make sure the baby is latched properly and that breastfeeding isn't any more painful than it needs to be. Sure, it can be uncomfortable to nurse at times, but it shouldn't cause unbearable pain.
Mom definitely does not need to give up on breastfeeding until she's talked to a specialist who can offer her tips. A simple change can make all the difference in mom's milk production and in the success of the breastfeeding relationship.
13 Limit Visitors
Every mom has her own feelings about how many people she wants around post birth. It's just good to remember that the first couple of days are a very tender time that involves healing and bonding, and mom may regret having just anyone pop in on her.
Plan to make a statement about visiting right after the baby is born so the message is clear to family and friends. Mom might say she wants to catch up with everyone once she and the baby are settled in, signaling that visitors need to wait for approval before showing up. This allows her to curate a list of very close loved ones who can visit and assist in those early days without feeling the need to entertain other people.
12 Tap Into Emotions
There are no right or wrong emotions to have post birth. Mom needs to talk about any emotions that scare her or make her feel concerned, but she needs to make sure to tap into all of her emotions to get an honest feel for how she is coping. Good or bad, it's best to know early on.
Mom's emotions may be up and down for a while, but she shouldn't deny the hard times or judge herself for feeling stressed. Simply sitting with her emotions gives her a better plan for how to move forward, and it may help her recognize signs of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety before these issues grow further.
11 Forget Body Expectations
One major downside of social media is that we see pictures of women who look unrealistically fit after having a baby. That's not reality. Growing a baby for nine months means our bodies will need time to lose the baby weight and firm back up. That's okay.
Mom shouldn't feel shame over the way her body looks in those first days post birth or ever. She should thank her body for all it did to carry a child and bring that child into the world. It can be hard for mom to get used to the way her body has changed, but the changes are simply signs of growth and progress, and that's not bad.
10 Be Proud of Herself
Insecurity and regret may hit mom very quickly after she gives birth. If her birth didn't go as she hoped or breastfeeding isn't working out, mom may berate herself for not creating the ideal experience she hoped for. This is a mistake.
No matter how the baby arrives or how the child is fed, mom needs to be proud of what she's done so far. Parenting sometimes offers mind shattering doubt, and there are moms who carry shame and guilt around even though they've done nothing wrong. This takes away from the joy of parenting and chips away at mom's confidence. Mom needs to practice self-love and compassion and pat herself on the back for being the amazing mother she is.
9 Thank Her Own Mom
Becoming a mother is such an all-consuming experience that it's easy for mom to forget she has any other role. When she finally realizes she is a daughter and that her mother went through the same things for her, it may be months or years into the parenting journey.
If mom has a good mother herself, try to remember to thank her for all she did and all she will do as a grandparent as soon as possible. It's not possible to truly understand what it is to be a parent until it happens, and that's a great time to express gratitude to those who came before us on the parenting journey.
8 Stock Up on Mom Diapers
Mom probably has plenty of diapers for the baby that she's been purchasing while pregnant. Everyone knows babies will need diapers after birth, and some women even have diaper showers to help cover the expense of these essential items.
What mom needs to also do is make sure she has mom diapers at home. That's right, birth recovery requires mom to come home in an adult diaper and to wear those or heavy-duty pads for weeks. Having these on hand for right after the baby is born is much more convenient than being caught without any in those early days post-birth.
7 Drink Enough Water
A large water cup is a must-have after birth item because staying hydrated is essential. Mom will be giving her energy to the baby, and breastfeeding moms will also be giving tons of their nutrients. Mom doesn't want to chance becoming dehydrated because it will make her feel exhausted and weak.
Babies want to be held so much that it can be hard for mom to get up and refill a water glass, hence the need for a large water cup that will stay full most of the day. Drinking enough water truly can help mom feel better and help her healing process.
6 Cuddle Other Siblings
If mom has older children, it can be very difficult to balance being a parent to each child. A newborn requires tons of attention, and older children can feel pushed aside as mom works to meet the baby's needs. It's important that even in those earliest days after the baby is born that mom remembers to give her older kids hugs and cuddles so they know they haven't been forgotten or pushed aside.
Include older siblings in caring for the baby, and also make sure to try to schedule time with just them throughout the day. Even it's a short amount of time, it will make a difference in how the other siblings deal with the transition.
5 Learn to Swaddle
Babies like to be held close, and when they are not being held close they often enjoy being wrapped inside a blanket. This method is called swaddling, and it makes an infant look like a tiny burrito.
Swaddling works because it makes a baby feel nestled and warm while removing the risks that come with blankets near a sleeping newborn. It also keeps babies from waking themselves up by flailing their arms. Maternity nurses are usually great at swaddling babies, so mom should learn this skill before she leaves the hospital. There are also swaddling blankets that make this process easier for mom.
4 Ask How Long Healing Should Take
Many women leave the hospital unprepared for how long it takes to mentally and physically recover from birth. They push too hard and expect too much of themselves, setting themselves up for exhaustion and a feeling of failure from day one.
A better approach is to ask for honesty when it comes to recovery times. The path isn't linear, so mom may feel better one day and not to so much the next, and it's good to know this from the beginning. Sleep deprivation and all the demands being placed on mom's body after having the baby can also slow recovery. Be patient and realistic and ask the doctor or midwife what to expect.
It feels almost impossible to do simple things the first days after birth because mom is healing, tired, and simply wants to sit with her baby. It's okay to avoid anything that doesn't have to be done, but it is a good idea to take a shower early on because it will help mom feel better.
Even a few minutes washing off without a baby in mom's arms feels rejuvenating. Putting on a clean pair of clothes and being out of a bed or chair also do wonders for mom's spirit. It's not always easy to sneak in a shower when left alone with the little one, but try to start this habit early on and enjoy the benefits of this simple ritual.
2 Stay Away From Those Online Baby Stories
It's fine to ask friends for advice or to look for wisdom from people who have been parents before. However, beware of listening to or reading scary baby stories. This is always true, but it's essential to steer clear in those early days when hormones are trying to settle and mom feels so vulnerable.
Having a child makes mom feel like the whole world is both a beautiful and scary place, and a woman who previously didn't worry much may find every single thing she encounters makes her worry after having a child. That's why it's especially important to resist getting caught in the scary-story trap and staying in near constant panic.
1 Take a Deep Breath
It's easy to forget how to live in the present moment the first few days after giving birth. There is a sense of responsibility that can be intense, but mom will do well to take a deep breath when she feels overcome. This allows her to have a minute to collect herself and ask for help if she needs it.
The newborn days truly do go by fast, but it does not feel that way at all to the mother who is on call 24/7. As often as possible, mom should take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and remember that she is doing a great job and is already a wonderful mother.
Sources: Parents.com, Pregnancybirth&baby.org.au, Whattoexpect.com