The first 24 to 48 hours after giving birth can be foggy for new moms. But for many, that's all the time that they will get before they have to go home from the hospital. C-section moms get a little longer, but between bonding with the baby, healing, and all of the other things going on, it doesn't seem like long.
That's especially true when moms have a bunch of things that they need to accomplish before they go home. Some of them are physical since they demonstrate whether the mom is healing well, and others are about learning to care for their newborn. There's also the paperwork — from getting insurance lined up to filling out the baby's birth certificate.
Many new moms feel stressed and unprepared in those first few days, but luckily they have help from the nurses at the hospital. It's a good idea to take advantage of their expertise during the short time before the discharge, so moms definitely need to add studying up to their list of things to do before they go home.
Moms need to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time, and that is on top of all of the feedings and diaper changes, visits with family and friends, and resting. Here are 20 things moms need to do before leaving the hospital.
20 Start Taking Stool Softeners
Most moms don't think about going No. 2 in the first couple of days after giving birth — but believe us, they will thank us for this when the time comes. C-section moms might have to have a bowel movement before going home, but even those with natural deliveries need to start taking stool softeners before they head home.
That first big trip to the bathroom can be intimidating, especially because of the constipation that happens with slowed digestion. On top of the damage down below, it can be excruciating. A stool softener will make a big difference in soothing things; trust us.
19 Send Baby's Scent Home To Pets
Even first-time moms have to worry about introducing the new baby to the family when they have fur-babies at home. While dogs and cats can be intuitive when it comes to pregnant women, it's still a good idea to have a plan before the mom goes home from the hospital.
Many experts recommend that the mom's partner take a blanket with the baby's scent home to give the pets an opportunity to have a whiff before the baby arrives. They also might want to have a plan to keep the dog and cat out of the nursery for a while so that the baby is safe while the family gets to know one another.
18 Schedule A Pediatrician's Appointment
The mom's immediate care might be over, but when a baby comes home from the hospital, he's still in a very precarious state of health. That's why the pediatrician usually comes by before they go home to make sure baby is okay — and why it's important to set up an appointment for five days to a week after the birth for a checkup.
The appointment is important in assessing whether the baby is gaining some pounds and if they have developed severe jaundice or another problem. If those issues aren't caught quickly, it can be detrimental, so be sure to call the pediatrician for an appointment before leaving the hospital.
17 Go To The Bathroom
A mom's entire body can get a lot of trauma during birth, whether it happens naturally or via C-section. It can take a bit to make sure that things are okay, and one big step in that is getting to the bathroom. First, it means that the epidural has worn off and the mom has been able to get out of bed, but it also means more.
The mom needs some TLC down below, and a lot of that is set up in the first bathroom trip, when she gets a pad and an ice pack and other healing ointments. If she can go pee without pain, that means that her internal organs are functioning, and the healing has begun.
16 Make Sure The Car Seat Is Safe
Moms need to prepare a lot for the baby before they go to the hospital before labor, and one of the most important steps is to get the car seat properly installed and ready to go. Many times it's a good idea to have someone go by the fire department or police station to have them check out the installation.
It can be tricky to make sure that the baby is strapped into the seat correctly, especially as a newborn. The nurses are trained to understand all of the components and to train parents to get the process right. So be sure to ask for their expertise to ensure the baby's safety during the first ride and all the subsequent ones.
15 Stock Up On Postpartum Care Items
After giving birth, moms can be really sore, and their body goes through a lot. Luckily, nurses know how to help. The first time that the mom goes to the bathroom, the nurse will set her up with some mesh panties, a huge maxi pad and—for natural deliveries—ice packs and witch hazel pads that can soothe the area.
Those supplies make a big difference in helping a woman to feel more comfortable after giving birth, and the amazing thing is that the hospital usually lets moms take home extra supplies for the first several days at home. Moms should definitely take them up on the offer and collect as much as they can to help them heal at home.
14 Call The Boss And Insurance Company
After having a baby, no one wants to think about the office. But it needs to happen. Some people might have called their boss when their labor started, especially if they are due to be at work soon. But they still need to make a call after the birth as well to make sure that they are aware of the delivery.
Your co-workers probably want to celebrate the good news, but it's more than that. The HR office can often help make sure that the paperwork for maternity leave and insurance is completed. It's important to get those things taken care of, and no one wants to worry about once they get home.
13 Baby Name Decision Time
Many moms and dads debate the baby name for a full nine months. One major step before leaving the hospital is filling out the social security paperwork and birth certificate, so moms have to make a decision quickly at that point before they go home from the hospital.
Moms don't have to submit their paperwork before they go home, but if they get it done, the hospital can take care of the errand. It's harder to get things submitted once you have a newborn at home, but for moms who are still debating the name, we guess it's okay to wait until after they leave the hospital.
12 Take A Nap
Having a baby is exciting, and we understand that moms feel full of energy after the birth, especially since endorphins are released during childbirth. But we highly recommend that women take advantage of their time in the hospital and take a nap before they go home.
Many moms prefer to have their baby stay in the room with them after the birth, but there is also an option to have the little one stay in the nursery so that mom can get some rest. The baby will need care around the clock, but moms should be able to grab a nap for an hour or two in between feedings and diaper changes.
11 Start The Baby On A Schedule
Many moms-to-be are aware that babies do better when they are on a schedule, but they might be surprised at how early that starts. In fact, it starts at birth and can be pretty set by the time that mom and baby go home from the hospital.
Newborns need to eat every two hours in the first few weeks or even months of life. They might want to sleep through those feedings in the early days, but moms need to learn to keep track and make sure that the baby stays on his schedule. If not, he could end up losing too much way, developing severe jaundice and failing to thrive. Nurses usually give new moms a chart to help them track feedings and diaper changes in the first few weeks until it becomes like clockwork.
10 Grab The Extra Diapers
Just like the postpartum supplies, most hospitals are pretty adept at making sure that the mom has enough supplies for the baby for a few days. They don't want moms to have to go to the store while they are still sore and exhausted, so they send home some provisions.
When the mom is packing up her stuff to go home, she can grab the extra diapers, blankets, and pacifiers in the hospital bassinet. From wipes to diaper rash ointment to the thermometer, moms are welcome to take home all the supplies that are in their room so that they and the baby are ready for the first few days at home.
9 Take A Walk Down The Hall
To be ready to go home from the hospital, a new mom needs to be able to walk around a bit. It can take a little while to get to that point, especially for women who had epidurals, but it can be a signal that she's starting in on the recovery process.
It can take some time for the epidural to wear off. Plus, some women can get light-headed after losing fluids during the birth. So we recommend that all new moms make sure that a nurse is there to help them the first time they stand up and walk around.
8 See A Lactation Consultant
Breastfeeding can be one of the most difficult and one of the most rewarding experiences of new motherhood. Most new moms have the desire to nurse their newborn since there are multiple health benefits for the baby and for the mom, as well as a personal bond. But if moms don't get off to a good start, they might not be able to continue nursing to their goal.
That is why we recommend that women talk to a lactation consultant before going home from the hospital. The expert can provide tips and advice that can help a woman perfect the latch and increase her milk supply. Moms can see a consultant at any time, but it's a good idea to do it before leaving the hospital for convenience and to get the best start.
7 Take Some Sweet Family Photos
These days, most moms have no problem with this item on the list. But it definitely is worth making it a part of our list. Moms might be tempted to take a quick selfie with their newborn and add a filter to make them look a little rosier cheeked in the hours after giving birth, but we recommend that they make sure to take the time to take some sweet family photos.
Many hospitals have services for taking photos, which can be out of some people's budgets. Moms can be thrifty and take advantage of their Smartphone cameras. But newborns change each day, so it's worth the time and effort to capture some beautiful memories of those earliest days as a family.
6 Learn The Swaddle
If there is one lesson that a new dad should be in charge of, we think that it is learning the swaddle. Moms should take notes from the nurse too as the swaddle can be like magic in helping to calm a fussy baby in the first few days of life.
A good swaddle can help the baby feel secure while also keeping him warm and helping him sleep. Many parents try to keep their baby swaddling between every diaper change and feeding. It won't take but a few weeks until the baby is able to free himself from the swaddle, but in the first month or so, it's a key skill that all parents should know before they leave the hospital.
5 Another Step For Baby Boys
Newborns go through several tests and procedures before they leave the hospital. In addition, parents may want to have another procedure for their baby boy before they go home.
A circumcision is an option that has health, religious, and social implications, but it's not for every child. For the parents who choose to do it, it's healthiest and less painful to do it in the first few days after birth, if possible, and a sterile hospital environment is optimal. It can also save on costs to get it done during the hospital stay. So the decision has to be made quickly.
4 Ask The Nurse A Million Questions
Before a new mom will be discharged from the hospital, she has to have a long conversation with the nurse to go over how to care for the baby and for herself. That's a great opportunity for the mom to ask as many questions as she can think of to prepare herself for taking care of a newborn.
It's daunting to be responsible for a new little life, especially when a woman is already exhausted, sore and going through postpartum hormone and body changes. Moms should ask about everything from what to do if the baby gets a fever to how much they need to be fed.
3 Baby's First Outfit
Mom isn't the only one who has to get dressed to go home from the hospital. Many babies spend their first day or two wrapped in a blanket with a diaper, or maybe doing skin-to-skin contact. They don't have a need to get dressed, but they can't be swaddled in the car seat, so it is time for some clothes.
A lot of moms put a lot of thought into the coming home outfit for the baby. They might have a family heirloom or just want to find something that reflects the mom's interests. The most important part is that the baby is warm and comfortable on the ride home.
2 Put On Some Pants
Moms don't have to wear pants, per se, but they have to get dressed before going home. They can spend their entire hospital stay in a hospital gown (they are more comfortable than you expect and very practical considering all the fluids that they could get on them during childbirth), but eventually, some bottoms need to be added. Moms need to have something in their hospital bag for the ride home.
Keep in mind that the baby bump only goes down a little bit in the first few days after birth. Moms are likely to still look around six months pregnant, so it's not a good idea to pack your pre-pregnancy jeans.
1 Have Someone To Call For Support
In the hospital, a new mom has a lot of support to help her feed and care for her newborn while getting some rest and care for herself. But that might end when she goes home. So we recommend that they make sure that they have someone to call before they leave the hospital, even if they have a partner who will be helping out.
Some friends like to take turns bringing dinner, or a new grandma would gladly stay the night and let mom have some sleep. We understand that some women might want to bond with the baby by themselves, but we recommend that they have friends or family on standby for when she needs them.
Sources: Everyday Family, Fathering 101, The Bump, Romper