After months of researching pregnancy and growing a child, most women don't know what to expect those first few days post-birth. Now that the baby is out in the world and mom is both recovering and feeding a child from her body, what's going to happen? While every woman's experience is unique, there are some things that are pretty universal across the board.
It's a good idea for mom to go into those early days prepared because pain medication needed for recovery and exhaustion can make things a bit fuzzy. It's also not always possible to distinguish between what is normal and what is not if mom is having her first child.
Physical, mental, and emotional changes are on the horizon the first few days, and mom may feel like this is one of the biggest transitions of her life. Knowing as much as she can in advance will make it easier, as will asking for help from friends, family members, and professionals. Fellow moms can also help mom prepare for the roller coaster ride that is those early days after birth.
Write a birth plan, have the baby, and then get ready for the adventure to begin. Here's what to expect post-birth.
24 Milk Comes In
Mom's chest may have felt full while she was pregnant, and it likely ached on and off throughout pregnancy. However, the days after birth is when the milk actually comes down, and that is a very strange sensation.
The baby ingests colostrum from mom for the first day or so of life, but by the second or third day, mom's milk supply will come down, leaving her chest feeling heavy and often damp. This is a good sign because it means the baby will have plenty to eat, but it's a strange feeling for the mom who has never been through it.
23 Car Seat Stress
Car seats are incredible because they can keep children safe in the car, even during a car wreck. They can also be super stressful, and mom will see why the first days after giving birth.
Installing a car seat properly is essential, and this should be done before the baby is born. When mom first rides with her baby in a back facing car seat, she will likely find that not being able to see her little one is distressing. Some babies also don't like car seats, and they are so tiny those first couple of days after birth that parents are concerned about them flopping around in the seat.
22 Introduction To Mom Diapers
Stockpiling diapers for the baby is a smart move. Stockpiling diapers for mom is genius because mom will find herself wearing adult diapers right after she gives birth. It's a reality most women don't even know to expect after having a baby.
Mom will bleed for weeks after having a baby, whether she delivers naturally or has surgery. The extra fluids might require extra protection, such as Depends. She will eventually graduate to pads, but that won't necessarily happen for a week or so. Wearing the extra protection saves her clothes and offers some comfort while her body heals.
21 Recovery Isn't A Walk In The Park
There's no way around the pain that comes with recovery. Some women say it's not that bad while others are caught off guard by the intensity of pain they feel after having a child. There's no way to avoid all postpartum recovery pain, no matter how mom tries.
It's important for mom to rest, recover, and take pain medication that has been offered as she tries to heal. Managing her own pain will make taking care of her baby so much easier. If the pain feels excessive or if mom feels bleeding has increased, she needs to notify her doctor or midwife.
20 Trouble In The Bathroom
After giving birth, mom has nothing else to be afraid of, right? Not exactly. Many women are petrified to have a bowel movement after giving birth, and with good reason. Going potty while trying to recover from childbirth can be painful. Add in constipation and the possibility of hemorrhoids and the situation feels even more dire.
Mom will be offered a mild stool softener the first day or two after birth to help make bowel movements easier. It's best for her to stay hydrated and get it over with as soon as possible. Waiting to go won't make it easier.
19 The Mood Rollercoaster
It's normal for mom to feel mood swings those first days after birth. Hormones are all over the place, leaving mom elated and relaxed when oxytocin floods her system and weepy and stressed as other hormones try to stabilize. Plus, the transition to motherhood is intense, and mom will likely feel this in every part of her being.
It's important for mom to be aware of if her mood swings start to feel too intense. Some mood shifting is normal, but postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can also strike and leave mom reeling. Those require medical help for mom to feel better.
18 Sleep Will Be Elusive
If mom thought she wasn't sleeping well due to third trimester discomfort, just wait until the baby is on the outside waking up frequently for food. Lack of sleep is intense in those early days since babies usually have nights and days confused and need to eat near constantly.
Reach out for help if possible and nap when the opportunity arises. Normal sleep is a long way away for everyone with an infant, and this is very apparent in those earliest days after birth. Because sleep deprivation can make everything difficult and more intense, mom needs to make sure she is resting as much as she can in those early days.
17 Feeling The Lack Of Control
Most women focus on pregnancy while they are waiting for their babies to arrive. Sure, they decorate the nursery and take birthing classes, but actually imagining being on call for a baby 24/7 is not something most women focus on during pregnancy. Besides, it's impossible to imagine how it can be both beautiful and demanding all at once.
The first couple of days after birth are magical, but they are also very tiring, and leave many moms feeling out of their depths. This is normal. It's okay to ask for help and to know that pretty much every mom feels like meeting the demands of a newborn is hard.
16 Nervous Thoughts
Now that mom is holding her precious baby, she may find she also delivered something else: nervous thoughts that don't seem to let up those first few days. Common thoughts that make mom stressed to have to do with something happening to the baby, and that is quite normal.
Holding that much love in her arms leaves mom vulnerable to the what-ifs that can take it away. Luckily, as hormones stabilize, mom will usually find the nervous thoughts calm down. If they don't, she needs to talk to her doctor about the possibility of postpartum anxiety. Help is available if mom needs it.
15 Every Thought About The Future Is A Worry
Besides the immediate worries about the baby's health, mom may find she is suddenly worried about everything. How will she save for a college fund? What parenting choices will she make? Having a baby is both a delight and a huge responsibility, and mom may feel the heaviness of her future as a parent even as early as the first week after birth.
It's best to let these worries go and enjoy the moment as much as possible. Taking care of an infant is enough work without adding the stress of future worries. Try to let go of worries that just leave mom upset and grasp onto the comfort of holding a new baby.
14 Oxytocin Flood
Oxytocin, appropriately nicknamed the cuddle hormone, is released when mom is close to her baby. Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding release this hormone, and mom will feel both connected to her baby and calm as it floods her body. It can calm down some of the rushing voices in her head and simply let her be in the moment.
Oxytocin aids with bonding and helps mom deal with the emotional ups and downs that accompany those days after birth. Mom may even find herself feeling drowsy as oxytocin floods her because it causes relaxation. It's a wonderful gift that makes even the pain of childbirth recovery fade for a while.
13 Hesitating To Leave The Hospital
Of course, mom and dad know they will be taking their little one home from the birthing center or hospital eventually. Still, some parents feel uncertain when capable nurses hand them their baby and send them out the door. This happens pretty quickly after the baby arrives.
Women who give birth naturally are released from the hospital usually within a couple of days. C-sections require a longer stay, but mom and the baby will still go home by day four if everything is going well. Home is where the adventure really begins because mom and dad have to figure out this parenting thing without assistance from nurses.
12 Baby's Size Will Change Dramatically
The baby is checked out right after birth, but mom shouldn't get super attached to that number. Babies actually lose fluids after birth, and this is totally normal. They will regain it quickly, but doctors expect it to fall after birth.
Doctors will have mom track the baby's feedings as well as the baby's diaper output the first couple of days of the child's laugh. This helps ensure the baby is getting enough to eat. At the first appointment with the pediatrician a week after birth, the baby will likely be back up to his birth size. If not, the doctor will help mom figure out what to do next.
11 APGAR Testing
The APGAR test is given in the early moments of a newborn's life and is an assessment of several factors. The baby's color, muscle tone, reflexes, breathing, and heart rate are assessed, and a numerical score is given for each category. The highest score is a ten.
The APGAR test is simply a way for the doctor to know if a child is going to need assistance in certain areas, such as breathing. Babies who score between a seven and a ten are usually deemed able to function on their own without interventions or assistance. Though this is a child's first test, there's no reason for mom to stress out and there's no way the baby can prep.
10 Swaddling Lessons
Swaddling can be absolute magic when it's time to put a baby down for sleep. The tight wrap around his little body can keep arms from flailing and causing him to wake up, and some babies sleep longer when they are swaddled. Mom will likely see nurses in the hospital expertly swaddle babies, and she will want to learn how to do this before leaving the hospital.
The good news is that if being a master swaddler is not in mom's future, there are swaddle blankets that can be purchased. These can make a big difference when it comes to how well a baby sleeps.
9 Tracking Bathroom Activities
One way to tell if a baby is getting enough to eat is by checking diaper output. It's not super fun to chart every pee and poo that takes place in those early days, but it is usually necessary. If a child is not producing urine or stool often enough, that's a sign that mom may not be producing enough milk or that the baby may not be latching properly.
The pediatrician can help figure out what is going on and make recommendations for how to solve the problem. Mom tracking diaper output will let her know if there is a problem early on before the baby has any issues.
8 Cleaning Up Post-Birth Messes
Besides adult diapers, mom will also learn all about postpartum clean up in those early days after birth. Natural deliveries leave mom sore and achy in the lady parts, and it's important to properly clean that area to both relieve pain and avoid infection.
There are special bottles for gently squirting water in that region during recovery, and some women also sit on ice packs to help with the pain and swelling. Be consistent in caring for that area to help with healing, and contact a doctor if there is excess pain or signs of infection after birth. It's a messy job, but it's necessary.
7 Crying (Baby and Mom)
Babies cry. It's how they get their needs met since they aren't able to talk yet. All of the crying may leave mom crying as well, and that's to be expected. Most women find the first few days after birth to be very emotional for a variety of reasons.
Recovering from childbirth is difficult, and there is no way to take a break when an infant is depending on mom for everything. Mom's hormones are fluctuating, so she may feel great happiness one minute and then be hit with uncontrollable worry the next. Emotions tend to level out, but if they don't mom should seek help. While postpartum mood swings are expected, they can also be a sign of postpartum depression or anxiety, and these conditions usually require further help.
6 Learning About Periodic Breathing
One of the freakiest things babies do to cause mom alarm in those early days is periodic breathing. This occurs when a baby's breath doesn't follow an exact rhythm, instead being normal then suddenly seeming to stop for longer than is expected. Though this is normal for very young babies, it is crazy making for parents.
Always contact a doctor if a child has labored breathing or seems to be struggling to get air. Ask the pediatrician what to expect concerning periodic breathing and know that it will stop with time. It's a normal part of infant development, but it's very hard to get used to.
5 Changing Body Expectations
There's no way to be fully prepared for how mom's body will change after having a baby. She will likely notice that the baby being outside of her body doesn't leave her belly flat and that the stretch marks are there to stay. That's okay. It's important for mom to know she will have to get used to her new body, and that can be a struggle the first few days after giving birth.
Mom needs to nourish her body and be grateful for all that it has done. Women lose the pregnancy lbs. at different rates, and mom needs to let that happen organically over time.
4 First Bath
The first bath may occur in the hospital and be performed by hospital staff. However, mom will still find herself bathing the baby at home on her own for the first time in those first few days. It can be intimidating to try to hold a wet baby while gently washing her, but many babies love baths and will stay calm during the process.
Don't ever leave a baby in the bathtub unsupervised, even for a second. Also, ask what to do until the umbilical stump falls out. The baby may require more of a wipe down than a full bath due to the stump.
3 Looking At The Daddy With New Eyes
Seeing a partner as a parent can be absolutely beautiful. It can also be disappointing. Hopefully, it's a good experience that makes mom glad she chose the person she did for all the adventures on the parenting journey.
Seeing a partner hold a new baby, help with diaper changes, and take care of things while mom recovers is magic in its own way. It can bring couples closer, and that's important since the sleep deprivation and stress of parenting can make the relationship harder at times. Mom will likely see a side of her partner she's never seen those first few days post-birth, and it's something she won't forget.
2 Possible Change In Parenting Plans
Most people have very grand ideas about how they will parent until they actually have children. While some people stick to the plan, many find that those first few days can change everything they thought they knew.
Mom may not have planned to room in with the baby, but seeing those little eyes makes it impossible for her to put him in his own room. She may have thought she didn't want to breastfeed, but she ends up enjoying the bonding that it offers. Be prepared to question everything and adjust accordingly. It's okay to take a different approach as long as it is the one that works for the family.
1 Introducing Baby To The Family
If mom has other children, then she will make some very important introductions the first couple of days after birth. When mom is ready, she will introduce her new baby to his or her older siblings, and a precious relationship will begin.
Some parents wait until returning home to make introductions while others bring older siblings to the hospital. Either way, this is an important event that provides evidence of how the family is expanding. Let the older sibling know he still has a place in the family and that he is the perfect welcoming committee for the new baby.
Resources: APA, Parents, WhatToExpect