There are many things that are the same all over the world in the week after a woman has given birth. If both mom and her baby are healthy after delivery, then they will be adjusting to the new phase of life, no matter where they are located on the globe.
The regular new parent's trials of sleep deprivation, learning to feed and physically recovering from pushing an entire human being out of a very tiny hole happen to all of us, but it is the detail of how this happens that varies, depending on where you live.
Although all women should have the same opportunities for rest and recuperation, or as much as you can have with a newborn, a new mother or one side of the Atlantic may have an entirely different experience to their fellow new moms on the other side. Some people may have firm opinions over whom has the more favorable time during the postpartum period but there are pros and cons of both the US and the British ways of doing things.
Read on to discover what moms in the United States and mums in the United Kingdom do differently during their first week at home with the baby and find out why some of these things are so different.
15 Worry About Money In The US
It is rare for new parents to have the luxury of not having to worry about money when the two of you become the three of you. Not only are there a myriad of new and shocking financial expenses involved in keeping this little person clean, happy, and healthy but these costs arrive at a time when you are taking time off of work to look after the baby.
This leads many moms, in the United States especially, to worry about money and it is no wonder when, nationally, there is no provision for paid maternity in America.
Some states, such as California are looking to remedy this by passing their own local maternity leave legislation.
In the UK meanwhile, mums will worry far less because they are entitled, by law, to 90% of their regular wage for the first six weeks of leave and then 33 weeks of additional paid leave, regardless of their employer or job.
14 Regain Strength After The Birth Part I
Most women will have heard the stories about women in Chinese paddy fields pausing in their work, walking off to the side of the field and giving birth before strapping the baby on their back and getting back to their job. This story is usually used to try and shame women into not malingering after delivery. While this story is true, it is more about the fact that these women have no choice but to return immediately to work because if they do not their families do not eat.
The paid maternity leave in the UK allows women to take this time to physically recover from the exertion, pain and blood loss of childbirth. Meanwhile many women in the US, usually those from a more impoverished background, have no choice but to leave their child with a relative and return to their job almost immediately, sometimes within that first week after the baby arrives.
13 The Use Of Words In The US And UK
Until I moved to North America, from England, I always assumed I spoke the same language as other English speakers. Becoming a mom again, for the fourth and fifth times didn’t seem like it would be difficult
until I realized that the language of pregnancy and childbirth on the opposite sides of the Atlantic are very different.
In England, as a new mum, I brought my baby home and lay him down to sleep in a cot. His newborn bum was wrapped in a nappy, and I offered him a dummy to help soothe him. We took our baby for a walk in his pram, which had a detachable carrycot, and bought a buggy for when he was a little older.
In the United States as a new mom, I brought my baby boy home and lay him down to sleep in his crib. His newborn bottom was wrapped in a diaper, and I offered him a soother. We took our little boy out for a walk in his stroller which didn’t have a detachable bassinet, and we didn’t need to buy anything else.
12 The Feeling Of Being Supported In The UK
From my experience in North America midwives seem to be regarded with some skepticism, almost like an alternative medicine practitioner with as much grounding in knowledge as a witch doctor.
In the UK midwives are seen as the experts on pregnancy and childbirth, and they are the people whom the vast majority of expectant mums see with the occasional doctors visit to supplement their care.
This midwife care continues after the birth with home visits by the midwife for the first few days after the birth. Having the person with whom you have built a relationship with during your pregnancy, come to your home and check on you and the baby is a support that most women in the US do not have the luxury of enjoying. To make it even better, this support is free.
11 Not Conforming To A Routine In The US
There is still a tremendous social pressure in the UK to “get the baby into a routine” as soon as possible after you get home. Many people still advise that you train your baby to feed every four hours and sleep through the night as quickly as possible
and much of a first week at home in England will consist of trying to work out a timetable for your day.
The United States appears to have moved on from this mindset, much more so in England. Spending time in North America with a newborn, I noticed that nobody spoke about a feeding or sleeping routine and I didn’t feel any pressure to have our baby conform to a timetable that had set for them. This was much more relaxing for both the baby and me.
10 Receiving Free Expert Advice In The UK
Women in the US rely on their friends and family a great deal for knowledge and advice. Not everyone has the money or the will to get themselves and their newborn ready and take a trip to the doctor's office if they are worried about something in the first week at home, and we are all worried during that first week at home.
Preparing yourself as much as possible can reduce the fear level but there is nothing like the feeling of sitting at home at 5 am and convincing yourself that your newborn's cord stump is looking funny and a giant catastrophe is about to befall you both.
In the UK you still have those irrational fears, but you have a free phone line with medical professionals who will provide you with expert advice, free of charge, at any time during the first weeks.
9 The Paper Trail In The US
During your first week at home with your baby in the US, you are likely to have paperwork from the hospital to fill out. There are forms, invoices, or bills to review and there are items to cross check with your experience in order to ensure you have not been overcharged or are paying for twice. There are insurance companies to call, deductibles to calculate and the eternal question of why the hospital and the different doctors all invoice separately.
Meanwhile, in the UK, our fellow new moms are doing zero paperwork.
They are not looking through their invoices wondering why exactly they are advised to have skin to skin contact immediately after the birth and then being charged for it. Women in the UK spend their first week at home with their new baby, blissfully free of administration covering the delivery.
8 Snipping Care In The US
One of the most surprising things about giving birth to a son in the US as opposed to the UK is being asked if you would like your new baby circumcised. In the United Kingdom, I did not know a single person who had had their son circumcised, unless it was for a specific religious or medical reason so it came as a surprise to be asked if this was something we would like to happen.
For this reason, moms in the United States are much more likely to spend at least some of their time tending to the site of the circumcision whereas the majority of mums in Britain are not going to be doing this.
While the circumcision site does not require a lot of care and attention, it is the cultural difference that many moms who have delivered in the US and the UK find striking.
7 The Great Outdoors In The US
There appears to be a growing tendency in the United States to expect new moms to immediately jump up and carry on as usual after popping out their baby. The expectation seems to be that within a day, or so you will be up and dressed and parading your newborn around your social circle while looking glowing and well put together. There is almost an unspoken competition between new moms as to who can recover the fastest. If you are not sparkling with your baby slung casually across your body then there must be something wrong with you.
In the United Kingdom, there is an expectation that you will be home, recuperating after the birth
and people would be pretty shocked to see you out and about within the first week of having the baby.
6 Entertaining Strangers In The UK
Although there are many many advantages to the British National Health System (NHS) there are downsides. When you have your baby within the NHS, you may or may not have the same community midwife for all of your visits. This means that when you have your postnatal visits at home, the person who turns up on your doorstep may or may not be the midwife you know.
The visits are part of the mandatory postnatal follow-up system, and if you were to refuse a visit, it could invoke intervention from social services. Therefore a stranger turns up and you have to let them in.
In the US as there are no mandatory follow-up health checks in place, you are not going to have a midwife turn up on your doorstep and feel the pressure to let her in, examine you, and check that the baby is OK. These visits are, generally, welcomed, especially with a first baby but with subsequent babies they can begin to feel intrusive.
5 Regain Strength After The Birth Part II
Paternity leave in the US is not a legal entitlement in most States and, although some companies offer time off for the non-birthing parent,
there are very few Americans who will be able to count on the presence of their partners.
Among those who do qualify for paternity leave, not all of them will be paid for the time off, which makes it a luxury that many people cannot afford.
In the UK all parents are entitled to paid leave after the birth, or adoption of their child in order for the family unit to rest and bond together. Practical support from a partner during that first week home helps to give a new mom that little bit of extra rest, especially if you have older children to look after.
4 Going The Extra Mile In The UK
Every expectant mom in the United Kingdom and her partner is entitled to sign up for free prenatal classes. They are different to the American standard Lamaze classes because in the UK the focus is more on different types of birth, developing a birth plan that works for you and looking after your baby.
The British classes also encourage the parents-to-be to bond and support each other outside of the classes.
In the UK, during your first week home, it is likely that you will receive visits from other members of your childbirth classes who will help out and be there to support you.
In the United States not everyone has the chance to attend childbirth classes and if they do there is not the same encouragement to bond, so you do not have this new mom network available to you for support.
3 Higher Rates Of Breastfeeding In The UK
An increasing number of women are being encouraged to try breastfeeding within the first hour or so of birth, assuming everything went without a hitch and mom and baby are healthy of course. This has raised the numbers of women trying out breastfeeding during the first week of their baby’s life, but in different numbers depending on where you are in the world.
In the United States babies who were born in 2014, the last year for which full confirmed data is available, had an 82.5% chance of being breastfed at birth and a 65.5% chance of still being exclusively breastfed at the end of the first week.
In the United Kingdom, 79% of new mums try breastfeeding within the first hour after the birth, but only 44.8% of those moms are still breastfeeding exclusively by the end of that first week.
2 Being Showered With Freebies In The US
The United Kingdom has strict legislation in place that severely restricts what the baby formula companies can do with regards to free samples, advertising, and even money-off coupons. This is designed to help boost breastfeeding rates which, as you can see from the previous listing, doesn’t appear to be improving very much. There are also restrictions on all kinds of other free samples which leads to freebies in the UK being predominantly of the “this is a cheap booklet showing your baby’s milestones” type.
Meanwhile, in the US new moms are showered with samples and gifts from a wide assortment of companies.
Everything from formula, diapers, wipes, and toiletries to baby books, onesies and a one month Amazon Prime subscription, which is invaluable when you are up all night feeding!
1 The Worry About Her Figure In The US
While UK mums are being pressured into getting their baby into a routine, their sisters on the other side of the Atlantic feel more freedom. The opposite is also true about weight.
It cannot be denied that almost every mum, no matter where they live, feels some anxiety about their pregnancy weight gain and the loss they can expect after the birth. In some parts of the world, the pressure to be losing weight and regaining your pre-pregnancy shape can be almost immediate, and I felt that this was very true in the US.
Moms are bombarded with articles and products so that they are worried about weight loss as soon as they get home.
In the United Kingdom, most women are weighed at their prenatal visits, and the emphasis is on recovering rather than regaining.
References: bbcamerica.com, refinery29.com, thebump.com, gov.uk, oecd.org, ilo.org, modernalternativepregnancy.com, cdc.gov
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