The day you've been waiting for has finally arrived.
You've waited almost 40 weeks to bring home your brand new baby and it's finally time to settle in at home as your first day as a family. The first few days for many new parents are the most challenging step of the process.
Hospital staff have helped you along the way and now you're on your own.
This is where your doula steps in to help you fill in the gaps!
You hear a lot about the different phases of pregnancy and birth, but what do the first few days of your postpartum period actually look like? What can you expect now that you're no longer expecting? How do I know what to do?
We've put together a comprehensive guide to help parents navigate the first few days home, because unknown doesn't have to make you nervous.
Healing for Mom
For the recovering mom, the first day home is uncomfortable. If you had a vaginal birth, sitting, standing, using the bathroom or walking is tough on the body. With a cesarean, the incision site will be tender for several weeks and the first day home will call for lots of lounging and relaxing. A hot compress will keep your cramping manageable as your uterus begins to shrink.
Nursing in the very beginning can be tricky. Every woman's milk supply is different and supplies usually mature between 36 hours and 5 days postpartum. During your second day home with baby, practice different latch positions to stimulate your milk supply. Getting used to latching can be uncomfortable at first, but the more often you try different positions the more opportunities you will have to acclimate, stimulate ducts and bond with baby.
The umbilical cord site requires a few weeks to heal completely. While the umbilical cord stump is healing it will dry out and eventually fall off. To keep the area clean and healthy, make sure it remains dry and not being irritated by your baby's diaper. Avoid using ointments or cleansers on this area, as it can cause some discomfort and even infection. Over the first week, your baby doesn't require a bath and a sponge cleaning is all they need for their sensitive skin.
After about two weeks, your baby should be ready to get their first real bath. The water should be comfortably warm, but not hot and a dash of baby safe soap is all you need for the small tub. While they're in the bathtub, keep a towel over the parts of their body that are not being cleaned so they stay warm. Using a cotton ball, gently wipe clean your baby's eyes, ears and creases around their neck. With your washcloth, clean in arm creases and their bottom from front to back. When you're all done and rinsed, bundle them up in a towel and get them changed and into a clean diaper and clothes. Use lotions sparingly for the first few weeks.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—when a baby unexpectedly stops breathing and dies in his sleep—occurs in 1 in 1,400 American babies each year, usually before 6 months of age. There is no known cause of SIDS, but research indicates that certain precautions lower the risk.
Keeping your baby on their back while they sleep, with a pacifier and without bedding that could create a suffocation risk is a great place to start. Breastfeeding helps promote a strong immune system and keeping your little one away from cigarette smoke will lower the risks for serious upper respiratory infections.
Meconium and Diaper Contents
For the first few days after birth, your baby's bowel movement will be sticky and greenish-black. This substance, called meconium, is perfectly normal! It's what filled your baby's intestines while they were in the womb, and once the body gets rid of it, their poop will look yellowish-orange and vary in consistency and texture.
After about a week (and for about the next six months), the consistency and frequency of your baby's bowel movements will depend on whether they're breastfed or formula-fed. Breast fed babies tend to poop less often as it absorbs more into the body, leaving less waste products behind. Normal frequency is a pretty broad range and infant bowel movements can occur anywhere from 6 times daily to once every few days.
Don't worry, you've got this.
While it may seem like a lot to take in at once, knowing what to expect in the first few days home with your newborn can give new parents a refreshing boost of confidence. Staying in close contact with your pediatrician, doula and lactation consultant will keep you feeling more empowered as you settle in at home with baby.