Women LOVE to share their birth stories. The beautiful, the ugly, the graphic. But for some reason many women do not share what to expect just after the baby arrives. I am talking about the crazy hormones that affect your body, the surprisingly painful moments, and tips for making your hospital stay a little better.
So I am going to lay it all out there. I am now in my third trimester with my fourth baby and when I was giving advice to a friend about strange things to expect or what to do and I realized I should probably write this all down before I forget! I really hope this helps you! I have experienced vaginal births and I am certain there are specific things to expect with c-sections like the trapped gas issue after surgery, but I will leave that post up to Melissa because I am certainly not an expert on that!
Be patient with yourself
Whether this is your first or your fifth baby you are experiencing something new together. Things may have gone differently then you expected they would. Perhaps you experienced a really fast delivery, a really long delivery, a smooth apgar test, or a baby in distress. No matter what the situation is there will be new things to explore like nursing the baby, changing the baby, and getting to know each other. Be patient and enjoy this process, most importantly give yourself the opportunity to just soak in the moment that is, you have welcomed a beautiful, new soul into this world and to marvel at this alone is time well spent.
Your little babe is new to this world too. Be patient with the whole process and ask for help when you need it. Postpartum blues are a real thing and if you are feeling hopeless or dangerous please seek help immediately. You are not alone in this and there are ways to make it better. Oftentimes I have found that my friends who have experience post-partum don’t even realize that they are in the fog of it until much later. If you are experiencing anxiety, anger, extreme sadness, or feelings of distress talk to your doctor and those who love you.
Ask a friend to take some nice photos for you while you are in the hospital
Find someone ahead of time that can come to the hospital and take some nice photos for you. Birth photography is a new trend that I have not experienced yet, but I would love to have professional photos taken of those priceless moments. If this is something that you cannot afford to do or you feel like those moments are too intimate, you can arrange to have someone come after the baby is born and just take a few nice photos of you with your new baby. Some pictures you may want to consider capturing are: you and baby, babies small features, mother/father and baby, mother nursing, baby meeting siblings for the first time.
If you ask someone to take a few photos for you during the day when the lighting is nice you wont have to worry about capturing those moments yourself and you can just enjoy being and relaxing.
You’ll have a belly for a while
I’ll admit it is a little shocking when you see your post baby body for the first time. You will have a sunken tire belly for a while. A deflated balloon, a saggy man belly. Whatever you want to call it. You will feel leaky and saggy and very un-like yourself for a bit. It’s not pretty, but your body has been growing a human for nearly 10 months now and it is going to take a while for things to shift back to a new normal. It WILL happen…again, be patient with yourself and your amazing body that just developed your new, perfect human.
If you want to speed things along you can try the Belleband to help bring your waist and muscles together sooner. I haven’t done this in the past but I am going to give it a try this time around. After four babies I think I’ll need all the help I can get and I have heard really good things about this brand.
You will have nurses pressing on your uterus, a baby sucking on your sensitive nipples, and recovering from a marathon of a day. Find a comfortable robe that opens from the front and a nursing bra that holds you well. I love this robe I am wearing, it is comfortable, feminine, and pretty. If you are having visitors over you can quickly add some black leggings so you make sure you feel covered and held in.
I suggest buying a sleeping/lounging nursing bra like this one as well as a nursing bra with an under-wire. When my milk came in and I was adjusting to wearing breast pads it was nice to have something to hold me in during the day and at night. Your breasts becomes an “open for service” venue and it is nice to support them as best as you can!
Don’t feel guilty for saying no or setting a schedule for visitors
If this is your first baby chances are you are going to have a lot of people who are going to want to come visit you in the hospital. It is so nice to have visitors and enjoy the newness of a baby together but this is also the time that you are recovering. Don’t feel bad about setting hours and times that you feel work best for YOU. You just delivered the baby and you need your rest. If you feel awkward delivering the news enlist your significant other to do it for you. He is there to help with something, so let him know what you need!
Nursing is going to hurt even if the baby latches correctly
It drives me nuts when people say that nursing doesn’t hurt if the baby is latched correctly. Bull. It totally does. Yes, if the baby doesn’t open it’s mouth wide and is just sucking on the tip of the nipple it will hurt a lot more…but, even when the baby is latched correctly it is going to hurt. In fact, it usually makes we wince and sometimes scream for about the first month while my nipples toughen up and recover from cracking.
Lansinoh cream is your friend; apply it EVERY SINGLE TIME until your nipples get tougher. I also like to use lily padz as my nipples grow accustomed to nursing so that the rubbing of my shirt/bra doesn’t make me want to cry.
Be open to meeting with a lactation specialist if you are feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed, they are there to help you! Trying different positions and having a sense of humor help immensely. Check out this post I wrote on tips for nursing successfully if you want more detail!
Your milk is going to take a while to come in, You may have already seen this chart that shows the size of a baby’s tummy and how it grows every single day.
The colostrum that is produced and available right when the baby is born is extremely nutrient dense and although it doesn’t seem like a lot it really is just what your baby needs. With this being said I will accept the offer once or twice while in the hospital to have the nurse feed the baby a bottle in the middle of the night. Your milk supply is all about supply and demand, but to me getting a little extra sleep one night is worth a missed feeding.
When I had my first baby I was pre-eclamptic and this caused for my milk to come in even later than normal. Rather than being 3-4 days for my milk to come in it took up to a week maybe even a few days more. I was panicked thinking I was going to need to worry about supplementing with hormones or something, but I was just fine.
When your milk does come in it will feel like tight knots in the corners of your breasts below your armpits. You may be engorged and this needs to be taken care of so that you don’t get mastitis or clogged milk ducts. Taking a warm/hot shower and massaging out the knots while you self express the milk can help a lot. Taking a warm bath and doing the same thing can also be helpful. This is typically the time I will pull out my breast pump and stock up on a little milk for later. I love the Medela breast pump and I save them in these freezer bags.
If nursing doesn’t work out for you don’t beat yourself up! My sister really struggled with nursing and many times was left in tears of frustration. If your attempt to nurse is taking away the enjoyment of having a sweet, new baby and you feel like you are losing your mind there is no shame in using formula. We as mothers give so much of ourselves and we are all doing the very best we can. Embrace your decision and be happy with whatever you feel is best for you and your baby. Finding a happy balance is the number one goal!
Use the numbing spray
I didn’t know about this numbing spray until my second baby. By the time I had my third I was already anticipating the need for it. It is wonderful! If you do ask for an extra bottle they will charge you for it so depending on your insurance you may want to buy a bottle of your own to bring with you in your bag just in case.
Have your partner help you with toilet prep
Every single time you go to the bathroom for the first couple of days you may want to have your partner help you prep for your trip to the loo. I typically will have my husband prepare an ice pack, numbing spray, tucks pads, and fill up the squirty bottle with warm water. You are going to be wobbly and depending on whether you had an epidural or not you may need helping standing up and walking. The sitting part can be tricky so don’t be embarrassed by the need to be helped out a bit. When I delivered my babies naturally I had a much easier time getting around than when I had my epidural.
The first pee
It may take a minute. It is really important to have your water bottle at the ready because if you had tearing/incisions from your labor your pee may make your open wounds sting. The water bottle will help so much with this and may even help your body remember how to pee by spraying before you pee. Your hospital should supply you with one but if they don’t you can easily order one from amazon. I know this sounds strange, but these little tricks do work! Refer to tip just above.
The first poo
Your nurse will probably start dosing you will stool softener right away to help you with this monumental moment. I’m not going to lie, the first bowel movement after delivering a baby can be scary because it really can hurt. Don’t be in any rush and make sure that you are drinking A LOT of water. Not only are you producing milk now but your body will need all the fluid it can get. Don’t forget your squirty bottle.
Hemrroids are real my friends. Typically this is something that haunts me after I deliver a baby. You can develop what they call fischers which is tearing inside your colon. Not pretty or fun. Start taking care of your behind as soon as possible with TUCKS pads every time you go to the bathroom and if needed Hemorrhoidal Suppositories. I ended up having to get a prescription grade cream months after delivering my baby, this is more rare. I think it could have been a lot better had I taken care of it from day one even done a few Sitz baths.
Don’t feel guilty about sending your baby to the nursery
You may have the option of letting the nurses take the baby to the nursery at night or keeping the baby with you all night. This is a great opportunity to get a little extra sleep and could be your only chance for some rest for a while. Some are concerned about the security of sending their baby away at night. I have always felt very impressed with the nurses and the fact that they will scan the baby’s identification each time they bring and take the baby.
Make sure that you look for an identifying badge from the nurse each time a nurse comes to take your baby away for anything. Get to know your nurses, they can be your best friends for the next couple of days so treat them well and they will take good care of you!
Be generous with the nipple cream
Your nipples are going to need to toughen up as they used to the wear and tear of nursing. You may have cracking, bleeding, or general soreness. I typically use Lansinoh that uses lanonin. If you are allergic to lanolin you can use this brand or even ask your doctor for a subscription grade cream. I’ve heard some mothers like to use coconut oil as an alternative as well.
The important thing is to keep them moist and protected. You may want to try a nipple guard while nursing like this one. I also really like Lily Padz as they provide protection for your nipple and keep them moist in between feedings.
Ice packs are your friend
If you are delivering your baby vaginally you will want to keep ice close at hand. With my first delivery I used ice packs made from surgical gloves stuffed with ice and then tied at the top with a cloth wrapped around them. While these may be quite bulky and uncomfortable they do provide a great amount of relief because they are so cold. The next time around I was given ice packs that were shaped more like a pad and once broken provided some cool relief. These pads do not stay as cold as long but are a lot more comfortable if you are up and moving about. If you are looking to buy some of your own to have them on hand I would suggest these.
Each time I went to the bathroom I would have my husband prepare a new ice pack. I don’t go to the bathroom THAT often so it would be a few new ice packs each day. I would also suggest replacing tucks pads every single time you use the restroom as well.
Bring your baby’s baby book
One of my favorite things to do while in labor or shortly after the baby is born is start keeping a record of your baby’s first moments in the baby book. It is a great time to ask the nurse to put footprints right into the book for you, write down the stats, and your first reactions to the arrival of your baby. You may want to consider asking your nurse to put the footprints onto a plain white piece of paper if they are uncomfortable with putting the prints right into the book.
Have someone bring your favorite take-out to you
Sometimes the hospital food is wonderful. A lot of times it is horrible. Take up your family member’s offer when they ask you if they can bring you anything! For me, I love a big turkey sandwich with all the fixins! You will be hungry after delivering a baby and you will continue to need 200-300 extra calories a day to produce your milk supply if you choose to nurse. So celebrate and enjoy your favorite food!
Keep track of nursing and wet/soiled diapers with an app
Once you start nursing your baby (or bottle feed) you will be asked to keep track of the babies feeding times as well as their diaper changes. This is important information especially in the first few days/few weeks to make sure your baby is getting the nutrients he/she needs and things are functioning properly. The nurse will probably provide you with a paper to keep track, but I like keeping track of mine with this app.
Keep the mesh underwear and ask for extras
I personally really like the mesh underwear and always ask for extras when heading home. It keeps everything in and actually washes quite well. When it is time to say goodbye to those pretty panties there is no regret at all. For added leak protection you can try depends for women if you don’t want to mess with the fuss of the underwear and bulky pads.
Take all the samples
You will be provided with samples for the baby and for you. My suggestion is that you take them all! You may be charged extra if you ask for extra supplies so be familiar with your insurance plan and decide if you would like to have your insurance cover it or buy it yourself. You can expect to receive nipple cream, diapers, wipes, pads, mesh underwear, a booger sucker for the baby, squirty bottle, tucks, and snacks.
Don’t forget your water jug
One of my favorite things to bring home (besides my baby of course) is a water jug that comes from the hospital. It measures your fluid intake and the straw of the jug makes it a lot easier to get a drink when you are nursing and you don’t have use of both of your hands.
If you get a really nice nurse she may even get one for your husband! We use these water jugs all of the time so if you get one don’t leave it there!
Get ready to sweat
This is something that I never expected before having my babies. You WILL wake up in a pool of sweat maybe for a couple of days or maybe for a couple of weeks. I always have a lot of extra fluid to get rid of so I will pee a ton and I will wake up sweating. Don’t let this freak you out to bad as it is your body’s way of getting things back to normal.
One of my secret items that I always pack in my bag is unisom. It is a sleep remedy that is safe enough to take while nursing/pregnant and can really help if you are struggling with restless legs later in your pregnancy or if you are having a hard time falling asleep at the hospital. Make sure that you buy this kind that is NOT the gel capsule. You want the regular tablet.
Hospitals do not encourage you to take your own medication from home, so when I told them they said they didn’t need to know. Make sure to consult with your doctor to make sure you are being smart and safe. I usually will only take half a pill and that is just enough to help me drift off to sleep when there is so much noise in the hospital. They will bother you a LOT your first night to check your stats and make sure your bleeding is kept within check of normal limits. I usually get a better night sleep the second night.
Don’t forget the boppy
I love my boppy pillow. It has easily lasted me through three babies and just now I am thinking of buying a new one just so this little guy can have something fresh and new.
I hope these tips have helped you! If you have any ideas that you would like to share please add them to the comments below!
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