What to expect during the first 24 hours after birth.
First Things First
Cuddles are your main priority. This will help to stimulate your love and bonding hormone Oxytocin. Offering lots of cuddles and lots of skin to skin contact immediately after birth will help establish your baby's natural reflexes for breastfeeding/chest-feeding. If bottle-feeding, skin to skin is still very beneficial for bonding and attachment and colonising your baby's microbiome. Baby bathing and visitors are not a priority.
If you have had a straightforward vaginal delivery, you should be discharged within a couple of hours, so it will not necessarily be sent to the Postnatal Ward. If you have had a medicalised delivery, the time will be longer. The majority of mothers are out within 72 hours.
Your feelings will be dependent on what type of birth experience you just had. However, it is quite normal to feel overwhelmed, excited, exhausted, emotional, even anxious; you can feel a mixture of all of these.
I strongly encourage parents to room-in for the first 24 hours, which means being in bed with your baby. If you have not been able to do this within the first 24 hours, don't beat yourself up, just recreate this experience once you are at home. If you’re on the postnatal ward, still try to have as much skin to skin contact as possible with your little one.
Once home, it is so lovely to create a quiet, calm, and relaxed nest space for you and your baby. Turning your phone off or onto silent, only picking messages up once a day, especially straight after the birth is the right way of having quiet time with your partner, baby, and any older sibling/s. Another tip is to have a present or a special little something for the older sibling from baby to the older sibling.
You will experience bleeding, known as Lochia, even if you have had a C-section birth. The bleeding is like a heavy period; you can also experience blood clots, but if the clots are large, immediately tell your midwife. This bleeding can continue for several weeks until you are healed, so don’t panic.
During pregnancy, it is a fantastic idea to make yourself a little Postnatal basket containing all the essentials that you may need throughout the day and night, especially if breastfeeding.
Items to include:
Bottles of water
Hydrating Drinks (coconut water)
Herbal warming teas (Ginger is really good during this period)
Thermos flask for hot water
Pillows, Breastfeeding Pillows for support for your back.
Your favourite essential oil
A book /toy or a treat for your older child toddler.
And Finally anything else personal that you may need while breastfeeding.
Be Kind to Yourself
Be patient with yourself if you are breastfeeding/chest-feeding or bottle feeding. You are learning a new skill, so it takes time for you and your baby to get to know one another. By taking this time, you may also start to learn your baby's cues for feeding.
Keep up with Deep Breath Work
When you feel stressed, take long deep breaths (if you did Hypnobirthing, use your up-breathing breath) but, if not, don’t worry just take a deep breath in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Relax your body as much as possible, drop the shoulders down away from the ears, soften into the muscles in your body, then stretch your neck from side to side, rotate the shoulders forwards and backward and relax the jaw.
Remember, the more stressed you become, the more your baby will pick up on it.
Before feeding your baby, try to get as comfortable as possible when either breastfeeding/chest-feeding or bottle feeding and don't be scared to try different positions with lots of pillows and breastfeeding pillows for support. If bottle feeding, remember to switch arms to prevent tension held on one side of the body. This is also good for your baby to benefit from cross-lateral body movement. This is great for brain development.
Ask for Help
If you are still in the hospital or on the Postnatal Ward and your partner can't be with you, ask for support; don't feel silly to keep asking. Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time, patience and practice. If you are bottle feeding, again don’t be shy in asking about how to do so.
It is a good idea to consider engaging Remote Doula services that may help you with some Facetime support or reach out to a private lactation consultant for longer in-depth support. This can be on the ward or at home.