After the shock wears off that the hospital is actually letting you take your baby home after a mere two or three night stay, you may be left wondering “now what?”
Assuming you had an uncomplicated birth and everyone is healthy, you can expect to be discharged from the hospital and sent home - with a new human who’s been on this planet for less days than your hand has fingers!
What happens during those first 24 hours at home? Here’s the scoop.
1. You will bleed. This normal shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus is called lochia and decreases over ten days or so. It’s akin to a heavy period. Use pads, not tampons.
2. You may feel sore and achy. You just gave birth, after all! A sitz bath or a squirt bottle with warm water will feel good. If you had a C-section, bed rest is a must. Let others wait on you.
3. Your breasts will become more tender and full. By the time you get home, they may feel rock hard, indicating your mature milk has come in. Use warm compresses or hand express a little to relieve the pressure and allow your baby to latch more easily, if breastfeeding.
4. You may have a rush of adrenaline and/or then be exhausted. Leave the straightening up and laundry to someone else. Just relax and cuddle your baby.
6. You will spend much of those 24 hours “learning” your baby. Examining her toes, gazing into his eyes, admiring her grip, studying his every stretch, trying to differentiate between the varying cries, falling in love.
7. You will feed your baby on average, every 2.5 hours. Sometimes more frequently, sometimes less. An experienced mom, postpartum doula or lactation counselor can show you what your baby’s hunger cues look like before he starts crying.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll spend time experimenting how to hold her and which position(s) work best. You’ll wonder if she’s getting enough, if her latch is good, if she’s swallowing efficiently. You’ll wonder why she is sleeping after 2 minutes at your breast; why she is crying; why she is pulling away if she’s hungry.
If you’re formula feeding, you’ll sterilize bottles and nipples before their first use and then every time after. You’ll measure out formula and wonder if you’re using the right size/shape nipple. You’ll try holding him at different angles. Learn about PACED bottle feeding for the most comfortable and efficient way to bottle feed.
8. You may have a mood shift. With the birth of your baby and placenta, there is a drastic change to your hormonal balance which sometimes causes postpartum mood disorders. There are many possible symptoms: feeling anxious, depressed or hopeless; not eating or sleeping at night (when baby sleeps); being tearful or having disturbing thoughts; not wanting to hold your baby; feeling angry - these are just some manifestations signaling that you should seek the help of your OB or mental health professional, ideally one that specializes in postpartum mood disorders.
9. If this is your first baby, you will have a host of questions. Should I wake her to feed? What color is her poop? What does that color mean anyway? Does her umbilical cord stump look alright? Is he cold? Is he hot? Why does she hiccup so much? Does that hurt her? Am I holding him too much? When can I start tummy time? Should I have visitors? Have they been vaccinated? Does my diet affect my breastmilk? How long can formula stay out of the refrigerator?
The questions seem endless. Just know that as long as your baby is fed, has a clean diaper, is sleeping in a safe place and feels loved by you, it’ll all be ok. Cut yourself some slack. This is all new to you and your baby. After all, you’ve only been home for 24 hours!
But always listen to your gut. If something feels weird or just "not right," with either you or the baby, seek medical attention.
10. You’ll stare at your baby with amazement that he was just inside you, filling your belly. And you’ll be in awe that he’s finally here and all yours.