As a new mother, it is very normal for you to feel excited and at the same time tired. You will experience physical and emotional changes during this time, so give yourself time to deal with these changes.
Recovery from vaginal birth will take at least six weeks, while recovery from a C-section will take longer, possibly a few months. It is important to take care of yourself both for your sake and your baby’s.
Below is some information that will make this period of recovery easier for you.
Body Back to Normal
Pregnancy involves the uterus (womb) stretching to accommodate the baby. After delivery, the uterus must return back to its non-pregnant condition. The uterus becomes smaller each day after delivery. You may experience mild cramping or after-birth pains because the uterus is working harder to get back into its non-pregnant shape. It is usually back to its non-pregnant shape by the time you go for your six-week checkup.
Rest and Activity
It is important to get lots of rest after delivery of your baby. Fatigue may be one of the biggest factors in your life right now, because motherhood is one of the few roles in life that never lets up! Taking care of your new baby can be both physically and emotionally draining, so it is very important to take care of yourself so that you will be better able to cope.
You need at least two, one-hour rest periods each day for the first two weeks after delivery. When the baby is resting, you should rest also. Do not over stress yourself with household activities for a while. Know when to say “No” to visitors. If you rest when you should, your energy and stamina will gradually return.
Because you are still recovering from the physical changes of birth, there are some activities you should avoid:
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Avoid heavy housework
- Avoid stair climbing for the first two weeks
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first four weeks
- Avoid driving two weeks after delivery
- Avoid sitting for long intervals
- Avoid sex for the first six weeks
Most importantly, if you feel tired, have increased bleeding, and increased discomforts, STOP AND SLOW DOWN.
Getting Help at Home
Ask for help. Let family and friends help with meals, grocery shopping, vacuuming, laundry and heavy cleaning. Also, family may even enjoy watching the baby for a while which is a perfect time for you to slip away and rest.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Good nutrition is important for a healthy energy level and a quicker recovery. Every new mother needs balanced meals to help tissues heal and increase strength. At mealtime, you should eat enough to feel satisfied. Your diet should include breads, leafy vegetables, fruits, milk products, meats and fish. Between meals, you can snack on fruits and low-fat dairy products. Use the food pyramid to guide you:
Personal Care and Hygiene
After you have your baby, your body goes through normal changes to get you back to your normal non-pregnant condition.
Taking care of your perineum or private parts is very important after delivery. Keeping this area clean will prevent infections.
Perineal Care Instruction:
- Always wash your hands before touching the vaginal area.
- For at least one week, you will use betadine, phisoderm or water to clean your stitches every time you go to the bathroom. (You will mix the solutions according to directions or as instructed by your nurse).
- After use of the solution, pat yourself dry. Always clean and wipe yourself front to back.
- You should change your sanitary pad often
- Do not douche or use tampons until after your six-week checkup.
You may shower or bathe daily with warm water. You may shampoo your hair as usual without any ill effects.
The following provides guidelines in caring for a cesarean incision:
Post-op Wound Care for C-Sections:
- Always wash your hands before touching your incision.
- Avoid letting anyone touch your incision (children, family members) unless your doctor tells you to.
- Limit the times you touch your incision.
- You may shower or sponge bathe, but you should not take a tub bath until your physician okays it.
- Remember to always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom; avoid allowing vaginal secretions from toilet tissue or sanitary pads to get on your incision.
- Avoid applying lotions, oils, creams, or anything to your incision unless your doctor tells you.
- It is important to keep your incision dry and allow it to “air dry” as needed, especially if your stomach folds over.
- The incision line should be clean and closed without redness, swelling or drainage.
- Check your incision line every day. A mirror may help you see the incision better.
- The Steri Strips are part of your dressing. Avoid pulling them- they will come off on their own.
- Avoid sexual intercourse until your doctor okays it.
- If you have any drainage, redness, swellings, a bad odor from the incision, or an increase in pain, CALL YOUR DOCTOR.
When to Call Your Doctor:
Call your doctor or health care provider if you have any of the following:
- Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Bleeding that requires a new sanitary pad every hour or if you pass a clot larger than a 50-cent piece
- Vaginal discharge or odor, or burning during urination
- Redness, discharge or pain at an incision site that becomes worse
- Severe abdominal pain
- A hot, red, hard or painful area in a leg
- Red streaks or hard, lumpy areas in a breast with a fever (mastitis)
This exciting time requires a lot of new instructions on how to take care of your newborn. Below is some information explaining how to perform day-to-day activities after you go home.
Bathing the Baby
- Towel for drying
- Large towel (to use as padding) to place baby on
- Mild soap or liquid baby wash
- Mild shampoo
- Basin or tub
- Clothes, diaper, blanket
Instructions for Tub or Sponge Bath:
- Gather all items you will need for the bath. Make sure the room is warm- about 75 degrees. (Tub or Sponge Bath)
- Water should be comfortably warm, not too hot or cold. Test the water with your wrist or elbow.
- Place your basin or tub at a level that’s easy to reach. Place a small towel in the bottom of the basin to make it less slippery.
- Hold your baby so the head is supported on your wrist and the fingers of the same hand holds him/her in the armpit.
- Wash the baby’s face with a washcloth without soap. Shampoo the scalp about twice a week, taking care not to get soapy water in your baby’s eyes.
- Rinse the scalp with clear warm water and pat dry with a dry washcloth.
- Dress your baby and wrap in blanket.
- Sponge baths can be done in your lap or on a table. Use a waterproof pad if it’s on a hard surface.
- Wash your baby’s face with clear warm water. Scalp can be cleansed using a washcloth with mild soap or baby wash.
- Lightly soap the washcloth or your hand to wash the rest of the baby. Wipe the soap off by going over the body several times with a rinsed washcloth. Make sure to clean and remove soap from areas with creases. Dress the baby and wrap in blanket.
Circumcision and Uncircumcised Care
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the tip of the penis so the head of the penis is exposed. Complications include excessive bleeding, infection and surgical injury of the penis. Parents should discuss their options and reasons for having a circumcision performed on their baby with their pediatrician.
- Rinse the circumcision area at each diaper change by squeezing warm water over tip of penis.
- You may use Vaseline on tip of penis with each diaper change for the first few days after circumcision (This is not necessary, but may prevent the site from sticking to the diaper).
- After the circumcision is healed, (about 3-5 days) you can bathe your baby in a tub without harming the circumcision or penis.
- NOTE: you may see a sign of irritation (whitish or yellowish places) as the circumcision heals. This is normal.
- Care of the uncircumcised baby is easy. “Leave it alone” is good advice.
- Washing and rinsing your baby’s genitals (private parts) daily is all that is needed.
- Do not pull back the foreskin (skin covering the tip of the penis) in an infant. Forcing the foreskin back may harm the penis, causing pain, bleeding, and possible scar tissue. The natural separation of the foreskin from the tip of the penis may take several years. When the boy is older, he can learn to pull back the foreskin and clean under it on a daily basis.
The most common way to take your baby’s temperature is through Axillary means.
- Place the thermometer under the armpit
- Leave in place until you hear a beep, or until there is a signal the temperature is complete.
- This method is used with babies under 6 months and up to 4 years old.
Taking a Temperature
- Take temperature when the baby is quiet.
- When reporting fever, always tell the doctor the exact thermometer reading and when the temperature was taken.
- Check to make sure the battery is good in digital thermometer, and make sure thermometer bulb is not cracked or broken if using a glass thermometer.
If the stump (place where cord was attached) is moist, clean it several times a day with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. This will help it dry.
- Keep the diaper below the belly button until cord has completely healed.
- Give a sponge bath until the cord has fallen off and belly button has completely healed.
- Call the doctor if the belly button becomes red, bleeds or smells bad.
A bulb syringe is used to clean your baby’s nose and mouth of formula or mucous. You may use it when your baby spits up, has a stuffy nose or sneezes (this is how he clears his nose). Keep a bulb syringe close to your baby, especially during feedings.
How to use the bulb syringe:
- First, squeeze the bulb until it is collapsed. (This is done before entering the baby’s nose or mouth.)
- Place it in one nostril and quickly release the bulb. (The formula or mucous will be sucked into the bulb)
- Remove the bulb syringe from the nose and squeeze the bulb quickly into a tissue to get rid of the secretions. (Repeat for other nostril, and mouth, if necessary).
NOTE: Clean the bulb syringe with hot soapy water by placing the tip in the water, squeeze the hot water into the bulb, then squeeze the water out. Repeat several times, then rinse the same way with clean, hot water. Let the bulb syringe air dry for repeat use.
You will receive an immunization record before leaving the hospital.
Voiding (Making Urine)
- Babies are changed when they wake in the morning, around feeding times and when you put them down at night.
- Your baby should have 6-8 very wet diapers in 24 hours.
- If urine is dark and your baby has not wet the diaper 6-8 times in a day, the baby may not be getting enough formula or breast milk. Notify the doctor after 8 hours of no urine or dark urine. Babies become dehydrated very quickly.
Stools or Bowel Movements
- Baby’s bowel movements (BM) are usually yellow in color by the time the baby is discharged from the hospital. BMs are usually soft with some form, or a mushy/pasty consistency.
- Some babies have a BM with every feeding and some have a BM every day or two.
- It is normal for babies to grunt, strain and turn red when having a BM. (This does not mean they are constipated).
- A large increase in the number of BMs your baby has that are very watery.
- Diarrhea can be a symptom of illness or food intolerance.
- Babies dehydrate easily and quickly with diarrhea.
- Call the doctor if your baby has frequent watery stools in a short time (6-8 hours).
- Constipation is when stools are hard, like small pebbles or rocks.
- Formula and formula with iron does not cause constipation.
- Call the doctor if your baby:
- Is having frequent problems with BMs
- Problem continues for several days
- Baby cries for long periods when having a BM
Back to Sleep/ SIDS
What is SIDS?
SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under one year of age. It is the number one cause of death for infants between one month and one year old. Because many SIDS babies are found in their cribs, some people call SIDS “crib death.” Cribs, however, do not cause SIDS.
What are the Risk Factors?
The cause of SIDS is not known. There are no warning signs; however, several factors have been identified that seem to contribute to the incidence of SIDS. The following characteristics have consistently been identified as independent risk factors, making these babies at greater risk for the incidence of SIDS:
- Babies who sleep on their stomach—biggest risk factor
- Babies who sleep with soft toys, fluffy blankets or other soft items in the crib
- Babies who sleep on a soft surface
- Babies who are overheated
- Babies of mothers under age 20 at the birth of their first child
- Babies of mothers who smoke during or after pregnancy
- Babies who live in a household with smokers
- Babies of mothers with little or no prenatal care
- Babies born prematurely or with low birth weight
- Boy babies
Eight things you can do to reduce the chances of your baby becoming a victim of SIDS.
1. Put your baby to sleep on his/her back. This can be the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS. A baby sleeping on his/her back is not at a greater risk for choking or swallowing vomit.
2. No comforters, pillows or stuffed animals in the crib. Let your baby sleep in a sleeper instead of using a lot of blankets. Keep the room temperature so it’s comfortable for an adult.
3. No smoking. Mothers who smoke while pregnant are three times more likely to have a SIDS baby. Exposure to second-hand smoke doubles your baby’s risk for SIDS. Don’t let others smoke around your baby, either.
4. Put your baby on a firm, flat surface to sleep. Use a firm mattress or other firm surface. Don’t let your baby sleep on waterbeds, comforters or fluffy surfaces.
5. Keep your baby’s head uncovered during sleep. Place your baby’s feet at the bottom of the crib so that he/she can’t scoot down under the blankets.
6. Tell others who care for your baby about SIDS. Educate others about SIDS and ways to reduce the risk. Share this information with grandparents, babysitters and others who care for your child to make sure that wherever your baby sleeps she will sleep safely.
7. Get good health care. Getting good prenatal care with regular check-ups, eating healthy foods and staying away from drugs, alcohol and smoking decreases your baby’s risk for SIDS. Make sure your baby gets regular well-baby checkups and is up to date on all immunizations.
8. Breast feed your baby. Some studies show that SIDS is less common in breastfed babies than in bottle-fed babies. This may be because breast milk provides protection against infections that can trigger SIDS.
Putting babies to sleep on their backs can decrease the chances of SIDS. This is a change in behavior and tradition for many of us, but making this change can help our babies survive their first year of life. The effort we make to change our tradition on how we position our babies in their cribs will go a long ways in saving babies lives. Saving babies lives are worth the change in tradition!