Every parent will agree that having your first baby comes with a lot of emotions, good and bad. Those emotions, mixed with the exhaustion of having just endured labor and experiencing so many new unexpected situations, can be completely overwhelming. No matter how mentally prepared you think you are, anything can throw a wrench into each situation. You have no idea what it will be like to suddenly have this little delicate life be your responsibility, no matter how much you prepared for it. After labor and childbirth your confidence can go out the window! This can complicate making decisions for you and your baby post-delivery. Here are five tips for first time moms for AFTER your baby has arrived.

1. Ask questions, do not feel rushed or pressured into making an uninformed decision.

Hospitals have a routine and checklist for you and your baby after childbirth. Generally, this is not custom tailored to each person.  The hospital has created their protocol based on many years of caring for the health needs of the general population and will error on the side of caution. If the situation allows, do not be afraid to ask questions of your medical staff. Part of their role is to provide you with options and information so that you can make educated decisions for you and your baby.  Remember, this is YOUR baby. So future moms and dads, you will be both physically and mentally exhausted, but do not be afraid to ask questions or even ask for a second opinion.

2. Stay with your baby.

Gone are the days of a healthy baby staying in the hospital nursery after birth. Now, rooming with your baby is not only encouraged, but expected, to stimulate bonding and breastfeeding. There will still be tasks the hospital staff have to perform to monitor the health of you and your baby. If able, you, your significant other, or a family member should stay with your baby at all times. Not only will you feel more confident in making sure your baby is receiving the care you want them to receive, you will be able to ask questions regarding any tests or concerns on behalf of your baby. This will bring peace of mind while the baby is receiving care.

3. Create a Post-Birth plan, do your research about aftercare services BEFORE you are faced with big decisions.

You can’t plan for everything, but having a general idea of what aftercare involves will help you with your decision making.  Are you aware of the benefits of delayed cord clamping? Will you be encapsulating your placenta? Did you know that immediately after birth your baby will be given an antibacterial eye ointment? What does a low APGAR test mean for your baby? What are the benefits of immediate breastfeeding? During your short stay your baby will also be given a Vitamin K shot and a Hepatitis B Vaccine. Educate yourself on your state laws and hospitals newborn screening procedures. This will help you determine what is best for you and your baby. You can communicate these wishes before the baby arrives, allowing for any questions to be answered regarding what type of care you want your baby to receive. Having a POST-birth plan in place beforehand will allow you to be more confident with your decisions. You will be less likely to cave to pressures of hospital staff to go along with their status quo. Keep in mind that aftercare (as well as childbirth itself) requires a bit of flexibility for the unexpected.  Doctors and nurses can feel like authority figures, but remember this is your new little family. You do what’s best for YOU and YOUR family.

4. Have a support system and use it.

Whether it’s someone to help you advocate in the hospital, or someone that will assist you with what is needed following your return home, make sure you have your support system in place.  Are they organizing a meal train? Arranging for someone to clean your house? Or are they able to stay in the hospital with you while your SO gets a break or returns to work? Now is not the time to try to do it all!  Do not hesitate to accept help when offered. You should be focusing on healing and caring for yourself and your new baby. Should things not go as expected, having your support system in place will provide you with an advocate and enable you to focus on the important task of being a new mom. Make sure who you choose knows your wishes, respects your choices, can be supportive and will be able to strongly advocate for you. Your support system should reduce stress, not create it.

5. Prepare for the pain of recovery.

You think your end-goal is giving birth, but that is when it all begins! The recovery process is long and should be taken seriously. Did you know that after your baby is born you will then have to deliver the placenta? Were you aware that during a cesarean section you have organs removed from your body??  You may need stitches (vaginal or C-section), get hemorrhoids, have a hernia, or “simply” suffer days of full body pain. Even your organs will need time to go back into place! This is just the beginning. Get ready for weeks of uterine cramping and bleeding, sore nipples and mastitis, UTI’s, and prepare for the pain of your first post-baby poop! It’s weird, uncomfortable and slightly scary. It can feel like you are delivering all over again! Prepare to not be 100% right after delivery. It took nine months for your body to prepare for childbirth, and HOURS/DAYS to go through it, give it the proper time to heal and adjust in the aftermath.

Just a gentle reminder that your body will be different after you deliver. You may look more pregnant leaving the hospital, when you are swollen and preparing to go home, than you did when you arrived! Every woman’s body heals differently post-delivery, so don’t expect to be back to your pre-pregnancy body when you are leaving the hospital. Don’t compare yourself to another’s journey. You CAN bring your favorite pair of non-maternity jeans and your Maeband, and everyone will marvel at how great you’re looking after having a baby! Leave them wondering how you fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans so soon.

And with that, I’d like to say CONGRATULATIONS on your journey and good luck on preparing for your baby! Mama, you got this!
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