Each and every time that I witness the strength of a woman in labour, I am amazed with the process. Our bodies grow these humans and birth them as they arrive in so many different ways. Sometimes labouring can be fairly quick and seamless, other times long and extremely tiring. Nothing can prepare you for how your baby will present his or herself but having doula support during labour definitely poses many advantages.
Whether you choose to birth at home or in a hospital, the transition into home life with your newborn can often lead to many questions that arise during the first days. Despite being tired and recovering from labour and birth you will still need to care for yourself and your baby.
* First and foremost, rest. This means you try to catch a few zzz's when your baby is sleeping, Sleep and rest are important for your physical recovery, mental ability as well to relax the body and aid in the production of breast milk. Limiting visitors in the first week is also something to consider as you should not be entertaining guests but rather have guests doing things for you.
Which brings me to my second point. Have a great support circle.
* Support comes in many forms and hopefully this is discussed and somewhat planned prior to your baby's arrival. Having support from a partner, family, doula and friends will provide care and limit the daily tasks that you'll need to get done. This can look like someone to help with light cleaning, groceries, meals, running those few errands and helping with tending to baby. Often times new moms also need some physical help with moving around the house and the social coffee chats prove to be a positive experience.
* Nourishing your body by staying hydrated (especially if breast feeding), eating whole foods and snacks like homemade protein muffins limit the time you need to be in the kitchen and maximizing your rest time.
* Enjoy your baby. Cuddles, skin to skin and bonding are all great for baby's development and also create those feel good hormones for mama.. Support can assist you with feeding if needed. Though breast milk starts to develop mid-pregnancy, the first few days, a milk flow will increase as referred "milk coming in". Typically between day 2-4 the quantity will increase and will begin to change from colostrum to mature milk. Newborns on average should feed every 2-3 hours however some are closer to 4 hours. You can feed on demand and look for early hunger signals: putting fingers/hands in mouth, rooting/turning head. A typical feed would be 30 minutes breastfeeding and formula 2-3 ounces. As long as baby is gaining weight, is satisfied and sleeping as well producing multiple wet diapers, they are feeding great. Don't forget to burp you baby as they tend to swallow air which can make them fussy. Burping over the shoulder or on your lap supporting the head and neck should be about 5 minutes. If your baby doesn't burp, you can try another position.
* With baby's feeding there should be as many wet diapers as the days old they are especially in the first week. Changing diapers as baby wets will limit the chances of rash as well using a natural barrier such as coconut oil also has antibacterial properties and soothes the skin. Front to back wiping is always the best practice especially for females including some discharge that can be present as well as preventing urinary tract infections. The umbilical cord will dry up and fall off typically between day 10-21 so keep if clear of debris and the diaper top being too tight around this area.
* Babies are covered in vernix. This wonderful white substance acts to protect the baby and provides moisture to the skin. You do not need to wash it off and is recommended to wait a few days to do so. Bath water should be warm, not hot and in a warm room. Using a small cloth, and gently pour small amounts of water over their body preventing them being cold. Use a mild soap and gently wash and rinse their body. You do not need to bathe your baby more than a few times each week and some just do a sponge or wiping type bath more frequently.
The first weeks can feel like a whirlwind. So many emotions and trying to figure out a new routine. Learning about your baby, their ques and how to navigate this fourth trimester is a new experience. We're always here to support you.