Getting to know your baby
Read our guide on getting to know your newborn in the first few hours and days, including bonding, feeding, appearance and first checks.
Congratulations! You’ve achieved an amazing thing. You’ve carried and delivered a brand-new human being, and now it’s time to care for and feed them (although what you might want to do most is sleep). It’s a joyful experience, but there’s no doubt that it’s also hard work. You’re used to being independent, but it’s important at this time to accept all the help you can get. You want to do your best for your new baby and that includes giving yourself the time and space to recuperate. Remember that you deserve to enjoy this unique time too.
For the first seven days after birth, whether you are in hospital or discharged home, you might be prescribed an anticoagulant injection to reduce the risk of blood clots. If you are at home, you will be given ready-measured doses which you administer into your stomach. You’ll be provided instructions and a bin for any used sharp objects. The needle is only small, and the injection pen will click when applied, to tell you the dose has been given successfully.
Depending on your birth, it can take time before you feel strong enough to walk around after labour. When you’re ready, here are some simple tips to help you to get moving:
After a few days, increase the frequency and intensity of pelvic floor exercises. Take walks around the room, or go outside for some fresh air if you feel able. You don’t have to go far. Make sure you’re getting enough protein (such as lean meat, fish, dairy or nuts) to aid recovery. Try to drink two litres of water every day and remember to empty your bladder every two to three hours. You might not feel as aware of your need to wee as usual.
The very earliest you can expect to do high-impact exercises (like running or aerobics) is after your postnatal check at six to eight weeks. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should, or that you will feel up to it. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself.
Your midwife and/or health visitor will come to visit you regularly in the first few weeks. Your baby will be weighed and any remaining tests will be carried out (like the ‘heel prick’ test). Your healthcare professional will also assess your baby’s overall health and wellbeing and check on your recovery too. Although they’re interested in the safety of your home environment, don’t feel you need to tidy up. They know your priority is looking after your baby. Remember, they’re there to help, so answer all their questions honestly and take the opportunity to talk about any concerns you have.
At 6-8 weeks after the birth you’ll have a postnatal check with your doctor, who will want to check your baby’s development and your recovery. But your doctor will also be keen to hear about your emotional wellbeing, which is just as important. If there’s anything you’re concerned about, either physically or mentally, talk to your doctor, health visitor or midwife.
Your family and friends are understandably keen to meet your new arrival, but your priority is bonding with your baby and recuperating. It’s fine to say no for now. If well-meaning grandparents want to come and stay, be realistic about whether this will be a help or a source of stress. Could they check in to a local hotel instead?
When you are up for visitors, don’t feel the need to make them tea. Ask them to do it. Most people are only too happy to do something useful. Other ways they can help include:
It’s a cliché, but the time with your newborn will fly by. Try and live in the moment and enjoy this special time together as a family. Don’t do more than you need to and rest when you can – which may mean going to bed when your baby does.
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will help you to recover and will also ensure your breast milk is full of essential nutrients for your baby.
Let the housework wait. Don’t feel guilty about spending your day pinned to the sofa in the early weeks; equally, a sling will give your baby the closeness they need and give you the novel sensation of having both hands free to make a sandwich. Better still, if your partner is nearby, let the baby sleep on them while you take time to recharge – whether it’s by having a bath, getting some fresh air or taking a nap.
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