First-time moms are often anxious about what to expect after bringing baby home for the first time. During those precious first few days you may experience a rollercoaster of emotions. There’s the pure joy of finally having baby in your arms, the excitement of what’s to come, the stress and anxiety over whether or not you’re doing everything correctly and of course the pure exhaustion that comes with sleepless nights.
Don’t be worried if you feel excited one moment and a little overwhelmed the next, all these feelings are completely natural. As time goes on and you get to know your little one, it’s likely that you’ll feel a lot calmer and more relaxed.
If you’re pregnant with your second or third baby, by now you’ll know pretty much exactly what to expect when you get home from the hospital, even if every baby is different. But for first-time moms who have no idea what’s in store, we’ve compiled a guide to the early days. Every pregnancy, birth and baby is unique, but these general guidelines will give you an idea of what’s to come, and when, so that you’re not completely caught off-guard.
No two births are the same, and no matter how much you read, you may never truly be prepared for what is to come. You will read lots on the signs of labour and how to prepare for the birth and may have attended antenatal classes in preparation. You may have a birth plan in place, and would likely have practiced your breathing by now. But what if things don’t go according to plan?
The most important thing about giving birth is the safety of mom and baby. Giving birth, no matter how or where, is something to be very proud of. If your birth plan has to change due to your or baby’s health and safety, try not to be too disappointed. In the months and weeks leading up to your due date, it’s best to keep an open mind, even if you are certain the birth will go according to plan. The healthcare professionals at your side will do everything to honour your wishes, but should complications arise, they will always make the decision best for your and baby.
You have been caring for this baby for nine months and will know what feels right when the time comes. When your little bundle arrives it will be well worth the wait.
The first 48 hours
Those first couple of days can be filled with a mixture of emotions and opens the door to a whole new world of exciting experiences. From the first meconium nappy (the first poo has a black tar-like consistency which is made up of what baby ingested whilst in the womb), to trying to breastfeed and the first bath time, try to enjoy these experiences as much as possible. They all seem strange but these are just a few of the many firsts you will experience throughout your little one’s life.
As a new mom you may be encouraged to breastfeed within the first hour after you’ve given birth. The first milk your body produces is called colostrum, which is very high in nutrients. Baby’s sucking will help stimulate your milk flow. It’s important that you feel comfortable breastfeeding by the time you leave the hospital.
Whilst in hospital you will have the guidance of the nurses at your disposal. They will help you master your baby’s feeds, show you how to clean baby and put your mind at ease in those first few days. You may also have a string of visitors, as family and friends drop by at the hospital to come and see baby and check on you. Try to rest as much as possible in these first few days. It’s not just the busy weeks ahead that your body has to prepare for, but it also needs time to heal post-birth.
Depending on your birth, you will require some medical attention in the first few hours after the birth. With a vaginal delivery, most moms experience some pain while the uterus starts to contract back to its original size. This can be painful, and your doctor or nurse may try help the process along by pressing on your belly and massaging it every 15 minutes for the first hour or two after delivery.
Moms who give birth via C-section may experience discomfort after the procedure. Your doctor will prescribe painkillers to manage the pain post-surgery, and these may make you feel a bit drowsy.
What can you expect from baby in the first 48 hours?
Most newborns are alert for a few hours after being born, so this is a great time to bond. As soon as baby is born he or she will be placed on mom’s chest to increase their body heat and also to bond. After this baby will be taken away to be washed, given all the necessary medical checks and wrapped up warmly and snugly. Provided you are both healthy and doing well, you’ll have plenty of time to bond in the hours that follow. Baby will need a feed every 2 – 3 hours.
Those first few days at home
After all the build-up to the birth, you may not have considered what the first few days at home will be like. You will probably have guests popping by, flowers and cards arriving and all this time you may feel tired and just want to spend some time alone with your new family. Give yourself some space to enjoy these precious moments and don’t be scared to say no to guests for a couple of days until you feel up to it! Although they will be excited to meet the newest member of your family, they will understand that you want to spend time with your new family too.
As a partner, listen and support mom in whatever she needs at that time. Take on as much as you can; nappy changes, dressing baby, feeds if possible, household tasks, preparing food and drinks and most importantly, ensure mom rests as much as she can after the birth.
Life never stands still with your baby. Changes and new stages will continue to happen with your little one from the birth right through to when they fly the nest. After those first few days and weeks, you can expect to see and experience many things. We have highlighted just a few:
At around 6-8 weeks, baby will repay all of those sleepless nights with the ultimate gift to make it all feel worthwhile. Their first smile! Baby’s first smile is a sign that their vision has improved and that they are able to recognize your face. At around this stage your baby will also begin to understand that they have feelings and that they can use their smile to express feelings of happiness, excitement and pleasure.
At around six months old, baby will be ready to start having their first tastes of solid foods alongside their usual milk. Weaning can be quite a stressful process for many parents, but it needn’t be. The key to successful weaning is to never give up – did you know that it can take up to twenty times for baby to accept a new food that’s given to them? If you’re not having any luck with a particular food, rather try something else. Many parents like to start off with yoghurt as it’s dense with nutrients and very palatable. You may also want to try soft veggies like butternut or sweet potato, or baby cereals. Pureed fruit and veggies are a great way of ensuring they get all the minerals and vitamins they need.
Babies can start to develop teeth through the gums as early as 8 weeks old, with baby’s first usually appearing at around 6 months. Teething is often a difficult time for parents as baby may be sore and uncomfortable. Some symptoms of teething may include swollen gums, fussiness and crying, a slightly raised temperature, drooling, changes in sleeping pattern and gnawing or biting on any item baby can get their hands on.
Parents may soothe the effects of teething by giving baby something cold to suck on, teething snacks to chew on, or by massaging their sore gums.
In what feels like the blink of an eye, baby goes from not moving to never staying still! Baby may begin to roll from tummy to back as early as four months old, mastering the reverse move a few months later. This is a major milestone, and the beginning of a lot of moving around. This new founded skill will help them get around a bit, and the incentive is usually you, or a favourite toy.
As soon as little one is on the move, previously ‘safe’ areas can become filled with potential hazards as they become more inquisitive. Child-proofing the house with a few simple steps before it is necessary will mean that accidents may be prevented. Falls, burns, trips or pulling items onto themselves are most common with young children. Ensure that stair gates are in place, hot items are kept out of reach, plug sockets are made secure, bath water temperature is checked and medicines and cleaning products are locked away.
Though there are many common guidelines we can give new moms for the first few days, weeks and months following the birth of their little one, these are no more than guidelines. As your doctor will tell you, every pregnancy, birth and baby is different, and what works for one mom may not work for another. The same goes for baby’s development. Though there are broad guidelines as to when you can expect baby to do certain things, these are simply guidelines, and all babies develop at their own pace. If you’re ever uncertain about baby’s progress, contact your healthcare provider rather than making assumptions based on other babies around you.