Giving birth can be overwhelming and sometimes we are at a loss what to do after birth. While rest is paramount, there ought to be other items on your “to-do” list especially those that have to be done within the first few weeks of birth. Here’s a recommended list of things to do for mums after giving birth.
#1 Good Nutrition
A balanced diet is important and there are certain nutrients to replenish as some are lost during pregnancy or required in greater amounts for babies (via breastmilk). The food types to include in your diet after giving birth are:
– Fatty fish: Fish like salmon has omega 3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for the baby’s neuro-development, eye and cognitive development. Supplements such as fish oil or flax oil can also be taken. DHA is also linked to reduced risks of postpartum depression. Be careful though to avoid fish known to have higher mercury level such as swordfish and mackerel.
– Dairy products: Dairy products contain protein, vitamins B and D and more importantly calcium that is needed for the baby’s bone development. It is also much needed by the mum as studies have shown that 3% to 5% of a mother’s bone mass is lost during breastfeeding.
– Iron: Iron is needed for the formation of hemoglobin for red blood cells, and mothers who are anemic or tested to have lower level of iron during pregnancy should take care to consume enough iron. Iron sources included lean beef and legumes, such as black beans and kidney beans.
– Vitamins and minerals: Include antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries and vitamin-C rich fruits like oranges in your diet. Also incorporate leafy greens in your diet. Check with your doctor on which multivitamin supplements to take.
It is important to keep hydrated for adequate breast milk production and also to protect the mum from dehydration. Reduce caffeinated drinks and instead drink more water, milk and fruit juice (in moderated amounts or diluted).
You may feel like having to do it all. However, the lack of self-care and rest can also negatively affect your baby (bearing in mind that babies can read expressions and sense when the mother is stressed!). Getting rest is not going to be easy as newborns require frequent feeds – try to get as much help as you can from others (and focus on feeding and resting) and take naps whenever the baby is sleeping (don’t start doing household chores!).
#4 Decline Visits
Many friends may want to visit, either at the hospital or during the first month. If you just want to stay home, bond with your baby, get plenty of rest and not be disturbed, don’t feel bad about saying no.
#5 Help during Bath
For the first few days after delivery, have someone beside you should you move around or go to shower. Hot shower can cause the blood pressure to drop, and you may faint due to the sudden drop in pressure.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding as soon as practicable will increase the chances of successful breastfeeding. Check with the hospital and have your newborn sleep in the same room as you, rather than at the nursery. Unless there is a medical reason for giving formula milk, try to breastfeed first; arrange for a lactation consultant to help with the latch-on technique and have your baby drink the colostrum.
#7 Nursing on Demand
At least for the first six weeks, it is important to nurse on demand so that the breast milk supply will increase. You will need to “get ready” by freeing time for you to do so, and getting plenty of rest, fluids and good nutrition.
#8 Skin to Skin Contact
Skin to skin contact is researched to have several benefits; for instance, helps with bonding with the baby, less stress for the baby (from less distressed crying) and helps with breastfeeding. It is therefore important to request for your baby to be with you rather than in the hospital nursery. You may also want to check whether the hospital will delay giving a bath to your baby and instead bring your baby to you first. Delaying your baby’s bath allows the vernix to stay on the baby for a longer time, providing anti-microbial infection.
There are other immediate care decisions for your baby which require discussion prior to the delivery. One decision is whether to bank the stem cells and if yes, whether to do so at a private cord bank or at a public bank. The other decision is whether to delay the clamping of umbilical cord, which has both its pros and cons – benefit include reducing iron deficiency but a downside is increased risk of jaundice. Another medical area that parents have to ask about is the administration of antibiotic eye ointment after birth – this is to prevent bacterial infection but some parents prefer delaying it for an hour to increase the one to one time right after birth (as a side effect of the eye ointment is temporary blurred vision). Discuss with your spouse and your doctor, and after delivery, try not to be stressed and enjoy the time with your baby.