Newborn care: What To Do In The First Few Minutes After Your Baby's Born

Once your precious bundle is born, the toughest part of your pregnancy journey may be over, but the process of childbirth continues for a couple of weeks as your body starts to recover and adjust to its new role. Here's a look at what you'll likely encounter in your first few days as a mother.

STITCHES?

Your doctor or midwife will check to make sure your uterus remains firm and may massage your belly or give you medication if it isn’t. If you had a tear in your vaginal opening or a deliberate cut to widen it, called an episiotomy, you’ll get stitches now. If you had an epidural, the anesthetist will remove the small tube from your back.

NEWBORN SCREENING TESTS

Nearly all babies will have a simple blood test to check for disorders that are not apparent immediately after delivery. Some of these disorders are genetic, metabolic, blood, or hormone-related. They’re all routine and considered important by health experts, but some of them may be optional. A heel-prick is used to sample the baby's blood. The blood drops are collected in a small vial or on a special paper. The blood is then sent for testing. The baby's heel may have some redness at the pricked site, and some babies may have bruising, but this usually disappears in a few days. Antibiotic eye drops or ointment are placed in a newborn's eyes after birth. This is to protect babies from getting bacterial eye infections that can be acquired during birth. They also get and an injection of vitamin K to help their blood clot.

IMMEDIATE SKIN CONTACT

Once your baby is born and you've both been checked over, it’s important to bond straight away with skin-to-skin contact. If you’ve had a vaginal delivery that has gone smoothly, your baby will be placed directly onto your tummy after birth and will be covered with a warm blanket. Immediate skin-to-skin contact helps regulate newborns’ body temperature and exposes them to beneficial bacteria from their mother’s skin. These good bacteria protect babies from infectious diseases and help build their immune systems.

BREASTMILK OR MILK FORMULA

At some point during your pregnancy, your medical providers will ask you whether you’re going to breastfeed. It is best to decide upon this ahead of time because your baby will most likely show he’s ready for breastfeeding soon after he’s born. Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed their baby is one of the biggest decisions expectant and new parents will make. Health experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. But breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations. For moms who can't breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. The formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Breastfeeding is good for you too. It can help you lose weight, lower your stress, reduce postpartum bleeding and decrease your risk of osteoporosis. Even though breastfeeding seems like it should be the most natural thing in the world, some women and babies have trouble getting the hang of it. If this happens, ask for help. Nurses, doctors, midwives, and doulas can all provide basic support. There are even breastfeeding specialists called lactation consultants who can help if you’re having a more challenging problem. Breast milk doesn't cost a cent, while the cost of formula quickly adds up. And unless you're pumping breast milk and giving it to your baby, there's no need for bottles, nipples, and other supplies that can be costly.

Most babies show an interest in nursing within the first hour. You won’t yet be producing full-fledged breastmilk, but you will be producing an impressive substance called colostrum. Colostrum is a clear or golden fluid packed with anti-disease properties that help protect your baby and strengthen his immune system. Unlike breast milk — which is always available, unlimited, and served at the right temperature — formula feeding your baby requires planning and organization to make sure that you have what you need when you need it. Parents must buy formula and make sure it's always on hand to avoid late-night runs to the store.

But despite advances in how baby milk powder is formulated and manufactured, it doesn’t come close to matching the health benefits of your breast milk. Human milk has evolved over millions of years to be the perfect food for human babies. It’s much more complex than other mammals’ milk, as it builds our more complex brains and unique digestive and immune systems.

The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby. Some mothers worry that if they don't breastfeed, they won't bond with their baby. But the truth is, loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children. And feeding — no matter how — is a great time to strengthen that bond.

POSTPARTUM ABDOMINAL PAIN

Turns out you'll still have a baby belly even after the baby's out. Once the baby arrives, your uterus starts to tighten as it returns to its pre-pregnancy size and location. That means shrinking from more than two pounds to about two ounces and making its way back down into the pelvis. These postpartum contractions are called after pains — and they're particularly noticeable when you breastfeed, which triggers the production of oxytocin, the hormone that causes the contractions. The good news is that afterpains are short-lived, with the most noticeable contractions subsiding within a week.

MOOD SWINGS

The day your baby arrives will be among the happiest of your life, but it's also normal to experience emotional highs and lows in the first days or weeks after giving birth. There's a lot going on to trigger mood swings, including hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and getting used to your newborn's demands, which translate into a shocking lack of sleep for you. To cope, be sure to give yourself time to adjust to the new normal, enlist help from family and friends, and try to rest whenever you can, all of which will help stabilize your mood.

The postpartum period involves moving through many changes. You are also learning how to deal with all the changes involved in becoming a new mother. You need to take good care of yourself to rebuild your strength. Be sure to get plenty of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.

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